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An NFL (Saints) Fan’s Personal View of College Football

There is nothing wrong with being a fan of college football. There is something wrong when college football fans have the nerve to tell me that college is better than NFL Football (which I always capitalize). Y’see, this post is for the people in my hometown of Mobile who are apparently confused when it comes to football and I would like to share my belief in why I think they’re mistaken.

NFL Football is the far and away upper eschelon of football, period. I never understood why Mobilians (or Eastern Shore folk) tend to lean toward the Alabama Crimson Tide when it comes to their choice of team to follow when there’s a SUPER BOWL CHAMPION two hours away. I always understood that in every major sport, college was below its pro counterpart.

Let’s look at the excuses I get when I ask why they’ve taken Alabama’s mantle over The Saints:

"College players play with more heart!" - You don’t really know that, do you? What if they’re playing for a shot at the NFL? To pay for their schooling? That’s really a misnomer that college kids are playing their hearts out. It gets so ridiculous. If you’re watching football for the sake of watching kids play their hearts out, why not watch high-school football? Even middle-school football? C’mon! You know those kids aren’t playing for anything. College kids are playing for their future NFL paycheck, their athletics scholarships, and to gain acceptance of their peers so, yeah, they’re getting paid in a way. Just not with money as so much in trade.

"College is all about tradition!" - Yeah, yeah. Tradition doesn’t really mean that much to me. A game is about winning now, not what Paul "Bear" Bryant did eons ago. Don’t tell me that it’s because football started on college campuses. So did lots of other sports and nobody worth a damn thinks college basketball is superior to the NBA. Yes, Alabama has a respectable tradition as far as sports goes but it doesn’t prove it is a better product than what the NFL has to offer.

"Alabama doesn’t have a pro team!" - Yep! You’re right! Alabama does not have a pro team but MOBILE DOES! The Saints represent the whole central Gulf Coast and keep an office in Mobile. The office (as I remember) is located in Hank Aaron Stadium. You may also purchase tickets to Saints games there. See, even though pro teams are named after cities and sometimes states they represent entire viewing regions. The Atlanta Falcons cover almost all of Georgia, not just Atlanta. The Dallas Cowboys cover 90% of Texas and then some. New Orleans covers Louisiana, part of Arkansas, southern Mississippi, Mobile, the Eastern Shore and some of the Florida panhandle. It’s how it works.

"NFL players get paid too much." - No, they make what is comparable to any major pro sport. That’s why they call it pro. Otherwise it would be just for fun. Did you also come to the conclusion that many pro athletes are philanthropists? They give millions to charity, help in the community, and send donations to - ahem! - their Alma Maters! It’s part of how many colleges and universities make an income.

Okay, so with that out of the way, let me see if I can state why I think NFL Football is better than college.

The rules - NFL has rules regarding a player’s safety and don’t stop the clock after a first down is scored. Overtime is clear cut, either score or lose. The NFL wide receivers must catch with both feet in bounds. None of that mamby-pamby one foot out shit. Also, if there’s a major game rule that comes about from the NFL (like instant replay), college usually adopts it after. The last time the NFL adopted one of college’s rules was the two-point conversion. That was a decade of Wednesdays ago.

The game strategy in the NFL is harder/better - Have you ever played Madden NFL? Any version? Now play EA Sport’s NCAA Football. Notice a difference? Well, besides the annoying commentary, Madden has a better breadth of plays and the strategies for those plays differs from college to the pros. The “NFL style” of playing has to be adopted by college players before they can be successful beyond college. Don’t believe me? Ask Tim Tebow who had to change his whole throwing style to fit in the pros. There’s no pistol formation or fun n’ gun crap in the NFL because they will laugh you outta the stadium.

Coaches from college using better players with the same strategies used in college don’t work if they move to the NFL - Ask Steve Spurrier, ask Nick Saban, soon you might be asking Pete Carroll. For whatever reason, coaches that do not come up in the NFL system and come in straight from college don’t win. You can be the judge as to why.

College plays fewer games - Let’s see… college plays only ten games to the NFL’s 16 (soon to be 18!). I like more football.

The NCAA does not actually recognize a National Football Champion - Wait, what? What the hell did Alabama win last year? Whatever it was, it was not - NOT - recognized by the NCAA. That’s right! See, the most favored National Championship award is given to the winner of the BCS Championship game between teams ranked numbers one and two by the Bowl Championship Series. By the way, read that last link and see if any of it starts giving you a headache. The BCS picks the top two and lets them play for the title they recognize. Oh, and Auburn fans out there should love the indecency of having 12 undefeated seasons and only one National Championship to show for it. Oh, and out of the 140 or so teams in the NCAA Div. 1-A or whatever they call it now, you better be in one of the six conferences that they choose or kiss your National Title hopes goodbye no matter how undefeated you are.

No playoffs in college - See above for some of that rant. At least the NFL earns the Super Bowl rings their players get. They are won by defeating the best teams that year, period. No controversy, no overlooked smaller market teams. The teams that win, win.

NFL players are professionals and the best at what they do - College players are still just learning their craft while most NFL starters are well-oiled machines vying to be the best in the world. They play a faster game and hit harder. They use better seasoned strategies that college players haven’t learned yet. That alone tells me it’s a better game.

Super Bowl XLIV was the most watched TV event in US history - 106.5 million watched the Super Bowl while only 17.2 million watched the BCS title game. I guess unless you lived in the south there wasn’t much reason to care.

I’m not saying that I hate college football. I have watched many an entertaining game involving two hard hitting teams. However, you can’t tell me, or my wife, or my sis-in-law that it’s in any way better than NFL Football. WHO DAT!

The Cost of Being a Fantasy Gamer

I don’t care what anyone tells you. A hobby can get expensive, and gaming is no different.
I love to game! Gaming involves reasoning, logic, socialization, and - best of all - imagination. No matter what game you decide to pick up from your local book store, all of them include these elements. What they don’t tell you is you better get crackin’ on having some extra cash lying around.

In this post, I’m gonna compare two of Wizards of the Coast’s flagship products: Magic The Gathering (being referred to as Magic) and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). I’ve played both of these games very extensively since I was a teen and I’m going to draw from these two games as examples.
D&D is the original pen and paper, tabletop fantasy roleplaying game. I’m not going to go into too much history here, but it’s classic. Almost all fantasy genre anything either gets its inspirations from Tolkien or D&D.
Magic also draws its inspiration from D&D and the original company bought out D&D’s makers, TSR, Inc. when Magic was at it’s highest peak of popularity. Magic is a CCG, or Collectible Card Game of magic (hence the name) and monsters. Some RPG purists detest Magic, saying that it’s too simple and strips away a lot of the best elements of the fantasy RPG genre.

With that being said, if you have ever reserved interest in playing either of these wonderful games, you might have asked yourself, “How much will it all cost?”

Like I said, any hobby will cost you some cash. It’s an inevitability. It all depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. Is it a long-term investment you’re looking for? Do you want a collection? Are you all-or-nothing in your hobbies? Socialization and trading? Or is it that you want to just play a damn game?

If it’s the long-term investment you’re looking for, Magic is definitely the way to go. Magic cards bought in small packs can start around $2.50 and go up to $45.00 for a Fat-Pack. Magic also comes with everything you need to play from the outset, so there’s no hunting down all kinds of materials. You and a friend can buy a Fat-Pack or any other starter-type set and get to playing.
Problem is it won’t stop there. Soon you’ll be buying more packs, sets, decks, and then locating your local gaming supply shop for singles.

This is where your real cost comes in. Comic book and gaming stores stock single common cards from the price of free (usually Land and cheepo commons) to a quarter depending on what cards are available and being sought after.Newer cards tend to be more around the twenty-five cent range and this is the normal case with those. Uncommon cards tend to start at a dollar and work their way up but you’d be hard pressed to find any above ten bucks. Rares run the gamut from a few dollars to 20, 50, even a hundred or more. That’s all old hat, though. Now-a-days  there are special foil cards of just about all the regular cards. Newer to the dance are ultra-rare cards and foil editions of those! Yeah, these things can be a pretty penny but that can work in your favor. I have had hundreds of dollars worth of Magic cards turn into thousands of  clams worth in just a few years. It can be a collectible investment like stamps and comics.

D&D, on the other hand, pulls you in slowly only to rape you financially in the end. Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t kid around. If you start out in 4th Edition (4E), Wizards of the Coast (WotC for simplicity) suggests you buy a Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Starter Set. It sells for around $20 at most book stores. It comes with the very basic stuff to start off your trek into the realms of swords, monsters, and lairs. Alas, the set covers you until you and your friends get to Level 3 characters, then you gotta go get the big boys.

If you’re a Dungeon Master (the person who runs the game, known as the DM), you have to buy the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual. How much is all that? You can buy all three books in a set on Amazon for $66. Now some people can just get away with owning just those items and get by for a while okay, but if you have regular players coming to visit and all of you are getting into the game, you’re gonna need more stuff. Dice, dungeon tiles, miniatures, sequels to all the core books, adventure books, power cards, a ten dollar a month subscription to D&D Insider, desktop software, a DM Screen, and on and on…

Now if it all went up in value, you’d be stoked, right? Guess again. D&D is a money hole. If a new edition of any material is re-released or a new edition comes out, the value of most of what you bought plummets. There isn’t a demand for out of date material. You can pick up old books on the very cheap. Dice and dungeon tiles can be reused, but unless you have some kind of rare edition dice you’re shit out of luck. Miniatures, however, can go up in value but the only time that really counts in your favor is if you were to buy the “gargantuan” miniatures that represent enormous monsters (ancient dragons usually). Those start out at around $70 dollars and are only worth that if unused and still in the box.

“Well, jeepers! Is there a way to play this game without shelling out enough long-term cash to purchase a used Lexus,” you may be wondering? I’m glad you asked. WHILE I DO NOT ADVOCATE THIS, every published word that WotC has printed can be found in PDF format via torrent sites. That can save you hundreds right there. There are ways to make your own tokens (like this tutorial at NewbieDM) and  you can scan in and print out battle maps - or make your own using Gaming Paper, Ghostline products, or any other grid-lined paper. We’re still talking money here, though, and you need more time to prep and take trips to Office Depot, WalMart and local hobby shops for all that stuff. Pens, paper, pencils, craft supplies, printer ink,and more can add up and still with no return investment.

So what you put into D&D will only equal “fun!” on the other end, so your fun better be worth the hundreds of greenbacks you stick into it.

Is all this worth it? Like I said, hobbies can cost. However, it’s all worth it if you want to have fun and socialize on a Sunday nite. Remember how much you bought Monopoly for? Remember how many times you played it? Yeah. Fantasy games are a whole lot cooler.

A Fantasy Gamer’s Moral Dilemma

During my usual dreaded trip to the local gaming store (by the way, the local comic book shop just sells comics - no games), I was faced with a conundrum. 
See, I’ve always had a problem blending in or getting along in my current place of residence. The gaming store counts as well. I figured that geeks were geeks and I’ll surely make friends. However, like a lot of people I’ve met here, something isn’t right about them. 
Maybe that’s another story for another time. I have had a few other problems with this place and since this is the only retail store that sells a full lie of gaming supplies within a hundred miles or so, I decided to let things slide.
A few days ago I returned to the one place that people that are considered loud, weird, nerdy, social retards that can feel accepted.  I went to purchase a Dungeons & Dragons accessory that they were out of (a DM Screen if you must know). I wound up getting some Magic cards that were on sale instead.
While questions were asked and transactions were made, I noticed something that raised a few of my eyebrows.  The “salesperson” was cutting out Magic cards that had been printed on adhesive paper and sticking them to other cards and putting them in protective plastic sleeves with a non-transparent backing. He was skeezing Magic cards! In front of a customer? Really?!

Now I don’t have a problem with gamers that are poor needing to use photocopies for things that they have to have in order to play the game with others that either don’t mind or are doing the same themselves. However, it makes me uncomfortable that this is being done in a store by the people who SELL these thing to me. Am I overreacting? If I was the owner of said store, would I be okay that my employees are ripping off Magic cards (presumably over the internet) and using the ripped off items in front of customers in my store? I wouldn’t.

Like I said, if this was for some kind of home, just for fun use, I don’t have a quandary against that. For the record, nothing’s better than owning the official stuff, regardless of what game you happen to be playing. I have a problem that employees are so comfortable in their environment that they would practice this in front of customers. They are basically there to watch the store and ring up stuff and the rest of it is them playing and, apparently, ripping off games.

Am I being ridiculous? It’s not that he was playing them against me. Am I just jealous? I wish I got paid to play RPGs, board games and Magic all day. Maybe so, but how would you feel if this sorta thing happened to you?

Paranoia and Why I Hate It

Paranoia is a powerful thing.

Are they out to get you? Worse yet, all of us? There’s nothing like being scared, worried, or demonizing other things to make one feel weirdly empowered. Recently the federal government has been the subject of way too many friends’ paranoia and it’s getting old fast.

But, it is the government, after all. They’re big, powerful, and want their money outta you. Yeah, the government is all those things, and anyone with a brain should understand that we should be wary of Washington. Wary, watchful, even scrutinizing.

The big problem goes as such: Whenever it’s time to keep a close eye on the government’s doings, the shit starts to float to the surface. People start to get angry with them and then go on social networking sites and post stuff that’s just plain unfounded. I took journalism… in middle school. I was taught that if a source is not reputable or credible, then there is no story.

So if a guy that is not a journalist, but a senior ASP.Net developer from New Jersey breaks a story of how the CIA may have  assassinated Matt Simmons - an “oil industry expert” - for disagreeing with BP and the government’s evaluation of how much crude is spilling into the gulf, would you believe .net developer guy?

Alexander Higgins owns and apparently hosts a blog and works in IT. The post here is of links and a YouTube video that puts this all into perspective and asks the question, “Did Mr. Simmons die of a heart attack or was he murdered by the CIA?”

Nothing wrong with asking that question or making a topic of conversation, raising an eyebrow or anything like that. That’s fine. The problem was some of my friends via a social network found Mr. Higgins’ blog post and posted a link to it on their account. After which accusations went crazy. They treated this as a viable news source from an expert or journalist and while Mr. Higgins’ seems to be a decent writer and an apparently good conversationalist, he has the journalism skills of a gerbil.

Now there’s my friends. They’re eating it all up. Here are some outtakes from the comment thread that followed with my assessment:

"…just sharing some things in the news that seems important." This isn’t news or even “news”. It’s some dude with a blog.

"No news here…people getting killed for trying to make the world a better place….sweep it under the rug!! Who cares?" No one actually got killed that we have evidence of. Matt Simmons wasn’t trying to make the world a better place, he was disagreeing with BP and the government. I can do that all day and I won’t get assassinated or change the world.

Here’s the deal - It was a question posed by a dude with a blog. Not a news story. He’s got zero journalistic credibility.The End.

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