Back to One

I think the thing that’s made this first month of Vanderbilt football so hard to take is simple: it wasn’t supposed to be like this anymore.  When the previous coach started in 2011, my ambition for year one was “more than 2 wins” and I was hoping for bowl eligibility by year 3.  Instead, we started out 3-0, could have finished 10-2 if half a dozen plays had broken the other way, and wound up in a bowl immediately.  Vanderbilt football was coming off back-to-back 8-4 seasons capped by bowl wins to get to 9 – literally as good as the football program had ever been.  And then Mason shows up, and we’re assuming yes, there’s going to be a lot of new talent, but the non-conference schedule is squishy-soft and the SEC East is the easier division by far, so we should still clock six wins, right?


The absolute defenestration at the hands of Temple might have been the single worst loss in Vanderbilt football history: an orgy of complete bed-shitting that saw the starting QB pulled after going 4 for 6 and replaced with two ineffectual quarterbacks who failed to deliver a single offensive point through two games.  Blame it on the repeated lightning delays and the ridiculous 10 PM start if you must, blame it on a squad that to this point has played 30 true or redshirt freshmen, or blame it on a coaching staff that through three games looked absolutely lost and over their heads and got their one win by virtue of a UMass kicker who pulled a 22-yard field goal attempt wide.

But here we are, 1-3 and only now looking good, and that’s thanks to a pair of blazing kickoff returns for touchdowns that let us cover the spread on ranked South Carolina.  We had a win that felt like a loss and now a loss that feels like a win, and we’re back to the money line as defining a successful performance…

Same. Old. Vandy.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this any more, but it only took about thirty minutes of football to set back three years of work.  Right on cue, here was literally everyone in the college sports media jumping on the pile, dying of eagerness to proclaim that things were back to normal, that Vandy had returned to its accustomed place.  And you want to push back, you want to scream, you want to punch somebody in the dick, but what can you say or do?  Because we did exactly that.  We went backward to the level of the Robbie Caldwell year. We looked like a football team that never heard of football.  And the ridiculousness – the godawful uniform fracas complete with an email printout, for the love of God, we had a permission slip – or burning Wade Freebeck’s redshirt for the sake of one quarter against UMass (to be fair, he played well in relief in the Carolina game and may have to do so again), or the decision to put the game against Ole Miss in the Titans stadium for the sake of selling 3,000 extra tickets (all to Rebels fans) and then having people unable to get to their seats until the second quarter, and now the revelation that Brian Kimbrow (who has known knucklehead tendencies) has been indefinitely suspended and Jordan Cunningham has taken an indefinite leave of absence…

It’s a bad look.  It’s a horrible look.  It makes Vandy football look worse than bad – it looks incompetent. A team that can’t get out of its own way, a team committed to running a precision passing game with freshman receivers and inexperience quarterbacks when the running game is gashing defenses for regular reliable first downs, and a team – to put it bluntly – that looks like all its mojo was carried off to Happy Valley to be part of the Penn State Get Right Quick whitewash.  Back to the basement.  Normal service has been restored.

This, then, is the challenge for the Commodores.  Not only to get back to the heights of mediocre, in the most challenging conference in football, while still actually sending kids to class and enforcing the law (looking at you, Florida State), but to get people to take us seriously in a world where back-to-back nine-win seasons couldn’t do the job.  I don’t envy Derek Mason the uphill climb.  It’s going to be a steep one, and no matter what they tell you in movies and fairytales, you don’t every time get to the top just because you try hard and believe in yourself.  And it’s an awful long way to fall.


I hadn’t been to Portland for five years.  The last time I was there, life was very different: I had just started this job, I was carrying my laptop because of fantasy football draft requirements, and I had just started using the Kindle app on my phone to read books.  Now, the Kindle app (or device) is pretty much the only way I read books, and I was doing it on either my iPad or my Moto X.  I did end up spending most of the time carrying two phones, thanks to the requirements of the job (gah) and I learned I don’t want to do that anymore, so I got that going for me which is nice.

But Portland.  Five years ago I said it was like “what if my high school was its own town” and I see no reason to change that.  This year, it feels like San Francisco, only with nothing to prove and successful treatment for Asperger’s.  It’s like Silicon Valley if it could only realize there were other people.  Without fail, everyone was nice. Like seriously nice. The only real problem with the week is that it was hot as balls in a part of the world that I am assured is reliably cold, rainy and fogged in. Jacket and socks were a no-go.  Otherwise…

It points up the real problem: we could totally move to Portland.  I’d find another job, the wife could probably telecommute, we could totally afford a house – but as soon as you move out of the Bay Area, you’ve moved away for good unless you hit the lotto or somehow arrange to move back into a house trailer of some sort.  It’s the problem with having a house that’s suddenly worth a million dollars: sure, you could sell, but then you have to turn around and buy something else in a market so hyper-inflated it thought your house was worth a million dollars.

But there’s all the beer.  There’s all the coffee.  There’s Distillery Row and an allergy-sensitive bakery around every other corner and a light rail-streetcar system that goes places you want to be and a soccer stadium smack dab in the middle of town and a soccer team that’s THE big attraction and an NBA franchise if you need that, so you have a local sport year around.  There are trees everywhere, plenty of shade, the beginning of fall color already.


I know that a lot of this is down to the novelty of a different place, coupled with the joy of not being at this job.  And that’s as may be. And it’s entirely reasonable that people in Portland would drive me nuts after a while. And you know what?  That’s exactly what I said when I decamped from DC to the Bay Area. And it worked out just fine.  At least until this job turned shitty at the same time as the technodouche boom washed up the flotsam of a hundred thousand hipster CS50 washouts.

We’re not going anywhere.  Not for a good long while.  But wouldn’t it be something if we could?

Straight Outta Cupertino

The new iPhones are, sadly, predictable.  The iPhone 6 at 4.7”, the iPhone 6 Plus at 5.5”, and the iPhone 5S still sticking around as the $99-with-contract option.  Apple has caved and gone the way of all other phone manufacturers, and decided that the premium phone must of necessity be a big phone.  It’s the same problem with the new Moto X, which grew from an ergonomic and delightful 4.7” to a just-a-bit-too-big 5.2” – and every reviewer is saying how much worse the hand-feel is as a result.

It drives home the point that the “phone” bit is more of a misnomer than ever.  These are Internet communication and media devices; telephony is an afterthought.  Holding a 5.5” phone up to your head looks incredibly stupid, but you’re never going to do it any more than you’d hold your iPad up to your head.  The iPhone 6 Plus should more accurately be called the iPad Nano.  For anyone who’s ever done a real train commute, though, needing two hands for the phone is a pain in the ass.

And that, in many ways, is where the Apple Watch comes in.  After two-plus years, the mythical “iWatch” is finally real – and starting at a wig-splitting $350, more than even the Moto 360. Apple did well to remember that a typical mechanical watch has a crown, and that it makes an excellent input device, and maybe the integration will be enough to be worthwhile…but $350 is a lot of fuckin’ money for a tertiary device.  Then again, that’s what I said about the iPad, and three years later the iPad Mini has almost entirely replaced my laptop for everything outside work.

But back to the iPhone 6, which is almost certainly what I’ll be moving to.  The screen is larger than my Moto X (and so is the phone itself, by about a third of an inch vertically), the battery life is allegedly improved, and they’re finally caving on NFC payment – which is truly interesting.  Because so many other devices have NFC readers already at point of sale (gas stations, drugstore, Whole Foods, vending machine) it should only be a software update to make them work with ApplePay – but because the system relies on a thumbprint from TouchID, you can’t just take the phone and start scanning to pay anywhere, which makes it safer than an actual credit card.  (People who don’t understand computers are already conflating an iCloud brute force password hack with the payment system, and making themselves look stupid in the process.)

So now we wait.  Will an iPhone 6 on AT&T get through the day better than an iPhone 5 on Verizon?  Almost has to, right? It had damn well better, anyway, or I might need to replace my iPod shuffle for the third time…