Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A fallen hero points the way...

Many people, in recent days, have begun to question why the United States continues to send our sons and daughters across the seas to Iraq, and why we continue to allow the flower of our youth to lay their lives upon the altar of freedom.

Across our airwaves, the political and social elites grow weary of the war, and their support for giving up has begun to seep into our national consciousness.

Now, more than ever, our nation needs to hear the words of one of its sons, who has joined the long line of freedom's soldiers in giving up his life so that others may live in the noonday glory of Liberty, rather than the dark shadow of tyranny.

In his speech today, President Bush quoted from the letter of a United States Marine who died fighting in Iraq.

That Marine's words should shake every American to the core, and cause him or her to thank God Almighty that He continues to favor this nation with those who understand the value of that unalienable right of Liberty, given by Him, that they are willing to die for it.

From President Bush's speech, given today at the United States Naval Academy:

Advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East begins with ensuring the success of a free Iraq. Freedom's victory in that country will inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, and spread hope across a troubled region, and lift a terrible threat from the lives of our citizens.

By strengthening Iraqi democracy, we will gain a partner in the cause of peace and moderation in the Muslim world, and an ally in the worldwide struggle against the terrorists.

Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government is the mission that created our nation -- and now it is the calling of a new generation of Americans. We will meet the challenge of our time. We will answer history's call with confidence -- because we know that freedom is the destiny of every man, woman and child on this earth.

Before our mission in Iraq is accomplished, there will be tough days ahead. A time of war is a time of sacrifice, and we have lost some very fine men and women in this war on terror. Many of you know comrades and classmates who left our shores to defend freedom and who did not live to make the journey home. We pray for the military families who mourn the loss of loves ones. We hold them in our hearts -- and we honor the memory of every fallen soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine.

One of those fallen heroes is a Marine Corporal named Jeff Starr, who was killed fighting the terrorists in Ramadi earlier this year. After he died, a letter was found on his laptop computer. Here's what he wrote:

"If you're reading this, then I've died in Iraq. I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq. It's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so they can live the way we live, not to have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

There is only one way to honor the sacrifice of Corporal Starr and his fallen comrades -- and that is to take up their mantle, carry on their fight, and complete their mission.

We will take the fight to the terrorists. We will help the Iraqi people lay the foundations of a strong democracy that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. And by laying the foundations of freedom in Iraq, we will lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.

You all are the ones who will help accomplish all this. Our freedom and our way of life are in your hands -- and they're in the best of hands. I want to thank you for your service in the cause of freedom. I want to thank you for wearing the uniform. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

I pray that God will bless the family of Corporal Starr; President Bush; the members of Congress; the people of Iraq; and our fighting men and women around the world, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Where they are advancing Liberty, they are advancing a Divinely-favored cause.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Criminal punishment that works

You know, a lot of the jurisprudence coming out the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. district courts is pretty bad (See Pledge of Allegiance cases). But for once, I'm proud of a judge in San Francisco.

From BBC News:

THIEF TO WEAR 'I STOLE MAIL' SIGN

WASHINGTON -- The top court in the United States has rejected an appeal by a sentenced man, who argued about the legality of having to publicly wear a sign stating, "I stole mail."

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Shawn Gementera's appeal without any comment.

Gementera had argued that the measure would humiliate him, violating the Sentencing Reform Act and the constitutional ban on cruel punishment.

He pleaded guilty to mail theft after being held in 2001 for stealing letters from mailboxes in San Francisco.

In 2003, Gementera was sentenced by a district judge to two months in jail, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

The release conditions stated that Gementera must spend four days at a post office observing staff dealing with inquiries about lost or stolen mail, write letters of apology to the victims of his crime and give three lectures about his crime at schools.

The judge also ordered him to wear a signboard reading "I stole mail - this is my punishment" for a full eight-hour working day.

Gementera appealed about the latter requirement, but a US appeals court panel ruled against him earlier this year.

The court said in August that the record in Gementera's case showed the judge imposed the condition for the purpose of rehabilitation.

"Punishments aimed at imposing shame and humiliation are inconsistent with a constitutional requirement that punishments, even for heinous crimes, be consistent with human dignity," Gementera's lawyers were quoted by Reuters news agency when appealing to the Supreme Court.

Exams, Advent, and Thanksgiving Recap

It's exam time at law school, and that means that everyone's favorite Rogersvillian law student will be putting his nose to the proverbial grind-stone.

I would definitely appreciate your prayers: my first exam is Friday, December 2 (in criminal law).

HAPPY ADVENT

Thanks to Scott, Mark Arinci, Carrie Davis, Matt Seymore, and Bryce Kirksey for making it out to the apartment last night to celebrate the first Sunday of Advent with a candle-lighting. It was a good experience.

For those in the Birmingham area, I'll be hosting another short candle-lighting celebration this next Sunday at 10 pm. Call me for details.

THANKSGIVING ROCKED

It was really great to see my family down here in the 'Ham this past weekend. I hadn't gotten to see mom, dad, or my sister Brookie since July (I think), and it was good to have family-fun-times with them over the short Thanksgiving break.

While they were here, I gave them the requisite Samford tour (since neither my dad nor my sister had seen it before), and we took a trip to see Vulcan (more for me than for them, I think).

It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed getting to hang out with them.

I sort of felt bad when it was time for them to go, however. Mom seemed to really take it hard when they left. I don't understand why it's so hard on her (people always say that I will understand once I have kids -- I hope so). If you get a chance, throw up a prayer or two for her. With dad going back out to work for a couple of weeks, she'll be alone again (and maybe that's why it's so hard).

FACEBOOKING ROGERSVILLE

Now that Facebook has spread to most schools, the Rogersvillians are finally getting on it. It's been nice to welcome several of my CHS friends and buddies onto the internet's second-most-addictive website (the first, of course, is Wikipedia).

IT'S A PARADE!

Speaking of Rogersville, this weekend is Tennessee's second-oldest town's annual Christmas Parade! The event, which travels from the intersection of Warrior Street and East Main Street to the intersection of Armstrong Road and West Main Street (about a mile or so), is one of my favorite times of the year.

Rogersville is always quaint, no matter what time of the year. But when the town is decked out for Christmas, with white Christmas lights in the windows of all the downtown shops, candles in the windows of all the shops, offices, and homes, and beautiful Nativity scenes on at least three of the public squares (I suppose no one's too worried about legal action), it's my second-most favorite time of the year (my favorite, of course, being Rogersville during Easter, when everything is blooming and it's literally neon green with dogwoods and wysteria).

The parade is sponsored by the Rogersville/Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce (say that three times fast), which is, of course, directed by my mom. You should probably pray for her on this Saturday as well, 'cause it's always a stressful, if exciting, time.

DORES HOOPIN' IT UP

This past weekend, the 2005-06, up-and-coming men's basketball team at Vanderbilt faced the Georgetown Hoyas up in the District of Columbia and won, in an exciting game. Though I didn't get to see it (it was not broadcast on television), the Georgetown athletics website did have a short highlights reel that made me very impressed with our players.

I especially noticed Shan Foster, the sophomore who I spoke so highly of last year during his freshman year at VU. Shan has apparently been working hard in the weight room (he looks like he may have put on as much as 10-15 pounds of muscle), and his stats reflect the fact that he is hustling.

Who knows: maybe he'll be the next Vandy superstar, a la Matt Freije.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy New Year: the first Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and begins the new cycle of the Christian year that consists of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

Many of my friends, for various reasons, do not understand what Advent is, and why Christians celebrate it. Since it is one of my favorite times of the year, I thought it might be good to review the history, meaning, and celebration of the Season.

WHAT IS ADVENT?

Advent originated some time in the fourth century A.D. (perhaps as early as 380) as a period during which new believers prepared themselves for baptism through instruction, prayer, fasting, and reflection -- much like the season of Lent.

In its early form, the length of Advent varied from three days to six weeks -- six weeks being approximately 40 days, the length of time that Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry.

Today, Advent is celebrated on the four Sundays preceding Christmas, including December 24 (if Christmas Eve is a Sunday, then the 24th is the Fourth Sunday of Advent).

THE COMING OF CHRIST

The season focuses Christians and their thoughts to the first coming of Christ as Savior, and to his second coming as King and Judge of the World.

Traditionally, Advent is a penetential season, like Lent, and it is marked by the liturgical color of Purple.

After the Reformation, Martin Luther's encouragement of faithful devotions to God in the home led to the Lutheran practice of observing the season of Advent with a circle of four candles, often on an evergreen wreath, with one to be lit each Sunday.

The first, second and fourth candles are purple, the color of the season, and the third candle is pink, symbolising the Joy of the third Sunday in Advent. In churches that do not regularly light a Christ candle, a fifth, white candle is included in the Advent wreath that is lighted on Christmas Day to represent the nativity of Christ (since homes do not have Christ candles, home wreaths will usually include a white candle).

MAKE YOUR OWN WREATH

I've wanted, for the past couple of years, to observe Advent in my dorm room at Vanderbilt, but the University's restriction on the use of candles made me a little nervous about doing so.

This year, however, with my apartment in the Heart of Dixie, I'm on my own (with Scott, of course), and I found a great, inexpensive Advent wreath at Lifeway Christian Bookstore.

If you would prefer, you can make your own wreath: (1) get a wreath about 7-12 inches in diameter; (2) purchase five candles -- 3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white; (3) arrange the candles so that there are three purples and one pink in the perimeter of the wreath itself, then put the white candle in the middle of the wreath. Now you're ready to celebrate Advent with your friends and family!

A SERVICE FOR LIGHTING THE CANDLES OF ADVENT

[Editor's Note: I wrote the following service of Advent as a part of a book of Liturgy that I am working on called Rivers of Praise.]

The wreath is prepared in advance: a live, evergreen wreath, or a false evergreen wreath that mimics a live one, has in its circumference four candles of the same size: three purple, one pink. A fifth candle is larger than the other four; it is a large, white candle: the Christ Candle, to be lit on December 25, Christmas Day.

The first candle to be lit should be the one furthest from the pink candle in the wreath (the pink candle will be lit during the Third Sunday of Advent).

The meeting place is dark, or partially so, when the service is to begin.


The Greeting

All stand, and the Leader begins, saying,

Light and peace to you, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
People -- Jesus is the Light of the world; thanks be to God!

The Introduction to Advent

Intoduction for the First Sunday of Advent

As we gather this day, we recall the hope we have in Christ. God told Abraham that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed, because he trusted and put his hope in God. The Old Testament spoke of the coming of Christ, of how a Saviour would be born, a King in the line of King David. He would rule the world wisely and bless all the nations. We, too, believe in God's promise to send Jesus again to this world to establish His Kingdom upon the earth.

The Prayers of Advent

The Leader continues, saying,

O Lord, because You sent Your Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in Him of everlasting life; that when He shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.

People -- Come, Lord Jesus.
Leader -- The people of Israel longed for the coming of the Promised One, the Messiah who would restore all God’s people to fellowship with Him.
People -- Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to all men.

The appropriate Guided Prayer is said by the Leader and the People together, all standing.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!

The Lighting of the Candles

The Leader says

It is not ourselves that we proclaim; we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as servants, for Jesus’ sake. For the same God who said, ‘Out of darkness, let light shine,’ has caused His Light to shine within us, to give the Light of revelation—the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6

Then appropriate number of candles are lighted; the third candle lighted is always the pink candle; the large, white candle is the Christ Candle, and it is lit only on Christmas Day (lighting at midnight is especially appropriate).

When all are lighted, the Leader says


Let us praise the God of the Universe, the Light of the World.
People -- Hallelujah, come Lord Jesus!
Leader -- Let us pray.
People -- We pray to the Lord.
All -- O God of love, at the moment of our greatest need, You took on flesh, and dwelt among us. O the depths of Your love! O the heights of Your power! You clothed your Deity with a garb of humanity, and You came and revealed Yourself to us: God with us, Emmanuel!

Then follows the Ancient Hymn of Light, below, or some other song suitable for Advent, or both.

Ancient Hymn of Light Phos Hilaron

O gladsome Light, O Grace
Of God the Father's Face,
The eternal splendor wearing;
Celestial, holy, blest,
Our Savior Jesus Christ,
Joyful in Thine appearing.

Now, ere day fadeth quite,
We see the evening light,
Our wonted hymn outpouring,
Father of might unknown,
Thee, His incarnate Son,
And Holy Ghost adoring.

To Thee of right belongs
All praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Life-giver;
Thee, therefore, O Most High,
The world doth glorify
And shall exalt forever.

The Thanksgiving of Advent

The Leader then says

O Lord God Almighty, with humble hearts and thankful spirits, we give you all of our thanks and praise.

For You came as a tiny, fragile baby; yet we know that You are God.
People -- We thank you, Lord!

For You are the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
People -- We thank you, Lord!

For You are Immanuel, God with us! The government shall be upon Your shoulders, and we hail You as mighty God; ever-lasting Father; and Prince of Peace.
People -- We thank you, Lord!

For the blessings of these candles, whereby we are reminded that You are the light of the world.
People -- We thank you, Lord!

For we know that if we follow you, we will never walk in darkness, but will have the true light of life.
People -- We thank you, Lord!

All

We thank you, O God,
For all that you have done in our lives,
And we pray that You would give us
Such an awareness of Your holy mercy
That our hearts would truly be thankful,
and that we may be
Always full of your praise,
Not only with our lips, but with our lives:
Help us to magnify and glorify you
By walking in holiness and righteousness
For all our days.
We ask and give thanks
Through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Who lives forever with You and the Holy Spirit
One God, now and forever:
Trinity in Unity, Three in One,
Holy, holy, holy. Amen.

The Service concludes as follows, the Leader saying,

May the Grace of Christ our Savior,
People -- And the Love of God our Father,
Leader -- And the Fellowship of the Spirit be with us,
All -- Forever and ever, forevermore. Amen!


I hope that you have a blessed season of Advent. Look back next week for a service for the Second Sunday in Advent!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Giving thanks

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea, we thank you, Lord.

For the majesty of the mountains in which you raised me up, for the glory of the trees and fields and grass upon which you kept me safe, for the splendor of the lake, river, creeks, and streams in which you allowed me to swim, and for special place that you gave me as home, I thank you Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ, we thank you, Lord.

For the fellowship of friends, for the joy of family, and for the blessings of love companionship, I thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends, we thank you, Lord.

For giving me, every day, more food than I deserve, for my beautiful home, for my loving Father, Mother, and sister, for my brothers in and under Christ, for those from Rogersville, Vanderbilt, and Samford, and for Katharyn, I thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve, we thank you, Lord.

For the ability to learn and grow in mind and spirit, for your grace in granting that I graduate from Cherokee, Vanderbilt, and some-day Samford, for the blessing of knowing You as Lord and Savior, and for the unspeakable joy of your love in my heart, for the love of my family, and for the love of my fiancee, I thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play, we thank you, Lord.

For the grace you've given in granting that I continue to have motivation to study and complete my assignments, for the grace you've given in allowing me friends and entertainment, for granting my unspoken (and unconscious) prayer for a pleasant season of Vanderbilt football, and for allowing me to swim, and sing, and read, I thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity, we thank you, Lord.

For the example of your servant Joann, from the First Baptist Birmingham choir, for courage of your servants who are being persecuted around the world, for the love you show through your missionaries and pastors, and for the boldness of those who seek to proclaim your Gospel around the world, I thank you, and give you glory, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice, we thank you, Lord.

For the lawyers and judges who you have shown me who remain faithful to You, for the courage of the political leaders who seek your will in their work, and for all of those who faithfully lead your people here and around the world, I thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places, we thank you, Lord.

For First Baptist Church of Rogersville and all those who nurtured me there, for First Baptist Church of Nashville and all those who encouraged me there, for First Baptist Church of Birmingham and for all those who inspire me there, for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg and all those who taught me there, for Christ Anglican Church in Mobile and all those who worship you there, and for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church around the world throughout time, I thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord; to him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and with you, O Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

---Italicized portions from the "Litany of Thanksgiving," p. 836, The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

'Tis the season to be thankful

As we approach our nation's annual day of thanksgiving, I want to share the things for which I am thankful.

First, though, a short rant.

How do those who suggest that our nation was founded upon secular humanist ideals deal with this legacy of our Founding Fathers known as Thanksgiving Day?

As you may or may not know, Thanksgiving is a United States holiday, and while it is based upon the traditions of the Pilgrims giving thanks for their surviving the first year in the New World in Massachusetts, it's history inextricably tied to the history of our nation.

During the American Revolutionary War the Continental Congress appointed one or more thanksgiving days each year, except in 1777, each time recommending to the executives of the various states the observance of these days in their states.

George Washington, leader of the revolutionary forces in the American Revolutionary War, proclaimed a Thanksgiving in December 1777 as a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga, seen by most historians as the turning point of the Revolution.

The Continental Congress again proclaimed annual December Thanksgivings from 1777 to 1783, except in 1782.

George Washington again proclaimed Thanksgivings, now as President, in 1789 and 1795. President John Adams declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799.

President Madison, in response to resolutions of Congress, set apart a day for thanksgiving at the close of the War of 1812. Madison declared the holiday twice in 1815; however, none of these was celebrated in autumn.

By 1858 proclamations appointing a day of thanksgiving were issued by the governors of 25 states and two Territories.

In the middle of the Civil War, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, the last of which appeared in the September 1863 issue of Godey's Lady's Book, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

"In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

"Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

"Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that His mercy should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

"And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

"Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

"Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863.
"

Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States.

Editor's Note: The history of Thanksgiving comes from Wikipedia.com.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another article: "Fate finally falls on Vanderbilt"

by Chris Lee
VandySports.com


KNOXVILLE -- I'll admit it -- I didn't really want to go.

I thought of a million reasons to say "no" when, late last night, a friend asked me to get media credentials and accompany him to Knoxville.

The question was how to justify my "no." There were plenty of reasons. I'd just spent the whole fall traveling and wanted to rest. There's an enormous pile of leaves in yard that needs attention. And I would have to find someone to take my dogs for a night.

But those weren't the real reasons I didn't want to go.

When time ran out on a winning season against Kentucky a week ago, I already knew how Saturday would end.

And I sure didn't want to travel three hours to see it.

It's not because I'm not down on Bobby Johnson, his staff, or his team. While some had soured on Johnson after a six-game losing streak, I remembered the train-wreck-of-a-team he inherited from Woody Widenhofer.

At Vanderbilt, you simply don't rebuild a program in two or three years a la Oklahoma, Nebraska, or LSU, and in year four, there were undoubtedly some signs of progress.

Nor am I superstitious. I could juggle 13 black cats underneath a ladder without losing sleep. The old Cubs Curse of the Billy Goat? Give me a break!

But Vanderbilt football is... well, just inexplicably different. The Bermuda Triangle has nothing on Vandy in the way of mystery. It's not just the number of ways that the Commodores can lose, but also the sheer improbability of those ways.

Remember the infamous 1982 game in which Stanford lost to Cal when their band stormed the field on a kickoff? Perhaps more shocking than the play itself is the fact that Vandy didn't invent this particular collapse first.

And after all, the Vols are the anti-Vanderbilt, winning games with the frequency and improbability in which the Commodores have lost them. Remember Clint Stoerner? in 1998? How about the infamous Gator Head Slap a year ago? And I won't even go into the staggering number of hearbreaks the Vols have dished out to Vandy over the years.

But I said "yes" anyway. "It's a good chance to spend some time with a good friend," I told myself as I packed my bags and left Nashville late last night.

Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon.

When the Commodores watched an inept UT offense turn a 14-point deficit into a three-point lead, I knew it was over.

Was this Vandy team good enough to win? Sure, but that was beside the point. Something would happen -- an ill-timed turnover to stop a drive, a blocked kick, a blown coverage. Perhaps a phantom holding call or even an excessive celebration penalty. If all else failed, maybe a meteor would fall from the sky and smite Jay Cutler, or a pack of wild dogs would storm the field and tear Earl Bennett limb-from-limb.

Sure enough, it happened. With star kicker Bryant Hahnfelt already injured while making a tackle ("Only at Vanderbilt," I thought), linebacker Moses Osemwegie and safety Reshard Langford –- perhaps Vandy's two best tacklers -– both went down (at the same time, no less) just before a late-game third-and-short play.

If the Commodores couldn't stop the Vols with those two in the game, how would they do it now?

Sure enough, the improbable became the inevitable. But this time, there were some twists.

There was Jared Fagan -– a third string cornerback -- making a tackle on UT star Arian Foster to force a fourth-and-one punt and keep Vandy's hopes alive.

There was Kyle Keown –- who lost his job to Hahnfelt earlier in the season –- hitting a big late-game punt.

There was Patrick Johnson -– the same kicker who couldn't even hit a simple extra point last season -– nailing an extra point on Vandy's final TD. This meant the Vols would have to play for a touchdown on the game's final possession.

There was Bill Robertson -– a walk-on -- coming in cold and booming the ensuing kickoff into the end zone.

And finally, there was Fagan again, intercepting a Rick Clausen pass in the end zone to seal the deal after Herdley Harrison and Andrew Pace -– two players who didn't even play their current positions a year ago –- applied pressure to force the throw.

And if things in Knoxville weren't surreal enough, I heard this gem from a Vol fan filing out of a very quiet Neyland Stadium: "Johnny Majors wouldn't have lost that game!"

I wasn't alone in my disbelief. "Hey Chris, I'm at the DC airport just coming back from a business trip to Europe," came the voice mail message from a friend. "I just happened to check Yahoo sports to see the score, and I had to call my wife to make sure I wasn't hallucinating or that Yahoo got the score wrong. I can't believe it."

Believe it.

So this team lost to Kentucky and MTSU. So they didn't give Commodore fans a bowl game for Christmas. Who cares!

They gave them something better than that: proof that just when all hope seems lost, good times –- and perhaps even better times for Vandy football -– are a lot closer than we ever knew.

Editor's Note: This article is from VandySports.com. To read my thoughts about the big game, see my post below, "Vanderbilt beats Tennessee 28-24." ~DB

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Article: "Vandy ends 22 years of misery, Rocky Top hits rock bottom"

by Matthew Zemek
FoxSports.com


KNOXVILLE -- Vanderbilt couldn't go to a bowl, so the Commodores made sure Tennessee -- yes, Tennessee -- couldn't go to a bowl, either.

In a game whose outcome was as shocking as it was significant, Vanderbilt — the same team that lost to Middle Tennessee State and Kentucky while missing out on a bowl and a winning record, two goals it frankly should have attained — did manage to win its rivalry game for the first time since 1982 and leave 2005 with one very satisfying and considerable accomplishment.

In a weird and twisted way, it's actually appropriate that this game is the last one for Jay Cutler, because the decorated quarterback will now be able to look back on his college career and point to this moment — clearly the sweetest of his four years in Nashville — as his final memory from a life spent in the SEC.

While the Commodores obviously wanted to play in the Music City Bowl or another game that would have been a big prize for an historically downtrodden program, it's also undeniable that a bowl game would have been anticlimactic compared to this game against the Volunteers.

Indeed, this game was more of a bowl game for Vandy than any official bowl game would have been. That Bobby Johnson's team won in Neyland Stadium only makes this bowl "win" even more special.

Beyond the win itself, this stunning triumph for Vandy was amazing because Cutler and the Commodore offense had been summarily throttled by John Chavis' defense throughout the second half.

After blitzing the Vols with 21 first-half points, Vandy stalled throughout the second 30 minutes of play, as a proud Big Orange defense took total command of the proceedings, enabling an inconsistent offense to spit out a late field goal for a 24-21 lead.

All the anger that fueled Cutler's early dominance evaporated, and Neyland was bathed not only in Orange, but momentum that was flowing squarely in the Volunteers' direction. For all of their considerable struggles in 2005, it seemed hard to believe that Phil Fulmer's boys would lose this game and experience the humiliation of a losing season in Knoxville. The Vols were much worse this season than in recent years that witnessed their own fair share of hardships, but no one thought that Tennessee would be as bad as 5-6.

No one, that is, but Cutler.

When he got his hands on the ball one last time with a buck-thirty-two left and the ball on his own 37, Cutler had one final chance to erase the bad taste of another losing season. One more opportunity to wipe away the frustration of not being able to go to a bowl. And perhaps most importantly, one last opportunity to beat the hated rival from Rocky Top, the team Vanderbilt had not been able to conquer for nearly a quarter-century.

It didn't take long for Cutler to make some history for himself and his program.

With four decisive and gutsy passes to true freshman Earl Bennett — one of which drew a pass interference penalty on the Vols — Cutler guided his team 63 yards to paydirt and a four-point lead.

And while Rick Clausen directed the Vols' offense to the Vandy 11 in the final moments, an ill-advised, clock-draining scramble crippled Tennessee's hopes of victory.

Having had a position of strength earlier in the drive, the Vols instead had to attempt a desperation have from the Commodore 16 with one second left. When a pop-up from Clausen's left arm was intercepted, the deed had been done, and a bowl game more meaningful than a battle with a sixth-place Big Ten team had been won.

Yes, Vanderbilt had beaten Tennessee... in Knoxville.

And that same Tennessee team that was picked by many to be the "UT" team playing USC in the national title game (not UT-Austin) is now a team that won't even go to a bowl.

It will have to beat Kentucky to merely avoid going 4-7 for 2005.

Vanderbilt's season wasn't nearly as special as it could have been; there's no question about that. But after a win against Tennessee in Neyland Stadium, those other frustrations just won't seem to matter very much when these Vanderbilt players look back on this season 25 and 50 years later.

When today's Commodores tell their children and grandchildren about their 2005 season, they'll talk about what just happened on an afternoon in Knoxville: by any and all objective standards — record, head-to-head matchup, and bowl game fortunes — Vanderbilt became better than Tennessee. The little ones might not believe it, but their daddies and granddaddies will be telling the truth.

Editors note: You'd better believe that I will be one of those telling my children -- who will be legacies at VU? -- all about the day I watched Vandy beat Yew Tee. This article was quoted from VandySports.com; to read my thoughts on the history and the meaning of today's win, see the post below, "Vanderbilt Beats Tennessee 28-24." ~DB

VANDERBILT BEATS TENNESSEE, 28-24

CUTLER'S CARDIAC COMMODORES END VOLS' TWENTY-THREE YEAR DOMINANCE

by Diezba
Saturday, November 19, 2005


It was an overcast, raindy day in Nashville as Vanderbilt quarterback Whit Taylor got into position behind his linemen in the Red Zone.

Though it was the fourth quarter, and though the Commodores were losing to the hated, cross-state rival Tennessee Volunteers, Taylor knew that he and his Black and Gold clad warriors would live to play another day.

Vanderbilt had, with its win over UT-Chattanooga the week before, secured its seventh win and a sure trip to a rare post-season bowl game.

With that knowledge, Taylor knew that it really did not matter whether he and his teammates beat UT.

But in his heart, and in the hearts of thousands upon thousands of Vanderbilt University students, alumni, and fans, defeating the loathsome Orange would be a fitting climax to what had become an historic season.

And with generations of Commodores past and present looking on, Whit Taylor called a quarterback sneak and walked into the end-zone -- and Commodore history.

SECOND-LONGEST STREAK

That heroic day in November 1982 would become a milestone in Vanderbilt football history, marking the beginning of a generation of futility unprecedented in the Southeastern Conference.

For the next twenty years, Vanderbilt would see six head coaches and a combined win-loss record of 72-183 overall (39%), and an unbelieveable 25-142 (17%) in the SEC.

As the program continued to endure a veritable revolving door of head coaches, the Vanderbilt fanbase dwindled down into a small core of dedicated fans and boosters who seemed to support the program despite its mediocrity.

During this long sojourn in the wilderness, Vanderbilt managed to beat all of its SEC opponents at least once, except for their in-state rival, the Volunteers.

The University of Tennessee would not only dominate the series over the next twenty-two years, but it would do so in disgusting fashion.

It was not uncommon for Vanderbilt to be completely unable to score any points against the Vols, and during one particularly gruesome period, Vanderbilt went three years without scoring a single point, while UT hung up almost 100.

As the years passed, Tennessee's dominance over their neighbor to the west became the NCAA's second-longest losing streak, with only Navy having suffered longer at the hands of Notre Dame.

DAWN APPROACHES

With the advent of Gordon Gee, and his radical yet supportive approach to the Vanderbilt Athletics program as a whole, some Commodore fans saw the potential for resurgence.

Under former Athletics Director Todd Turner, Vanderbilt -- with the approval of Gee and a unanimous Board of Trust -- hired Bobby Johnson, a dark-horse candidate for the position, who came to Nashville from Division I-AA Furman.

Johnson's arrival irked some in the fanbase, who wondered about the commitment of an Administration who dipped into the I-AA to find a head coach for an SEC program.

And after Johnson's first two seasons at the helm of the Commodores' ship, those early critics seemed justified in their doubt.

In 2004, however, during Johnson's third year on West End, things seemed to change, and some in the then largely dormant Commodore Nation wondered if Gee and the Board of Trust might be proven correct in their full-fledged support of the Coach from Carolina.

Though they finished a season that began with talks of a bowl with a disappointing 2-9 (1-7), many commentators noted that a few different plays scattered through the season could have yielded a much different outcome.

Some believed the corner that Commodores fans had been hoping to turn for so many years was finally in sight, and that the dawn of a day of hope and respectability was at hand.

CUTLER AND THE CORNER

As the 2005 season dawned on "the city's west'rn border," Vanderbilt fans looked back to flashes of greatness that they had seen during the previous year and many believed that this could finally be "The Year."

The Commodores showed them that they were right.

After two come-from-behind wins at Wake Forest and at hostile Arkansas engineered by Commodore quarterback and three-year captain Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt had a five-game home stand in front of it, of which three games seemed very winnable.

And Vanderbilt, again under the brillant leadership of Cutler, proceeded to march to a perfect 4-0 start for the first time since 1984.

After a disappointing and morale-crushing loss to perennial antagonist Middle Tennessee State, the Commodores made Top 10 opponents L.S.U. and Georgia sweat before national television audiences.

With bowl hopes still alive, the Commodores' attempt to come from behind in Columbia against Steve Spurrier's newly revived Gamecocks fell just short, leading Vanderbilt into what many supposed would be a rout by Top 20 Florida in the Swamp.

Again before a national television audience, the Commodores flexed their muscle, coming from behind to tie the game, and force over-time. And though Florida finally won in the second over-time period, it was difficult for Commodore fans not to be proud of their valiant Black and Gold.

A tragic loss to Kentucky off yet another attempt at coming-from-behind ended the Commodores' bowl hopes, but Cutler's team was not ready to give up.

ONE LAST COMEBACK

The quickest way to pass into legend in Commodore Country is to defeat Tennessee; doing so in Knoxville secures one's place in glory for years to come.

At halftime, the Commodores led at Neyland Stadium, 21-14, but the Vols seemed to have recaptured their momentum and their confidence.

In the third quarter, the teams traded punts, and Tennessee got itself into position to score in the Fourth.

They did just that, first tying the game, then taking the lead off of a Colquitt field goal.

It was time for Cutler's Cardiac Commodores to work their magic again.

The Vanderbilt leader marched his men 64 yards in 3 plays, and with a 6-yard pass from Cutler to freshman Earl Bennett, the Commodores scored a touchdown and took the lead, 28-24.

With only a minute left in the game, Vanderbilt punted the ball back to the Vols, who quickly moved the ball down the field to the Commodore 16-yard line.

From there, the Vanderbilt defense held off four tries at the endzone. The Vols' had one last chance, with 0:01 left in the game, to secure the win.

In an instant that seemed frozen in time, Commodore cornerback Jared Fagan, a true freshman, intercepted UT quarterback Rick Clausen's final pass to end the game -- and the streak.

It was the first time that Vanderbilt had defeated the Vols in twenty-three years, and the Dores' first win in Neyland Stadium since 1975.

Other Commodore records fell as well:

• It was the first time that Vanderbilt had scored points at Neyland Stadium since 1999;

• It was the Dores' first lead in Knoxville since 1995;

• With the win over UT, Vanderbilt notches three SEC wins for the first time in divisional play, and for the first time since 1982;

• When Vandy went ahead 21-7 in the second quarter, it was the first time that the Dores had seen a double-digit lead in Knoxville since 1987;

• Vanderbilt's 28 points were the most that the Dores have scored in Knoxville since 1987;

• When true freshman Earl Bennett scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, he extended his Southeastern Conference (and Vanderbilt) record number of receptions to 79;

• Senior Commmodore quarterback Jay Cutler ended his Vanderbilt career with more than 20 team records, including total offense (9,658), career touchdown passes (57) and total passing yards (8,697); and

• With 107,487 fans in attendance, it was the largest crowd ever to witness a Vanderbilt win in the history of the program.

The Commodore victory did not take all of the record-breaking spotlight from the Big Orange. With Vanderbilt's victory:

• The Volunteers' hopes for a bowl bid were ended: the first time that Tennessee has not been to a bowl since 1988 -- it was the third-longest streak in the nation;

• Tennessee head coach Philip Fulmer suffered his first loss to Vanderbilt; and

• Regardless of the outcome of next week's game against Kentucky, the Vols will finish behind Vanderbilt in the SEC East for the first time in divisional play.

A SIGNATURE WIN

Like it did a generation ago, today's win over Tennessee will likely mark another milestone in the history of Vanderbilt Football.

Instead of a program mired in defeat and disarray, the Commodores will be able to point toward this season's progress and broaden their recruiting capacity more than any time in the past twenty years.

And it will certainly be difficult for Coach Bobby Johnson's critics to come up with material to continue to urge his removal.

Today's victory over the Volunteers, and one of college football's most winning coaches, seems to suggest that the support and trust placed in Johnson by the Vanderbilt family have been merited.

Johnson understands the significance of the win for himself, his players, and the entire University.

"There are grown men crying in that dressing room," Johnson said. "All the people who have been involved in the series have had it held over their heads a lot. We have said it’s our responsibility to make the series more competitive. I think we just did that."

Like Whit Taylor and the magical season of 1982, the 2005 Commodores today began writing a new chapter in the story of Vanderbilt -- a story whose happy ending seems more certain every day.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Counting down to Turkey Day!

Though I am not a huge fan of Thanksgiving Day, I am particularly looking forward to it these days. Samford chose not to give its law students a Fall Break, and so I have been in Birmingham (with the exception of two weekends in Gainesville and two weekends in Nashville) since I first moved to the Magic City back in the beginning of August.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to my family's coming to the Heart of Dixie to celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday with me and our extended family here in Alabama.

Nothing like spending Thanksgiving with the family to get a person excited for finals!

Pray for Brooke

My little sister Brooke, a.k.a. "PLS," needs your prayers. She was playing in a scrimmage for the Emory & Henry College Lady Wasps, when she was going to shoot a three-pointer. The defender attempted to block Brooke out, and in the process of doing so, she knocked Brooke's feet out from under her.

My sister hit the court, with most of her body-weight on her elbow and her head. Brooke says that she momentarily blacked out, and when she came-to, she was very dizzy. Since her head was hurting, the training staff at E&H immediately took Brooke to the Emergency Room, where (after three hours), my family was informed that Brooke had a concussion.

My mom initially said that PLS would have to be bedfast for at least 48 hours; after I spoke to Brooke tonight, it appears that she will have to stay in bed until November 20 (note that the injury occurred on the night of Tuesday, November 15). That's five days, and that means that Number 25 won't be putting on the Blue and Gold for her first two games as a senior.

Please pray that Brookie would recover quickly; that she would be patient; and that God would remind her how much He loves her in this difficult time.

ONE MORE THING

As you're praying for my sister, please also remember this request from a member of the First Baptist Church of Birmingham, AL Sanctuary Choir (where I am also a member of the choir, attending church there):

The lady in the choir said that a family friend of hers was suffering through the very difficult situation of dealing with their 19-year-old son comitting suicide. The young man's name is Kevin, and his family is certainly in need of your prayers.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Samford = Youth camp

Today at lunch, in Samford's Beeson University Center, I was enjoying some Chik-Fil-A with fellow future-lawyers Jason Bobo, Huntingdon College '05, and David Kutcher, University of the South '05, when we noticed a Samfordite -- a.k.a., a Samford undergrad -- doing an amazing stupid-human-trick.

Proudly wearing his fraternity letters (perhaps his letters should remain anonymous, in the interests of preserving their and his pride), this young man, probably about 20, was balancing his flippable cell phone open on his nose.

It was both amazing and disheartening: it was a cool talent, but it makes one wonder with what exactly these young Samfordites fill their time.

At any rate: I love it here, despite the silliness of some of my fellow (and yes, I am one, now, too) Samfordites.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Verse of the Day

"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve: whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

--Joshua 24:15 (read this in context).

Crappie Celebration

One of the joys of attending a football game in person is not getting to see the instant replay of what might have been.

Since I returned from Gainesville, all I have heard about from friends and foes alike is the excessive celebration penalty that was called against Vanderbilt after our touchdown in the final minutes of regulation play against Florida.

All the newspapers and internet sites have been discussing it, and everyone seems to agree -- even the folks down in Malaria-Land -- that the Dores got the short straw in a very important draw.

Coach Bobby Johnson has said that he had already called a time out to get the Black and Gold ready to set up a two-point conversion to win the game when the SEC referee in the end zone flagged freshman Earl Bennett for excessive celebration.

I have not seen any of the replays, but all the hype from people -- even the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that Vandy got beat by the team wearing black-and-white.

In the end, though, all this speculation doesn't matter. The Commodores still have a chance to make their dreams come true; and if we're going to do that, we have to beat Kentucky this week.

The game is not on television (of course, that's not really a surprise), but you'd better believe that I'm going to be glued to my computer, listening to the live play-by-play from the Voice of the Commodores, Joe Fisher, as he paints the picture of the Commodores' future.

And should we come away victorious this Saturday -- which we may not do, even after our play against UF -- we still have a long journey ahead: on the map, Knoxville is only 180 miles to the east. But in the minds of those from Commodore Country, it's a journey into the deepest, darkest territory on Earth.

God help us.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Commodore Pride

I suppose some who may have read my earlier post about the Dores' chances against the Florida Alligators may have scoffed at my analysis (hopefully, they weren't so blind as to scoff at the statistics that I presented).

With that said, I am sure that many who heard me giving Vanderbilt a good chance to beat Florida probably thought I was being a homer (i.e., someone who always supports the home team).

I believe that the valiant Men in Black and Gold proved that I wasn't off my rocker with their brillant performance this past Saturday against a team that was, at the time, the fifth-ranked club in the nation.

WAY TO GO, DORES

I am so proud of our team. They played with determination, they played with heart, and they played with class -- certainly, despite the score on the massive jumbo-screens in Gainesville, those Vanderbilt Commodores came out ahead of those people living in that reptile-infested, malaria-trap known as the town of Gainesville.

Whoever Mr. Gaines was, he sure wasn't planning too well when he decided to start a town there. But I digress.

The Commodores played to a level that no one, certainly not the powers-that-be or the odds-makers in Las Vegas, thought they could play. Remember that Vanderbilt was a 19.5 point underdog to Urban Meyer's squad.

As I said in my earlier post, that just wasn't realistic. A more realistic line would have been 10 points, or maybe 14. But 19.5 was too much.

I am so proud of our team, our coaching staff, our students, and our administration -- the entire Vanderbilt family. My experience there, both the bad from Florida and the good from the Vandyfolks made me so happy that for the rest of my life, I can proudly say, "I wear the Ring."

HIGH TEMPERATURE, LOW CLASS

In a place where the temparture was ranging somewhere in low nineties, I joined my fiancee, Kat, for another classic SEC weekend. Coming to Gainesville was my seventh SEC stadium to visit as a Commodore fan (other SEC: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Auburn; other non-SEC: Duke, Baylor, and Samford), and I was looking forward to the typical SEC experience.

What was I expecting, then? Nothing but Southern hospitality, good-natured ribbing about the upcoming game, and a collegiate atmosphere that is rivaled nowhere else in college sports: exactly what I have experienced at all six of the other SEC stadiums.

What did I actually experience? Choosing not to vary my plan from the other SEC towns that I have been to as a Vanderbilt fan, I wandered (with my fiancee) down the main strip of the town, through the tailgating areas, and into the stadium.

The entire time, I was being cussed and threatened. No one offered any good-natured ribbing; I felt as though I was going to have to (physically) defend my fiancee or myself the entire time.

Certainly, no one offered any food or hospitality; indeed, even adults -- 50 years old and older! -- joined in the loathsome, vulgar behavior.

Let people say what they will about Tennessee, but there ain't no lower class than Gainesville trash.

BEAT KENTUCKY

The Dores' hopes (and mine) of a bowl game (the first since 1982) are not dashed: with a win over Kentucky this week, Vanderbilt will move back to .500 on the season, and give itself a chance to decide its destiny in Knoxville.

But first, we have to beat Big Blue. And, as Vanderbilt has shown in the past, that is not going to be easy.

We are ripe for upset: we played a good team very well in an emotional atmosphere and situation. Our team was physically battling, and we are likely bruised and injured.

It will take all that we have to come away with a victory in Nashville this weekend.

But we must: it is senior week, and we must not let these heroic Commodores end their dreams of the Vanderbilt trifecta (the trifecta is: one, have a winning season; two, beat Tennessee; and three, go to a bowl game).

I do not care if we beat Kentucky by 1 point or by one hundred (certainly, it is more likely that we'll beat them by one if we beat them at all), but we must beat them.

And I believe that Vanderbilt can do it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Vanderbilt Commodores at Florida Alligators

This weekend, I am heading down to Gainesville, Florida to see Kat and to watch the Men of the Black-and-Gold take on the Alligators.

Much to my surprise, it seems that my hopes for leaving Gainesville on Sunday with another "W" on the books have increased quite a bit since I first decided to attend this SEC match-up back in August.

LET DOWN

The most obvious reason for excitement is that the 'Dores come into the Swamp only a week after Urban Meyer led his team to a 14-10 victory over the mighty Georgia Bulldogs. And, needless to say (yet say it I will), the Commodores are not the Bulldogs.

Though we did play Georgia well, the final score was 17-34, and we did not beat the spread (though for much of the game, it looked as though we might win outright).

The Gators trip to Jacksonville, on the other hand, was no where near as well-played as the Dores' game against UGA in Nashville.

Now compare the excitement and rivalry that was present in last week's CBS SEC Game of the Week with this week's ESPN2 contest at UF.

The Alligators are primed for coming out flat against a team that they probably do not respect.

DON'T REPEAT HISTORY

To be candid, the Orange-and-Blue have good reason to be skeptical of Vanderbilt, considering the two teams' history together.

In the thirty-nine times that the Commodores have played the Alligators, the Officers from Nashville have only come away victorious nine times; there are two ties in the series.

The last time the Commodores pulled off the upset (and the contest has usually been an upset) was in 1988, when this author was a student in kindergarten at fair Rogersville.

The 1988 win, a 24-9 decision, took place in Nashville. When the Dores are on the road against Florida, the situation is even worse: Vanderbilt has only beaten Florida in Gainesville once, in 1945 -- and that was the first time the two schools had ever played one another.

As it usually is when it comes to Southeastern Conference series records in the modern area, Vanderbilt does not want to repeat history.

NUMBERS DON'T LIE

If the Commodores look back, they won't like what they see -- that is, unless they confine their rearview mirror to recent history.

In what has become a season marked with potential, Vanderbilt has put a few impressive numbers in the books. If the math and science majors on West End want to take those stats out for a spin, doing so against the Swamp-things will probably boost their confidence:

• Total Offense
VU >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 398.9 yds (51st in D-I)
UF >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 388.4 yds (62nd)

• Passing Yards
VU >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 268.9 yds (28th in D-I)
UF >>>>>>>>>>>>> 241 yds (56th)

• Rushing Yards
VU >>>>>>>>>>>> 130 yds (75th in D-I)
UF >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 147.4 yds (59th)

• Points Scored
VU >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 23.3 (83rd in D-I)
UF >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 25.4 (69th)

• Pass Completion
VU >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 56.8% (J. Cutler)
UF >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 60.3% (C. Leak)

• Leading Rushers
VU >>>>>>>>>>>>>> 6.6 yds per carry (C. Jackson-Garrison)
UF >>>>>>>>>> 4.9 yds per carry (Wynn)

• Leading Receivers
VU >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 12.9 yds per comp. (E. Davis)
UF >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 13.3 yds per comp. (Baker)

The statistical parity between these two teams may surprise the casual fan, but those familiar with both the Alligators' woes and the Commodores' improvements should not be surprised.

GET PUMPED UP

If the Commodores come to Gainesville pumped up and ready to play, they have a legitimate chance to pull of a major upset of the nation's No. 5 team. A win against Florida would be a major breakthrough for the Vanderbilt program that has struggled for more than twenty years, with no bowl appearance or winning season since 1982 (before this author was born).

Vanderbilt has a tough row to hoe, but they can do it.

PREDICTION

Vanderbilt Commodores 37
Florida Alligators 34

Alito, a.k.a. Scalia?

I'm glad President Bush acted quickly to nominate a new person for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. And, from what I've learned of his record, I think Judge Alito's record certainly makes him the kind of judge that a good Federalist and social conservative would appreciate.

As such, I am fairly excited about the potential for him to be on the Court. At the same time, I'm worried that we're going to have a very contenious, lacking-in-comity confirmation process.

It's going to be ugly.

All Saints' Day

Today, Christians around the world celebrate the impact that the "great cloud of witnesses" have had on our spiritual lives, as we remember all the saints, great and small, who have gone on before us into glory.

WHAT IS ALL SAINTS DAY?

All Saints Day is a universal Christian Feast that honors and remembers all Christian saints, known and unknown. In the Western Church (especially Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans) it is kept on November 1. The Orthodox Churches observe it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

Ephrem Syrus (d. 373) mentions a Feast dedicated the saints in his writings. St. Chrysostom of Constantinople (d. 407) was the first Christian we know of to assign the Feast to a particular day: the first Sunday after Pentecost.

The Feast did not become established in the Western Church until the Roman bishop Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to Christian usage as a church on May 13, 609 or 610.

The Feast was observed annually on this date until the time of Bishop of Rome, Gregory III (d. 741) when its observance was shifted to November 1, since on this date Gregory dedicated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter's to "All the Saints."

It was Gregory IV (d. 844), who in 835 ordered the Feast of All Saints to be universally observed on November 1.

All Saints is a day to remember and thank God for all saints, both dead and living. It is a day to glorify Jesus Christ, who by his holy life and death has made the saints holy through Baptism and faith.

A PRAYER FOR ALL SAINTS DAY

One of the traditional ways to observe All Saints Day is for Christians to gather together and pray the Litany of the Saints. One person leads, saying the "petition," and the group responds with the "responsory."

Effectively, the Christians are both talking to God and to their brothers and sisters who have gone on before them, asking them to pray for them -- much as a living Christian might ask another to pray for them as well.

Below, the petition is first, and the responsory has an "R."

Lord, have mercy on us.
R Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us.
R Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.
R Lord, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God.
R Pray for us.

Saint Michael,
R Pray for us.

Holy angels of God,
R Pray for us.

Saint Joseph,
R Pray for us.

Saint John the Baptist,
R Pray for us.

Saint Peter and Saint Paul,
R Pray for us.

Saint Andrew,
R Pray for us.

Saint John,
R Pray for us.

Saint Mary Magdalene,
R Pray for us.

Saint Stephen,
R Pray for us.

Saint Ignatius,
R Pray for us.

Saint Lawrence,
R Pray for us.

Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity,
R Pray for us.

Saint Agnes,
R Pray for us.

Saint Gregory,
R Pray for us.

Saint Augustine,
R Pray for us.

Saint Athanasius,
R Pray for us.

Saint Basil,
R Pray for us.

Saint George,
R Pray for us.

Saint Patrick,
R Pray for us.

Saint Martin,
R Pray for us.

Saint Benedict,
R Pray for us.

Saint Francis and Saint Dominic,
R Pray for us.

Saint Francis Xavier,
R Pray for us.

Saint John Vianney,
R Pray for us.

Saint Catherine,
R Pray for us.

Saint Theresa,
R Pray for us.

All you saints of God,
R Pray for us.

Lord, be merciful,
R Lord, save us.

From all harm,
R Lord, save us.

From every sin,
R Lord, save us.

From all temptations,
R Lord, save us.

From everlasting death,
R Lord, save us.

By Your coming among us,
R Lord, save us.

By Your death and rising to new life,
R Lord, save us.

By Your gift of the Holy Spirit,
R Lord, save us.

Be merciful to us sinners,
R Lord, hear our prayer.

Guide and protect Your Holy Church,
R Lord, hear our prayer.

Keep all the clergy in faithful service to Your Church.
R Lord, hear our prayer.

Bring all people together in trust and peace.
R Lord, hear our prayer.

Strengthen us in Your service.
R Lord, hear our prayer.

In the name of God,
R the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Amen.
R Amen.