I Vow to Never…

What makes the summer Olympics so relatable is the sense that with proper training, dedication, & diet, we too could become a gold medalist. We feel like we could be the best swimmer or diver or speed-walker or marksman.

I get the same feeling every July 4th watching the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest. When I look at Joey Chestnut, or any other competitor, I don’t see any God-given talent: he doesn’t have to run fast or jump high. He just has to eat.

And as the title character in Antwone Fisher said, “I could eat”.

And not only can I eat, I love to eat. I enjoy and appreciate food – it is more than sustenance to me.

But eating for the joy of it and eating competitively are two different things.

I know, because a few years ago I got my shot to go “All in” with a large cheese pizza. But for me, there was no championship belt, prize money, or live tv crew. There were no fancy introductions, special costumes, or announcers.

My shot at the world of competitive eating wasn’t the main attraction; it was only another cheap crowd pleaser at a minor league baseball game. And most people weren’t even paying attention; they were trying to convince the sun to set so the main act could begin: fireworks. Apparently it takes 15-20 minutes to get fireworks ready, and there is no better space filler than people stuffing their faces with Papa Johns.

And I was only selected when I asked the head of entertainment a question about a totally different topic. She kept ignoring my questions, never even looking up from her clipboard. When she was fully exasperated, she glanced up. And what she saw turned her mourning into dancing. Just to make sure, she took a second glance. Looked me up and down, smiled, and told me I was contest #5.

Contestant #5 in tonight’s eating challenge. And that I should meet her after the game to go on the field and participate.

They didn’t even know my name – never asked. I was just one of six guys selected from the crowd. Four of the guys were part of a bachelor party and were too libated to know better. One was a high school athlete with a daily caloric intake similar to Michael Phelps. And there was me.

They gave each of us a leftover Papa John’s pizza from the concession stand and a small cup of water. We were to have 10 minutes to eat the entire pizza. First one finishes, wins. Crust must be eaten to count.

The countdown begins and away we go. The high school kid jumps out to an early lead, followed by the most drunk of the soon to be groomsmen. I am somewhere in the middle.

After the first few minutes, the high school kid begins to fade as do two members of the bachelor party. They ate the crust first and it killed their buzz. They began to realize what they were doing. I am holding steady, tied for second with the third member of the bachelor party. We both trail the fourth member of the bachelor party, who has somehow snuck a beer into the competition.

At the halfway point, it’s down to the beer drinkin’ groomsmen and myself. He has the lead, three friends prodding him on, and a continual buzz. It’s not looking good for me.

Entering the fourth quarter, I’m still trailing. My jaw is wearing out and it hurts to chew. I look over and this guy is still going strong. And he’s washing it down with more beer.

I give it my all, but in the end, I am no match for beer and a bachelor party. Neither one of us finishes the pizza, but he ate more than I did. I make a comment about beer, crust, and rules to the event coordinator, but she doesn’t care. The natives want fireworks and she doesn’t have the stomach to watch anyone else eat more food, so she brushes me off and declares him the winner. He smiles and shouts his dominance. His friends feed him another beer and secretly take his photo.

I head back to the crowd and find my party. They pat me on the back and give me well-wishes. The pats hurt. So do the metal seats. The pain of eating begins to set in and it forces me to lay across the bleachers.

I vow to never eat again.

Then I think of all the foods I could never eat again. That won’t work.

I vow to never eat pizza again. Then I think of the wood fire grilled pizzas and Mellow Mushroom and dessert pizza. That won’t work.

I vow to never eat too much again. Then I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas and buffets and homemade desserts. That won’t work.

I vow to never compete in an eating contest again. Then I think of Man vs Food and how awesome some of the challenges would be. That won’t work.

I vow to never compete in an eating contest against a drunk bachelor party again.

Now that will work.

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Checking in on 40 Before 40

It’s been nearly two months since I’ve mentioned 40 Before 40 and nearly 5 months since I finished the list. And while it may appear not much is happening in the dreams department, nothing could be further from the truth.

I currently own a Ford Explorer, which is still in production, although my version is a few body styles removed from the current vehicle. Does this count? Not really what I was expecting when the dream came about, so it currently stands as no.

And with that said, I still can’t lay claim to completing any of my 40B40 list (like my shortened version?), but I can feel myself getting close. The Tiger Swag is slowly making progress. At its current level, I don’t think it counts as being published, but it may lead to other opportunities. Opportunities like going viral (Tiger Swag was called out on a Gamecock message board), being on radio or tv or podcast (I would consider that a win), or even taking a road trip (press passes, right?).

In better news, I expect to accomplish a few goals this fall. October will be our annual Clemson road trip, which will take us to Winston-Salem, home of Krispy Kreme (emails have already been exchanged). Fall break may contain a trip to DC with the fam, which will certainly include a stop by Busch Gardens. And November will be renamed “No Shave November”, which will be followed by a Floyd the Barber shave.

Other work includes multiple offers for road trips – just need to find the time (and money), minor opportunities to cater an event, negotiations of a hot air balloon ride, research into using my engineering skills to solve problems, and inquiries into hosting a concert.

But more importantly, my list must change. Since I joined Facebook in support of The Tiger Swag, I have actually forever denied myself to accomplish one of my goals. So, rather than rename the list 39 Before 40, I’ve decided to replace Facebook with a new dream.

My new dream – invent something.

I don’t need to be a Di Vinci or Edison or Franklin. I don’t even need to be an Otis (elevator), de Mestral (Velcro), or Judson (zipper). I’d be honored to be like another Powell I know.

Terry Powell – aka Dad. He took used clothes hangers from department stores, sawed off the connector pieces to create his own version of chip clips. I’ve also seen solve many a problem without using the proper tools. Just gettin’ it done any way he can.

Honestly, I’d even settle for an idea. An idea like online police scanners (been done), putting all known leaves in an app so you can recognize vegetation (been done), or packaging crayons based on schools and conferences. Would you want your kids coloring with a Crimson crayon for Harvard or Blue for Yale? I know I would. Heck! I’d have seconds and then polish it off (see the 2:15 mark)…

Unfortunately, Home Depot upped the ante by selling official paint colors of the NCAA.

So, it shall still be called 40 Before 40: 40 goals before turning 40.

And I only have 40 more to go…

A Great Dilemma & A New Adventure

There are times when lines are a little blurry and there are times when a line must be drawn. Since the beginning of the Facebook rage, I drew a stern line in the sand, promising to never cross over to the “dark” side. I was so adamant in my dislike for Facebook that I made never joining Facebook one of my 40 Before 40 goals.

It cost me a few friends (literal – not the digital kind), but also helped me forge others (great minds do think alike).

This whole idea of interacting with people, in tiny insincere methods, has never been attractive. My main thinking has always been: “If I haven’t spoken to you in 10 years, there may be for a reason for that.”

But taking risks means putting your pride aside. And for me, that means my Facebook aversion. I am willing to swallow my pride and redo my goals, all in the name of going out on a limb.

And starting a new website, devoted strictly to all things Clemson, is a large risk on a small, tender limb.

Don’t believe me? Let’s review:

  • I’m an engineer with a math passion, not a writer
    In high school and college, I dreaded any form of required reading and writing. I failed the only AP exam not tied to math and in college, my wife “edited” my papers just so I could get through the basic English & Literature courses. And even when I chose a non-math based class, they were rooted in things I already enjoyed: technology and sports.

  • I live 4.5 hours from Clemson – and am able to visit 1-2 times per year
    I don’t have the ability to walk across campus and interview players, watch practices, or get a vibe on the current state of affairs. I am not surrounded by newspapers and articles letting me know what’s happening. I have to pick my chances – and that usually means trying to find a game suitable for the girls.

  • I have no access to the University, Athletics Department, Sports Information Department, or any other department with the school
    I can’t pick up the phone or drop an email asking for an interview. I’m not able to learn about news events before the general public. Everything I learn, I learn from the media or message boards. Which brings me to my next point:

  • There are already multiple websites which offer similar information
    I don’t have the writing chops to be a leader in Clemson info. I don’t have the access to get the kind of info most people want. I don’t have the location to get a feel for the campus. And I don’t have the web skills to develop a website and message board capable of doing something different. And there are already places that have this info. And most do it pretty well, not to mention the national media (ESPN, Yahoo!), which have their own comment streams and message boards.

  • I already have a full-time job, a wife, two kids, and my own blog
    My wife and I need a vacation. So does our entire family. I log nearly 45 hours per week at work, not counting the hour and a half I spend in the car getting to and fro. There have been weeks that go by here without fresh content and here I am thinking of starting a new website. One that requires frequent content, differing thoughts, and more time.

  • And finally, I love Clemson sports for what it is, not what happens
    I realize we may never win a championship in any sport, let alone football. I realize we haven’t beaten our rival in three years. I realize our best days may be a quarter century in the rear. I realize millions of dollars are spent to support this university – and that demands results. I realize hundreds of other fan bases would give their left…for what we have. I realize all these things, but they don’t change my mind. I love Clemson for what it is, where it is, and what it represents. Not how they perform.

So, why am I starting a website that I don’t have the time nor tools to handle, that duplicates the market, and that is not results driven?

Because I love Clemson. The Town, the Team, the University. I love the orange and purple. The Hill, the Paw, the Rock. Tiger Rag & Tiger Shag.

And any chance to share that passion is an opportunity I can’t pass up.

This new website, thetigerswag.com, will be dedicated to bringing unique content and takes on all things Clemson. We will esteem those worthy of esteeming, ponder that which needs pondering, question everything, and above all – laugh. At others. At ourselves. And most of all, at our rival.

The new site will also have an email address: thetigerswag@gmail.com, a twitter account: twitter.com/thetigerswag, and (wait for it) a facebook fan page: facebook.com/thetigerswag.

So, if you’re ever in the area, please check it out, drop a line, and let me know what you think.

And hit me up on Facebook, too. Make it worth my while to be there.

Of Mice and Men and Church

George and Lennie had a dream. A dream of a little place of their own, with their own bedrooms, kitchen, livestock, and crops. A place where they could live off the fat of the land and where no one would bother them.

This dream was real to one and a fantasy to the other. Yet it sustained them both. Kept them focused on their current task.

And it was infectious. As they shared their dream with barley buckers and ranch hands, those guys wanted a slice too. They wanted to be part of something special. And to them, it was nearly heavenly.

One ranch hand was willing to pay the majority of the cost just to belong. Another, a black man, was willing to help for free just so he could reap what he sowed.

Even the owner’s wife, the only girl on the ranch, had a desire to be part of George and Lennie’s dream. For her, she wanted to be part of a group that lived life and took care of each other.

Steinbeck’s story was set in the 1930’s, during the Great Depression. During that time, people didn’t have grand dreams – certainly not 40 of them. But they had this longing.

Even amidst the struggle for food and money, people had a longing to belong.

And today is no different. The longing is still there. It may manifest itself in different ways, but it has never dissipated.

And it never will.

Because the longing isn’t to have a small place we can call our own or to live off the fat of the land or to tend the rabbits.

The longing we have is to belong. To belong to something bigger than ourselves. To belong to something grand. To belong to something that lasts. Forever.

And we’re going to fill this longing – somehow, someway.

And this is where the church needs to be. Filling those longings with the only fulfilling thing – Jesus Christ.

Churches try to meet this need. We even throw “Community” in our titles so you’ll have no doubt. But are we really meeting this need. Or are we just masking it?

If we’re making people feel welcome and comfortable and at home, we’ve accomplished one goal. Yet if we never offer the ultimate answer – Jesus Christ – then we’ve only duped ourselves. And even worse – we’ve duped those in need.

The dream is infectious – like water to Gizmo – but if we as a church don’t offer Jesus Christ in full, then we are adding to the problem, not solving it.

And that may be worse.

In the end, George and Lennie’s plan was based upon the efforts of themselves and they never made it to their little slice of heaven. In fact, things actually got worse.

Because they shared their dream, the girl got carried away and was killed by Lennie. Lennie was then shot by George as he tried to protect him – and himself.

So – your choice. Fulfill eternal dreams. Or feel comfortable.

40 Before 40: The List

So – I’ve finally finished the list and thought it worthwhile to summarize them in a single post. Mainly so my mom doesn’t have to click through multiple posts just to reread them.

So here they are in the same order they were presented:

  1. Eat my way through Italy
  2. Have my name on giant check
  3. Leave a $100 tip anonymously
  4. Play Santa Claus
  5. Teach a class
  6. Wear a tuxedo
  7. Attend the Army-Navy game
  8. Get someone to say “Amen” while I’m speaking
  9. Ride in a hot air balloon
  10. Solve a community problem
  11. Play a round at Augusta National
  12. Take a tour of Krispy Kreme
  13. Own a car still in production
  14. Be a sous chef
  15. Be on tv or in a commercial
  16. Ride a roller coaster with my kids
  17. Spend the night in a hammock
  18. Win a trophy
  19. See the good parts of the White House
  20. Take a road trip
  21. Attend a European soccer match
  22. Take my children on a mission’s trip
  23. Wear the Tiger mascot costume
  24. Cater an event
  25. Jump out of an airplane
  26. Be a guest on a radio show
  27. Own an orange blazer
  28. Never join Facebook
  29. Host a concert
  30. Spend a night on a boat
  31. Grow a beard
  32. Get a real shave
  33. Run for public office
  34. Read a literary classic
  35. Act in a play
  36. Be published
  37. Go viral
  38. Run down the Hill
  39. Have a great Valentine’s Day
  40. Ride in a military aircraft

Please check back often as I will be updating this page as I complete, or change, my goals.

I’m nearly ready to cross off my first goal as I just finished “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. Quite the uplifting and encouraging read… I think I know why I haven’t read all that many literary classics – they are depressing.

40 Before 40: 5-1

The Last Five. I briefly pondered making one of those numbered intros like ESPN uses for their Top 10 lists, but then I realized it would take effort. And detail. And as we just found out – I don’t do detail.

So, with that said, here are the Final Five (doesn’t ring as well as Final Four – but equally unimportant):

  • Be published
    I won’t be too picky on the media to which I am published: website, magazine, children’s book, engineered white paper, Reader’s Digest (funny story sections). My only requirement is I receive credit for the work.

    I also can’t put my finger on why I want to be published other than it brings some level of vindication. In some ways it says “Well Done” and “I think others want to hear what you have to say.”

  • Go viral
    Lord, please let this dream not be fulfilled without my knowledge through the use of YouTube. Amen.

    Of all the dreams, this is probably my most self indulging. What benefit is there to having 15 minutes of social media fame? What long term gain is it?

    There is none. The only thing gained is satisfaction. The satisfaction of knowing I made something worth sharing. And sharing. And sharing.

  • Run down the Hill
    This has been a dream since I was a little boy. To come out of the buses, walk to the top of the Hill, rub Howard’s Rock and bask in the glow of 80,000+ cheering fans.

    But I knew I would never get the chance. I couldn’t play well enough to earn the right. And I never fought for our country. But then Lucas Glover won the US Open and just a few months later he led the team down the Hill before the FSU game.

    At that point I knew I had a shot. And the dream back alive. (Start around 3:30 in the clip)

  • Have a great Valentine’s Day
    Past Valentine’s Days have involved getting lost, friends in wrecks, meals we couldn’t afford, ill-timed decisions, and major disappointments.

    As such, Valentine’s Day was a running joke. We basically gave up, laughed at ourselves (and others caught up in its wake). But then I had little girls. Girls who love to feel like princesses and beam when they hear how beautiful they are (they aren’t all that different from grown-up girls). And I want to make sure they feel the love of their daddy. I want to make sure they have no need for other men – just their daddy. And Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show them.

    As such, I dream of having a night where things go right, for both my trophy wife and my little girls. Where conversation flows – with all of them. Where meals are perfect, dessert is sweet, and love abounds.

    Sounds super cheesy – and it is. And I’m not usually like this. But for them, I’m willing to try again.

  • Ride in a military aircraft
    At first this was ride in a fighter jet. Then I settled on just the simulator. Then I changed to a helicopter. Then I ran out of room, so I lumped them all together under the dream of “military aircraft”.

    You would think this wouldn’t be too hard. I live in an area with two active military bases. Plus – Tommy Bowden got a chance:

I guess that’s it – all 40. The only problem – that was the easy part. Now the tough part begins.

Please join me as I embark on this journey.

Thanks for your time.

40 Before 40: 10-6

Let’s call these will be my liberal arts five. If I could only get the tax payers to support the rest of my goals too, I might be able to accomplish them…

  • Grow a beard
  • Of all my goals, this may be the hardest to complete. Not because of money or time or effort, but because of Gary Chapman. Physical touch is one of the five love languages and will essentially cease during the time needed to properly grow a beard.

    And while I’m atypical, I’m not quite THAT atypical.

    I’m thinking the beard growth will be for a minimum of 30 days and will only allow me minor trimming on the neck area. This should get me through the itchy puberty looking stage and will let me know how much of a man I really am.

    I have this feeling it won’t go well. Odds are, if I were able to grow a decent beard, I would have by now. I’m pretty sure I would never have made a proper Old Testament prophet.

  • Get a real shave from a real blade
  • One of the benefits of growing a beard will be shaving it and I’ve always wanted to have real shave. And by real, I don’t be mean using a razor at all, but a true blade. One that has to be sharpened by a 75 year old man with shaky hands before we get started. I want the musk smelling shaving cream applied with a brush and I want it followed with a hot towel.

    Might have to head to Mayberry to stop by Floyd’s place. He always seemed to give the best cuts & shave. Plus, the two combined would only cost $2.25.

  • Run for public office
  • When I first got out of college, I thought I could change the world. Janet was teaching middle school and making a difference and I wanted to as well. We actually teamed up and took her class to a Clemson game to show them what college was about and to plant a small seed that college is a legitimate possibility anyone.

    After a few years, our trip was shut down, mainly due to school politics. I thought maybe I could change education system and contemplated running for school board. But reality set in. I was a 24-25 year old with no kids in the system and no idea how politics really work.

    Now I’m 33 with one kid in and another about to enroll. And I still have no idea how politics work. And I don’t care to know. But one thought still remains – what really happens on the public side? How are decisions made, and implemented? What information truly is available? Would I respond differently if I had different information available to me?

    All these questions remain and I’m curious to see how I’d handle things.

    Now – I just need to find a position that no one wants and put my name in the hat.

    What would I do if I won?

  • Read and discuss a literary classic
  • They say knowledge is power. And I like knowledge. And I like power. Seems to be a match made in heaven.

    Somewhere through high school and college, I realized how to “do” class. Class has a tangible objective – “A” and my idea was to do what was necessary to earn that “A”. No more. No less.

    And I did pretty well. I stumbled a bit on the way, but I graduated – with greater than a 3.0.

    But one thing I lost was the joy of the ride, especially in non-major classes, like English. I was even happy to walk with a “B” just so long as I was done.

    But I feel like I missed something. I either never read or never enjoyed the required reading – like the classics. I’m not up to speed on Twain or Hemmingway or Dickens or Shakespeare.

    And I would like to be. I’d like to know what it is about Shakespeare that has inspired hundreds of thousands to write, create, and love. I’d like to know what troubled Hemmingway and Wilde and see how that transpired in their works. I’d like to see life through Dickens or culture through Fitzgerald.

    And I’d like to be able to bounce my ideas of someone else – to truth them and debate them. There’s a reason their writings have lasted, and will last, for as long as they have. And I’d like to know what it is.

  • Act in a play
  • I have a bit of ham in me. From both my love of barbecue to my being an only child. I have this desire to put people at ease – and hopefully laugh while doing it.

    My best bet is a comedy put on by the local theater company. They could probably find a part for me – somewhere. And I think it would be grand.

    In my past, I have performed in two or three talent shows (all in elementary school), mock trial (high school), and a few skits (college and soon thereafter). But that’s it. I’ve never stood in front of a paying audience or seen my name in a playbill. I’ve never changed outfits or tried to memorize more than a line or two. But one day – maybe.

    I’ll need time, but that seems to be a common need. And we’ll see how important this is by the time I give it.

With these five, it leaves only five to go. It won’t be long until I’m required to no longer write, but act.

I’m nearly ready.