Thursday, November 8, 2007


The Lanier Drive Institute of Higher Thinking is moving to WordPress. More flexibility over there and better looking blogs, I think. The new site also has another big announcement.

Click here and check out the new digs. Hint below.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Last week was the worst week of my life, yet it contained the best day, a dichotomy that haunts most of my waking hours.

My 18-month old goddaughter Kathryn passed away in her sleep unexpectedly on Sunday, October 7, six days before I married the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. The death stunned our close-knit group of friends and numbed our souls to everything but the sheer unbelievability of our loss. Her father was my best man, but we invited Kathryn's mother to join us at the alter. Their resolve to stand together through the most incomprehensible of tragedies was a symbol of love and strength Jessica and I wanted to have front and center and near us as we exchanged vows in a ceremony that only went on at all with the blessings of the bereaved couple.

The few smiles and laughs Friday's rehearsal dinner and Saturday's wedding provided the parents were more important than symbolic rings or cakes or tossed bouquets. The remembrances of Kathryn, our flower girl even en absentia, made the ceremony complete. There were no Bridezillas or family meltdowns or jilted former lovers popping out of the woodwork during the "if anyone knows why this man and this woman should not be joined" phase of the festivities.

Perspective ruled the events.

Jessica and I lost the most wonderful part of our lives as a couple: our Saturday morning companion, our little housecleaning helper, the love of our lives. But we gained each other like never before and found happiness still waiting just outside our grief, ready to return for a little while and then glad to step back into the shadows until the time for happiness was upon us again.

I am happier right now than I have ever been in my life. I am sadder right now than I have ever been in my life.

More pictures soon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We interrupt this blog for nuptials

I was told once by a friend made through blogging never to write about my own relationship on my blog. This advice came one girlfriend and one blog entry too late. I rushed the disintegration of one relationship with a short treatise on shopping trips in the company of women. Otherwise, I may have never met Jessica and the following entry may not have been necessary. Thank goodness for sporadic idiocy, I guess.

I'm getting married. And just once (and briefly), I'm going to write about it.

"Alright, let me be the first to say congratulations to you then. You get one vagina for the rest of your life. Real smart, Frank."

—Beanie, from Old School

In just a little more than three weeks, I am going to stand up in front of a crowd of friends and relatives and publicly vow to love, cherish, adore, remain true to and usually obey this one extraordinary woman, through sickness and in health, for richer (yeah, right) or poorer (more like it). Till death do we part. A very nice man with a Christian background and a white goatee who looks about 203 years old and still rides a motorcycle (yep, he's in the club) will preside and read a short Baha'I prayer as a nod to my own amalgamated spiritual background. Then we'll exchange rings we probably will buy at Claire's the day before, but the symbology of the whole ritual will hardly suffer.

Then we will be joined legally and spiritually as man and wife. Beer drinking will ensue. There will be dancing and merriment and hopefully it won't start raining frogs just because one of South Georgia's career bachelors is retiring.

Jessica will change her last name, which will be weird to me, but exciting. No hyphens, either. The Garners of Bulloch County officially grow from four to five members.

That, then, will officially close the book on Chapter 14 of Memoirs of a Pretty Average Dude, "Our House (Is a very, very, very messy house)." After the breakneck pace of Chapters 9 ("Dude, I just threw up on your truck") and 10 ("Understanding the signs of a potentially fucked-up relationship, pts 9-13") and the introspection of Chapter 11 ("My cubicle smells funny"), the story of finding, falling for and eventually marrying Jessica was fairly average. Some drama. Some conflict. Nothing to dig up Stanley Kubrick and have him shoot a movie about. Mostly just love and snuggling and farts and laughter and Jessica learning enough about baseball to suggest lineup changes in the middle of the Southern Conference baseball tournament like Annie Savoy sending notes to the Bulls' dugout. Good times.

<--Actually, after Chapters 9-12 (and two St. Patrick's Days working for a beer company), the Dean has had quite enough of the bachelor's life, thank you.

I'm not sure what Chapter 15 will hold, although I'm excited about it. Jessica is in graduate school and working full time. I'm freelance writing regularly and beginning to get very serious about the play I'm writing (that blog, by the way, is soon to get a major facelift and content change). Work is also keeping me moving at a breakneck pace.

So for a few weeks, posts here are going to be fewer and farther between. The "Cult of I-AA" will be on hold for a little while, but will hopefully resurface as "The Cult," a standalone sports blog I hope to originate with the help of some other folks. It will be dedicated to FCS/I-AA football, mid-major basketball, the enduring love of hardcore fans who follow otherwise crappy teams and other under-the-radar aspects of sports culture. In the meantime, I'll still be writing player features for the GSU football game program, "GSU Endzone," and posting my regular "Thursday Thousand" feature about Georgia Southern football on I'll reprint my player profiles here after publication. "The Cult" will hopefully come to life in late October, just in time for the playoff push in I-AA football.

Here at the Institute, we'll resume our long-overdue lesson on the Six Laws of Pop Culture, which have undergone some minor tweaks. Rest assured: all six laws will get covered.

For my six faithful readers and the ever present J.P. "Blossom's Brother" Lawrence, I'll try to offer up at least one short blog (possibly just a few links and a minimal narrative) a week. Please understand that although the Bride has been more than gracious in giving me time to write even when it wasn't going to earn us money, she deserves my more-or-less full attention these next few weeks.

I hope to see many of you at the wedding October 13 and will miss those of you who can't make it or whom I stupidly failed to invite. Jess and I aren't much in the way of planning and would have been up shit creek in a wire canoe if not for parents, friends and well-wishers pitching in to make sure that we didn't just off and elope (which would have been cheaper).

And in case I failed to mention it, I have never been happier than I am right this moment. (Single people are allowed to barf now.)

I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Cult of I-AA: The I-AA stock market

The Fed dropped interest rates today in more places and by a wider margin than anyone expected, brining some financial excitement to the markets that has been MIA all summer. The trickle effect of economic news should be familiar theory to I-AA football fans, who immediately saw the profile of Championship Division schools shoot through the roof when Appalachian State knocked off Michigan to open the college football season.

But like a stock market, the value of that win doesn't set the market for I-AA respectability by itself. In fact, when Michigan lost the next week to Oregon by an even wider margin, some of the luster of the App State win started to fade. It won't take away from the power of the moment or the immense boost in exposure for Appalachian itself, but for I-AA as a whole, Michigan's record this season is a tangible barometer of how I-AA, represented in this case by its defending two-time champion, is looked at by the rest of "major" college football fans. Sort of like how all your college buddies will judge your dating record from "back in the day" by how those women look at homecoming.

"Seriously, dude," you protest, "she's had like four kids. She was hot. Don't act like you don't remember. This is bullshit."

Coming to the rescue have been a slew of other I-AA squads. Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and New Hampshire have posted impressive wins over I-A stalwarts (including I-AA to I-A poster boy Marshall). McNeese State knocked off a I-A from the Wannabe Division, Louisiana-Lafayette. Even the Citadel, a perennial stepchild in the Southern Conference since the early 1990s, gave another Big 10 team, Wisconsin, a fright.

Don't expect Big 10 teams to come calling the SoCon again anytime soon. Like this century.

The chances for the I-A/I-AA comparison to play out on the field start to go away by the fourth full week of the season. North Dakota State has two I-A games left against Central Michigan (which falls somewhere between a Wannabe and a Field Filler) and Minnesota (a full-blown Field Filler). UMass has the Cult's last chance at a tremendous upset when they face Boston College, a school that almost qualifies for Icon Status. Georgia Southern finishes its season with Field Filler Colorado State and there are a few more I-A vs. I-AA matchups, but for the most part, it's time to get into Cult versus Cult play.

Overall, the lower division has acquitted itself better this year than in any since the Citadel knocked off Arkansas and South Carolina in the glory days. The App State win has I-AA stock at an all-time high, but counting on the Powers That Be to capitalize on that and the interdivisional moratorium for some truly innovative enhancements to the Cult is probably asking too much.

Oh well, a High Priest can dream.

Speaking of fluctuating values…

First of all, everyone who has even an inkling of knowledge about how I-AA works knows that polls mean bupkus to how the Cult champion is crowned. Conference champions earn automatic bids to the NCAA I-AA football playoffs and the rest are assigned by guys in suits, who invariably use computer rankings to explain how each year the big conferences slip in a third team when some smaller conference gets hosed because said smaller conference doesn't have their own suit in the room (or their suit doesn't have as many friends). It's like the basketball tournament, only with less coverage.

Still, we look at polls each week to measure our own team and the teams around us—particularly the ones our boys are going to be lining up against on Saturday. So in a utilitarian/marketing sort of way, the polls are good for business.

But polls are particularly ineffective until around October. In fact, this week's poll might be the most useless poll of the season. That's because most Cult teams have only played one game within their division through the first three weeks.

A preseason poll would be great for setting the season's expectations. Waiting until the first games of October were played to begin releasing weekly polls would be the next step in the right direction. By then, almost every team in the Cult would have five or six games on record – enough to not only distinguish a squad by won-loss record, but also by how many playmakers are emerging on the team.

Polls are sticky creatures because particularly early on, teams with high expectations get big breaks for beating marginal teams and little penalty for losing to I-A squads—even Wannabes! It's pretty easy to argue that Montana and UMass, ranked 2/3 most of the season, should be ranked 9/8 respectively. In fact, here's how I rank the top 10 based on granting greater mobility in the polls for on-the-field accomplishments or lack thereof. We'll compare the High Priest's Ranking (HPR) with the FCS media poll, coaches' poll and Sagarin ratings.

Full disclosure: I did these rankings prior to looking at the Sagarin numbers, but not before peeking at the current FCS and Coaches' polls.






Average (rank)

Appalachian State





1.0 (1)

Southern Illinois





4.75 (4)

Northern Iowa





3.5 (2)

McNeese State





6.5 (T-6)

James Madison





9.75 (9)

New Hampshire





10.25 (10)

North Dakota State





6.5 (T-6)






4.25 (3)






5.75 (5)

Youngstown State





8 (8)

Considering that there are some big name lurkers in the 11-15 positions of both polls and the Sagarin ratings and that those same lurkers will be colliding with some of the names on this top 10, you don't have to be Master Splinter to see that the October 8 poll could look vastly different than this one. If the October 8th poll were the first since the preseason layout was announced, the following key "measuring stick" games would have been played before voters and coaches were allowed to again weigh in with their opinion of who the 25 best in the Cult were:

Appalachian State @ Wofford
New Hampshire @ Richmond, v. Delaware
JMU v. Coastal Carolina, v. Villanova
Southern Illinois @ Youngstown
UMass @ Boston College
McNeese v. Sam Houston State
N Dakota State @ Central Michigan, @ W. Illinois
Montana v. Eastern Washington

Worth noting

As the High Priest of I-AA, I am dubbing Southern Illinois the new name of "So Ill." It sounds like a Run DMC song and should be taken as a compliment. As in: "You remember when Brandon Jacobs played for the Salukis? He was so ill."

Richmond is ranked fifth among I-AAs in the Sagarins and isn't in either Top 25 poll. The only other team to rank above JMU (the low Sagarin in the HPR/FCS/Coaches polls) and not be included in either Top 25 is Georgia Southern, ranked 16th.

Coming to theaters sometime near Halloween: Freddy vs. Jason vs. The UMassCot. Seriously, what the fuck? Does this thing really look like this? We need a "worst mascot costume" contest. Submit your photos here.

Notre Dame is 113 in the overall Sagarin ratings, good for 8th in I-AA.

Two other teams in the Sagarin top 10 among I-AAs are Delaware (7) and Eastern Washington (9).

The Colonial is the highest rated I-AA conference, followed by the Gateway. Appalachian State may be the poster child for I-AA's rising stock, but the Southern Conferenec it calls home is ranked fourth according to Jeff Sagarin.

And computers compose the Sagarin ratings, so take them with a grain of salt. These are the same machines that make almost every phase of your life a little bit harder than it needs to be, even if you can't live without them.

Subtle changes

Pay attention and you'll notice that the Cult of I-AA is moving away from a regular Thursday/Friday feature of about 3,000 words like it was back in the days and is morphing into a 2-3 times a week feature of less words that should add up to about 3,000. That should jive with the High Priest's hectic schedule, which includes writing a play about Cult legend Erk Russell, other freelance writing, a full time job in the hectic (but rewarding) alcoholic beverage industry and planning for an Oct. 13 wedding.

I'll be back late in the week with a call for more Cult Hall of Fame nominations (coaches this time), my weekend picks and the I-AA Fantasy All-Stars, who badly need a running back.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Cult of I-AA: Short and sweet

This edition of the Cult of I-AA is going to be cut a bit short. You see, the Grand and Aged Father of the Cult (i.e., my dad) took a spill last Saturday night while importing celebratory beers from the outside fridge to the inside fridge of the Highway 119 Institute of Higher Thinking following Georgia Southern's season-opening victory over West Georgia.

In the process, he ruptured his spleen. There is "falling on your sword" and there is "falling on your beer." In a freak accident, the Grand and Aged Father fell on his beer, the latest in a lifelong string of mishaps to befall the Old One. Just today, he was finally discharged from the hospital and was last seen hobbling around the kitchen on his artificial leg with his abdomen still tightly bound, ostensibly to keep his guts from flying out. I am making not one word of this up.

So instead of cranking out 3,000 words, the High Priest is taking a different route this week. Today I'll feature a quick update of my ongoing I-AA picks and report on the progress of the I-AA All-Stars fantasy team against my fantasy team, Bad Newz Kennels. Check back Sunday or Monday for a quick recap of the weekend's action, more on the I-AA Hall of Fame, the weekly Cult Babe and a new feature I'll hopefully be unveiling that day as well.

And watch where you're going with that brewskie.

Picking up the pace

It's still just week three for most of I-AA, and the inescapable absurdity of early-season polls is apparent. This isn't because we've seen wild upsets or dominating performances (outside of App State) but because after just two games, no team in the nation really knows too much about what they've got in relation to everyone else. Again, except for App.

UMass has looked lethargic but strong. Youngstown beat a South Dakota State team last week that might be pretty good. James Madison has the biggest claim on a legitimate top three spot this side of Boone after beating New Hampshire—but who really knows!?! Most I-AA squads have played every sort of team except another I-AA team.

In a perfect world, there would be a preseason poll to set expectations and not another poll again until the third weekend in October. In fact, the High Priest is going to unveil his own Cult of I-AA "Field of 16" poll beginning after the October 20 games. Since I'm getting married the week before that, would someone please email me and remind the old High Priest that he promises a "Field of 16" poll on, oh, October 21st? Thanks.

As for the High Priest, the Crystal Ball came back from maintenance last week in pretty good shape. I was 7-2 in last week's picks, missing on upset bids by Hofstra and Northern Iowa. I did forsee James Madison's coup and Portland State's rebound game, though.

On the season, the High Priest has improved to 12-6, but the games are still relatively easy.

Here are this week's picks. Let's start with the I-A vs. I-AA matchups, where I see one potential "upset" in the offing: McNeese State has a good chance of toppling Louisiana-Lafayette. In terms of beating a I-A team, it's like outrunning a kid in a wheelchair, but a win is a win. Don't expect such upsets in the other games, including New Hampshire-Marshall. The Thundering Herd may be 0-2 with a loss to a pretty pitiful Miami team, but they will still handle the Wildcats.

Here are the picks. Some nicknames have been submitted in place of actual school names, but only for the teams I think are going to lose:

HARVARD over Sports Guy University
APPALACHAIN over Northern Arizona
MARSHALL over Ricky Santos U
NC STATE over Wofford
GEORGIA SOUTHERN over Fancy Name For A Yard Bird U
ILLINOIS STATE over Eastern Illinois
NORTH DAKOTA STATE over Sam Houston State
McNEESE STATE over The Sunbelt Conference's Answer to Chattanooga
CAL POLY over The Grill

Oh, but for Tony Romo

The I-AA All Stars rode week one's top fantasy player in any reasonable scoring system, Tony Romo, and trounced my Bad Newz Kennels team 118-92. That makes two losses for the Pit Bulls, who dropped their actual for-money fantasy game 94-92 on a late field goal in the Arizona game.

Romo, throwing in large part to fellow Cult graduate Terrell Owens, racked up 52 points in the Greater Savannah Fantasy Football League scoring system. I don't care what league you're playing in: that's impressive.

Worth noting: Payton Award winners Romo and Brian Westbrook combined for 64 points, while Heisman darlings Carson Palmer and Reggie Bush totaled up 22.

Here is the final scoring:

QB Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois/Dallas): 52 pts
15/24, 345 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT, 11 rush yds, 1 rush TD
Bad Newz Kennels: Carson Palmer, 19 pts

RB Brian Westbrook (Villanova/Philadelphia): 12 pts
85 yds rush, 65 yds rec
BNK: Reggie Bush, 3 pts

RB Brandon Jacobs (Southern Illinois/New York): 4 pts
26 yds rush
BNK: DeAngelo Williams, 5 pts

WR Terrell Owens (Chattanooga/Dallas): 20 pts
87 yds, 2 TD
BNK: Reggie Wayne, 31 pts

WR Donald Driver (Alcorn State/Green Bay): 6 pts
66 yds
BNK: Roy Williams, 8 pts

TE Eric Johnson (Yale/New Orleans): 5 pts
57 yds rec
BNK: Jeremy Shockey, 4

K Jeff Wilkins (Youngstown State/St. Louis): 8 pts
2/2 FG, 1/1 PAT
BNK: Jason Elam, 11 pts

DEF Jacksonville (DC Mike Smith, East Tennessee St): 10 pts
BNK: Carolina Panthers, 11 pts

The starting lineup for BNK will be the same this week, while the I-AA squad may have to insert a backup to cover for injured RB Brandon Jacobs. It's a game time decision.

Cult Babes

In his other life, the High Priest works as the promotions and marketing guy for a beer company, which comes with the perk of being able to choose and escort the incredibly hot young ladies that work to promote the various beers and spirits my company is pushing.

Four of these five hotties are straight from Georgia Southern, I-AA National Champions in hot coeds since anyone bothered to take note. Think you can do better? Prove it. Email your best to the High Priest, and we'll let the Cult decide.

Of course, that picture is just the tip of the iceberg.