14 December 2009

The Christmas Season Has Begun

S. and I went to a party at our neighbor's house Saturday night. It was a low-key affair that doubled as a reunion for our neighbor's old co-workers, who had all once manned the regional commercial banking office for a national lender. We've attended the same party for a few years, so most of the faces looked at least vaguely familiar.

S. leaned over during a lull in the conversation and murmured under her breath "everyone here is networking."

"Baby, these people are commercial bankers. There are no jobs left. I mean, who are they going to lend to?"

As these things tended to do, the mood got a little lighter as the Brunswick Stew started disappearing and the booze started flowing. We talked about the economy. We talked about the government. We talked about the intricacies of the mortgage markets. We talked about paradox of our current banking dilemma - the amount of home equity homeowners no longer had that our nation's banks were still carrying on their balance sheets and our local tax commissioners were still assessing property taxes against.

And then we got to Tiger.

"Can you believe..."

"Did you see..."

"I heard that..."

There were no new jokes, just poorly told versions of the ones making their rounds on the internet. In the end it was the same old story - "the dog always chases the cat" - that we had been seeing on our TV's for the last two weeks.

By the time we were ready to leave, the pall that seemed to hang over the gathering had risen. Cheeks were rosy. Stomachs were full. Business cards had long since been tucked away. And thankfully, we had not been subjected to a single Christmas song for the entire evening.

The Christmas season has begun in earnest!!!

05 December 2009

Brown Man Goes To SEC Coaches Luncheon

One of my buddies from my hometown, who raises money for a historically black college (HBCU), was in town this weekend for the United Negro College Fund training session. We got together on Thursday night to catch up and watch the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets.

He made an observation while the pre-game show was winding down. "It's just so funny to see you and my brother watch football these days. You two were some of the most "no sports watching" people I knew when we were growing up."

"I've come to realize this is good cheap entertainment. And of all the sports, what I really appreciate the most is the way the NFL invests so much time and energy into telling its own story."

He was right about his brother and I, though. When we were in our teens, we didn't care about pro sports the way other guys did. Didn't know who ran a 4.2 forty. Couldn't tell you when Draft Day was (I still can't).

Which is why I was amazed myself on Friday when I actually found myself sitting in a ballroom in a hotel in downtown Atlanta for the SEC Coaches Luncheon the conference puts on the day before its championship game.

I was the guest of another buddy of mine, my pal from Alabama. I had no idea what to expect, except a very good chance, given the looks of the crowd in the lobby, that we would be having beef for lunch. I grew up in South Carolina, where the college football rivalry was between the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers, but since the HBCU my father went to was right down the street from our house, my early allegiance was to the South Carolina State Bulldogs.

The lunch itself was hilarious. The attendees were obviously diehard Florida and Alabama fans, so all you saw was either crimson or orange everywhere you looked. There was beef. It was steak. I had two - a woman at our table was a vegetarian.

The day was certainly looking up.

At our table, my buddy launched into a discussion about Alabama's top pro prospect. A short guy with a heavy Boston accent regaled us with tales of his paraphernalia hoard, clicking the button on his digital camera to show us his collection of 5,000 hats in college colors. The rest of the table thought he was pretty funny until he used the words "Harvard" and "football team" in the same sentence, whereupon the woman next to him proceeded to inform him that they were only interested in watching "real" college football teams.

The guy from Boston tried to get our attention back by asking us the date of the first SEC championship game. When nobody got it, he reached into his shirt and pulled out a plastic ticket holder that contained a ticket from that very first game. Somehow, I figured there were similar scenes between fanatic fans going on at many of the tables around us.

The Q&A by Nick Saban and Urban Meyer was almost an intrusion into the conversation we had going at our table. They said the obligatory coach things. They smiled for the cameras. They waved at their fans in the audience. Then they looked relieved that it was all over, and they could get back to their teams for some last minute instruction before today's big game.

Who knows - after all this fanfare and buildup, I might even watch the game.