January 5, 2021

Kicking off 2021 in a different way

            When the mayor of Margaritaville detoured off the beach to a country road, Jimmy Buffett had a smash hit with Alan Jackson. “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” topped the charts for seven straight weeks in 2003. The title rationalized that it’s 5 o’clock-drinking time somewhere, so let’s have one.

            About 10 o’clock New Year’s Eve, I was humming that tune. But I wasn’t looking for a drink. I was looking for a pillow. I figured it was midnight somewhere, so why wait to start my snore and exit 2020.

            Drifting to sleep, I resolved to begin 2021 differently. I was going to switch off my motor and ignore the farm-life to-do list, except taking care of our animal menagerie. And when I peered outside at dawn, Mother Nature had smiled on my plan. The London-like fog was thick enough to suck through a straw. 

            My goal was to spend the day with boots off—in thick socks and a sweatsuit. Turning on the coffee machine, I pulled a book from my bedside stack. The morning hours evaporated, as did the fog. But I was staying put, swapping the book for a TV remote.

            The next 12 hours were back-to-back-to-back bowl games. I never lay on the couch, but I was a recliner “potato” until the last second of January 1. The competition kept me awake, and I was thrilled ESPN had not one—repeat, not one—mudslinging-political commercial to spoil the televised gridiron marathon. 

            Peach Bowl

            Cincinnati came to play. Underdogs versus our Dawgs. The undefeated Bearcats almost embarrassed us. In the second half, Georgia’s defense hunkered down, led by NFL-bound Azeez Ojulari. God bless Mrs. Podlesny. With three seconds remaining, her son Jack split the uprights with a 53-yard field goal, 22-21—Georgia. And bless Coach Kirby Smart’s heart. No squib on the kickoff. Jake Camarda booted it long, setting up Azeez’s sack of Cincinnati’s quarterback for a safety—24-21. Whew, woof, woof!

            Rose Bowl

            When the “Granddaddy of Them All” isn’t played in Pasadena, you know something wasn’t right about 2020. The Rose Bowl was in Arlington, Texas, but it didn’t matter where the pigskin was teed up. Coach Nick Saban had the Crimson Tide ready for fourth-ranked Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are a legendary powerhouse, but number-one Tide has hurdling and elusive Najee Harris, quarterback Mac Jones, and likely Heisman Trophy-winner DeVonta Smith. Add Alabama’s monstrous defense and the Tide rolled to a 31-14 victory.

            Sugar Bowl

Jimmy and Alan, my nightcap wasn’t a margarita or such. It was a football shocker. I was sure Trevor Lawrence-led Clemson would be too much for Ohio State. But the Buckeyes went to New Orleans with a chip on their shoulder pads, just like the Bearcats came to Atlanta. What Coach Dabo Swinney has created across the state line is incredible—a culture of loyalty, excitement, and championships. I was stunned the Tigers couldn’t paw their way to Miami to take on the Tide. But Ohio State said, “Oh, no! Look at the scoreboard—49-28.” Buckle your chin straps for Monday night’s clash of the titans—Buckeyes versus Bama.

            Hello, 2021

            As lazy as I was on New Year’s Day, I did leave my chair to partake of a traditional good-luck meal of mustard greens, blackeye peas, baked sweet potato, ham, and cornbread.

            In memory of two special friends—the Parker brothers, Billy and Charles—I feasted on Ludowici fruitcake for dessert. In the 1980s, around the campfire of the Flatwoods Hunting Club in Long County, they introduced me to hot, buttered cornbread drenched in cane syrup. Mighty fine.

            The holidays are history. 

Goodbye, sweatsuit. 

Hello, work.

Let’s work—really work—to make 2021 a Happier New Year.