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Mack's Corner

This Week

Big James

It just now started feeling like football season yesterday. To me, there's a smell that goes with football. It only comes in late September or October. You can smell it today if you go outside. I used to help coach an 8th-grade football team at Cypress Jr Hi. We had a great thing going. The 9th-grade team won every game they played (they had a great coach) and every kid in the school wanted to play on that team. But they all knew that to play in the 9th grade, you had to play in the 8th grade first. So the first day of practice we had 200 kids show up. Most of them were just regular kids with visions of the Super Bowl. We cut 100 kids the first day, 50 the 2nd. We had to get down to 30 kids and there was no reason to make the other 150 run laps all week, so it went pretty quick. We ended up with some good athletes, some kids with good skills, and some kids who were just big. As my coaching partner used to say "You can't teach a kid how to be big."…..   We were having blocking practice one day. It's a simple drill, you lay 2 blocking dummies (big long heavy bag) down about 6 feet apart. Get 3 players, one is blocking, one is carrying the ball, and one on defense who is supposed to tackle the guy with the ball. They line up between the blocking dummies, Down, set ..whistle. The blocker blocks and the runner tries to get through without being tackled. Of course, the tackler tries to tackle the runner...  Then you switch positions or switch kids. The hardest spot is the blocker. I wasn't happy with the blocking effort so to get everybody's attention I stepped in to show them how it was done. You can't do a live drill like this with kids older than Jr Hi or you'll get killed. They all have pads and a helmet, I've got nothing. What I had was a 28-year-old grown man going against a 14-year-old kid and lots of intimidation. I always won, usually….. I made the mistake of not picking the kid I wanted to block, I let them pick. I said, "somebody get down here, let me show you how to do this…" They looked around and said, "Put James in there, he'll do it." … James… we called him "Big James" … James was the sweetest, kindest kid in the whole world, smart as he could be, but he was also 6'4" and weighed 320. When James played, his only job was to stand there. He could block 4 kids at the same time on offense and there was no way to run through him if he played defense…. I said: "James????"... yah James will do it…. I knew I had just screwed up, but I had to win …….Down, set ..whistle …. I hit him as hard as I could, thinking I might catch him off balance …. Nope, no balance problem here. He just rose up and stood there, just like we had taught him. It was like pushing a bus. All the kids were yelling for James and I was about to pass out. Then I felt some movement, I pushed harder, more movement, harder …. When I pushed him past the end of the blocking dummies I quit, turned around, and breathlessly said "Ok, do it like that, let's go.. Down, Set, Whistle"..  After a while, I looked up at James standing off on the other side. There He was, looking at me with his big sweet smile inside his little helmet. I smiled back, we both knew he had let me win…..

God's like that: He's big! You can't move him. You can't scare him. He doesn't need anybody to take care of him. He is not afraid. And he can't love you any more than he already does, like his own child…. If bad things happen, he's right there with you. God doesn't cause bad things to happen, life causes bad things to happen. God helps you get through it.

I still see James every once in a while. He was on the Gang Unit of the MPD, not sure if he still is. But he's still got that great smile and that sweet heart.


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

Most people think Risotto is really hard because they've seen some chef yelling at a cook because he messed it up. But really it's easy as you can see from this recipe. Usually, it's made with rice, but it works the same. Wouldn't this be great to come home to after work, a thick piece of bread and a glass of wine?  I'm feeling warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.  The important thing here is to understand the way it works: you cook some onions, garlic..etc in a little oil, add the grain, and toast it in the pan. then add a little wine to deglaze (get the good brown stuff off the bottom) the pan, then start adding stock a cup at a time, adding more as the stock is absorbed. When the grain gets to the texture you want, you're done. Re-season and put some cheese on top. Find an old movie and a warm place and you're good!

This is from Naomi Pomeroy. Her Restaurant is Beast in Portland. She is really great, I would love to go eat at her restaurant.

Barley Risotto with Garlicky Mushrooms.

1/4    cup extra-virgin olive oil

3    large shallots, minced (1/2 cup)

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 pound oyster mushrooms, thickly sliced or any mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme


Freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups pearled barley (10 ounces)(this can also be any rice instead of barley, usually Carnaroli, Arborio, or Bomba. But any rice works, even brown.. Farro, Buckwheat, Bulgur, even Oatmeal also work)

2/3    cup dry white wine (or water)

4    cups hot beef broth mixed with 2 cups of hot water (can also be chicken stock, veg stock, fish stock.. any stock)

Snipped chives, for garnish

1/2    cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 ounce), for garnish

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the hot beef broth mixture to the barley and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the hot broth, 1 cup at a time, and stirring frequently, until the barley is al dente, about 35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Garnish with chives and the cheese shavings and serve.

The risotto can be refrigerated overnight. Rewarm before serving.


How about saving a kid's life!!

When you give Platelets it's like giving St Jude $700 - $1000. If we don't give them, they have to buy them.

Giving Platelets is like giving blood, it just takes longer (1 1/2 hours) and you get all of your blood back (so you can do it every week if you want). I know it's a long trip to go all the way down to St Jude, but you may be saving a kid's life. plus you get to watch a movie while you're there. Call Kim at 901.595.2024 and she'll set up an appointment and treat you like family. Just tell her you're from Hope.

Directions: From Poplar, turn north on Third Street, then right on Lauderdale/Jackson Ave (first right after you go under the expressway). Enter through the north guard gate (you'll see the Danny Thomas Pavilion. Gold top).

Tell the guard at the gate that you are here to donate blood. The guard will instruct you where to park. You will then enter the hospital by the red side door closest to the blood donor parking lot. The Blood Donor Center is in the southwest corner of the hospital on the ground floor.

Appointment times are generally available Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Except on Tuesdays, they start at 9:15am.

See you this weekend. Bring a friend. It's going to be great!!!


Posted by Mack Oates at 8:20 AM