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The Blog Has Moved

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My blog(s) may now be found at www.ryanaustindean.com

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Thankful

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Two of the reasons I’m a lucky, lucky man.

I struggle with the holiday season.

I’m not going to make the same assertions as many cranky sourpusses, insisting that each holiday season is a fabrication of marketers and Hallmark, but there is little doubt that the holidays have a sinister side.

Traffic is worse — drivers become angrier, riskier in their maneuvers, and uglier in the gestures. Feel like going to the store for some batteries or a 12-pack of soda? Well, I hope you enjoy waiting for 30 minutes in a line full of comparably impatient people, all of whom appear to be ready to ram their shopping cart through the hip of the elderly woman in the front of the line, taking 12 minutes to write her check.

For the church workers among us, mid-November through New Year’s is the busiest stretch on the calendar. Parties, special services, social Gospel events, musicals, practices, youth events, and more leave our family with fewer than three free evenings until 2013. I’m not complaining — that’s just part of the job.

And yet through all of the stress and anxiety, the holidays give us some of the most special moments of the year, namely two large chunks of time spent almost exclusively with family. As I type this post, my son lies asleep with his foot literally propped on my computer keyboard hand rest. Just in the hallway, two of my nephews are playing and laughing. Two rooms over, my dad, brother-in-law, brother-in-law’s father, and two dogs are resting with their own legs propped up, recovering from the incredible meal we consumed like ravenous hyenas (with equal amounts of laughter). The ladies stepped outside for a bit to run an errand, but they’ll be back soon, and we’ll all be worn out from doing very little.

Yes, the holidays are expensive. Yes, they are stressful. Yes, I’ll kind of be relieved when they’re over.

But then I’ll start waiting for the all over again.

In this season of excessive complaining, I must admit: I’m still thankful.

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29

I started out with a smile in my future
I am running now with a chip on my shoulder
I thought the world would one day be all mine
I thought that I would always have more time

I dreamt much more than I could ever hope for
I made plans that seemed so right at seventeen
I thought that God would grant me a perfect life
I thought that I would always have more time

I always heard to strive for something greater
I didn’t hang my head in shame with each defeat
I swore to never settle for less without a fight
I thought that I would always have more time

I learned to make concessions day-by-day
I saw my foolishness for what it was
I felt the weight so crushing from the outside
I still thought that I would always have more time

I had unexpected gifts that numbed the heartaches
I never saw them coming in all my plans
I knew most of what I’d wished would be denied 
I began to humbly lose my hold on time

I felt the coldness of perspective growing closer
I opened gates that led to pathways of regret
I handed Him the evidence of all my crimes
I let Him shape my heart, my will, my time

I cannot claim that everything is as I’d hoped
I cannot claim I’m exactly who I’ll be
But I swore I won’t deny the One who dwells inside
I know that He transcends the hands of time

10. Dallas Cowboys

We’ve now entered the top 10.

The final jersey in the “Perty, Perty Good” division: my Dallas Cowboys.

I’ve tried desperately to remain as unbiased as possible during the process of solidifying this list, and the placement of America’s Team has made up 80% of that struggle. I’ve stared at photos of the Cowboy’s uniforms for about 23 of my 28 years on earth. Hershel Walker scoring a touchdown and being mobbed by his celebrating teammates is my very first football memory. My father, my brother, my brother-in-law, my nephews…all Cowboy fans. My son will be a Cowboy fan, even though he will be born here in Louisiana, land of thousands of dedicated New Orleans Saints fans (and millions of bandwagon Saints “fans”). I love this team.

But how do I rate their uniform? Aesthetically, how can I rate this jersey?

Simple. I’ve always known exactly where I stand on the Cowboy’s uniforms and logo.

1. The Cowboys have the most iconic logo in the NFL. This isn’t my subjective opinion. It’s instantly identifiable, even if it is just an outlined star. It represents the history of the team that has become so synonymous with the game itself that it became “America’s Team.” A Saints-loving friend of mine tried to argue once that the Saints are the new “America’s Team.” I’m sorry, but no. Just check the ratings year-in and year-out, even during a decade-and-a-half playoff win drought. The Cowboys still rate higher than every other NFL team (click here for the data to prove it).

There has been, is, and forever will be exactly one America’s Team. It is the Dallas Cowboys, and the Dallas Cowboys are embodied in this star. The logo is the Dallas Cowboys.

2. The helmet is among the league’s best. It obviously features the star, but it’s perfectly balanced, thanks to the perfectly-aligned stripes, and the appropriate level of shimmer (without crossing over into namby-pamby land):

Emmitt Smith: NFL rushing record holder and twinkle-toed dancer

3. The Cowboys almost always wear their white jerseys.

Here’s where I am, and have always been, conflicted. I just don’t know how I feel about the Cowboy’s white uniforms.

An interesting bit of history: the Cowboys’ original owners felt that the football team, just as all “good guy” cowboys in old westerns, should always wear white. That’s partly why they have always worn white at home, which for many years distinguished them from most of the league. When they did wear their blue jerseys, they almost always underperformed, leading fans of the team to believe that the blue jerseys were cursed. (note: all of the Cowboys’ five championships were won while in their white jerseys)

Other teams began to tap into the Cowboys’ superstition, and would wear their white uniforms at home games, forcing the Cowboys to wear their “unlucky” blue jerseys. The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are two notable cold-weather teams that began this trend (Most white-wearing home teams did so because of intense heat. See also: San Diego, Arizona, etc.). The Cowboys almost never wear these blue uniforms, which is a shame, because they’re actually pretty good.

The white uniforms very much the Cowboys’ jerseys. They have plenty of history wrapped up into them, but history didn’t give the Colts a pass, so where do these jerseys truly stand? I keep looking at them, expecting to admit that I don’t like them, but I do. And I don’t think it’s just because they belong to the Cowboys. But you be the judge:

Demarcus Ware: my favorite current Cowboy

Felix Jones: from the University of Arkansas to glory (what a step up!)

From the glory days.

The underutilized “unlucky” blue uniforms:

Hoping to end a 17-year drought...

And the throwback jerseys, which I secretly wish would become the new home uniforms after some modern alterations:

The Cowboys iconography is far too compelling to leave them out of the top-10, but in all honesty, there has always been something lacking in their uniforms. I’ve felt it, even as a die-hard Cowboys fan. They have one of the best identifiable helmets in football, period (only surpassed by Michigan’s timeless stripes), and are so well balanced in the leg stripes and elegant shade of navy. But the white jerseys are not quite fitting for America’s Team.

The Cowboys uniforms play a balancing game that keeps them out of mediocrity, but holds them back from greatness.

But none of that would matter if Super Bowl #6 showed up soon.

One of the greats: "Roger the Dodger" AKA "Captain America" - Roger Staubach

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21. Denver Broncos

I remember when the Broncos first unveiled their current uniforms in 1997. I thought they were the coolest things I had ever seen. They had stripes like I’d never seen on a typical NFL uniform. They had a cooler horse logo. They almost took their place as my second-favorite team solely because of those uniforms. I wanted everyone to be as progressive in Denver with their jersey renovations.

Today, they take their place alongside carpenter jeans and backwards caps. I understand they were cool, but their now the jeans are dated (unless you actually do carpentry work) and if you turn your hat backwards, you’re probably a rabid UFC addict (take that as you will).

The Broncos made it to the Super Bowl four times (’77, ’86, ’87, ’89), and failed each time. When they changed to their current jerseys in 1997, they won their first Super Bowl (and won again the next year for good measure). Interpretation: they’re probably never changing these uniforms, right? Well, sort of — they’re keeping the style, but changing the primary home jerseys from navy blue to their traditional orange.

But currently, this is what we’re getting:

Well, not Tebow...I meant the navy blue.

Home Depot gloves

2012: back to orange

With the return to orange in 2012, and the fact that their logo is still really, really cool, I’m willing to say that the Broncos will be doing a lot better in another year.

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22. St. Louis Rams

With the Colts finishing off my “Blah” division, we now move into the largest of the six sets, the “Mediocre” division. These are the teams whose uniforms aren’t really terrible, but they’re not really good. They’re kind of just there.

Here come the Rams.

I toyed with the idea of dropping the Rams into the Blah division, but finally settled them here since their uniforms really aren’t that bad. What almost pushed them down? Their nasty habit of not settling on a stinking regular combination (AKA Oregon Duck Syndrome)…

They’re navy. They’ve got shiny gold(ish). They’ve got clean white. No problem, right?

They’re just not that great. They’re not bad — don’t get me wrong. They’re just the epitome of mediocrity.

Also, I miss their old uniforms:

They were blue. They were yellow. They were LOUD.

And they were so much better. You could glance at a distant television screen at a restaurant and instantly know you were watching the St. Louis Rams. They were distinct, but no longer. Now we have this attempt at elegance that becomes just as boring as most things labeled “elegant” and “upgraded.” Give me the old uniforms, and St. Louis gets bumped up ten spots.

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23. Indianapolis Colts

You know those timelessly classic uniforms I keep referring to time and time again in this blog series? The ones that have never changed, should never change, and might cause mass riots in their cities if anyone ever dares to touch them?

This isn’t one of them.

The uniforms for the Indianapolis Colts are not really “bad” at all — they’re just incredibly boring, which strangely fits Peyton Manning’s appearance. He looks like the dad next door who mows his lawn at 7:30 AM every Saturday morning. Sure, his commercials can be funny, but his haircut looks like it hasn’t changed since he took his kindergarten pictures.

Blue...white...and that's it.

Part of the problem is that their uniforms literally feature two colors. As is usually the case, uniforms featuring one color are referred to as 1902 football uniforms, two colors are basic and “blah,” three colors are standard, four colors are teetering on too much, and five colors are for San Francisco parade costumes.

The Colts are stuck in blah-land. Not only that, but they are using the worst possible striping layout: the two-stripe shoulder pattern.

Toeing the line between “classy and clean” and “boring as hock,” the Colts unfortunately fall flat onto their face into the latter.

This moment seems exciting until your realize Dallas Clark is wearing a Colts jersey

Lastly, the logo…

Yes. It’s a horseshoe.

From the Colts’ Wikipedia page:

The Colts’ logo and uniforms have remained the same since the team’s debut in 1953.

Hint, hint.

Also, just in case you’ve never seen ManningFace.com, you’re welcome.

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26. Jacksonville Jaguars

1995 saw the introduction of two new NFL franchises: the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both suffer from a distinct case of mid-90s-itis (see also: Toronto Raptors): “in your face” color schemes with “look at how 1995 we are” logos. There’s nothing classic about either franchise’s look, but Jacksonville’s is undoubtedly worse.

Their uniforms aren’t necessarily “bad” in the traditional sense — they’re just completely without inspiration.

I'm not 100% sure this isn't a CFL photo.

1 Patrios vs. 4 Jaguars...I don't like the Jags' odds.

The problem with these photos is that they don’t show off Jacksonville’s glorious logo:

Ahhh…90s.

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“I’m Gonna Be a Fathah!”

Raylan, kicked back and chillin' in the womb

My wife and I announced that we were having a baby several weeks ago, and now we know what we’re having: a baby boy named Raylan Mason Dean.

We agreed early on that we would spend five years married together, then begin having kids. We’re right on schedule, but we’ve been searching for Southern-sounding names the entire time. We heard “Raylan,” and almost instantly, it clicked. Mason is the name of my wife’s grandfather, and she’s wanted to name her boy that since she was a little girl. The Dean part he gets from me.

The bad news: now we have to hold on to our girl name for a while.

I can’t wait to see the little joker, hold him, teach him to play XBox, convince him that soccer is better than American football, and most importantly, attempt to instill a passion of a life lived by God’s Word and through His will.

This is one of the most exciting days of my life, and I absolutely cannot wait…

A Few Nephew Shots

My wife and I came in late, but managed to see our nephew, Lincoln, play a little baseball while his brother, Harrison, ran amok throughout Tinsley Park in Bossier City. I’m testing out some new actions I bought the other day, and came out with a few shots I really liked…

Creepy Crawler

Little shortstop.

Ranger

Dirty mouth.

Dirty Mouth Harry

Just after ratting his dad out by letting us know how much that bat cost:

Just Like His Dad

Exiting together:

Brothers Walkin