Pick one: chicken and dressing, country fried steak, or pot roast.
Now pick two: broccoli and rice casserole, purple hull peas, cabbage, sweet potato casserole, turnip greens, or green beans.
Blue plates are a nightmare of single-serving proportions for the indecisive, while serving as growl-inducing daydreams for those whose bellies have pushed breakfast into the realm of forgotten memories.
It was, somehow, my first lunch-time trip to Cappe’s Steakhouse. I’d been plenty for steak dinners. It’s one of my dad’s favorite places to celebrate life’s victories. But I had never made it for the blue plate I’d heard so much about.
Side note: why is it called a blue plate? Meat and three and I understand. Not subtle, but accurate. But why blue plate? It’s not as if the color of the plate affects the food.
Anyway, finally, I went, and I sat down, and I looked at the menu, and my mind started to melt with the Thursday options. If I had to guess, they make a mean country fried steak. But I was also eyeing the sweet potato casserole, and that seems like it would go better with chicken and dressing. The broccoli and rice casserole sounds good, too, but that’s a really casserole-y meal and this isn’t Thanksgiving.
“Are you ready to order or do you need a minute?”
“I definitely need a minute. Maybe two.”
We’re sitting here so close to National Signing Day and I can kind of relate to the teenagers who have to decide where they’re going to college to play football. I mean, it seems easy to those who support a specific school, but that’s a huge, life-changing decision. Not totally dissimilar from picking vegetables for a blue plate.
It’s true, though. I’d have been happy with any of those sides (I went with green beans and sweet potato casserole and was quite pleased), just like college football’s future stars would be happy at any number of schools.
But it’s a decision that has a great deal of impact on the rest of your life (college, not cabbage). Our choices decide how the future plays out. Life is a journey through wilderness, not a maze to be solved. When we pick a direction, we don’t often get to retrace our steps and start over. Especially not in the tight window allowed for college athletes to figure out their futures.
What will you get your degree in? What position will you play? Will you make it to the NFL? Who will your friends be? Who will you marry? What will your kids be like?
Truthfully, in some moments, it’s easy to wonder, will anyone remember you were there?
When your life and legacy are hidden in the fog of the future, it’s easier to think solely about the present, focus on the now. But decisions have to be made. And while my green beans aren’t yelling at me to eat them or tweeting at me angrily when I pick the peas, the young men making those all-important decisions are being pulled in every direction by many who claim to care about them, and some who really do.
In making those decisions, it seems the wisest course is to decide what’s important to you.
What you hear most often, the advice most regularly given, is the same thing I like so much about Cappe’s at lunch: go somewhere that feels like home. Wooden walls surround wooden tables covered in checkered plastic tablecloths that you’re led to by people who refer to your group as y’all and bring you plates full of starches, carbs and surprisingly flavorful bowls of veggies. That blue plate is grandma’s house at Sunday lunch. It’s warmth is more than a temperature.
So, the question becomes, what feels right? Home is something different to everyone. Each person is as unique as any option on the menu. I can’t tell anyone where to go to school or what side dish to choose (though I do recommend the sweet potato casserole). The best advice I can give to the young men making decisions like this is to go with what feels right to you, what you like and what you’re looking for.
My favorite professor once said, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
After making my final decisions and placing my order, our server asked if I wanted a cornbread or a roll. Turns out, not all choices are hard.
BASEBALL: Of note this weekend is the inaugural Fan Day John Cohen’s club is hosting. It runs 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Palmeiro Center and will be followed immediately by the Maroon-White scrimmage. A week out from the season-opener, MSU is aiming to make the intra-squad scrimmage as much like a real game as possible for fans, players and coaches. Call it a dress rehearsal.
Oh, I almost forgot. The second annual Baseball Cowbell Yell is on Tuesday night at 6:30. Myself and Bart Gregory are hosting, but don’t let that stop you from coming. The captains of the team will speak and we’ve got several other things planned for the event. The first 2,000 students get free T-shirts, too.
FOOTBALL: Hey, did you hear Signing Day was Wednesday? Yeah, you probably did. Anyway, MSU signed 22 new players and it’s easily the best class of Dan Mullen’s time at MSU, at least according to rankings (which he advises against trusting just yet). There are a good dozen links I could share, but this is a good starting point and has a link to more coverage of MSU’s big day. Included here is video of Mullen’s press conference, bios of the signees, a breakdown of the class and a few other tidbits: http://www.hailstate.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=16800&ATCLID=209866189
MEN’S BASKETBALL: This weekend, Rick Ray’s team is on the road at Arkansas (on SEC Network tomorrow afternoon) and is coming off an impressive stretch the last couple weeks. MSU is 4-2 the last six games, which includes two road conference wins after going nearly two years without any. Most recently, State went on the road Tuesday and beat Tennessee, an impressive performance. Several in the SEC have called MSU the most improved team in the conference and it’s showing, especially now that I.J. Ready and Craig Sword are [mostly] healthy. They’ll be back in Starkville on Tuesday night against Alabama.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Speaking of good basketball teams… Vic Schaefer’s team is holding steady in the Top 20 and is now 22-3 on the season. The Women’s NCAA Tournament begins at host sites this year, and while MSU likely wouldn’t be a host if the season ended now, a strong finish could potentially get the Bulldogs in position to host in the NCAA Tourney just one year removed from hosting in the WNIT.
They play next on Sunday in The Hump at 2 p.m. on SEC Network, hosting Schaefer’s old school: Texas A&M.
WOMEN’S GOLF: Ginger Brown-Lemm’s team was featured on the Golf Channel’s website this week, which is kind of a big deal. Check out the link here (http://www.golfchannel.com/media/college-central-top-ncaa-womens-storylines/ ) and watch the video as MSU is considered one of the top storylines in college golf this year. As they should be. If you’ve ever wondered which MSU team would be the first to win a National Championship, the women’s golf team might be a good bet. As many strong teams as MSU has playing in the spring, this one might be the best.
SOFTBALL: The ball is soft, the team is not. MSU opened its season last night, run-ruling Mississippi Valley for the 8-0 victory. More impressive than anything was the performance of sophomore pitcher Alexis Silkwood. She faced 19 batters and struck out 15 of them, a career high in Ks for her, while she only allowed one hit. Alison Owen smashed a lot of records the last two years, but they may not last longer than the time Silkwood has left on campus.
TRACK AND FIELD: I have a feeling I’ll be repeating this a lot from week-to-week, but Steve Dudley’s teams continue to dominate. The women’s squad won the New Balance Invitational over the weekend, which is a really big deal. It’s a prestigious competition and they owned it. Noteworthy for the women: Ste’yce McNeil won the 60-meter hurdles at the invitational in 8.25 seconds, the third-fastest time in school history.
The men’s team finished fourth, which would be a headline in itself had the women not done so well and stole their thunder. MSU hosts the SEC Championships later this spring and it seems like it’ll be an event worth putting on your calendar.
TENNIS: If you haven’t picked up on the theme, MSU’s spring sports are pretty good. For the 57th-straight week of poll releases, the men’s tennis team is in the Top 30, checking in at No. 28. Considering the rankings go all the way to 75, that’s quite an accomplishment. Currently at 5-2, the men host Samford at noon and New Orleans at 5 p.m. on Saturday in doubleheader action.
The women’s team moved to 4-1 last weekend with a win over UAB, making head coach Daryl Greenan already the third-winningest coach in school history. The ladies are off this weekend and head to Rock Hill, S.C., for two matches next weekend, but they’ll be back in Starkville on Feb. 19th against Samford.