Flashlight & A Biscuit, or: tales of a good old-fashioned Southern butt-kicking

The time I learned football is not my game

Here’s a story for your Saturday.

A substantial percentage of every high school graduating class hits their life’s peak on the football field. I did not, simply because my high school football career had no peaks. It was a long, flat stretch of honest American ass-whuppings, my ass being the one that got whupped, constantly and consistently. 

As you can see from the photo above, back in high school I looked like someone threw shoulder pads on a dogwood sapling. I was a wide receiver, 96 pounds, listed at 100—“we don’t have any 96-pounders on this team,” one coach snarled as I tottered on the scale—with the speed of a gazelle and the tackling power of a napkin. We didn’t run a whole lot of pass plays, and so my entire time on the field tended to involve avoiding getting blindsided by some twice-my-size cornerback. Each day I didn’t get stuffed into a locker was a victory. 

And yet—now that it’s so many years gone—I love those memories, treasure them. I remember the smell of the grass (from my face getting smashed into it), the feel of the helmet and pads (from getting them jammed into my skeletal structure), the coppery taste of warm water from a single garden hose (although I was usually last to drink from it). I remember the time I was playing defense on a punt, streaking in from the edge as one of my beefier teammates blocked the punt. It popped straight up, and I snared it and ran untouched into the end zone. (…OK, fine, this was in practice. So what? It was still a touchdown.) 

I still love one thing my coach—who was the platonic ideal of a football coach, all whistle and clipboard and one-size-too-small nylon stretch shorts—used to say about the next day’s practice, after every time we didn’t perform to his expectations:

“Y’all better bring a flashlight and a biscuit,” he’d bark in a flinty middle Georgia accent. “We’re gonna be here awhile.” 

A flashlight and a biscuit. I loved that image. A light to get you home, a biscuit to keep you fed. It’s all you need to make your way in the world. A perfect little metaphor, really. (Also, the fact that I was thinking about metaphors when I should’ve been focusing on the behemoth across from me in an Oklahoma drill goes a long way toward explaining why I was so terrible.)

Anyway: I’m using “Flashlight & A Biscuit” as a handy name for a handy re-branding of this handy little occasional catch-all newsletter. Think of this as the footnotes to the work I do at Yahoo Sports—back in the 2000s, they would have been called DVD extras—some behind-the-scenes info, some stories that don’t make the final cut, some recommendations on stories/books/movies/music I’m digging, some cool tales I’ve come across that don’t quite fit into my day job.

There’s an underlying motive here. Me, I’m under assault every day from my social media feed, from Netflix, from my array of podcasts and articles-to-read-later. Sometimes, I don’t want to binge a 12-episode series, I just want to kick back with a good story I can finish in a night. F&AB is the email version of that, a quick-hit tale you can read on the train, in the waiting room, on the highway, during childbirth, whatever.

So grab a seat and hang out. I think you’ll enjoy F&AB, and I promise: no wind sprints.

Read this:

First, please let me recommend you subscribe to the Yahoo Sports newsletter, delivered hot n’ fresh to your inbox five days a week. I’m one of the daily co-creators of that fine collection, and I humbly posit that it’s the best sports newsletter in the known universe.

A couple of my noteworthy stories of late:

It’s a dormant few weeks for sports, with baseball still in spring training, football in the offseason (sorry, XFL) and everything else gearing up for the playoffs … but we’re just weeks away from some of the finest sports days of the year. Hang in there, friends.

Book of the Week:

Natchez Burning, Greg Iles

So I’d been spending the last few weeks reading nothing but Roman history books in preparation for a trip to Italy that I’m supposed to be on right freaking now. <Sad trombone.> When it became clear that was no longer a possibility, I hit the other extreme and picked up this fine little (well, huge) tome, a thriller that hits all the right Southern-drama hot spots: the Klan, civil rights, buried secrets, the ‘60s, good-lookin’ people doing noble things, ugly people doing ugly things, and the like. This sits at the midpoint between the plot-driven locomotives of Grisham and the lush, Biblically-inspired imagery of James Lee Burke. It’s fast reading, but since it’s like 800 pages, it’s not a fast read. Still, it’ll hurt if you throw it at someone, which is how I judge all literature.

Stream this:

Hawktail, “Formations”

One day I’ll dig in deep on my whole writing regimen—writers love talking about their writing regimens, would-be writers love reading about them, everybody else just rolls their eyes—but for now, I’ll say this: I listen to podcasts while doing light editing or research-gathering, and I listen to instrumentals when I’m elbow-deep in the word muck.

I came across Hawktail’s “Formations” via algorithm—turns out they are useful once in awhile, after all—and man, do I love it. A short (37-minute) burst of exuberance and ennui, I’ve listened to it pretty much nonstop of late.

“Formations” was released just a few weeks ago, and yet it somehow taps into vibes of nostalgia more effectively than an entire playlist of ‘80s rock. I defy you to hear the lonesome sound of the fiddle or the ambling bass and not start looking out the window at autumn leaves falling, even if it’s springtime.

Other reasons I love this album:

  • The lead song is called “Annbjørg,” a title which sounds cold and Scandinavian, and thus, metal as hell.

  • You’d think this music—being bluegrass, shot through with rock and blues—is about as far as you can get from “metal as hell,” but if you threw some amplifiers in there and swap out the mandolin for a Stratocaster, boom … metal. Hawktail should give that a go if this bluegrass angle doesn’t work.

  • Yeah, I know your immediate reaction. “Bluegrass? That’s hillbilly music!” Maybe. But just shove those preconceptions aside, hit play on that video above, close your eyes and let it ride. Nobody’s watching you. And if you’re not tapping your foot 40 seconds in, you may be dead.

  • This crew’s basically a gang of Nashville bluegrass Avengers. Look at ‘em in the video up there; they’re pups, but they can rip.

  • Update: Turns out “Annbjørg” is actually a Scandinavian girls’ name.

  • The band wrote this album in two months, and recorded it in four days.

  • Their producer is named “Critter.”

  • Update to the update: “Annbjørg” means “eagle’s protection.” See? It is metal as hell, even though it’s a beautiful, mournful song that sounds like memory and wistfulness.

Stream this. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to drum-tap on your steering wheel out on the open road, and we can always use more of that.

Menu of the week:

Mas Tacos Por Favor, Nashville

I’m a menu obsessive. I take pics of menus everywhere I go, and here, I’ll share a few with you. Zoom in and make your picks.

Sticking with the Nashville theme, here’s a joint in East Nashville I hit last summer. If you’re a fan of corn tacos so damn good there’s a very real chance you’ll eat off your own fingers while devouring them, then friend, this is the place for you. As I recall, I went with the Pulled Pork (“Braised pork & tomatillos with shaved cabbage, onion and spicy yogurt”). Tacos rule.

That’ll do it for now, friends. Thanks for hanging, and if you’ve got thoughts/ideas/recommendations of your own, hit me up right here.

Get home safe, and I’ll catch you soon.

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Next issue: The time a hurricane destroyed a ballpark and built a racetrack.