Smitty’s Market | Lockhart, Texas (Photo by Brandon Vogel)

It’s a little after 8 a.m. on Highway 142 in central Texas and the pick-up trucks keep pulling onto the shoulder of the road to let us pass. We’re moving quickly, but not that quickly, so I ask about this.

“That’s just the Texas way,” my brother tells me.

That’s good enough for me so we keep passing, flashing our taillights in thanks and bearing down on the town of Lockhart. …


Go to Nebraska or stay close to home? Go pro or stay in school? With a strong family behind him and a shot at history in front of him the usual questions rarely apply to Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah.

It’s early May in Hoover, Ala., and there are Southeastern Conference banners hanging from the streetlights. If towns talk via what they choose to promote, it could seem like a strange thing to say to an outsider. Unless you know that the SEC holds its annual media days here in the suburbs south of Birmingham, it might just look like an odd bit of allegiance to a conference fostered through football. …


Nebraska kicker Patrick Smith has the night of his life.

Story and photos originally published by Hail Varsity magazine.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A transfer kicker walked into the only warm place in Beaver Stadium on Saturday night and wondered what to do.

It was nothing more than a cinderblock room stuffed with chairs and cameras and journalists and one microphone. It’s plain but functional, the way most things are at Penn State.

“Do I sit down?” Patrick Smith said about 15 minutes after hitting the game-winning field goal to give Nebraska a 23-20 win over Penn State in overtime.

Yes, Pat. You sit down and everyone will…


On sports, life, and why we do either.

Story and photos originally published by Hail Varsity magazine.

“Did you cry?”

I was one of 10 or 12 people still in the Memorial Stadium press box a few hours after Nebraska’s spring game last Saturday. I was working on a post-game notes column when my wife called. She was at her parents’ house in Pennsylvania.

Something you should know about my wife — she doesn’t care about sports at all. If I were to rank the people in my life based on their willingness to watch sports, she’d be at the bottom of the list. Given…


ESPN elevated the conversation with its “Film Room” broadcast of the BCS National Championship Game.

There’s nothing subtle about football.

It’s a big, dumb, loud, obnoxious game and America loves it more than almost anything else. I love it more than almost anything else too but the game’s lack of nuance — at least in how its packaged, sold and broadcast on television—challenges that love.

When I was a kid addicted to following sports, I used to wonder what happened to adults. How did they lose touch with the games they loved? …


Photo by brandon vogel

On getting older and how to cover your head

Blame my father. He was a ball cap guy. He had, and still has, an entire filing cabinet and three storage bins full of hats. The mesh feedlot and seed supplier caps that a farmer can’t help but accumulate. He kept them all.

And when he bought me my first ball cap—a cruel joke of a hat for any Cubs fan that reads “1984 Champions”—that collector gene kicked in. Over the next 13 years, I amassed a large collection of my own, which was fun, but as an adult you’re expected to eventually deal with these things.

So, while home…


Restoring my faith in music criticism

Early 1990s, northwest corner of Nebraska.

That’s when and where I grew up, when and where I started selecting my own music. The first part was unavoidable, the second part surprisingly difficult. Unless you’re from an equally empty part of the country, you might not understand just how hard learning about new music was in that time and place. I’ll tell you quickly.

The music store nearest my hometown was 60 miles away. The next closest music store was in a mall another 200 miles down the road.If you wanted to buy Illmatic in 1994—which I very much did—you…

Brandon Vogel

Managing editor for Hail Varsity. Reader at large.

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