The mask comes off

They say that confession is good for the soul.  So I’m going to ‘fess up. I like sports. Whatever the season, I’m pretty much into it.  Football, baseball, basketball, the Olympic games, I’m all over it. Volleyball, golf, hockey, and even a little tennis can capture my attention.  

But my playing days are over.  My glove is in the closet. My cleats were taken to the second-hand store years ago.  Balls are stored in the tubs for grandkids. My jock is officially hung up.

Even my golf clubs and bowling ball have been collecting a lot of dust since the heart bypass and knee replacement surgeries…though there is still hope.

These days, I am reduced to spectator fandom and arm-chair quarterbacking.  And I love watching. Sometimes a little too much. There. I feel much better with that bit of low-priority, spiritual shallowness lifted off my shoulders.  I’m sure God is resting easier with me back in the fold.

But not so fast my friend (in my best Lee Corso voice).  Let the true confession begin…

Living here on the Grand Prairie for the past 24 years, I have learned just how much the beloved Dallas Cowboys mean to the faithful here.  The greatness of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach was not tasted again until the early 90’s when they were the toast of the Chisholm Trail, with Michael, Emmitt, Troy, Jimma, and the almighty Jerruh. And its been pretty dry since then.

And this leads me to my next confession.

I am no saint.  I have my sins and shortcomings and crummy baggage that weighs me down and chokes my spiritual life dry, when it is not dealt with swiftly and completely.  I do things I am not proud of and embarrass me when they are found out. Many times I just need to be put in time out and then sent to bed with no dessert. This is that time.

I enjoy watching Jerruh lose.

I know.  I may be dancing with the flames of hell lapping at my backside, but I just can’t help myself.  Jerruh needs to feel my pain.

(For those of you unfamiliar, Jerruh is Jerry Jones, the owner, General Manager, part-time coach, and Sugardaddy of the Dallas Cowboys since 1989.)

Here is my beef:  Jerruh stuck his snotty nose in where it didn’t belong.  As the most powerful and influential owner in the NFL, he lead the way in helping my (as in my, mine, my very own, not yours, not his, not anybody else’s) San Diego Chargers pack up and leave for…uh…excuse me…I just threw up in my mouth…Los Angeles.

Jerruh cozied up to the owner of the Chargers and whispered sweet dollar signs in his ear and convinced him he could double the value of the Charger franchise by moving it two hours north (where nobody wants them, nobody watches them on TV, nobody attends their games, and they have become the laughing stock of LA and the entire sporting world).  And, by the way, the move would line Jerruh’s and the rest of the NFL owner’s pockets with new found wealth by jumping on the Hollywood bandwagon.

So glad he is making more money at the expense of my sad little broken heart and torpedoed memories.  

Why can’t you still be a Charger fan, you ask?  Phffft.  No self-respecting San Diegan would ever root for the city of Los Angeles…especially when they’ve turned into sheep stealers.

Why can’t you just pick a new NFL team to support?  Phffft.  No thanks.  Every owner was complicit in the thievery of my team…and profiting off of my pain.

Why can’t you embrace the Cowboys as your team? You live in Texas. They are America’s Team, for crying out loud. I have found I am much better at shouldering people’s pain, now that I have experienced such a deep and painful loss. My Cowboy friends need a friend like me.

Why can’t you just get over it?  Let bygones be bygones, you say?  Move on. Stop living in the past.  Forgive and forget. Bury the hatchet.  Hold out the olive branch. Kiss and make up.

Nope.  Not gonna do it.  I would rather sit in my sandbox with my arms folded, watching college football on Saturdays and Netflix on Sunday afternoons…and savoring those moments when Jerruh is checking his bank account to soothe his pain over another Cowboy loss.

I am petty.  I am childish.  I am frivolous. I am shallow.  I need forgiveness.

I can wait.

I am also the master of the overstatement.

But it was fun.

Watching the World Series tonight…

san_diego_parking_signsFor those of you who turn to my blog for deep theological insights, you’re wading into the wrong pool tonight.  Really, if that’s what you need, you’re probably better off ordering a used copy of Calvin’s Institutes from Amazon to have on your bookshelf. However, if you keep reading all the way to the end, you might find something worthwhile.  You be the judge.

I have never been one of those raving lunatic fans that yell and scream and paint their faces and have custom made toilet paper with their favorite team’s logo on alternating squares.  But watching the demise of the San Diego Chargers and the impending cloud of doom hanging over my head because of their predicted relocation to Los Angeles, has turned into an emotional beat down.

I know you don’t care, but it’s my blog.  My therapy.

So, as I’ve said before, in anticipation of Char(ger)mageddon, I am currently trying out new suitors…new teams that could potentially win the loyalty of this jilted fan.  Currently NOT in the running:

  • Oakland Raiders – The NFL would simply be better off if they didn’t exist.  1978.  Ken Stabler.  Google “Holy Roller” and watch the video.  Better yet, look up the word “cheater” in the dictionary.  Yeah.  I’m still bitter.
  • Any new team in Los Angeles – No self-respecting San Diegan can cheer for any team located in Los Angeles.  No way.  No how.  Sorry.
  • New England Patriots – They’ve already won way too much.  I can only cheer for them to lose.  More.
  • Dallas Cowboys – I’m a huge fan of Jason Garrett, Tony R, Tyron Smith, Whitten, Cole Beasley, and Byron Jones.  But I’m simply not a cynical, glass-is-half-empty, Jerruh Jones hating, the-other-shoe-is-going-to-drop kind of guy.  I’m too positive. Too soft-hearted.  Too happy.  I would be a horrible Cowboy fan.  But I’ll keep working on it…

These teams are currently IN the running for my loyalty and services:

  • Jacksonville Jags – Word is, the Jaguars are potentially on the way out of Jacksonville in the next year or two.  I’m already pulling for them to relocate to San Diego in 2018.  I need to practice liking them in the meantime.
  • Cincinnati Bengals – I love me some Andy Dalton.  Second best uniforms ever.  Nothing will ever beat the powder blues…
  • Arizona Cardinals – I’m a west-coast guy and when the “Big One” hits, Phoenix will be straight up ocean front property.
  • New Orleans Saints – Come on.  Who doesn’t like Drew Brees?  And I could actually go see them play in person.  Not a bad deal.

The truth is, I’m actually leaning towards completely investing in my fantasy team each year.  Like all the way.  I can pick and choose who’s on my team.  I can have all players I like.  I don’t have to have anybody on my team I don’t like.  I AM the owner, GM, and coach.  Clean sweep at the end of the season.  Start brand new in the next.  No hold overs.  No baggage.  No off-season drama.  I can even name my own team.  And every now and then, your fantasy quarterback throws seven touchdown passes in a game…

What’s not to love about this?  A make-believe team in a make-believe league competing for a make-believe championship in a make-believe world.  Fantasy is a great thing for football.

Fantasy is not so great in real life.  Are you serving a fantasy God or the one true God?

It’s all about context.

contextThis is a sports-related post, but it’s not really about sports.  Read on.

On Monday, a news article appeared in a national publication that not only *quoted* the words of a player, but lead with the following headline:

Redskins Robert Griffin III: ‘I’m the best quarterback in the league’

A few years ago, RG3 was on top of the world.  2011 College Football Player of the Year.  2012 National Football League Rookie of the Year.  Newly married.  A ton of endorsements.  And then he got injured.  He’s spent the past couple of years trying to regain his form, but it’s been a pretty tough road.

He’s become a comedy line on sports talk shows.  He’s been turned into a joke around the water cooler and sports bars across the country.  Some of it, he’s probably earned.  He’s gone from everybody’s favorite to everybody’s punching bag.  This needs to be the year of the comeback.

And then came the quote.  And then came the national fallout.

‘He needs a drug test.’

‘He must be on hallucinogens.’

‘Dude needs a serious wake up call.’

‘Confidence is one thing, arrogance to the point of delusion is another.’

‘He’s best in the league for a starting QB to get injured while lacing up his cleats.’

‘What a stupid person.’

‘We always knew his ego was overbearing and unfounded, but now he has turned into a COMPLETE sociopath.’

I’m sure those were probably some of the kinder comments.  THE PROBLEM IS,  his words have been taken entirely out of context.  You can read the entire quote here if you want, but take my word for it…the picture painted by the author of the national article is completely untrue and unfair.  And the headline is totally deceptive and inflammatory.

Life will go on for RG3.  But unfortunately, the problem of lies, gossip, and slander will remain.  The people who already didn’t like RG3 got their opinion of him reinforced by the slanted article.  The truth simply doesn’t matter to them, because they already have their own reality…one they will freely pass on to anyone who will listen.

We live in a culture that loves to pass on opinion and judgment.  And when things can be freely taken out of context to validate what we already believe, nobody is safe.  We joke about how anybody can say (or re-post) anything on the internet, and it miraculously becomes true.  Credibility, integrity, context, and proof be damned.

Pretty much every time I speak or write, somebody could take a portion of what I am trying to communicate, remove a few words, question my motives, and apply it to a different context…and make my sermon or article out to be something entirely different than what I had intended.

That’s true for preachers and politicians and wives and husbands and coaches and teachers and anybody else within hearing distance.

So here’s the lesson:

  • Stop telling lies, gossiping and slandering.  It’s uncool.  And it’s sin.
  • Always check your sources.
  • Make sure what you pass on is absolutely accurate and reflects both the words and the heart of the person you are quoting.  If you aren’t absolutely, positively, 100% sure that every part of what you are repeating is true, don’t.  Just.  Don’t.
  • Fact check a minimum of five times before you post or re-post something on Facebook.  Like, totally research it.  I guarantee your audience will not be as diligent.  So do the work for them.  People seem to get really lazy on FB and thoughtlessly love to post or re-post things they agree with.  That’s fine.  It’s a free country.  But once something untrue is passed on, there’s really no way of completely getting it back.
  • Context is everything.  Whether it’s a sermon, a campaign speech, a joke among friends, or an interpretation of a Bible passage.

Truth out.

Such a strange feeling

IcemageddonI gotta say…I’m feeling kinda weird right now.

Normally, at 8:00 on a Saturday evening, I‘m  settling in to put the finishing touches on my weekly theological discourse. I’ve never really been one of those rabbi’s that gets the sermon done by Thursday afternoon, so they can practice it in front of a mirror multiple times on Friday and Saturday.  Not my thing.

Tonight, everything is different.  Late this afternoon we made the decision to cancel our church services for tomorrow morning because of the ice on the road and the unsafe driving conditions in the whole Metroplex, especially in Denton county.  Pretty sure our yankee neighbors to the north will laugh shamelessly at us, but no matter.  It’s a prudent decision.  (Today’s pic is from my front porch).

Although it may have happened at some point in my distant past, I can’t remember a time I was ever part of cancelling a Sunday morning service.  Ever.

Maybe that’s why it feels so awkward.

My awkwardness is certainly not because of an unhealthy, unbiblical requirement to be in a church building on a Sunday morning.  I can remember back to the early 1980’s when I was forbidden by the church leaders to do youth retreats that caused us to be gone from the church building on Sundays.  What?  No lie.

Needless to say, I bucked that decision.  And won.  And the system has continued to be bucked for the past 34 years.

I’m truly grateful to have learned that being a follower of Christ is so much more than coming to church…so much more than empty ritual…so much more than religious obligation.  And so much more than the Sunday Big Show.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss being with my family tomorrow.  A lot.

So I will focus on the benefits of the decision:

  • No one will run the risk of a travel accident tomorrow morning.  This is no small thing.
  • I have an additional week to work on next week’s sermon on Reconciliation.  So important.
  • All North Pointers get an unexpected free pass tomorrow.  I expect a full house next Sunday.  I mean it.
  • Can’t wait to see the jumbo-sized offering next week.  Think about it…
  • I get to stay up and watch the Mountain West Conference championship game starting at 9:00 tonight.  Guilt free and no pressure.  Sweet.
  • I promise you I won’t be watching church television in the morning.  I haven’t watched The NFL Today in years.  You can pray for my soul.
  • I will revel in the awareness that we live and breathe by grace and not by fear or guilt…and that Jesus came to give us more life than we could ever imagine.

Here are two things you can do.  You have no reason not to do the first.  The second is for the crazy few…

First, if you are a North Pointer, why not consider joining me at 11:15 to read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)?  It should take the average reader less than twenty minutes to complete.  That’s less time than my weekly sermon!  Maybe you could even do it as a family.  Let the words sink in…let it be Jesus’ personal message to North Point for tomorrow.  I guarantee it will be better and more profound than anything I would say.

The other is if you are battling cabin fever and craving a little church tomorrow afternoon, you can find Mike and Wanda at Fuzzy’s on Main Street eating some fish tacos and watching the Chargers-Giants game around 3:00. tacos, football, and church…and freezing temps!

I’m thinking this could be a great Sunday, after all.

Still a little weird, tho.

A late Marriage Tuesday

marriage 2Check out this story from last night that appeared in Deadspin:

“A Bears-fan husband and his Packers-fan wife placed a bet regarding last night’s Monday Night Football game involving stakes far greater than money: the winner got to use a taser on the loser.

 After the Bears pulled out the closely fought battle, however, and John Grant claimed his prize of sending a few thousand volts through his beloved, his wife called the police.  According to the Beaver Dam (Wisc.) Daily Citizen, police responded to a local bowling alley (because where else would someone taser their spouse for fun) and arrested the man.

Police did confirm that the woman consented to the bet, but the husband was still arrested and could face up to six years in prison for use of an electric weapon. At least the Bears won, right?”

Now there are some marriage lessons to be learned from this show of true love…

First…just because something seems like a good idea at the time doesn’t mean it really is.  Let’s be honest.  People have done a lot of stupid things in the name of love.  

Second…there’s really no place for competition in a marriage.   One…or both…of you may be competitors.  You may love the game.  But ultimately, whenever there is competition, there is a loser.  Okay for football.  Not okay for marriage.

Third…if it involves the intentional inflicting of physical pain on the other person, it should probably be avoided.  Don’t be a moron.

Fourth…don’t do anything that gets the police called.  It may just be an unintended consequence, but third parties are never a good thing in a marriage.

Fifth…choose your team loyalties wisely.  Being fans of the same team is definitely the preferred option…especially if you are a competitive moron.


winners and losersthis is a little after the fact, but i’ve been chewing on it for a couple of weeks.

here in texas…the land of high school football worship…we had a little episode that made national headlines.   one of our local teams beat another team 91-0.  not only that, they have beaten other schools by the scores of 84-7 (twice), 77-16 and outscored their opponents by an average of 69 points…on the way to an 8-0 record.

to make matters more dramatic, a parent of one of the players whose team lost 91-0, filed a charge of bullying against the coach of the winning team.  by law, it was investigated and then dismissed.

the bullying charge was wholeheartedly rejected by pretty much everybody…players, coaches, other parents, school administrators, media…you name it.  it was turned into a joke.  as well it probably should have been.  but to me, there’s a little more to the story.

there is no doubt things have changed over my lifetime.  it wasn’t long ago that a boy getting the crap kicked out of him was simply a right of passage.  a lot of times, dads were the first ones to do it.  it was called helping him grow up to be a man.  

the quicker we helped little boys (and later, girls) understand that winning and losing was the way of the world…that only the strong survive…that real men don’t cry…that you have to pick yourself up by your bootstraps…or a hundred other “tough guy” quotes…the better off those little boys would be.

although my father never really taught me those life lessons, i was certainly part of a culture that taught them.  i grew up an athletic competitor.  i worked hard.  i knew the thrill of winning and the emptiness of defeat.  i knew what it was like to earn a “starting position” and what it was like to be demoted to the bench…and to pick myself up and “win” back my spot.  i think the experience made me a better man.

in college (for all my texas bruthas, that would be my left-coast, hippy, drugged out, liberal, socialist education!), i learned the difference between competitive and non-competitive games.  i learned about the joy of participation and the damage of a win-at-any-cost attitude.   i started working with kids who didn’t have the resources, family structures or healthy psyches to excel in society naturally.

so we played.  sometimes competitively, sometimes not.  but always with the view of building confidence, building esteem, building communication skills, building a healthy pride and a sense of teamwork.  watching kids, who were at the bottom of the social pecking order, grow and change and develop confidence…because we took the emphasis off of winning and losing and placed it on relationship building and personality formation and healthy life skills…became the joy of my life.

along the way, i began to take the life and words of jesus seriously and started to understand that he called his followers to a different kind of life…one that would almost always stand in opposition to values and ethics of modern society and one that would certainly make for an uncomfortable marriage with the great american dream and the competitive drive it takes to see it become reality.

i have lived with that tension my whole life.  i still love good athletic competition, though my days of personally competing are now limited to mere fantasy.  i cheer for my teams and generally enjoy my mondays more when the chargers win on sundays.  i did everything i could to help my boys achieve their athletic dreams and see success on the field.  and it was an awesome season of my life.

but as a follower of christ, my heart is never far from the losers and the forgotten and the outcasts.  my heart breaks every time i see the little boy strike out or the little girl who lets the ball go through her legs for the winning goal.   i get a lump in my throat when i see the look in the face of the kid who is picked last…or the boys as they climb on the bus after getting their tails whipped 91-0.

can they be better for it?  you bet.  losing is one of the best ways that character can be built… but not without the help of coaches that are both wise and compassionate.  losing…in the hands of careless and misguided parents and coaches…can steal innocence, rob dignity and choke off the will to move forward.

do i think those coaches “ran up” the score to belittle and embarrass the other team?  nope.  no way.

do i think the mom filing a charge of bullying served any purpose at all?  nope…other than to embarrass her own son more than losing ever did.

the answer?  as long as there is competition, there will be winners and losers and occasional blow-outs.

i hope there will always be wise and compassionate people around to help pick up the pieces.

The inhumanity…

FBall penaltyi just read this morning that one of the hometown’s favorite sports hero’s just got fined $7,875 for a “throat slash” gesture while he was celebrating a touchdown.  he received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the game.

here are my knee jerk observations:

i think its ridiculous how much the NFL tries to control the behavior of the players.

NFL football is NOT the moral compass of our country.  its entertainment.  nothing more.

i’m tired of the moralists who expect professional athletes to be role models for america’s youth.  do we expect tommy lee jones to be a role model?  no.  he’s an entertainer.  do we expect eddie van halen to be a role model?  no.  he’s an entertainer.  do we expect rush limbaugh to be a role model?  no.  he’s an entertainer.  why do we expect more from pro athletes?  sheesh.

i’ve always been a charles barkley fan.  never more than when we stated on national tv,  “i’m no role model.  stop expecting me to be one just because i’m a pro athlete.  being a role model is a parent’s job.”  

it’s also a parent’s job to point their kids in the direction of people who are good role models.   good role models are in every walk of life…every occupation…every age…every personality.  some are even pro football players.

good role models are just people.  fallible.  imperfect.  we need to be really careful…especially with our children…to balance moral expectations with reality, when it comes to trusting humans.

do we really believe this player is a threat to slash somebody’s throat?  really?

speaking of celebrations, why do athletes always point to the sky after they do something good?  is it a “god thing”…or are they just acknowledging dead uncle hector who, apparently, has front row tickets?  (ok, i’m a little chippy this morning, for some reason)

if the NFL (no fun league) is really in the business of penalizing their football family for putting the reputation of their great game at risk, why aren’t they fining players for playing bad?  or coaching bad?  or owning bad?

why do entertainers get paid so much?

why do we pay so much to be entertained?

i’m guessing the $7,875 fine levied against our local sports hero produces nothing more than some good-natured ribbing in the locker room this afternoon.

if you’re really concerned about making a statement and cleaning up the league, make him sit out a game and fine him the equivalent of how much he gets paid “per game”.  that would be approximately $84,000…for anybody that’s counting.  i think that might make him (and others) sit up and pay attention…if that’s the statement the NFL wants to make.

if i was forced to give up that amount of money, i would probably cry.

there.  i feel better.