Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Putting Vanderbilt's Football Season in Perspective

On the one hand:

  • Vandy won its first bowl game in over 50 years.

  • Vandy completed its first winning season since 1982.

  • Vandy defeated three teams that were ranked at the time (South Carolina, Auburn, and Boston College) and two teams that were ranked in the final BCS standings (Mississippi and Boston College).

  • Five of Vandy's seven wins came against teams that played (or will play) in bowl games (South Carolina, Rice, Mississippi, Kentucky, Boston College).

On the other hand:

  • Vandy lost six of its last seven regular season games.

  • Vandy lost to two teams (three if you count Tennessee) that it had no business losing to (Mississippi State and Duke).

  • Vandy needed a shady roughing-the-passer penalty to edge out a Boston College team whose starting lineup was more banged up than the furniture in my house.

Back on the first hand:

  • No one who doesn't live or work on West End Avenue expected Vandy to win more than three or four games this season, especially with all new starters on the offensive line. I just Googled "2008 SEC football predictions" and have reviewed several preseason projections. Every single one projected Vandy to finish sixth in the SEC East. (The 'Dores finished third.) Vandy was supposed to be competitive in 2010 (or maybe 2009), not in 2008.

  • Had Vandy started 0–5 then won six of its last seven, the Commodores' season would have been hailed as the best stories in college football. But, either way, their record would be the same.

Conclusion: Though Vandy appeared to choke its season away and needed some lucky breaks to win its bowl game, the Commodores—by any measure—overachieved this season, and Bobby Johnson, the players, and the coaching staff deserve a lot of credit.

A Quick Word on 2008

I don't have time to do a full-blown 2008 retrospective or an end-of-year "best of" list, but here's a quick thought about the year that was:

Personally, I'll always remember 2008 as the year when my youngest child was born and when I completed the manuscript for my first book. And, for many years to come, people will look back on 2008 and remember Barack Obama's historic win in the U.S. Presidential Election, Michael Phelps' eight gold medals, and (possibly) the death of American capitalism as we know it. But one day I think that we'll also look back on 2008 as a year when we, as a global community, failed to do anything substantial to end genocide in The Congo and the Darfur region of The Sudan. Sorry to end the year on a down note.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Re: The TVA Disaster in Kingston

I'm a little embarrassed that I haven't kept up with the story of the more than one billion gallons of toxic coal waste from a nearby TVA facility that coated Kingston, Tennessee last week (especially since Kingston isn't all that far from where I live). It's the largest such spill in history and an environmental catastrophe at least on the scale of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, even though the media largely hasn't treated it as such. ( finally elevated the disaster to its top story a full week after it happened.) If you also have done a poor job of keeping up with this story, I'm not going to be a good source of information. The best source of info on this subject is probably Enclave, which has been on top of the story since it broke (or spilled). Rachel at Women's Health News also has some good thoughts on the subject.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Little Something for Christmas

Enjoy the latest "Life of Reilly" from ESPN the Magazine.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Last-Minute Suggestion of a New Christmas Tradition

As I was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping the other night, I kept noticing all the toys on the shelves that we had bought for Meyer and Resha Kate last year or the year before, and I kept thinking about all of the incredible volume of toys that we own and about all of our toys that are missing or in disrepair. It seemed silly to me to buy new toys when we already own more toys that we can keep track of or keep in tact.

Maybe, instead of buying a bunch of new stuff, we should see Christmas as an opportunity to find and repair all of our old stuff. In addition to reducing waste and saving money, this tradition would symbolize (and be a literal manifestation of) rebirth and renewal—themes that are at the very essence of Christmas. Such a tradition would also allow those who celebrate the holiday to look forward to getting new stuff without participating in the cult of consumerism.

The Tinleys have already purchased plenty of new stuff for Christmas and probably won't have time to implement this tradition in any meaningful way this year. But for the next couple days, let's all think about ways to restore what we already have instead of flocking to malls and box stores to buy more stuff that we don't need.

A Quick Word on the Rick-Warren-Inaugural-Prayer Controversy

As you probably know, President-elect Obama has asked celebrity pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Many were upset that Obama chose a pastor who opposes same-sex marriages and homosexual relationships in general. Others are upset that an otherwise reliable evangelical leader would associate himself with a pro-choice politician. Should be fun.

I've generally been ambivalent toward Rev. Warren. I'm not crazy about his theology (and few would accuse Warren of being one of the great theological minds of our time), but I can admit that Warren has done some good work fighting poverty and HIV/AIDS and that The Purpose Driven Life has had a positive impact on millions of readers. I wouldn't consider myself a fan of Warren, but he never really bothered me. So when I heard that he would be giving the inaugural invocation, my first thought was, "OK, whatever."

When people first made a fuss about Obama's choice of Warren because of Warren's views on same-sex relationships, I understood their concern but didn't see a need to join in the fuss. I figured that homosexuality was minor issue for Warren. Though I disagreed with his views, Warren wasn't anti-gay in the same way that James Dobson or Tony Perkins are anti-gay, so I didn't worry about it.

I didn't realize, however, that Saddleback (Warren's church) does not welcome homosexuals as members. Then I read where Warren compared homosexuality to incest and pedophilia. (He has since issued a clarification.) Maybe Warren was a bad choice after all.

If nothing else, this controversy has made me aware of how casually we brush off homophobia (and misogyny, for that matter). Unless someone becomes a public crusader against gay rights and women's rights, we're willing to overlook his or her anti-gay or sexist views (especially if he or she has a religious justification for said views). We don't afford the same leniency when it comes to racism (and it's good that we don't). Though I have convinced myself to be upset by Obama's choice of Warren, I suppose it's good that we're having this conversation. Just something to think about.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Resha Kate Sings Your Favorite Christmas Classics

Listen to her renditions of "Away in a Manger" and "Jingle Bells" on one mp3!

Resha Christmas (mp3)


Saturday, December 20, 2008

You Could Have Meyer Singing "Away in a Manger" on Your iPod

"Away in a Manger" (mp3)

Friday, December 19, 2008

God's* Guide to College Bowl Games

Jesus fumbles?For the past few years I've done "God's Bracket," breaking down the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments by the participating schools' religious affiliation. This year I'm doing the same for college football's bowl season (which begins this Saturday).

As an aside, if you're into this sort of thing, I should mention that I recently completed a manuscript for a book titled Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports. It's slated to publish in the fall of 2009; I'll keep you posted.

There aren't nearly as many religiously affiliated schools in college football's Bowl Subdivision as there are in Division I basketball, but they are nonetheless well represented in this year's bowl field. As usual, the Roman Catholics have the most entries, but the best team may belong to the Disciples of Christ. Here you go:

Roman Catholic
All three Roman Catholic schools in the Bowl Subdivision received bowl bids, although two of the three had very mediocre seasons by their standards.

  • Boston College (9–4): Music City Bowl vs. Vanderbilt (Dec. 31). BC has won eight consecutive bowl games, and I fear that they'll make it nine after thrashing my Commodores in Nashville.

  • Miami (FL) (7–5): Emerald Bowl vs. California (Dec. 27). On paper, this looks like an easy win for Cal, but ACC teams have faired well against strong non-conference opponents.

  • Notre Dame (6–6): Sheraton Hawaii vs. Hawaii (Dec. 24). Notre Dame has more talent than the Rainbow Warriors, but I don't like their chances against Hawaii in Honolulu.

Disciples of Christ
The Christian Church has only one representative, but TCU may be the best religiously affiliated team in this year's field.

  • Texas Christian (10–2): Poinsettia Bowl vs. Boise State (Dec. 23). Look for the Horned Frogs, whose only losses were to #1 Oklahoma and #6 Utah, to spoil Boise's perfect season.

Latter-Day Saints
As usual the Mormons send a strong BYU Cougars team to a bowl game.

  • Brigham Young (10–2): Las Vegas Bowl vs. Arizona (Dec. 20). More than any other religiously affiliated school in major college sports, BYU expects its athletes to adhere to the (strict) moral standards of its affiliate church. Additionally, several Cougars players interrupt their playing careers to go on two-year Mormon missions. Still, BYU's football team is competitive every year, and I expect them to win big in Vegas on Saturday.

The Calvinist faithful can rally behind the continued success of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

  • Tulsa (10–3): GMAC Bowl vs. Ball State (Jan. 6). Take a break from the BCS showdowns to watch what should be a very interesting game between the Golden Hurricane and Ball State.

Though Wake Forest no longer has any official connection to a Baptist Convention, the school still claims its Baptist heritage. If Baylor played in any conference or division other than the Big 12 South, the Baptists would probably have an official team to pull for. But as is, the Demon Deacons are the Baptists' only hope.

  • Wake Forest (7–5): EagleBank Bowl vs. Navy (Dec. 20). Despite an otherwise disppointing season, the Deacons were 2–0 against bowl bound SEC teams. They face a good Navy team that upset them during the regular season.

United Methodist
Once again UM schools were shut out of bowl games as Duke, Syracuse, and SMU all failed to earn bids. Still, United Methodists have two former affiliate schools to root for.

  • Northwestern (9–3): Alamo Bowl vs. Missouri (Dec. 29). Northwestern was founded by Methodists in the middle of the nineteenth century and maintains a partnership with Garrett-Evangelical, a United Methodist Seminary in Evanston. The game against Missouri should be a good one, and United Methodists would be well served to cheer for the formerly Methodist Wildcats.

  • Vanderbilt (6–6): Music City Bowl vs. Boston College (Dec. 31). Vandy was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, one of the mother denominations of The United Methodist Church. Vanderbilt officially split from the Methodists in 1914. Though I (like many United Methodists working for the church) am a graduate of Vanderbilt's Divinity School, I don't like the Commodores' chances against BC.

* I titled this post "God's Guide to College Bowl Games" because I thought it sounded catchy. God has not formally endorsed this guide.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'll Be Twittering the Evansville-UNC Game . . .

. . . at least as long as it's interesting. The game is on ESPN, 6:00 CST, 7:00 EST.

I'm a Sucker for These Things

The Tinleys as elves, dancing the Charleston:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Two New Songs That Make Me Happy

Music to enjoy as I prepare to be vasected today:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meyer Follows the Instructions

Meyer follows the instructions on the Lego® tub.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Evansville All Hail to Thee; True and Loyal We Will Be

My Evansville Purple Aces Saturday night topped the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 72–40. This is a Western team that a couple weeks ago had handily defeated then #3 Louisville. My Aces are now 7–1—the team's best start since 1981—with two victories over teams that were in last year's NCAA Tournament (and two victories over non-Division I opponents, but I can overlook that). Our only loss was on the road against a very good Butler team. I'm looking at making some travel plans in March.

You can watch my Aces hand #1 North Carolina its first loss Thursday on ESPN.

Update: Andy Katz lifts up Evansville in this week's Weekly Watch.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Malachi's First Video

It isn't one of our better efforts, but the time was right to get Malachi on video. Also, Meyer does some theologizing. (We'll need to work with him on that.)

Music: "Everybody Sing, Everybody Play Bass" by Meyer, Resha Kate, and Daddy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Thoughts Exactly

New York Times guest columnist Timothy Egan:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate. . . .

Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush’s dog getting a book deal.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I haven't posted a picture of the little guy since he was a newborn. (Such is the plight of the third child.)

As Though We're Already Too Late

The tone of this article struck me. Often faith communities talk about the genocide in the Darfur region of The Sudan as a crisis we must address; this article talks of Darfur as a crisis we've already failed to address. The international community said that it would never allow another Rwanda, but it has.

That said, the killing has not stopped, and there is much that the church, the American government, foreign governments, and the United Nations must do immediately to end the genocide in Darfur and provide relief to those who have been displaced. And while we're at it, we need to do something about the equally horrific crisis in the Congo.