Saturday, February 28, 2009

Putting Things in Perspective

This Conan O'Brien interview with comedian Louis CK is outstanding. (I'd embed it, but the embedding function has been disabled.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

If You Were Born Between 1969 and 1981 . . .

. . . you'll enjoy this. (From The Onion.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sauce: Now Available in Two Sizes

Liberal Blogosphere Cheers With Pep and Vim for White and Purple

Maybe the most recognizable graduate of my alma mater, the University of Evansville, (with the possible exception of Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan) is Jack McBrayer, who plays Kenneth on 30 Rock. McBrayer's star has been shining a little bit brighter since liberal bloggers noticed that Kenneth's speaking style and mannerisms are uncannily similar to those of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who delivered the Republican response to last night's State of the Union Address.

I believe McBrayer graduated when I was a sophomore. I didn't know him at UE, but I think I saw him in a play or two. But both of us will always be Purple Aces.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Can Public High School Coach Pray With His Team?

From the Tennessean via Deadspin. (It says something about the state of the newspaper industry when I learn about the contents of my hometown paper from a national sports blog.)

To Coach Louis Thompson, praying with his Lincoln County High School football team is as important as leading them to winning seasons — maybe more important.

"Every day when we finish practice, we take a knee, bow our heads and say the Lord's Prayer — every day. We don't miss a day," Thompson said.

"Along with the Lord's Prayer at practice, we have a silent prayer before each game where I tell them to pray for themselves and their teammates.''

But a case making its way to the U.S. Supreme Court could prevent Thompson and other coaches of public schools from praying with their teams, even if the players initiate the prayer on their own.

Depending on what they're praying for or about, I give a thumbs-up to students (regardless of faith tradition) who take the initiative to pray—whether individually or in a group—before games, meets, or other school-related events. (Actually, Romans 8:26-27 tells me that I shouldn't worry to much about what students pray for or about.) In theory, I'm also OK with coaches and sponsors participating in these prayers, so long as they don't lead the prayers or pressure members of the team or club to participate. That said, I can imagine situations in which the coach's mere participation in a prayer could appear as an endorsement of a particular faith tradition. It really depends on the coach's attitude, body language, and so forth.

I don't know enough about this particular coach, who does his praying right here in Middle Tennessee, to approve or contest his participation in his team's prayers. But the fact that he admits to telling his players at each practice to pray for themselves and their teammates makes me suspect that Coach Thompson is pushing the limits of the establishment clause. (Deadspin is skeptical of Thompson's passive-participant defense: "But Borden is saying that he doesn't want to lead the prayer, he just wants to silently pray nearby without interceding. Sure he does. And he wants his quarterback to call the offensive plays, and his linemen to run laps on the honor system.")

I will add that I'm not sure that team prayers have that much to do with religion in the first place. During my four years on the Perry Meridian High School swim team, we took a knee and said the Lord's Prayer before each and every meet. Everyone participated willingly, even those who were nonreligious or skeptical of Christianity. The ritual was more about team unity than connecting with God through Christ. The Lord's Prayer was familiar—most of us knew it by heart; those who didn't could learn it quickly. No theological reflection happened before swim meets, just 20 kids in Speedos and parkas reciting in rhythm and in unison 67 words from memory. I'm not sure that these pre-meet prayers brought any of us closer to God, but they certainly brought us closer together as a team.

As I recall, our coach encouraged us to pray, but she did not participate.

Oh yeah, I deal with this issue in my forthcoming book, Kneeling in the End Zone. Look for it this fall from the Pilgrim Press.

Read About the Amazing Two-Handed Bowler

From Deadspin:

Like most four-year olds, Jason Belmonte began his bowling career by using both hands to simply chuck the ball down the lane and hope it stayed out of the gutter. But apparently as he grew older, no one ever taught him the proper bowling technique even though his parents own a freakin' bowling alley. So he just kept using that childhood model, refined it, and now at 25 years old is blowing people's minds with his insane spin and thunderous pin action.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

God's Bubble

With only a few weeks to go until Selection Sunday and this year's God's Bracket, here is a look at the religiously affiliated schools whose men's basketball teams have a good shot of earning a spot in this year's NCAA Tournament:

Roman Catholic

Locks: Marquette, Xavier, Villanova, Gonzaga

On the Bubble: Siena, St. Mary's, Notre Dame, Providence, Georgetown

Siena has an excellent RPI rating and an impressive non-conference strength of schedule. (They also demolished my Vanderbilt Commodores in the first round of last year's dance.) But they lack a signature win and have no remaining opportunities to get one. The Saints have a good shot of earning an at-large bid, but need to win the MAAC tournament to be safe. St. Mary's helped itself this weekend, getting a big win over a ranked Utah State team and doing so without star guard Patty Mills. Notre Dame, Providence, and Georgetown likely are on bubbles that will soon burst, but all three have opportunities to pick up some impressive wins before Selection Sunday.

If you're Roman Catholic, you should also keep an eye on Mount St. Mary's. The Mountaineers are currently in second place in the Northeast Conference and have a good chance to earn the league's automatic bid for the second consecutive season.

United Methodist

Lock: Duke

Probable: Syracuse

Conference Leader: American

No real bubble teams for the United Methodists, as Syracuse needs only one or two more wins to finalize its post-season plans. American has a good chance to represent the Patriot League for a second consecutive season; Boston University (from the America East Conference) may be the only other UM school with a realistic chance of winning an automatic bid. Of course, I'm holding onto hope that Evansville, my alma mater, can win the Missouri Valley Conference tourney, but I'm not counting on it.


Lock: Wake Forest

Bubble: Baylor

Wake Forest, which maintains a tenuous connection to the Baptist Church, may be the only Baptist school to be immersed in this year's NCAA Tournament. After losing seven of their last eight games, the Baylor Bears' hopes of earning an at-large bid are slim or non-existent. A couple Baptist schools—Liberty (Big South) and Belmont (Atlantic Sun)—have a reasonable chance of winning their conference tournaments.

Latter-Day Saints

Bubble: Brigham Young

BYU has twenty wins and impressive computer numbers (#30 RPI; #49 strength of schedule); but the Cougars' one signature win, over Utah State, looks less impressive now than it did a few weeks ago. Winning Tuesday at San Diego State and winning two games in the MWC tourney would put BYU in good shape for an at-large berth.


Bubble: Davidson

If you expected Davidson to beat Butler in this past weekend's Bracket Buster showdown, you probably weren't very familiar with Butler. That said, Davidson may have needed a win over Butler to keep its bubble afloat. To its credit Davidson has a road victory over West Virginia, a neutral-site win against NC State, and a close loss to Oklahoma. The Wildcats also have Stephen Curry, which might give them a slight edge in the minds of Selection Committee members over teams with comparable résumés. But Davidson has a couple bad losses and its RPI and overall strength of schedule aren't impressive.

The only other Presbyterian school with even an outside chance of earning a bid is Tulsa, which could win the Conference USA tourney if someone else can upset Memphis.


Christians of a Charismatic bent can put their faith in Oral Roberts, currently in second place in the Summit League behind a North Dakota State team that has never had the pressure of playing in a conference tournament with a Big Dance invitation on the line. For Church of Christ folks, Lipscomb winning the Atlantic Sun tournament would be unlikely but not unheard of. If you're Lutheran (whether ELCA or Missouri Synod) or United Church of Christ, you'll most likely be without a team in this year's bracket. (But you can always hope for a conference tournament miracle for Wagner, Valpo, or Elon.)

Update: I confess that I neglected to mention the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This year's TCU Horned Frogs aren't terrible but are stuck in the bottom half of a very competitive Mountain West Conference and have little hope of winning that conference's tournament.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

From the Kids' Blogs

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Most Fascinating Article About Basketball I've Ever Read

Here it is, from the The New York Times Magazine. It explains why Shane Battier is an incredibly valuable player even though his statistics suggest that he isn't. (The article is by Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, the esteemed book about the genius of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane.)

And here's another article, this one from Talking Point Free Sports, that makes a compelling case that the above article isn't nearly as good as everyone says it is.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Read This Story . . .

. . . and try not to cry. Try it.

The Most Popular Video Featuring One of My Kids

For the past few years, I've been making videos of my children with the intention of a) giving friends and family a glimpse of what the kids are up to and b) entertaining my few regular readers. I expect that a small number of YouTube visitors will stumble upon these videos while searching for something else, giving my videos a few extra views.

I was surprised to discover, while browsing through my YouTube contributions the other day, that the median number of views for one of my videos is somewhere between 200 and 300. A few of the videos have even received thousands of views, including this one, which may be my personal favorite and has 8,813 views.

Far and away the most viewed video of my kids is this one from April 2007, in which Meyer gets into character and recites his favorite line from Monsters, Inc. (This was before Meyer developed a morbid fear of the Pixar classic.) It currently has a whopping 31,820 views.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

UAE Denies Visa to Israeli Tennis Player Shahar Peer


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- The United Arab Emirates has refused to grant a visa to a female Israeli tennis player, preventing her from competing in the Sony Ericsson World Tennis Association Tour in Dubai, the WTA said in a statement Sunday.
The UAE has refused to grant a visa allowing Shahar Peer to compete in Dubai.

Shahar Peer would have been the first Israeli athlete to participate in a professional sporting event in the UAE, CNN Sports correspondent Pedro Pinto said.

Obviously, any sport suffers when worthy athletes are not allowed to compete.

My first thought upon reading this was that there's precedent for this sort of thing. During Apartheid many South African athletes were barred from international competition. Some would argue that Israel's treatment of Palestinian Arabs is similar to the white South African government's treatment of the nation's black majority. There's some validity to this argument, although the two situations are hardly analogous. In South Africa it was obvious to the international community (once the international community decided to care) which side was the victim and which was the oppressor. The situation in Israel/Palestine is much more complicated. Both sides can legitimately claim victimhood; and both sides have acted reprehensibly. At any rate, punishing Israeli or Palestinian athletes for the sins of their governments helps no one and does nothing to end the conflict in the Middle East. (Barring South African athletes, by contrast, was part of a larger effort of isolation that eventually helped to end Apartheid.)

Perhaps more significantly, the precedent does not hold because the UAE government, and not the WTA nor a coalition of tennis-playing nations, is preventing Shahar Peer from competing. We're not talking about UN sanctions here. We're talking about a single nation interfering in an international sport without the blessing of the international community or the sport's governing body.

The WTA has exacerbated the problem by failing to intervene even though WTA policy says that "no player should be barred from competing in a tournament for which she has qualified." The tournament began Sunday sans Peer. The WTA is considering removing Dubai from the tour next year.

As an aside, Scot McKnight, of Beliefnet's Jesus Creed blog, prefaces his post on this subject with, "Very sad. If this were an Arab or an African, there would be an outcry." I want to go on record as saying that I hate any argument that takes the form of "Imagine the outcry if it had been a conservative/liberal/Muslim/Christian" or "No one would be complaining if this had happened to a man/woman/black person/white person." You can't prove a point with a hypothetical. If you want to argue that the situation would have been handled differently if an Arab or African had been denied a visa, give specific and recent examples that illustrate the disproportionate outrage. Otherwise, you don't have an argument. Also, who's to say that people are not or won't be outraged by Peer's story? The story broke on Sunday, and I read about it on multiple blogs (all of which expressed outrage) on Monday.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Mouse Eats

Video evidence that Malachi is now eating food. That's Ashlee's voice in the background:

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Pictures of the Kids

Junk Collector Finds 1869 Baseball Card

After you read this story from the Fresno Bee, your first instinct should be to go to Wikipedia and read about the history of baseball cards. I had no idea that baseball cards were as old as organized professional baseball itself. I always assumed that they originated in the early twentieth century. Fascinating.

Here's the gist:

Bernice Gallego sat down one day this summer, as she does pretty much every day, and began listing items on eBay.

She dug into a box and pulled out a baseball card. She stopped for a moment and admired the picture. "Red Stocking B.B. Club of Cincinnati," the card read, under a sepia tone photo of 10 men with their socks pulled up to their knees. The card itself was dirty and wrinkled in a few places.

It turns out that the card was issued by Peck & Snyder, a company that made baseball equipment, in 1869, one year after the Red Stockings came into being. (The Red Stockings, now the Reds, are baseball's oldest professional club.)

Hat Tip: Deadspin

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Something for Valentine's Day

From The Onion:

By St. Valentine

. . . On this special day for lovers young and old, few things can top a gourmet meal served by candlelight on small, tasteful plates. It's much more intimate than cards or candy, and it certainly beats meeting a grizzly end at the hands of the Church's enemies. So by all means, enjoy your duck confit and chocolate mousse while you stare into the eyes of the person you love. What a romantic way to celebrate the 1,739th anniversary of the day I was bludgeoned to within an inch of my life and then publicly executed!

Read the entire thing.

The Mouse at Three Months

One with clothes and one without:

Performance-Enhancers in Baseball: Are People Upset for the Wrong Reasons?

ESPN's Jayson Stark writes the following in response to the A-Rod debacle:

So if that's true, think of where this sport almost certainly will find itself 15 years from now:

The all-time hits leader (Mr. Peter E. Rose) won't be in the Hall of Fame.

The all-time home run leader (assuming that's where A-Rod's highway leads him) won't be in the Hall of Fame.

The man who broke Hank Aaron's career record (Barry Bonds) won't be in the Hall.

The man who broke Roger Maris' single-season record (Mark McGwire) won't be in the Hall.

The man who was once the winningest right-handed pitcher of the live-ball era (Roger Clemens) won't be in the Hall.

The man with the most 60-homer seasons in baseball history (Sammy Sosa) doesn't look like he's headed for the Hall, either.

Yes, it is tragic that the Baseball Hall of Fame, the most hallowed museum in all of sports, will not adequately tell the story of its sport—that the Hall will be more notable for its omissions than its inductees. But this entire discussion has left me wondering whether baseball writers, historians, and fans are telling the right story.

Several times since the report of Alex Rodriguez's performance-enhancing-drug use, analysts and baseball geeks have discussed at length their disappointment that baseball's hopes of having a "clean" home run king had been dashed. Many had hoped that A-Rod would "save" the sport by hitting his 763rd dinger, thereby topping Barry Bonds's all-time mark. A-Rod will more than likely hit 763 (and possibly 800), but he will have been juiced for at least 156 of those.

But a home run in baseball is just a means to an end. The goal for any ball player is not to compile statistics but to make contributions that will help his team win games and, ultimately, championships. Let's return to the above excerpt from Starks's column. Starks and countless other commentators have voiced their disappointment that Mark McGwire's apparent steroid use tainted his 70-home-run season in which he broke Roger Maris's record. I have yet to hear anyone ask whether steroid use by McGwire and former teammate Jose Canseco invalidates the Oakland A's' 1989 World Series victory. Similarly, I have yet to hear anyone ask whether performance-enhancing drugs played a role in the 1999 and 2000 World Series, both won by a Yankees team featuring Roger Clemens. Moreover, I find it interesting that baseballists have placed A-Rod and Bonds at the center of the steroid controversy when these two players have one pennant and zero World Series titles on their combined résumés.

So for me, the most significant question raised by baseball's performance-enhancing-drug scandal is, Why are people who cover and analyze a team sport so obsessed with individual achievements?

See also: "Baseball's Steroid Problems Exacerbated by Cult of the Individual" (March 9, 2006)

One more thing: I talk about this sort of thing in the "Dreaded Asterisk" chapter of my forthcoming book, Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports. Look for it this fall.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Something to Read As You Watch Big Bang Theory Tonight

From Slate:

How do you build a sitcom around a neurological condition without uttering its name? That's the challenge CBS faces in its show about the travails of four Caltech researchers . . . . The running joke of The Big Bang Theory is that these guys are brilliant at understanding the workings of the universe, yet hopeless at socializing with Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a waitress who lives next door. But a more subtle theme is that Sheldon—flat-toned, gawky, and rigidly living by byzantine rules and routines—appears to have Asperger's syndrome.

Read the entire thing.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Let Me Explain Why I Haven't Ordered This T-Shirt

My first impulse upon seeing this T-shirt at Snorg Tees was to click "order." Who doesn't enjoy jokes at the expense of irrational and imaginary numbers? Not me.

Here's the problem: √-1, a.k.a. i, has no business telling π to "be rational" because i is no more rational than π is.

By definition, a rational number is any number that can be expressed as the ratio of two integers. Integers, which are real numbers, don't tend to have imaginary quotients. You find me a ratio of two integers equal to √-1 and I'll buy that shirt.

My $18.95 should be safe.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Everything You Need to Know About Rinsing Recyclables

I posted this on Facebook, but neglected to post it here. Slate's Nina Shen Rastogi answers the following question:

I've always been dedicated to washing the peanut butter, Pepsi, and mayo out of my food containers before tossing them in the recycling bin. My sister, though, recently pointed out that I'm probably wasting gallons upon gallons of precious H20! Is it worth it to soap up my tin cans and soda bottles?

Good question. I've occasionally thrown away plastic peanut-butter jars and sour-cream tubs because I didn't have the energy to scrape and rinse off the peanut butter or sour cream clinging to the sides of the container. A few years ago I wrote the following on the subject:

I feel a sense of relief when I empty the cottage cheese or sour cream and find that the tub is a type-5 plastic . . . . The number 5 on the bottom of the sour cream tells me that I will not have to thoroughly rinse the tub and add it to the overflowing bin of plastic containers in my garage.

(Nashville's recycling program has since started accepting type-5 plastics.)

Anyway, it turns out that I need not worry about lingering peanut butter because "Recycling facilities are well equipped to handle dirty cans and bottles." Good to know. Still, the article explains, there is value in rinsing out recyclable containers. So you should probably go ahead and read the entire thing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Double Negatives Don't Fool Meyer

While listening to some Liz Phair in the car tonight, Meyer made a poignant observation:

"Never said nothing" means that you never stop talking.

Yes it does, Meyer. Yes it does.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Meyer Draws the SpongeBob Characters

See them all here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Running the Pick-and-Roll, Wearing Pants

ESPN Page 2's Uni Watch has this story about a basketball team at a Christian school in Virginia that wears long pants for religious reasons. Apparently the Gate City Christian Warriors are part of a four-team league based in East Tennessee in which all players wear pants instead of shorts. The girls' teams at these schools wear skirts "because the Bible says there should be a separate distinction between a man and a woman in terms of their apparel." (I'm just glad they have girls' teams.) When asked "Is there a specific verse of the Bible that addresses this?" the Gate City Christian principal answered, "There is, but I'd have to look it up -- I don't have it handy, but it's definitely in Scripture." When I search "pants" on the Oremus Bible Browswer nothing comes up. I'll take his word for it.

Personally, I don't have a problem with shorts—on boys or girls. I was wearing shorts today when I hit 81 consecutive free throws on my lunch break. Nonetheless, I have a lot of respect for athletes who honor seemingly inhibitive religious traditions and still manage to compete.

Evansville Gets Prime Bracketbuster Slot

The Aces will host Miami (OH!) on February 21. It'll be on one of the ESPN channels. (Probably not regular ESPN. I'm hoping for ESPN2 rather than ESPNU since digital cable is not an expense the Tinleys can justify right now.)

Floss in the Recession

I've made a conscious effort to floss once every few days for two reasons:

  1. I noticed that we had a spool of dental floss in the bathroom drawer.

  2. I haven't seen a dentist in a while and probably won't for another several months, so I decided that my oral hygiene probably shouldn't be limited to a toothbrush and some Aqua Fresh®.

As I was flossing this morning, I couldn't help but think about what effect (if any) the recession is having on dental floss sales. I had two thoughts:

  1. People may consider floss an unnecessary expense, an item they can leave out of the grocery cart in the interest of saving a little money. These people may reason that, in these tough economic times, brushing one's teeth should be sufficient—that floss is just a luxury for the wealthy and vain.

  2. People may decide that they can no longer afford for a chunk of their paychecks to be lost to dental coverage. These people may decide to pay special attention to their teeth and gums to avoid an uninsured trip to the dentist. Thus they might buy floss, which helps keep the teeth and gums healthy and tends to be significantly less expensive than a dental premium.