Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
The Most Popular Video Featuring One of My Kids
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
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
Friday, February 13, 2009
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
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.
Performance-Enhancers in Baseball: Are People Upset for the Wrong Reasons?
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
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
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
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
"Never said nothing" means that you never stop talking.
Yes it does, Meyer. Yes it does.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Monday, February 02, 2009
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.
Floss in the Recession
- I noticed that we had a spool of dental floss in the bathroom drawer.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.