Friday, October 29, 2010

I'll Vote for Jim Cooper; I Don't Know That I'll Vote for Anyone Else

Whenever election season comes around, I like to make endorsements. This year, I'm having trouble finding people—other than Jim Cooper—to endorse. Honestly, I've never been less excited about casting my ballot.

As usual, I'll be voting for Rep. Cooper as my U.S. Representative (TN-5). I like that Cooper eschews partisan politics and genuinely (I think) strives to act in the best interests of his constituents and the American people. I like that he personally answers my letters; and I like that he follows me on Twitter. Cooper's campaign is also behind the most clever TV commercial of this election cycle (and the only one I can stand to watch). Jim Cooper is a good dude, and I give him my full endorsement.

In Tennessee's gubernatorial election, I can't endorse anyone. I'm not impressed with Mike McWherter's efforts to run to the right of his Republican opponent (though such a strategy is common for Tennessee Democrats); the fact that he sided with opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro during a July debate makes voting for him a non-option. Granted, my feelings about McWherter are irrelevant, because Bill Haslam will win this election by a wide margin. I prefer Haslam to McWherter; I think he'll do an OK job; and I like the idea of electing as governor the mayor of one of the state's largest cities. Still, I can't bring myself to vote for someone with whom I disagree on tax reform, health care, and education (the three issues most important to me on the state level).

Actually, my views on tax reform, health care, and education put me at odds with just about everyone running for state office in Tennessee. I don't think that "fight Obamacare" is a good strategy for insuring that Tennesseans' health care needs are met; I don't think that charter schools are the only way to improve primary and secondary education; I wish that more candidates would work on lowering tuition at state colleges and universities; and I support a state income tax.

That's right, a state income tax. I feel strongly that a state income tax, accompanied by a significant reduction in the state's sales tax, would give Tennessee a more just tax code and better meet the state's revenue needs. (Read all about tax reform in Tennessee here.) As far as I can tell, every single major-party candidate running for state office opposes an income tax, but none of them ever explain why.

So I'm not eager to vote for anyone for any of the state offices. (I'm open to voting for independent and third-party candidates and have done so many times in the past, but I haven't had a chance to do much research this year.) I may vote for George McDonald (the Democrat who's going to lose to Mae Beavers) for Senate; he says so little about the issues that I can't find anything wrong with him (or right with him). Still, a vote for McDonald would mostly be a vote against Beavers, and I'm not a fan of protest votes.

Happy voting!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kneeling in the End Zone Game of the Week

  • Game: Texas Rangers at San Francisco Giants, Major League World Series, Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. CST

  • Synopsis: Prior to Friday night, the Texas Rangers were the oldest Major League team never to have played in a World Series. The Rangers' National League foe in the Fall Classic, the San Francisco Giants, have not won a title since moving to California in 1958. (The Giants won five World Series in New York.) Neither the Texas Rangers nor the San Francisco Giants have ever been World Series champions. That will change in less than two weeks. For the first time since the Anaheim Angels won in 2002, Major League Baseball will have a new champion.

  • Commentary: New is exciting. When a new team wins a championship, struggling franchises that have never won a title (e.g. the Mariners) or haven't won in a really long time (e.g. the Cubs) get a glimpse and a reminder of what is possible. Scripture frequently reminds us that God is in the business of doing new things. Isaiah 42:9 says, "See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them"; in Jeremiah 31:31-34, amid the siege of Jerusalem, God promises to make a new covenant with the people of Judah; through Christ, God became present and demonstrated God's love and mercy in extraordinary new ways. And the Bible's final book reaches a climax with God "making all things new" (Revelation 21:5).

    Much as either the Giants or Rangers will show baseball fans something new, we can give people a glimpse of the new things God is doing. Through relationships grounded in love and sacrifice and acts of mercy and justice, we can show others what God's new world looks like.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Night Trivia

No one ever answered the last Tuesday Night Trivia challenge. So you know, the final entry in an alphabetical listing of Pope names is Zosimus. This week's challenge is a little easier:

This word, which appears in the names of four states, only appears in the names of two sovereign nations. What is it, and what are the two sovereign nations?

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Football Statistic I'd Like to See: Median Yards Per Rushing Attempt

During last week's game against the Cowboys, the Titans' Chris Johnson averaged 6.9 yards per rush. For the entire 2009 season, Johnson averaged 5.6 yards per rush. (Tonight he averaged 4.3.) These are great numbers, but anyone who watches the Titans each week knows that these numbers tell us little about how Johnson runs. I would venture to guess that the majority of CJ's runs are for two or fewer yards. But the occasional 60- or 70-yard run give his yards-per-rush average a boost.

CJ is a great back whom opposing defenses must always account for. But, despite what his statistics suggest, he isn't a back the Titans can count on to pick up four or five yards on first down or three tough yards on third down.

Johnson's yards-per-rush average is much better than that of Eddie George, one of CJ's predecessors in the Titans' backfield. While Eddie never put up 170 yards in a single game or broke off an 80-yard touchdown run, he was more likely than Johnson is now to rush for at least three yards on a given play.

The yards-per-rush stat may be a good way to evaluate a back's overall efficiency, but it is a poor predictor of what one can expect a back to do on any single attempt. Thus I would like to suggest that the Elias Sports Bureau add a "median yards per rush" statistic. If a back were to have runs of -2, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 11, and 70 yards, he would average an impressive 9 yards per rush; but his median yards per rush would only be 2. Likewise, a back with runs of -1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 7, and 11 yards would average 4 yards per rush (much less than 9) and also have a median yards per rush of 4 (much better than 2). Using both the average and median stats would give the coach, broadcaster, or fan a more accurate assessment of a back's skills and strengths.

But the median stat would not be a pure median. I would not include any rush of two yards or less in which the rusher picks up a first down. These plays are designed for short yards in specific situations and should not count against a back's stats. Also, rushes resulting in a touchdown would only figure into the median if they were to raise the median. When a team snaps the ball on its opponent's 1-yard line, a rusher can only pick up a single yard (and only a single yard is needed). This single yard shouldn't count against the rusher's median yards per rush. If a back with a median of 4 ran the ball into the end zone from the 3-yard line, this 3-yard rush would not figure into the median statistic. (A 5-yard rush resulting in a touchdown, however, would.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vacation Pictures

The Tinleys (grandparents included, cats not included) have spent much of the past week at Rock Island State Park. (I make no apologies for the lack of Tuesday Night Trivia and the Kneeling in the End Zone Game of the Week this week. Actually, last week's Tuesday Night Trivia is still unanswered.) Here are some vacation pictures:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Kneeling in the End Zone Game of the Week

The Game: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim vs. Nashville Predators, NHL, happening right now (Preds lead 4-1 in the third)

Synopsis: This game, the season opener for both the Ducks and the Preds, is only significant to those who are fans of one of the two teams playing. For me, a Predators fan, this game is hope on ice. I'll let Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports explain:

At the beginning of each season in team sports, every team is 0-0: winless and undefeated with a winning percentage that mathematically does not exist. Each team has an opportunity to end the season by winning a championship. Christians believe that, through Christ, we also get an opportunity to start again. . . . Being re-created or reborn is a key aspect of any Christian's faith journey, whether this rebirth occurs (as some suggest) in a single transcendent life-altering experience or (as other insist) continually through the persistent prodding of God's grace. . . . Thus no one need be held captive by sin. Even if one is eliminated from the playoffs before the all-star break (in the figurative sense), by God's grace and through Christ's death and resurrection, one can leave these failings behind and look forward to a new season.

The Predators have ended five of the last six seasons with a first-round Playoff exit. They've had a lot of talent on their roster (especially for a small-market team), but they haven't been able to put together a postseason run in the NHL's deep and competitive Western Conference. I hope this year will be different. I have a lot of faith in the Preds' core of young talent—Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and goalie Pekka Rinne (who left tonight's game with an injury)—and look forward to what the season will bring.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Harvest

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tuesday Night Trivia

Tonight's challenge involves names of popes:

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes 263 men as having served as Bishop of Rome, or Pope. These 263 popes have had (by my count) 80 different names. Which Pope name is last in alphabetical order?

If you're interested, "Adeodatus" is first in an alphabetical listing of Pope names.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Kneeling in the End Zone Game of the Week

  • Game: Cardiff City at Barnsley, Football League Championship, 9:00 a.m. CST

  • Synopsis: In the 18-year history of the English Premier League, all of the teams that have played in the league have been from England. (Makes a certain amount of sense.) But if Cardiff City, currently second in the Football League Championship, continues playing at a high level, that will change next year. For the first time ever, one of the teams in England's most prestigious football league will be from Wales.* The Bluebirds narrowly missed out on promotion last season and are poised to be one of the three Championship teams that makes the jump to the EPL in 2011. Can a Welsh team break into the highest tier of English soccer?

    The early church was a Jewish group that worshiped in the temple in Jerusalem and followed the Torah. Prior to his vision of the unclean animals, Peter hadn't considered that non-Jewish people might also have a place in the church. Reluctantly and at God's urging, Peter visited a Gentile man named Cornelius, told him the good news of Christ, and welcomed him into the community of faith. This episode, along with Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, initiated a mission among the Gentiles that would see the establishment of churches throughout the Greco-Roman world. There was a place in the church for Gentiles, much as there may be a place in the EPL for a Welsh team.

    This weekend, as you keep tabs on Cardiff City-Barnsley, think and pray about people whom your church may be excluding or overlooking. How can you welcome these people into your faith community?

    Lest I exclude or overlook Cardiff City's opponent, I should mention that Barnsley has the unfortunate distinction of having spent more years in the second tier of English soccer than any other club (65 seasons in all). The Tykes are currently in 13th place in the Championship, so their chances of being promoted to the EPL next year are not good. If you're a Barnsley fan, I'd recommend getting a copy of my book Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports and reading chapter 1, "Hope Amid Wilderness and Exile."

* To be clear, two Welsh teams—Cardiff City and Swansea City—have competed in the top tier of English soccer. But neither has played at the top level since the creation of the Premier League in 1992. Swansea last played in the First Division in 1983, Cardiff in 1962.