Friday, October 31, 2008

REVIEW: Ben Stein's "Expelled"

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Just Watched:
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

My Rating:
4½ Stars

I'm just stunned.

Ben Stein has put together an excellent documentary about the eclipse of academic freedom in America, especially with regard to the issue of the origin of species. With engaging interviews & startling facts, Stein goes on a journey to show how scientists who simply acknowledge (not even *subscribe* to the theory -- just ACKNOWLEDGE) the viability of the intelligent design theory are becoming victims of a systematic effort to supress alternative perspetives to Darwinian Evolutionism. With a skillful weaving of current events & images of totalitarian regimes past, Ben Stein makes a strong case that the supression of ideas is a barrier to scientific freedom as the Berlin Wall was a barrier to personal German liberty for many years. He also takes time to show the fruits of the evolutionary theory of origins by connecting the thinking with Nazi Eugenics programs.

It's just an excellent documentary. I'm amazed at the awful reviews Stein's documentary received. They simply serve as further evidence of the existence of a kind of conspiratorial cabal for the mainstream worldview of the future. And Ben Stein just furthers my deep aversion for public figures of anti-religion such as Bill Maher & Richard Dawkins.

What "Expelled" further does for me is highlight a troubling trend in 21st century culture: unknowable truth resulting from the reign of bias. What do I mean? Personally, I am unnervingly frustrated that I have no idea what to think about the idea of global warming. If you think global warming exists, then you must be a Democrat; and if you think global warming is a farce, then you must be a Republican. Each political party has their own set of scientists & "scientific" conclusions. How can a person even form an objective opinion?

As a moderate thinker, I have a difficult time with the veneration of the subjective. I listen to right-leaning people wring their hands over ACORN & people who would manipulate our political system by saturating the vote with illegal votes. And then I listen to left-leaning people wring their hands over voter suppression or the idea that electronic voting is not trustworthy -- people in positions of high influence who would manipulate our political system by fixing the numbers. And you know what -- each side is ONLY concerned with the pety notion that the other side will gain an unfair advantage! What I want to know is this: WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE OVER THE PURITY OF OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM?!? It's nowhere to be found! No one cares, because each side only cares for itself.

This development of a highly-polarized culture is intellectually dishonest. And that is at the heart of Ben Stein's documentary: the idea that people place their worldview before science, or objective investigation. Such as happened with the poor kids involved in the Duke lacrosse rape case -- "well, they fit profile, so let's book 'em & get it over with." Placing your worldview ahead of your investigative pursuit leaves you living in a fantasy world of your own construct -- it's not reality. And it's frustrating to people like me, especially if (like in the issue that this documentary explores) you're not even allowed to ask questions from an alternative perspective.

Well, I got lost in my own diatribe there. But you should see this documentary. And then you should go sign the Academic Freedom Petition as Ben Stein urges people to in the extra's on the DVD. "Liberty & justice for all" -- that would be a nice direction for America I think...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Saints, Sinners, and Sports

A couple blogging buddies of mine, and myself, have started a new blog dedicated to highlighting both virtue & vice in the world of athletics. It's called Saints, Sinners, and Sports. I think the idea is that we're going to spend time figuring out who all the good guys & bad guys are while pretending that wasting all of our time talking about sports isn't a moral issue itself. ;)

Anyway, give it a looksy. I just posted an entry about our saint of the month: former Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings. Be sure & provide feedback about topics that interest you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It Don't Get More Cocky than This


Hey Vols
Hey Vols
Hey Vols
We just beat the hell outta you!
Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer, Give 'em hell Alabama!

Granted, it's not the classiest cheer in the world. And we've had our medicine fed right back to us by rival fans in recent down seasons. But I'll assure you that, at the end of a well-played game, there is little else that is as satisfying as yelling this cheer. It's just sublime. In fact, I could play that little clip from Saturday night all day long & not get sick of it.

Power 12: Rocky Flop Edition

1.) Texas
Still the best team right now. I'm not convinced that Texas Tech will be as much of a challenge as the media thinks they'll be; the Longhorns have always handled the Red Raiders pretty easily.
2.) Alabama
A 20-point victory in Knoxville, without their best player (the injured Terrence Cody), and when many of the pundits were saying that the Tide were on upset alert. It's possible that Alabama may be the most complete team in college football.
3.) Penn State
Despite doing a great job of going into Columbus & getting a win, their overall strength of schedule is lacking.
4.) Florida
5.) Georgia
6.) Southern California
7.) Oklahoma
8.) Texas Tech
9.) Oklahoma State
10.) Texas Christian
11.) LSU
12.) Florida State

Dropped Out

Georgia Tech and Ohio State

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Bloody-Knuckle Tennessee Story

It's Tennessee week for Alabama fans.

This week Tide fans are staring at a game in Neyland Stadium against perhaps the weakest Vol team in 20 years. It doesn't lessen the anticipation, though. Ever since Phil Fulmer worked to take down Alabama with the Albert Means situation, Tide fans fume at Tennessee. We want to make Fulmer pay; we want him to suffer. So pardon us all if we're a little less than sympathetic to the notion that Fulmer currently sits on a hot seat. We're just thrilled if we're the ones who are allowed to figuratively act as the executioner.

The rivalry pre-dates that drama, though. It goes back to the early days of college football when Tennessee & Alabama were the two pre-eminent football schools in the south. It's not the oldest rivalry in the world: that distinction belongs to Auburn/Georgia. But it's still one of the longest-running & most exciting. There's even a fantstic blog dedicated to it now: The 3rd Saturday in Blogtober.

I have one good Tennessee story to share in terms of my own personal fanhood. I shared it on a 'Bama message board a few months ago, and I thought I'd re-print it here for Tennessee week. Hopefully it'll give you an idea of just how big and captivating this game is for folks on both sides of this border-war rivalry. Enjoy...

It was October of 2000, and I was watching the Alabama/Tennessee game on TV on the first floor of my townhouse. It had a low ceiling, and just above the couch was a ceiling fan. At one point, 'Bama had the ball and running back Brandon Miree broke off a 30-yard run all the way down to the 2 or 3 yard line. I was so excited that I jumped up. And when I did that, I completely busted out the light fixture attached to the ceiling fan & sent shattered glass everywhere.

First thing I did: I literally had to pull out a couple of shards of glass that were sticking out of my knuckles.

Second thing: I quickly slipped on my loafers so I wouldn’t step on any broken glass (which was all over the room).

Third thing: I ran to the kitchen -- breaking even more glass underfoot -- to get some paper towels to stick on my bleeding fingers.

And I very skillfully managed to do all that & navigate my way back in front of the television to catch the next play! I was hopeful I would be able to put off cleaning up the mess & tending my wounds in order that I could watch us score. I wasn’t going to miss it!

The very next play, however, we fumbled on the goal-line & gave the ball back to Tennessee. Sulking, I then went and treated my cut up fingers & swept up the glass.

I think that just about sums up the 2000 season for Tide fans.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bursting the Comfort Bubble

It seems to me that these are hard words for 21st century Americans. They don't mesh very well with the idea of "The American Dream." But these words are perspective-bringing words of truth...

God's ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone. God created your uniqueness, so he certainly doesn't want to destroy it. Christlikeness is all about transforming your character, not your personality.

God wants you to develop the kind of character described in the beatitudes of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, Paul's great chapter on love, and Peter's list of the characteristics of an effective and productive life. Every time you forget that character is one of God's purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances. You'll wonder, "Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?" One answer is that life is
supposed to be difficult! It's what enables us to grow. Remember, earth not heaven!

Many Christians misinterpret Jesus' promise of the "abundant life" to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer. In a word, they expect the Christian life to be easy. They expect heaven on earth.

This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment. But God is
not your servant, and if you fall for the idea that life is supposed to be easy, either you will become severely disillusioned or you will live in denial of reality.

Never forget that life is not about you! You exist for God's purposes, not vice versa. Why would God provide "heaven on earth" when he's planned the real thing for you in eternity? God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, p. 173

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Power 12: The "This is the Greatest Sports Month of the Calendar Year" Edition

1.) Texas
2.) Alabama
'Bama survived Ole Miss at home. Which is a lot more than the hallowed Tebow & the media's beloved Gators can say. And the Tide is 7-0 heading to Knoxville -- I never would have dreamed of that in the preseason. This is fun!
3.) Penn State
I liked the way they responded to adversity against Michigan. If they beat the Buckeyes in Columbus, I may move them up.
4.) Southern California
5.) Florida
6.) Oklahoma
7.) Georgia
8.) LSU
9.) Ohio State
10.) Texas Tech
11.) Oklahoma State
12.) Georgia Tech
The Jackets aren't really on anyone else's radar screen, but they're a tough team to beat.

Dropped Out

BYU & Missouri

Those spread offenses don't look so good against half-way decent football teams. And when you play the spread exclusively, your defenses tend to stink. That explains why both these teams got routed this week.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And we'll see you Saturday Night!!

Rays 7
Sox 8

A big thanks to ALL the Sox... to J.D. Drew for the big hits, to Big Papi for coming back to life, to Masterson for getting a scoreless 9th when it could have slipped away, to the MVP "Destroia" Pedroia for that big double play, and to that big sweaty Jew Youkilis for scoring the winning run.

I love baseball.

How To Save a Drenched Cell Phone

I read this on an internet forum that I frequent. Maybe this story will come in handy in the future.

Got my IPhone wet a few days ago and it wouldn't function at all, and got it working again with a strange remedy I found online...

Dry it off, power it down, and bury it in a Tupperware container filled with uncooked rice. If you have any of those silica gelpacks that come in shoeboxes, put those in the container too, preferably right on the face of the Iphone, face down in the rice. Seal the Tupperware container and stick it in the oven for 48 hours. Turn the oven light on, but DO NOT turn the oven on. After 48 hours, you should be fine. The rice draws the moisture out. Worked for me. I took mine out for a test at about 36 hours and it was still a little flaky, so I put it back for 12 more hours then it was fine.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's Time for Some Campaignin'

Power 12: "You Can't Lose if You Don't Play" Edition

1.) Alabama
2.) Texas
3.) Penn State
4.) Southern California
5.) Florida
6.) Georgia
7.) Oklahoma
8.) Missouri
9.) LSU
10.) BYU
11.) Ohio State
12.) Texas Tech

Not Even Close to Knocking on the Door

They fired their Offensive Coordinator, but they're still rank on offense. Arkansas came into this game 87th in the nation in Total Defense & 112th in Scoring Defense, but Auburn totaled only 193 yards & one touchdown against them. I'm really starting to look forward to the Iron Bowl. :)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Believing the Resurrection

From N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope" (pg. 53)...

"Surface discrepancies do not mean that nothing happened. Indeed, they are a remarkable indication that something remarkable happened, so remarkable that the first witnesses were bewildered into telling different stories about it."

Critics often come to Scripture asking historical accuracy questions -- finding minute discrepancies in the account of the Resurrection: well was Christ raised on the 2nd day or the 3rd day? Did Mary go to the tomb alone, or was she with someone? Etc.

I like the way N.T. Wright puts it -- comparing it to the way we think about the flood. There are so many myths, or stories, that exist from antiquity that chronicle the idea that there was at one time a great flood. These accounts diverge in perspective. But scholars often take this as evidence, not that a flood didn't happen, but that something big actually DID happen. We may not have the ability to know PRECISELY how it all went down, but there was almost certainly a great flood that had a massive impact on the cradle of civilization. Likewise, the Gospel stories are close enough in substance that it would be foolish to discount them all based on variant details...

SOMETHING happened.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Vandy Talking Big

I loved these two signs that were seen at the Auburn/Vandy game in Nashville on Saturday, making fun of Alabama's two biggest rivals...

Natural Highs: Walking With a Toddler

Taking a not-quite 2 year-old for a walk.

I have a favorite baby at church. I'm sorry if the other young mother at my church is reading this, but she probably knows its true anyway. :) Her name is Cassie. She will turn two in the spring of '09. And outside of her parents, I may be her favorite person in the world that she sees on a semi-regular basis. It makes several of the ladies at church jealous on certain days when she's shy: she will come to me & let me hold her, but hardly anyone else. She is the cutest little friend I have.

Cassie has the most charming smile. It could charm the socks off anyone. It did my Mom. Many of you may not be aware that my Mom was not a fan of the Churches of Christ. It would take a big event to get her through the doors. But once when she came to visit the church where I preach & she met Cassie, she wanted to be there every time the doors were open. My Mom loved little girls. She used to joke about how she'd buy anything if the person selling it slapped a little girl on their commercial, like in this Cheerios commercial. Wouldn't matter if it was anthrax! Mom would buy it.

I guess that sort of explains why the first time I saw Cassie's cute smile at church again after my Mom's passing that that was one of the more emotional parts of the grieving experience. I realized how Mom loved that grin, and how she wouldn't ever see it again. She wouldn't get to watch Cassie grow up like I was going to.

Still, I enjoy anytime I get Cassie to myself without one of the other kids or Church members harassing her to hold her. Whether it's holding her & her playing with my glasses, us playing her "Sharing game" (She's holding something -- anything -- and then she hands it to me, and then I hand it to her, and then she hands it to me...), or whatever we do together.

But my VERY favorite thing is when I get to take little Cassie for a walk. Cassie started walking some time ago in the summer, and she loves to do it. I'll stink my index finger down toward her, and she'll wrap her little hand around it, and we will walk around the church building. We'll walk down the hallway, through the fellowship hall, down another hallway, into the auditorium, around all the pews, back into the foyer, back through the hallway. It doesn't matter where we go. The fun is just in sharing the walk with her. It's a total natural high.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Rays and Red Sox in the ALCS

Hey Tampa Bay...


Man! What a great game tonight! Playoff baseball is just the best.

I can't wait for this ALCS to start this Friday night. I'm not sure I've been this excited about a single playoff series since the 2004 ALCS. This is going to be WAR!

Power 12: The Post-VP Debate Edition

1.) Oklahoma
2.) Missouri
3.) Alabama
      This team rises & falls with the fragile psyche of John Parker Wilson. There were other issues Saturday for Alabama: a difficult day with penalties, turnovers, a general lack of intensity that you would expect in a let-down game. But whenever JPW is off, he's REALLY off. And whenever he's on, he can be pretty darn good. If the Tide can just get Dr. Jekyll to show up the right weeks & try to minimize the damage of Mr. Hyde, this fun little run could culminate in something special. But for ranking purposes, Oklahoma & Missouri just have better teams right now because they have superior QB play.
4.) LSU
5.) Texas
6.) Penn State
7.) Southern California
8.) BYU
9.) Florida
10.) Georgia
11.) Ohio State
12.) Texas Tech

KNOCKIN' ON THE DOOR... or should I say "'Dores"

Auburn's a MUCH easier team to beat when they don't play to their strength, which is just beating you physically. Totally panic move by Tuberville in the offseason to hire spread guru Tony Franklin as the offensive coordinator. He was trying to shake it up on the recruiting trail, because since Nick Saban showed up he's been beaten by Alabama for just about every quality kid on the recruiting trail. Auburn is in a decline, just as I predicted in my preseason haiku.

Oh, and that Bobby Johnson guy can coach. There are NO easy games in the SEC. None.


South Florida
Just a one-week appearance for the Bulls.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Be a Man, Manny

As a fellow Red Sox fan like Bill Simmons (ESPN's "The Sports Guy"), I too rooted on Manny Ramirez. I loved him when he was funny. But I also hated him when his jokes weren't so funny. I wrote a couple months ago that with the way Manny disrespected his team-mates, the fans, and the game, I hoped he fell flat on his face in L.A. & went the way of Nomar.

In his really, really ridiculously long article that will headline this weekend, Simmons argued that Manny shouldn't take the blame. He had put up great numbers, he was still putting up great numbers, he was going to put up great numbers -- what wasn't there to love? And any culpability for a poor attitude, lack of hustle, faking injuries & ducking games, intentional strikeouts, and being a bad team-mate in general should be laid at the doorstep of Manny's agent, Scott Boras. I personally think Simmons overstates his case. But did he have good reason to do so?

The Sports Guy stops just short of overtly alleging the existence of a cabal between the Red Sox front office, the Boston print media, the Boston sports talk machine, ESPN analyst Peter Gammons, and -- The Great Satan himself -- Scott Boras. He essentially assassinates Gammons in terms of him having any journalistic integrity or objective voice of his own anymore.

Not to mention that he takes swipes at current Red Sox GM Theo Epstein's integrity in holding Manny to a standard he himself allegedly did not keep. He compares Epstein not being re-signed & let go at the end of the '05 season to Manny quitting on his team mid-season for no apparent reason. I'm not sure how solid those comparisons are.

And, on top of all that, The Sports Guy even makes veiled accusations of racism. There is a long-standing history of sports racism in Boston (with both the Celtics and the Red Sox). Simmons patently implies the Red Sox front office of preserving this long-time Boston sports pastime of sorts by referring to the current product on the field as "lily-white" & akin to looking like a prep school athletics squad.

My first reaction was that Simmons must not be a Sox fan anymore. I mean, seriously: the guy never writes about them anymore. He spills endless amounts of ink over football lines and on baskeball; but he barely acknowledges baseball anymore. And when he FINALLY decides to grace us with his thoughts on baseball by talking about the Manny divorce, he basically slanders his favorite team? One of my major gut reactions was that Simmons just needs to go buy a Dodger blue #99 jersey & make it official. If it's Manny you're loyal to, then be up front about it. But don't claim Red Sox fanhood if you're not into it anymore.

I'll give Simmons credit where he deserves it, though. He doesn't throw darts without hitting a few targets.

The strongest part of Simmons' article is probably his critique of the widely-loved Peter Gammons. It is indeed puzzling that Gammons never once blamed Boras, but only spoke noble words of him. Even I recognized it to be pretty clear (in my write-up two months ago) that it felt like Gammons was the mouth-piece for the Red Sox administrative arm. For Gammons to not even say a single ill word about Boras, though -- a man universally recognized in baseball circles as the media's version of the protector of the integrity of the game -- is really bad. Even Curt Schilling fingered the obvious villain when interviewed at the trade deadline:

On Scott Boras’s involvement:

“I think absolutely he’s absolutely had a hand in this … I think he absolutely has a piece of this. Scott Boras stands to make zero dollars if the Red Sox pick up Manny’s options the next two years. Manny’s not 1- years from retirement, he’s maybe four obviously, that’s where he’s at. So does Scott Boras want to get a two year-deal for Manny or a four-year deal for Manny? At the end of the day it falls on the player because Manny’s an adult… I can’t fathom Scott hasn’t had some… you read his comments, he just has no ability to answer a question short, tactfully, and straightforward. It’s a 12 paragraph way to say 19 syllable words that you just can’t figure out what the hell he’s saying.”

There does appear to be an attempt by the Red Sox front office to control spin & to establish relationships that are ultimately beneficial for their own self-preservation & advancement. Think about who benefits. Gammons gets first dibs at any scoop coming out of the Red Sox front office, not to mention other probable fringe benefits at Fenway Park when watching his self-disclosed favorite team. The Red Sox watch Boras drive up prices on all the mid- & low-market franchises -- a development that plays into their hands with their massive fan base and, thus, money pool. On top of that, though, the Red Sox help establish a gentler view of Boras & a kind relationship with an agent who is vilified everywhere else in order to perhaps receive favorable treatment with Boras' long list of clients (cough, cough -- J.D. Drew). And, of course, Boras gets paid.

This article by Simmons even brought back fresh to my memory an interview I remember seeing Theo doing four years ago after the Red Sox re-signed Varitek but had let Pedro go. Varitek is, of course, represented by Boras. When Theo was asked about Boras' cut-throat, blood-sucking reputation, he succinctly & directly responded, "Well, Scott always gets top dollar for his clients." I remember being shocked by that answer. It was sort of a relentlessly positive way of looking at a really, really awful person in terms of what a scourge he is on baseball in general. I like the way Simmons referred to him: "one of the worst human beings in America who hasn't actually committed a crime."

I want to make this clear: I detest Scott Boras. He himself is a huge reason why a baseball game is so expensive to go watch in person right now. He encourages and openly fosters disloyalty to the "home team" (he basically fundamentally opposes one of the first principles from the National Anthem of Baseball, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"), which completely spits in the face of baseball fans everywhere. And he does all this to increase his own bottom line.

And you know what else, my Republican readers? I want to say to you that this is what unchecked free market enterprise produces. So everytime you praise Republicans for their common sense and demean Democrats for how "wrong" they are, I want you to remember that you are giving a tacit endorsement to the reckless & utterly insensitive greed of The Great Satan himself.

And as I wag my finger on that point, I can't help but be almost completely ashamed of my Red Sox fanhood now. I've been a fan for a long time. I don't know if these revelations will change that overnight. But the Red Sox look more & more like the Yankees at every turn. It's disillusioning, to be sure.

Back to Simmons, though... one thing I think that he completely overlooks is the fact that it wasn't a guarantee that Manny was not going to quit on this team that was defending a title. Manny had already done just that when he sat out for five weeks at the end of the '06 season for some mysterious, probably non-existent injury. Manny could have shut himself down for as long as he wanted. He didn't care. And if the '08 Red Sox were going to make a run at defending their title, it was clear that Manny wasn't going to be a part of that effort. It was clear enough that he had other selfish interests in mind, and Manny's not one to juggle more than one task at a time.

At the end of the day, though, the man who is speaking the most truth here is Curt Schilling. (Why is it always the jerks & the blow-hards? Canseco was the truth-teller on steroids. Now it's Schilling on Manny.) He was absolutely correct when he said, "At the end of the day it falls on the player because Manny’s an adult." Simmons can call Manny an "idiot savant" all he wants, and portray him as the ignorant puppet in Boras' puppet-master scheme. But Manny ultimately chose this path when he chose Boras & acted out like a petulant child. I don't see God absolving everyone, both sheep & goats, on Judgment Day just because that Satan was one persuasive cat. That's just not how it works -- at least not in my worldview.

Manny made his bed. Now he's lying in it. And I'm still hoping that it has some uncomfortable lumps so that Manny will go the way of Nomar. My hope is still that Manny falls on his face to the extent that whenever a future athlete thinks of acting out and being selfish, he will think of the cautionary tale that is Manny Ramirez.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Comforting Dream, Part 1 of 3

Ever had a dream that felt like more than a dream?

I feel like I'm taking a chance writing this in public. For one thing, any narrative that one seeks to describe out of a dream always makes you sound kooky. But also, some of the assumptions I make about dreams in general based on this dream might make me sound like a wacko to you. I guess I should just start by describing the dream.

It's been a couple of weeks now, but I had this dream where Mom was coming to visit me for a week. She was coming down from Alabama with her mother & her sister. The first day she came, she and I reconnected in affectionate ways that are normal for mothers & their sons (and as was normal for us). I always enjoyed it when Mom scratched my head & played with my hair; so I would oftentimes lean against her shoulder & let her play with my hair. In this dream, Mom & I were doing this on our first day together. I didn't have an awareness of the strangeness of this encounter because of Mom's death; I was simply enjoying the rich, full amount of time we had together after recognizing that we had been apart for some time. The best way to describe this part of the dream was that Mom & I were reconnecting both physically and emotionally.

I'll get more into this next part of the dream in another upcoming entry, but the very next day Mom surprised me with the news that she, her sister, and her mother were going to cut their trip short. They had to go abruptly, seemingly after having planned to spend time with me for a week. I was upset, we had a conversation about it, and then all of a sudden I woke up.

When I woke up, I remembered every detail of this dream. In fact, the dream stayed with me & sort of dominated my thoughts the whole day.

I'm not a dreams expert. I haven't read a whole lot about dreams. But my Mom (who had a Masters in Social Work) did, and she passed a lot of what she knew on to me. I recognize that a lot of what happens in dreams is the subconscious element of the mind working out & dealing with matters that haven't been resolved consciously. And, really, it seems that there is a whole lot more that we do NOT know about dreams than what we do know. With that in mind, I wonder if it is possible that what I dreamed was in some way Mom, in the spirit realm, reaching out to comfort me.

I know that sounds nutty. I usually don't believe in that kind of stuff. In fact, if it weren't so insensitive to do so, I'd probably often burst people's bubbles when they voice stuff like that. But what if it's possible? We have stories in Scripture where God seems to use dreams from time to time, from Jacob's ladder to Paul's Man of Macedonia. What if it's possible that God let Mom interact with me in my subconscious-controlled state? What if he let us have a moment together because I miss her & she missed me? Just because the experience was so rich and there were so many parts that felt so real, I almost think that that is what happened.

Even if it that's not what happened, I was comforted. There are a couple other elements of these dreams that have been anything but comforting, though. I'll be addressing those soon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Hundred Reasons ESPN's Page2 Loves the MLB Playoffs

I already posted my exuberant thoughts about the ushering in of the greatest month & sports time of the year. But also ESPN's Page2 Staff published a great piece today about the 100 Reasons they love the MLB Playoffs. Its a fun article. If you're a baseball fan, do yourself a favor, click on over, and check it out.

Here are my favorites, starting with what I am actually looking forward to, followed by the funny ones:

7. K-Rod versus Big Papi … bottom of the ninth. Sox down one. One runner on.

10. To see whether Jim Edmonds, washed up in April with the Padres, will provide that key lefty bat in a Cubs lineup filled with righties.

15. To see the great Ken Griffey Jr., his paunch a little bigger, his bat a little slower, but finally back in October, with the chance to make his first World Series.

45. Seeing millionaires sweat it out (emotionally and physically) on a 52-degree night.

50. To watch Carlos Marmol (.098 average allowed versus right-handed hitters) stare down Manny Ramirez in the eighth inning of a tie game with two runners on base.

52. The leading team looking like it'll never lose and the losing team looking like it'll never win -- until one play changes all that.

61. For the chance to see J.D. Drew prove he really is clutch for the second year in a row!

83. The possibility of Josh Beckett's pulling a Willis Reed, followed by a Josh Beckett.

86. Because maybe this year we'll get a seven-game World Series.

93. A packed Wrigley Field going nuts for a Carlos Zambrano masterpiece.

96. A packed Fenway Park going nuts for Jonathan Papelbon closing out a win.

100. To see how the Cubs will detonate the hearts of their fans this season … or to see whether Kerry Wood can erase the memories of 1998, the elbow injury of 1999, the Game 7 start in 2003 and the years of DL stints and be on the mound, leaping for joy, when the Cubs finally win the World Series.

And now, the funny ones... :)

17. To see a historical postseason home run poetically clank off the Tropicana Field catwalk.

22. The oddly hypnotic music made by the Red Sox Bullpen Band.

28. To see the TV cameras pan to Derek Jeter's parents in the stands.

34. Two words: Rays tradition.

35. Asking the guy next to you whether he knows how many Octobers there are right before that Randy Jackson ad comes on.

(Answer: There's only ONE October!! BWAAAHAHAHAHA!)

*38. Any time a team is down 0-3 and the graphic appears that starts, "The last team to come back from a 3-0 deficit …"

* Insufferable Red Sox fans only

39. Longing for the days of Thunderstix after hearing the Tampa Bay cowbells. Nothing says you're a pure baseball fan quite like clanging metal or banging plastic balloons together.

43. To wonder exactly what the heck Ryan Dempster is doing with his hands as he begins his windup.

48. Any delay that prompts footage of The Bug Game.

51. Because we're going to keep track of how many times the announcers call Dustin Pedroia "scrappy."

78. "Frank TV" is back!

81. To hear the phrase "Harvey's Wallbangers" meaningfully invoked for the first time in 26 years.

82. To watch an October in which A-Rod has a legitimate excuse for going hitless.

85. To see Fox executives leap for joy when the Rays meet the Brewers in the World Series.

88. Because there is nothing else of national significance going on right now.

90. The dependable consistency of seeing the Yankees playing in Octo -- uh, never mind.

October Magic

I'm republishing edited excerpts of an older entry here today to ring in the first day of what is almost always my favorite month of the year: October! Enjoy...

By a large margin, my favorite month of the calendar year is October. There are a variety of reasons why. For firsts, it is when humidity disappears and the air turns cooler. It gives you an instant natural high just to step outside & take a breath of air. Also, in October, it is my birthday -- which is always fun. And, as well, October is one of the greatest months of college football. You have border-war matchups like Oklahoma-Texas, Florida-Georgia, and Alabama-Tennessee. The season is in full swing, teams are playing at their best, and it is this month that separates the contenders from the pretenders.

And as singularly great as each one of those elements are, my favorite thing about this month is October baseball. There is almost nothing more edge-of-your-seat, pump-your-fist, yell-out-loud exciting than a playoff baseball game. There are are rivals, to be sure: back-nine of the Masters, college football rivalry games, March Madness. If it's a good year for the U.S. in the Ryder Cup, that might top playoff baseball. But usually, for my money, the most exciting sports events happen in October with playoff baseball.

Some may say that better athletes play football & basketball.
I say that there is no more difficult task in all of sports than hitting a baseball off of a major league pitcher.

Some may say that the games are slow.
I say that the drama is just building.

And some may say that other sports are just more exciting.
I say that no other sport produces the kind of "magic" that baseball produces.

Big Papi
I wanna see Big Papi go deep this month
October makes great players, like Kirby Puckett and Joe Carter, into legends. BEYOND mere heroes. Legends. It was one October a couple years ago that David Ortiz became more than that big oaf who hit homeruns -- he became "Big Papi." It was in the Fall Classic that Reggie Jackson became even more than "Reggie" -- he became "Mr. October."

It's in October that old pitchers can sometimes dig way down deep & recapture that old greatness, like Jack Morris in his 10 shutout innings in Game 7 of the '91 Series. It's also in October that young flamethrowers emerge, like when Josh Beckett silenced Yankee bats in Yankee Stadium in the 2003 World Series.

October is when Kirk Gibson limped into history. It's when Curt Schilling pulled off a real-life Roy Hobbs-like performance -- blood seaping through the uniform and all. Only Schilling's performance lasted batter after batter after excruciating batter. And not just once, but TWICE: against the Yankees AND against the Cardinals.

You can't write these scripts. The Red Sox coming back from an 0-3 deficit in a seven game Series ... after losing game three 19-8 ... forcing not just one, but TWO Mariano Rivera blown saves. Give me a break! Right? The freakin' Tampa Bay (don't call 'em Devil) Rays, having never won more than 70 games in a season, stand up to win the AL East. Could THEY make a run this October? You just can't make this stuff up.

It's a month that makes life-long memories with unfamiliar names. Names like Bill Mazeroski, Francisco Cabrera, Luis Gonzalez, and Aaron-Bleeping-Boone. It's a month that makes goats out of Mitch Williams & Bill Buckner. The Fall Classic has intimately intersected with some of our nation's tragedies. The Giants and Athletics played in the midst of a devastating Bay Area earthquake in '89. The Yankees brought life to a city that was lifeless after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Just as a general baseball fan, one of my favorite moments in the last few years was seeing Magglio Ordonez live the dream of every young baseball player. "Two outs. Bottom of the 9th inning. He connects! Long fly ball, deep left field ... and ... it's ... OUTTA HERE! Three run homerun, and the Tigers are going to the World Series!" Magglio literally hit the homerun that sent his team to the World Series with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th! Ordonez is so happy when he sees his first-base coach it's almost as if he momentarily forgot that he had to round the bases. The guy on second, Placido Polanco, doesn't just trot home -- he SKIPS home. Skipping like an exuberant little kid.

And that's really the point. October baseball can make you feel like a little kid again. As James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, "it's as if you've dipped yourself in magic waters," and you believe that the impossible CAN really, actually happen. When the world beats you down, the humidity wears you out, and you feel like you're just about to turn completely cynical, October baseball arrives and lets you believe in magic again.

It's like an old friend returning to bring you cheer. I can't wait to see what magic the 2008 playoffs have in store. Thirty-one days of glory. Welcome back, October!