Wednesday, December 31, 2008

PLAYOFFS?! You kiddin' me? PLAYOFFS???

It's bowl season. Which of course means it's time for every sanctimonious blow-hard to complain about the bowls & how college football needs a playoff worse than GM needs a bail-out.

This morning, I read Stewart Mandel's compelling case for keeping the bowl system in tact:

I love the NCAA tournament as much as anyone. It's our nation's most captivating sporting event. But it's also an entirely made-for-TV product. The stands at the opening-round sites are often half-empty. The Final Four is played in a dome where half the seats are so far from the court you wind up watching most of the game on the JumboTron. And it really doesn't matter whether you're in San Diego or San Antonio, Dallas or Detroit, because the NCAA's rigid adherence to uniformity (all drinks at courtside must be poured into matching Dasani Cups) ensures not a single ounce of local color or character dare ooze its way inside the arena.

You'll have to forgive me if I'm in no hurry to see the Fiesta Bowl turn into the "NCAA Southwest Regional."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Check In with the Suffering

I got a kind E-mail today from an old high school friend of mine. She works for a Congressman in Washington. And her short message simply read:

This time of year can be tough for a variety of reasons. Just checking in to see how you are doing. So. How are you?


That was very thoughtful. Her message was open-ended, but focused & to the point; inquisitive, but without prying. And concise. It allowed me to feel free to share any thoughts or feelings that I needed to share.

(FYI, I'm doing fine. What I wrote to Angela exactly was, "I'm doing well. Kind of strange how well I'm doing, actually. I was bracing myself for this season a month ago, but it hasn't been that tough. Since Mom & Dad had split 10 years ago, I guess I've grown used to having a Holiday without her.")

Anyway, that was really good. I learned a lesson from that today: checking in with people who are suffering at timely moments is a good thing to do.

So here's my advice to anyone who wishes to be compassionate to those around you who are suffering: write critical dates into your planner/organizer. Write a note to yourself to remember said sufferer on the one year anniversary of their loss. If they lost a spouse, Valentine's Day & their Anniversary would be good days to remember. And, of course, the Holiday's. Even try to be thoughtful enough to give a phone call or write a card just to let that person know you're thinking about them & that they are not alone.

After experiencing that seemingly small gesture of goodwill, I'm resolved to do that myself. I hope you do the same.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What if the President showed up at Your Church???

It wasn't just a hypothetical question for an old college buddy of mine this morning. For my old buddy Jared, it happened to him TODAY! He was performing his first Sunday Mass at Christ Church in Alexandria, VA when none other than George W. Bush and wife Laura made an appearance this morning.

And before you try to start, let me beat you to the punchline: No, he did not throw any shoes!

He even briefly got to meet & mingle with the President and First Lady. Read about his experience over at his blog.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My 2008 New Year's Resolutions

Nope, that's not a typo. I'm recapping my Resolutions for the year that's about to come to a close. I resolved to do three things coming into 2008:

Take Control of my Financial Planning

I don't mean to brag (which of course means that I do...), but for a good little amount of time now I've been a fantasy baseball savant. Fantasy Baseball is a fun game that makes commodities out of baseball players, whose values rise & fall over the course of seasons. Last fall, a friend in my accountability group asked me a good question: "Why don't you apply all of that to investing?" I'd thought about that before, but I guess I'd never really been shamed into thinking about it so critically.

So I decided to do just that: apply my fantasy baseball acumen to my retirement investing. I devoured a couple of books, and incessantly picked the brain of one of my very loyal blog readers (thanks for being patient with me!).

A year later, I'm about 40% poorer. (g) Nevertheless, I'm excited because I understand what it means to buy low & sell high. And I've learned enough about the financial lay of the land to understand which investments/sectors to engage & which ones to avoid. I am chomping at the bit to get to the new year, pay my taxes, and fund my IRA so that I can get some more money into this undervalued market as soon as possible.

Become More News Aware

There's a well-known quote about preaching attributed to numerous sources (e.g. Karl Barth, Phillips Brooks, etc.) that goes something like this: "Preachers should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other." The idea is that preachers need to bring a holy & transcendent word, but that it should also be applied to relevant & timely issues. I just had a sense about myself a year ago that I was kind of "Bible saturated." Don't hear me wrong: I wouldn't say I had been reading my Bible too much. But the idea of balance in my reading wasn't there.

So, about a year ago, my buddy Matt taught me about & turned me onto News Aggregators like BlogLines and Google Reader (the one I now prefer). Instead of wearying myself by checking all my favorite web sites (and being overly anxious about perhaps missing something) all my news now comes to me as a sort of "News E-mail Inbox" via the magic of RSS. I get EVERYTHING there -- my friends' blog updates, sports news, political news, money news, EVEN my Bible reading assignment for the day.

And now, a year later, I sense that I'm much more informed & that I'm a better preacher because of the balance that I bring to the pulpit.

And finally...

Make a Discipline out of Blogging

About five years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to the esteemed preacher Fred Craddock present a 3-hour seminar on preaching. For at least one hour of that seminar, he talked about the technical aspects of what makes a better preacher. One of the points that Craddock emphasized was that though not all good writers are good preachers, ALL good preachers are good writers. And that writing is something that needs to be practiced.

Craddock pointed to one book in particular that influenced him: "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. He explained how Lamott asserts that good writers write regularly, and they perfect their craft "bird by bird." What does that mean? Well, Lamott says that when you have a little narrative idea: STOP, pull out a sheet of paper, and write about it. Just a page. Tell the story. Paint it artfully. Then, when you've finished, file it away. Craddock says you'll have a sermon illustration for a dull sermon that needs color that you'll be preparing one day.

If that's not blogging, I don't know what is. Making a discipline out of this has blessed my life in un-numbered ways. Thinking out loud in this forum has helped me make sense out of life in ways that I hadn't even considered. It's made me a better writer. It's made me a better preacher. And I hope to continue the practice.

So there they are: my three fulfilled resolutions of 2008. They were a big part of what made 2008 one of the best years of my life. I've already made my resolutions for 2009, also. And they are even better than the ones I made for '08. I've shared them with the people I need to share them with to hold me accountable. And hopefully, in about 12 months, I'll have a great testimony to share with you about how my 2009 resolutions blessed my life.

I encourage you to make your own resolutions, and to keep them. I give you a solemn promise: it'll do you a world of good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jim Carrey Makes You LOL

Watched this last night with Dad. We were cracking UP. Jim Carrey channels Mick Jagger & Elvis Presley. And I see shades of Jerry Lewis, Andy Kauffman, and Robin Williams. The line at the end about the "stimulus package" is where I lost it...

Lampooning the Shoe-Thrower

I love what Jay Leno did Monday night at the end of his shoe-throwing monologue. First, you have to have seen the latest Lebron James Nike commercial for context. This is the coolest...

Then, Jay's bit. The shoe-thrower is lampooned in the last 30 seconds...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Authentic Emotion in the Raw

I think it warmed a lot of hearts to see John Walsh & family find a just finality to the case of his long-deceased little boy. I just think about the final justice we will all one day experience, and how this is just a foretaste. It will be so satisfying.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The FAIL Room

I love Alabama Football. I love the The FAIL Blog. I'm thrilled to see these two loves come together...
The University of Alabama is set to honor Mobile native James M. Fail by placing his name on a prominent fixture at Bryant-Denny Stadium. A donation by Mr. Fail to the Crimson Tide Foundation will result in the visitors' locker room being officially named "The Fail Room."

Mr. Fail served three years in the U.S. Navy before graduating from UA in 1949 and beginning a successful and wide-ranging career in the financial sector. His current duties include serving as chairman of Stone Holdings, Inc., and Bluebonnet Savings Bank.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

REALLY?!? with Seth & Amy

... for the last time.

In Amy Poehler's last edition of SNL, she & Seth Meyers struck gold with this skit where they hit the governor of Illinois HARD. I also loved it when Amy totally busts Seth's balls for what happened to "Seth's friend" ...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Auburn Hired WHO???

So Auburn fired a guy who had beaten Alabama six straight seasons, led Auburn to the best season in the history of their football program, and STILL has a career winning record (that's right: Tommy Tuberville is 4-3...) against Nick Saban...

... to hire a guy who has won 5 football games in the last 2 seasons & is coming off of a 10-game losing streak???


Here are my favorite thread titles from an Auburn Football bulletin board in meltdown mode:

• We dumped a GOOD coach after a five-win season for a guy who has five wins in his ENTIRE CAREER?!
• Well done. We hired a proven loser.
• This isn’t a homerun. This is hitting into a triple play.
• This is a real kick in the crotch
• We needed a big splash. We got a fart in the tub
• Dear Baby Jesus: Let Chizik lie on his resume
• We've been Matt Millen'd. We are the Detroit Lions of the NCAA
• So this is what it felt like to be an Auburn fan 30-40 years ago???
Bama fans will be at an airport cheering again

Does it get any better than this? The Red Sox are establishing a dynasty, while the Yankees are throwing ridiculous contracts at risky arms. And the Alabama Crimson Tide have the newest hot program on the block, while Auburn is doing everything in their power to deconstruct their own. I'm not sure life could get any better right now in terms of fanhood.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow in New Orleans?!

Dan regularly leaves comments here on the blog. He's a law student at Loyola University in New Orleans. He keeps a blog that he updates as much as a law student can.

Anyway, I enjoyed his entry today with lots of snapshots of New Orleans in the snow. Check it out.

Also, Dan is a big righty when it comes to politics. So he couldn't help but get a pot-shot in at Al Gore with the title there. (g)

It's Time to Go...

It's time. WAY past time.

If Bobby Bowden & Joe Paterno were dinner guests, it'd be about the 1:00 AM hour. They had been great guests for the most part. They told laugh-out-loud-funny jokes & some of the best stories you'd ever heard. You enjoyed having them around. But it is PAST time for them to go.

Joe-Pa with roses
This is how I want to remember Joe
But they're not budging. These two bull-headed old men are too full of pride to come out on the bottom end of their personal rivalry. Paterno has career 383 wins; Bowden has 381. The one who retires first will likely end up on the short end of the totem pole. But 2008 would be a great year for BOTH of them to announce that this past season was their last.

Paterno brought Penn State back to elite status this season. They were a legitimate part of the National Championship chase. After 4 losing seasons in a 5 year stretch earlier this decade, Joe-Pa has rattled off 40 wins in the last 4 years. They're going to the Rose Bowl this year. Even though all that ink was spilled earlier this decade talking about how Joe had lost his mojo, he's proven that he still has it.

So why not go out on top? I don't want to remember Joe Paterno limping out the door because he's not agile enough anymore to evade football players crashing into the sideline. Joe had to spend much of this season up in the press box, getting around with crutches. If he doesn't step down, that'll probably happen again & again. That's not how I want to remember Joe-Pa. I want to remember him coaching the Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl & then riding off into the sunset.

Same goes for Bowden. The Florida State football program has been in steady decline this entire decade. Momentum is seeping from the program. Recruiting is still going well, but that talent isn't getting developed. There doesn't appear to be the same drive -- the same fire -- that was a part of this program in the 80's and 90's. It's plainly evident everywhere, even in Coach Bowden's speeches. I mean, my goodness... this is pathetic:

Oh, so we're gonna have to fight tonight? And-and... execution? Got it, coach. Thanks for the inspiration. Really fired me up.

There's no sign that Coach Bowden can do anything to turn this thing around. Bobby isn't suddenly going to sprout more ambition. If he sticks around for next season, he will turn EIGHTY years old! The fire is gone and it's not coming back.

FSU has a coach-in-waiting that other schools keep trying to interview every offseason anyway. That is a coach with ability. He can recruit, he can motivate, and he can scheme with X's and O's. That's also a coach with enough youth & ambition to re-energize FSU with the fuel it needs to become a contender again.

I think that the athletic directors of Penn State & Florida State would do well to get together and end this public rivalry that holds both schools hostage. If they can't get Paterno & Bowden out this year, then say to them, "You both get one more year. That's it and that's all." I guarantee that both schools would get biggest work ethic out of those two old coaches; there would be a fire present that those programs had not been seen probably in decades. Neither one of them wants to be on the short end of the totem pole. So they would work their rear ends off to go out on top. It would be a glorious end for both of them.

Come on, Coach Bowden & Coach Paterno. We're on the wrong side of midnight here. It's time to go.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We've Gotta DO Something!

This song has been in my head all day. If you've seen the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," you'll understand the humor.

BTW, don't take that as a tacit endorsement for that movie: while it's very well-written & VERY funny, it's also very sexually explicit. Ask me sometime and I'll let you know what you need to know going in before you decide to watch it.

Anyway, this song & video cracks me up. So crass. Yet, so right on...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Black Coaches in College Football

I wrote a little diatribe today over at "Saints, Sinners, & Sports" today about African-American coaches & college athletics. Really, it's more about how the media loves to let the University of Alabama be it's whipping boy. Go have a look.

The War on Christmas

With all the clashing over social values, especially "The War on Christmas" seemingly every holiday season, I find Stephen Colbert to be a refreshing source of perspective.

"Because if there's one thing Jesus cared about, IT'S SEMANTICS."

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I was thinking about this the other day? Other than David Gregory not dying his hair & parting it on the other side, don't these two look like they were separated at birth?

David Gregory
David Gregory

Chris Fowler
Chris Fowler

It's even more weird when you think about how they kind of have the same job now.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Power 12: The Heartbreaker Edition

1.) Florida
No doubt in my mind who is the best team in football. Nor is there any doubt who is the best player in college football HISTORY. If he wins 2 Heisman's & 2 National Championships, he has to go pro doesn't he? If it isn't a rule, it should be. (g)

2.) Alabama
I'm extremely proud of the Tide. As tough as the loss is, it's even more fun just to be in a position again where your heart IS on the line & can be broken. It's no fun being irrelevant.

Also, no other coach squeezed as much out of what he had in the cupboard than Nick Saban this year. 12-0 in the regular season in the SEC, including road wins at Athens, Knoxville, and Red Stick, was quite a feat.

3.) Oklahoma
Going out on a limb because the game isn't over yet, but I'm not staying up for the ending.

Even though I have them ranked #3, I'm not arguing for an Alabama/Florida re-match in Miami. OU deserves the title shot. It's just that I don't believe that they, or anyone else, can play UF as tough as Alabama did tonight, so you'll forgive me if I play the homer & keep my Tide at #2.

4.) Texas
5.) Texas Tech
6.) Southern California
7.) Utah
8.) Penn State
9.) Ohio State
10.) Oklahoma State
11.) Georgia Tech
12.) Boise State

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Big Game: Final Hype Videos & Prediction

So first, here's a funny, "Star Wars" themed video made by a Gator fan...

BTW, that was real footage of Tim Tebow wearing a crimson jersey. He filmed that when he was doing the documentary of his recruitment. There were several shots of him wearing that crimson #12 jersey. Looks totally wacky now.

And then, here's the hype video for the good guys... (g)

What a great match-up for the ages this is. Strength vs. Speed. Old School vs. New School. Red vs. Blue! I found this commentary from The 3rd Saturday in Blogtober to be as incisive as any I'd read:

Speed vs. Power. New School vs. Old School. These are the chosen storylines going into the game. While they are true to an extent, this game isn’t a referendum on offensive philosophy. Both teams try to accomplish the same thing, just by different means. The styles of play won’t decide the outcome, it will be which ever team executes their style of choice better, or whoever can defend the other’s style better. A victory by Bama won’t signal the death knell for Urban’s spread (although I do think it takes a special type of player to run as effectively and as productively as the current Gators are), and likewise, a Gator triumph won’t mean that “Old School” football is going the way of the DoDo.

He's right. But I tend to think that Alabama's formula for success -- dominating in the trenches, limiting mistakes, aggressive attacking-style defense -- will trump any firepower Florida brings to the table.

Both teams are very good at what they do, though. So good that I could see either team blowing the other one out very easily if all the breaks fall one way -- that is, if one team buckles under the pressure, fumbling & starting to throw interceptions. But I don't think that will happen; these are two first-class football teams. I think we've got a classic on our hands...

Alabama 24
Florida 21

Give 'em Hell, Alabama

Hype Videos: Tide 'n Gators 1992

Coming off a shut-out of rival Auburn (which was their head coach's last game with the Tigers), Alabama edged out Florida to stay undefeated en route to a perfect season & a National Championship.

I think I could grow to like that script. (g)

• This was one of two SEC Championship Games played at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. It didn't take the SEC office long to realize that this resulted in a little bit of a home field advantage for a certain school.

• Tide fans who were at the game not-so-warmly remember this event as the coldest game in Alabama football history. It looks it.

• This game was a tale of two halves. Alabama owned the opening part of the game. But then Florida came roaring back to tie it at 21. With just a couple minutes left in the game, Antonio Langham intercepted a Shane Matthews pass & ran it in for the touchdown. In Alabama lore, this is very simply remembered as "The Interception."

• I really miss Keith Jackson.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hype Videos: Tide 'n Gators 1999, Part 2

This one was a little less enjoyable for me.

Oh not because of the outcome. 34-7 was very sweet. But I watched this game with a bunch of Gator fans at a campus ministry Christmas party. And at the time I was dating one of those Gator fans. I couldn't cheer for fear of alienating her & everyone else. If I so much as smiled, I got pillows thrown at me. I'm not even making that up -- that happened. I grinned once and got a pillow stuffed in my face.

Still this is great stuff. A few reflections before the video...

• It's too bad 'Bama can't face Jesse Palmer again this Saturday instead of Tim Tebow.

• Even though the SEC Championship Games are technically at a neutral site, it sure doesn't seem like it when you listen to the cheers in this video. Tide fans travel well. Very well. We filled up that dome.

• Is there anything much more fun than watching Steven Orr Spurrier squirm?

Hype Videos: Tide 'n Gators 1999, Part 1

"The Stomp in the Swamp!"

At least that's what I like to call it. (g) And I feel like I have naming rights because I was THERE to witness it. My 82 year-old grandmother & family matriarch (a life-long Tide fan who had season tickets for decades), when we called her later on that evening, called it "The greatest game I've ever SEEN!"

I was a freshman at UF when the Tide rolled into town to tangle with the Gators. I scored 4 tickets in the visitors section for my family & friends at face value. My buddies rolled in on their RV, and we just had the time of our lives.

We joke all the time about how we're going to tell our grandkids about that game...

"Not again, grandpa..."
"YES, you're gonna hear it again! And it'll be good for ya!"

A few other reflections:

• Florida entered this game #3 in the country & having not lost a game at home since 1994. Alabama entered the game having lost to Louisiana Tech 2 weeks prior.

• Shaun Alexander made great use of his face time in the post-game coverage on CBS. Being interviewed after producing 200 all-purpose yards & the game-winning touchdown, he glorified God and spoke about how the team embraced this game like David embraced facing Goliath. He talked about how a sermon at Alabama's FCA inspired them to take the fight right at the mighty Gators. I love Shaun.

• Speaking of Shaun, he was running right at our section on his game-winning 25-yard touchdown run. We were sitting in the corner of the endzone, and I can't even describe how awesome that moment was. I'm not even going to try.

Hype Videos: Tide 'n Gators 2005

I just keep getting more & more geeked up about this little scrimmage scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. So I decided to remember, here on the blog, some of the more prominent games (READ: "the games Alabama won") in this inter-divisional rivalry leading up to Saturday afternoon.

We'll start this morning with the 2005 Tide/Gators match-up at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL. If ever the Tide rolled, they did in this game. Total domination to win 31-3. A few incidental reflections:

• Tim Tebow was AT this game as a prospective recruit for ALABAMA. He nearly went with the Tide a couple months later -- reportedly agonizing over the decision on the day of his announcement, soul-searching while sitting by a lake with his dog -- but instead went with his boyhood dream of being a Gator. Having a Heisman Trophy to his credit & a National Championship ring on his finger, I'd say it's hard to fault him for the choice he made.

• This was the game in which Tyrone Prothro broke his leg. No matter how enjoyable this game is for Tide fans to remember & relish, it sucks that much more to remember that one of the most celebrated Tide players of this decade suffered a career-ending injury near the end of this same game. He caught an 80-yard touchdown to open the scoring on Alabama's first play from scrimmage, as well as a 2nd touchdown later in the game. Little did we know that just a few hours later his career would be over. He was just a sophomore.

If it sounds like I'm describing a death in the family, that's precisely what it still feels like.


Okay, that's a total bummer for a lead-in to an awesome video. How about a story?

A year later, in '06, my sister & I went to a 'Bama game where she wanted to get Prothro's autograph. Tyrone's career was done for all intents & purposes, but he would still suit up and was sort of a player-coach.

At one point in the 3rd quarter, with the game well in hand, we decided to go for it. So we found him on the sideline & Katie started calling him to try to get him over to the fence to sign her jersey. She was calling, "Prothro!!" "Hey Tyrone!!" "Number FOUR!! Sign my jersey!" He wouldn't budge. I figured it was hopeless at that point -- the players probably don't interact with fans during the game as a general rule.

But my baby sister looked up at me with her puppy-dog eyes & asked me to parlay my strong preaching voice for her cause. So big bro went to work...

"Hey PRO! Come on man! Just one signature!" "Pro-THRO!!" No response. Nothing.

Finally I got creative. In the loudest, clearest voice I could muster, I yelled "HEY PLAY-MAKER!!!" He & the other receivers just cracked up laughing at that. The people around us giggled at it, too. Still, though, no dice. We could sense that he wanted to come over to sign after that, but it was still taboo. That's okay. At least I made "Pro" laugh.

Alright! That's better. So back the truck up to 2005 again. Here are the highlights from a glorious Gator beat-down...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Warm Fuzzies

That's what this video is for me. It's the last 3 minutes of the 2008 Iron Bowl.

If you're an Auburn fan & you read this blog, just go ahead and skip this entry. This one's just for me...

Hope Springs Eternal for this Tide fan

I wrote a little something about my Alabama football fanhood today over at "Saints, Sinners, and Sports." Have a looksy:

The Nick Saban Redemption