Saturday, January 23, 2010

mmmmm... That's Good Stuff

I've got a buddy who, when he has a rich experience (e.g. quality time with one of his sons, a perfect surprise for his wife, wonderful worship with the saints, etc.), he calls it "delicious." I love teasing him about that. But mainly I love him because of that -- how he savors rich moments in life.

When I read the following, I thought it was delicious. Not because it describes something grand. But because it is as grand a description of human despair as I've read in a while. From Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years...

I clasped my hand over my heart and knelt between the bed and the television and rolled onto the floor and cried out to God a lamenting demand that he would come and save me from the sorrow that, for the immensity of it, I could only attribute to him in the first place. I didn't want to learn whatever it was he wanted to teach me. I cried out to him an angry petition for rescue. I doubted him and needed him at the same time. God seemed to me, in that moment, a cruel father burning a scar into my skin with his cigarette. And yet I knew he was the only one with the power to make the pain go away.

mmmmmmmm. Ever been there? I know a few of you have. I won't give it away, but Miller gives a keen insight on suffering I don't believe I've ever heard or considered. I assure you: it's much more than a cruel father burning a scar into your skin with a cigarette. It was so incisive that it made James 1:2 make actual sense for the first time in my life.

But it's not just about human suffering. If I were to sum it up, what Miller is trying to accomplish with the book is to make you bored of being bored. And I liked it. I think a lot of you blog readers would like it, too. Check it out.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Power 12: The Final Edition... Ever

"What?? No more Power 12's?" That's right. This is the final one. The last one you'll ever see. Never again will you see a poll on this blog that ranks the 12 best teams. The Power 12 is OVER.

Because starting next season, this will become THE POWER 13. As I said in the original edition of the power 12, the number 12 came from the number of Alabama National Championships. That number is now 13. So next year that's what the number will be.

1.) Alabama
2.) Florida
3.) Texas
4.) Boise State
5.) Texas Christian
6.) Cincinnati
7.) Ohio State
8.) Iowa
9.) Oregon
10.) Georgia Tech
11.) Virginia Tech
12.) Penn State

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

First Person Fanhood

It is a big game for "us" tomorrow.

Only I'm not part of the team.

It's a strange phenomenon in our culture that we can as fans identify so closely with the teams we favor that we speak of them and us together in the first person. It's not, "Alabama had a great season," but "We had a great season."

What is it? Is a measure of one's devotion and love to the great efforts of his favorite group of athletes? Or is it more a measure of a lack of self-esteem that people are moved to latch on to and identify with a group greater than themselves?

I don't suppose it to be either something to self-adulate over or to loathe, although I've heard both. I suspect it has more to do with the shared experiences of emotions over the course of the roller coaster ride of a season. When you're high, you're high together with the team. When you're low, you're low together with the team. So that whatever the final destination is, you sense that you've felt every emotion right along with the team to the extent that you feel a part of the team.

Looking back at the Tennessee game, Terrence Cody embodied on the field (just in this clip) every emotion we were feeling while watching on television at home: from the "we CANNOT let this happen" sense of urgency, to the unbridled outburst of happiness, to the feeling of "OMG, that was too close."

As a Red Sox fan, it was the depth of the doldrums of 2003 that made 2004 so rich and satisfying. The '03 team, one of my favorite Boston teams, brawled with the Yankees like boxers. Those two teams stood toe to toe just exchanging blows. To the point where it went to a 7th game. And when Boston blew a lead in Game 7, and then ended up losing in extra innings, as a fan you took the heartache personally. And you felt the devastating emotions of losing for days. (To the point that, for me, THIS COLUMN still stands as maybe the greatest Simmons column he's ever published)

So, because of that, you take the joy of winning personally too. And obnoxiously so. I've begun to wonder if it's possible to celebrate anything without being perceived as obnoxious. Because celebration is just that: a wild joy that can only be perceived by non-participants as obnoxious. Hopefully you don't become that guy who acts like he's better than everyone just because his team does well. But it's a darn fine line!

So this phenomenon of shared experiences and emotions is such a powerful thing that people begin to refer to their team(s) in the first person.

My only hope for myself is that I keep a healthy perspective for the sake of the players and their accomplishments. Unlike the people in this story from Mark Ingram's hometown of Flint, MI who seemed to take more pride in Mark's Heisman award for themselves than for Mark. I was happier for Mark than I was even for Alabama that night he won the Heisman. He's had a lot of hurdles in his personal life. And also with Alabama having had no Heisman's, the pressure on him had to be immense. So I was glad for him that he wasn't burdened even further, but in fact rewarded.

As for tomorrow, I just hope we get to celebrate. I don't wanna go digging through those Simmons E-mails again.