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Death, Taxes, and the New England Patriots

Death, Taxes, and the New England Patriots

I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. In the main, the Steelers are a pretty great team for whom to root. They’re almost always pretty good, and win their division most years. Their ownership is stable, evidenced by the fact that they’ve had three coaches since 1969. For comparison’s sake, the Cleveland Browns—a nominal rival of the Steelers—have had eighteen coaches in that same period. The Browns are terrible. One of my favorite statistics is that, since he entered the league, Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ veteran quarterback, is the winningest quarterback at the Browns’ stadium…and he plays there once per season. The…

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I, Tonya Justifies the 90's

I, Tonya Justifies the 90’s

Where were you in 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan took the famous billy club to the knee? Can you believe that event took place nearly a quarter century ago? It’s one of those strange decade-defining events that’s lasted in our minds alongside the Milli Vanilli lip syncing scandal of 1990, the Clinton affair scandal of 1998, or the O.J. Simpson trial of 1994. For those who weren’t following the illustrious world of 1990’s U.S. figure skating, or for those who simply weren’t born yet, there’s a fresh chance to get in on the story with this year’s Oscar bait dark comedy I,…

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Jesus Just Makes More Sense When We Lose…

Jesus Just Makes More Sense When We Lose…

Tua Tagovailoa (the freshman QB) came off the bench after halftime last week and led Alabama to (yet another) College Football National Championship, and below was his first interview right after the game. Wow! Did he just say what I think he said? (20 seconds in). “My parents will be mad, so, first, excuse me, but I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…”

Wow! — he did say that! His parents will be mad? Why? Is it because his parents think that Jesus would probably prefer that their son give direct answers to direct questions, and not try…

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UCF Tries to Make Themselves...Just Like Me

UCF Tries to Make Themselves…Just Like Me

Are you excited for the Georgia/Alabama game on Monday? The one that will crown the 2018 National Champi…oh, wait. Apparently the University of Central Florida already claimed the 2018 National Championship after their Peach Bowl victory over Auburn (admittedly, the only team who beat both Georgia and Alabama this season). What are we to make of this? In one sense, it’s almost honorable: the school is celebrating a group of students who accomplished something remarkable and is even paying its coaches the national championship bonuses called for in their contracts. There is even precedent for this behavior: calling yourself a…

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THE Game

THE Game

Football is in High Season right now. It’s become enmeshed in headlines: kneeling, concussions, NFL attendance are all loudly flamed. But it’s also the time of championships, pro playoff debates and season-ending “rivalry games.”

I find an odd connection with the sport of football and faith in religion. Quite personally, for me, there is an intimate connection to the sport. I played, coached, and one son played all the way through college. The scale and hype of Big Time Football leaves me cold. But similarly, for this Cradle Episcopalian “Churchman,” church and churchiness leaves me cold, too.

However, the love I feel…

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Skin in the Game

Skin in the Game

Wherever you get your news, you have surely read about (or skipped over) the ongoing National Anthem disputes among NFL teams on game day, a controversy fanned ever higher by President Trump’s continued Twitter-complaints about it. Media outlets have, of course, come around to sample their own spin on the conversation.

And then, just yesterday, news broke about the FBI sting operation on multiple NCAA men’s basketball programs, allegedly in cahoots with sportswear giant Adidas for all kinds of illegalities, not least the funneling of hundreds of thousands of dollars to high school prospects’ families, in exchange for their contracts, both…

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“It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

“It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

It was the closest thing to hell I’ve ever experienced: my whole body hurt. A dull buzz with epicenters at the soles of my feet, knees, and head: a red-hot pain emanating outward, into my neck, arms, down my back, through those muscles that I don’t know the name of that run from my shoulder blades to my bum…whatever those are, they hurt. I sat down. I stood up. I walked in aimless circles, drank water. Nothing helped. After running along the James River that day, 26.2 throbbing miles along that winding golden ribbon, the only thing I remember about…

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The Lord’s Football

The Lord’s Football

It’s the end of summer. It’s the beginning of the fall academic sports season. But it is yet hot, humid, and athletic bodies are in full assault. No matter the sport, it’s preseason. It’s a time of shock, sweat, blood, swelling, and stiffness. It is a time no old athlete forgets, and most wince at the memory. Those engaged are without perspective—they are all coping amid the pain.

Panicked reports abound of summer practice deaths, concussions, fatal lightning strikes and the bemoaning of the depletion of teams by one-sport athletes are common to the point of cliché. Not so…

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Everybody Touch Somebody: Glory & Grace in Last Chance U

Everybody Touch Somebody: Glory & Grace in Last Chance U

The very first shot of the second season of Netflix’s documentary series Last Chance U shows a hot Mississippi sun peeking out through trees. The second shot is of a small church near the rural town of Scooba. The third shot is also of a church, while the audio of a preacher addressing his congregation plays as a voice-over. “As the coach watched himself on that screen, he didn’t like what he saw” expounds the voice-over, referencing the show’s first season. “Can you imagine if a documentary was made about your life? And they followed you, the good the bad,…

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Downer Darko

As Martin Luther reminds us, the thirst for glory is not ended by satisfying it, but by extinguishing it (paraphrase). Few men have had that thirst more publicly and painfully extinguished than Darko Milicic, the 2nd pick in the 2003 NBA Draft – right after Lebron. And before All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Josh Howard, David West and two others whom you can go look up if you like. Milicic is widely considered the greatest NBA bust of all time, a joke and cautionary tale. Imagine carrying that burden – Biggest Failure of All Time – everywhere you go, forever. Ouch.

All of which is why I was drawn to a recent article on Darko. Turns out he’s doing pretty well. As he puts it:

I kind of feel like Old Darko died. Like, when I think about myself, or myself when I was playing, I feel like I’m sort of thinking about someone who is dead.

Yes, he still has a sizable portion of the 50+ million dollars he made playing basketball (I chose the wrong profession), but he also has assets infinitely more valuable: a loving family, a sense of humor, something to live for, and some perspective. I won’t spoil the ending, but Jesus figures prominently in this man’s ability to accept himself as-is. May we all be so blessed, whether we succeed or fail.

 

Football At Last: A Preseason Preview

Football At Last: A Preseason Preview

NFL preseason games start next week….

The airwaves are crackling hype at the advent of NFL team summer camps. Every year, about a million young men and a hundred or more young women play tackle football at every level. They’re all starting the season about now. 

Fewer than 2,000 of those players are in the National Football League. The NFL is a forced marriage of sports and show biz, but it’s our only national platform for those of us who are hopelessly devoted to a sport that changed our early lives. Having played, coached, and been a part of a son’s…

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I Am Bartman

I Am Bartman

I’m not sure what else there is to say about this. When I heard about Steve Bartman getting a 2016 World Series ring from the Chicago Cubs yesterday, I got a little choked up, and I wasn’t sure why. I’m not a Cubs fan. In fact, I rooted pretty hard against them last season. Where was my emotional reaction coming from? (This actually happens all of the time, but it always comes from left field.) I then thought about that little self-description that I once put in my Twitter profile years ago: “self-deceived, loved, shunned, cherished, left for dead, rescued,…

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