Friday, September 23, 2005

Easy Money

I don't bet on many sporting events these days. This was not some moral decision but rather a lack of money to throw away on this feckless hobby. However, I could't help but notice the line for the Michigan State-Illinois game tomorrow. The Spartans are favored by 10 and half points which seems high to me. First they are on the road against a decent Illinois team that was competitive with California last week. Second the Spartans defense is ranked near the bottom in the nation and Illinois should be able to score a few points. Finally, the Spartans are coming off a big win and are due for their usual let down. The last 10 times the Spartans have played top 10 teams they are 9-1. The following week they are 0-10. So bet the trend and take Illinois plus the 10 and a half. It will be the easiest money you ever made.

Wild at Heart, Chapter 1

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am part of men's group that is reading the book Wild at Heart. We met again this week to discuss Chapter 1 and we are off to a good start. At first read, I was a little put off by all the stereotypical machoism that the writer uses. I am not a man's man and yes I often get tagged with being a nice guy which if you read the book is more an insult than a compliment. However, after discussing it with other people and cutting through all that nonsense there is alot truth to what the book is saying.

The premise of the book is that men today are too timid, stuck behind a desk and too nice. This is why men are bored and discontent with work and relationships and the church. The book supposes that men are called to three things: an adventure to live, a battle to fight and beauty to pursue. As I look at my own life I see that I am not content and a little bored and aimless. I also notice that I don't have any adventure and the only battles I have are superficial. Furthermore I am not interested in currently pursuing any woman. Are these the reasons I am restless? Maybe.

The book does a disservice to its arguments by creating the idea that the adventure and battles are tied to traditional manly activities. As if only more men were hunters, then they would lead a more satisfying life. I know that is not the point the author is trying to make but he goes down that road all too often. If I properly understand his point, it is that regardless of your hobbies or work, you still need to have some level of adventure in your life and have some cause or battle worth fighting for. I completely agree with this point and see how destructive it is for men when they don't have adventure. Thoreau said it best when he wrote that "the mass of men are leading quiet lives of desperation."

So now I am trying to figure out what my adventure is supposed to be and what I am supposed to fight for. The sermon at my church last week spoke to me in this regard. The subject was Esther and how she was called at just the right time to save the Jewish people from destruction. Her whole life had led her to the place where should could make such a difference. What time am I called for? What has my whole life led up to? Will I be able to answer that call when it comes? What if I missed that call already?

Lately I notice my life has become completely risk averse. I used to live at or near the edge of risk but now I am afraid to gamble away the comfortable life I have, even if it is comfort without contentment. I do know from the past that when I do take risks and embrace adventure that I usually feel much more alive and fulfilled. I also notice that when I put my faith in God to take those chances, he typically reveals to me a part of my character and abilities that I would not have otherwise discovered. This isn't to say all my risks were a success. Far from it, but the process was always a success.

While I can buy into the idea of adventure and fighting, I am less inclined to agree with his third point of manliness which includes pursuing a beauty. I am sure this is my own bias as a single man in a culture full of married people so take the rest with a grain of salt. Having said that I have seen the fruit of this book's thinking lead many good men into bad relationships simply because they are taught that are supposed to pursue women and get married when they grow up. On the flip side, I have also seen men who frustratingly pursue woman with whom they have no hope of catching. Is that really what men are supposed to do? Additionally this thinking sets up a false notion that if someone is not in a relationship that they are somehow less man or incomplete.

Does the author not know that Paul says it would be better to be celibate than be married? Was Paul not in touch with his true man? We have a whole lineage in the Christian tradition that elevates celibacy including the priesthood and the monastic orders. Are those traditions wrong? I realize that women were created to keep men company and that relationships are typically good for men. But the focus should not be on catching women but rather on learning how to be content with who we are as men regardless of our relationship status.

One last thing, I found it ironic that at our meeting Wednesday night we watched a video that was telling us not to live vicariously. Then we sat around and discussed the video. The point of the book, if I understand it correctly, is that we should get out of the movie theatre and into the real world. I find it amusing that we are supposed to be learning about how to live an adventure but in the process we were sitting in a circle doing the same thing that has supposedly led us to our present unadventurous predicament.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Lions are bad and TV is not far behind

It's early Monday morning and I am in one of my moods where things just annoy me. Instead of allowing that frustration to go with me to work, I decided to focus my venom on the Detroit Lions and on the Emmy awards last night. Both of which are unwatchable messes.

First the Lions. How bad is Joey Harrington? I checked his QB rating and here are some other players who are rated above him. Tim Rattay, Anthony Wright, JP Losman, Mark Brunell, Kyle Orton and Gus Ferrotte. Not exactly a hall of fame list. It's sad but the Lions would actually be a better team with any of the above mentioned QBs. If I recall correctly Ferrotte used to play for the Lions but they dumped to begin the Harrington era. Not a great choice in retrospect. This was supposed to be the year Harrington put everything into place. Well he put everything into the place of the opponents hands by throwing five interceptions. It makes me long for the days of Ty Detmer's seven interception debacle of a couple years ago. At least we knew he was not the future.

Aside from Harrington, I really question the coaching staff. Mariucci has been a bust since he got here. The offense looks terrible which is surprising because they have drafted star players the last 4 seasons. With all that talent you would think they could outscore the Bears. But no, the Bears defense and special teams scored more than the Lions offense. Heck they couldn't even kick the extra point. For all the hoopla about the west coast offense think it's time to scrap it and start over. We could try something that works like maybe throwing the ball down the field more than five yards at a time. The sad fact is that the Lions could have hired Marvin Lewis a few years back but instead got Marty Morningweg as a placeholder for Mariucci. The Bengals should send us a thank you note.

One last thing I don't understand is how Matt Millen still has a job. The team has the worst record over the past four years and yet he still got a contract extension this past summer. Why do the Lions always reward mediocrity? Forget I said that, I would be happy with mediocrity compared to the nonsense they showed yesterday.

Now TV. Is it just me or does TV suck? I didn't watch the emmys last night but I was interested in seeing who won. I was surprised that Everybody Loves Raymond was the best comedy. Not that it's a bad show but how sad is it that a show that's not even on the air anymore won the award. I used to watch Raymond, and still do on reruns, but the show wasn't that great this year and had long since jumped the shark.

I was also surprised just how many of the winners I hadn't even watched or heard of. Who decides these winners, the promotions department at the networks? Best actor was James Spader from Boston Legal. Give me a break. Nobody watches that show so how good an actor could he be? I did hear Lost deserved to win although I've never seen an episode of it. However, I do know most of the plot from listening to friends and family members talk about it. I might have to start watching it this year.

Looking ahead to next year's shows, I am not that excited about the fall schedule that debuts this week. When I was in Las Vegas I got preview the new Chris Rock show which was okay but really nothing more than the Wonder Years with a black family. All the new dramas are either about aliens or police dramas. I wonder why no one in Holiday can come up with any new ideas. Fox at least tries even if half their shows are sleaze. They are basically the only creative network out there.

I miss the good old days of TV. Even the reruns of yesteryear are better than the new crap they are giving awards to today. I think I'll watch MASH after I get done writing this.

Friday, September 16, 2005


This week my church started a new class on Wednesday that is for men only. The class is going to be centered around the book wild at heart. I was scheduled to work in nursery and planned on missing the first class but thanks to my friend Sarah who relieved me of my duties, I was able to attend. And I am glad I did. I got there late and the room was packed with about 30 guys most of whom I know or have seen around the church but a few I haven't.

I think the large number surprised the class leader but the crowd shows just how hungry men are to be a part of group with other men. The discussion Wednesday was good and we focused on our favorite movies and hobbies. While that may sound trivial it was a good icebreaker and lured our interest. One notable observation was that most of the movies we liked included a hero figure that was fighting the good cause. As men we want to fight but get caught up in the day to day of life and end up living vicariously through movies. I hope that changes.

My goal is that through this class, several new relationships will be built. I did notice already a certain amount of camaraderie among the group. Our first assignment is to read chapter 1 of the book for next week. I am going to try and blog my thoughts on the book and share what I learn along this journey. It should be a very fun and exciting ride.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lost Pirates

Yesterday my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates lost their 82nd game of the season making it official that they will end the year with a losing record. This will mark their 13th straight losing season.

To put this into perspective that last time the Pirates had a winning season was the year of the Barcelona Olympics, Rodney King and Jennifer Flowers. George Bush Sr. was still president. The Penguins won their second Stanley Cup and the Bulls were just beginning their basketball dynasty. Roseanne was the number one TV show, Cheers was still on the air and Jon Secada ruled the billboards charts. Yes, 1992 was along time ago. Heck it was even before Barry Bonds started taking steroids.

By losing again this year the Pirates are now only three seasons off the record for consecutive losing seasons. While usually records are hard to break, I see no reason why the Pirates can't lose four more years. By the looks of things they are committed to an all out effort to break the record.

The Milwaukee Brewers also entered this season losing 12 straight years but they seem to have given up as they have a chance at a winning season this year. Quitters. It takes time and guts to be this bad for this long. Not many teams could do what the Pirates are doing and I respect them for that.

In the late nineties, I thought some of the Pirates moves were curious when they would trade quality players for mediocre prospects. Little did I know that those trades were all part of their master plan to be the worst franchise ever. Which is why I was surprised that they fired Lloyd McClendon earlier this week. He was the perfect loser and seemed destined to help set the record. Maybe he got fired for starting the season at .500 they thought he might actually be too good to manage the team. Apparently, his record of 25 and 52 the rest of the year wasn't bad enough to save his job.

I think the logical choice to replace him is Alan Trammel who has over 100 more losses than wins over his short three year career coaching the Tigers. Or they could wait for some other crappy manager to get fired this year and then overpay him with a five year contract.

Either way it's usually the players that help set records and not the managers. That is why I am confident they can break the record. The roster is loaded with double A talent and overpaid utility players. They have only two good players on the team and I see no reason why they can't trade them during the off season. The Yankees are looking to rebuild and would be willing to trade Kevin Brown and the rights to Drew Henson for Jason Bay and Zach Duke.

So rest assured fellow Pirate fans. All 30 of us can be proud that in a few short years the Pirates will officially set the record for baseball futility. No other fans can say that about their team. and I suspect we will be able to brag about this record for a long time.