Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Still in shock

It's hard to believe that the Steelers have actually made it to the Superbowl. I imagine it will all sink in over the next two weeks of pregame hyperbole. The last time they were in the Superbowl I was still in college and the last time they won the superbowl ESPN wasn't even on the air . What makes this appearance so sweet is the tough journey they took to get here. They had to beat the top 3 seeds on the road and are only the second team in history to do so. The aggregate record of their opponents is also the strongest of any previous superbowl team.

One thing that I have found fascinating is all the phone calls I've received congratulation me on the Steelers. I love that fans are so interconnected with their teams that we get congratulated simply for watching and rooting for our team. I think my friends are excited for me because they understand the difficulty of sticking with a team through the down times and they want to help me celebrate the good times. And for Steelers fans there have seen a lot of recent disappointments but that only makes this year a little sweeter.

Now to the game itself. There were two key plays to the game. The first was Champ Bailey's missed interception in the quarter. When Ben threw the pass I thought for sure it was intercepted and would be TD for Denver. Thankfully Bailey over pursued the play and we got the first down and were able to get an early lead. The second big play was the interception by Jake Plummer. I have no idea what he was thinking but to give us the ball back with under two minutes was a gift. After we scored to go up 24-3 the game was over.

I have no feel for the Superbowl yet. The Steelers are the favorite but I think that has to do more with the number of fans they have than anything else. When was the last time the #1 seed for a conference was the underdog against the #6 from the other conference. My guess is that every person who roots for the Steelers is laying 50 bucks on them and that is driving the line out of whack. I am going to wait until next week to make my prediction. This week I am going to spend my energy looking for tickets to the game.

One last thing on Pittsburgh sports. Mario Lemieux retired again today and I am sad to see him go but it is definitely time. He was one of the best to ever play the game but he should have never come out of retirement. The only reason he did so was because he was owner and he needed to generate ticket sales. My favorite memories will still be from the 91 stanley cup run. In his prime he was the best goal scorer I've ever seen. Hopefully, Crosby will reach half of Mario's achievements. Good Bye Mario and thank you for saving hockey in Pittsburgh.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Pleasure Principle

My book club recently completed reading a book by CS Lewis called the Weight of Glory. It is a collection of lectures he gave during World War II and I found the book to be very compelling.

There was one sermon in particular that renewed my way of thinking in respect to my relationship with God. The book lays out the case that man was created to experience and seek pleasure. Pleasure is a good thing that should be embraced, but unfortunately the world and our sinful nature have co-opted this desire and made pleasure seeking a guilty word. Today we seek pleasure from money, sex, power, fame but none of these pursuits give us any lasting relief in our journey toward pleasure. They only bring guilt and disillusion. But the very fact that we strive for something called pleasure gives credence to the fact that it must exist. And if we are created to pursue this desire, there must be a true pleasure that fulfills this desire. One that does not flee in the night as our earthly pleasures do.

So what is it that gives us this pleasure? Lewis argues that we can only attain this pleasure by pleasing God. What could me more enjoyable than experiencing the praise and affirmation from the one who created us, knowing that the God of universe is happy and satisfied with us. In earthly terms I correlate this to being praised by our boss or family or a close friend. It feels good to know that they appreciate us and we feel wanted. But how much better to be wanted and appreciated by God himself?

John Kennedy famously said "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can for your country". In the same vein, as pleasure seekers we should not be asking what God can do for us but what we can do for God. This thinking is a direct contrast to our culture's current relationship with God. It's all about self, and what we can get out of God. We want him to heal us or a family member, to provide for us financially or emotionally, or maybe even we just want a get out of hell free card from him. God can and does provide all these things but even if he chose to bless us with these requests we would still miss out the truest blessing of all; the pleasure of serving him.

There is an older movie called Chariots of Fire. It's one of my favorites and it is about a Christian man who is seeking to be in the Olympics. In one moving scene, his sister questions his motives and encourages him to give up running and go back to China as a missionary. He responds by agreeing that that going to China is a noble endeavor but when we he runs he feels God's pleasure and he therefore cannot give it up. As the movie unfolds we become aware that God indeed wanted him to be in the Olympics and uses him as a great testimony for Himself.

When we are serving God, we know so because we feel his pleasure. Conversely, if we do not feel his pleasure, we should question whether or not we are truly living lives pleasing to God or are we seeking our own pleasure in the habits and passions that give only temporal satisfaction. It is a daily choice to please God. It is a task that we cannot accomplish in our own power. But if we understand pleasure in this context, we will begin to seek and experience the one and only lasting pleasure that really satisfies our soul.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Osama Bin Laden recently released a new video tape that attempts to offer a truce but also contains threats of future attack on US soil. What struck me when I read the transcript of his tape was how close his arguments and phrasing against the war and President Bush mirrored what the Democrats say about the war and President Bush. If one didn't know any better you would think they were operating from the same talking points. It was the same old, same old about how the US was losing the war, we are only there for oil, we are torturing innocent people, blah, blah, blah.

Now before all my democrat friends complain, I am not saying that democrats support Bin Laden. I am saying that he is using the Democrats and their arguments against the war for his own purposes. All I know is that if I suddenly realized that my comments were being used by our country's biggest enemy, I would certainly take pause to rethink my comments and reexamine my worldview.

Another thing I found strange was that he was asking for a truce. Does he not truly believe all his blustering about how they are winning the war? The winners never ask for a truce, only the losers. My friend CJ made an insightful comment on this same subject the other day about reaching a compromise with our enemies. He stated that because Islam has no concept of forgiveness but instead is driven by revenge, how can they in good faith meet us in the middle. They can't and any attempt by us to do so is ignorant of their religion and their purposes. In the end there will only be one winner and one loser in this long war against radical Islam. Either they are going to conquer our culture or the west will conquer theirs. There is no "win win" option because our sides our simply incompatible. In this context, it makes it all the more strange to see that Osama is asking for a "truce".

Monday, January 16, 2006

Denver here we come

What a great game yesterday. I was an emotional roller coaster. Giddy one moment and nauseous the next. It kind of reminded me of the jets game last year except we actually deserved to win this one.

I went into the game without much optimism. I thought we had to play things close to the vest and then try to make a play to win the game late. Good thing I am not the coach because they did the exact opposite. Pass early and run late. And it worked almost to perfection. Big Ben looked great and I loved how aggressive our defense was. Those two late sacks were a thing of beauty and should have sealed the game. And for all those who think the Steelers should have simply kneeled the ball three times instead of handing it to the bus, they're are full of crap. Indy had all three timeouts left so they could have gotten the ball back with around a minute left and down by less than a touchdown. Going for the win was definitely the right call especially considering that the Bus hadn't fumbled since 2003.

I watched the press conferences after the game and my opinion of Tony Dungy was reaffirmed. He is a class act and I hope that he does win the Superbowl some day. I can't say the same for Peyton Manning. He was blaming his offensive line after the game. Try taking some responsibility for yourself. The Steelers outsmarted Manning and he was confused most of the game.

One final thing on the refs. I usually don't criticize them because it is one of the most difficult jobs but overturning Polamalu's interception was a joke. If that's what replay is for then we need to get rid of it. There were other questionable calls but that particular one was the worst I've seen this year.

Now we are on to Denver who was the beneficiary of poor refereeing in their own game. Jake Plummer doesn't really scare me and I like that we are on the road instead of at home. Could this really be the year that the Steelers get to the Superbowl? Only one more week and we will find out.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Sony Open

One of my favorite sporting events of the year is the Sony open in Hawaii. There is something about watching others play golf in a tropical paradise while there is 2 feet of snow outside. Watching the tournament usually induces me to send my resume to the Hawaii legislature only to be routinely rejected and sentenced to another 4 months of Michigan winter.

I started watching this tournament only two years ago when Michelle Wie first played and just missed the cut as a 14 year old amateur. It was truly an amazing performance and I have been a big fan of her ever since. To be honest, this event would not even be on my radar screen had it not been for Wie playing in the tournament. And while some men might not like the fact that she gets special exemptions to play and a lot of publicity despite never winning a tournament, she is a marketing machine. Her mere appearance has transformed the Sony Open from a lower tier tournament into a special event. A lot of viewers will tune in this weekend just to watch her. If she doesn't make the cut I would expect the weekend TV numbers to drop precipitously.

Hopefully this is the year she can put two solid rounds together and make the cut. Wie's golf coach says she is playing a lot better this year and likes her chances but generally that's what coaches tell the media. If she does make the cut she will be the first woman to do that on the Men's tour since Babe Zaharias did it in 1945. Even my favorite Swede Anika couldn't do it a few years ago. I just checked the leaderboard and she is already off to a rough start at +3. Regardless, I am still pulling for her this week.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Are you ready for some football

I am getting excited about the NFL playoffs that start this afternoon. After a long season of inujuries and ups and downs for the Steelers, they head into Cincinatti with alot of momentum. Incredibly they are actually a road favorite and every commentator is picking them to win. I hope they are right but these are the same people who thought Notre Dame and USC were going to win last week. Sometimes when everybody is on the bandwagon I get nervous. I just hope the Steelers get out to an early lead and avoid turnovers. If they can do that then we have a very good shot of giving Bill Cowher is first road playoff win. Then all we have to do is win at the Colts next week. Even my lucky Big Ben jersey might not be powerful enough for that to happen. And honestly if my Steelers don't win the Superbowl I am pulling for the Colts. Is there a better witness for Christ lately than Tony Dungy? My guess is that most people will be cheering for him.

Shifting Gears to college football, I really enjoyed the Rose Bowl the other night. Finally a championship game lived up to the hype. And yes Vince Young was fantastic but it was about the same performance he had against Michigan in last year's Rose Bowl. If anybody watched Texas football he was that good all year long so I am not sure why people's opinion of him has changed all the sudden. Now he should be the #1 player in the draft? What ever happened to Reggie Bush being the all time greatest player. Personally I would rather have Leinart as my QB in the NFL but Young is good. Real good.

One final thing. Texas's win wednesday night gave them the most wins in college football over the past five years so they are no one year wonder. Here are the top 10 records over that time:
Texas 56-8
Oklahoma 55-11
USC 54-10
Miami 53-9
Boise St 53-11
Georgia 52-12
LSU 51-14
Ohio St 50-13
Louisville 47-16
Va. Tech 47-16

To all my fellow Michigan fans please note that we are not on this list. Michigan is close at 44-20 which is not bad but they should be a top 10 program and quite simply they are not. I hear Lloyd Carr is shaking up his coaching staff but maybe he needs to look in the mirror.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Just Shut Up

It's such a tiresome subject but Pat Robertson has made another regrettable remark. Apparently he thinks that Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's sudden stroke is a punishment from God because he is "dividing God's land". He uses a scripture from the book of Daniel ( the bible not the new TV show) to support his idea.

I wish that he would keep his mouth shut. I hate that we as Christians will now be branded with these ridiculous remarks simply because one of our supposed leaders claims it to be true. Apparently, Robertson has never read the book of James which talks about controlling one's tongue, being quick to listen and slow to speak. And James is a lot easier to interpret than Daniel.

It's too bad that Robertson does not understand that when he makes these types of comments he claims to be speaking for God. Well maybe he does understand this and thinks of himself as a modern day prophet. I'm not quite convinced. May God have mercy on him if he's wrong.

Having said that, instead of wasting my time arguing against the merits of Robertson's claims, I am going to use his example as a reminder to hold my own tongue. I find that I am often tempted to speak for God and often without checking with Him first. This can happen when I am giving advice to a friend or even just offering my opinion during a bible study or church meeting. It seems innocent enough and compared to Robertson my remarks will have only limited impact. But what if somebody believes my comments really do speak for God? That's a heavy responsibility and one that I need to be aware of. One that all of us Christians need to be aware of.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Remember This Name

For those of us who are political junkies, Jack Abramoff is a familiar name and we have been following his story for some time. For those few people who actually have lives and don't know who he is, let me bring you up to speed because you will begin hearing his name a lot and he could shape the 2006 elections.

Jack Abramoff was a powerful and influential DC lobbyist. He represented the Indian casinos and supposedly funneled money and other gifts into the hands of a couple dozen members of Congress to gain access and influence. Some of you are thinking so what, this happens all the time so what's the big deal? The big deal is that the justice department has recently reached a plea agreement with him to find out who he gave these gifts to and what he received in return. When this happens you are going to see members congress running to the hills to avoid this scandal.

There is already a sense that Congress is ripe with corruption and scandal. First it was Tom Delay being indicted for laundering money into Texas political races. Then Duke Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting bribes for directing defense contracts to certain businesses. Now Abramoff comes along and he creates the perfect tri-fecta. Democrats are already playing the scandal card and it seems to be working.

In 1994 Republicans made corruption in Congress a key component of their contract with America. They seized upon the public's mistrust of politicians and were able to take back Congress for the first time in 50 years. The problem is that some Republicans have become the corrupt politicians they ran against in the first place. Now we will see if the Democrats can turn the tables.

One interesting thing to watch is whether any Democrats get named by Abramoff. I am already hearing that both parties may get caught up in this saga which would make it a little bit difficult for Democrats to claim the high ground without be hypocritical. But hey that's never stopped them before.

Stayed tuned. This story is just beginning to get to interesting.