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Monday, September 30, 2013

Please Hire Tim Tebow - Week 4

We are nearly 25% of the way through the NFL regular season and Tim Tebow is still unemployed despite some, frankly, horrendous quarterback play across the league. Since it likely wouldn't cost team coffers much to bring in Tebow, what can we assume is the reason he isn't getting any calls?

Poll Question: Why is Tim Tebow not on an NFL roster?

A. His lack of skill at the quarterback position
B. The right team hasn't contacted him
C. Coaches don't want to go through an offensive restructure this deep into their seasons
D. Team owners and GMs don't want to endure the hurricane of "I told you so's" that would come with Tebow being successful

I'm not some pie-in-the-sky Tebow drone who overlooks the challenges that come along with bringing in Tim Tebow. There are issues dealing with the press, there are locker room dynamics to consider, and of course the unreal fan expectations (you know who you are Jaguar's fans). And that's all before Mr. Tebow even puts on the pads. But every player in the league has those issues to a greater or lesser degree; Tim just has more of them because of the way NFL fans have polarized over his playing ability and intangibles.

Let's look at a few quick numbers; Tebow's lifetime quarterback rating in the NFL is an admittedly anemic 75.3 according to ESPN. Here are some similar numbers from players starting for NFL teams today (or who have started this year and are still getting paid):

  1. Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville Jaguars - starter): With a rating of 30.7 I'm not sure how the Jags can still justify paying this guy. No offense to Mr. Gabbert but a quick glance at Tebow's stats makes him look like Peyton Manning compared to the zero touchdowns, five interceptions and ten sacks that highlight Gabbert's resume so far this season.
  2. Chad Henne (Jacksonville Jaguars - backup): Chad more than doubles his teammate's quarterback rating with a still-sad 68.8. But Mr. Henne's one TD against two interceptions and eight sacks doesn't cry out for a change from within.
  3. Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers - ex-starter): Freeman has fallen from grace faster than you can say, "Satan," in your best Church Lady voice. Once a lock on the quarterback position in Tampa, I have no idea what happened to Josh this year. There was some speculation over the weekend that he may be struggling with some sort of substance abuse but there were no facts presented to back that up. Tebow is a great example of how a player's performance can suffer when they don't have the backing of the maybe Freeman just lost his coach's confidence. Whatever the reason, and despite a fairly decent supporting cast, Freeman has only thrown two touchdowns and has been picked off three times while being sacked seven. His rating this year (to date) is 59.3 - not good.
  4. Mike Glennon (Tampa Bay Buccaneers - ex-backup): Don't worry Bucs fans! We've got Mike Glennon ready to step in and take over. Not. I've never even heard of Mike Glennon before Freeman was benched. But the guy that's been in camp and at practice every day learning coach Schiano's system? He stepped in this weekend and threw two interceptions against a single TD and was also sacked twice. His rating? 55.7.
It's disheartening to see all four of those poor-performing quarterbacks playing for Florida teams. But as I've noted before, Tim Tebow is from Jacksonville. he played his high school ball there. Everyone knows the rest of the story, from the jump pass that jump started his Florida career, to the Heisman, and a slew of school and SEC records, Tebow has proven himself to be a winner.

Couldn't happen to a nicer opponent...

Look, I'm not trying to relive Tebow's glory days at Florida. I've said before that I know where Tim's faults lie - everyone does. He has trouble reading defensive progressions, he struggles with the short drop and quick throws favored by NFL offenses, he has still not repaired his loopy throwing motion. But Tim also has some excellent qualities that offset the bad: His heart is second to none, he works as hard as anyone on the team, he is very mobile and can beat you with his legs, his long ball accuracy is very good.

In addition to the players highlighted above, there are a number of quarterbacks struggling this year with sub-70 ratings. Christian Ponder (Vikings) has already been benched in favor of Matt Cassel. Carson Palmer (Cardinals) is throwing the heck out of the ball in Arizona - and running for his life. Palmer's rating of 69.8 isn't helped by throwing only four touchdowns against six interceptions and suffering ten sacks. I keep hearing that Geno Smith (Jets) is making progress but he's been sacked fourteen times - and he's supposed to be shifty - while being picked off eight times against only four TDs (rating: 68.6). Joe Flacco (Ravens) and Eli Manning (Giants) are also under 70 for their quarterback rating this year but I would expect them to rebound. The other guys? Not so much. 

So what do all these quarterbacks have in common? They are playing poorly and their teams are losing. Flacco and Manning aside (because their teams have recently won Super Bowls), the rest play for teams that have done little or nothing for years. Why wouldn't ownership take a chance on Tebow?

Heck, Big Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked fifteen times in four games and we all know Ben is not the most mobile guy on the field anymore. Despite that, his rating so far this season is 84.2 and he's even with five TDs and five interceptions. But the Steelers are 0-4 and occupy the bottom of the AFC North division, behind the Ravens, Cleveland and Cincinnati. 

Are the Steelers in the Prison League this season?

I doubt seriously the Steelers are going to part with Big Ben. Although they have only scored 61 points so far this season (15.25 points per game) the Steeler's big problems appear to be on defense not offense, letting their opponents score 110 (27.5 ppg). But as for those other guys? As ESPN says on Monday Night Football, "Come on, Man!"

Someone in Jacksonville wants Tebow...

As the flying banner above attests (flown over the stadium during this weekend's shellacking of the Jags at the hands of the Colts) it's Tebow Time in Jacksonville or even possibly Tampa. Make a move.


Friday, September 27, 2013

So long, Mo...

This may be the first and last baseball blog you'll ever read from me. I don't know. At lunch today I browsed over to ESPN and saw the headline, "Tearful Rivera says Bye to Bronx."

It's not that I never watch baseball. I almost never watch baseball. I'm not going to dig around a pull up all the impressive career statistics from Rivera's career. I'm not going to wax poetic about certain games he pitched or the five World Series titles he won with the Yankees. I probably never watched any of them - unless it was against the Atlanta Braves. There are plenty of baseball lovers who deserve the honor of writing about Mariano Rivera as he rides off into the baseball sunset.

But the whole thing did get me thinking about the subject of retirement. My birthday was yesterday; and while I've still got more than a decade - maybe two - until the age Social Security believes a person should retire, I have to say I've been thinking about it more and more since crossing the half-century mark. Regardless of what I may think and feel when I walk out of some building or other for the last time, it will not be anything close to what Rivera and other long-serving athletes experience.

Mrs. X and I will ride into the sunset one day...

Tens of thousands of Yankee fans gave Rivera a thundering ovation, chanting his name and, if reports are true, shed a few tears of their own. The opposing fans cheered; the opposing players stood in homage; the umpires bent the rules. Everyone basked in the moment that was so full of poignant emotion and meaning - for baseball fans. And then it was over. After a night of pomp and ceremony, a man's career came to a close. How will Rivera handle it?

Just think about that for a moment. For folks like you and I, we don't have cheering sections at work. We don't have people adoring us when we beat a tight deadline. We don't have people threatening to kill us when we mess up a spreadsheet. We don't get a standing ovation when a project we worked hard on is awarded to our company. I've often sympathized with professional athletes who encounter life problems after retiring from their sports. These are men and women who have known nothing since they were kids except their sport. Their entire lives have been centered around their sport.

I remember walking out onto the field at Tampa Stadium - the Old Sombrero - at halftime of a Tampa Bay Rowdies' game. I was eighteen and a counselor at the old Camp Kickinthegrass that the Rowdies held each summer. We led a group of young boys and girls through a series of soccer drills on the surprisingly convex playing surface. The excitement and adrenaline rush of being out on that field in front of thousands of's hard to explain. Now multiply that by a million and about twenty-five years and you have the depth of experience and emotion someone like Rivera encounters in their final professional game.

Rodney Marsh and the boys

Heck, I still remember goofing around with some of the other counselors out at the University of South Florida where the camp was held for three weeks each summer. All the kids had gone to the dorms and we were just playing around on the big field. I was in goal and some of the college players were taking shots. In between lame attempts at being a keeper, I looked up and saw Rodney Marsh, a well-known English footballer walking up the sideline with Gordon Banks, perhaps one of the best goalkeepers to ever play the game. In that moment, one of the college players hit a beautiful curling shot toward the top-right corner of the goal. Now, I'm only five-eight in my socks but I took a big step to my left and launched my body up and out. With the fingertips of my left hand I touched that shot over the bar in what had to be one of the prettiest saves anyone had ever made. I rose up on my knees and looked over at the sideline - there was Mr. Banks in conversation with  Marsh and other pros; but he was looking at me. We made eye contact for just a second and he nodded, as if to say, "Nice one, mate."

I was on cloud nine the rest of the night. One of the best keepers ever had seen me make a great save and acknowledged, however briefly, my achievement. I wish I could say that moment led to me rededicating myself to the sport, getting serious about my training and going on to achieve the professional career that I dreamed about. But it didn't. That was in the 1970's and soccer just wasn't that big in the States. The NASL folded a few years later and frankly, I was just too lazy and undisciplined at eighteen to put in the reps.

But I can appreciate greatness when I see it. So hats off to Mariano Rivera, You had a career of moments that top my pitiful five seconds of glory. You got to live your dream for decades. Your playing career may be over sir, but cherish what you had. I know you'll miss the thrill of jogging onto the field as the speakers blast out Enter Sandman.

I know you'll miss the jazz you got from digging down deep and finding that one pitch to save the day and win another title for the Yankees. But you have a wife and kids who are the most ardent of fans and now, they get to see their hero every day.

When you ride off into the sunset, be happy that you have them riding alongside you.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls...

I do some pretty childish things from time to time. But I'm an adult, so it's mostly seen as cute or goofy when I do them.

Grow up!

The most recent example from the public square that I can think of would be the Miley Cyrus performance at the MTV VMA awards. I'm not going to dog pile Ms. Cyrus or drag that whole thing up again. But to me it's a great example of how different people view adulthood. I would wager that most adults over forty (the ones that are even aware of it) viewed that performance as childish - if not obscene. And a good number of people under forty would see it as her prerogative - after all, at twenty years of age, Ms. Cyrus is an adult, right?

The Oxford English dictionary variously defines adult as:

Noun: A person who is fully grown or developed; (Law) A person who has reached the age of majority.

Adjective: Emotionally and mentally mature.

Men and women  - adults - are what we call males and females when boys and girls grow up. Our society has developed a number of widely accepted milestones which can herald our passage into adulthood:

  • Ability to legally view adult or mature television and film content
  • Ability to legally drink alcohol
  • Ability to vote
  • Ability to legally play "M" rated video games
  • Engaging in sexual activity
  • Becoming a member of the armed services
  • Ability to get a driver's license (to a lesser degree)

Perhaps my first exposure to this dynamic was when I lived in the UK and our family went to see the newest James Bond film, Diamonds are Forever. (Spoiler Alert!) I was in seventh or eighth grade and when we got to the cinema, my dad found out I was too young to be allowed in, even with my parents. So what did that teach me? On the ride home in the cab - by myself - I thought, "There must be some cool stuff in that movie if they don't want kids watching it."

I remember when Mrs. X and I were raising our boys. There were times when alcoholic beverages were in the vicinity. When one of them - or another child - would ask if they could have some, our response was typically, "No, this is an adult drink."

We always tried to play it cool and not make a big deal about it. We didn't want to create an air of mystique about alcohol. Yet were we, even unwittingly, setting an expectation for that child - be it ours or someone else's - that drinking alcohol when they were adults was cool, something to look forward to? Think about the crush of advertising that exists today. From clothing, to alcoholic beverages, to sexual activity; our kids are bombarded with messages that say, "Grown-ups do this stuff, and it's cool."

At younger and younger ages we're seeing kids have and engage in things that used to be the purview of much older people. We continue to establish and throw open gateways that lure boys and girls faster and faster toward adulthood. Ever-increasing "graduations", nearly-mandatory limo rides for prom, even Middle School versions; getting their driver's permit and/or license at the bare minimum age. We're treating our kids more and more like little grown-ups every day.

I taught a preteen Bible school this past summer. More than 50% of the kids had cell phones. And not just the basic text/talk phones; we're talking iPhones and Androids. Fourth through sixth graders. With smart phones. Heck, I didn't have a bike until fifth grade. We're putting our kids on an ever-faster roller coaster to adulthood.

Is the smart phone a window to an x-rated world?

Parents are the biggest, best and last bastion against a world full of people who have reached the age of majority but are sorely lacking in emotional and mental maturity. Despite our best efforts, have we shortchanged our future society? Do we let our kids watch television shows or movies and play video games, but not equip them with a level of maturity and critical thinking that will allow them to understand the difference between a make-believe world and a real one? By setting these artificial bars to adult achievement so low, have we convinced a younger and younger set of boys and girls that merely by checking these boxes (drinking, watching R or even X-rated films, engaging in sexual activism, etc.) they can achieve adulthood early?

Do you want your kids walking a mile for a Camel?

In reasoning with the early church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul said, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things."

A couple of other interesting passages read:

Old Testament (1 Samuel 2:26): Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men.

New Testament (Luke 2:52): And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Nine hundred years apart, the sentiment was pretty much the same; both the prophet Samuel and Jesus had very similar statements made about them. Their growth in stature as men - as young adults - was not due to them smoking, drinking, romancing and doing all of the things that the world holds up as earmarks of adulthood. Today, we see young men and women raised in stature for exceeding the world's expectations, but God has been left out.

I know, it can't be as simple as that, can it? Just because God is left out doesn't mean a child can't grow up to be a decent adult, does it?

What do you think?


Monday, September 23, 2013

Please Hire Tim Tebow - Week 3

Week three of the 2013 NFL season is nearly in the books and Tim Tebow remains unemployed. Despite intriguing offers from Satan's own Arena League team in LA and a (ba) bush (ka) league team in Moscow, my favorite Florida Gator is still riding the ultimate quarterback pine.

So what would-be opportunities are out there this week for Mr. Tebow despite all the haters? Week three was just another great example of why I shouldn't play Fantasy Football. I am consoling myself with the fact that I never play in paid leagues. I have an aversion to funding other people's good times when I'm being kicked like a Ray Finkle field goal attempt.

Over the first couple of weeks this season, there have been some pretty clear front-runners in the Tim Tebow sweepstakes. Let's take a look at whether those franchises should continue to have Tebow's agent on speed dial...

Jacksonville Jaguars:

The hags...I'm sorry...the Jags travelled north by northwest to play in the new 12th Man kingdom known as Centurylink Field. I know this stadium more from watching the Seattle Sounders MLS team but it's every bit as hostile toward opposing NFL franchises when the Seahawks are in town. This game went pretty much according to script. Backup QB Chad Henne had an even worse day than last week with a sub-50% completion percentage and two interceptions. Chad did manage to recover his own fumble but was also sacked four times. Jacksonville eked out a late score on a Jones-Drew 2-yard carry but that didn't take the sting out of the final score: 45-17 Seahawks.

Shhh! Don't tell anyone but we want Tebow!

Oakland Raiders:

A number of people disagree with me on this one. The Raiders play Peyton Manning and the Denver TD Passes, er, I mean Broncos, tonight. We'll have to wait and see how they do. Oakland still has Terrelle Pryor managing their meager offense but I guess if they keep winning...

Cleveland Browns:

What in the world? With the week's most amazing player personnel move in trading Trent Richardson to the Colts, the Cleveland Browns had become the first team entered into the 2014 NFL Overall First Draft Pick sweepstakes. Cleveland had so much as announced, "We give up!"

Apparently no one told Brian Hoyer and Jordan Cameron, who combined for three touchdowns, including the game winner with 51 seconds left. While that throws a monkey wrench in my Tebow to Cleveland campaign, it definitely creates a new entry on the potential candidate list.

Minnesota Vikings:

Christian Ponder may not be the cause of the Vikings starting 0-3 this year but when Minnesota scores three rushing touchdowns and two of them are by Ponder...something isn't quite right. Tebow may not be the answer as long as Ponder continues to run for his life, but the former Purple People Eaters bear some watching.

Teams you would have previously thought were as far from even thinking about Tim Tebow as the Sun is from the Earth...

New York Giants:

What the what? Who has the most Super Bowl MVP trophies in the last six years? If you said Eli Manning, go to the head of the class. The Giants are 0-3 and if no one is panicking in New York yet, it may start getting a little jittery in the Big Apple very soon. New York is extremely impatient with its sports teams and is the poster sports city for the, "What have you won for us lately?" mentality. Manning can't all of a sudden begin to stink overnight, but he is 32 and he has more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (5) in this young season and has been sacked 11 times. How sweet would it be for Tebow to return to New York and lead the G-Men to the playoffs? Take that J-E-T-S Jets!

Washington Redskins:

Robert Griffin III was supposed to be the next big thing in the NFL. Washington banked everything on his amazing skills. Supposedly he was (and is) everything Tebow isn't - basically someone with all the running skills of Tebow but who could actually - and accurately - throw the rock. Griffin's numbers aren't as startling as Manning's, but the 'Skins are also 0-3 and with RGIII coming off major, major knee surgery, his issues could be just  rust and having to work his way back into football shape, getting re-acclimated to the speed of the game. Still...

The worst of the rest:

It could happen...

There are a couple of other 0-3 teams out there who never would've entered the Tebow discussion a few weeks ago: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I honestly see no way Big Ben Roethlisberger gets pulled in Pittsburgh but I could totally see Tebow being given a shot in Tampa. It would be a friendly environment, being just down the road from Gainesville, and in Greg Schiano they have an ex-college coach who has shown a flair for the unusual since coming to the NFL. Despite the fact that Schiano endorsed Josh Freeman today as his QB, if Freeman continues to post the big L, who knows?

I still believe Jacksonville makes the most sense for Tebow. It would ostensibly show the fans that the team has not completely given up on the season, or them. But as a long-time resident of Tampa who endured the bad old days from the get-go in 1976, I'd love to see Tim come to town.

What do you think?


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jesus Christ, Superstar

In 1971, long before I came to know Jesus Christ personally, a stage play was performed in London. Sadly, I can't go back and see that performance. I can only imagine how powerful it must've been. And although there have been revivals of the stage version of Jesus Christ Superstar, I find the 1973 film more in tune with my remembrance of the original soundtrack - sitting in front of Mom's Magnavox console, listening to that original London cast singing...over and over again.

The play - and the film - open with Overture, a rather haunting introduction that underscores the time period in which they were both made. In the 1973 film we see the cast arriving on location - I believe - at the ruins of Avdat, an ancient city in the Negev. They disembark and begin unloading the bus, with the cross of the crucifixion carried on top and featured prominently. Judas, played superbly by Carl Anderson, walks away by himself, then turns to watch the appearance of Jesus - as if by magic - from the middle of the rest of the actors.

Judas opens the vocal performances with Too Much Heaven on Their Minds, an interesting plea to Jesus which infers that Judas was concerned that what started out as a good thing - walking around performing a few miracles and teaching some good life principles - was starting to spin out of control. People were beginning to refer to Jesus as the promised Messiah and that was dangerous under the Roman occupation. Jesus' followers needed to get their heads out of the clouds, away from Heaven and back to Earth, where real things were happening that were much more important.

Apparently they didn't take Judas' warnings to heart because in the next scenes, scored with What's the Buzz and Strange Things Mystifying, the disciples pepper Jesus with questions about the future while Mary works to provide some calmness for her Lord. This scene also includes a reference to Mary's use of a very expensive container of oil (or perfumed oil) for which Judas chastises Jesus, saying that it would've been better to sell it and give the money to the poor. The biblical accounts - in Matthew, Mark and John - note that far from being a waste, the oil was being used to prepare Jesus for burial.

There are a great number of inaccuracies from a biblical perspective in the film, so I wouldn't use the film as a basis for a theological treatise. However, Ted Neeley's portrayal of Jesus has a quality that one can't help but think is accurate to some degree as he mourns the lack of understanding - even among his own disciples - regarding Jesus' true purpose.

Still, with all the misleading, misinterpreted and flat out incorrect biblical information, Jesus Christ Superstar has a power about it that I think stems more from the actual life, death, and resurrection of Jesus than any man-made attempts to dramatize it. Our society is one that craves visual stimulus and the stark, spare costumes, scenery and props used in the film somehow fade into insignificance behind the powerful story being told.

Jesus Christ Superstar focuses on the events leading up to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus; told against a backdrop painted with the conflicted relationship between Judas and Jesus, as well as questions surrounding not only the background of Mary Magdalene, but the nature of her relationship with the Messiah. Most disappointingly, I found the portrayal of the Apostles - especially Simon the Zealot - to be overdone. All of this is subjective of course, since none of us were there and can't really know what happened in between the lines - the facts - that we read about in the Bible. Certainly I would've been confused by Jesus. Even today we find it difficult to conceive that He came to save us. Back in 1st century Israel, chafing against Roman occupation, there would've been a variety of opinions about who He was and what He was there for.

One of the things I think Jesus Christ Superstar portrays well is the sadness of Jesus. There are several references to Jesus crying in Scripture. He weeps for Jerusalem in Luke 19:41 - right in the middle of what we call the Triumphal Entry. Similarly, just before one His most powerful miracles - raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, John 11:35 states simply, "Jesus wept." I imagine that the biblical Jesus, fully God and fully man, with foreknowledge of His fate, couldn't help but be sad about a great many things. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane clearly indicates an internal pain regarding His own Earthly fate. However, I believe that the lion's share of Jesus' sadness came because of the Jew's reaction to Him as well as what He knew was to come...even today.

The moneychanger scene in the Temple also comes in chapter 19 of the Gospel of Luke. This is another scene I like to believe the film portrayed somewhat accurately. There are shots of Judas staring incredulously as Jesus turns over the tables and generally makes a wreck of the Temple courtyard, all the while rebuking the merchants - as well as the nearby Pharisees - that God's Temple should be a house of prayer, not a den of thieves.

Although the trial and crucifixion are dramatically much tamer than portrayed in Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, there is still a power and poignancy to the scenes that tell the story. And as the cast shuffles off down the hill after Jesus' death, with Mr. Neeley still on the cross, the director leaves us to wonder about a few things.

We never see Neeley board the bus and in the closing scene, the single cross is spread against a blood-red sunset, with no body hanging limply from its members.

There are no real historical arguments against the life and death of Jesus. All of the argument centers around what came next. Did He rise? Is He in Heaven today, fulfilling the promise He made to the Apostles in John 14.

What do you think?


Friday, September 20, 2013

It's the truth!

Kids of a certain generation grew up trying to convince parents of their tall tale's veracity. I grew up in the south and when the chips were down and the paddle was being prepared, my little brain worked feverishly to come up with something - anything - that would win me a stay of execution.

"It was three weeks ago, when Tommy was spending the night. You let us play in the house and Tommy must've put Major Matt Mason inside the lamp. Tonight is the first time I've turned the lamp on in three weeks and I'm just as surprised as you that he melted all over the light bulb!"

Somehow, as kids, we fall right into the lying habit when it comes to protecting our backsides. I remember the time I had to take a note home from school in 5th grade. I was told to have my mom sign it and to bring it back the next day. That was back in the days of double jeopardy.

I learned at a young age that the Constitution of the United States does not apply to children. If I got in trouble at school, you could bet that I would get it again at home; usually worse. So in my eleven-year-old, cause and effect brain, there was no way I was giving my mom that note. I don't even remember what it was for but it was a spanking offense and I was going to do everything possible to avoid that heinous punishment.

After dinner, over the course of an hour or so, I conceived and executed a plan that would make Ethan Hunt proud: I borrowed some documents that had Mom's signature on them and then retired to the bathroom where I could work in secret, perfecting her fluid script. After many attempts on a blank sheet of paper, I thought I had it down, so I signed that teacher's note with a flourish, compared it to Mom's real signature and came away pretty proud of my efforts. There was no way the teacher would ever suspect...

"Mr. X, please report to the Principal's office..."

After taking attendance, the first thing our 5th grade teacher did the next morning was leave the room. Within a few minutes, that scratchy, indicting announcement had come over the classroom speaker and I was - variously - the object of scorn, hilarity and pity as I trudged out of the classroom and made my way to Mrs. Perricone's office. Of course I knew the game was up. Somehow my carefully crafted facade had crumbled and death row beckoned with a cold, bony finger.

Sixteen whacks with Mrs. Perricone's patented whistling paddle, sentenced to spending all day in a small room next to her office by myself - just me and a whole day's schoolwork - and perhaps the most shaming of all: having to sit next to Mrs. Perricone at the Principal's table in the lunchroom. It was truly cruel and unusual punishment.

In the immortal (not really) words of Robert Plant, "Yes, there are two paths you can go by...":

  1. Why do we lie?
  2. What is truth?
Most people. when faced with question number one, will trot out all sorts of psychological theories regarding heredity, environment and learned behaviors. I believe that we - i.e. humankind - have a predilection toward lying that is innate. It is a mental fight or flight reflex. Most of us don't like pain, so when faced with a situation that threatens us, we prevaricate to avoid the unpleasantness we fear. Oh sure, we also lie to spare people's feelings but does that really make it better? Or morally acceptable?

The apostle Paul wrote eloquently about this in Ephesians 4:

"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ..." 

Earlier in the chapter, Paul urges us to "...walk in a manner worthy of our calling, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love..."

Tolerance is a hot-button issue these days and likely a subject that warrants its own blog. However, we are talking about truth and even in the very beginning we see that child-like, reflex lie reaction. In Genesis 3:12, when God confronts Adam about eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, what does Adam do? He throws Eve firmly under the bus. Even worse than that, he goes so far as to blame God, in part: 

"The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.""

Are you sure He said it was okay?

For her part, Eve deflected as well; although she did not lie:

"And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate.""

You could say that Adam and Eve didn't really lie; they just cast blame on another for their misdeeds. You can even say that the Serpent didn't lie when he told Eve she would not die by eating the fruit.

And that brings us to truth. What is truth?

The fictional professor Indiana Jones taught, "Archaeology is the search for fact... not truth. If it's truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall."

Jones abdicated the subject of truth to a murky study of philosophy. In effect, he was saying, "Truth can be whatever you want it to be, but in here we deal with hard, cold facts."

Thinking about truth makes my head hurt

And therein lies the conundrum facing society today. Humanity has reached a point where it is de rigeur to not put down anything as false. If it's true for you then it's true, period.

It's as if there is no truth at all. Think about it. If everything is true, then nothing is.

As a Christian it is true that I believe the Bible is a true representation of God's instructions to His creation. A lot of people either think that's baloney or have an otherwise diluted view regarding the veracity of the Bible. Seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist Blaise Pascal attempted to couch our belief in God as a wager, with our eternal existence (or not) as the stakes. Pascal - and I'm oversimplifying a great deal here - attempted to illustrate the reasons for believing (or not) in the existence of God by looking at the gains and losses of believing (or not) in God's existence:

God exists:
  • Yes: I believe in God and get to spend an eternity in His presence after my time on earth is finished
  • No: I choose not to believe in God and he does exist therefor (according to the Bible) I am separated from God for eternity and I know it
God doesn't exist:
  • Yes: I believe that there is no God and I'm right, there isn't. So after I die that's it and I'm not around to care
  • No: I believe that there is no God and I'm wrong, there actually is. So after I die, I am separated from God for eternity and I know it
Pascal was basically trying to represent belief (or not) in God as a factor of reason, or some sort of mathematical equation from which we can determine all the possible outcomes and make a life choice based on our own thoughts and intellect. Great idea, but believing in God because it seems like the best outcome for me is not exactly the proper motivation, if you know what I mean.

Pascal's conclusions were pretty much based on avoiding the worst-case scenario:
  • Positive outcome: If I believe in God and He does exist, I'm in for an eternity of goodness
  • Neutral outcome: If I believe in God and He really doesn't exist, then, at the end of life, I'm not really out anything. I've tried to live my life according to Godly principles which are benign - if false - and at the end of the day, I'm just dust. No harm no foul.
  • Neutral outcome: If I don't believe in God and He really doesn't exist, then, at the end of life I'm just dust.
  • Negative outcome: If I don't believe in God and He does exist, I'm in for an eternal cosmic spanking

Believing in God has either positive or, at worst, neutral outcomes. Not believing in God has neutral or, at worst, a very nasty outcome. So, reasoned Pascal, why not believe in God?

But that is still not truth.

Psalm 44:21 warns: Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.

The last word is key; we can't reason our way into heaven. We need a change of heart. 

Paul sums it all up in his letter to Rome: "...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

So why do we lie?

What is truth? 

What do you think?


Monday, September 16, 2013

Please Hire Tim Tebow - Week 2

Here we are, almost finished with week two of the NFL season, and Tim Tebow is still unemployed - at least as a quarterback. Absent the Ohio River Rumble that will take place tonight between the Bengals and Steelers, let's look at some of the heroic - or hapless - QB play that begs for teams to pick up the phone today and call Mr. Tebow's agent.

Patriots vs. Jets: This is always a weird game; after Thursday night, no one is kicking Brady to the curb and honestly, he's working with an entirely new group of receivers so we have to say there are no Help Wanted signs in Foxboro. Geno Smith - who noted was, "repeatedly sacked when he took too much time to throw," also threw three fourth quarter interceptions. The Pats only scored thirteen points; if you can't beat that, improvements may be called for. In week one, the Jets pulled one out of their, um, helmet, and overcame the Bucs due to the worst defensive error I've seen in Tampa since Warren Sapp was traded. The Jets didn't receive a gift this week, so they lost. You never say never but it is highly doubtful that Tim would go back to the Jets.

How long before you can buy a Geno Smith sandwich in NY?

Actually, there was some pretty solid play across the league this week at the quarterback position, looking at the results from Sunday's match-ups: Ryan vs. Bradford, Rivers vs. Vick, Peyton vs. himself...but there were also a few stinkers.

Ravens vs. Browns: What in the world is going on with the Ravens? Did these guys really win the Super Bowl last year? Did Joe Flacco really get stratosphere money in a new contract? Did that jinx him?

The mighty Ravens may have held the Browns to two measly field goals in the first half but there was a big old goose egg on the other side of the scoreboard. Divisional game or not, the Super Bowl champions should not be playing their home opener and be down 6-0 at the half. Flacco and Browns QB Brandon Weeden put up relatively respectable numbers with completions rates close to 60% and over 200 yards through the air. Joe even added a consolation TD toss midway through the fourth quarter but still.

As bad as the Ravens were, they still beat the Browns. That tells me Cleveland needs to be hitting the phones soon. Mr. Tebow? We have a collect call from Rob Chudzinski; will you accept the charges?

We are the champions, my friend...

Vikings vs. Bears: It galls me that there is an FSU quarterback starting in the NFL and Tebow is unemployed. If you're from Florida, you'll understand that. Christian Ponder has had an iffy tenure in Minnesota and were it not for the reigning NFL MVP in the backfield, I'd warrant that Ponder's job security would be much shakier than it is. But even with all-world running back Adrian Peterson hitting the 100-yard mark, Jay Cutler and da Bears were able to beat the Vikes in spite of Cutler's two picks and a fumble that Minnesota returned for a score. Sure, Ponder is a relatively steady pocket passer...but Tebow just wins, baby!

Raiders vs. Jaguars: In reality, for the second week in a row, there is only one Job Opening Waiting to Happen:

Starting QB for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Last week's goat, Blaine Gabbert, was out injured so ex-Jets and Dolphins castaway Chad Henne (no relation to Sonja) got the start. Honestly, there is so much low hanging fruit here it's nearly too numerous to mention. The Jags were beat by a team whose kicker (another Free Shoes University product) scored over 60% of their points. The Raiders QB from the Big Ten (or twelve or something) school that must not be named was an underwhelming 15/24 for 126 yards. So Tebow could definitely be a good fit in Oakland, but we talked about that last week as well. The Jags #2 put up much prettier numbers than Pryor, completing 25 of 38 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. Not bad. But Chad, your team scored 9 points and lost to the Raiders. You are now 0-2 with no relief in sight.

Tebow constantly gets ripped for poor stats - except in the win-loss column. Henne may be a more prototypical passer but is he really the guy who's going to take the Jags to the playoffs?

It's so bad, that the local Orlando television station that carries the Jags away games actually apologized for doing so yesterday. How desperate does a team have to be when the television networks that carry your games IN FLORIDA apologize for having to show them?

Let me re-quote a short section of Please Hire Tim Tebow - Week 1:

Back in January,  [Jaguar's GM] Caldwell told reporters, "I can't imagine a scenario in which he'll be a Jacksonville Jaguar—even if he's released."

That was in January; it's now the business end of the NFL season in September and the Jags are 0-2 with not a lot of love coming from the fans and not a lot of wins taking place on the field.

Is Tim Tebow the answer for Jacksonville? Fox Sports reported on Saturday that a Russian - yes, you read that correctly - a Russian football team has offered $1 million for Tebow to come over and help them win a playoff semi-final game. So what do the Moscow Black Storm know that Dave Caldwell and the Jaguars don't?

They got a light-up scoreboard and eh'thing!

Maybe they know that if you put fans in the seats and those fans by jerseys and stuff, your team becomes popular and makes money. I don't think anyone can argue the fact that a growing number of Jaguars fans would like to see Tebow given a shot. ESPN just reported a story indicating there is a Sign Tim Tebow Rally scheduled for 3:16 today in Jacksonville.

If I didn't know better, I'd think it was almost Tebow-Time in his hometown of Jacksonville.

What do you think?


Monday, September 9, 2013

Please Hire Tim Tebow - Week 1

I don't know if this will turn into a series, but with some glaringly suspect QB play in week 1 of the 2013 NFL season, it just might.

NCAA National Titles, Heisman Trophy, NFL playoff victory...unemployed?

On September 3, 2013 Tim Tebow was released by the New England Patriots. Everyone involved said the right things and then the sports media immediately jumped on the, "Will Tim Tebow ever play again in the NFL?" bandwagon. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on Tim Tebow - me included. Leaving aside the man's Christian faith and the fact that some people find it irksome, let's look at Tim's prospects against the would-be NFL quarterback play we saw this weekend.

I know it's not fair but I'm starting with the low-hanging fruit right off the bat. Back in May, some Jacksonville Jaguars fans petitioned the Obama White House in an effort to pressure new team owner Shah Khan and general manager Dave Caldwell to sign Tebow after he was released by the Jets. Seriously? I mean I like the idea but the President can't even decide on his own to attack Syria..but I digress.

Back in January, Caldwell told reporters, "I can't imagine a scenario in which he'll be a Jacksonville Jaguar—even if he's released."

How's that working out for you, Dave?

Gabbert did not shine on Sunday

Starting QB Blaine Gabbert was a pedestrian 16 of 35 (45%) for 107 yards. No touchdowns, no interceptions. Tebow's last game in the NFL (so far) was the Patriots' final preseason game in which he played the second half and went 6 of 11 (54%) with 2 TDs and 1 pick. He also had 6 rushes for 30 yards. In a half; playing with the third stringers. Did I mention the Pats won?

I'm not saying that Tim Tebow is Alex Smith - not even close - but if he can duplicate the stats above against the Chiefs (assuming the Jags have some third-stringers on their team), we're in the neighborhood of 28 points and the game becomes a lot more interesting for Jaguars fans.

No. It's not fair to blame Gabbert for the loss to the Chiefs but that's the way it is in the NFL. Most of the time if you're the QB, you get the glory for the win and you're the goat when you lose. That's why you get paid the big bucks. In the five previous NFL seasons, the Jaguars have zero winning records. They scraped to a meager 8-8 mark in 2010 but last year only won two games. Come on Dave - if Tebow is not the answer to the, "Can you imagine a scenario in which he'll be a Jacksonville Jaguar," question, what is the question?

So, what else happened in the rarefied atmosphere of elite NFL quarterbacking this weekend? Leaving aside tonight's two Monday Night Football games featuring RG III vs. Michael Vick and Philip Rivers vs. Matt Schaub - quarterbacks who have pretty much established their bona fides - let's take a quick peak:

  • Baltimore vs. Denver: Never mind; St. Peyton of Manning was too busy walking on water to answer requests for an interview.
  • New England vs. Buffalo: This is a game I'll admit I was expecting to highlight in Tebow's favor. Not that Brady - next in line for sainthood - would be in any trouble, but I expected the Bills' E.J. Manuel to fold like a soggy deck of cards. No surprise, the Bills still lost but after some shaky opening play, Manuel looked pretty stable.
  • Seattle vs. Carolina: Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are two of the hottest young QBs in the game. But this game was a yawner. Nothing to see here...move along.
I could go on down the list but you would just get bored and I would lose my mind. Honestly, if you review the rosters of every team in the league, the majority have an established starter who is a quality quarterback. None of us have time to drill down to the backup slots but let's be frank with each other, Tebow needs to be the starter, wherever he goes. Thinking of the New York Jets I can only hear Yoda chastising Luke, "The cave, remember your failure at the cave!"

" an intoxicated Jawa, Gabbert was, yes..."

So, if not the Jaguars, then who? Two options stand out and one - the Raiders - would be like Jesus playing for the Devil's team and we already know He didn't do that. That brings us to option B: the Cleveland Browns. Interestingly, Cleveland matches the Jaguars in recent futility, suffering through five consecutive losing seasons. In fact, the Browns are monotonously poor, never winning more than five games in a season over that span. 

Yesterday, Cleveland's starting QB Brandon Weeden went 26 of 53 for 289 passing yards and a touchdown. That sounds pretty good. But then there were three interceptions. Oh, and a fumble. And Weeden had zero rushing attempts. And four sacks. In fact, the Browns only had two rushing first downs in the entire game despite the presence of bruising tailback Trent Richardson in the backfield. It's like the Dolphins dared the Browns to beat them through the air.

But wait, you say, wouldn't Tebow be the worst choice to replace Weeden? He struggles with short to intermediate routes and has not shown a quick grasp of reading defensive tendencies or following his progressions. All true. But what Tebow does bring to the table are things like a never-say-die attitude, the ability to run - outside or between the tackles, a very nice touch on longer throws, and the most important trait - he is a winner. 

I would think that for either the Browns or the Jaguars - who I may be picking on mercilessly if yesterday's results continue through the season - winning is something they might consider taking a chance on, seeing as neither has done much of that for the last five seasons.

C'mon guys; it's time to Tebow.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Two Hundred and Counting...

I've been pondering a worthy post for my two-hundredth blog. The Stream of Consciousness was started back in 2009 - at least on Blogger. An earlier iteration was born on Live Journal and I still have a couple of friends that blog over there, but Blogger offered me a little more of what I needed creatively so I made the move in 2009. Lately, I've been thinking about a move to WordPress - I have several author friends who blog there - but an irrational fear of moving has kept me at Blogger for the time being. The future is yet to be written...
What does 200 blog posts mean? Does it simply infer that I have a lot of time on my hands? I would contest that; looking back over the years, there are weeks and months where no blogging at all took place. In fact, these idle periods tend to skew the curve of my blogging activity (and creativity). Let's get the boring, self-aggrandizing statistics out of the way, shall we?

Prior to writing this blog, I had received 31,481 lifetime page views on Blogger. Let's break that down:

Writing production: i.e. number of blogs written per year...
- 2009: 27
- 2010: 50
- 2011: 25
- 2012: 57
- 2013 (year-to-date): 40 (not counting this post)

Reading/Page views:
- Page views per month: 562 (56 months)
- Page views per week: 130 (243 weeks)
- Page views per day: 19 (1,697 days)

Now, as I mentioned, were I to factor out all the months/weeks/days that I didn't blog at all, my adjusted page view statistics would be much higher. However, I am neither a math geek nor a raving narcissist so we'll go with the raw data and move on.

More interestingly, I thought it might be a reasonable idea to take a look at some actual blogs based on certain milestones and reflect on their meaning, etc. (or just laugh embarrassingly and hope you don't click through to actually read them).

Naturally, one significant milestone would be the first blog I posted on Blogger:

- January 8, 2009 - Greetings to the Big G: Nothing spectacular here; no pictures, no professions of undying fealty to Blogger. In fact, reading through this short post shows that I was vacillating on moving from Live Journal at all - I sense a behavioral pattern here. On the plus side, I managed to fit in a plug for Seabird, an excellent fantasy adventure that you should read if you haven't already!

- December 30, 2009 - The Music is in My Head: A recurring theme throughout the blogging years has been music. This was my last post of 2009, and reading back through it I can honestly say, "This still applies today."

For proof, I'll just note that I've listened to all the songs mentioned in this post during the last month (August, 2013). Quality never goes out of style. Enjoy!

Guys are spinning girls like forty-fives...

That was the beginning and the end of my first year on Blogger. Let's go to the Hall of Fame now and take a look at the top posts of all time - TPAT. In the interest of time (and your sanity) I'll confine my trip down memory lane to the top three blog posts - by page views - published on The Stream.

- January 7, 2010 - I Dislike Equivalent Temperatures: I'm not a science geek, but sometimes I will explore more technical subjects in my blog. Coming in at number three, I have no idea why this particular post has received so much play. It's probably because I included Jim Cantore as one of my labels. As a writer, I am definitely not above a little SEO (search engine optimization) in a lame attempt to drive traffic to my blog. If you're inclined, you can enjoy my humorous rant against using the heat index instead of the actual temperature.

- December 6, 2011 - Space...the Final Frontier (that we'll never get to?): Interesting! My second most-read blog of all time is also scientific! Hmmm...maybe I need to leave all this musical, creative and philosophical stuff behind? Okay, you busted me - I was making fun of science again. Don't get me wrong, I think the idea of an Earth-like planet in the universe is awesome. I just don't think finding one that is 7 million years away - in our best current travel modes - is all that exciting. That's kind of like me looking in the window of the Ferrari dealership: it's really beautiful in there but there's no way on Earth I'm ever going to afford one.

Please sir, may I have another?

- February 10, 2012 - Literary Review - The Scroll: I'm not a voracious reader; I just don't have the time anymore. As a young man I used to plough through novels like a farmer at planting time. I still read but, by dint of my limited opportunities, try to be a little more discerning regarding my content. The blog post with the most page views ever was my review of a novel entitled The Scroll. Written by Grant R. Jeffrey and Alton L. Gansky, The Scroll is an excellent read and I highly recommend it. I won't re-review it here - if you want to read what I had to say about it, click the link above and you can enjoy my full review.

There you have it, the top three blogs I've posted on Blogger - ranked by number of page views.

What does the future hold? Yoda says it best in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, "Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

I will keep writing this blog and, hopefully, people will keep reading it; either by accident or on purpose. One topic I would like to spend more time blogging about is the progress of my New Kingdoms novel series. If I could have one wish for the future, it would be that a lack of blog production would be a result of available time being spent writing my novels, as opposed to not writing at all as a consequence of work and other responsibilities.

See you at the next milestone...