Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

Book thoughts – “Are We Winning” by Will Leitch

July 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I picked up Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball from the library a couple of weeks ago because it’s about baseball and it centers around a game at Wrigley Field that I very much remember watching on TV (the Cubs clinched the NL Central in 2008 by beating the Cards that day). Leitch uses the 8.5 innings of that game as a framework for a series of conversations about fathers and sons and baseball. In fact, the book is written to his unborn son and he ends each chapter with the things he wanted his son to learn.

This is a great book. Leitch talks about baseball from the perspective of a guy who really loves the game and lives and dies with the fortunes of his team. The book is insightful and funny and is written really well. The topics range from stats to beer to steroids to the poor facial hair decisions made by players. He even dedicates a good part of one chapter to Bartman (probably because of the pain inflicted by that guy on Cub fans everywhere) as a picture of true fandom. It’s a must read for Cards or Cubs fans and anyone else who is passionate about the game, particularly if you are a second or third generation lover of the game.

Just a couple of quick excerpts:

On fandom: “True baseball fans do not cheer for their teams to win: They cheer for them not to lose. Victory does not come with joy; it comes with relief.” (p.147)

On stats and records: “Baseball is three hours of Shakespeare sixteen times a day, and. somehow, we’ve turned it into a math problem about longevity.” (p.165)

Take some time to check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Categories: Books, cubs, sports Tags: , , ,

you can’t lose

June 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Bottom of the third. First game of our biggest tournament of the season. 9-1 lead. As the Dirt Dawgs take the field, the coaching braintrust decides to save our starting pitcher’s arm, so I tell the pitcher to move to second and Nathan to take the mound.

At this point, I should note that Nathan had never  pitched in a game. In fact, he’d only thrown about 20 pitches off a mound after practice as we were messing around to see if he could do it. So telling him he was going to pitch in a big game was first, shocking and second, terrifying.

After I got back to the dugout, I turned around to watch him warm up and saw him in a near panic as he was giving his name to the umpire and getting ready to throw his warm-up pitches. To head off the impending meltdown, I jogged back out to the mound to explain the situation to my 9 year old little man.

“We’re up 8, the most they can score is 7 (this tourney had a run per inning rule). No matter what you do, you can’t lose this game. You can’t fail.”

The shoulders relax. The grin comes out. Now we’re ready to play ball.

First batter – hits the first pitch hard back to the mound. Nathan fields it clean and throws him out. 1 pitch, 1 out. The grin gets bigger.
Second batter –  bunts for a hit. Then scores on the next pitch as he steals second and gets around on a error.
Third batter – strikes out on 5 pitches. The grin is now so big I’m afraid he’s going to trip over it.
Fourth better – grounds out to 3rd.

Four batters, 13 pitches, 3 outs, we win. Nathan runs off the field and jumps into my arms, convinced that this pitching thing is easy.

As I think about it (with probably an unhealthy amount of pride), I’m struck by the power that comes from understanding that there is no way to fail. Fear turns to confidence. Freedom and faith break out. Tears are swallowed by a grin that just keeps growing. Confidence gained yields a greater willingness to risk again.

What if the Church created space for dreamers to go big, but with a safety net beneath them, just in case? What if success wasn’t measured in results, but rather attempts?

What would you tackle if you knew you couldn’t lose?

Categories: Church, family, Jesus, life, sports Tags: , ,

Sooner twitiocy and other online malfeasance

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

We’ve all done it – -said something in an effort to try and be clever or funny or cool that turned out to be somewhat inappropriate or in poor taste or just not what we thought it would be before coming out of mouth. For most of us, that moment (those moments?) happens with a friend or two or even by ourselves. We get called out for poor taste, either laugh at our own lameness or attempt to defend it, and then everyone moves on.

At least, that’s how it used to be . . .

Now we have twitter and facebook and youtube and blogs and flickr and 100 other ways to express our wrong-headed thoughts to anyone and everyone who cares to hear them. More options than we can possibly employ to have our every word, thought, and action broadcast. And we do, to the tune of (probably) billions of status updates and posts and tweets every day. And once they’re out there, they’re out there for good. No matter how badly we might want them back. And, suddenly, it isn’t just our friends or family who are telling us we’ve crossed the line, it’s potentially the whole planet.

This is the lesson that Jaz Reynolds learned yesterday. While a gunman sent the UT campus into lockdown, Jaz tweeted “Hey everyone in Austin, tx…….kill yourself #evillaugh.” Classy. If he makes this comment to a couple of guys in the locker room or to a roommate, it’s tasteless, but it’s over. But Jaz felt the need to tweet, and tweet he did. And he now faces an “indefinite” suspension – which is code for “be sure to turn in your playbook on your way to East Popcorn State”.

Reynolds isn’t the first athlete to forget someone actually sees this stuff. He’s not even the first Sooner. Along with Tommy Mason-Griffin’s facebook comments and Josh Jarboe’s YouTube exploits, Reynolds’ twitiocy completes the hat trick of poor social networking judgement. Coaches have to be going out of their minds over this stuff.

Why does everything need to be out there? Why do we feel the need to blog/tweet/update/post? And why do we spend so many hours checking out the (mostly) mindless product of all of this expression?  Jaz will pay dearly for his indiscretion (one wonders what would have happened had it been a different player doing the tweeting), but to what extent is everyone who followed Jaz on twitter complicit in his mistake? By providing the audience, we reinforce the idea that everything these folks have to say is worth hearing. Maybe we need to stop listening.

If an athlete tweets in the woods and no one is is around to RT it, would it really happen?

this is the gospel

December 29, 2008 Leave a comment

From Rick Reilly – ESPN the Magazine

Click for original
Life of Reilly
There are some games when cheering for the other side feels better than winning.
by Rick Reilly

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team’s fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, “Go Tornadoes!” Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

“I never in my life thought I’d hear people cheering for us to hit their kids,” recalls Gainesville’s QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. “I wouldn’t expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!”

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he’d just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That’s because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith’s head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. “Here’s the message I want you to send:” Hogan wrote. “You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan’s office and asked, “Coach, why are we doing this?”

And Hogan said, “Imagine if you didn’t have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

“I thought maybe they were confused,” said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). “They started yelling ‘DEE-fense!’ when their team had the ball. I said, ‘What? Why they cheerin’ for us?'”

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. “We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games,” says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. “You can see it in their eyes. They’re lookin’ at us like we’re criminals. But these people, they were yellin’ for us! By our names!”

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game’s last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that’s when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. “We had no idea what the kid was going to say,” remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: “Lord, I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say thank You, but I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.”

And it was a good thing everybody’s heads were bowed because they might’ve seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, “You’ll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You’ll never, ever know.”

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they’d never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it’s nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.


Sometimes baseball players are complete idiots

June 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Exhibit A

I love the guys who stand around the outside like they are in it, but are as far away from players on the other team as they can get.

and now for the sports (or at least the Cubs)

May 30, 2008 Leave a comment

Believe it friends. This is the year.

quote o the moment – 99 years of cub misery

March 29, 2008 Leave a comment

I can’t quote the whole thing, so I will just send you over to page 2 where they put together a season by season guide to the futility that is the Chicago Cubs over the past 99 years since their last World Series win.

 You can read the whole thing here.

From the black cat to Bartman, it’s all there. And it all still hurts.

But this is the year. . .