Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Great Debate – Jordan vs. James

Opening note – this post is a week late.  Last week was “Jordan Week,” which was a week long celebration of Michael Jordan’s career for his 50th birthday.  I, however, decided to write about how much I hate baseball.  Which also would have been topical during Jordan Week because the worthless sport of baseball kept MJ from winning a couple more championships.  Oh, missed opportunities.

I was born in 1985, which was one year after Michael Jordan began his professional basketball career.  I was six years old when he, and the Chicago Bulls, won their first NBA championship and began a three-peat.  I watched the Dream Team in 1992, and had a poster of them on my wall (which made meeting David Robinson in person last year one of the coolest moments of my life, but that’s for another time).  I was crushed when he announced he was leaving the Bulls to play professional baseball, but was ecstatic when he announced his return in 1995.  95-96, 96-97, and 97-98 were probably the highlight of my basketball fanhood.

Michael Jordan was my favorite basketball player during a period when sports heroes still meant something (to me, anyway).  Guys like Reggie White, John Elway, Ken Griffey Jr., and the combination of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux (yeah, I used to like baseball) were up there on my list of sports heroes, but none compared to MJ.  I mean, Space Jam still is one of my favorite movies.  I’m serious.  A movie where Michael Jordan saves the cartoon world is still, to this day, one of my favorite movies.

I graduated high school in 2003.  My senior year, during basketball season, we were talking about this kid in Ohio named Lebron James that was surely going to go straight to the NBA from high school.  His games were on ESPN.  Regular season high school basketball games, on ESPN.  I don’t remember it that well, but I’m pretty sure that was ridiculous at the time.

Lebron has lived up to the hype.  He made a terrible team into a very good team, leading the awful Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA finals one year.  He’s had highlight after highlight, and has become the face of the NBA.  Not bad for a guy my age.

But Lebron James is one of the most hated athletes in professional sports.  Even before “The Decision,” people were down on the guy.  And, hey, I’m not here to defend him.  He doesn’t need it.  But haters gonna hate, and hate they did.  “The Decision” happened and hate for King James reached an all time high.  (“The Decision” – you know, that time Lebron announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” and then gave like $6 million to charity?  What a jerk).

Then last season, he won an NBA championship, as well as his second Olympic gold medal, and it seemed like the hate died down some.  Then this year the guy took his game to a ridiculous level.  He is destroying people right now.

But I’m not here to debate who was better (yes, this is a misleading blog title, but so was my last one).  I’ve just been fascinated with the almost uncritical love for Jordan and the completely irrational hate for Lebron (unless you’re a Cavs fan.  But if you’re a Cavs fan, we all just feel sorry for you anyway).  Why is this?

One reason might be because the eras are just different.  In the 13 or so years since Jordan retired (and no, the Wizard years don’t count), the culture of sports has changed.  Seemingly every athlete has some major character flaw in there somewhere that was bad enough to make us question everyone.  And like I said – MJ was my hero when sports heroes were big deals.  I mean, seriously, he made Space Jam.  But we all do that.  Our generation’s stuff is always better than the next generation’s stuff.  Listen to your parents, or older siblings, talk about music, or TV, or movies.  And then look at the crap the next generation is mindlessly consuming (Twilight….seriously?).

Another reason, and I think the main reason, is the Internet has caused cynicism to grow and grow and grow.  Just think if Jordan had played in the Twitter era.  Imagine if Jordan’s flaws (and there were many) were as scrutinized as  much as Lebron’s.  Twitter and the blogosphere were, at one time, designed to have fun and keep up with people and news, but now it’s just devolved into being cynical about everything.  I know because I’m a part of it.  But that’s another post for another day.

The Jordan/James debate boils down to this – championships.  I don’t think that’s an entirely fair thing to solely base greatness on, but the OMG JORDAN WON SIX LEBRON HASN’T WON ANY ONLY WON ONE is the default answer to the argument every time.  And that part of the debate won’t be resolved until Lebron’s career ends.  Maybe he’ll get to six.  Maybe more.  Dude’s playing the best basketball of his life right now, and it’s hard to see anyone but himself slowing him down any time soon.

But regardless of who’s better, I’m glad to say I got to see two of the greatest basketball players in the history of the world play during my lifetime.

And that Michael Jordan saved Bugs Bunny and co.

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A Life Well Lived

This is a rare week.  Two posts!  But this one is more important that what will come out tomorrow.

This week, my grandmother Ruth Evelyn Rowlen went to be with Jesus.  I’m not sure exactly how old she was – full disclosure, I can’t ever remember how old anyone is.  I have to continually remind myself that I’m 27, and I know my parents are in their mid-50s.  That’s all I got.

But this has been a strange experience.  She has been in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s for the last several years, and even before that things were deteriorating.  So I can’t say that it’s a sad time.  I mean, there definitely is an aspect of sadness to it, but it feels much more like relief.  Alzheimer’s is a terrifying disease, because it completely debilitates you.  And knowing that my grandmother loved the Lord, it made me long to see her relief finally come.  And it has.  Death, where is your victory?  Where is your sting?  It is but a release into the actual, physical, real presence of our Lord.  And that’s amazing.

But the thing about death, and especially the death of a believer, is that it brings about a time of remembrance.  I have really enjoyed sitting with my family, playing with all the kids, and hearing my dad, my uncle, and my aunts tell funny stories – stuff I never even knew.

I see our family, I see the people that my grandmother impacted, and tonight I’ll meet a bunch of people who I’ve never seen before but they’ll insist the knew me when I was *this* tall.  And maybe they did know me back then.  I wouldn’t know any different.  But I’m thankful for the opportunity to tangibly see what my grandmother meant to people.

We’ve kind of known this was coming for a while now.  Especially in the last 2 weeks or so.  And since then, the last verse to the hymn “Jesus I My Cross Have Taken” has been stuck in my head.  It’s such a beautiful picture of what death actually is, for those in Christ. So I’ll leave you with it:

Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Faith to sight.  Prayer to praise.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Baseball Is Awesome

It’s February.  That means, for Mississippians, Spring is in the air.  Our week and a half of winter is over, and brisk morning temperatures are giving way to very pleasant afternoons.  We’ll get another cold snap or two, but we’re pretty much diving headfirst into Spring right now.  And Spring is probably my favorite season, so I’m excited.

Spring means many things, and from a sports fan perspective, it means a lot of good things.  Recruiting, spring football, and the greatest spectacle in all of sports:  MARCH MADNESS.  From a simply Mississippian perspective, it means the most beautiful weather you’ve ever seen anywhere and an excuse to be outside as much as possible.  Really, Mississippi springtime is an amazing time.  From mid-February until June (when I get married, btw), it’s just awesome to do stuff outside.

But this time of year isn’t perfect.  My Twitter feed has been blowing up with warnings of a coming disaster.  A disaster some people are actually excited about.

That disaster is baseball*.

College baseball, pro baseball, high school baseball…it’s terrible.

Yeah, I know it’s “America’s Pastime” or whatever.  And I live in Braves country (which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it is what it is), so things are pretty baseball crazy down here.  But I just can’t do it.

I grew up playing baseball and basketball (I didn’t even have football available to me until sixth grade, but I couldn’t play because I had a broken foot when the season started).  I loved both, but liked basketball more.  Baseball in the summer, basketball in the winter.  Baseball was just a part of being a Mississippi kid.

But I grew to hate baseball for a couple of reasons.  By eighth grade, I had become “that kid” – you know, the one who always unluckily finds himself getting hit with things?  I was going up against really, really good players (a couple of guys are in the minors, and one was a hometown super-hero who had a great football career at Mississippi State and bounced around the NFL for a few years).  But these really good players always happened to have their worst nights when they played my team.  I vividly remember playing the team who had the best pitcher in the league.  I think he was in ninth grade, but he was already getting some looks for college ball.  Whatever is considered “hard” for a ninth grade pitcher, he threw harder than that.  And the night we played him, he just so happened to be having control problems.  As I went up to bat, I remember my coach telling me to “just stay in there,” which we all know means “you’re about to get hit.”  And sure enough, I got drilled with a fastball on my left shoulder.  I was on the ground, writhing in pain, wondering “WHY?????” in my mind.

This same coach, who was a great guy, started trying to convince me to play baseball year-round.  Year-round?  For baseball?  No.  It would cut into basketball season and…just no.  “Fall Ball” is the single worst thing that has ever been invented.  I quit shortly thereafter, and except for one more rec league season with some friends in a different league, my baseball career was over.

Fast forward a few years to college.  I was neck deep in my relatively newfound love affair with all things Ole Miss, and as a freshman, I wandered over to Swayze Field at Ole Miss to catch a college baseball game.  For the next 2 and a half years, I was hooked.  I spent many a spring afternoon skipping class and watching baseball.  I spent many weekends camped out at Swayze, watching baseball and taking in the “scenery” (I mean, come on.  As a single college sophomore – to – senior on a campus that claims to “redshirt Miss Americas,” where else was I gonna go?)

But something bad happened.  I got emotionally invested in a sport I hated.  My roommates and I had a season where I think we only missed 2 regular season home games.  We went to regional games and Super Regional games.  But you know what happened?

Ole Miss happened.  WAOM (if you have to ask, you probably wouldn’t understand) moments happened more in baseball than any other sport, and old white dudes made excuse after excuse for why we weren’t getting it done.  And I found myself getting angrier and angrier over a sport I hated.

So I quit.  Two years ago, I quit caring about college baseball (I have never cared about pro baseball.  I collected cards as a kid, but I wasn’t really that interested in the game).

It makes this time of year so much more pleasant.  I couldn’t tell you the first thing about anything college baseball related for the last few years.  And just to put some perspective on that, I could tell you about the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (never played soccer).  I could tell you about the Masters (or golf).  Or Wimbledon (nope, never played tennis either).  I could tell you about Olympic swimming (did swim team for a year but quit when I realized doing a cannonball to start a race was not a good strategy).

Nope, I’m no longer emotionally invested, nor interested at all, in college baseball.  Or professional baseball.  Yeah, I’ll occasionally go to a minor league game (and a MLB game if I’m close enough), but for the promotions (seriously – hot dogs for $1?  Thirsty Thursdays?)  But I can’t tell you a single thing that’s happened in any one of the games (although there’s a pretty funny story about pictures of kittens being the cure for the pain and embarrassment of getting hit with a foul ball).

I don’t have any facts as to why I think baseball is terrible.  I know I think it’s boring (and that’s not even that big of a deal to me – I love watching the Spurs play), it’s a bad TV sport, there are way too many games, those games are too long, and MLB is more stacked against small market teams than any other sport.  “Baseball guys” are more and more out of touch with the sports world in general.  Even the World Series has picked up a feeling of “meh…” in the last few years.  I’m not even that bothered by steroids.

No, baseball just sucks.

Which actually makes baseball, because it’s exactly what I need to detox from 8-10 months of caring about sports, awesome.

*My disdain for baseball, for some reason, excludes the Little League World Series.  That is some good TV right there.

Confessions… (pt. I)

I need to confess something.

It won’t surprise anyone, because everyone has known for a while.  I just haven’t admitted it.

I try to deny it, explain it away, or rationalize it, but I can’t anymore.

I have to be honest with people.  With myself.

I am addicted to college football recruiting.

I’m probably the worst kind of college football recruiting addict, too, because I try to act like I’m better than other types of college football recruiting addicts.  I make fun of the guys who follow recruits on Twitter* (but I know all their handles so I just periodically check their accounts).  I laugh at the people who read through recruits’ comment section on Instagram (OK – that one is too weird for me).  I think it’s ridiculous that people, grown men, would go to a college bar where the recruits are hanging out to watch them interact with the town (but in reality, I’d at least drop by if I didn’t live 3 hours away).

Yep.  That’s me.  I try to act like I’m above it all, but I’m really not.

National Signing Day was this past Wednesday.  All day long, high school football players announced where they would be playing their college ball, and despite my best efforts, I watched the entire thing.  I was up at 6:30 in the morning to watch ESPNU as Robert Nkemdiche, the #1 player in the nation, and finally turned it off sometime after lunch when most of the good stuff was over and I had important stuff to do anyway.

Every year, after signing day, I tell myself “I’m done.”  My team never gets the guys we hoped we would get, and the other guys get all the big names.  But the crazy thing about this year is that we got the big names!  It was very exciting.

But, in all honesty, it’s probably the worst thing that could have happened to me.  I legitimately was burned out on it.  I had quit paying attention for a while.  But then, this year, just about everything went the way I had hoped.  It’s like when you’re sitting at a blackjack table, and you’ve had an awful run of luck, and then you win a hand and BOOM you’re hooked again.  Not winning, just hooked.

So I am writing this post to go ahead and confess it – I’m a recruiting junkie, and that’s probably not going to change any time soon.  I’m going to continue to read the message boards and continue to “not care” what recruits put on Twitter.  Next year, on the first Wednesday of February, I’ll wake up at 6 am and do it all over again.

My name is Chandler, and I am addicted to college football recruiting.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some rising seniors names to learn.

*Anyone, and I mean anyone, who is not in college who tweets at a high school football player is pathetic.

Hash Tag Activism

If you know me, you know I am not a fan of the Passion Conference.  I’m not anti-Passion, but I’m not a fan.  It’s like, say, the New England Patriots.  I don’t hate them, but I don’t go out of my way to watch them unless something really interesting is happening (like, say, Tom Brady being on my fantasy team).  I’ve never been, I have no desire to go, but I’d probably go if I needed to or had a free ticket (even though I have some other theological concerns).

Also, if you know me, you know I am a huge fan of Twitter.  I love Twitter.  There are many reasons why, but one such reason is because I have a pretty short attention span.  Twitter is the perfect venue for that.  But I love Twitter.

It seems that Twitter and Passion were made perfectly for one another.

Last year, Passion decided it would take up the cause to fight human trafficking.  This is a GREAT move and is a major problem in our world today.  (By the way – if you are interested in organizations fighting human trafficking in the United States, check out Night Light International.  One of my best friends works for them and they can always use support!)  Passion is to be commended for bringing this issue to the forefront and at least making people aware that this kind of stuff is going on, often times in our own backyard.

So everybody went to Passion and got a little crazy for Jesus.  They sang, they heard some preachers, and they went to family groups.  All week, though, the charge was on – they were “in it to end it.”  It was the #enditmovement or something.  Which, again, let me stress that raising awareness is a good thing.  People need to know that these things are happening.

But as G.I. Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.”

When I was in college, the Invisible Children movement started.  This was a movement to raise awareness about the terrible tragedy that is an ongoing thing in Uganda.  Kids are being abducted and forced into slavery and fighting for the Lord’s Resistance Army.  Invisible Children was a documentary made about these atrocities, and it was shown on college campuses across the country.

The IC group at Ole Miss had a few other events.  Namely, one where they all spent the night in the Grove to “raise awareness.”

What do these things have in common?

It seems like now activism is limited to the “raising awareness” stage.  Everybody gets all fired up about “ending it” whether it’s slavery or whatever else, but we don’t move past it.

And look – I know this sounds like I am being self-righteous.  It needs to be said that I am bad, bad, bad at this.  I try to keep my Twitter feed on the lighter side, and I make attempts to be funny more than I attempt to change the world.

The thing I, and pretty much everyone else my age or younger, need to understand is that the world isn’t simply changed by awareness.  Yes, a light needs to be shined on injustice.  Yes, these terrible things happening in the world need to be announced and discussed.  But we can’t stop there.  We can’t just hash tag something and the next day, pretend like it never happened.

We have to do something.

Not every single one of us is called to every specific injustice.  By that I mean that not every single person is called to move to another city or country and fight hunger, slavery, or whatever else.  What we are called to do is care for our neighbors, widows, and orphans, and to follow God’s will.  Some people are uniquely equipped to do specific things.  Some people do have that burning heart for foreign missions, or whatever else.

But we are all called…no…commanded to pray (part of praying “thy kingdom come” is praying that God’s kingdom, God’s righteous and just reign, will be present here on earth).  We are all commanded to be generous.

This is pretty much just a roundabout way of urging myself and others to go beyond awareness – beyond “hash tag activism” – and do something.  “Something” can mean a lot of different things, but it does not mean anything less than prayer.  The Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, the Old Testament Law, and the New Testament letters are all concerned with the oppressed and enslaved.

The old adage “all it takes for evil to exist is for good men to do nothing” comes to my mind.  But in a lot of ways, this feels worse than “good” people doing nothing.  This feels like us doing nothing, but patting ourselves on the back for doing something.

We, as people, can’t just hash tag something for a week and move on.  I’m pretty sure that’s not how this works.