Monthly Archives: April 2013

How to be a Sports Fan: Lesson 3

This is a post I wrote for a friend’s blog that is also running today.  Check it out at The Greatest Blog of All Time.

I have been around sports for years.  I’m 28 now, and I remember waaaaaaay back when as a little kid playing T-Ball.  I don’t know when that was, but it was a long time ago.  I was never good at sports, but I have played, and probably more importantly, watched them for years.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of these years, it’s this:

In order to be a sports fan, you must overreact to everything.

This manifests itself in many different ways.  Fans do it, announcers do it, and talking heads do it.  And then after you overreact to everything, you have to get mad at ESPN for creating a culture in which we overreact to everything, essentially absolving yourself of any and all blame.

Make sense?  No?  Good.  Let’s look at it more specifically.

Fans Do It

This may be the easiest one to grasp.  Lose a game?  Fire the coach.  Win a game?  Sign him to a lifetime extension.  It’s really easy to do, and it honestly is a lot of fun.  It’s especially magnified in rivalry games.  A few years ago, my alma mater beat its in-state rival 45-0.  After the game, tons of fans (and I may or may not have been one of them) declared our rival program dead and poised to move up a tier in our conference and begin competing for conference championships.  Know what happened the next year?  We lost to our in-state rival, and the year after that (and the year following that) we lost to them again (making it 3 in a row) and went 3-9 and 2-10.  But you know what happened during that time period?  Our in-state rival won 3 rivalry games in a row and took over almost the exact same position we were in.  After a 31-3 beatdown last season, they had left us in the dust and weren’t ever looking back.  They were poised to compete for a conference championship.  Then…we beat them.

Another great example is recruiting.  I am admitting this as a full-blown recruiting addict.*  At times, recruiting overreaction borders on the creepy.  I read a message board post from a guy who had hired a sitter and was taking his wife out on a date to the bar that the recruits were visiting.  Maybe overreaction isn’t the right word for that, but it does deserve to be mentioned here.  On the flip side, when your rival school recruits well, overreaction gives you a great coping mechanism – they recruited well?  Well, they obviously bought the recruits cars or prostitutes or gave them hundreds of thousands of dollars.**

A third, and final, example, is Twitter.  Twitter is both the best thing in the world and the worst thing in the world.   There are many different ways you can go with this.  A recent example would be the Miami Heat’s win streak.  Miami won 27 games in a row, falling just short of the NBA’s all time record of 33 games in a row.  When the Chicago Bulls beat them, Twitter exploded.  The reality of the situation was that the Miami Heat, the best team in the NBA, won 27 games in a row and then lost to a really scrappy Bulls team who, despite some injuries, is a pretty good team.  If you read Twitter that night, though, Lebron James is the worst player in the world, the Heat suck, and the Bulls are great.  It’s really easy.

Announcers Do It

This one is more awesome.  All you have to do is watch any game Gus Johnson has ever called and you know this to be true.  And we LOVE Gus for it.

Craven and I spend a lot of time playing the NBA 2K series.  We’ll be playing, going back and forth, and one of us (usually Craven) will get a fast break and throw an alley-oop.  The announcers, though, will have a series something like this:

Announcer 1:  You know, last season, this team 16-10 at home.  They really need to…

*alley-oop thrown*

All the announces:  SOIEHGOWIEHFPIUWHEIUNWEOIWEOHEOIUFHWEOFHPWJEBV JDOIWEHFUIWBE IJBWDIUNWIUEB WUIEBF UWEBIUFBWE IUHG WOEIFOIWENCIUWEN CUIBWE UGWE IVE NEVER SEEN AN ALLEY OOP BEFORE

One of my favorite real-life examples of an announcer overreacting (an an example of clueless announcers) is in this video:

Now, overreacting is not always a bad thing.  Take this example, from this NBA season as well, of the Houston Rockets announcer:

This is a regular season NBA game in December, so it’s essentially meaningless.  BUT this announcer’s overreaction gave me one of my favorite sports phrases of all time.

Talking Heads Do It

So fans and announcers get a pass.  Fans often*** have invested much into their teams.  They attended school there, grew up going to games, whatever.  It runs deep.  Announcers are selling an experience, and they typically have the best seat in the house for the greatest moments.

But the talking heads (I’m looking at you, ESPN) are the worst, and they get no pass.  Every little thing is picked apart and analyzed and rash statements are made all the time.  I really don’t have to go back that far to find proof.  A couple of weeks ago, something bad happened to both Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant.  ESPN exploded.  And all of that happened before we got to the First Take cycle.****

Another example is how the analysts have talked about college basketball (and I’m guilty of this one too).  College basketball is being ruined, it’s losing viewership, and everything bad is happening.  Wait…what’s that?  This year’s NCAA tournament was the highest rated in years, and the national championship game was the most attended of all time, and it was a phenomenal game to boot?  You mean that maybe the sport isn’t ruined but these things just have a natural ebb and flow to them?

NO THE GAME SUCKS NOW COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS RUINED NO WAIT NOW IT’S SAVED FOREVER!!!!!!!!!

The problem is, and I’m cutting it short because it’s getting wordy at this point, ESPN does these things because we, the fans, watch it.  We vote in all the stupid polls they run, we contribute to the madness.  So, in theory, if we want it to stop, we should just stop.

But we don’t, because we love sports too much.

Which isn’t a bad thing.  But I have to end this – today’s round of NBA games just ended and I have to go Tweet about how this is the [insert best/worst here] playoffs in history and how the game is being destroyed.

*My recruiting addiction goes like this – I start to get the urge to read everything written about it around August.  I largely ignore it, just taking a look here or there once or twice a week.  By October, I am all in.  Come February, I am eating, drinking, and breathing recruiting (and college basketball), and the day after signing day, I collapse into a post-recruiting haze, swearing it off forever until August rolls back around, then the cycle repeats.  It’s vicious.  

**These are ridiculous assumptions unless you’re talking about Miami or Cam Newton.

***I say often because Alabama fans exist.  If you know any Alabama fans, they probably aren’t from Alabama, didn’t go to school there, and can’t name you a single Alabama football coach besides Bear Bryant and Nick Saban.  And if you told them “hey, Alabama has a pretty good softball team, too!” (which they do) they would look at you and say “ROLL TIDE what’s softball again? ROLL TIDE”

****First Take is the worst thing to ever happen to television.

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I Will Survive

For the second Saturday in a row, I did it.

I survived.

I made it through a Saturday without either of the college sports I care so deeply about.

Summers tend to get long and boring (but really who can get bored 6 weeks from their wedding?), and I’ll hit withdrawal at some point when the weather gets really hot, but for now, I’ve made it two weeks.

I deserve a medal.

Pre-Emptive Thoughts on Boring Christianity

Two things to start – First, this blogging weekly thing is hard.  I finally got Internet in the house, only to be swamped by tons of schoolwork and a quick trip to the Final Four.  Second, this is a pre-emptive response/commentary on my friend Joseph’s post(s) on boring Christianity.  He let me read it early, and it’s awesome.  It says so many things I wish I could say to some of my friends and family.  I don’t know when he’s going to post it, but it’s good.

Growing up, I went to a “contemporary” church.  I didn’t really know any different, so it was fine.  But as I grew up, I’d go to other churches – particularly my grandparents churches – and I was bored.  The people were old, the music was slow, and nobody clapped.  I went to youth group at First Pres (I think it was called Insight?) one time, though, and somebody sang the hymn “When All Thy Mercies” but played it on a guitar and in a more upbeat way.  I would later go on to find out it was an “RUF song” (which basically means an old hymn set to new, folksy sounding music), and through RUF songs, fall in love with hymns.

That’s my story of how I became to love hymns.  But this isn’t really about hymns (although I am mulling over doing an entire post on them), it’s about “boring” Christianity vs. “entertaining” or “contemporary” Christianity.  I’ve heard people complain about worship styles on every side of the spectrum.  Comments from “I don’t see how anyone could sing old hymns with just an organ” to “all they do is repeat the same seven words eleven times to four chords on an acoustic guitar” to “why is that guy playing a guitar solo in the middle of a worship service?”

And it’s an age old debate.  I love that book of the Bible where Peter and Paul are discussing worship styles and which ones work and how traditional hymns are so much better than praise son…wait…that’s not in the Bible.

This whole “worship style” debate is American Christianity at its worst.  There are “traditional” services and “contemporary” services and “blended” services and “cowboy” churches and “farmer” churches and…you get the idea. “Hillsong is awesome!”  “No way, give me John Wesley’s hymns all day!” “But this new Jesus Culture* album is incredible!” “But what about the Gadsby Hymnal?”

It’s the worst because we, as American Christians, have gotten bored with the Gospel.  It is the greatest story ever told, and if true, changes everything.  I mean, we are bored with this story:  God created man, man sinned against God, God undertook a plan throughout all of history to save man, God became man, Jesus lived a perfect life, Jesus died a sinner’s death, Jesus rose from the dead, and the world was changed.  And now he sits at the right hand of God the Father, actively ruling and reigning over his kingdom.

And we’re bored with that.

The apostles didn’t write a lot on worship styles.  Why they didn’t do this is pure speculation, but I think part of it is because they were concerned that people were going to break into their house, throw them in jail, and feed them to lions.  So they probably felt like they had important things to write about.

We, on the other hand, have to deal with the horrors of the national media labeling our favorite fast food restaurant homophobic.  So our situation, as American Christians, is pretty similar to that of the apostles.

Except that it’s not.  We have the audacity (and “I” am included in that “we”) to get bored with the Gospel.  And since we’re bored with the Gospel, worship becomes entertainment.

This has happened for a lot of reasons, I’m sure.  We’ve devalued preaching.  We don’t face any kind of persecution.  We don’t take sin seriously.  Our attention spans have become shorter (seriously – Vine is an app that gives six seconds of video.  That’s all we got now).  There are a ton of reasons, but whatever the reason is, it’s messed up.

I have been there before.  I’ve been frustrated and bored with the church.  I bought into the whole “I’m Christian, but I don’t really do the church thing” lie for a while, mostly because I was bored.  Then I read the Bible.  I mean…really read the Bible.  I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t read the Bible all the way through, beginning to end, until about 4 years ago.  That totally changed me.

The point is simply this – worship is not entertainment.  It’s for edification, education, and most importantly, glorifying God.  Sometimes it’s not going to fit into whatever musical style we like, but that’s okay.  Maybe sometimes the words are hard to understand or archaic.  There are bad hymns and good hymns.  There are bad worship songs and good worship songs.  But don’t miss the incredible truth of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” just because the musical styling isn’t what you hear on the radio.  Don’t listen to “Crown Him With Many Crowns” unmoved because it doesn’t sound like a U2 cover band.  But at the same time, don’t ignore a song like “How He Loves Us” because “rock music isn’t your thing.”  I could go on, but I won’t.

What we do, when we get “bored” with worship, is we put entertainment over truth.  And while we get bored with it, people in other countries are being thrown in jail and killed for their faith.

I think there’s a lot to be said about content.  That’s where this discussion needs to be aimed.  Because style…that’s just unimportant.

 

*I think it needs to be said that the name “Jesus Culture” is stupid and possibly a violation of the Third Commandment.

Quick Easter Post…

Again, due to lack of Internet accessibility, this should have run 3/29 in preparation for Easter. But I have Internet now, so I should be caught up.  Joy of joys!

This Keller quote is one of my favorites:

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”

Timothy Keller

He is risen indeed.

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I am Marshall Henderson

Finally have Internet at the house – this post should have run 3/22.  

Even in the off chance you paid attention to MPSA basketball in the early 2000s, you missed my basketball career.  It was the definition of unnoticeable – while I was on the varsity squad, I averaged less than a minute a game, and got more minutes than other stats (with the exception of fouls – I once played only the fourth quarter of a game and almost fouled out).  My intramural career also began in high school as the coach of the illustrious Jacktown Smackdown dynasty.  It wasn’t really a dynasty, but we did win a championship our senior year, and it is to date the greatest accomplishment of my basketball career.

I didn’t play much because I wasn’t very good.  That’s easy enough to understand.  I was a Forward/Center and I was 6’2″ and weighed about 170 lbs.  So what that should tell you is that I was really, really slow and uncoordinated, because 6’2″ 170 is a good size for a guard.  But I was a center.  So there’s that.

I also had a terrible attitude.  To this day, I think one of the biggest blessings the Lord gave me was making me bad at sports.  I argued with refs, talked trash to other players, celebrated obnoxiously.  I threw a punch in a game and also threw a ball at another player (two separate games).  I got ejected from multiple intramural games at Ole Miss and even got banned from intramural basketball for a season (it was for arguing with a ref.  I didn’t hit anybody or anything).  When I think about every fight I ever got in throughout high school, it probably involved basketball in some way.  And people probably should have seen it coming – I got nicknamed “little Rodman” in church league basketball one year because all I did was rebound and have a bad attitude.

Simply put, I was a punk on the basketball court.  I loved the game, I loved my school, and I wasn’t afraid to let anyone know it.  My love for sports message boards even started then as I found a board that discussed Mississippi high school sports, and I would regularly mix it up with old guys I’d never met to defend my high school.

I quit playing basketball in any organized fashion for a while, until I got on a church league team in Madison three years ago.  I kept myself under control, but quit because I could feel that part of me coming back.  Basketball (and I guess in a sense competition in general) has that effect on me.

On the other hand, if you paid attention to sports at all this year, you know the name Marshall Henderson.  He’s the brash, gunslinging guard who happens to play for my alma mater.  He talks a lot, scores a lot, and occasionally does stupid stuff that pisses everyone off.  So basically he’s just like me except that he’s good at basketball.  Yeah, he has a rough past, but as far as anyone knows, during his time in Oxford he’s kept himself out of trouble.

He’s become a bit of a media circus.  A Tennessee 247 writer (which, to be clear on something, I have a hard time taking a lot of 247, Scout, and Rivals writers seriously, because too many of them – though not all – are nothing more than glorified cheerleaders) whined about him for a full day after he dropped 30 on them in Knoxville (the same writer remained noticeably silent when people commented on how personable Henderson was and how he always made a point to shake hands with the other team and coaches).  Gregg Doyel, also a hack, took up a campaign against him.  Some New York Times writer (don’t remember his name) included him in a piece that was pretty much just crying over kids having fun playing basketball.  Seriously, the guy complained about the FGCU players shaking hands with Reggie Miller after a game.

And let me be clear – the criticism isn’t entirely unwarranted.  Like I said, he’s brash.  He’s cocky.  And in an era, especially in sports, where nothing is good enough, of course he’s going to be blasted.  And I really do wish he’d tone some of it down – but if he sticks around in Oxford for another season, and stays out of real trouble, I can take the good with the bad.

All this is to say – I get why people don’t like it.  I get why opposing fans boo him and all that stuff.  But I also get why he does what he does.

I don’t know where I’m even really going with this.  I’m aware I probably wouldn’t like him if he didn’t play for Ole Miss.  Maybe that makes me a hypocrite.  But I also feel like criticizing a guy for getting a second chance (or third, or fourth…whatever) and handling talent and fame way better than I ever could also makes me a hypocrite.

Plus, we just won an SEC Tournament championship for the first time in my life, so that has to count for something.