Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy

I've read Bill Simmons' running diary at ESPN.com of the first day of the NCAA tournament and there are some very funny bits in it and some stuff I don't get and some crude stuff - in other words, the usual. I did, however, notice a couple of revealing threads that kept running throughout the post. If something is praiseworthy, classy or even slightly "traditional" (Indiana's uniforms, Duke, Dick Enberg) Simmons despises and ridicules it. And something he or his drunk buddies or Borat says (or they say in a drunken Borat voice), then it's brilliant.

In other words, the average high school sophomore could have written the same.

When did ridicule and disdain become the gold standard for sports reporting?


Attention Please

Southern Seminary president Al Mohler comments on a problem we've known about for years:

"Just a few decades ago, educators and other observers were warning that the American attention span was growing dangerously short. Serious political debate had been sacrificed in favor of "sound bites." Educators reported that students had difficulty maintaining focus on a subject -- even for just a few minutes.
Well, it now looks like those minutes my be turning into seconds.
WIRED magazine reports that younger Americans now constitute a culture of media "snacking" and "bite size" entertainment. Apple Computer's iTunes service sells music by the song -- not just the album. YouTube and similar Internet sites offer films and movies that often last a minute or less."

And the fact that NFL football, NASCAR and pro wrestling have grown in popularity during the years of shortening attention spans is purely coincidental.


Eye of the Beholder

According to this story “cultural authorities” here in the states are engaged in a “comprehensive psychological war” against Iran. These comments from an Iranian official in response to the film "300", now enjoying big success in the States.

Comprehensive? As in coordinated? Who is alleged to be cooperating here? Hollywood and the Pentagon?


Who ever this “government spokeman” is, he has no clue whatsoever about what is going on in the United States.


2 for the Money

It is difficult, for some of us, to find movies worth our time and money, and, when you've got a theater nearby that runs them some weeks after release for $2.50, it increases the odds that we won't lay down between 7 and 9 dollars for the privilege. And I like movies. That said, I have seen two new films that were worth the price of admission.

Amazing Grace is the story of William Wilberforce's campaign to end the slave trade in the British Empire in the 18th century. Wilberforce fought this battle for decades at the expense of his popularity and health. He fought because it was right.

The Ultimate Gift is a "Hallmark"-style film involving a dead rich man, his estate, his greedy family, an estranged grandson, and a single mom whose adorable and precocious daughter has cancer. If you think it's predictable, well, you may be right - BUT - it is not shallow, it is not cheaply done and it'll get you (fist on chest) right here.

Both these films have references to Christian faith and the role that faith plays in driving the main characters. It is more obviously pronounced in Amazing Grace. Wilberforce is shown meeting his old pastor, John Newton, on multiple occasions. Newton, the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, was himself a former slave ship owner before his conversion to Christ. The film relays his famous quote, "I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior!" Amen.

If you need relentless action, nudity and crude language in order to be entertained then you'll want to skip these two movies. You can't handle them. If, on the other hand, you've a soul that needs nourishment and intellectual exercise, viewing either or both of these movies is time (and dollars) well-spent.



Saturday is my wife’s birthday.

She is the most selfless, caring and giving person that I know. I am a better person by a thousand times because she’s in my life.

The mercies of God show up in various ways, some obvious and some not nearly so. I think a marriage to a person like my wife is the best of both worlds. Her pretty features, her graceful hands are obvious. Her smile can light up a room. It’s true – I’m not just leaning on a familiar phrase. All these things are clearly evidence of God being kind to me. But just as real are qualities which are not as apparent. She is strong and vulnerable. She is intense and full of compassion. She will communicate precisely and question closely and I am a better thinker and communicator because of it. Her passion for God and His Word drives me – it’s a full time job to stay ahead of and “lead” a student of God such as she is. We have great kids and it’s largely due to the fact that they have a great mom – and she inspires me to be a better father.

Like all of the mercies of God that I do not deserve, I do not deserve her. And just as there are times I fail to properly honor, love and serve God, so I often fail to properly honor, love and serve her. But let’s not be confused – she is NOT God – but that’s where she’s from. And it’s good.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart

Rise and Shine

Thursday night I kept waking up with a notion of an idea for a story to write. Every time I awoke the germ of the idea was the same and I would drift off to sleep thinking, “That’s really good – I’ve got to write that.” I have heard you should keep a pad of paper and a pen by your bedside because your brain, ever working, never sleeping, will conjure incredibly creative ideas that should be written down or they’ll be lost. Ideas unencumbered by the day’s routine tasks or sights. I was hopeful that, since I keep no notepad by the bed, I would remember the idea because it was a good one and would be funny and insightful and almost write itself.

The morning came and I awoke, headed to the kitchen, drank some water and then headed to the shower. The brilliant idea returned and I began working it over and I realized, “This is so stupid – what was I thinking? Oh yeah, I wasn’t. I was half asleep.” Such a lame idea and I should write it down? How can it be true that some pizza-fueled figment of the dream world is worth writing down? This idea probably came from someone who had just woke up in the middle of the night. I’m thinking I should forget the notepad by the bed thing. You’re not supposed to be brilliant in the middle of the night. You’re supposed to sleep.

And the brilliant idea that kept recurring as I awoke? It was an imaginary conversation between Abraham Lincoln and Shaquille O’Neal. And like Abe wouldn’t know about basketball and stuff. And they could talk, you know, the Great Emancipator and the Diesel. And even though the lingo would be so different, they would still “connect”, man.



NBA and LaRussa

I often read Bill Simmons’ articles on ESPN.com’s Page 2. Simmons is very funny, though, he gets too crude for my taste frequently. (Eh, what can you do? I just click to something else. Ah, freedom!) But today he’s got a great bit about the poor Celtics. I have to admit I can’t imagine what it would take to get me to like the NBA again. (What to do today? Let’s see, make the NBA interesting to the casual sports fan or build a perpetual motion machine? Hmm . . . Hey! Bowling’s on!)

Anyway, there was a time when I was interested in the Celtics – all the Larry Bird years, natch - and sometime in the mid-70’s, though I don’t remember the exact years. Let’s just say I remember the ABA and I think it’s really too bad there isn’t a Buffalo Braves anymore and I remember an incredible 3 or 4 overtime game between the Celtics and the Suns in which a number of shots from somewhere between the circles kept going in at the end of several overtimes. What a game!

But that’s a while back and Boston hasn’t been too good lately, er, a long time. So Simmons is openly campaigning for the Celts to go in the tank the rest of the season so they can have the best chance at the number one pick in the NBA Draft. His running diary of Boston’s game with the Rockets is an attempt to jinx his team and snap them out of their (recent) winning ways.

He writes:
7:58 -- Has any athlete changed less over the past 15 years than Juwan Howard? He just drained a 15-footer -- throw some baggy shorts and a box haircut on him and I'd feel like we were watching the '93 NCAA Tournament. Remind me to find a place for him on the Tony La Russa All-Stars this year.

I’m sure it’s just an oversight, but they got LaRussa’s name wrong. It’s “WORLD CHAMPION ST. LOUIS CARDINALS manager Tony LaRussa”.

There. I just wanted to clear that up.

Otherwise, a good job outta you, Bill.