A Hole You Could Drive A Terra Nova Through

Upfront disclaimer: I have never once watched an episode of the program "Terra Nova". I have no idea if it is worth my time or not. Until now, I have chosen not to seek it out. I did find Gregg Easterbrook's observations about the holes in the program's plot to be amusing. Here's one -

"For that matter when the mercenaries of a Generic All-Powerful Evil Corporation come back to the past to seize booty, they had no reason to materialize outside the Terra Nova colony and go to war with its noble soldiers. The mercenaries could have used the time machine to materialize before Terra Nova was built, then grabbed whatever they wanted at their leisure. Instead they traveled backward in time to the only point in millions of years when they would be opposed by force."

 Time machine owners! If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!


It's How You Play

From Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com -

"Everybody wants turnovers -- but luck with them can make you seem better than you are, while lack of luck with turnovers can show who you are. Good teams win regardless of turnovers, while pretenders rely on turnover luck. On the season the Pittsburgh Steelers are minus-12 for turnovers, while the Seahawks are plus-seven and the Bills plus-four. Which of these three teams would you least like to play?"

We here at Central Standard are Seahawks backers, but even we have to admit the answer to Easterbrook's question is the Steelers. After years of listening to network announcers on NFL broadcasts, one would assume you have to win the turnover battle to be a good team. Easterbrook's counter-intuitive observation challenges that. This is one reason his articles are so enjoyable.


Ex-Thieves, Ex-Murderers, Ex-Atheists Like Us

Russell Moore commenting on the death of Christopher Hitchens:

"I don’t know about Christopher Hitchens, about what happened in those last moments, but I do know that, if he had embraced it, the gospel would be enough for him. I know that because it’s enough for me, and I’m as deserving of hell as he is.

Hell is real and judgment is certain. The gospel comes with a warning that it will one day be too late. But, as long as there is breath, it is not yet too late. Perhaps Christopher Hitchens, like so many before him, persisted in his rebellion to the horror of the very end. But maybe not. Maybe he stopped his polemics and cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

I don’t know. But I do know that the gospel offers forgiveness and mercy right to the edge of death’s door. And I know that the kingdom of God is made up of ex-thieves, and ex-murderers, and ex-atheists like us."

The whole article.


Wait For The Lord

"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever." Psalm 125:1

"Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." Isaiah 30:18


Hurry, November 2012

"We are afflicted with an administration that either doesn't understand the first thing about economic growth, or believes that it serves some higher purpose to suppress it. November 2012 can't come soon enough." - John Hinderaker, Powerline blog


Me And Bobby V

Had I been writing the lede for an article on the Boston Red Sox' hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager, I would have been tempted to say something like, "Orel Hershiser's analysis on ESPN's baseball broadcasts will no longer be obscured."

I noticed in October how much I enjoyed Hershiser's comments and wished I could hear him more and how much I wanted to hear Valentine's comments less. Well, now my wish has been granted and they will no longer be paired in the broadcast booth because Valentine has the manager gig in Boston and will be, presumably, otherwise occupied.

In fairness to Valentine he is brilliant. All the articles I read about his hire have relayed how he always had insights to the game that the writer was impressed with. So, this isn't to slam Valentine as much as it is to say I'm glad to hear Hershiser more.

Having said all that, I do appreciate Valentine's honest and thoughtful approach, and his fairness. I got to see this aspect of his character personally a few years ago.

When we lived in Ft. Worth, the first job I got was as an assistant to the Sports Director of a Christian radio station, KCBI. My job was to go out and about and get comments for air on drive time sports reports. It was summer and so I generally went to Arlington Stadium (the old one) to interview Rangers players. I know baseball best and so it seemed natural.

One morning I heard Valentine on Norm Hitzges' show and they were talking about an article that appeared in USA Today about Christian baseball players. The article had to do with the question of whether or not Christianity sapped some of the competitive fire from an athlete. (Obviously the writer had never seen church league softball.) Valentine addressed this question saying something to the effect that he had not seen where Christians were less competitive than others, and that big contracts were just as likely to make a guy complacent as anything.

Later that day I was at the ballpark and had a chance to speak to Valentine, who was managing the Rangers. We talked about the upcoming homestand and this and that. And then I commented that I was from a Christian station and I appreciated his views I had heard earlier in the day. I don't recall his exact words (it's been 20 years!), but he said something simple like, "that's how I see it," and left me with the impression that he just honestly reported what he saw, and wasn't necessarily interested in advocating for one side or the other.

This kind of unvarnished honesty may just be what the Red Sox need, though it won't win him popularity contests with some of his players. It is clear that things began to slide in Boston and Bobby's job will be to right the ship. And it's the sort of job that shortens a tenure. It will be interesting to see how soon the nerves get frayed. I wish him well, but it won't be easy.

In Your Distress

"In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me." Psalm 120:1

When in distress, call to the Lord. Distresses come in all shapes and sizes. Some may be manageable; some may be unmanageable. There is an Almighty God Who stands outside of and beyond Creation and He Who spoke it all into existence can smooth out any distress by a word. (by saying God is outside and beyond, I don't mean to suggest He is removed or detached, but simply that He is greater) Honor Him by calling on Him in times of trouble for He is able enough, good enough, supreme enough to fix it. No one else is.

Where you and I turn in times of trouble reveals who, or what, we consider to be our god.


Afflicted, That I Might Learn

"Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, . . . " Psalm 119:1-2

Father, my seeking has been sporadic and even absent at times. I am weary of living like an unbeliever. I want to live like a Christian man. Give me whole-hearted seeking. (Psa. 119:10)

"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces." (Psa. 119:71-72)


The Law of the Lord Is Perfect

I don't know how many times I will have to be reminded of this. You would think that a guy who has walked with the Lord for a while, as I have, and has been reminded repeatedly about the weakness of his own flesh, as I have, would not have any trouble remembering this thing that I repeatedly wander away from. Here it is as stated by George Mueller:

"I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished . . . . I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it."

Instead, I go other places the first thing in the morning, filling my mind with trouble and trivia, when my soul is longing to feast on real and satisfying food. Oh, wretched man that I am! The psalmist describes the preciousness of God's Word like this:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19 ESV)


Pop Culture

I recently saw a Dr. Pepper commercial that featured some singer doing his glamorous thing. It was clear that the assumption was the target audience would know who this star is and, knowing it, would be compelled to consume Dr. Pepper by the tanker truck load. Clearly, I am not in this demographic. Oh, I like Dr. Pepper just fine. But I don't have Clue One who the singer is.

And this made me think of my dad.

When I was but a child, Coca-Cola produced a commercial that really resonated with the young folks. So much so that many of you, based on this very general description, know precisely what commercial I'm talking about. In the ad, hundreds of young people of many nationalities and ethnic groups were standing in a field and singing about buying everyone in the whole world a Coke. I know I was eager to have a Coke bought for me. One time this ad was running when my dad was in the room and he made some remark about the song they were singing. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was evident that he didn't know that it was a real song that had been adapted for Coke. My older sister and I were mortified that DAD DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS A REAL SONG! What was he doing with his time for heaven's sake? You know, besides working 40-60 hours a week, working on our car, working on the house, attending meetings at the office, and meetings at the church, mowing the grass, raking the leaves, shoveling the snow, and visiting his parents and his in-laws weekly and some other stuff.

Like my dad, I have come to learn that there is just no time for everything and one of the things I have largely let go of is awareness of current popular culture, i.e., the People magazine beat. I watch precisely one TV program, I listen to old music and most of the books I read are not current. I like stuff that stands the test of time.

Stuff like buying the world a Coke.


Alou And Forsch

When I heard about Matty Alou, I was sad.

From FoxNews.com: Matty Alou, once part of an all-Alou outfield for the San Francisco Giants with brothers Felipe and Jesus, died Thursday in his native Dominican Republic. He was 72. 

A two-time All-Star, Alou became the 1966 National League batting champion with the Pirates when he hit .342. He spent his first six years with San Francisco from 1960-65 and also played for St. Louis, Oakland, the New York Yankees and San Diego.

"Although he played for six different teams, Matty remained a part of the Giants family as a longtime employee and will be forever linked with his brothers, Felipe and Jesus, - as the first all-brother major league outfield," the Giants said.

Being somewhat of a baseball buff, I knew about the three Alou boys starting in the same outfield in a major league game, but this next tidbit was news to me.

From CSNBayArea.com: Felipe, Matty, and Jesus Alou were each the first batter to ever come to the plate in a brand new stadium. Two of these events happened just one month apart!

On April 12, 1966, the Atlanta Braves opened Fulton County Stadium with a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The leadoff hitter for the Pirates that day was Matty Alou.

One month later, the St. Louis Cardinals unveiled Busch Stadium, and the visitors were the Braves. Batting first, Felipe Alou.

In 1969, the expansion San Diego Padres had their first game in San Diego Stadium. The Houston Astros were their first opponent, and Jesus Alou led off the game.


When I heard about Bob Forsch, I was shocked.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Bob Forsch, the only Cardinal to pitch two no-hitters and the third-winningest pitcher in franchise history, died Thursday at his home near Tampa, Fla., less than a week after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Game 7 of the World Series in St. Louis.

He was one of 30 players to have pitched two no-hit games in the major leagues and, with his brother, Ken, a part of the only brother combination to toss no-hitters.

I don't have anything to add - I didn't know these men, but still it seems too soon and too sudden, especially in the case of Forsch. It kinda feels like I knew them. Probably because I've got these -

Alou's cards are 1965, '68, and '72; Forsch's are '75, '78, and '80


LaRussa Retires

The top story today, in the opinion of the Central Standard, is the retirement of Tony LaRussa.  My isssues with LaRussa's style of play have been well-documented. I have always preferred the pressing, running, bunting style of Whiteyball that the Cards played in the 80's to Tony's American League approach with big hitters playing station-to-station, waiting for somebody to deliver the big hit.

But regardless of style, there's no questioning LaRussa's success. He's third in all-time victories as a manger, he has six pennants and 3 World Series championships. He revolutionized the way bullpens are used in baseball today. He is probably the greatest manager of his era. And in 5 years or so he will be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

And this year, as it appeared he had mellowed a bit, as I became more comfortable with his approach and its obvious success, he probably turned in his best performance. The Cardinals' journey to and through the postseason has been well-documented, and it mustn't be forgotten, for it is the context, the subtext, the atmosphere in which LaRussa did his finest work.

And we learned today that Tony had made the decision to retire about the same time as his ball club began to get busy. It was coincidental, he said, but still one can't help but try to connect the dots.

Tony's decision surprised me initially, but regarding all the circumstances (the World Series title, his age, his health, Dave Duncan's future, Albert Pujols' future, to name a few) it really makes a lot of sense.

For all the aggravation I felt about him over the years I always anticipated this day would bring me some relief. But it doesn't. Darn it, Tony, you made a believer out of me and now you up and leave.

One final aggravation.


"Game 6" Or, "Only Mostly Dead"

I'll have more to say later about the Cardinals' 11th World Series championship, but I want to get this link up before it goes away forever. Game 6 of the Series was one of the greatest ballgames ever played. Too many self-satisfied commentors have questioned how good it could have been because there were 5 errors. If not for the errors, the game would not have fallen out the way it did. It simply would have been a typical game that ended 7-4, or something. The drama of the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th innings probably wouldn't have happened.

However, part of what made the game so special was the context of the Cardinals' well-documented journey through the post-season. This team was pronounced dead numerous times during the year. But they were only mostly dead. They weren't all dead, as the Braves, Phillies, Brewers, and Rangers can swear to.

Here, from the Cardinals' web site and for your pleasure, is the recap of Game 6, the likes of which we may never see again.


Won't You Please?

Both our kids watched children's television growing up, as most kids did. Mr. Rogers was standard fare at our house. I think our daughter probably preferred him more than our son. So it was with her in mind that I posted this and I hope it makes her smile.

I did.


The World Is His iPod

 From one of my favorite bloggers, James Lileks:

Wife took (the dog) for a walk later. He was slow. Very slow. "He's not going to be with us much longer," she said. Resigned. Then hopeful: "But I've been saying that for three years."

"Where did he take you tonight?"

"Well, I let him go where he wanted, and we went up the hill to the water tower, and then back down, and when we got home he didn't want to go up the steps so he went down the street, and I thought he would go up the back steps, but he looked at me, like 'I'm not done,' and we walked east and around the neighborhood again. But it was dark and he can't see anything."

"But he can smell."

Nearly deaf and nearly blind, and the world is still a story, every scent a character, every strong odor a twist in the plot. The dog walks outside and the world is his iPod, and it's always set on shuffle. So it is for us all, really. If you have a dog you know how they come to the door and stand there waiting for you to let them out. Standing at the glass door. The wall that keeps the odors out. They can see, but they can't smell. Daily life for us is just like that. If you're lucky someone opens the door and all the glories rush over you.


Whatever My Lot

"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."

From the hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul"

Resigning Or Embracing?

There is resigning oneself and then, there is embracing. For a while now, I have been resigned to my lot. I think it comes from a pure desire to acknowledge, to praise the Sovereignty of God but, while His sovereignty is indeed praiseworthy I, by my attitude of resignation, have esteemed it as a lesser thing, a thing that is merely endured.

From the Valley of Vision:

Jehovah God,
Thou Creator, Upholder, Proprietor of all things,
I cannot escape from thy presence or control, nor do I desire to do so.
My privilege is to be under the agency of omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy, grace.

The Puritan praying above sees it as a privilege to be under God's control and wisdom. He has not 'resigned' himself to it. To see it as privilege is to 'embrace' it.

"There has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God's sovereignty . . . The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God."  (Jonathan Edwards)

May it be so.


He Built A Lisa

Apple's CEO Steve Jobs passed away yesterday and everywhere you look folks are thanking him for changing the world. And generally, we know he did. But what, specifically, has his name on it?

Here's a list from Fox News:


Mercies In Disguise

Yesterday Charles Spurgeon pointed out the psalmist who wrote Psalm 130 may never had found the pearl of redemption had he not been cast into the depths. This kind of language causes one to think about "being cast", that is, that the psalmist was not the actor, but the one acted upon. He was not in the depths because he wanted to be, but because the Lord put him there.

There is a popular Christian song out these days that echoes this theme. It's called 'Blessings' and it is sung by Laura Story.

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
And what if the trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise.

The lyrics that I downloaded didn't have a question mark at the end, but it's a profound question. What if God loves His children too much to grant them ease, but rather sends the rain, the storm, the hard nights (and days!) in order to leave a bad taste in our mouths about the world? What if the Christian is often led purposefully into trial and difficulty by the Heavenly Father? What if He intends to send you through a hard providence? Is it enough that He means this for His glory and for our good?


Pearls Lie Deep

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
2 O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

 3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
 4 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

 5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
 6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
 8 And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Hear Mr. Spurgeon concerning Psalm 130:
"Out of the depths" is the leading word of it: out of those depths we cry, wait, watch, and hope. In this Psalm we hear of the pearl of redemption, verses 7 and 8: perhaps the sweet singer would never have found that precious thing had he not been cast into the depths. Pearls lie deep."


Encouragement: The Day After

And so, the day after being encouraged by Psalm 130.

I feel better and so the natural tendency is to let up. And it is also natural to want the feelings to come back, too. It has been my experience that, the feelings just cannot be replicated, at least, not in the same manner. God may reach down to touch me again, but not because my performance is right, or because I said the magic words, or because I am remorseful enough. No. I cannot act right and thereby cause the feelings to return. More plainly, you and I cannot make God do anything.

What I can do is earnestly seek Him again because "His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning." (Lamentations 3:22) I can seek Him again by faith, believing that "He is a rewarder of those who seek Him". (Hebrews 11:6) And if He touches me today, I will know He has come and has given Himself to me, and that will be the reward. God Himself is the reward. But it will not be true because I have some feeling. It would be true because He Himself is near and has let me know it. Then I feel something.


Psalm 130

A Song of Ascents.

 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
 And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

The phrase that stood out today is: "my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning." The picture I immediately latched onto was that of the watchman, on the city walls, dreading the dangers that the night could hold and his yearning, almost pleading, for morning to come and with it, light and some sense of security.

I don't know if you have felt that way very often, but I have. At times I have felt that my life's footing was not firm and that I was perilously close to danger, failure, shame, or despair. I have longed for morning to come in the form of some deliverance from my oppressive circumstances. I have yearned for a deliverance that I could not see anywhere on the horizon, nor could I conceive how it might be formed, yet I hoped for it desperately.

But there is something else to be discovered in the picture of the watchman and it is the certainty of the  morning's arrival. The morning will come - has it ever failed to come? This watchman not only can hope, but he can be certain. The morning will come.

And so for us who are in Christ. I don't know how long the night will last in your life or mine. But morning has never failed to come and it will come again.


Where Were You In '32?

Here's a look at the hometown, very little of which I recognize. By the time I was wandering around downtown, some 35-40 years later, much had already changed.

That is Main Street that runs up the hill from the foot of the bridge - a bridge that no longer exists, though I think I remember seeing the tops of the concrete pilings standing in the water. The tan building on the north side of Main with the row of windows is the White River Hotel, I believe. Or that's what it was when I knew it. Next up the hill is the railroad, the station right across the street from the hotel. Boy, does that make sense. The tracks run left to right in the photo. After that is the old Catholic Church on the left side of Main, the first building after the green space above the train station, I think. But that all I recognize from this photo. Maybe someone else can help out.

Here's the foot of Branson's Main Street these days -


The Big One Is Coming (Updated)

UPDATE: After I posted this, Kathy and I went to Lowe's for wood and stuff, 'cause we're building shelves.  When we got back I checked the world and found this article by Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com. McMurphy sees some of the same things I do, but he's got more details. (I like it when I am agreed with.) And he also spells out a consequence that is perfectly certain, but I hadn't developed it.

First, I wrote: "We are headed to four giant conferences." Here's McMurphy:
With all of the speculation and connecting-the-dots scenarios surrounding conference realignment (Texas A&M to the SEC, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State possibly to the Pac-12), the obvious end game was this: the ACC and Big East would be the final two conferences with possibly only one surviving. Sort of like a Thunderdome showdown: two conferences enter, one conference leaves. And the ACC took the initiative in guaranteeing its survival.
 Here is the clear inference - assuming there's only going to be 4 super conferences and that the Big Ten, the SEC and the Pac 12 are three of them; and that the Big 12 will not exist, then it's down to the ACC and the Big East for the final seat at the table. Today, the ACC looks like the winner.

That means the Big East is going away. McMurphy again, this time about a certain university named:
Notre Dame - This is where things get really interesting. The Irish always have wanted to remain an independent. And as long as the Big East is around for the Irish to have a landing spot for their Olympic sports, they will stay independent. However, if there no longer is a Big East, the Irish would be forced to join a conference to find a home for their Olympic sports. In other words: hello, Big Ten.
If you've read my posts on this topic, you know I've been saying all along this was about the Big Ten landing Notre Dame. Today, someone else says it, too.

ORIGINAL POST: The big one is on the way.

The big college athletic conference re-alignment, that is. The news Saturday is that Pitt and Syracuse have applied to join the ACC. Friday we heard that the regents at Texas will meet to discuss conference affiliation. Oh, it coming, all right. Kiss the Big 12 good-bye, if you can muster enough affection to smooch that shotgun-wedding style of a conference.

Here is where we stand:

Nebraska and Colorado, Big 12 members as recently as the spring, began play in new conferences this fall, the Big Ten and the Pac 12, respectively.

At the end of August Texas A&M said auf Wiedersehen to the Big 12 (not sure why they spoke German) and applied to join the SEC.

Within days of that announcement, Oklahoma said they wanted to explore their options, too.

Then Texas with their announcement.

Today, Pitt and Syracuse.

But the big finish is yet to come. Though it's on the way.

We can see where this is headed. Stronger conferences are expanding, picking up strong schools to deepen the quality of their membership. They are adding schools to increase the conference footprint and TV market. The number of schools that remain to be of benefit is shrinking with each announcement. The rapidity with which this is happening is accelerating, like a snowball rolling downhill.

If you are conference leader considering expansion, you probably are hearing alarms right now. The pool of prospective candidates just got smaller with Pitt and Syracuse's announcement. Especially for the Big Ten. Pitt and Syracuse might have been decent fits for that conference, but not now. Oklahoma probably goes west to the Pac 12, which has promised it will not stand pat if teams start to jump. Maybe Texas is looking at the Pac 12. You don't want to be a conference needing to expand and the only options that remain are a bunch of Iowa States. The SEC is going to look for a fourteenth member, but the speculation is that the super conferences will have 16 members. Who will they be? Act now, because once they're gone, they're gone.

I'll say again what I have believed about this from the beginning. The Big Ten started this and I think they will finish it. They've been quiet, but I don't think they've been sitting still. They'll go to 14 and maybe 16 and I think Missouri will be one of their choices, it makes too much sense.

The SEC is expanding, as is the ACC. The Pac 12 has promised to respond. Do you think the Big Ten will do nothing? Neither do I. We are headed to four giant conferences. And the Big Ten will not be left behind.

And neither will Notre Dame.

Yes, the big one is coming.


Big Ten Too Quiet

Oklahoma regents will meet in a few days to talk about athletic conference re-alignment. It is almost certain that OU will eventually leave the Big 12 Conference, probably for the Pac12. Oklahoma State may tag along. With the expected departure of Texas A & M next year, the Big 12 would be pared to 7 teams. Not much of a league at seven.

I don't think the league will survive that turn of events.

And then a kind of free agency will commence, with league-less remnants of the Big 12 looking for new conferences to align with. And conferences with an eye on improving their cachet, influence, and standing in the eyes of TV networks will begin picking prospective members to bring home to meet mother.

The rumors have begun to fly, of course. OU and Oklahoma State supposedly heading to the Pac 12. Texas to the Pac 12, to the ACC, or to Independent status. Kansas to the Pac 12, or the Big East. And Mizzou has been rumored to go just about everywhere: the SEC, the Pac 12, the Big East.

Everywhere except the Big Ten.

Has anyone noticed how quiet things have been from Big Ten land? Not a peep. Nothing from Big Ten schools. Nothing from coaches or administrators. With all the potential movement seemingly near, no school is  rumored to be going there. Is the Big Ten done with expansion? Have they no interest in adding any Big 12 schools?

In my view, it's too quiet.

I don't think the Big Ten will sit idly by while other conferences gobble up the cream of the Big 12. Again, I make the observation that Missouri is ideal for Big Ten membership. And is it coincidental that there has been a new-found discipline regarding leaks to the press on Missouri's part? I wonder. In other words, Mizzou's staff has been just as mum on the Tigers' options as the Big Ten has been on it's.

I think Mizzou is going to land in the Big Ten.

And I still think Notre Dame will, too.


Adios, Big 12

The Big 12 Conference is not long for this world.

I don't see how any other conclusion can be reached. The Board of Regents at Texas A & M has given the school president authority to take any action he deems necessary in terms of conference realignment. There was a time last summer when it seemed A & M might be headed to the Southeastern Conference, but they remained in the Big 12, even as Nebraska and Colorado bolted for the Big 10 and the Pac 10 (now Pac 12) respectively. It was thought, after the shuffling of last summer that there would be some peace for a while. An uneasy peace to be sure. No one was really confident that the forced marriage of the old Big 8 and refugees from the defunct Southwest Conference could survive long term, especially after last summer's defections. I suspect most thought it would be several seasons before the dominoes started to fall again, however.

But that would be wrong.

Now, there is no timetable for anything to happen and no invitations have be formally extended to A & M, at least as I write this. But it seems clear that A & M wants to move and when the SEC decides to invite them, and they probably will, then the Aggies will go. And the SEC will have 13 teams and the Big 12 will have 9. The Big 12 can live with 9, but might not. The SEC cannot live with 13 and will not. And you know what that means boys and girls? Some other team is going to join the SEC.

Who will it be?

We don't know, but there are some suspects. They are, in no particular order: Florida State, Clemson, and our beloved Missouri Tigers. Yes, some are suggesting that Mizzou could go to the SEC. I don't know what to make of that. On the one hand, it would be flattering to belong to the country's best college football conference. You want to be the best, you have to beat the best and why not be in the best league? On the other hand, Mizzou is not really a cultural fit in the Southeastern Conference. If we were to switch, the Big 10 is a better fit.

Obviously, it's out of my hands but for what it's worth - say "Yes" if the SEC comes calling, but in the meantime, hope for the Big 10 to send an invite.

In any event, if A & M leaves (or 'when A & M leaves'), I don't think the Big 12 survives. They can, but the Big 10 and the Pac 12 will not stand pat if the conference jumping starts up again. Mizzou will start to look like a nice piece to add somewhere and maybe the Big 10 decides they want them before somebody else takes them. Kansas will look good to somebody and for heaven's sake, so will Oklahoma. And I've heard there's another school in Texas that's pretty competitive. Maybe they go somewhere.

How ever it shakes out, the Big 12 is on its last legs.


Dad, Louie, Ferlin, a Bucket, and Music

I like my parents' music. I like it more every day.

I don't know exactly how to explain it, I am no musical scholar. I can only say that the rumbling bass and incessant riffs of my youth have receded into the background and the melodies, rhythms, and the voices (oh, the voices!) of the 1930's and 1940's are more front and center.

I got a Louis Prima CD for my birthday and am having a blast listening to this crazy guy. I was introduced to Prima by my dad. Not formally, of course, but because Dad had one of his albums. I don't remember ever hearing it, but I'm sure the folks listened at one time or another. Lately I've been hearing more of Prima as I listen to a station here that is devoted to this kind of music. Prima is compared to Louis Armstrong and for good reason, I suppose. Prima was a New Orleans guy and you can hear it in the music. Prima was Italian, which I did not know, and when I hear him, sometimes I hear Dean Martin coming out.

Prima's style could be described as frenetic, the album's liner notes say he and his band essentially invented the lounge act. Here, from the Tube of You, is Prima, Keely Smith (at one time married to him), and saxophonist Sam Butera, in all of their glory:

Keely Smith's job, besides her great voice, was to provide a stoic contrast to the antics of Prima and his orchestra - it was all part of the act.

Dad also liked country music and while I dip into that less liberally, there's a quite a bit of it that is growing on me, particularly the sounds of country swing and the rockabilly stuff. Dad went to school with country singer Ferlin Husky, who passed away just a few months ago. During the years when Ferlin was singing in Branson, Mom and Dad would try to go once or twice a year. Ferlin would be talking and ask if anybody there was from home and Dad would raise his hand and Ferlin would say, "Hello, Paul!" and then they'd have a conversation right in front of everybody. Here's Ferlin and Paul a few years earlier:

Ferlin is #20 and Dad is #22. This past July was the 12th anniversary of Dad's home-going and that caused me think about those two guys again.

One time during my childhood, I was in the back yard and for some reason I was talking to Dad about a bucket - either I was looking for one or lost one, or something. Dad grinned and said, "Does it have a hole in it?" I didn't get the reference and tried to explain what I needed and that I hadn't said anything about a hole. He just explained that there was a song about a bucket with a hole in it.

Well sure there was, a Hank Williams song to be exact. A lot of people (Robert Plant and Jimmy Page!) have covered it, but I'll give you Van Morrison, which might be my favorite version.


The Valley of Vision

Here is a remarkable prayer from the book "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions."

O Heavenly Father,

Teach me to see
that if Christ has pacified thee and
has satisfied divine justice
he can also deliver me from my sins;

that Christ does not desire me, now justified,
to live in self-confidence in my own strength,
but gives me the law of the Spirit of life
to enable me to obey thee;

that the Spirit and his power are mine
by resting on Christ's death;

that the Spirit of life within answers to
the law without;

that if I sin not I should thank thee for it;

that if I sin I should be humbled daily under it;

that I should mourn for sin more than other
men do,
for when I see I shall die because of sin,
that makes me mourn;

when I see how sin strikes at thee,
that makes me mourn;

when I see that sin caused Christ's death
that makes me mourn;

that sanctification is the evidence of reconciliation,
proving that faith has truly apprehended Christ;

Thou has taught me
that faith is nothing else than receiving thy

that it is an adherence to Christ, a resting on him,
love clinging to him as a branch to the tree
to seek life and vigour from him.

I thank thee for showing me the vast difference
between knowing things by reason,
and knowing them by the spirit of faith.

By reason I see a thing is so;
by faith I know it as it is.

I have seen thee by reason and have not
been amazed,
I have seen thee as thou art in thy Son and have
been ravished to behold thee.

I bless thee that I am thine in my Saviour,


The Father Made the Son to be Sin

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

"But, unlike Adam, when he is tempted he (Jesus) does not sin. He is the only human being who perfectly obeys God, his Father. He is, therefore, the one person to have lived who does not deserve to be banished from God's presence. But on the cross he willingly faces the punishment that we all deserve, as sinners who are bound up with the first Adam. As a result, if we trust in him, we enter into a new humanity, headed not by Adam, the sinner, but by Jesus, the righteous new Adam. Paul writes, '. . . just as through the disobedience of one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Christ] the many will be made righteous' (Romans 5:19)."

I thought of the verse at the top of the post after I had read the previous paragraph in Vaughn Roberts' book 'God's Big Picture.' I was then inspired to check the ESV Study Bible for some commentary on the verse. The 'big idea' in the verse is captured better in the study Bible's notes than I could express, so I copied them below. It is long, but it's good.

2 Cor. 5:21 This verse is one of the most important in all of Scripture for understanding the meaning of the atonement and justification. Here we see that the one who knew no sin is Jesus Christ and that he (God) made him (Christ) to be sin (Gk. hamartia, "sin"). This means that God the Father made Christ to be regarded and treated as "sin" even though Christ himself never sinned (Heb. 4:15; cf. Gal 3:13). Further, we see that God did this for our sake that is, God regarded and treated "our" sin (the sin of all who would believe in Christ) as if our sin belonged not to us but to Christ himself. Thus Christ "died for all" (2 Cor. 5:14) and, as Peter wrote, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1Pet. 2:24). In becoming sin "for our sake," Christ became our substitute - that is, Christ took our sin upon himself and, as our substitute, thereby bore the wrath of God (the punishment that we deserve) in our place ("for our sake"). Thus the technical term for this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith is the substitutionary atonement - that Christ has provided the atoning sacrifice as "our" substitute, for the sins of all who believe (cf. Rom 3:23-25). The background for this is Isaiah 53 from the Greek (Septuagint) translation of the Hebrew OT, which included the most lengthy and detailed OT prophecy of Christ's death and which contains numerous parallels to 2 Cor 5:21. Isaiah's prophecy specifically used the Greek word for "sin" (Gk. hamartia) five times (as indicated below in italics) with reference to the coming Savior (the Suffering Servant) in just a few verses - e.g., "surely he has borne our griefs" (Isa. 53:4); "He was crushed for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5); "the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa 53:6); "he shall bear the iniquities" (Isa. 53:11); "he bore the sin of many" (Isa. 53:12). In a precise fulfillment of the is prophecy, Christ became "sin" for these who believe in him, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This means that just as God imputed our sin and guilt to Christ ("he made him to be sin") so God also imputes the righteousness of Christ - a righteousness that is not our own - to all who believe in Christ. Because Christ bore the sins of those who believe, God regards and treats believers as having the legal status of "righteousness" (Gk. dikaiosyne). This righteousness belongs to believers because they are "in him," that is, "in Christ" (e.g., Rom. 3:22; 5:18; 1Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:17, 19; Phil. 3:9). Therefore "the righteousness of God" (which is imputed to believers) is also the righteousness of Christ - that is, the righteousness and the legal status that belongs to Christ as a result of Christ having lived as one who "knew no sin." This then is the heart of the doctrine of justification; God regards (or counts) believers as forgiven and God declares and treats them as forgiven, because God the Father has imputed the believer's sin to Christ and because God the Father likewise imputes Christ's righteousness to the believer.


Unbelief: A Distrust in the Character of God

The good news in Hebrews 11:6 is that with faith we can please God. But this verse gets us there through a double negative: "without faith it is impossible" to please Him.

Why does the author put it this way? He's driving home the point that the normal song of the human heart isn't the song of faith. Although it works out in different ways, Christians and non-Christians share a similar struggle. We both struggle with unbelief.

Unbelief is serious - the writer of Hebrews has already labeled it toxic when he warned us against "an evil heart of unbelief" (Heb. 3:12, KJV). So we shouldn't get to Hebrews 11 and find a lot of sympathy for unbelief.

The writer there tells us that without faith it's "impossible to please" God. Not tricky, not difficult. No, it's impossible!

I don't think we tend to feel as strongly about unbelief as God does.

Unbelief is a decided distrust in the promises and character of God. Spurgeon describes unbelief as a "mistrust of the promises and faithfulness of God."

- Dave Harvey, from his book, "Rescuing Ambition"


Christ is the Fulfillment of O.T. Promises

The New Testament never leads us to expect that there will be any fulfillment of the Old Testament promises other than their fulfillment in Christ. We are not encouraged, for example, to look for their fulfillment in the state of Israel and to expect a new temple to be built there. That is to expect a renewal of the model that has now been dismantled. The permanent reality is found in Christ.

-Vaughn Roberts, from his book 'God's Big Picture', page 108


Exile Ending, Finally Fullfillment

Mark identifies John the Baptist as that herald: 'And so John came, baptising in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins' (Mark 1:4). The message is clear; the waiting is over; the exile is about to end and the time of fulfillment is soon to come. And then Jesus appears, 'proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" ' (Mark 1:14-15)

-Vaughn Roberts, from his book 'God's Big Picture', page 108


Nathan and Oscar

Tuesday, I had journeyed to Mart du Ste. Walton Grande to lay in supplies for watching the All-Star game that night. On the list were hot dogs, of course. I also got some chips and Dr. Pepper and popcorn. I was in the mood for cheese popcorn, emphasis on the cheese, and I was intrigued by something called "Buffalo Cheddar" popcorn. My mind translated Buffalo as meaning 'big' or 'extra' or 'bodacious,' or something. I saw what I wanted to see and thought I was getting popcorn so cheesy, the kernels might be individually wrapped.

Of course, when I got home and opened the bag (with scissors, no less-they used some sort of Vulcan mind meld to seal the bag and there was NO WAY to pull the bag apart at the seal), I learned that 'Buffalo' had a specific meaning, as in, flavored like spicy chicken wings dipped in ranch sauce. I was not amused. It's not bad. But it's not bodaciously cheesy, that's for sure.

Well, when I took my goods to the checkout to be scanned, the guy took the hot dogs, slid them over the magic glass, (BEEP), and put them in the bag. Then he looked at me and said, "Those are the best hot dogs ever!" I replied, "Well, they are the best you can buy in the store, that's for sure."

We referred to these, of course:

So tonight, I was headed home to fix myself two more Nathan's. Kathy wasn't going to be home for a while, so I was on my own for supper. It was with mouth-watering anticipation that I pulled into the left turn lane of the last big intersection on my way home. And across the intersection, headed the opposite direction from me was, of all things, this:

I don't think I'd want to drive a wienermobile for a living. On the other hand, it couldn't be as bad as a lot of jobs, come to think of it. But still, I couldn't help feeling sorry for the guy, being on the Oscar Meyer payroll, when I was headed home for Nathan's. I wish now I could have given him one.

He'd have to get a new job, but it'd be worth it.

Read Christian Biography

"So among all the other things you do to grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ (2 Peter 3:18), follow Paul’s summons to “fix your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”"

John Piper makes an argument for reading Christian biography here.


The All Star Game, 2011, Et Al.

Right out of the box we ask, "What's up with Joe Buck's voice?" Undoubtedly, a summer cold or allergies, but my first thought was, "Man, it's going to be a long night for him." I would have hated to be in his spot.

But, "It's not jury duty," as Willie Mays said today about showing up to the All-Star Game. Except he didn't.

The game was being played in Arizona for the first time which led to the Trivia Question about which major league teams have yet to host an All Star Game. A question I answered correctly, by the way. I would guess that when the new stadium for the Marlins is complete, that Florida (soon to be Miami) will host a game rather soon. Which will leave Tampa as the only franchise to not host a game. And if they don't get their attendance issues solved there, they never will and the Rays will be in Vegas or Vancouver or Brooklyn or something.

With the Florida Marlins becoming the Miami Marlins soon, I propose we get the other state name teams to do the same. Let's hear those city names, please! I'm talking to you Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis and Dallas! I could cut Minnesota a little slack since the team name Twins refers to the Twin Cities - Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis Twins wouldn't mean the same.

Speaking of Minnesota, is there a better uniform in the game than the Twins road uni? OK, there surely is, but goodness! It is excellent.

And it puts me in mind of Minnesota's NHL franchise which has a beautiful sweater. I don't know if any location has put out two nicer uniforms in such a short period of time.

Other uniform-related notes -

- Cleveland's road uniform is also excellent. It has an historic feel to it, similar to the Red Sox and the Yankees.

- How about the stars bracketing the MLB logo on the backs of both the cap and the jersey? I like it. I'm still not fond of the embroidery on the sides of the caps for All Star games and the World Series.

- And why is Rollie Fingers shown in his Milwaukee Brewers uniform in the Pepsi commercial? He became a star, a Hall-of-Famer, in Oakland. Let's see Rollie in the green and gold, please.

The Arizona franchise is named the Diamondbacks, a reference the the desert-dwelling rattlesnake that, I assume, gets preferred parking, which reminds me of this story. In any case, the D-Backs use a 'snakey' looking font for their uniforms and for the All Star Game, which you can see here. I immediately began to wonder what other animals might be suggested in font form. I came up with nothing.

I liked Sprint's 'Angry Birds' commercial. Whoever created those little guys did a great job, they are really fun to look at and lend themselves to being logos very easily. I am especially fond of the triangular yellow guy.

Anyway, one of these days there will be a sports story with 'Angry Birds' in the headline. Mark it down.

And, there was a game. The National League won 5-1 and there weren't a lot of highlights, though you have to give props to Heath Bell for his entrance into the game. I find, as I age, I am less passionate about some things that would have riled me up years ago. The All Star Game is one of those things. But, I still had a good time watching it.

Hey, it's not jury duty.


Holiness Is A Promise - Not A Threat

Michael Horton:

"Holiness is not an option; it is a requirement. But this is not a threat. It's a promise. What God began he will finish (Phil. 1:6). In Christ we are already holy, righteous, sanctified, reconciled (1 Corinthians 1:30). Now we are called to live what we are, not to become what we are not yet."

Quoted from his book "Christ the Lord," and taken from the What's Best Next website.


What Liberals Do

From the Powerline blog:

"As to white-collar crime, what about the one type of white-collar crime that goes entirely unpunished? For an accounting fraud of $567 million, Enron's executives went to jail, and its head guy died there. For an accounting fraud ten time that size, the two Democrat hacks who headed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick, walked away with a combined taxpayer-funded payout of $116 million."


Sparky Anderson

Nice remembrance of Sparky Anderson, whose jersey was retired by the Detroit Tigers Sunday.

"We used to be in the car and we'd bet, as he was talking with other people," (his daughter Shirlee) Engelbrecht said. "We'd say, 'When he comes back, he's going to say, 'That's the nicest person I've ever met." And every time he'd come back -- whether it was old, young, male, female -- he'd get in the car, and he'd say, 'That's the nicest person I've ever met.' And then we'd just start laughing."

Anderson, a Hall of Fame manager, led the Tigers to the World Series title in 1984. He had won championships in 1975 and '76 with the Cincinnati Reds.


Jim Riggleman

Probably the wackiest baseball story from the weekend is Jim Riggleman's resignation from the Nationals. The argument is did he stand on principle or did he quit?

Frankly, I'm torn. I want to like Riggleman and I want to think he acted on principle. But he just quit - over an extension. I like to think there's more to it, but I haven't heard it yet.

"Riggleman left at the height of a franchise's success, the players were hustling and they were listening, but he quit because the Nationals management wasn't sure he was part of the future. However confusing and incomprehensible it may appear, it is that simple."


"Either way, Riggleman quit, left the ballpark without a job, and likely will never manage again. Anyone who knows Jim Riggleman knows he's not a quitter; he is the opposite -- a guy who would do anything to win, a man's man in every way. But in his mind, a man can be disrespected for only so long before he has to do what he thinks is right. So he stood on principle, and the Nationals let him walk. And in the end, no one was right. And no one won. And everyone was mad."

Joe Posnanski for the prosecution:

"Here's the thing, and I mean this with deep respect: He is JIM RIGGLEMAN. It seems difficult for me to believe that he was unaware of this. His teams have never won a World Series. His teams have never won a pennant. His teams have only once made the playoffs, and that was a not especially great 89-win Cubs team that won a one-game playoff. Ten of his 12 teams had losing records in his span as skipper. He lost 100 with a Padres team that was in the playoffs two years after he got canned. He lost 95 with a Cubs team that made the playoffs the very next year. For managers with 1,400 or more games, no one from 1900 on has a lower winning percentage than Jim Riggleman, and that includes this lovely little winning stretch. The amazing thing to me, I am forced to admit, is not that Riggleman did not get a contract extension. It's that he had a contract in the first place."

There's more:

"Jim Riggleman quit on his team and his players over his contract. I want, so much, to sympathize with him, but it's hard to get much less admirable than that. The only thing missing from his career suicide was a note."

All in all, I think the weight of the evidence leans toward Riggleman appearing to be selfish. I, too, want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But right now it looks as if Riggleman took doubt out the door with him.


I Love It When Words Come To Me

Joe Posnanski is one of the best sports writers in the business today. He was, at one time, at the Kansas City Star, but is now working for Sports Illustrated. His articles come up on my feed reader regularly and I always anticipate what he has to say.

One of the most recent posts by Posnanski is on the passing of Nick Charles, a sportscaster for CNN. I heard the news over the weekend, but I had no idea who he was since I usually don't have cable or satellite TV and, if I did, I probably wouldn't get my sports from CNN.

So I read Posnanski's article primarily because he is usually good, but secondly, I read it to be introduced to Nick Charles and why his life made the news. I am so glad I did, because I found the words for something that I have been having trouble explaining.

My recent layoff caused me to think about my life and work and why I do things and what things are worth doing. I have always known that I liked to write, but I would not have had an easy time explaining why. "Why do you want to write?" somebody might say. Or, "What would would you like to write about?" is another version. Nick Charles provided the answer during his interview with Joe Posnanski.

Posnanski went to see Charles because Charles was dying and both men knew it. As their time together was ending and Posnanski was headed for the car, they had this exchange:

Nick: "Do you know what you're going to write about me?"
Joe: "No, not yet."
Nick: "Will the words just come to you?"
Joe: "I don't know. I hope so."
Nick: "I'll bet they will. I love it when words come to me."

And there it was - "I love it when words come to me." That's why I write. I want to say something, to feel something. I want the reader to feel something, to imagine something, to connect with what I've written. Not for my sake; not because I wrote it, but because, in sharing the written word, maybe we'll experience an affirmation of a previously unspoken certainty.

Like I did when I read Charles' statement.

I recommend that you read Posnanski's article, even if sports isn't your thing. But be ready feel something - the words came.