Concerning Jim Tressel

Pretend you are somebody else. But not for just a moment or for a prank. Pretend for years that you are somebody else. Can you do it? Former head football coach Jim Tressel did.

Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel resigned Monday after nearly 6 months of questions, suspensions, and suspicions. The final straw that finally got his employer, Ohio State, to pressure him enough to quit was the Sports Illustrated column that I just finished reading.

It is a damning document that paints Tressel as complicit in NCAA infractions, lying to keep the NCAA and Ohio State in the dark, and putting up a facade of ethical, even Christian behavior.

From the ESPN column by Pat Forde concerning Tressel:

"And now Tressel has been forced out of his dream job, one of the top five in America. If he's honest with himself, Tressel must wonder today how much easier life would have been if he'd just done the right thing when he got that first email warning him that his players were breaking the rules.

But this has been a lie-and-deny operation from the beginning, and now it ends with Jim Tressel's meticulously polished reputation in tatters."

Instead of heeding the Henry Kissenger maxim "whatever must be revealed eventually, should be revealed immediately," Tressel fell back on his fine, button-downed reputation and covered for his players.

More from Forde:
"When the revelations of sold memorabilia and comped tattoos from an alleged drug trafficker first came to light in December, this was all about the players who broke rules and scoffed at Ohio State traditions. Tressel, at that time, was the blindsided guardian of standards and scruples who was disappointed that his players would do such a thing.

What a charade that turned out to be. Tressel knew for months what his players had done, and hadn't told any of his supposed superiors at Ohio State. When emails made that clear in March -- when the coach was cornered -- the school lamely offered up a two-game suspension in 2011."

As bad as all this is, we've seen cheating coaches before, not to mention other boorish behavior from these guys who are supposed to be teaching young people. However, with the garden variety cheat, he doesn't usually make a show of being clean. He just tries to avoid getting caught. Tressel's not like that. He was selling honesty, Elmer Gantry-like, while he was watching the program rot. The troubling thing is his deliberate charade.

The sweater vest, the tie, the pressed shirt, the Bible reading and texting of Psalms. All of it designed to make outsiders think he was clean when he wasn't. It's the calculated deceit that really gets me, I guess. This dude is cold.

And, for me, it makes it hard to care about college sports very much. I thought I had an idea what they were about. Now, I'm doubting it.


Yes, It's Been Tried Before, But We're Expecting Different Results

From the post 'Unexpectedly' on the 'Powerline' blog:

"Why is it that after two years, bad economic news is still 'unexpected?'"

The post has a suggested reason:

"It's obviously going to be hard to achieve the unacknowledged goal of many mainstream journalists - the president's re-election - if the economic slump continues. So they characterize economic setbacks as unexpected, with the implication that there's still every reason to believe that, in Herbert Hoover's phrase, prosperity is just around the corner."

I think this is pretty good analysis. After the policies this administration has pursued and enacted, it shouldn't surprise anyone that there is bad economic news.


Rotting Tree? Or Mighty Oak?

Jim Downing, one of the patriarchs of the Navigator work, was asked, "Why is it that so few men finish well?" His response was profound. He said, "They learn the possibility of being fruitful without being pure . . . they begin to believe that purity doesn't matter. Eventually, they become like trees rotting inside that are eventually toppled by a storm." (Emphasis mine)

I remember a few years back, it seemed the notion of "finishing well" was highlighted quite a bit, maybe in connection all the Promise Keepers events going on. In almost all of life, it seems that finishing is much more difficult than starting.

Today, for example, I finished painting the living room and a hall. This project was begun by Number One Son back before winter. It was just paint - nothing to tear up, nothing to repair - just lube the wall with pigmented latex. Easy as pie. It was months between the initiation and the completion.

And it is true in my spiritual life, as well. I remember the excitement and zeal of the early days of my faith. I remember spending hours thumbing through the Bible on any given day. I couldn't get enough. I remember anticipating meetings and gatherings of other believers and not wanting to leave them when it was over. Now, while I still desire these things, the energy is not the same. I think I see slippage in attitudes, in prayers, in ministry. I don't have the attention span I once did.

Maybe it is age. Maybe.

Or maybe, like Downing said, have I learned to be 'fruitful without purity?' Or said another way, am I settling for appearances instead of performance? Style over substance?

I hope not and, as I said, I notice the weakness, and hope my efforts in combating it, by God's grace, are real and successful.

(Downing quote from Desiring God blog - linked here.)


Historic Doctrines Less Prevelant

All that glitters is not gold goes the old saying. In a similar vein, Os Guinness and David Wells have alerted evangelicals about weakness they observe in the apparent success of today's evangelicalism.

"(T)he strong timber of the tree of evangelicalism has historically been the great doctrines of the Bible—God’s glorious perfections, man’s fallen nature, the wonders of redemptive history, the magnificent work of redemption in Christ, the saving and sanctifying work of grace in the soul, the great mission of the church in conflict with the world and the flesh and the devil, and the greatness of our hope of everlasting joy at God’s right hand. These things once defined us and were the strong fiber and timber beneath the fragile leaves and fruit of our religious experiences. But this is the case less and less."

There's more at this link.

Health Care, The Chicago Way

Yet another article detailing the lawlessness of the Obama Administration by Michael Barone and posted at Real Clear Politics. Here's some highlights:

"If Obamacare is so great, why do so many people want to get out from under it? More specifically, why are more than half of those 3,095,593 in plans run by labor unions, which were among Obamacare's biggest political supporters? Union member are only 12 percent of all employees but have gotten 50.3 percent of Obamacare waivers."

Of course there's more, including examples of the 'most transparent administration ever' being less than clear about who gets the waivers and how and why. Read it here.

Paul Splittorff

I didn't appreciate this guy as much as he probably deserved. I don't even think I have a card of him. I wasn't much of a Royals fan, though I did follow that '78 team pretty well, probably a better team than either of their pennant winners. That season coincided with a dark period in the life of the Cardinals, so I would listen to Royals games on the radio and come out of my room to announce the results, usually a win, to my dad. He always seemed underwhelmed by this.

Anyway, here's good stuff on Paul Splittorff.


Another Thought On Wrong Predictions

Here are good thoughts from a guy named Mike Wittmer concerning the Harold Camping mess of last weekend.

"Christians should feel a twinge of sadness every night when we turn in to bed, for we have lived another day without the return of our King. The Lord’s Prayer includes the line, 'May your Kingdom come soon' (Luke 11:2). As far-fetched as Camping’s prediction was, his spectacular miss should prompt us to reassess our deepest longings. Will we only scoff at his delusion, or will we also remember that we should want our Lord to return?

Perhaps we aren’t excited for Jesus’ return because we’re too easily pleased with the present. As one preacher said, 'It’s hard to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ when your kingdom has had a good year.' Thank God for the good life you presently enjoy, but don’t allow his current blessings to distract you from the Christian’s prayer: 'Our Lord, come!' (1 Corinthians 16:22)."

Good stuff. Here's the whole thing.


The Truth Is, It Remains

Gordon Lightfoot wrote, "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours." Tonight, about 10 minutes ago, the city of Joplin, Mo. was put under a tornado warning. An angry line of storms is advancing on southwest Missouri out of Oklahoma. Of course, the Joplin Tornado of 2011 was just 48 hours ago and now this storm-ravaged and shocked town will hunker down, hoping for the best and bracing for the worst, which they are all too well acquainted with.

When I heard the announcement of tonight's storm warning, Lightfoot's words came immediately to mind. For us in the Midwest, substitute the word 'winds' for 'waves' and line would be appropriate for Tornado Alley.

There's a sense of "Oh no, not again!" when you hear that Joplin is under the gun again. It seems unfair. And you may wonder if God knows what He's doing. It's an absurd thought, of course, but still the man-centered 'fair' trigger gets tripped.

The grass withers and the flowers fade. Storms that are coming imply that soon they will be going. Our lives are like the morning dew, all glisteny one minute and gone the next.

But God.

God is immutable, as the old theologians are wont to proclaim. That's changeless for you and me. What God has always been, He will always be. Lightfoot (and we!) are wrong to suggest that somehow the love of God has gone somewhere when the going gets rough. It cannot go anywhere, for God cannot cease to exist.


It Is Way Too Early, I Know

It is way too early to talk, in realistic terms, about the election in November, 2012. It is roughly 17 months away, a veritable lifetime as news cycles go.

But I thought it worth noting that Tim Pawlenty joined the race for the White House today. Officially, that is, because it has been widely held for a long time (since the day after Obama beat McCain?) that the former governor of Minnesota would get in.

He joins some notables already in, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich to name two. There's some less notables who are in, as well. Obama and Bill Clinton were less notables as their respective campaigns began, for what that's worth. There are some notables who are out, too.

One reason to like Pawlenty and why I thought this worth your while, is his plain-spoken style. Oh, how I long for somebody to say what we can all see, to say what we all know and to say what he'd do about it. Style and nuance are part of our national problem.

I take it as a good sign that Pawlenty does not mince words in his opener. I know it's too early and the election is way off, but if it were today, here's where my vote would go.


Not In My Backyard

Whoever wrote Subway's 5 dollar footlong song and the person responsible for Steak'N'Shake's talking hat should be locked in a room far away from those of us who still have our minds and be made to continually pitch their commercials to each other forever.

Killer Cancer

Harmon Killebrew has died.

I don't want to make anything more of this than it was - I didn't know him personally, he wasn't my favorite player or on my favorite team.

But he occupied a place in my childhood, as the 1968 Topps baseball card of mine (right) testifies. I knew who he was, of course. He was a mighty, mighty home run hitter, Paul Bunyanesque even, which is appropriate for an athlete tearing up the field in Minnesota. A terrific hitter and, by all accounts, a terrific person, which is good.

And yet, there is something very sad about Killebrew's death to me, something I can't quite put my finger on, but I have a notion what it is. I suppose what's bugging me can be summed up by critics as the usual sentimental and superstitious tripe that effervesces from a Christian worldview.

I have no desire to be maudlin, to drum up emotions that aren't there or even necessary. Something is just bugging me, that's all. Killebrew's death is sad and I hope his family finds comfort in the days to come. It is sad because another man whose work I admired as a child became old enough to die and that means the clock is ticking. For everybody. Maybe I'm just sobered by the brevity of life and the certainty of its end.

And maybe I'm sobered by the idea that being a terrific person isn't enough when the end comes.


Honest Abe - Wired

From "Bloody Crimes" by James Swanson we learn that President Abraham Lincoln was as hooked on technology as many of us are today:

"He haunted the army telegraph office for news of the battles raging in Virginia. He was addicted to this technology. It was an impatient habit he had formed in Washington. He did not like to wait for important news. To his delight, the War Department telegraph office was a short walk from the Executive Mansion. He became a habitue of the office, befriending the men employed here, to whom he often made surprise visits at any time of the day or night. Now he was standing over the telegraph operators at City Point, (Virginia, headquarters of the armies of the United States) and as soon as they transcribed the reports as they came off the wire, the president snatched the hurried scribblings from their hands."


Concept Is Lost

When the company John Doe worked for had an employee-suggestion competition, John told his staff to submit entries that would save money for the firm.

The winner was a man in John's department who suggested they post corporate memos on bulletin boards instead of printing 200 individual copies for distribution. He got a helium balloon with the company logo and one share of stock.

A memo announcing the prize went out to 200 people.


Engine Trouble

Since the lay off, I've been working on finding new work, of course. Updating resumes, scanning online sites, sending in apps with resumes attached, "etcetera, etcetera, etcetera." (You know, I remembered Yul Brenner saying this, but I associated it with "The Ten Commandments," not the movie it is actually from, which I have not seen since I was a wee lad and probably have never seen it in its entirety. Hello, Netflix!)

In the meantime, the little Escort wagon has been sitting in the driveway a lot, going nowhere. I do have a part time job in the evening, but usually I drive the newer Chevy we have because Kathy is not going to be using it and, as a bonus, the Chevy has a heater that works. The Escort's blower has blown itself out, so there is no heat to speak of. I bought an alleged heater a while back that plugs into the cigarette lighter and sits on top of the dash, ominously, like a swollen radar detector. It is very effective when clearing the foggy windshield, if by 'very effective' you mean it will clear a spot to peer through that is roughly the size of a softball and is about six inches below your line of sight.

Today it was time to put some coolant in the Escort's radiator as the little light, that may or may not indicate coolant is needed, has been on. I gathered all the relevant items for just such a task, took them to the car, and popped the hood.

Now when a person opens the hood of the car, he generally knows what to expect. Usually one expects to greeted by a lot of metal and rubber in proportions required to put braces on George Washington on Mt. Rushmore.

Well, I saw some of this, but what really caught my eye was the microwave oven-sized wad of leaves packed into the spaces in and around where the coolant overflow reservoir is. And I also saw a neat semi-circle torn out of the insulation attached to the underside of the hood.

Our front yard is a squirrel paradise, judging by the number of them I see most days. And I guess the engine compartment of the stationary automobile was just perfect for a new squirrel dwelling, and construction was underway. However I determined that this new construction was not up to code and, besides, had violated numerous zoning ordinances. It had to go.

However, no squirrels were available for the job, so I had to tear it out myself.

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

I found this post last summer, but it seems as if it were waiting for me to come back to it now, what with all the little circumstances that attend my life now. I would encourage you to read the whole post that is linked here.

The lesson (I don't like that word in this case) that strikes me is that God fills in the missing parts. In the case of George Matheson, it was his sense of being abandoned by, first a fiance, and then by a sister. In that state of feeling alone, his heart can sing, "my God will not let me go!"

Right now, friends I know are burying loved ones. The brother of a friend lost his house in the tornadoes. Kathy and I both need to find work. A woman I know suffers a chronic illness that may take her life.

There is a Love, though, that will not let us go.

It is a strange "not letting go" however. This "not letting go" takes us through some very dark places. It takes us places where it seems that we have been let go. We suffer and we cry. We ask questions and don't hear answers. Matheson might have been the greatest leader of the church of Scotland of his day. Instead he lost his sight. Yet, he said he was not let go.

It seems, then, that in all our "not being let go" that we don't merely have Someone holding us as we walk through the valley. It may be that the One not letting us go is actually leading us into the valley.

How can it be otherwise, for He has never let us go?


The Internet and Our Brains

I have been noticing for some time my diminishing ability to think, to concentrate, to focus on any one thing for very long at all. It disturbs me a great deal. I've gotten worried that this trend would advance in my life to where all I would want to do is watch TV or play games. Well maybe I'm doing it to myself. Maybe you are doing it to yourself, too.

The internet is making us shallow samplers.

According to the book The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains we are becoming "scanners and skimmers" but losing our "capacity for concentration, contemplation and reflection."

It may be that an Internet diet is required.