New England Patriots: The Bickering Begins

I was raised to believe that a real champion does more than just win; you gotta know how to lose. If you can take it like a grownup–not offering any excuses–that is the sign of class.  As a high school wrestler, I had plenty of opportunities to practice on that, as I also developed my mathematical prowess by spending lots of time on my back, counting the lights on the gym ceiling.

Enter the 2007-2008 New England Patriots. They were The Team. A QB–Tom Brady–who already had three Super Bowl rings, the best receiving corps–Moss, Stallworth, and Welker–that money could buy, and the best mind in the NFL in Bill Belichick, whose analytical abilities–including an economics degree–were impeccable.

They steamrolled through the regular season and playoffs, beating the best teams in the league. The Cowboys, Steelers, Redskins, Giants, Chargers (twice), Colts, and Jaguars–formidable opponents all–came up short. Until Super Bowl Sunday.

Then the New York Giants proceeded to execute the perfect game plan: ball-control offense, smashmouth defense, and a smothering pass rush. It worked, and Eli Manning even came through with the best John Elway imitation since, well, John Elway, and bolstered the Giants’ reputation as the master underdog. (Their last Super Bowl victory–in 1991–came against the heavily-favored Buffalo Bills, and sent the Bills to their first of four consecutive Super Bowl defeats.)

Now, there is turmoil in Boston, as the Patriots are not so good at handling defeat. Belichick is under more fire for previous Spygate issues, and now Randy Moss is running his mouth about the game plan.

Whatever happened to saying, “Ya know what? They just came out and beat us. Our coaching was fine. Our game plan was fine. Our quarterback actually had a pretty good game. But we got beat. We had trouble doing what we normally do, but the other team had a lot to do with that. They earned it.”

One of the most important lessons one can learn is that life is not fair. You’re not always going to get the job–or raise, or promotion–that you thought you deserve. You’re not always going to get the business deal you thought was a shoo-in. You aren’t going to win every tennis match, or golf tournament. (Just ask Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.) A very good baseball player–who hits about .300–fails to get a base hit about 70% of the time.

But if you want to know what class is, look at the premier golfers: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, and the late Ben Hogan. Look at the great basketball players like Julius Erving. (As a former 76ers fan, I can tell you a thing or two about Erving’s failures before finally getting his NBA Championship in 1983.) Look at tennis players like Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, and Chris Evert.

The ones with class credit their opponent in defeat, and keep their gloating to a minimum when they win.

An example of the latter: the old Pittsburgh Steelers. They eschewed ostensible celebrations when they scored touchdowns; Chuck Noll coached them to “act like you’ve been there before.”

That’s the sign of a professional.

As for the Patriots, I can understand their frustration, but Bill Belicheat and Randy Moss needs to start acting like grownups, and accept that they just got outplayed. Both teams had great players, great coaching, and great plans.

But this time, the underdog won. Fair and square.

Mohler on the Disappearing Father

05/23/2007: No one should be surprised at the latest scientific “advancement” in reproduction: the ability to produce sperm cells from bone marrow. This raises the specter of children conceived without fathers. Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler is right on in his assessment, although–short of a Third Great Awakening, or the Second Coming–the trend is not likely to be reversed.

That said, there is one comment of his with which I disagree:

Something more radical indeed.  In fact, nothing less than a reversal of current moral and social trends would be necessary.  If left unchecked, these trends will mean something radically new in the human experience  — the complete disappearance of the father from the picture. Never there . . . not even missed.

That last sentence is wrong: fathers will be missed, even if they are never present. The lack of a father may be possible scientifically, but from a social standpoint fathers are–in general–a necessity to the development of a child. A girl needs a father to serve as a role model, provide stability, and be that hero figure. Similarly, a boy needs a father to make him into a man.

Moms and dads are both necessary, and the rise in illegitimacy over the past 40 years has contributed substantially to the growth of the underclass. That illegitimacy rates are already nearing 70% for blacks and soaring among whites does not present encouraging prospects for the future of America.

This latest news of scientific “progress” does not help one bit.

That men can be made biologically irrelevant does not make them socially unnecessary. Hopefully, Americans will come to understand that before it is too late.

NH Town Fires Four Gossipers. Bravo!

05/23/2007: I might not be in the majority here, but I have absolutely no sympathy for the four women who were fired for gossiping over a speculated affair by their boss.

The First Amendment does not protect you from the consequences of maligning your fellow employees–especially your boss–on the job. That you have a Constitutional right to say what you wish about your boss does not extend to a right to be an employee.

I could walk into my VP’s office and tell him to f*** himself. The First Amendment may protect me from prosecution, but the only moral dilemma on the VP’s side would be whether to fire me before or after lunch.

Similarly, I not only have a Constitutional right to carry a gun; I also have a valid concealed carry license. Legally, I could carry my gun into the office. Anyone want to guess how long I would keep my job if I did that?

Engaging in trash talk–about a potential extramarital affair by your boss–endangers his or her career not to mention his or her personal life. Even if the accusation turns out to be untrue, often the accused person is marked for good. Ergo, such trash talk–being as damaging as it is–must be dealt with decisively.

In my first job out of college, I worked for EDS. While I was at the account, there were some rumors flying around that an employee was cheating on his wife, and apparently some employees were helping spread the “news”.

I only know about this because of the response by the account manager: when he found out about the rumors against the employee, he ordered an investigation and warned that anyone engaging in such speculation would be fired immediately.

The trash talk ended more quickly than it started, and it was a good thing: the rumors were utter fiction.

Turning 40…

0/21/2007: I’ve heard the horror stories about that 40th birthday. Over the hill and picking up speed. Yadayadayada.

Well, I’m 40 today. Can’t say that this feels any different from any other day. Other than my back problems–I have very bad arthritis–I feel pretty good.

In spite of the back problems, I’m in decent shape physically, as my body fat is closing in on 10%. I ride my recumbent exercise bike with a vengeance, to the tune of about 10 hours per week. I rarely eat out anymore.

I didn’t do anything remarkable for a celebration: I went to the local pub, and had a nice Philly cheese steak with a Guinness (a routine that I do every couple months).

But seriously, how do I feel? I’d say I’m a lot more cynical today than I was 20 years ago. I used to be far more trusting of people, and now I cannot say that I have that same level of trust. Even those who try to buddy up with me as “fellow Christians”…in fact I trust them even less. Beware the hand that pats you on the back today…for it shall be that same hand that stabs you in the back tomorrow…

I say that not as a pessimist, but rather as a realist. As God said through Jeremiah (17:9): The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?

I’m simply reflective of a more sobering appraisal of the human condition, and this makes liberals all the more funny: they actually believe in the power of human potential. What utter horse poop!

As for my own spiritual leanings, I’d say I’m an order of magnitude more serious about my own condition. In my younger days, I was a lot more brash, a lot more hot-tempered. While I believed that everyone (myself included) was inherently sinful, I functioned as if I were the arbiter of what is good and righteous.

Over the years, I’ve gained much better insights into the dynamics of human depravity, including my own.

What have been the results of that? I’d say I’m more gracious regarding those who’ve struggled with personal issues, while accepting the premise that we all have the capacities to deceive ourselves into thinking we are really trying to follow God when in fact we are trying to have our cake and eat it too. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

On the other hand, I’m finding myself more at a theological crisis. By “crisis”, I mean not that I am leaning to the left or anything like that, but rather that–on one hand I am leaning more and more in the Reform/Puritan direction while, on the other hand, I am becoming increasingly less impressed with modern evangelicalism.

Where I once was quite active politically regarding many social causes, I have come to loathe pastors who use the pulpit to promote those causes, even though my political leanings are unchanged on those fronts. The pulpit is for the preaching of the Gospel, not the promotion of social agendas that may be tangentially related to the Gospel.

There is one area that I have wavered politically: I have bolted the Republican party, lock, stock, and .308-barrel. Not in favor of the Democrats, but rather in favor of independence. I consider myself libertarian, but even the Libertarian party is very short of the glory.

As for myself, the four-decade mark is a reminder that I am one step closer to judgment day. I am increasingly facing the reality that there are only six words that matter, and those are the ones I long to hear on the other side of this life: well done good and faithful servant.

This past twelve months, I lost a dear friend, one to whom I was almost married. She lost a battle with breast cancer. Another friend of mine is fighting for dear life against prostate cancer. Eternity is for real, and we will all walk through that door one day. 40 is a stark reminder of that.

As for what I will do today? I will go to church, probably chat with the pastor, work out this afternoon, maybe go watch some football with some friends, maybe work on some programs I’m writing for orbital mechanics.

And treat it like another day that God has given me.