Monday, March 2, 2015

8 Years .... and Counting

A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated the 8th anniversary of my heart transplant. It amazes me how fast the last 8 years have flown by. It seems more like only 8 days. However, I'm thankful for every one of the last 2900+ days. I haven't taken any of them for granted.

The last 8 years have given me an opportunity to spend additional time with my wife, friends and family, and more time doing the things I enjoy. It has now dawned on me that I am not alive today because of anything I have done. I'm still here because of the love of friends and family who supported and prayed for me during my long battle with heart disease. I'm alive because God is gracious and merciful, and because a man I never met chose to care enough to be an organ donor. In other words, I'm still alive because of what others did for me.

It's been awhile since there was a Music Monday on this blog, and I felt like today was as good a time as any to get them started back up. I've decided to feature a song that has been one of my favorites for many years, because it expresses how I feel about the blessing of the last 8 years, and it does it so much better than any words I can type on this page.

Today's feature is a live video of Avalon's "Testify to Love". I've embedded it below or it can be watched by clicking here. Enjoy, and if you're not yet registered as an organ and tissue donor, please do so today by clicking here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Different Approach

It's been interesting the last few weeks listening to folks talk about this Fifty Shades of Grey movie. My fellow Christians and other groups are calling for boycotts for various reasons. From what I've heard the movie contains explicit sexual situations and promotes violence against women. Personally, I cannot speak to any of this as I have not seen the movie and have no intentions of doing so. I'm more of an action and sci-fi movie guy. For my $10-$11 movie admission I want to see shooting and stuff getting blown up.

I think the folks who are clamoring for boycotts of the movie are taking the wrong approach. During my lifetime, I've noticed that time and time again when Christians and others call out something in the entertainment industry as being bad, it peaks the public's curiosity. Next thing you know, everyone has the attitude of, "Let's see what all the fuss is about." So they go buy the controversial record or go see the movie, and the artist or producer makes millions because of it. Consider the following examples to make my point.

Moon over Miami
Moon over Miami (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
First, back in the '80s, there was a rap/hip-hop group from Miami called 2 Live Crew. Remember them and their record As Nasty As They Wanna Be?

They released their first record in 1986. At the time, their fan base mainly grew through word of mouth. Then, 1989 rolls around and they release As Nasty As They Wanna Be with the cover photo of the backs of women in thong bikinis. The lyrics to the so-called songs on the record are sexually explicit, so Christians, the American Family Association, and others went nuts. Curiosity was peaked and people wanted to know what all the fuss was about leading to the album selling over 2 million copies.

These rappers went on to release a total of 11 albums over their 12-year career with the last one being in 1998. Let that sink in for a moment - a raunchy rap group released 11 albums, selling millions of copies of them, and making millions of dollars. It is my opinion that if Christians and others had not raised so much cain about the filthy lyrics, this "band" would have not received the notoriety it did, flopped, and just went away after a couple of records. The free press they received made them rich and successful.

Second, back in the early '80s, the hair/glam metal craze swept the country. My favorite band, Motley Crue, was right in the middle of it. The band formed in 1981 and released its first record Too Fast for Love. Too Fast really did not see much success at first. It didn't break the Billboard 200 until 1983 after the band released album #2 - Shout at the Devil. Now, why was that?

Shout at the Devil (song)
Shout at the Devil (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's simple. Shortly after Devil's release, Christians, conservatives, and other groups jumped all over Motley Crue, because in their opinion, the band was promoting satanism with it's use of pentagrams. Once again, curiosity peaked, people had to see what all the fuss was about, and all the attention led to Devil selling 4 million copies (quadruple platinum status). The Crue's career took off. Additionally, Devil's success led to more people going back and purchasing Too Fast and it shot into the Billboard 200 album chart reaching #77 and going platinum (selling over a million copies).

Motley Crue's career has now spanned 3 decades, 30 years, 9 studio albums, and they've sold over 100 million records. As I've said, they're my favorite band. I never agreed with their wild lifestyle, but I've loved much of their music. However, if you listen to their early records, Too Fast and Devil, they were really not that good. I always felt like they really didn't hit their stride until 1985's Theatre of Pain was released.

If it had not been for all the attention and controversy surrounding Shout at the Devil, I'm not convinced The Crue would have lasted more than a few albums. 30 years? No way. In my opinion, it's likely they, too, would have flamed out after a couple of records, but thanks to all the negative PR they got over Devil, they hit it big. Were they satanic? I don't think so. I think all the pentagrams, etc. were a brilliant PR stunt that left Motley Crue laughing all the way to the bank.

So, what's my point with all this? I think that when controversial stuff comes out of the entertainment industry that Christians and other conservative groups find offensive, most of the time we deal with it the wrong way. Think about it this way - when a child is told not to do something or that they can't have such-and-such, what is the the first thing they do? Exactly. They go and do just what they were just told not to. It's natural. Adults do it to. When someone, or some group, starts clamoring about how immoral or wrong something is, our natural reaction is to be curious and want to see what all the fuss is about. Well ....... STOP IT!!!!!!!

Just like 2 Live Crew and Motley Crue ended up having long, successful, and profitable careers after controversies surrounding their music, continued wailing about Fifty Shades of Grey is gonna push people to want to see the movie. Hollywood will make millions, allow it to run for weeks and weeks, and then make similar movies in the future due to the success of this one.

So, try a different approach for once - just fuhgeddaboutit and shut up. Then, it might just go away when it stops making money due to a lack of interest. Right now, all the negative attention is making Hollywood money.

Christians and conservatives are currently doing exactly what Hollywood wants them to in regards to Fifty Shades of Grey. They're being played, and just like Motley Crue did, Hollywood's laughing all the way to the bank.

Friday, February 13, 2015

An Open Letter to Mr. Rooney, Coach Tomlin, and the Rest of the Steelers' Organization

Dear Steelers' Leadership,

I've been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan since I was old enough to know what a football was, so my support of the team is nearing the 40 year mark. Terry Bradshaw was, and still is, one of my heroes. I had the privilege of meeting him once many, many years ago. I'll never forget that day.
English:
Terry Bradshaw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last few years have been, to say the least, frustrating to be a Steelers fan. We missed the playoffs in both 2012 and '13 and then were one and done this year after getting man-handled by the hated Ravens at HOME. One playoff game in three years is unacceptable. Furthermore, if we take a look back to 2011, we went to Denver and were one and done, too. So, we've played TWO playoff games in the last five seasons and lost both of them. Once again - unacceptable.

When Todd Haley was brought in as offensive coordinator starting with the 2012 season, my immediate initial reaction was, "What the ...... heck?!? His Kansas City teams were sorry with him as head coach, so why do the Steelers want him in charge of the offense? I felt sure it would be a disaster, and 2012 and '13 were pretty much just that as we struggled to finish .500 each year and lost to some of the worst teams in the NFL.

Haley's offensive prowess has been far less than stellar. Four of the Steelers' five losses this year were to teams with losing records. In two of those, embarrassing losses to the Browns and Jets, Haley showed exactly how inept he is as the offense was completely discombobulated scoring only 10 points against the Browns and only 13 against the lowly Jets. Pathetic and completely unacceptable. So, what do you guys do? You reward him with a contract extension. Yippee!! Seriously?

Now, I would agree that Big Ben had the best year of his career this year, but I would chalk that up to the young talent Ben has around him, including Leveon Bell and Antonio Brown. Those two guys are beasts and fun to watch. Heck, I could be a successful offensive coordinator if I had those guys to get the ball to. Haley did not deserve the extension.
English: Dick Lebeau with Mr. and Mrs. John Mi...
English: Dick Lebeau with Mr. and Mrs. John Mitchell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The thing I really don't get is why does Haley get an extension and yet the legend and Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, gets the ax? Seriously? Has the organization's leadership been smoking pot with Leveon Bell and the departed problem child LeGarrette Blount? LeBeau's defenses were the best in the league for years. The last two years have been down years, but Lebeau's been working with players that in NFL years are nearly old enough to draw Social Security. For instance:
  • Brett Keisel - 36 years old, just completed his 13th NFL season
  • Troy Polamalu - 33 years old, just completed his 12th NFL season
  • James Harrison - 36 season, just completed his 11th NFL season
  • Ike Taylor - 34 years old, just completed his 12th NFL season
Of the four players listed above, only one, James Harrison, was healthy and contributing at the end of the year. Why? Because they're old in terms of their NFL career and old players seem to get injured easier and then take longer to heal. Lebeau was expected to turn out a Top-5 defense every year and do it with antiques. For years, the Steelers have been needing to draft younger players for the secondary, in particular, and haven't done it. That's on Mr. Rooney and Coach Tomlin, not Dick Lebeau. Shame on you guys for making Lebeau the scapegoat.

So, Haley gets an extension, Lebeau gets the ax, and Keith Butler is promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator to take over for Lebeau. Bet that's really gonna help things a lot - promoting the longtime linebackers coach who will likely run the same schemes with the same antique players. Puh-lease. Yep, the Ravens are gonna kill us again next year, too.

I've been thinking. Since kicking Lebeau to the curb, promoting Butler, and giving Haley an extension seem to imply a youth movement is taking over the Steelers. Please allow me to make some suggestions about how to continue "the movement."

First, the four geezers playing defense I mentioned before, Keisel, Polamalu, Harrison, and Taylor, should be released. Then, the focus of the 2015 draft needs to be defense. Cornerbacks and safeties should be the first priority. Forget about high-priced free agents that will bust the salary cap. Go get new blood and go get it now. You guys have already waited too long. I know the fans will have a duck letting these guys go, but afterall, it's nothing personal - it's just business. Right? Isn't that the line you guys in the front office always give us?

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsbrgh Steelers d...
Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsbrgh Steelers during an NFL game in 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Second, Big Ben Roethlisberger is currently in contract negotiations. Reports are that he's looking for a mega long term deal. Fugedabboutit. In 2008, you guys gave him an 8-year $102 Million deal. I say, "No mas!" He's already had his big deal. That ship has sailed. Ben has been an asset to the franchise winning two Super Bowls for us. However, he's gonna be 33 years old shortly, and he just completed his 11th season. Once again - geezer. And this geezer has lost more than a few steps. All the hits he's taken the last 11 years are piling up. His mobility is now more like immobility. It was obvious last year. It won't be long before he'll need a Lil' Rascal to get away from Terrell Suggs.

So give Ben a 3-year deal worth $10 Million a year or so, maybe even $15 Million to say thank you for the two additional Lombardi Trophies. Then, in the 2015 draft, get a quarterback. Heck, trade up and get a good one, and during the next three years Ben can teach and mentor him as his successor. If Ben doesn't like it, he's been there long enough to know where the door is. Just remind him he still has one year left on his contract, and we expect him to earn every dime.

Now the question is, "who do we draft"? I'm so glad you asked. It's simple. Go get Jameis Winston. The kid's got a rifle for an arm, is big, and can move. On more than one occasion, I've heard the pundits compare him to Big Ben. Yes, I know there's all those "issues" but didn't Ben have some of his own a few years ago? Ben then straightened his life out and has been a "good boy" since. Who better to mentor and guide Winston than a guy like Ben who's been there, done that, and come out of it smelling like a rose? Plus, Winston already knows what it takes to win a championship and has a ring to prove it. Jameis is your guy. Go get him.

Now, I know the things I mentioned above will be tough to do. Cutting Keisel, Polamalu, Harrison, and Taylor, as well as not giving Ben the contract he wants will not make the fans happy. Newsflash guys - WE AIN'T HAPPY NOW!!

And please, don't worry about how Brett, Troy, James, Ike, Ben, and other players feel about it. They're big boys - they'll get over it. Afterall, it's just business and the goal is the 7th Lombardi Trophy, right?

Sincerely,
THE Pissed Off Steelers Fan

P.S. Mr. Rooney, while you're showing Brett, Troy, James, and Ike the door, please show it too Coach Tomlin, too. Two playoff games in 5 years ain't getting it. I mean, isn't that part of the reason Lebeau got shown the door? Fair is fair. See ya Tomlin. No hard feelings - it's just business. 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

College Football's Epic Fail

After years of debate about the need for a college football playoff, 2014 saw it come to fruition. However, it was not without controversy involving the members of the playoff selection committee, the criteria used to select the teams, and which four teams should have have been selected. In my opinion, the inaugural playoff was at best a screw-up in regards to the teams selected and their rankings. At worst, it appeared to have had an agenda.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Florida State (FSU) fan, and I wrote this article based upon what I as an FSU fan perceived happened in college football this year. I'm sure many will disagree and write me off as a "nutjob conspiracy theorist." However, I'm sure some, such as TCU and Big 12 fans, will understand where I'm coming from. Heck, I'll betcha Detroit Lions fans can relate to where I'm coming from based upon what happened in the NFC WildCard Game with the Dallas Cowboys. I'm also sure that anyone who is a sports fan has at some time felt like their team got "railroaded". My whole point in writing this article is that nowadays appearance and perception is everything.

Background

So, after all these years, why start the playoff now? What if the answer is because the SEC wanted it? After all, the SEC is college football's "cash cow". The playoff's predecessor, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), was by all accounts "fathered" by former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, because SEC teams kept knocking each other out of national championship contention each year. The BCS put a system in place that gave SEC teams an opportunity to play for the title even if they had 1 or 2 losses. In my opinion, the BCS gave the SEC a bailout.

Bowl Championship Series
Bowl Championship Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During the BCS years, SEC teams won 9 out of 16 BCS title games, including 7 in a row. They were trying to make it 8 in a row last year, but SEC champion, Auburn, choked away a 21-3 first half lead en route to losing to Florida State (FSU) 34-31.

Could it be that FSU's victory, which ended the SEC's consecutive national title run, was the impetus for the new playoff system? Afterall, since the SEC is the so-called "best conference in the country", we just can't have some team from that "itty bitty conference" (as my uncle referred to the ACC) winning the crystal trophy, can we? Could it be that the NCAA felt a new system was needed which would help guarantee the SEC a shot at winning the title each year?

The Set-Up

Now, if the powers that be wanted to dethrone the defending champ and get the national title back in the SEC's hands, a new system would have to provide for the deck to be stacked against the defending champs and in favor of the SEC. Could it be that by having a 4-team playoff the goal was to have multiple SEC teams in the 4-team field to increase the SEC's odds of reclaiming the title? The only problem was that in 2014 one-by-one Auburn, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss crashed and burned leaving Alabama as the lone SEC entry into the 4-team field.
derived from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imag...
Map of states with Big 12 schools (and their division); (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know that the playoff committee was governed by a bunch of convoluted rules as to how teams were to be selected and ranked? You can read these rules by clicking here. If I didn't know better, I'd think they were devised by the Federal government. Heck, these "rules" would have made Nancy "we have to pass the bill so you'll know what's in it" Pelosi happy.

If you, like me, followed the committee updates each week during the college football season, you noticed that the criteria seemed to change each week. One week they would say they were looking at each team's complete season. Then, the next week some other criteria would be more important. Did the rules / criteria change on a weekly basis in order to get a desired result? Was it to cause confusion? Could the "changes" explain :
  • why TCU was booted from the playoff at the last minute even though their only loss was on the road to a team ranked #5 at the time,  but yet
  • Ohio State reached the playoff despite their only loss coming at home to a team, Virginia Tech, that finished the season 6-6 and unranked? 
Heck, I remember various media personalities saying on more than one occasion that even they didn't know what criteria the committee was judging the teams on. Was there an intended reason for the confusion?

Now, besides the convolutedness of the playoff criteria, it seemed there was a propaganda campaign against FSU by the sports media. The media would incessantly bash the defending champs. Nearly everyday, the airwaves were filled with negative press about the university and/or its football team and usually it was the same story over and over again. Was this an effort to taint public opinion against FSU in hopes that the pollsters and playoff committee members would drop them lower and lower and maybe even out of the top 4 in the rankings?

Am I off base? Well, consider this - why did FSU get hammered over off-the-field incidents and yet if an SEC player was arrested we would only hear one little snippet about it and it would be dropped? Why didn't the media pound Oregon when their star wide receiver failed a drug test and was declared ineligible for the national championship game? Think about the media uproar that would have ensued if an FSU player had failed a drug test. Was FSU treated fairly, or did it get raked over the coals due to a hidden agenda?

Furthermore, can you name me one, just one, other year when the undefeated, defending national champion was not ranked #1? Can you name me one other year where the undefeated, defending national champion won every week during the regular season but yet consistently dropped in the rankings? I've been a college football fan over 35 years, and I've never seen anything like this year. I've never seen the defending national champ disrespected like FSU was. I'm confident it would have been different if FSU had been say ..... Alabama.  As an acquaintance of mine, who's an Alabama fan, said to me one day, "They're (FSU) #1 until they lose." Boom. Exactly.

The Final Pre-Playoff Rankings

Did the convoluted rules for ranking the teams and the propaganda have the desired affect? It appeared to me that they did. The company line was that FSU fell in the rankings because they struggled in winning close games. Or, was there more to it than that? Once again, it appeared to me there was. The final rankings released after the conference championships were completed on December 6th were:
  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. Florida State
  4. Ohio State
When these were released, controversy ensued because the rankings had changed from the previous week's in which #1 and #2 were the same but #3 was TCU and FSU was #4. The question was why did TCU drop out of the top 4 even though it had won in a blowout that weekend? Some said the Big 12 and TCU were punished due to there being no Big 12 Conference Title Game. Now, why would they be punished for that? Could it have been because the NCAA likes money and conference title games bring in a lot of it? What about if there's even more to it than that?

Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans at sunset f...
Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans at sunset from the south, taken before the Sugar Bowl on January 3, 2005 by J. Glover (AUTiger). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For instance, did you know that the #1 seed got the benefit of playing its semi-final game close to home as a "reward" for being the #1 seed? It's like the NFL playoffs where the #1 seed in each conference gets to play all their playoff games at home. With one semi-final game being the Sugar Bowl, Alabama as the #1 seed gets to stay close to home and have what amounts to home-field advantage, which likely increases their chances to reach the championship game and reclaim the title for the SEC.

Furthermore, with Alabama going to the Sugar Bowl, #2 seed Oregon also gets a home game by playing in the Rose Bowl. By ranking hated, undefeated, defending national champion FSU at #3, they must travel 3000 miles away from home to play. The hated 'Noles road to repeating as national champ is now a steep uphill climb. So then, who's #4 and plays Alabama?

Well, TCU's tough. So, would the powers that be want them playing beloved Alabama? I seriously doubt it. Therefore, TCU got dumped in favor of Ohio State. It seems that if there's one thing more disrespected and hated than FSU in college football, it's the Big 10. Could it be that the Ohio State / Alabama matchup was viewed as an easy win for The Crimson Tide?

The Epic Fail

Alabama's easy win turned into college football and the media's worst nightmare. I wonder if ESPN, who has the rights to all the CFP games through 2025, thought their prized cash cow would be playing for, if not winning, the championship every year? But as Bart Simpson would say, "au contraire, mon frere." Ohio State had other plans.

College football and the rest of the country rejoiced when hated FSU lost to Oregon. All was suddenly well in the world again .... briefly, until College Football Armegeddon happened, and ..... Alabama lost to last minute CFP qualifier Ohio State. The plan to get the SEC back on top became an epic, epic failure.

Hilarious does not come close to describing it.

Summary

Some will say this article is baloney. They will say that there's no way any such a thing happened or could happen. Remember - I said at the beginning that this is how I perceived what happened in college football this year as an FSU fan. It's an OPINION!

Myself with FSU's 2013 National Championship Trophy.
But what if this is what happened? What if you have a similar reaction to what happens to your team next year? It won't be "baloney" then, will it?

Another group of people will say I'm just cryin' because FSU lost. I can already hear them. The truth is that no cryin' is involved. FSU had a great run. No other team in college football has a recent winning streak of 29 games, and the only other team with a national championship more recent than FSU's is Ohio State.

Besides, it's tough to stay focused and keep winning week after week when the entire country is rooting against you and just waiting for you to fail. Remember, we're talking about 18-22 year-old kids here, Couple all that with committing multiple turnovers against a good team in the Rose Bowl and you have the perfect storm. Stuff happens.

The truth is I'm a bigger FSU fan now than I was before the season. Why? It's because the entire country hated my football team for weeks, and FSU's players and coaches heard over and over about how sorry they were as a team and as human beings. Yet those guys kept fighting week after week and stuck together as a team. Only running into a perfect storm in the Rose Bowl beat them. So, I'm proud of all those guys, the FSU players and coaches, for standing tall and sticking together against overwhelming odds all year.

And to much of the country's dismay, my guys will be back. It's only a matter of time.

Go 'Noles.

Friday, December 19, 2014

All Lives Matter

Photo of a police officer, Boston, USA
Photo of a police officer, Boston, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Incidents involving law enforcement officers and suspects have been prominent news stories during 2014. Recent incidents have brought protestors out into the streets blocking traffic and impeding the flow of commerce. In the Nashville area, protestors have even held "die ins" at local malls making it difficult for Christmas shoppers to navigate from store to store. The chants of, and signs proclaiming, "Black Lives Matter" are popping up everywhere.

On Monday, I put forth a challenge to my Facebook friends. I challenged them to pause and think about what life in the U.S. would be like if we took the attitude that "All Lives Matter". Before I go any further, I'm sure someone is gonna take this article as me trying to downplay or dismiss this idea of "Black Lives Matter". I am not. It's just that I don't think that goes far enough.

For instance, after putting the challenge out on Facebook, I took it myself. Here's some of what I came up with :
  • The 17-year-old high school junior who just found out she's pregnant. She's been an A student and had dreams of law school and a great career. Now, she's worried those dreams are slipping away, because she will have to focus on raising a child. She's been with her boyfriend since she was a freshman. They made one mistake by "foolin' around" and now her parents are mad at her and her boyfriend wants her to "just get rid of it". Her life matters. Her baby's life matters.
  • A 58-year-old factory worker has been out of work for a year after being laid off. He had been with the company for 30 years and was looking forward to retiring at the age of 60. He and his wife were counting the days until they could relax, travel, and spoil their grandkids fulltime. Now, no one wants to hire a 58-year-old and his savings is about gone. His life matters.
  • Iraq war veteran returns home after catching some shrapnel from an IED. He's suffering from severe PTSD after watching several of his buddies die to that same IED. His wife didn't wait on him and has left. He's all alone and an emotional wreck. His life matters.
  • The police officer who just chased a suspect down a dark alley. The suspect jumps out of the shadows surprising him, knocks him to the ground, and wrestles the officer's gun away. The suspect now aims the gun at the cop and the cop tells him, "I have a wife and two small children. Don't shoot me. Just go." What will the suspect do? The cop's life matters. His wife and kids lives matter.
  • The 18 Americans who will suffer and slowly die today because the life-saving organ they need does not become available in time. Their lives matter.
  • The 16-year-old teenage girl who runs away from home because her home environment is so bad and turns to prostitution to make ends meet. Her life matters.
  • The politician who you strongly disagree with on every issue and simply seeing their name, campaign sign, or hearing their voice makes you ill. Their life matters.
  • The homeless man you pass on the street everyday walking to and from work who always bugs you for "your spare change". His life matters.
  • The 8-year-old girl who's out playing in her front yard and gets struck down by a stray bullet from a gang-related drive-by shooting. Her life matters.
  • The single mom who finally got the nerve to take her two kids and leave her abusive, alcoholic husband. They were high school sweethearts. He's the only man she's ever loved, but he can't keep a job because of his drinking. She's tired and doesn't want the kids seeing his mistreatment of her anymore. She has moved in with her parents and now must find a job to support her kids. She hasn't had a job in 10 years as she's been a stay-at-home mom. She's scared. Her life matters. Her kids lives matter.
These are just a few. I'm sure my readers can come up with more such scenarios. My point here is very simple - we need to get away from the idea that this life or that life is anymore important than another. God loves us all equally, and we are all precious to Him.

Let's try something - let's replace the hate with more love and respect for each other. This goes for me, too. If we can do that, can you imagine how different and how much better life would be in the U.S.?

The truth is that "All Lives Matter".