Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Yankee Fan

It's hard to understand why a person is a sports fan. I mean to get at the roots of it. It's not easy to be a fan today given the insanely high salaries (Melo Anthony gets $18 million a year while the Knicks newest star Jeremy Lin "only" makes 500K), and the steroids use which makes records meaningless, and the mercenary impact of free agency ( Pujols in an Angels uniform? Come on!).  My wife has not a clue why or what a baseball fan is. How can a grown man sit in front of a Mariners game day after day, even with a DVR. How can any sane person watch a Mariners game when they are so bad year in and year out.

But my story is more about the Yankees. I am a fan of the Yankees. The Mariners are a distraction until I move back to NY - and without Root sports on the local cable lineup this summer my love for the Mariners will be seen for what it was - just baseball lust.

 I am not sure how I came by my passion for the Yankees. I did live in NY. My parents though were not sports fans. My dad played basketball in high school. He was 6 feet 4, tall and wiry. But he grew up on a farm during the depression so he did not make every game.There were chores and he lived four miles from the school with no transportation other than his legs. He told me once his parents never saw him play. When I was growing up my dad watched the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday but I don't ever remember him watching baseball. Of course, there weren't many games on tv then. I played baseball with a passion. Every day in the summer there were pick up games at a local ball field. My dad coached my Little League teams and he even got a bunch of dads together and built a sandlot ball field in a vacant lot behind our house. That was cool. So, how did I became a Yankee's fan. I can't put my finger on the genesis of that passion. In my mind I was Mickey Mantle every time I came up to bat. I treasured my Yankee baseball cards. For a couple years I had a strat-o-matic league with a buddy of mine and we played 162 games with about 5 teams (that was all we could handle: it was so time consuming!) keeping meticulous stats. My Yankees lost in that league, too. They were not too good when I was growing up. Mabye that was when I developed a love for the underdog. Hard to believe now that the Yankees were every underdogs. But, their history does include those pre-Steinbrenner years.

My mother had no use for sports. She grew up in a large family and they all had outside jobs just to make ends meet. She never had much interest in my sports pursuits and she never missed a chance to mock my sports hero, Mickey Mantle. "Old rickety legs", she called him. When he was ministered to by Bobby Richardson on his death bed after a life of self indulgence and accepted Christ as his savior, she never believed it. You don't get to live life in the fast lane and then get God too in the last minutes of your life, she said. He should have done it sooner if he was really serious.

So my Yankee passion was not born at home. There was no tv. I had a transistor radio so I could listen to some of the games. Many of them were played while I was in school though. While I lived in upstate NY I never went to Yankee stadium until I visited it with one of our sons who was in his school's marching band and then I even got to walk out on the outfield grass - right where Mantle ran on his old rickety legs. It was a thrill. I couldn't sleep the night before (or was that because I was chaperoning a bunch of middle school kids).

So I don't know where that Yankee spirit came from. But I do know I grieve the loss of Posada, and can't bear to think of Mariano retiring in one more year. I hope Jeter bounces back after a slow start last year. But win or lose, baseball's back.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Public Education

My wife is a teacher. She always wanted to be a teacher. It was a good and decent profession to which to aspire. One could help young people learn and perhaps inspire them to do good work. She loves her students. Many of them speak English as their second language and are new to the United States. They are eager to learn to read in their new language and discover all they can about this new place. Many of their parents work two jobs or more and live in large extended families. They are very committed to their children's education. My wife's school is filled with committed teachers who love the students they teach. They love their jobs. It is a wonderful place to visit because of the exceptional school spirit. Test scores which are the important evaluators today are rising. My wife is a reading specialist and she routinely passes her students on as they become proficient according to their test scores. It's a great achievement for these students.

I know there are some teachers who are not doing their best work but I don't know very many. By far most of the teachers I know are teachers who I would be very happy to send my children or grandchildren to.

The climate of public education has changed over the past ten years. Since No Child Left Behind the assumption is that we are leaving too many children behind and the teachers are to blame. So the solution seems to be more teacher evaluation and the way to do this is by assessing a teacher's performance based on how his or her students do on their proficiency tests. While this simple idea sounds good it is inadequate. Teachers do not deal with a classroom of children who come to school equally prepared to learn. There are problems at home to deal with. There are learning problems. There are language problems. There are lots of problems that teachers deal with in order to help their students learn.

The politicians need a scapegoat. They are making budgets that commit a lot of money to public education. People pay taxes to fund these budgets and they demand accountability. Here in Alaska our governor has stated he does not favor any more education increases because it's the "ultimate giveaway". Money spent with no accountability, with no means of knowing if it is getting the job done. Thus, the teachers are left feeling unsupported and having to do more with less every year. They do it, too. They love their students and are committed to helping them learn.

Our governor or anyone else who questions what our public education is doing for the money that is spent only needs to spend a day in my wife's classroom, or in any of the classrooms in our community. It would be time well spent.

The Way

I watched The Way on Ash Wednesday. It was a good day to watch it as Lent begins. Lent is a journey to Easter that involves a greater awareness of our sins, and confession of our need for forgiveness, and the importance of the Community of Christ. The Way included all those themes. The Way is El Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James. It is a 500 mile trek through Spain that ends up at the Church of St James - the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela - locacted in Galicia in northwest Spain. It is said to the be the place where the bones of the apostle James are buried. The Way is a well worn trek used by pilgrims for thousands of years. Many people walk the Camino every year - for all sorts of reasons, religious and other. In the movie, The Way,  Martin Sheen plays a doctor whose wife has died and their one son has dropped out of a doctoral program in anthropology so he can travel to some of the places he has studied about. His father is not in favor of his decision and tells him not many 40 year olds can afford to drop out and travel all over Europe. His son wants his dad to take off with him for awhile. His dad tells him he is more responsible than that and he is fine with the life he has chosen. His son replies, you don't choose a life, you live it. And those are about the last words the father hears his son say. One day on a golf course he gets a call from a French police officer who tells him his son has died walking the Camino de Santiago. His father has never heard of it. So, he goes to France to pick up his son's body. While there, on impulse, he gathers up his son's gear and decides to cremate his son and take his ashes with him on the trek scattering them along the way. Along the way, he meets fellow travelers, all of whom are carrying their own burdens. Sheen's character, Tom, is aloof and distant not wanting to share the reason for his journey. Still, he ends up walking with a threesome of characters who alternately try to draw him in to their lives and leave him behind in frustration because of his indifference.

On the walk which takes several months things happen just like in life. There are mishaps and wrong turns and dead ends and people out to take advantage of the travelers. Together, they face all these things. Together, they begin to share their lives, their sins, their mistakes. Together, they learn to trust and forgive each other and themselves. Tom is a different person at the end of the walk.

The Way is a metaphor for life but also for the church. Sometimes it seems the church can be a place where people are the least honest and transparent. We get ready to go to church and put on our best face as if we are going to meet saints not sinners. It's impossible to be at your best on the Camino trek as you stay in large dorm rooms, and go days without showers, and have to use a pit toilet outside.  People get to know you at your worst. There is no place to hide your irritability, or moodiness - or what personal demons you are fighting. And because of that real community can happen - it does not have to but it can - and when it does as it does in the film - it is a powerful thing. Especially when it is centered on Christ - in a real way - pay attention to the scene at the end of the film when the characters reach the Cathedral of St James.

See you on the Way.

Friday, February 3, 2012

No Super Bowl This Year

Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday (is there anyone - in America anyway - who does not know this?). I'm not real good at Roman Numerals so I'm not sure which one this is. But, I do remember Roman Numeral 1. I am that old. I guess I have watched every one of them. Except the one I missed most of when I suddenly came down with the flu. We were at a super bowl party at my bosses house at the time and I threw up most of her specialty snacks. We immediately left the party.  My wife had not learned how to drive our manual shift Toyota yet but she learned quickly because I had to hang my head out the passenger door most of the way home. DVRs were not invented yet so I missed the game. I have not missed many others. Although, I have left before some of the games that were real dogs were over and went out for a walk. I have been to many parties and I have watched some with our sons and I have watched some by myself. My wife does not watch the super bowl. She does not know a touchdown from a home run. She does not even watch the game for the ads which is good because that is a lame reason to watch a football game. But, this year I don't plan to watch the super bowl. Someone asked me at the gym I go to if I was going to watch it and I said No, surprising myself. They guffawed. No one who knew me believed I was serious. I didn't know if I was or not either. But, now after a few days to think it over, I realize I am serious. I'm not sure why I am not going to watch it. I don't know why I have to justify it. I have watched a lot of Roman Numerals so I guess I can take this year off. I don't really like either team all that much and they just played each other a few Roman Numerals back with pretty much the same players and coaches. Tom Brady has had a couple bad playoff games (for him) and the Giants were about the worst team in football at mid season. (If some new team like the 49ers or Ravens were playing or if Tebow was then I might be more interested, I don't know). I am sick of the hype for the past two weeks although I have tried to avoid reading anything about the game. It's still hard to avoid all the chatter and headlines on MSN like Madonna does the Victor Cruz salsa dance or that the huge tight end for the Patriots has big hands - is it newsworthy that really big men who catch passes for a living have big hands. Really.  That's another reason not to watch it though - Madonna is the halftime show. Then there are the ads. If you don't like the game, at least watch it to see the ads and then after the game rate the ads, some people say.  The ads are designed to get us to buy stuff we don't need so why watch them. They cost millions for a super bowl spot. So, that's a lot of stuff they think we are going to buy. Then, there is the food. I don't need to eat any more snack food for the rest of my life. I have sworn off Doritos, and dips and chicken wings. They are not good for me. Even diet coke is not good for me so I have sworn off that too. So, if there is a change in the weather here that lets me get out and walk. I will do that this year. Maybe with my wife who I know won't be glued to the tv.

A Really Good Book on Christian Marriage

 Follow up post to the last one: there is a very good new book on marriage titled Are You Waiting for the One? And subtitled: Cultivating Realistic Positive Expectations for Christian Marriage. It's written by Margaret Kim Peterson and her husband Dwight N. Peterson, both teach at Eastern College in Pennsylvania. They are not celebrity teachers or pastors. The book is not all about sex although chapter six is about sex. The authors are not marketing the book from a bed atop the college administration building. There are no titillating confessions from their past failed sexual experiences. It is simply a very good and wise book about relationships, love, and marriage. It debunks cultural myths about the same and offers good guidance about how to think about these things today. If I were to put one book in the hands of a young couple considering marriage (or not), or recently married (or living together) or any person/couple needing a good book on Christian marriage today, this is the One I would recommend.