Sports Archives

Maher, Just Avoid Religion Altogether, OK?

[Wow, long time, no blogging. But I'm back into a routine again, so here goes.]

If Bill Maher has lost atheist sports writers, he’s lost America. Sally Jenkins, writing in the Washington Post explains her puzzlement at him.

If God is liable to smite anybody around here, it’s me. When it’s smiting time, I duck, because I don’t believe in any religion that requires a building and loan payments. Nevertheless, I’m having a hard time seeing anything wrong with Tim Tebow taking a prayer knee in public. The knee seems a pretty plain and graceful statement, and it’s tiresome to see it so willfully misinterpreted. It’s the preachers from the top of Mount Idiot like Bill Maher who are hard to understand.

If you want to know Maher’s overriding philosophy on anything, you have to go back to high school and the stoner in the last row, surrounded by sycophants as he makes ugly cracks about his betters. That was the vein of the tweet that Maher chucked at Tebow on Christmas Eve, after the Broncos quarterback was intercepted three times in a loss to the Buffalo Bills. Maher wrote, “Wow, Jesus just [expletive] Tim Tebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is Tebowing, saying to Hitler, ‘Hey, Buffalo’s killing them.’ ”

Set aside the intriguing question of whether Maher would have the nerve if Tebow were Muslim. Or whether he’s funny. (He’s not, really. Monty Python is.) What’s more interesting is why Maher, and other political commentators from Bill Press to David Shuster, feel compelled to rip on Tebow simply for kneeling.

Based on the first 2 sentences, I’m assuming atheism on the part of Jenkins. If I’m wrong, I apologize. However, whether or not she is doesn’t really take away from the point that the press and others seem to really have a huge problem with one guy taking his religion seriously, rather than shutting it in the closet while he’s at work.

Ironically, these would be the same people who would (rightly) castigate Tebow for having an affair, or pilfering from teammates, or swearing up a storm; anything that would tend to be at odds with his testimony. And yet when he does things that line up with his religion, they still crack on him. You just can’t win with some atheists, eh?

Now understandably, Tebow is a public figure and some of this comes with the territory. I’m not saying that Tebow is beyond criticism. But you can go over the line, and I think Maher and many others have done that. Criticism is one thing. But just like there is a right way and a wrong way to tackle an opponent, a cheap shot is quite another thing altogether.

But why all this vitriol? Jenkins asks and answers.

What is so threatening about Tebow? It can’t be his views. Tebow has never once suggested God cares about football. Quite the opposite. It’s Maher and company who stupidly suggest a Tebow touchdown scores one for Evangelicals whereas an interception somehow chalks one up for atheism. Anyone who listens to Tebow knows he doesn’t do Jesus talk, he’s mostly show and no tell. His idea of proselytizing is to tweet an abbreviated Bible citation. Mark 8:36. He leaves it up to you whether to look it up. When he takes a knee, it’s perfectly obvious that it’s an expression of humility. He’s crediting his perceived source, telling himself, don’t forget where you came from. On the whole, it’s more restrained than most end-zone shimmies.

So why does Tebow’s expression of faith make people so silly-crazy? Why do they care what he does?

Because he emphasizes the aspect of his talent that is given, not earned.

And that makes people nervous. The reactions to Tebow seem to fall under the category of what theologian Michael J. Murray calls “Theo-phobia.” In his essay “Who’s Afraid of Religion?” Murray argues we’re ill at ease with intrusions of personal faith. We fear they could lead to oppression, or mania, or even prove us wrong.

Basically, when you shine a light, it points out how dark it really has been. Here’s a guy who’s thankful for the talent he’s been given, rather than thinking he’s earned or deserved it (and we have seen countless times how that attitude has become self-destructive). If you tsk-tsk when a player is found with a gun at a bar, how can you possibly belittle a guy staying away from that because of his religion, who’s publicly showing it and is thus asking to be held accountable?

You can belittle him, if you feel you have to, if doing so allows you to keep your feeling of superiority. If you’ve ever seen Maher in action, you know he’s got that. Which explains his animosity. If he doesn’t want to continue to look childish, he should just stay away from religious topics completely.

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    Do You Think It Would Matter?

    Jen Engel asks a pointed question. Do you think that Tim Tebow would be subjected to the same ridicule and scorn from other football players, sports journalist and other pundits if, instead of being a Christian who thanks God for his talent, he was a Muslim facing Mecca after every touchdown?

    Yeah, me neither. Read the whole thing.

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      Because This Is Working So Well For The NFL

      The NBA follows the NFL’s example and heads for a lockout.

      In both cases, you have millionaire team owners and players trying to figure out how to divide up billions in revenue.

      Ain’t professional sports great?

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        Weekend Links

        Some links of interest for your weekend reading:

        Four words: He made it worse.

        Making a case for tort reform.

        The candidate who can win.

        Time to end Medicare.

        Baseball players are better athletes.

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          Best Cauldron Lighting Ever

          The mechanical feats that have occurred at Olympic opening ceremonies keep getting more elaborate.  Last night’s lighting of the cauldron in Vancouver would’ve been spectacular if not for the problem with one of the pylons that was to emerge from the floor.  What a bummer.  Nice idea, though.

          But the best cauldron lighting ever, in my mind, depended not on mechanics but solely on athleticism.  A million variables meant this could have gone anywhere from slightly to horribly wrong, but Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo nailed an amazing shot to light the torch in Barcelona in the summer of 1992.

          Truly impressive.

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            Pro-Choice Columnist Calls Out Intolerant Left

            Few things have caused as much controversy in recent days as Tim Tebow’s upcoming pro-life Super Bowl Ad. Abortion advocates have been critical of Tebow and of CBS’ decision to air the spot during the upcoming game.
             
            But the most remarkable thing I’ve seen yet is this column from Washington Post writer Sally Jenkins. Ms. Jenkins takes the abortion advocates to task for their criticism of the young football star:
             

            I’m pro-choice, and Tebow clearly is not. But based on what I’ve heard in the past week, I’ll take his side against the group-think, elitism and condescension of the “National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time.” For one thing, Tebow seems smarter than they do.

            Tebow’s 30-second ad hasn’t even run yet, but it already has provoked “The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us” to reveal something
            important about themselves: They aren’t actually “pro-choice” so much as they are pro-abortion. Pam Tebow has a genuine pro-choice story to tell. She got pregnant in 1987, post-Roe v. Wade, and while on a Christian mission in the Philippines, she contracted a tropical ailment. Doctors advised her the pregnancy could be dangerous, but she exercised her freedom of choice and now, 20-some years later, the outcome of that choice is her beauteous Heisman Trophy winner son, a chaste, proselytizing evangelical.

            Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn’t be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikinis selling beer is the right one. I would like to meet the genius at NOW who made that decision. On second thought, no, I wouldn’t.

            There’s not enough space in the sports pages for the serious weighing of values that constitutes this debate, but surely everyone in both camps, pro-choice or pro-life, wishes the “need” for abortions wasn’t so great. Which is precisely why NOW is so wrong to take aim at Tebow’s ad.

            Be sure to read the whole thing. Hats off to Ms. Jenkins for calling out the intolerant critics on the Left who wish to demonize the Tebows. Though we may not agree on whether abortion is wrong we can at least agree that we can respectfully disagree with each other.

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              I’ve never been a Michael Vick fan and I think the Falcons are in a much better place without him, but I’m a believer in second chances, including a clean slate for lawbreakers who pay the price, complete their sentences, and demonstrate remorse. And if Dungy is counseling Vick, he’s in good hands. I wish Vick well in his return to work, except on the days he plays against Atlanta.

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                Two Days To Go!

                Saturday begins the Giro d’Italia, the first of the years three Grand Tours on the pro cycling calendar. This is a three week, sort of, stage race which begins on a Saturday and ends on a Sunday just over three weeks later with two rest days in the second and third week. Now, given that most of my readership is in the US and most US residents are not up to speed on bike racing as a sport, here’s a little primer (below the fold). Read the rest of this entry

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                  The Hell of the North

                  Pave. Le Enfer du Nord (the Hell of the North). Paris-Roubaix. Last week I began a short description of one of the jewels of the pro-cycling calendar, the one-day classics of April. Sunday the Ronde de Vlaanderen unfolded, one account can be found here. This weekend an even more famous or infamous race is to be held, namely a race from Paris to Roubaix. Pave, or cobbles-stones are included, in 28 sections on the race course. These vary in length between from 200m to over over 3km. These aren’t the even neat brick-like cobblestones found in American cities and alleyway. Pave in this and the other Belgium and spring races is a feature of the European farm-country. These are irregular large rocks. One American racer, on encountering pave for the first time rode on it a bit and remarked, “This isn’t racing, this is stupid.” See the photo on wiki for an illustration. Another feature of the early spring is of course that the weather is uncertain. As the race goes through muddy and rural pave sections and pathways, if it has rained recently or is raining then just completing the race is a challenge.

                  Terrain affects bike racing in a number of ways. Flat races and/or headwinds keep the peloton together leading to a sprint finish. A strong tailwind can help a breakaway effort. The effect of the cobbles are twofold. Cobbles take power to negotiate. This favors the stronger riders who need phenomenal bike handling skills. Additionally, crashes and mechanicals are common as the pave takes its toll on men and equipment. The pave is often narrow as well and a crash can impede riders behind the crashes significantly. So, to do well those who hope to win must stay at the front. As the most significant poritions of which start with the Arenberg section, which leaves over 100km in the race that means the “contenders” and race leaders need to ride at the front for 60 miles or more. For the non-participants (that is the rest of us) that is a good thing. That means the dueling. The give and take and tactical battles for victory takes place for a long time.

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                    A Treat for April

                    April brings spring showers … and the great one day classics. The professional cycling calendar runs from, well, January through October. July’s big race, the Tour de France is known by everyone. Many people and all cyclists know that the Tour is one of three “Grand Tours” three week races with the other two being the Giro de Italia which begins in May and the Vuelta a Espana which begins in late August or early September. These three week races are complex events with many overall races within races occurring and complex strategies unfolding over three weeks of racing.

                    Stage racing is a major part of the professional cycling calendar but is not everything. There are also the one day races. The most prestigious one day races are the “classics”, four of which are coming up over the four weekends in April. In stage racing recovery is key, one can never go too far into one’s reserves of endurance and exhaustion because one is required to respond and be able to race well the next day. With one day races that is not a factor. The race is all or nothing with everything on the one finish. The Tour GC (overall time winner) can be won by a rouleur (time trial specialist) or a climber or a rider who is excellent at both. The spring classics are won by the “hard men” of the peloton. The spring classics are often cold and wet, littered with short steep climbs, and the road conditions often include Northern European cobblestones, or the pavé.

                    This weekend the first of the one day classics for this year will be held, the Ronde van Vlaandaren, or in English the Tour of Flanders. Here is a short interview with a former Ronde winner on this particular race.

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                      A Baseball Bleg

                      I will readily admit that I don’t follow baseball very closely. I do however, cycle in fact in the past I raced and I hope/intend to return to racing in the spring. One of the most important magazines/periodicals for the cycling enthusiast is called Velonews, “A Journal for the Competitive Cyclist.” This magazine is aimed at people who aren’t at the top professional level in the sport, but are participants and not just spectators and fans. Thus most of the advertising and many of the articles are not aimed at just giving insight into the top names and events in the sport, but equipment, training, and strategy for the participant. Running magazines, I think, most often aim for a similar audience.

                      What I’m looking is the analogous magazine or publication for the baseball enthusiast who, as an adult, still plays the game and is a fan as well.

                      Any suggestions?

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                        That’s the attitude of Liberty University kicker Ben Shipps talking about overcoming his physical deformities to be able to play college football (hat tip: Tim Ellsworth):

                        Liberty University quarterback Brock Smith admits he was taken aback the first time Ben Shipps approached him.

                        Shipps, a prospective student, walked up to Smith in his Liberty University dorm last year and asked who he needed to talk to about trying out for the football team.

                        Smith looked at Shipps and noticed he had had a wisp of flesh and bone for a left arm, and a right arm that ended at the elbow.

                        Be sure to read the entire article to find out Shipps’ amazing story. Also don’t miss the video linked at the end of the article. As Philippians 4:13 states, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

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                          A Display of Integrity

                          That’s the title of my first column for BP Sports. Check it out and let me know what you think.
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                            A Goat No More

                            The Boston Red Sox held their first home game yesterday at Fenway Park with a ceremony honoring the 2007 World Champions. Among those in attendance were many legendary Boston sports figures and one who had up until now been considered something less than a hero: Bill Buckner. (Hat tip: WorldMagBlog)

                            The year was 1986. Game Six of the World Series against the New York Mets. It’s still considered one of the classic World Series games ever played. In the bottom of the 10th inning at Shea Stadium the Red Sox lead the series three games to two and were ahead 5-3. The Mets managed to score a run and had the two on with two out when Mookie Wilson came to bat. A wild pitch scored the tying run. Then Wilson hit a ground ball down the first base line towards Buckner. The ball rolled between Buckner’s legs and allowed the winning run to score. The Mets would then go on to win the Series in Game 7 the next day.

                            For years Buckner was blamed for losing the Series. But yesterday Boston fans displayed their forgiveness by honoring Buckner with a four minute standing ovation yesterday before the game. Buckner told the New York Times that returning to Fenway was not easy:

                            “It was hard for me to do,” a teary-eyed Buckner said about returning to Fenway.

                            When the Red Sox first invited Buckner, he said he figured he would decline. But he said he prayed about it and decided to accept. Two titles in the past four years for Boston have lessened the sting of what happened in 1986.

                            “I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston per se, but I’d have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put my family through,” Buckner said.

                            Hats off to Bill Buckner and the Boston Red Sox fans for giving us a wonderful picture of what forgiveness looks like.

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                              The Hard Men of the Northern Classics

                              The NCAA basketball tournament is winding down (or coming to its climax depending on your point of view), which means April is here and the real racing season is getting under way … that is cycling’s one day spring Classics season. Five one day “classics”, major races which unlike the Grand Tours, which take 3 weeks are under way. In a grand tour, recovery is key for the riders. There’s always tomorrow, you can’t dig too deep, go too hard, because you have to recover to race and ride hard tomorrow. On the one day classics, that’s not the case. You can ride easy, sleep in, tomorrow. But today, there’s a race to ride.

                              The first of the classics has already run, in Italy (Milan-San Remo). Tomorrow the first of the somewhat more grueling races in Northern Europe are about to commence. The Tour of Flanders is a 260 km (~160 mile) race over short sharp hills mixed with cobbles. The weather tomorrow promises wind, rain, and cold. Tomorrows race includes the Koppe:

                              Then it is on to the Koppe, the Koppenberg. This climb was made famous by Jesper Skibby when he almost got crushed by the race director’s car in 1987. It has been in and out of the race the last few years. The initial route announcement earlier in the year had not made space for the monster, which rises at a maximum gradient of 22%. Eventually, though, it was put back in – to the delight of the protagonists.

                              A 22% grade is difficult to walk up, much ride a bike up it, much less race that bike up that hill. Additionally, it turns out, the road isn’t just on a rediculous 22% grade, it’s narrow and uneven. Which means if you want to not lose minutes you have to be in the front and not behind any riders who have trouble. But … remember it’s not just one person that wants/needs to be at the front to have a chance to win … there are 25 teams of 8 riders each in the race. They all want their rider and hopefully one or two support riders to help in in the “break” at the front. That means in the miles coming up to each of the obstacles like the Koppe the pressure at the front as every team tries to position its riders to the front to the race means … well the pace will be murderous.  Read here for more.

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