May 19, 2008

I Guess Cheaters Do Win

It's been hard to keep up with the blog lately.  Lots has been going on round our parts of the woods.  Heather had her MCAT and got her scores (30! - ROCK ON).  She's been filling out Med School Applications.  I've started writing a new curriculum series for Defender Ministries.  And the kids' school year is over this week.  In addition, we had Gabe's Dedication last week.  So, things have been busy.  

I tried to at least add some content last week with the Summer Movie Calendar and Reviews on the right side.  Hopefully you picked up on that and are enjoying them for all they are worth - about $1.37 with inflation.  I've wanted to do several posts, but just haven't been able to motivate myself.  It is the typical "no one cares about this post anyway" cycle I think all bloggers ultimately find themselves in.  It hasn't helped that I have tried to apply to a couple of writing gigs and got turned down for being "too blog-like" in style.  Kind of comes across as an insult.  

Anyway, I decided to post something today because I read a great article by Gregg Easterbrook on ESPN today about the New England Patriots.  Here's the link if you want to read it too.  He argues that the only way the whole issue about their cheating will go away is if Coach Bellichick is suspended.  He argues for a lifetime ban, but figures a year would do it.  I have waffled on this issue for months.  Part of me wanted to see New England go undefeated last year, just so the Dolphins of 1972 would have to get real jobs and stop milking that 17-0 forever.  Instead, they just missed.  And the whole "Spygate" thing broke, which made it really hard for a casual fan of the team to support them.

It was one of those situations where I got caught up in the streak and started to want to see something really special happen.  But, as I've thought about it, I realize that I was wrong.  Now, I know that it isn't a really big deal who I root for in the NFL.  But on another level, that's not right.  Easterbrook argues that this issue isn't as big of a deal as baseball's steroids - another issue I've been guilty of largely ignoring.  I would disagree with him.  I think both of these issues are of equal importance.  I have a six year old boy, and a seven-and-a-half month old boy.  Both of them are some day going to want to know more about sports.  And what are they going to learn by hearing about these issues?  They are going to learn that it is okay to cut corners, cheat, bend the rules.  They are going to learn that you don't have to do things right as long as you win.  The most creative cheater wins.

Last week, I heard two different radio hosts talking about cheating.  One was Colin Cowherd; one was Mike Greenberg.  Both of them argued that they didn't care that a type of cheating was going on.  I was shocked.  Cowherd's opinion didn't surprise me, because he's borderline anarchic with his approach to life.  He thinks rules and guidelines and establishments are there to be mocked - as evidenced by the train wreck of his personal life.  So his argument that baseball has been destroyed because they GOT RID OF STEROIDS is kind of useless.  But Greenberg, if anything, is a sanctimonious snoot.  And he was arguing that he didn't think that corporations and agents paying high school basketball players were a "victimless crime" and "no big deal."  (His co-host Mike Golic could not have agreed less as a former athlete.)

Cheating is cheating.  Breaking the rules is wrong.  It is no wonder the corporate execs at Enron and such felt they could lie and steal.  Why are we shocked when the government flat out lies to us about things?  It is what most people want.  They just want problems to go away.  The NFL just wants this issue to stop.  The commissioner has basically said he isn't doing anything else.  And so the cheaters prosper and the few who do right get run over.  And my kids get to see this played out every day in every industry.  

This doesn't disappear in the church world.  I know of a church where there was overwhelming evidence that the pastor lied, deceived, manipulated, bullied, and worse to get his interests met - with severe damage to the church and its staff.  As this information came out, and was corroborated time and again, the people who could do anything repeatedly just wanted it all to "go away."  To date, nearly twelve months later, they have done virtually nothing to stop the wrongdoing.  This is how most people live their lives.  Maybe the committees at the church don't want to do anything because they do the same things in their own businesses.  I know for a fact that is true about some of those leaders because I witnessed it.  It is a pathetic commentary on our world that this kind of "corner cutting" gets a blind eye turned to it.

I have made my decision, though. I am going to approach this differently from now on.  I am going to explain to my boys that the New England Patriots are run by a cheater - who has lied and lied and lied over the years.  And that the team is guilty because they have done nothing to stop it - and let him run things how he sees fit.  I am going to actively root against them at every game that I can.  I am also going to explain to my boys that a bunch of baseball players are cheaters who jam needles into their bodies to get around rules.  And I am going to root against those players as well.  And that probably means that whatever interest I had in baseball will die.  I have been a Yankees fan since a small child.  But that team is another one that condones cheating - how many players were named in the Mitchell Report from the Yankees?  TWENTY!  And the main source for much info was a Yankees staff member.  So I will rescind my allegiance to the Yankees due to their cheating.  I won't replace them.  

What I find very disturbing is that writers like Bill Simmons (who more and more just irritates me with his disgusting views on life) and Peter King continually slam the Yankees for their cheating, but defend the Patriots with theirs.  Oh wait, they are Boston fans and Patriot fans.  Maybe that explains it.  I think that if you are going to run your mouth about integrity of the game, as a fan you have to back it up.  So I will.  My boys need to see me do that.  I can't back a team like that because it makes my words empty.  I want my boys to know that integrity does mean  something.  And I want them to see me act that out.  I know in the grand scheme of things it won't matter one bit that I no longer root for the Yankees.  But it will matter to my family.  I won't let athletes and coaches undermine the lessons I am trying to teach my kids.  They are too important.

May 3, 2008

Summer's Here! Let's Blow Stuff Up

And with the clanging of metal, the whiz of bullets, and deafening explosion after deafening explosion, the Summer Movie Season has opened. No more having to deal with schmaltzy dramas. No more passing our days feasting on a less than appetizing table of films high on useless fillers like "plot" and "character development" and "Oscar buzz." It has been a long wait since the antics of Jason Bourne graced the screen last August. And explosions have been few and far between. And we all know that is what movies are all about - blowing stuff up.

Seriously, with the arrival of Iron Man, the summer movie experience has begun. Sure, not every movie during the summer will satisfy everyone. And there are sure to be a few clunkers along the way. But this is Hollywood's finest hour. This is when no expense is spared. Huge flowing gowns waistcoats are left in the closet in favor of body armor and metal suits. The screenwriter is nowhere near as important as the special effects supervisor. Things have changed over the years, and these films have far more credibility than before. The four main actors in Iron Man have seven Oscar nominations between them. Edward "Serious Actor Man" Norton plays the Hulk. And Batman sports numerous Oscar-friendly stars.

But, no one can argue that the main point of summer movie season is to entertain. Sure, other movie seasons can be entertaining, but not like summer. There are very few mentions of Oscar buzz these months. Which is honestly one reason the Oscars have gotten so irrelevant. People as a whole love the summer movies. Critics love the "serious movies." If I had any doubts about this, they were answered when I saw Iron Man last night -- late last night. Through my stupidity, I had to go to a theater I usually avoid (ordered my ticket online from the wrong place and missed seeing it with friends). I was at a theater stuffed fulled of loud, obnoxious people. They were talking and joking and screaming.

It was awesome. I think the crowd can change the whole experience of a movie. Sure, I missed a couple lines due to the hooting. And the argument/discussion that the four people had right behind me during the entire movie was a bit distracting. And sitting in the front row was a bit irritating. But it was fun to hear them cheer and scream at every exciting part. And then all the annoying people left and half the theater stayed for the scene after the credits. Talk about yelling in excitement! That was incredible. But during the previews, the crowd whooped and roared in laughter at the latest Adam Sandler and Mike Myers films. This is why these movies get made - these people. A couple hundred people crammed in a theater - every showing sold out. Sure critics can't stand Sandler and Myers - and they try to convince everyone else not to like them either. And the movie blog snarks are in the same boat - relentlessly ripping their films. But those movies are going to pack out theaters just like every other film those guys made did. And the divide between critical favorite and popular will continue to grow.

As for Iron Man, look on my movie review page (link to right) later this weekend for my full take on it. The short of it - I loved it. It was fun and exciting. There was a surprising amount of time spent on setting up the story - but in many ways, those parts were more fun than the fighting stuff. Robert Downey Jr was perfect casting in the main role. In fact, all the casting was great - as well as the direction and effects. And it was full of explosions.