Why do we bother with this?

Anyone who follows me on twitter (@drewkema) or knows me somewhat well can attest that I am quite partial to baseball in general and to the Seattle Mariners specifically. Awhile back I listed the things that the NFL did to its fans during the lockout, and today I list the things the Mariners have done to return my love:
- Won 116 games in 2001, but then lost to the Yankees in the ALCS (for the second year in-a-row, and then didn’t get back to the playoffs again.

- Lost more games than they won in 5 of the next 7 seasons, including the 2008 doozy when they became the first team ever to spend over $100 million and lose over 100 games. That means they spent about $1,000,000 for every loss! Math.

- This season, they played a stretch of 17 straight games in which they did not win one of them. They were losers seventeen times in-a-row.

- They put Miguel Batista on the mound for awhile. I'm nauseous.

- They gave an amount over $1 in return for the “services” of Carlos Silva. Even more embarrassing: it was $1 multiplied by millions.
The list could go on-and-on. Being a Mariners fan doesn't quite fit the definition of fun, and yet I’m somewhat obsessive. I still watch and I still root. I still get frustrated after every loss and excited after every win. Which brings about a question that I’ve started to ask myself a lot lately: why? Why do we as fans of any crappy team both doing this? Twins fans, you'll begin asking yourself this very soon -- that is, if you are still under the illusion that this past season is just a one year thing and haven't already. It's fun to follow a team when they're good and they win most days, but why spend valuable time watching them or reading about them when they're awful?

Two main things: baseball itself, and hope. Baseball is mostly understood. Hope is cheesy/cliché. I think both are true.

I didn’t play baseball after middle school, so I don’t have that firsthand love of playing the game, but it is still my favorite sport. I love that anticipation that you have with each wind-up and the possibilities that lie behind the next pitch. Granted, sometimes there are very few possibilities (Chone Figgins = out) and sometimes there are a great many (Dustin Ackley = anything). I love hearing the crack of the bat and then watching a stupid little ball soar through the air along with thousands of others, sometimes not sure if its going to get out of the park and other times in amazement at how far that ball might go (see: Jim Thome #596). It’s pure joy to watch Brendan Ryan play the shortstop position, leaving you right with radio announcer Rick Rizzs in saying, “hoooooooly smokes!”
There’s nothing better than those situations when all hell breaks loose during one play and all are left waiting for the dust to clear to figure out what just happened. The ball started with the center-fielder, but then it went to the catcher who threw to second base but then he tried to go back to home…wait…what? How many are out? Who scored? And then there’s the walk-off. There have been tons of crappy moments in recent Mariner history, but I will always remember in 2009 when Ichiro hit a walk-off two-run home run off of the best closer in history, Mariano Rivera. It’s moments like that that make you fall in love with baseball. Joe Posnanski nails it in this article after that fantastic last night of this year's regular season..

And hope. I can look within the Mariners' own division to find a solid example: the Texas Rangers. It took 50 years for the Rangers to win their first postseason series, but now for the second straight season they find themselves in the World Series. With the right moves (Teixiera-for-their current core), and some key things working out your way (who'd have thought Josh Hamilton would be an MVP player when he came over from Cincy? The chance was there, but the move was a huge risk at the time), a team can reach the top. It can happen with the M's. I hope it does.


Do They Owe Us?

Our long national (potential) nightmare is over – football will go on. Everyone breathe.

Over the past couple days I’ve heard numerous people say that that the commissioner and the owners of National Football League teams now owe its fans for the things that they’ve missed. Alex Marvez argued this yesterday in an article on FoxSports.com. Deciding to write on that topic makes sense, at a glance. Football fans haven’t had news outside of legal mumbo-jumbo for months and, of course, any article in support of the fans (everyone reading it) will be popular. Yeah…you guys are getting the shaft! They’re bad! You’re good! You deserve better! But really, to argue such a thing is lunacy.

Strangely, the fans created both the problem and the solution to this lockout. The problem: there’s a ton of money that needs to be split up, and how its split up will always be up for debate. People are greedy. Where does that money come from? Obsessive fans. The solution: figure it out so we don’t miss out on any of that money from the fans. But to say that the league owes the fans? Roger Goodell said that he looks forward to winning the fans back, but the question is: did the fans have any reason to stray?

You bet they did. Why don’t we take a look at the grievances NFL fans should have against this league:

-Couldn’t see those mini-camp highlights.
-Couldn’t hear about how OTA’s were going.
-Couldn’t hear about off-season trade speculation.
-People thought about that Sunday afternoon absent of football.
-The Hall of Fame Game

The NFL should be ashamed. I’m shocked the NFL isn’t giving away tickets for this season’s games due to non-existent demand.

Baseball fans are accused of being fickle for their bitterness when Major League Baseball missed most of a season and cancelled the 1994 World Series (really though, they had every right to be miffed since it isn’t crazy to say the Expos had a great shot to win it all that season, and that team was awesome). But now, football fans deserve something when the league to which they give all their money figured out how to divide it before they missed anything substantial? And who actually cares about the Hall-of-Fame Game?

What a horrible, awful couple of months. Sadly we had to miss out on training ca….wait….we had to miss football on Sunday after….wait…oh…we missed nothing.

Fans should be thanking the NFL for compacting several months’ transactions and rumors into one week and thus creating the most interesting off-season week in football history.


The Book Pile

I like books. I don't read books very fast. Therefore,  I see books I want to read before I can read them. And thus, the book list. I now share the list of the 15 books I hope to read in the next year or so:

1) Don't Call It a Comeback: The old faith for a new day -- ed. Kevin DeYoung
2) Are We Winning? Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball -- Will Lietch
3) The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion -- Tim Challies
3) Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands -- Paul Tripp
4) Strength to Love -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
5) How Lucky Can You Be? -- Buster Olney
6) Churchill -- Paul Johnson
7) Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels -- Tullian Tchividjian
8) Quitter - Jon Acuff
9) Flashbang: How I Got Over Myself - Mark Steele
10) Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion -- Ted Kluck
11) The Hidden Life of Prayer: The Lifeblood of the Christian -- David McIntyre
12) All the Pretty Horses -- Cormac McCarthy
13) This Side of Paradise -- F. Scott Fitzgerald
14) Transforming Grace -- Jerry Bridges
15) The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism -- Kevin DeYoung


Papa John

Neither remotely interesting nor funny, yet on my television

John "Papa John" Schnatter, according to the fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia, once sold his Chevy Camaro for $2,800 to start financing his family business, and then purchased it back in 2009 for $250,000. In 1998 he was the Ernst & Young Retail/Consumer Entrepreneur of the Year. Neat. But why is he on my television all the time?

For the life of me, I do not understand the Papa John's marketing strategy. The commercials feature him talking about his favorite pizza and how he started his company, and then they end with him doing some incredibly awkward little laugh after he does the "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" slogan, as if to say, "man, that slogan that I made for my pizza company is funny! And I'm pretty funny too! More commercials! With me!" And then John pushes his favorite pizza, which is: pepperoni, sausage and four cheeses. That's the best you can do, John? Pepperoni, sausage, and four cheeses? A. Four cheeses isn't necessary. It just isn't. Only two cheeses contribute to a pizza: mozzarella (obviously) and maybe parmesan (if that's what you're all about). B. Breaking some new ground with pepperoni and sausage there, copernicus. C. Not one interesting ingredient? (Hint: mine is banana peppers). 

If I was Papa John's, I'd spend 30 or 60 seconds talking about the Garlic Butter cup that's placed in the pizza box. That is out of this world. Papa John? I'm just not sure why he's there, and he's making me uncomfortable. Yeah, it's your company and you started it up, but that has to be the pinnacle of self-absorption to be like, "hey, I'm going to be our main marketing tool!" Just talk about your pizza and your Garlic Butter, which is awesome.


The Difference

Kenneth Richard Samples, in Without a Doubt:

It has been said that 'Christianity is Christ.' This statement means that Christ is the center and heart of the historic Christian faith. The gospel message is all about the person, nature and work of Jesus Christ. In contrast, if Buddha or Confucius, for example, were taken away from their respective religions, the religions would retain the essence of their moral instruction. However, take the person of Christ away from Christianity and nothing distinctive remains.

What Hath Happened Here

I try not to allow myself to use my radio show or this blog as just an outlet for my whining. There are enough bloggers and radio hosts (very successful ones) that do such things. However, I need to use this space to really sort out what all took place last night.

- The championship game turned into the equivalent of a girls' JV basketball game. I wouldn't say this out of respect for the chicas, but several individuals of the female variety agreed with me. So, I guess its ok then? What an awful game. Painful to watch, devoid of excitement or anything resembling flow. Neither team looked like they cared about running an offense or setting what those interested in the game know as a "screen." It's like they got into the 70,000 seat football stadium with the raised court and concluded, "screens and rolls just will not work in this environment."

- I would love to go to Reliant Stadium to watch a football game. It looks gorgeous and very very impressive. I have zero desire to go watch a basketball game in the same environment. Even if I lived in Houston, I think I'd rather travel all the way up to The Barn (Williams Arena, on the University of Minnesota) to watch a game than go to Reliant. I wasn't at the game, so I can't really say first-hand whether or not the game atmosphere was awful, but I experienced something similar on a much smaller scale in high school. Up until my senior year, we had played games in a 'cracker-box' gymnasium. It was hot, cramped and falling apart. And it was awesome for a big basketball game. You could feel it. Excitement was abound...it was jam packed and it was loud. We moved into the bright, shiny new gymnasium my senior year. It lacked that great game feel. I feel like a final four game at the Jon Huntsman Center (a perfect old-school basketball arena) or even an NBA arena would have that huge basketball game feel. The football stadium is difficult for players to shoot in and its just awkward.

- After the game, Jim Gray interviewed Bill Walton on Westwood One. I thought Bill Walton couldn't be more annoying when I was young. Then he left. And I missed him. I don't think I'm alone. Hearing the silly and over-the-top (although sometimes incredibly honest and accurate) things that come from his mouth was delightful. "Goodness, gracious sakes alive" and "you have to be sad for the game of basketball tonight." Right on, Bill. Horrrrrrrrrendous.

- I maintain that players should either go to college for at least 3 years or skip the thing altogether. The major programs are getting killed by very talented players that stay for a year or two and then move on to the NBA to be mediocre. There are exceptions, such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, but for the most part, there are no longer great TEAMS. There are great players on teams, but the teams themselves are weak, as we've seen in this tournament. And the weak teams are creating a very sub-par product. The play has been relatively ugly for the most part, even if the games have been close.

- Jim Nantz lost nearly all respect that many had for him as an announcer. The two canned and prepared lines were abysmal. Top Dogs in 2011? Best in show? Are you kidding me? He spent two days thinking of that. Thank goodness for announcers like Al Michaels, who, when asked how he comes up with catchphrases would say that he has no catchphrases and doesn't think of lines to say beforehand. Everything is spontaneous. One of the worst things a sportscaster can be is cute. Jim Nantz was trying to be cute. It was ugly.

Ok, that's better. Thankfully all of this doesn't really matter. The sun came up today, it's going to be mid-50's in Minneapolis (HEAT WAVE!), baseball is starting up, and, oh, right, it is just sports. All is well.


Relax and Rejoice

When talking about sanctification in today's church, "relax" isn't the first thing that typically comes up. But really though, we should.

That link is to a post by Tullian Tchividjian from earlier this week. It was a necessary reminder for me and it is definitely worth a read by you.

Christianity is not first about our getting better, our obedience, our behavior, and our daily victory over remaining sin–as important as all these are. It’s first about Jesus! It’s about his person and subsitutionary work–his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, and promised return. We are justified–and sanctified–by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. So that even now, the banner under which Christians live reads, “It is finished.”

Tchividjian is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and a grandson of Billy Graham.