Saturday, July 31, 2010


This is from my great friend David Herndon's blog, and I think it's a worthwhile read. I'm biased of course; I think everything David writes is worth reading.


I watched the Nooma video, “Name,” tonight with some friends.  As he always seems to do, Rob Bell, uttered one of the most profound statements I have ever heard in the shortest phrase possible.  He makes me jealous in that way.  Every time I try to say something profound it takes several paragraphs and the profoundness never seems to carry the weight I aim for.  He also looks pretty cool wearing those glasses.  I could never pull off that look.  Anyway, this is what he said on the topic of comparison:

The question is not what is normal for most people.  The question is: what is normal for you?

The idea is that we spend a great deal of energy and time worrying about what is “normal” and we determine our “normalness” by comparing our lifestyle, thoughts, ideas, actions to other people’s lifestyles, thoughts, ideas, and actions.  Another way to say it: I determine what is right for me by determining what is right for others. 

Over-simplified example: If everyone around me wears a red shirt, then maybe I should wear a red shirt.

There are several definitions of “normal,” but my favorite one is this: serving to establish a standard.

Normal is establishing the standard.  Normal is achieving the goal.  Why do we so often compare to others when determining what normal is?  Because we have not set a standard for ourselves.  Why do we fear being abnormal?  Because it means we fall short of the standard.  You may not realize it, but the search for normal is what your life is based on.  Every decision you make, every action you take is in an effort to meet the standard.  All of this leads to one very important question:

What is the standard?

All too often our standard is whatever everyone else is doing, thinking, saying.  But Romans 8:28-29 says this: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, Christ Jesus.”

Normal is establishing the standard.  The standard is the purpose.  The purpose is to become like Christ. 

Not to become like others, but to become like Christ. 

What would your life look like if, instead of constantly trying to be like everyone else, you just tried to be like Christ?

What would your conversations sound like?  What would your budget look like?  How would your perspective change?  How would your life change?  What would our world look like if we all unanimoulsy strived to be like Christ?

Jesus is the most normal person who ever lived, yet to most of us his life looks like the most abnormal way of life we’ve ever seen.

Maybe we need a new definition of normal.  Maybe we need a new standard of living.


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Thursday, July 15, 2010


For the last couple of years, my great friend (and Renaissance man extraordinaire) Rob Simpson has organized a Bastille Day cross-crit bike race. That's "crit" as in "criterium," you know (are you impressed by my armchair bike knowledge?). Essentially, this means you ride on the road and off the road and by some gravelly railroad tracks and other parts where you can't ride at all, and you have to dismount and carry your bike over the obstacle. Rob races a lot of cycle-cross during the year, so he's pretty awesome at it. He also knows how to put together a ridiculous (and ridiculously fun) event. And by that I mean costumes are encouraged.

This is a photo of the trophy I won this year. And if you're not familiar with the acronym, "DFL" refers to being dead last (complete with expletive!), a position I held mightily this year despite doing my best to kick it "Bastille-strong". I reckon DFL is better than a DNF, though.

Coincidentally, this last weekend I cleaned out my garage and threw away all my old tee-ball trophies. You know, the kind that your mama paid for at the beginning of the rec ball season. I used to display them proudly on a shelf in my room, and it was actually a traumatic shock to the me the day I realized those trophies didn't mean anything other than the fact that I had played tee-ball in 1986. It was like realizing someone had been letting you win all those years and that you weren't as good as you thought.

Of course, on a bike I'm well aware of my limitations. For example, last year's Bastille Day cross-crit course was a little easier, but I didn't finish. I quit with one lap to go. By that point, I'd thrown myself off my bike a few times, I was hurting a little and tired, and I just gave up. I kind of blame it on the fact Rob made me eat a baguette before I could begin the race, but that's probably not really it. But this year, on a more difficult course, I managed to stay on my bike, and I finished. Dead last, but nonetheless.

So while I just threw out a whole box of old trophies that were supposed to make me feel like a winner, it's kind of funny that I'm actually a little proud of a homemade one I got for being the loser.

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Friday, July 09, 2010


Loyalty is an interesting thing in the context of professional sports. Of course, I'm writing this the day after LeBron James announced that he's leaving the state of Ohio for the first time in his basketball career to play in Miami with some other friends - and great basketball players - next season.

People are angry. There are jerseys burning in the streets. The owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers wrote a scorching letter (in Comic Cans font!?) accusing his former moneymaker of quitting on his team in the playoffs. He also - like many others - are making a point of crushing the guy for being disloyal.

And that's where things get confusing to me. The premise seems to be that LeBron is turning his back on his city, his state, his people. He's just stabbed them all viciously in the back and laughed as he twisted the knife before jumping the charter jet to Florida. But what is loyalty in professional sports? Doesn't it work both ways?

In any sport, franchises routinely sign players for as many years as possible, and they also routinely trade or cut these players before their contracts expire. The team owners expect these players to honor their contracts while they themselves do the opposite. Where's the loyalty in that?

So players get as much money as they can get in guaranteed money and make decisions based on what they want. If a team is not going to be "loyal" to them, why should they return the favor? They've only got a window of a few years to earn as much as they can, so why wouldn't they get what they can get? Pro sports is a business, and business is about making money. The teams want to make money; the players want to make money. So wherever a player can make more money, they'll do it. Now, I understand that in this particular scenario it's likely that all LeBron (and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) will make less than they could so that they can play together, but if you factor in the possible endorsement deals and global fame they'll receive from winning championships, they probably stand to do a little better outside of basketball.

Anyway, I just think it's ridiculous that we kill these athletes for being "disloyal," as if they need to clear their career decisions with us, the fans. Be upset; that's part of being a fan. But a businessman made a business decision, and that's that. It's not loyal or disloyal. And by the way, ask Kevin Garnett what "loyalty" gets you in sports. One of the best players in the game, he stayed loyal to the team that drafted him, giving his best years to the Minnesota Timberwolves on teams that never made it past the first round of the playoffs. By the time that he realized the team ownership was too cheap to ever bring in a good enough supporting cast, he was past his prime. At that point, he jumped ship to the Boston Celtics and won a championship (and played in two other NBA finals). Had he been "disloyal" earlier, who knows how many others he may have won?

I'm not defending these players, especially the way in which LeBron (and Wade and Bosh) carried themselves through this free agency period. The documentary cameras, the drama, the nationally televised "decision" show were pretty crass if you ask me. All these guys make a lot more money that I'll ever see, so Cleveland vs. any other city is kind of moot point at some level. I'm also not defending the ownership of any of these teams. If sports is supposed to be about winning, then I guess some others have to lose. Dan Gilbert is doubly angry because his team now lost their best chance to win on the court and literally millions upon millions of dollars in revenue. But firing off an angry letter - especially one in Comic Sans - is pretty ridiculous.

I've already gone too long here, but there's also an interesting parallel here with the music business. For years, major labels have operated just like these owners, signing artists to contracts for as many years/albums possible for no other reason than to keep the labels' options open. There were no guarantees an artist would every get to release the number of albums stated in his/her contract, or if an album would be released period. The label could agree to whatever they wanted without having to actually deliver.

So the artists countered by looking to get as much money up front as possible (in the form of an advance) which was the only money they were guaranteed to ever receive. And at some point, when an artist "made it" to the point where they were commanding top dollar at concert venues and selling millions of albums, many of them would jump ship to other labels who were offering them something more. The artists were essentially allowing themselves to get screwed up front in the hopes that they could reach a level of superstardom that would allow them to either renegotiate or jump ship to another label. 

Music, like pro sports, is ultimately a business. So labels sign artists to contracts that best suit the labels, and artist's make decisions based on what's best for their careers. So maybe "loyalty" is really about honoring your contract and less about some sort of moral responsibility. 

And all of these basketball players did that, whether I personally like them or not. 

Hey, I'm as guilty as anyone of looking at sports as an analogy for life, but by that, I'm referring to the actual competition that happens on the court (or field, or whatever) and not rest of it. The business part of it - that's not life. If you want to despise these guys because they make lots of money for doing something very inconsequential in the broad scope of things (they do get paid millions to put a ball in a hoop), you're free to do that. So yeah, there are good reasons for not liking professional athletes. But "loyalty" in this context is not one of them.

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