Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why college football is better than pro

1. It just feels more real. 
I’ve been to a decent number of NFL games, and each one I attended felt like I was at the taping of a TV show. Because I was. Don’t get me wrong, it was usually a lot of fun. But there is simply a different atmosphere at college football games, whether they are on television or not. There is simply more energy, more enthusiasm, and more excitement than at an NFL game.

2. The rivalries. 
The NFL simply does not have rivalries that can match the age-old rivalries of college teams. Think of the Iron Bowl, the Texas Shootout, the Apple Cup, the Battle of the Brazos, games at State Fairs. Most every state has an annual game between the University of X and X State University. They almost take on a life of their own. Many of these competitions even have trophies awarded at the end.

3. The changing players. 
Every year is new, much more so than in the NFL. This is because players graduate and must be replaced with new recruits who have yet to be proven. A college team can go from great to terrible and back to great very quickly. There’s no salary cap. It’s all about strong traditions, attractiveness, good recruitment, good coaching, and a fair amount of luck.

4. College traditions and school spirit. 
Unlike the NFL, college football is a family matter. Your Loving Mother (Alma Mater) is her honor on the field of battle. And it does feel like a big family. It’s likely your parents and grandparents and siblings might have attended there. You probably made life-long friends there. And perhaps even met your spouse there. All that makes you feel more invested in the game.

5. It's a small town vs big town game. 
By its nature, NFL teams (with the exception of Green Bay) play in huge metropolitan areas. In contrast, many large universities are in relatively small towns or mid-sized cities. Hence the term “college town.” Think of Manhattan (Kansas), Oxford (Mississippi), Stillwater, College Station, Ann Arbor, and Tuscaloosa. That makes a difference. I think it helps you feel more attached. You feel lost in a big city sometimes, but with a small town it just feels less anonymous and more connected.

6. More arguments. 
Without a real playoff (the current playoff is just a “plus one” arrangement), there is a lot of room for argument about who is the best. Until just recently, this was determined by an AP poll. Imagine if the contestants in the Super Bowl were determined the same way. And that’s part of the fun. The field is only partly the determiner of who is the best. The other half occurs in the car, the park, the water cooler, the back yard patio, the online chat room, and the board room.

7. It's not so perfect. 
Part of the fun is that anything can happen on any given field of play. Think of some of those amazing plays we get from time to time. There’s the famous “Immaculate Reception” of the NFL. Those kinds of plays come one a decade. But in college, they come once a year, maybe once a week. Part of the anticipation and excitement of the college game is that things are not so refined. Tackles are missed, interceptions become touchdowns, finals scores turn on missed extra points and two point conversions, and trick plays are common. Any team can get an amazing play at any moment.

8. There’s a band. 
 No NFL team has a band that gives you a half-time show and that continuously adds a soundtrack throughout the game. It’s that simple.

9. Live mascots at the game. 
When this is possible, a college team will have a live mascot (a bear, a longhorn, an eagle, a bulldog, etc.). In the NFL, the Denver Broncos are the only team I know of that have a live mascot on the field.

10. High stakes, but plenty of Bowl games. 
No NFL fan hangs their head in shame after one loss at the end of a long winning season, saying, “There’s always next year.” But in college, it’s like that. You have to go undefeated or have only one loss to be considered a national or even conference champion. With two losses, you can’t even make it into the top 10. In the NFL, the teams in the Super Bowl normally have several losses throughout the year. Only one NFL team (the 1972 Miami Dolphins) have played an undefeated season. So in college, the games are much more high stakes when any single loss can ruin your chances. And yet, there’s also plenty of bowl games. So even mediocre teams can make it into one. Each one is different, and each one is a post-season celebration.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Was Jesus a refugee?

The question has come up lately in light of Syrian refugees and the problems of security risks coupled with receiving such refugees (especially knowing that one of the culprits of the Paris bombing was disguised as a Syrian refugee). Responding to such concerns, some have said, "Don't let them in the country; it would endanger our citizens." On the other hand, some have argued, "We need to let them in, despite the risk. It's the Christian thing to do. After all, Jesus was once a refugee." Both are a response to Christian values, in this case, the love of neighbor.

I'm still not sure what I'd do if the decision were up to me. I guess I lean more toward the risk of mercy, but I certainly understand those who want to guard against that risk. After all, we are at war (or at least, ISIS is at war with us). I like Bishop Olson's (RCC-Fort Worth) comment: "As Catholics and Christians, we cannot succumb to fear by closing our doors and hearts to all refugees because of the evil of a few." At the least, maybe we could round up some cruise liners to do the job and park them in the Mediterranean.

But back to the question, was Jesus a refugee? Well . . . yes and no . . . sort of. He was a refugee in that his family once sought refuge in Egypt. But no, he was not a refugee in the sense that his situation does not fit the modern definition of the Geneva Convention on Refugees. According to which, a refugee is "a person who is outside their country of citizenship because they have well-founded grounds for fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable to obtain sanctuary from their home country or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country."

The one that comes closest is "political opinion." And that would just be the baby Jesus (who presumably did not have many political opinions at the time), not his parents. But of course, we are typically talking about a class of people, not just one person who is threatened with murder. Perhaps "living in exile" is a better fit in this case. Jesus fled to Egypt because King Herod sought to kill him. And Herod wanted to kill him because it was foretold that a new King of the Jews had been born.

Jesus was not alone in being endangered by Herod's jealousy. The massacre of all the innocent baby boys of Bethlehem was, shall we say, overkill. (Perhaps that's where the term originated.) Scarcely a day passed where there was not an execution under Herod’s regime. Herod killed two of his brothers-in-law, his wife Mariamne, and two of his own sons to ward off possible threats to his throne.

We find the story in Matthew 2:13-15. "Now when [the Magi] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.' And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, 'Out of Egypt have I called my son'." When Herod died and the danger was passed, they went back home to Nazareth.

What prompted this post was all of the exaggerations you see about this issue. Such as that the Holy Family were undocumented immigrants. There is no evidence to support this, and in fact it would be totally out of character since two of the three are believed to be sinless. We also see claims that they were homeless in Bethlehem. Or that they were refugees in Bethlehem. In his column at the Huffington Post, Ryan Gear claimed, "The nativity scene, after all, depicts a Middle Eastern family who were looking for a place to stay, only to be told there was no room for them." I guess he missed the verse that explains they were "fleeing" Nazareth so they could go register for the census and pay taxes. Or if that's not enough, Jesus was (according to Nancy Pelosi) a Palestinian refugee, fighting for the liberation of Palestine just like they do today.
The bottom line is this: let's stopping using Jesus as cannon fodder in our public policy arguments. The implication that either side is anti-Jesus simply does not belong here. I understand the temptation. But it comes across as irreverent and undignified, unchristian behavior.