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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Football is back!

So those that know me know that I am a huge football fan. On Saturday I can be found usually watching any number of college football games. Of course I have two favorite college football teams: the Michigan State Spartans, and whomever is playing Michigan (referred to on this blog from now on only as um). On Sundays I can be found, in between worship services, sitting in my recliner watching the NFL. In the NFL I have always been and always will be a Dallas Cowboy fan.

I watch on average anywhere from 6-10 football games a week. And I have done this for many years. About 6 years ago we got Direct TV so that I could get NFL Sunday Ticket in order to watch the Cowboys play each week. When we decided that my wife would quit working to stay home with our daughter in 2003, we cancelled our NFL Sunday Ticket subscription. We also gave up our Michigan State season tickets. Sacrifices needed to be made for budgetary reasons, so we made these difficult choices and went on with life.

My wife surprised me this year by resubscribing us to NFL Sunday Ticket. On top of that she also surprised me with the Superfan option. I am now addicted to the Red Zone channel. The channel shows games where one team is in the red zone, and they show highlights of other games where something significant has happened. The best way the channel can be described is that it is like a NFL game-break (that you see on the network televised games) all the time!

So now on Sunday's with multiple games being played I will normally be watching the Red Zone channel. Unless of course the Cowboys are playing, because then I am watching them beat up on that week's opponent. As an added bonus, I get to see David Kircus play for the Denver Broncos. Kircus is a family friend of Cousin Don and his family, and he was given up on by the local NFL team, the Detroit Lions. So Kircus went to Denver and made the team there. Meanwhile the Lions are 0-3 with no sign of a win anytime soon!

One of my pet-peeves watching football is the technique defensive backs use, or maybe better, the lack of technique. I can remember playing pick-up football, and organized flag football growing up. As a cornerback you were taught to run with the receiver, and watch his eyes. When the receiver looked up for the ball, you did too. It is maddening to watch defensive backs in both college and the NFL not looking back for the ball. This past weekend alone I saw countless pass interference penalties called on defensive backs because they didn't look back at the ball. The coverage they provided was excellent, except for that one flaw, and the officials will call you for pass interference every time. Now I know that playing defensive back in Division I college football and the NFL is much more difficult than the pick-up games I used to play in, but still why defensive backs refuse, or aren't taught, or whatever it is, to look back for ball is frustrating as a fan.

Too bad today is Wednesday, there are still 3 days to go before I get more football!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Art of Archery

Several years ago now, on a trip to my cousin Don's for his son's graduation party, I got bit by the archery bug. Don was giving my father and I a shooting demonstration, and listening to him discuss the "art" of archery piqued my interest in the sport.

A few words on cousin Don: that boy can shoot! Seriously, he is really, really good. Never mind the countless deer he has harvested with his trusty bow, but his ability to shoot high scores in 3D competitions is also amazing. And he knows archery too. Have a question? Ask Don and he can tell you. No one can set-up a bow better than Don. And he is a wiz when it comes to fletching arrows as well.

So listening to Don discuss the sport made me want to go out and buy a bow, which I did. My first bow was pretty basic. You don't want to spend $700 on a bow and decide the sport isn't for you, so I chose a $249 model, and Don supplied me with some equipment to get me started. I was hooked. From the first few arrows I shot I knew that I wanted to continue in the sport.

I refer to archery as an "art" because it isn't a science. Oh sure there are science and technology aspects of the sport, but the art is in the personal aspect of shooting. What is right for you may not be right for me, and vice-versa. There are infinite variables that go into the sport, for example: what kind of release to use and how to actually trigger that release. There are punch shooters, back-tension shooters, and shooters that combine both methods. And let's not even get into the millions of possible combinations of equipment. It has been over 4 years since I started shooting and I still am learning all the time.

This year I finally upgraded to a better bow. The accessories I have on it are almost as expensive as my first bow was all by itself. My original bow set-up was probably around $400, where my current set-up is closer to $1000. But such is the sport. The result? I've included a couple of pictures of groups I recently shot.

Ted Nugent refers to the "mystical flight of the arrow", conjuring up the idea of a magical aspect to archery. Some days that is how it feels, that in order to shoot well I would need magic. But as with any other activity, the more time you put in the better you become. Archery is about practice. It is about discipline. It is about honing your skills, maintaining your equipment, and having respect for the sport in general.

This year I hope to take my first deer with my bow. Obviously the deer have their own ideas regarding that idea which is what makes bow hunting so much fun. If just anybody could go into the woods and shoot a deer within ten minutes then there would be nothing special about doing that. Because it takes more time, more energy, and more effort than that, killing my first deer will be so special.

I just hope this is the year!

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Night With Dr. Laura

So last night my lovely wife and I went to the Detroit Opera House to see Dr. Laura Schlessinger's one woman show: "In My Never To Be Humble Opinion". I have always been a fan of Dr. Laura's radio show. Though I might not agree with everything she says, and though at times her language can be a little crude, I jumped at the opportunity to see her in person, and to hear what she had to say.

As I mentioned, I haven't always agreed with everything Dr. Laura says. For instance, she is Jewish and as such doesn't believe in the inspiration of the New Testament, or that Jesus Christ was the messiah. She also is into embracing people of all faiths, which has become common in our times, believing that all good people will go to heaven. However, her stance on premarital cohabitation, what she'd call "shacking up", and abortion, and homosexuality (among other topics) is spot on. She also has great opinions about raising kids, and the importance of mothers choosing their children over money and career. And I have always admired her straight-forward approach to telling people when they are being immoral, selfish, or a myriad of other things that people tend to be today.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the live show. Would she have the audience present dilemmas to her and then give her opinion on what should be done? Would she lecture to the audience about current societal ills? What would the show be about?

Well the show comes in two halves. In the first half Dr. Laura lectures about HER life. Her beginnings, experiences, and how she matured into the right-thinking, moral defender that she is today. She also took us into a typical day in the life of Dr. Laura, including awakening every morning at 5am to work-out before "taking on the day", to borrow one of her own lines. She then lets the audience see Dr. Laura at work, how she would look starting her daily radio program.

The set for the first half is set-up similar to her house complete with a couch, bookcases, and other furniture, as well as Dr. Laura's home broadcasting studio/office. The set also includes a wide-screen video screen so that she can share pictures with the audience. The first half of the show takes the audience on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. From laughing, getting angry, and, eventually, crying. The latter coming during a very emotional reading of a news story about a mother that left her one year-old son in her car while she went to work, followed by a listener's email about the thoughts that may have gone through the child's mind during his last day of life. Did I mention this was very emotional? I had tears streaming down my face and heard sniffling throughout the opera house.

For the second half of the show Dr. Laura returns to the stage minus the previous set. She then reads and answers questions that the audience has written on cards. The answers are given in the typical fashion that only Dr. Laura can provide, straight-forward, honest, and leaving no doubts about Dr. Laura's feelings on the matter. She concludes the show by providing the audience with some inspirational words related to her favorite hobby, sailboat racing, and then she tells the audience, as she does the end of every one of her radio broadcasts, "now go take on the day".

I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Sitting next to my favorite woman in the whole world (my wife) and listening to Dr. Laura share her wonderful view of the world. You may not like Dr. Laura for some reason, but you have to admit that she is trying to do her part in instilling morals into a society that has cast them aside. And no one could ever successfully argue that she doesn't have the well-being of children at the forefront of her mind as she does that. If you get a chance to catch Dr. Laura's show I would greatly encourage you to do so.

Now go do the right thing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Thank you Andre!

It has been over a week now since Andre Agassi was eliminated from his last tournament, the 2006 U.S. Open. A week ago Sunday was a very sad day for me as for the last 20 years I have watched Andre play and followed his illustrious career, and taken inspiration from a guy that got judged for how he looked, but in the end proved the substance of his character.

It was 20 years ago that a skinny, long-haired kid watched another skinny, long-haired kid play tennis for the first time. From that instant I was hooked on Andre. He had flair, he had style, but when he spoke he also was humble and nice. Sure many people looked at him and immediately wrote him off because of his look. That is painful because I experienced the same thing.

I remember in 1988 going to the fireworks in Wyandotte, MI with some friends. We went to the Wyandotte 7-11 to get some pop and food, but they were only letting a few people in at a time in order to keep shoplifting down. The manager was at the door letting people in as people left. I was next in line and joked with him about needing to hire more employees. I had long-hair, I was wearing my slashed up blue-jeans, I had a painters hat on backwards and was wearing a concert t-shirt. The manager looked me up and down and said: "I'd never hire you with the way you look." Never mind that I had a job that I worked very hard at, and no I didn't dress like that for work. But this guy wrote me off simply because of how I look.

Andre eventually cut his hair, as did I. Life also made him, as it has a way of doing, grow-up and mature. And what a player and man he grew and matured into. Winning several grand-slams, countless single's titles on tour, and the hearts of tennis fans around the globe. More than that, Andre started his own foundation for at-risk youths, and continues to be one of the most generous athletes of our time.

After years of thrilling us on the court, making incredible shot after incredible shot, and using the greatest return-of-serve the game has ever seen, it is his off-court endeavors that really define this man. As he moves away from the game to take those endeavors on full-time, we as Andre fans will never forget what he did for the sport, and the inspiration he has given to so many to be the very best that you can be.

Thank you Andre! And good luck in all that life has in store for you.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Have you forgotten?

5 years. Half a decade. Hard to believe. I was 32 on that day. I am 37 today. Several friends and family members that have passed on since were still with us on that day. So much can change in 5 years. I have seen a multitude of marriages, a few divorces, several births (including that of my own daughter), and, as mentioned, several deaths since that fateful day 5 years ago. Yet I have never forgotten.
It is one of those events that you remember vividly. Where you were. What you were doing. The mood of those around you. Who told you about this detail, or where you learned that detail. That evening watching Fox News. The next morning and the discussions during a meeting in the office. Every minute detail is etched forever on my brain. Through it all I can remember thinking: "someone must pay".

We retaliated by invading Afghanistan. I can still remember that even though only a little time had passed there were already people on the left saying we shouldn't go into Afghanistan. One woman at work, a devout liberal, claimed that fighting violence with violence only bred more violence. I always wondered what she'd do if someone physically attacked her. What would she do? Buy them a dozen roses?

Another woman posted a link to a petition to not use military force in Afghanistan on our electronic classifieds at work. It seems she was more content with sharply condemning the Taliban. Maybe impose U.N. sanctions against them, since that seemed to work so well with Saddam Hussein. (Please note the dripping sarcasm.) I emailed Human Resources along with several of my colleagues and her short-sighted posting was summarily removed from the classifieds. I wonder if HR would remove it today.

See the problem is that people forget what it felt like on that day. Oh they can tell you where they were, what they were doing, things like that. But so many have forgotten the sadness, and frustration, and the sense of helplessness that embodied Americans on that day.

Some of them used it as yet another opportunity to bash President Bush. All I can say is thanks be to God that Bush won Florida by the narrowest of margins in 2000. Can you imagine President Gore handling the aftermath? Oh brother. He'd tell everyone that to retaliate we should all plant a tree. He'd stop short of suggesting we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, unless of course the words "my Lord" were removed from the song first. He’d probably suggest congress pass a bill changing them to “my Kommandant”.

5 years later and a lot has changed. Liberals now claim that the attacks were a government conspiracy to justify the invasion of Iraq. Liberals now claim that President Bush, praised in the weeks following the attacks, actually reacted in a "stupid" manner. You'd think after nearly 6 years they could come up with a more creative insult of President Bush, but they always fall back on the "stupid" one. I guess they'd know though, now wouldn't they?

5 years. For this writer the pain is still intense. The pain is still there. The pain hasn't subsided at all. The question is: have you forgotten? Or will September 11, 2001 forever be remembered not just as a day of terror, but as a day when your American pride and resolve was emboldened? I choose the latter. Of course if you are liberal you could always just go plant a tree.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Getting my feet wet

Okay so this blogging thing is big. And you all know I am into the latest thing. Right. But I started thinking about those thoughts I have as I am driving down the road. You know because you have your own. The thoughts about sports. Politics. Religion. Society. That guy in front of me with the "BADONE" vanity plate swerving in and out of traffic at light speed. Whatever the thoughts are about everyone needs an outlet. Well this is my outlet. Blogging.

So I am diving in head first. Every few days I'll pop out here and discuss things on my mind.

One thing I won't be discussing is work. In fact that is today's Steven's World topic: People that identify themselves by what they do for a living. You know people like this, the ones that within 5 seconds of greeting you have asked you what you do for a living, and then launch into a diatribe about what they do for a living. They have nothing else interesting to say because all they have in their life that they are proud of is their job. That is sad.

For me a career is a means to an end. I have to work to eat, pay the bills, take care of my family, etc. But I am not my job. My job does not define who I am as a person. The fact that I make more money than the next guy doesn't make me better than him. Nor does the fact that the next guy makes more money than I do mean that he is any more important or any better of a human-being than I am. For me a job is like underwear, when the current one isn’t doing the "job" anymore, you change it.

So remember, the person that you are isn't defined by your job title. Whether you are a street-sweeper, a roofer, a doctor, a factory-worker, a desk jockey, a used-car salesman, whatever, what really defines you is how you treat others. What really defines you is where you place God in your life. What really defines you is whether or not you put your family ahead of career pursuits. Have a job, don't be a job.

Thanks for listening.