Reasons To Chose to Write or Not to Write

Writing on the iPad
Writing on the iPad

So this is the typical blog away from blog post that seems to grace the pages of almost every blog I have ever read. For the first time in the 10-15 years I have been writing on my blog, I took a year off. Though I did stop writing here for a while, I never stopped writing off-blog posts in my DayOne App (the best journal writing app ever by the way) or on Twitter and Facebook. I had wanted to take this break for a while, to get some perspective, and I did. After being away for so long I kept wondering if I would ever come back, what the purpose is/was, and why it even matters if I ever write another word here in a world already filled with so much noise as it is.

When it comes to choosing not to write, I tried find reason behind these statements.

  1. It takes too much time.
  2. There is enough noise out there already.
  3. No one wants to read every thought that crosses the mind, ever (that’s still the case).
  4. Ultimately, who cares what’s “not created” by a writer.
  5. I had lost the freedom of speech on my own blog.

I doubt those questions have answers for the most part, and it is the stereotypical question and response of everyone who wants to start a blog but never does. Ultimately, what’s worth doing is worth doing, even, or especially, if there is no recognizable audience at the time. Blogging is somewhat like doing life together with the rest of the world. It leaves you open to ridicule, criticism, trolls (see a great article ‘Your Opinion is Obsolete‘), and oblivious objecting observers, when not writing removes those negativities. But the easiest thing to do is not to write.

I was somewhat inspired to get back to writing here after reading Roger Angell’s “Five Seasons” this past off season, the start of the Auburn baseball season, and the honest reflections of another sports writer who recently lost his job. Then for some reason, I became responsive to that inspiration after reading Joe Posnanski’s post about what was on his book shelf. It had nothing to do with the list of books he calls great (which was great), but by his opining about his office and how long it took him to come to the point. Great writing is like that. It’s the journey to the finishing point that creates the pleasures of wading through the details. You almost want the writer to slow down because you know the end is in sight.

As a writer (that is the act of writing something original… I make no claims to be on the level with the likes of Angell or Posnanski), the one on the list that bothered me the most was the last one. Once you start writing to please, or to not offend, the writing becomes less real, contains less of me. I still haven’t figured this one out. I admire those who have found the answer, or have ignored the question all together and just plowed ahead.

In the end, I hate being just a consumer of material. I read countless blogs, news articles, books, and other writings where the authors’ purpose was only fulfilled long after it was written. The purpose of the written word is, to be read, by somebody at some time, even if the knowledge of that purpose is never know by the writer himself. So… I write.

Thoughts on @AUTigerBaseball and Game 17. #WarEagle

Auburn Tiger Baseball
Auburn Tiger Baseball

Game 17, Auburn vs Coppin State. Jordan-Hare Stadium is always looming large in the background over Plainsman Park. Majestic concrete pillars hibernating until fall with one reprieve in April, A-Day, coming soon. It is always the giant in the room, the most powerful, with the most money, the biggest following, and a stadium that changes the landscape of the state 8 to 10 times a year.

Plainsman Park, however, providing 35-ish games at prices the average person in Auburn can afford, offers something football can’t, accessibility. On this particular day I am sitting, more like bathing, in the beautiful sunshine of an afternoon in the south in March. An almost-hot day at the park (did I mention it’s March), where the temp says 69° but really feels more like 80-85° in the sun.

I had no time at all today to get the lineup and score the game as I normally would. My last meeting of the day ended about an hour ago, so there was just enough time to make it to the park and enjoy the setting. Scoring is but just one of the countless aspects that makes baseball unique, poetic. The ability to score the game is as much an art form as are the many combinations of Auburn Baseball uniforms, but it really helps in learning the game. Today Auburn is wearing their home orange jersey and white pants with Coppin is wearing a Auburn-blue like jersey with gray pants.

3:30:05 PM

Unfortunately Kevin Davis (#12) only lasted pitching 1 full inning and was taken out in the top of the 2nd with no outs. Coppin scored 1 run in the top of the first after he walked three batters, then walked another in the 2nd. Replaced by Jakob Nixon (#8) with 2 men on base and no outs. Then in the bottom of the 2nd Blake Logan (#1) hit a 3 run homer over the green monster. The homer had to go at least 350′-360′ over the Bosox-like fence.

This is one of these lazy day games where the sun is just warm enough, especially for this time of year, to allow for a relaxed crowd. Deborah is knitting, and it is quiet enough to clearly hear the sounds of the game, along with various conversations of people nearby. Although the sound of the aluminum bat just is not quite the same as the MLB wood, it still creates this echoing ripple off the green monster and athletic dorms over right field.

Our world class heckler is here and attentive as always. His job is to make sure the pitcher for Coppin (or any away team that arrives not expecting a thinking fan crowd) does not get away with anything, and ensures he is rattled as much as any away pitcher could be by a comedian drill Sargent. Our season ticket neighbor came today, along with the normal “retired” season ticket holders. A lady on the stairs walking up into our section came within perhaps an inch of getting beaned in the head with a foul ball, and did not even notice. Quite fascinating how someone can come that close injury and not even know it happened.

The crowd here couldn’t be more local, and the visitors have virtually no fans attending today. I love this crowd, and much of it has to do with baseball itself. They are as calm as the pace of the game. Middle class retirees mixed with University staff, and students with an excuse to skip class on a beautiful day. In other words, those who love baseball.

Top of the 5th inning now and Auburn seems to have this one well in hand. Coppin had to take their starting pitcher out after he was hit by a hard line drive in the ankle (they needed to take him out anyway). Auburn now has a 8-2 lead off 8 hits and 0 errors. What a beautiful game.

A Non-Chemistry Auburn Basketball Season

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Aubie sits alone at the Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball Game

It’s been a lonely season of empty seats and shattered basketball hopes at this point. Deb and I love going to the basketball games, but it would be nice if just one season we could actually improve. This year is no different, they seem to have no chemistry, no cohesion, and few wins, though I love our players non-the-less. Year after year after year we keep coming to the games, and now we sit in a gorgeous new $92 million facility, which now seems to prove the point that you can’t just build it and they (players and fans) will come. Maybe I’m expecting a little too much out of a football town, but we sure have seen a lot of…

pressing into the paint… by the other team

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball

shots made beyond the arc… by the other team…

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball

but hey, maybe we haven’t been paying close enough attention as fans, maybe they said something, but we had our Beats on because the game was sooooo exciting…

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Beats Headphones at the Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball

or maybe we just need one of those giant megaphones to yell with… since there aren’t many fans at the games, we could just do that as the next promo instead of a cheesy Verizon draw string bag nobody wants anyway…

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Aubie and the Auburn Cheerleaders at Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball

or, maybe the halftime show guys will let our team use their trampoline so they too can fly through the air and slam the ball with style…

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball Halftime

…finally giving our excited little fans that do show up something to cheer about.

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Kid waves the foam finger at Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball

There are of course advantages to having no fans show up to a game and a team that has lost 17 games before the end of February. Nobody cares about the “prohibited items list” (except they still search my wife’s purse for FOOD), and I can actually take photos at the game without being ejected or my equipment confiscated.

from the tip off…

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Tipoff at the Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball game

to our beloved Aubie cheering in the stands with students…

Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball
Auburn vs Texas A&M Basketball

We really do love our Auburn basketball, it would just be nice to see something positive come out of the season to create momentum for next year? March Madness is right around the corner though, can’t wait.

iPhoneography and Auburn SEC Conference Play

Last night Auburn started their SEC conference play. This is always a favorite sports season of the year for us, so I started off with a little iPhoneography art of Auburn Arena. Something I love about my iPhone is how it gives me the ability to move beyond formal photography and put my own artistic flare in the image. Some don’t like it, but over the years I have grown to love the freedom in living outside the rules of photography.

This image results from a technique I use called stacking, which is just something I made up, but comes from stacking the image in different apps where the end result is something you can’t just get from one single post processing app. You can certainly overdue it, and the garbage in garbage out rule of photography always applies. Now with the iOS Panorama you can get some really cool results, like this, and with all the great apps like Camera+ and others the artistic results are almost limitless. Some day I will have to list all the photography apps I use and how they work but that’s not for today.

Gameday Auburn vs ULM or Everyday Life in the South

Auburn University Marching Band Football vs ULM 2012
The Drum Major Leads the Auburn University Marching Band for the ULM Game

It came a little later this year than in the past few seasons, but Saturday was finally gameday in Auburn. As part of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge they asked people to post about “everyday life” where you live. This may not be everyday life in other parts of the country, or the world, but it is down here in the south. There are those times during the year when people are waiting for SEC football, and then there is the fall when all plans are thrown out the window and people are at the mercy of the SEC schedule and the networks timetable.

This year it just feels a little different. ULM best Arkansas the week before, and Auburn had lost their previous two “away” games, so sitting out in the blasting heat and sun to watch Auburn barely come away with an overtime win against ULM wasn’t the greatest afternoon ever, but it was Auburn football. Auburn’s eagle still flew, and the band still played, but people were dropping left and right because of the heat, prompting my question as to why in the world do they agree to play a football game in the south during the day anymore? I know the answer is the dollar, but still, people were literally being carried out on stretchers. But that’s football devotion in the south, and part of every day life down here.

This coming Saturday could be a very hard game to overcome with LSU already smelling blood in the water. The shots here were taken with my Nikon, sneaked into the stadium since Auburn will no longer allow DSLR’s inside the gates anymore. I probably will not every hassle with it from this point forward this season and just use my iPhone instead, which just gives me another chance to improve as an iPhotographer. I always love the intensity of the Auburn Marching Band, and they are always so accessible during the game, though I’m not sure how they don’t pass out in those wool uniforms in 100*F weather.

One of my favorite shots of the day is one reason why I love football in the Bible belt. The circle of Auburn football players praying before the game puts some perspective on the fact that this is just a football game. But even more, we still live in a part of the country where football players can pray with their coaches, and the team has it’s own Team Chaplain in Rev. Chette Williams. Something rare in this pluralistic world we live in today. War Eagle.

The Catholic Church, the NCAA, and Penn State Football

Emmert Podiumh NCAA Penn State

I tend to stay away from topics I’m not involved with or have studied to some degree, but I am a follower of the greater Church Body, and an avid football fan (albeit Auburn Tigers Football not Penn State). I also try to steer away from current events as well, but in this case, it just deserves attention. While the Catholic Church has been having to deal with similar sexual sins for a while now, it is a self-governing body, while the top level of college football is governed by the NCAA, and this is basically their first large dealing with sexual sins and child abuse.

Today, the NCAA handed out the penalty it felt was justified for these horrific sexual sins against children, and it was a heck of a penalty. You can read the full pdf of the NCAA decision here, but the list of sanctions the NCAA placed on Penn State went well beyond the death penalty in my opinion, and rightfully so. The president of the NCAA made it clear that, at least Penn State, had put football, and winning football games, above all else, even the welfare of its own children. Living in a part of the country where football rises above everything, and is somewhat the religion of Saturday night, this penalty should raise awareness across the entire college football continuum. We love our football, but to what expense? Well, at least for the governing body of college football, the NCAA has made it clear, if you take football above the welfare of everything else, this is the list of what you get.

Punitive Component of the NCAA Penn State Penalty

  1. $60 Million Fine – this is the equivalent to the approximate average of one year’s gross revenue from the Penn State football program, to be paid over a five-year period to an endowment for programs preventing child sexual abuse and/or assisting the victims of child sexual abuse
  2. Four-Year Postseason Ban – they can’t play in a bowl game from 2012-2013 season until the end of the 2015 season. Some might think this isn’t that big of a deal, but this is where athletic programs get extra money, recruiting, and will basically disband any future NFL stars.
  3. Four-Year Reduction of Grants-in-Aid – the NCAA is limiting the Grants-in-Aid monies to 15 grants where in 2017-2018 they can go to 65
  4. Five Years of Probation – they are independently monitored for five years and any violation can mean higher penalties
  5. Vacation of Wins since 1998 – this is huge! This means Coach Joe Paterno will have these wins removed from his record as well
  6. Waiver of transfer rules and grant-in-aid Retention – this will allow any returning or new football player to be able to leave Penn State without any restrictions. This will basically have the affect of mass exodus with any football players of super high talent levels
  7. Individual penalties to be determined – open door for future action against specific people involved

Corrective Component of the NCAA Penn State Penalty

  • Adoption of all recommendations presented in Chapter 10 of the Freeh Report (full PDF of Freeh report here)
  • Implementation of Athletics Integrity Agreement (which is a huge list of things)

That’s quite a list, and in my view, which is just one of a mere spectator and lover of all things college football, this is worse than the death penalty that SMU received many years ago. I’m actually not sure the NCAA could put down a penalty or sanctions that would be too severe. Penn State removed the statue of their famed coach, and will probably begin to do what all quality higher education institutions in this country should be doing, focusing on winning through education, not football.

What does this have to do with the Catholic Church? Well, it is always interesting to me to see what secular institutions do when you compare that to what the church does. Although it is very hard to compare the Catholic Church and the sexual abuse of children by priests spanning centuries with college football, these were similar sins of the flesh, and above is how the secular world of NCAA College Football handled their sexual sin problem. How does, or how did the church handle their problem? In an overview, they instituted #7 above, and then whatever the court of law said they had to do.

Paul alone has a lot to say about the sexual sins of the flesh. They are not to be tolerated, and in his day, they were indeed worthy of the death penalty, but not the one where you can’t play football anymore, the capital punishment kind (see at a minimum Colossians 3:5). How can the church of today be less forceful against sin than a secular institution? There is of course a greater element of forgiveness and repentance involved, but in this particular case today, I think the church body can learn something from the punishment of the NCAA. This will really hurt Penn State right now, but in the end their football program will be one of integrity and honor.

I say the Catholic Church in this post only because they are the most prominent, the highest profile, and some of the worse abuse from within the greater Church Body. Things like this go on in Christian Church just like it goes on in college football, but that doesn’t mean we don’t meet these challenges as a Church Body with integrity and honor, and justice. After all, our governing body may be the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, or the United Methodist Church, but ultimately we are accountable to God, a much higher authority than even the NCAA, unless perhaps you ask someone from the state of Alabama on a Saturday night that is.

Auburn's Heisman Trophy Winner Statues for Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson, and Cam Newton

Auburn Bo Jackson Heisman Trophy Winner Statue

Auburn Cam Newton Heisman Trophy Winner Statue

Auburn Pat Sullivan Heisman Trophy Winner Statue

Before the annual Auburn A-Day Game this year (see Auburn Tigers Football A-Day Game Photos For 2012 from last weekend), Auburn unveiled the new Heisman Trophy statues, one by one, Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton, who accepted their honors with a short speech at the ceremony (you can watch all three videos here from AL.com). We did not come early for the unavailing of the statues, but since we live in Auburn, we can come down and see them any time we like I guess. These shots are of the three statues that now reside at the from entrance (east side) of Jordan-Hare Stadium, taken last week before the A-Day game.

I’m sure I will take some more additional shots of the statues later when there aren’t any crowds clamoring to get at them. The detail is pretty exquisite even if you aren’t an Auburn fan, they are detailed all the way to the cleats each wore, with a nice “AU” on the back of Sullivan’s shoe. The thing that really amazed me about these three athletes, and their corresponding Heisman Trophies, is their span of time. Each of the three represent a unique generation. I took my nephew to the A-Day game who is the biggest Cam Newton fan ever, but of course he doesn’t remember watching Bo Jackson run down the field, and neither do I remember watching Pat Sullivan throw a pass, and my dad, who was also at the A-Day game, can remember just about every game and play Pat Sullivan was in. It’s a little creepy, and a little cool, The three generations go my dad, me, and my nephew, each who grew up watching their own generations Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn. War Eagle!

Auburn Tigers Football A-Day Game Photos For 2012

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Today was the annual crazy-day game where we play ourselves, called the Auburn A-Day Game. Of course just about every school has a spring game where the offense plays the defense, it just seems to get bigger and bigger as the years go by. Today we had over 43,427 people at this game where we played ourselves, a game in which Coach Chizik said “numerical values meant little — if not nothing.” Makes me wonder (every single year)… why… but, it’s Auburn football, and there are very few chances to get into Jordan-Hare Stadium and take photos of crazy people (myself included since obviously I was at this “game”). I feel sort of obligated to go now since I have 4 years of A-Day Game posts on my blog, and I wouldn’t want to cull a blog mini-series of mine like the A-Day Game.

As Ryan Wood wrote for the Opelika-Auburn News on the game, “I wouldn’t look and pay attention to any of the stats today,” said Chizik, who barely glanced at the sheet in front of him for the 10 minutes he spent with the media. “It was different guys in there with different personnel groupings, and mix and match players. I wouldn’t read into any stats that you may see, good or bad.” But, that just means that keep stats for this game? Seriously? OK, I guess we keep stats on everything these days, and why not, the number of data points that we can capture at any given event now is bordering on the incomprehensible.

One interesting thing that did take place yesterday was the unavailing of three statues of Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winners, Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson, and Cam Newton. I have photos of the new statues, but I think I am going to post them in a separate blog post, after all, they did win the Heisman, they probably deserve their own post. I do find it kind of interesting that after something like 100 years of football we have now joined Alabama in memorializing our gladiators in the form of gigantic bronze statues that would make the Greek gods proud. I guess I can no longer make fun of Bama’s statue of Bear Bryant or Nick Saban and the like, oh well.

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012 Marching Band Drums

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012 Marching Band Trumpets

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Cornerstone-Buloba Church vs Buloba High School Soccer Match

It’s about 7am on Monday morning over here and since I couldn’t get the internet to work last night this post is actually from yesterday afternoon. As time has gone by on our trip over here the news of a soccer team from America has grown to where Buloba High School (17-21 year olds) challenged the team we could put together between our guys and Buloba Community Church, and they were serious. This was a full 90 minute match, with refs, on a regulation field at the high school with about 1,300 to 1,500 people who came just to watch our team play the local high school.

We had church in the morning, sorta. We went to Gaba Church (Buloba’s parent church) for their service, then headed to Buloba for their service which lasted from about 9am until about 1pm. Brian gave the sermon (via translation) at Buloba Church and Mark Fuller led the men in a leadership talk after the service was over. In between all that I was able to meet my sponsor child’s mother who came to church yesterday because I was there, that was so cool. I can’t wait to come back again in October and see both of them again.

Around 2pm we went over to the High School where we thought we were going to go immediately to the soccer field but first… into the high school for a testimonial time, worship, and then Pastor Isaac gave a sermon (I’m thinking it was his 5th of the day at that point). This was not a Christian High School but the schools are all basically private paid for schools and there is no separation of church and state over here so they basically had an hour long church service before we left for the soccer field.

The photos below are just a few from the soccer game, I think it was probably the highlight of the trip for the guys who actually play soccer. One of the hardest groups to connect with on a Christian level over here, and really anywhere, is the male ages 17-20 and up, and because of the game of soccer these guys were able to make an incredible connection with these young men over here. I didn’t play because I blew out my knee in a soccer match 2 days ago (still hobbling around but not writhing in pain anymore), but it was probably best I didn’t play since I was able to get a ton of great pics from the match. Unfortunately Bo pulled his hamstring towards the end of the game so he is out of commission now too. He says he will be fine in a few weeks but he is hobbling around now too.

Today we are doing more rain catches in Buloba so please continue to pray for our team as we have two more days before we get on that long plane ride back home.

Auburn Tigers Football A-Day Game Photos for 2011

Today was once again the annual spring football classic at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn Alabama. Much like the previous two years (see A-Day 2009 and A-Day 2010), it was a beautiful sunny spring day in the south, mid-80’s no clouds with a nice breeze, oh and with 50,000 or so fans sitting there watching us play… ourselves. Every year I asked myself the same question. Why am I here, and why are we all watching our own team play ourselves. Of course this was also the day that the Alabama Crimson Tide play themselves, and the Tennessee Volunteers play themselves, etc. etc., so I guess it was fate. This year I really didn’t hang around much other than to take some photos, my favorite being the Auburn cops behind bars (at the bottom). Actually my favorite shot doesn’t appear here because my wife said she would disown me if I posted a photo of the men’s room, so cops behind bars will have to do. It was wonderful to get outside today and not have to worry about cutting the grass or anything else, just a relaxing time people watching (there should be a social networking game for that with points scored for… maybe not).

Over the last year especially, every single time I go to an Auburn game I have to question my own motives, and can’t help but watch all the craziness that goes along with what is an Auburn football game, even if we are playing ourselves. We are about to start a new series called Counterfeit Gods right after Easter, which loosely correlates to the book by Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters, and I for one am glad (but in a way not) that we are doing this series in the spring and not during football season. The counterfeit gods of football are quite alive all over the south and for some reason the A-Day game always reminds me how important football is down here. Hard not to notice that when you can get over 100,000 people in two stadiums within two hours driving distance from each other. Still, it was an enjoyable afternoon in the tradition that is Auburn football that won’t be back again for about five months. War Eagle!