Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Ready For The Ball To Drop

With Christmas past and the new year encroaching, these reflections from Dr. Evil on the halcyon days of his youth probably speak to all of us in one way or another:

My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Some times he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy, the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical, summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds, pretty standard really.

I believe that riff by Dr. Evil in the original Austin Powers movie was inspired by the rarely-sung final stanza in the classic song from The Sound of Music...

Hot Rangoon summers and chilly luge lessons,
Burlap bag beatings in my adolescence,
Making meat helmets whenever it's spring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

This blog has been one of my favorite things in 2004. Thanks for stopping by, San Diego.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Cut Cheese With A Rich, Full-Bodied Red

On the people mover at DFW airport. Coming out, beefy Cincinnati Reds first baseman Adam Dunn. Getting on, the explosively flatulent (thanks to someone else's creative audio editing) and fraudulent (which he did on his own) televangelist Robert Tilton.

One pitches, the other swings. Both made rich from their respective flocks. At least one of them occasionally gives his fans their money's worth.

Monday, December 06, 2004

UMC: No Gaiety With The Laity

From Pughtown, Pennsylvania - motto: "Get A Whiff Of Pughtown!" - comes the story of the now former Reverend Irene Elizabeth Stroud, a tale both ribald and riddled with double entendre.

Last week, the United Methodist Church defrocked Stroud as an associate pastor after she confessed that she is a practicing homosexual, and it got me thinking.

Does practice ever make perfect? How much practice does one really need for that type of activity? Would she have been punished had she declared herself a perfect homosexual?

And this defrocking business. Wasn't that the problem in the first place? She was defrocked because of what she and her partner did after de-frocking one another!

And when the church says Stroud may continue her work as a lay employee, aren't they just encouraging the same behavior?

This is what happens when you start asking questions. That's why I don't recommend it.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Sports Fruitcake Chock Full Of Nuts And Berrys

Hats (and towels) off to the men and women of our nation's armed, legged, and barebacked entertainment forces, who've proudly taken it upon themselves to answer the one question that's haunted 24-hour news network producers since the day after the election: "Whose idea was it to create 24-hour news networks anyway?" And, more specifically, "How many times can we run that same "we're-a-divided-nation" package before our 0.4 Nielsen rating shrivels into negative integers?"

("Hey, CNN! PETA's on the phone. It's about that dead horse you're beating...")

That's when our men in uniform sprang into action and our women wanting action sprang out of whatever they were wearing. First, it was Terrell Owens on Monday Night Football. The Philadelphia Eagles receiver known as "T.O." (Towel Off?) and Desperate Housewife Nicolette "Edie" Sheridan starred in a seductive, pregame skit featuring a just-showered Sheridan asking Owens to explain the instructions on her shampoo bottle. Well, it certainly succeeded in lathering up the American viewing audience, the most prudish of whom excoriated ABC for showing such filth and demanded that the network in the future skip the shenanigans and get right to the real reason they tuned in to watch the game: the slow-motion close-ups of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, tastefully festooned in their booby-trapped blouses and hip-hugging undies. (By the way, with the advent of High Definition technology, how soon before merely watching those cheerleaders on a big screen TV becomes a statutory offense?)

No sooner had those verbal volleys landed on ABC executives than the Pacers, Pistons, and half the city of Detroit engaged in real fisticuffs at an NBA game. It started when Pistons' big man Ben Wallace - the incarnation of that great line from Fletch, "He's 6'5", with the afro 6'9"..." - attempted to perform a tonsillectomy on Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers. Push came to shove when Artest defiantly lay down on the scorer's table, and a fan threw down from 8 rows up in the stands his $10 beer, cup and all, which hit Artest between the numbers on his jersey. How hopelessly inebriated was that guy to:

a) decide it might be a good idea to chuck a brewski onto a man who could snap him in two like pre-cooked vermicelli

b) actually hit that target from 30 feet away?

The ring toss game at the state fair would run out of stuffed animals the first night in town if sober people could do that on command. Wars have been lost because soldiers, in complete control of all their faculties, couldn't lob grenades with such precision.

Well, the Battle of Detroit was officially on after the launching of that suds scud. Artest charged into the stands along with a couple of his hooligan teammates, and before long it had the makings of a World Wrestling pay-per-view steel cage match minus the class and dignity (or a script to determine the outcome).

Athletes from around the sports world were so embarrassed by what they saw from their NBA brethren Friday night that there wasn't a single incident of on-field misconduct...until Saturday afternoon. By then, 'Cockfighting had broken out in the Clemson-South Carolina game where players from both teams employed such tactical maneuvers as slamming their fists into the other guy's helmet. Not only did contrite officials from both schools voluntarily remove themselves from consideration for a bowl game, the Gamecocks replaced retiring head coach Lou Holtz with noted good sport Steve Spurrier.

Yet not to be outdone by those brouhahas (or is it brous-haha?) was an uprising in Washington, D.C. where city officials were trying to announce that the name of the new baseball team there would be the Nationals. (They can't pass a single page of meaningful legislation in Washington, but they can name 'em a baseball team lickety-split.) Some goofball, who perhaps had hoped the nickname would be as insensitive as those of the other sports teams in D.C., commandeered the podium and began screaming incoherently before being removed by security. Onlookers decried the outburst but agreed the man had a bright future in politics. The whole debacle must have been a great disappointment to former D.C. Mayor Marion Berry, who's done so much to bring honor and civility to our nation's capital in between prison terms.

So take heart, news producers. Our athletes and entertainers are taking their skills off the sports page and onto the police blotter where their true greatness, if not their naked bodies, will be revealed. And before you overreact to these acts of foolishness and violence, I urge you to remember the words of Mayor Berry when he said - and I'm afraid this is an actual quote: "If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very, very low crime rate."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Baker's Dozen, Blogger's Wife

Golfers will say you've "overclubbed" if the woman you married is way better than you should have had. In football parlance, it's called "outkicking your coverage." I'm sure poker players would have a term, too, if they'd ever get up off their fat aces and actually ask a girl out. (It's difficult to imagine the conversation ever progressing past, "Hey, little missy. Wanna come watch the flop to see if I flush?")

Pick the metaphor, and it applies to me. On this day 13 years ago, accompanied by her dad and "Trumpet Voluntary," Amy Nichols voluntarily walked down the aisle at Aldersgate Methodist Church in Abilene, Texas a little after 4 p.m. and agreed before God and man to become Amy Boone.

Scientists have a Rule of Thirteen, so named because, in order to generate a base formula (containing only carbon and hydrogen), the molar mass of the unknown substance is divided by 13. In a lot of ways, that rule describes our 13 years of marriage.

(Okay, I have no idea what that means. I just threw it in because Amy's dad teaches science at ACU. Thought it could be a telepathic, father-in-law/husband bonding moment. He's the carbon, I'm the hydrogen... Moving on.)

This is an unsuitable forum for me to express my love for Amy or to describe her greatness. Actually there isn't such a forum. Nor is there poetry, song, or work of art yet created that captures the fullness of a life with her. You'd have to be there. On the days in between the anniversaries. The January 12ths and July 22nds and October 14ths that pass without revelry but which when compounded produce a richness one can only appreciate in retrospect and humility.

You want to know the secret to a good marriage? Choose well. You can be a great spouse: loving, caring, considerate. But if you don't choose your mate well? Well, mate, you might just experience another scientific phenomenon: spontaneous combustion.

I've made too many poor decisions to count over the last 13 years. But the one I made November 23, 1991 - or rather the one she made on my behalf - has covered a multitude of sins.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Where Will Rain Man Buy His Underwear?

In case you missed it, Sears and K-Mart have announced they're merging.

On one hand it reeks of a cheap publicity stunt by aging, passe celebrities - imagine the buzz in Hollywood if Loretta Swit from M*A*S*H married Welcome Back, Kotter's Ron "Horshack" Palillo...keep thinking...got it? There you go.

But on a personal level, I'm sure I'll enjoy the convenience of avoiding one store instead of two.

"Ooh, ooh! Mr. Kotta, Mr. Kotta! Now I can buy my generic flannel shirts and a bag of Funyuns at the same store!!!"

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Naked Bootleg

Last week, the NFL re-upped with CBS and Fox, guaranteeing that those two networks will televise football on Sundays.

Based on last night's intro to the Eagles-Cowboys' game on ABC, it would appear the league is considering moving Monday Night Football to Cinemax.

For Nicolette Sheridan, who dropped her towel and jumped into the arms of Philly receiver Terrell Owens (it was the first of T.O.'s many catches last night), it threatens to tarnish a career she's worked so diligently to build through such epic films as "Beverly Hills Ninja."

For the NFL, this latest black, ahem, eye comes less than a year since Janet Jackson's Super Bowl halftime show brought new meaning to the term "boob tube."

When it comes to developing young fans, it seems the league is the one throwing in the towel.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The ABCs of G, PG

Parental Guidance: knowing when a child is too young to take to the movies.

Here's a general rule of thumb - if your youngster is smaller than the largest tub of popcorn, wait for the DVD.

Don't take this literally.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

"I Was Behind Bars, And You Visited Me..."

This man was attacked and injured after jumping into a lion's den at the Taipei Zoo and trying to convert the lions to Christianity. I only wish I was kidding.

Sir, the Colosseum closed 2,000 years ago. Get over it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Making Their Mao-ths Water

The Tiananmen Square massacre was worth it. Hooters has finally come to China. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the United States' two billion dollar trade deficit with the People's Republic will be erased by Monday.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Us, Weakly

Entertainment magazine editors face a difficult decision each week: should I do a feature story on Britney Spears' latest once-in-a-lifetime love or go ahead and kill myself now?

Here's how the bigwigs at Us Weekly adroitly laid out this week's cover:

*A 3/4-page picture of J-Lo declaring: "I'm ready to have a baby!" Choose one of my following two retorts -

a) Doesn't she have to get pregnant first?
b) The doctor doing the delivery room spanking shouldn't have a problem hitting his target. (Okay, I didn't just type that. That was my evil twin cousin, Andre.)

*Two inset boxes - one with a picture and caption, "Britney at home," and another screaming, "Nicky (Hilton) splits with hubby."

Say what you want, but those two have come up big for the owners who took them in Fantasy Dating Leagues. They've combined for three weddings, one annulment, and a divorce this year alone.

*And finally, in a touching tribute, Us Weekly editors scrapped a "Survivor" update to dedicate an entire eighth of an inch across the top of the cover to commemorate the death of Christopher Reeve, one of the few in Hollywood history to merit adulation and respect.

Good work, gang. Be sure and catch next week's edition featuring Mary Kate Olson and Calista Flockhart appearing on the spine of the magazine - between the staples - and election results in the News and Notes section on page 87.

Monday, October 18, 2004

And A Little Child Shall Read Them

On the way home from church yesterday, Andrew (age 8) asked if he could read some of the book of Revelation after lunch. As Amy and I looked at each other, I could tell we were thinking different things.

Amy: "Quit looking at me and keep your eyes on the road."

Me: "Where did we go wrong? He'd always been such a good boy."

I told him I couldn't think of a time when it wouldn't be okay to read the Bible. Maybe in the middle of the night, I offered, but Amy correctly jumped in to tell him if he ever woke up and felt like he needed to read the Bible that he should go ahead and do it. (This is one of roughly 2,017 reasons why it's always good to have Amy around.)

After lunch, as I settled in to an afternoon of deep meditation and inner reflection, highlighted by the constant clicking between two NFL games and the movie "Shallow Hal" on TBS, Andrew opened his purple NIV Reader's Version and began reading the last book of the Bible. Periodically, he'd come in to ask me a question about what he'd read or more often just to marvel at that apocalyptic vision John witnessed and wrote about in Scripture.

In fact, it's possible that Andrew reading Revelation while I watch anything involving Gwyneth Paltrow is itself a sign of the apocalypse.

Hang on, I'll ask him.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Last Shall Be First

The fact that I've flown so often that I can most often get upgraded into first class is bittersweet:

It means I've spent a significant amount of time away from my wife and children. To say I love them way more than anything I do on the road would suggest that it's even a debatable question.

On the other hand, I do get free drinks and a hot towel before meals.

So, you know.

By the way, next time you board a plane and make your way to the coach section, sneak a peek at those elite passengers. There's a look in their eyes that seems to say, "You poor, pathetic loser. Get outta my face and get back to the cattle car where you belong." Either that or they're asleep with their eyes open.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

From The Editor

Because neither of us have enough to do, I've created a brand new blog, Poll Position, that will focus exclusively on politics. I didn't think it was fair to bury important stories like a football player pooping in a woman's laundry basket beneath political pablum and discussing who will be the next leader of the free world.

I hope you'll visit and make comments at Poll Position and continue to remind me just how important what I have to say really is.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Dirty Laundry

Sorry for the recent spate of lavatorial subject matter, but...

After hitting the laundry basket, you knew sooner or later this would hit the fan.

Wouldn't this guy be a better fit with the Browns?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A Homer's Odyssey

Saw a great bumper sticker in Portland last week: "Re-defeat George W. Bush." Now that's funny. Even if you were, like me, part of the victorious minority who voted for the President four years ago, you gotta admit that's clever. And it's certainly superior to "My child is an honor student at Ritalin Elementary."

I am an avowed homer. But I think I'm pretty good at keeping my allegiance to team/school/candidate from clouding my sense of reality. For example, two weeks ago against the University of Florida, my beloved Tennessee Volunteers were the grateful beneficiaries of not one, but two egregious blunders by the officiating crew, which the Big Orange resourcefully parlayed into a last-second victory. I shed no tears for Gator Nation. If UF (or do they prefer FU?) never wins another game, it'll be way too many for me. But my devotion doesn't supersede the reality that the refs helped my team win...and that the forces of evil are occasionally thwarted in this life.

I get the feeling this Chief Executive election - and maybe a bunch more before - is more about whether our guy wins than what really results from the outcome. It's so much easier that way, no? If we win, we gloat and all is Right (or Left) with the world. If we lose, we politely declare the imminent arrival of the gates of hell prevailing upon us. Neither outcome, if we're really honest, prevents us from nor encourages us toward that to which the prophet Micah called the people of God 3000 years ago: "to live justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly" with God. If we so choose, we can live that way regardless of how many chads are dangled.

Think of the worst that could happen if the guy you're not voting for wins. Elephants, even if a Kerry administration gives homosexuals the right to be contiguous with one another in the contiguous 48 states and beyond, that hardly impedes your ability to treat everyone in your circle of influence with dignity. Donkeys, the swashbuckling Bush could slash millionaires' taxes like Errol Flynn - who, it should be pointed out, would be allowed to marry in a Kerry administration - and it still wouldn't preclude you from seeing to it that those in need near you are accounted for.

I don't think America gets better from the top down. I'd say it's the other way around. So whoever graduates from this year's Electoral College with top honors, maybe we should all concede the truth of another popular bumper sticker, however scatological and septic its message may be. That way when "**it happens" to those around us as **it invariably does, we'll be more prepared to grab a mop than point a finger.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Washing My Hands Of The Weekend

I'm not sure which is more execrable: the unique grime in which one marinates during an all-night flight and the ensuing, early-morning airport layover; or the almost audible objections your body raises when you are so indescribably tired on such occasions. (Vote now to win either a Plasma TV or the opportunity to donate plasma while watching TV.)

I'm pondering that question and other mysteries of the universe in the wee hours of Monday morning at DFW airport after a redeye from Portland, haphazardly pecking away at a public computer keyboard that no doubt doubles as a bacterial buffet. (Please use a new petri dish for return trips.)

I've always found Portland to be very similar to Abilene in that it's inhabitable by humans. There are a few differences, such as Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers in church parking lots. And golf courses that aren't irrigated with non-potable water.

It was great to be back on the air for The Golf Channel broadcasting the LPGA Safeway Classic, knowing we were at the epicenter of the sports weekend. As you know from watching our exciting, tape delayed coverage, Hee-Won Han of South Korea was declared the Safeway winner when Canadian Lorie Kane was disqualified for having too many items in the express checkout line.

Buried on the back pages of your local paper, you might notice the Ryder Cup was also contested this weekend. The American team staged a furious rally on Sunday and ultimately succeeded in preventing Europe from doubling its point total. The final tally was 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 in favor of the Euros, though the U.S. team could have its margin of defeat reduced because of good behavior and a favorable exchange rate.

Despite Europe's seventh victory lap in the last ten Cups, the golf cognoscenti is again agog at the outcome. What's the next bombshell?

"Democrats Promise To Make Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share!"

"Taxes Again Due April 15!"

"Bush Dangles Participle!"

"Biologists Find Germs on Public Computer Keyboards!"

Monday, September 13, 2004

Does anyone else feel just a little naughty when asking the Starbucks' barista for Sumatra? I didn't think so.

(And, yes, barista is the most unintentionally hiliarious euphemism for a fast food worker since Subway tried to pass off its employees as "sandwich artists.")

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

High In The '80s

King Solomon, he of unparalleled wisdom and insatiable libido, once said, "There's nothing new under the sun." Even though TiVo wouldn't be invented until years after his death, I think he may have been foreshadowing today's TV fare. The only stuff worth watching is the reheated leftovers from my youth. To wit:

ESPN selected the U.S. hockey team's victory over the Soviets in the 1980 Olympic games as the greatest sports moment of the last 25 years. No matter how many times I see it, I still can't believe how long Al Michaels' shirt collar is coming out of his standard-issue, light blue ABC sweater. And, yes, I still get misty when I hear, "Do you believe in miracles?" That moment made me want to become a sportscaster. I'll never forgive him. ("Do you believe in 60 hours a week at $14,000 a year? Yes!!!")

Has there been a better commercial this year than the Starbucks' spot featuring a flabbier but still spunky Survivor providing audio inspiration to the businessman en route to work to the tune of their hit, "Eye of the Tiger?"

"Glen's the man. Goin' to work. Got his tie. Got ambition..."

When Glen exits the office elevator, the band spots the next guy coming in and sings, "Roy! Roy, Roy, Roy!"

Priceless. Am I the only one who - as far back as age 6 and as recently as, say, this morning at 9:30 - has imagined key moments in life being played out perfectly against the backdrop of a particular song? Yes? That's what I thought. I'm sure growing up in the MTV generation had nothing to do with this particular neurosis.

It's like my own personal mental video vault of songs playing over scenes of my life, usually in slow motion and including multiple close-ups of me grimacing or agonizing over a key situation. "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters was well-used. I built several scenarios around "The Search Is Over" by the aforementioned Survivor. All of these episodes involved girls, who in real life only knew I existed because I weighed slightly less than a Fiat at the time, ending up in my arms forever.


I almost forgot about that one. Kenny Loggins absolutely owned the '80s, thanks in part to this ditty in which he whines about losing his woman. Not that she left him for another guy. He literally couldn't find her. Whatever. The chicks totally fell for it.

I didn't date much.

Flipping around trying to find that Starbucks commercial again, I stumbled on to the climactic scene from the original Karate Kid with Ralph Macchio and Billy Zabka, the blond-haired punk who seemed to show up as the villain in every movie of import in the '80s: Karate Kid, Back to School, possibly Gandhi, though I'm not 100% sure on that one.

I got to the movie just as Macchio was mounting a rally, prompting the mean guy's sensei to sen-say, "Sweep the leg." (It was at that point that Amy asked, "Is that Patrick Swayze?" I was like, "Are you kidding? The big screen couldn't have contained a single movie with the star power of Swayze, Ralph Macchio, a highly nubile Elisabeth Shue, and Pat Morita, shaking off those last embarrassing years as Arnold in Happy Days to turn in the performance of a lifetime as Mr. Miyagi." She responded with her trademark rolling of the eyes and leaving of the room. I did concede that Martin Kove looked like what Swayze might have after three or four straight months of heavy steroid usage. Judge for yourself.)

Well, anyway you know what happens from there. Bad guy sweeps leg. Good guy uses remaining good leg to assume crane-like position (a position employed many times in my mental music videos, by the way). Good guy kicks bad guy in face. Tournament over. Penitent bad guy presents good guy, whose leg by all rights would've in real life been irreparably damaged and possibly gangrenous by bad guy's low blow, with championship trophy.

Two important things resulted from this viewing: first, I began using the word "dojo" again. It's a good word that I'd let get away. Say the word right now wherever you are. "Dojo." It just feels good. Maybe not as good as "cuppagumbo" but right up there. Second, I was swept back to the whole Karate Kid phenomenon and the epic sequel, which featured former Chicago front man Peter Cetera - The Chipmunks' singing falsetto were a full octave lower - belting out, "I am a man who will fight for your honor. I'll be the hero you've been dreaming of. We'll live forever, knowin' together that we did it all for the glory of love." (It's imperative that you not try to visualize all 117 pounds of Peter Cetera fighting anyone for anything. Stay with me.) What I'm saying is that there's an entire quadrant of my mental video vault dedicated to the montages I concocted using this song, most of which involved my rescuing a cute girl from her loser boyfriend, then furiously making out with her as the music fades and I continue to grimace.

I know I'm not the only one who did this. In fact, if the old wise king was correct and there really is nothing new under the sun, maybe he had a video vault, too. It would certainly explain Song of Solomon.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Uh Oh'Reilly: Bill Blows His Cover

Since Bill O'Reilly's looking out for me, I figure the least I can do is occasionally look back at him. Last night, as he interviewed the husband-wife team of NFL defensive back Jason Sehorn and actress Angie Harmon from Law and Order, O'Reilly's pride came before a fall, or at least a Freudian slip.

Talking about Sehorn's pigskin peers, Mr. O smugly asserted that most professional football players are Republicans because "they love me." The words were barely out of his mouth before he began explaining how he had misquoted himself. (The speed at which he retreated must've been impressive to Sehorn, who's made a living running backwards.) The smirk now gone, he said, "Of course, I'm not a Republican; I'm an independent." Right. I kept waiting for him to say, "And you, Ms. Harmon, are not the least bit attractive."

His defense was almost as effective as when I tell people I've never been drunk. Some think I'm lying. Others think I'm self-righteous. (Most think I'm both.)

It reminds me of a friend of mine whose father for many years strategically manipulated his extant wisps of hair into a follicular tapestry that my buddy and his sisters began calling "the flap." When the time came for an intervention and the kids suggested their dad cut what was left of his hair, he said, "I can't do that. I'd be bald," to which his progeny replied loudly and in unison, "Dad, you ARE bald!!!"

What was I even talking about. Oh, yes. O'Reilly. If a largely conservative audience makes a political commentator rich and famous, there's a pretty good chance said commentator shares similar views on most issues. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Yet only by accident will O'Reilly say it. So I will.

Bill, you're bald. And it's time for a haircut. Until then, there'll continue to be a really bad combover on top of your talking head.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

When Right Is Wrong

With the presidential election barely two months away, the boone box is more dedicated than ever to providing you, Mr. I Have Nothing Better To Do Than To Look At Pictures Of People Buried Up To Their Heads In Sod, with the most comprehensive campaign coverage on the internet, so long as said coverage doesn't interfere with following the Texas Rangers' pennant chase, the beginning of the college and NFL seasons, or the prelims for next April's Westminster Dog Show.

Today for your edification, we present the following interview with evangelical author, minister, and overall troublemaker Tony Campolo, who's at it again with a new book entitled Speaking My Mind. (You can read an interview he gave to beliefnet.com about his latest tome. WARNING: He looks a lot like Arnold T. Pants, Esquire, the attorney for Chevy Chase's ex-wife in Fletch, voted the funniest movie of all time by people with a really advanced sense of humor.)

Campolo is either: a) challenging the status quo and calling all believers to examine the issues that really matter to Christ or b) a Democrat who wants W to get an L in November. Or he could be both. I mean if I guy in a kilt can crash the Olympic marathon, I suppose anything's possible.

Does Tony Campolo Drive A Familiar Red OldsmoBuick?

Friday, August 27, 2004

You Tell Me

Whoever comes up with the best caption for this picture wins a year's supply of nothing.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Queried, I, From The Straits Guy

Some questions are so simple, they're hard. Like, "Honey, did you remember to pick the kids up at school?" Sounds easy enough. I mean, I should be able to look around and see if the kids are with me or not, right?

I got one of those questions the other night after our first day broadcasting the PGA Championship from the magnificent Whistling Straits Golf Club in Wisconsin. This was my first week working with the crew of pga.com, a talented group of super nice people. Getting to know each other over a thin-crust pizza and some of Milwaukee's finest, I mentioned I'd been doing some work for Continent of Great Cities, helping mission teams plant strong churches. As I told my new friends how I'd drunk the Kool-Aid when it came to Christ, that I'd fallen for Him hook, line, and Savior, one of them asked me:

"So how would someone begin a relationship with God?"

Yes! For someone sharing his faith, this was a tap-in, a batting practice fastball, a chip-shot field goal...

"I'm sorry, what was that again? Can you rephrase the question? Can I phone a friend? Wouldn't you rather discuss instrumental music or why Phoebe wasn't really a deacon?"

This most basic query put me in a momentary quandary. Someone really smart and famous - maybe G.K. Chesterton - once wrote that it's more difficult to defend that which you truly hold dear than something you don't really believe in. (Okay, it probably wasn't Chesterton; he wouldn't have ended a sentence with a preposition.) For example, I might make a more coherent case for a presidential candidate than I could explain how deeply I love my wife.

The first thing I told the guy was that it was a really good question. Then we talked about beginning with some very basic prayer, asking God who He is and if He's real and being completely honest. The real answer, of course, is that there is no formula. There never is in real relationships. Books on dating or parenting offer helpful hints on how to achieve success in those areas, at best, and, at worst, reduce those endeavors to simple algebra that never quite equates in real life.

"How would someone begin a relationship with God?"

Good question. Here's another, "Does the school cafeteria have a dinner menu?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Big But Not Easy

Ernie Els is the golfer with the syrupy swing and the Alfred E. Newman, "What, me worry?" facade. But there's a fire in the belly of the guy they call "The Big Easy" - and, no, I'm not talking about the kind of fire that goes away with a coupla Pepcid AC.

Saturday night, after the third round of the PGA Championship in Kohler, Wisconsin, I saw Els belch that fire on Alan Shipnuck, the former full-time golf writer for Sports Illustrated who is now "par" sona non grata with golfers and fellow media members alike because, in the estimation of everyone I know, he's an ambush journalist and a sniper, willing to take shots at anyone from any distance. One writer told me the reason SI took him off the golf beat is because none of the players would ever talk to him.

Well, Els was certainly talking to Shipnuck Saturday night, but there wasn't much I can repeat that would make it through my CyberSitter 2003 family-friendly internet filter. Suffice to say, Els is not a big fan of Shipnuck's work. Unless the index finger he was sticking in Shipnuck's face was to tell him, "You're the number one sportswriter in golf!" This particular dust-up is believed to have begun when Els learned Shipnuck had used one of his SI colleagues to get a quote from Ernie for a story Shipnuck was writing. Els wasn't happy. For ten minutes, he dropped f-bombs with abandon, an Enola Gay of expletives, to make sure Shipnuck knew he never wanted to talk to him again. Even Els' wife, Liezl, unleashed her own unique invective. I'd never seen a scribe proscribed quite like that. I was unable, however, to find anyone who felt sorry for Shipnuck.

Keep in mind, Ernie was already in a bad mood at the moment because of an 18th hole bogey that put him at 8 under par, 4 shots behind Vijay Singh with only one round to go. And for a minute there it looked like a stroke wouldn't be the only thing Els dropped. I thought the writer might go down, too, right there on the practice putting green as the sun set on Whistling Straits. Twenty-four hours later, Els would bogey the 18th again, this time costing him a spot in a PGA playoff. I hope for Shipnuck's sake he wasn't anywhere in sight when Els walked off the 18th green having notched yet another near-miss in a major championship.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Some of you have been trying to find my broadcast of the PGA Championship on the web. You have to be an AOL member. Log in and you should find the link to the PGA Championship webcast.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Comic Relief

You've heard the old joke, right: "Old truckers never die, they just get a new..." (In a rare burst of civility, I'll withhold the punchline and let you fill in the blank.) Apparently, old comedians never die, they become political commentators. The list of comics-turned-pundits reads like a "Who's #*%*#%& Who?" of popular 1980s stand-up artists. Al Franken, Bill Maher, Whoopi Goldberg, and George Carlin are all more popular these days for telling people how to vote than for telling jokes (though the two can be confusing at times). Hey, whatever pays the bills.

And for that matter, not all of the aforementioned yucksters are complete idiots politically. The other night, for example, Bill Maher asked a conservative guest on his talk show for a good reason why gay marriage should be banned, something other than the apocalyptic cries of the radical right about how our civilization depends on who's allowed to stand at the altar.

It got me thinking about this issue in particular and how my faith should and does affect my politics. I can make what I believe to be a strong case for why God would be against gay marriage. But if America isn't a theocracy and we don't outlaw sins like adultery, what would be my next "line of defense."

People like Maher are asking real questions and fair ones, in my opinion; the kind Jesus was never afraid to answer. Of course, he had the slight advantage of being the Son of God and all. I, on the other hand, am left to wonder how my citizenship in God's kingdom could and should encroach on the world of American politics. And that's no joke.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Tee & AA

We here at the boone box are always on the lookout for ways you men can impress that special lady in your life. (Ladies, and by that I mean all non-men, a recent court order and my wedding vows preclude me from looking out for you.)

Guys, remember that a woman wants to know how much you care. And what better way to communicate your love than wearing a sexually-explicit t-shirt when you're out with her in public? It says, "I have only one thing on my mind." And, "I have only one thing on my mind."

In some cases, it might also say, "Whaddya mean I can't board the plane?" Last week, according to the Palm Beach Post, American Airlines kicked a couple off Flight 952 from Miami to New York because the man wouldn't change or turn inside out his shirt featuring a man and woman engaging in an act in which t-shirts are unnecessary, if not cumbersome.

The woman involved (in the incident, not on the shirt) didn't understand all the fuss. "It's a picture of a man and woman, and the woman's breast is showing. The flight attendant basically walked up to us and yelled, 'You have to take off that shirt right now.'"

(Apparently, the man would've been allowed to board the plane topless.)

Four Miami-Dade County lawmen and three federal security agents escorted the lusty lovebirds off the plane. While the couple was released without being charged, several of the officers offered to keep the tawdry tee in custody and under close surveillance.

Monday, July 26, 2004

220, 221 - Whatever It Takes

A quick coda to the previous post. The flip phrase "fistful of dollars" doesn't do justice to that part of the story. On that Sunday morning at church, I shared the Reader's Digest version of the story to two classes and suggested anyone interested in contributing to the cause could see me afterward. I asked God to multiply the first five dollar bills handed me and He did, to the tune of $221.

After we had helped our new friends, I totaled up the cost of getting the power turned back on, putting them up for a night in a hotel room, and buying them a random sack of groceries. Take a wild guess what it came to. If you said something other than $221, please move back two posts and deposit 75 cents.

I guess God just likes to show off sometimes. I, meanwhile, remain a work in progress. While my kids have repeatedly suggested we call our new friends to see if they want to go to church or other such functions with us, I actually went out of my way last week to avoid the outstretched hands of two guys on a street corner because I knew the boys would want to stop and help and frankly I wasn't up for it at that particular moment.

I hope you're getting the moral of this story: if you introduce your children to Christ, your life will never be the same - it'll be way less convenient. And before you know it, stuff will start adding up to 221. And through it all you may discover the road to heaven has stop signs at street corners where people need money and gas and food and you. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Like Father, Like Son

It's been said no one is totally useless in life; they can always serve as a bad example. The guy with the big melon pictured to your right is living proof. Couple of weeks ago, the fam and I were leaving Wal-Mart (which, by the way, is usually my favorite part of going to that particular establishment). I noticed a guy positioned at the exit holding a cardboard sign. I thought about asking him what he needed, but it didn't seem especially practical with a van full of family. I pulled out onto Southwest Drive, only to hear Andrew - spiritually mature beyond his 7 years of age - say, "Maybe we should help that man."

Exactly. We wheeled around and introduced ourselves. Turns out, the guy needed a little gas for his car and a friend or two to go to bat for his and his brother's families who've just landed in Abilene.

A few days later, thanks in part to a fistful of dollars collected from our friends at Highland, we helped get their electricity turned back on. They trusted us enough at that point to let their three kids come with us to Vacation Bible School.

I have no idea how the plot will thicken in the ensuing chapters of this story. But I do know the Author has a knack for happy endings. And because my oldest is way more like his Heavenly Father than his earthly dad, these characters might actually be excited to turn the page.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

For Whom The Boone Tolls

A friend of mine we'll call "Val Durrington" phoned me yesterday as I was driving from Tulsa back to Abilene. He said, "Let me guess - you're somewhere on I-44 between two toll booths." He wasn't watching me on Harry Potter's Marauder's Map, though a succession of toll clerks magically made $14.75 vanish over the course of two days. All that money they suck out of interstate motorists, and it's still...Oklahoma.
Here's what I saw when I finally exited:
- Call off the dogs. I've found Dr. Hook. They'll be appearing at the Musclecar Truckfest in Anadarko, OK later this month. Looks like the comeback tour is ahead of schedule.
- It was either truth in advertising or a bizarre coincidence. At the Sprint PCS store on 71st St. in Tulsa, I met a guy with a wooden leg. As I left the parking lot, I passed a truck with a sign on the door that read "Pegleg's - Buy, Sell, Trade Cars."
- I did not see the 900-foot Jesus who once appeared to Oral Roberts, but I must admit I wasn't looking for him, specifically.
- I'm not sure I've ever had more fun ordering dinner than I did at Fish Daddy's Thursday night when I asked for a "cuppagumbo." Go on. Say "cuppagumbo" right now wherever you are. If you don't immediately perk up and lose 3-5 dress sizes, I'll gladly put you on the same "preferred" e-mail list I'm on, which allows me to receive discounted Viagra and other products of a sensual nature, such as low, fixed-rate home loans.
That was the last free paragraph of this post. To continue, please deposit 75 cents.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Double Feature

How sick would someone really be whose two favorite movies this year are The Passion of the Christ and Anchorman? 'Cause I know someone like that. And I'd like to get help. For him. Or her. If indeed there's something wrong with that. Which of course there is...

Stay classy.

Watch Out For Ron Burgundy's Guns. They'll GetchaPosted by Hello

Friday, July 09, 2004

"My Name Is Dick - Do You Know What That Means?"

Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek are laughing in their whitewashed tombs. They've each moved down a notch on the list of Dumbest Things Ever Said By Public Figures thanks to the fine work of Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles and soon to be the ex-Education Commissioner of California.

Last week in Santa Barbara, Riordan was meeting some of the students in an elementary school classroom when a 6-year-old girl, Isis D'Luciano, told Riordan her name meant "Egyptian goddess." Confused, or maybe drunk - it was already mid-morning by then - Riordan responded, "It means dirty, stupid girl," then chuckled the chuckle of a man whose reputation and public life was flashing before his very eyes. When the little girl repeated the correct meaning of her name, Riordan replied, "That's nifty!" proving his vocabulary was every bit as anachronistic as his sense of political correctness.

The story took an even more bizarre turn at that point when the superhero Isis, not seen since Saturday mornings in the late '70s, appeared out of nowhere and kicked the crap out of the commissioner.

Isis Educated Riordan On The Proper Way To Speak To Girls Posted by Hello

This incident further proves every politician should whenever possible try to emulate former President Bill Clinton, whose exchange with the little girl would've no doubt gone like this:

Isis: "Do you know what my name means?"

Clinton: "That depends on what your definition of 'is' is, Isis."

(Then again, upon remembering how hot JoAnna Cameron, the actress who played Isis in the TV series, was in those days, Clinton would've likely appointed a special investigator to determine her whereabouts and availability. He might have even shouted, "Shazam!" which is not just an expression of excitement but also Isis's crimefighting cohort.)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Changing The Litter In The Boone Box

Can low-carb communion bread be far behind? Does the Atkins symbol in a sanctuary constitute a graven image?

I have enough urgency in my life without gas station credit card machines demanding that I "remove card quickly."

Is the hand sanitizer phenomenon one big, biohazardous hoax? Will we soon discover, as the Seinfeld characters did about the fat-free frozen yogurt that really wasn't, that we've been had? Are teeny, tiny, little bacteria fraternities doing the backstroke in this goo? I feel dirty just broaching the subject.

George W. Bush - Dick Cheney + John McCain = (4)more years

And finally, as the first half of the baseball season ends with the Texas Rangers leading the American League West, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Armageddon.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

You Say Potatoe...

No sooner had John Kerry announced John Edwards as his running mate than Republicans began publicly questioning whether Edwards was qualified to be Vice President. I applaud the GOP for their willingness to ask the tough questions about those who would govern this nation.

After all, Dan Quayle left sum mitey big shoos two fil.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Lucky Sprem Club

If men are indeed from Mars and women's tennis players are named Venus, then what planet was Ted Watts on when he umpired a second-round match at Wimbledon between Croatia's Karolina Sprem and the aforementioned Miss Williams?

Watts mistakenly awarded a point to Sprem in a second-set tiebreaker. No one noticed, including the players, and Williams wound up losing the tiebreaker and the match. While he'll never sit in the chair at Wimbledon again, Watts can look forward to a bright future as either a star of those "Wanna get away?" ads for Southwest Airlines or Florida's Secretary of State.

SportsCenter immediately concocted a piece on the greatest officiating blunders of all time. But Watts' whiff made me think of two things for which I'm exceedingly grateful:

First, my screw-ups aren't televised...with the exception of things like "butt darts" and "youranalysis", which I brought upon myself.

And second, the number of good breaks I've received so far outweighs the bad it seems blasphemous to even put them on the same scales.

In the case of the latter, though I've dangled my share of chads, no recount is necessary.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Let's Get Behind This...And Put The War In A Full Nelson

I believe we may have finally found some common ground with the world of Islam in this geopolitically tumultuous time. Muslim fundamentalists are promising to protest women's wrestling in the Olympics, calling the sport "vulgar and indecent." I couldn't agree more. If I want to watch surgically-repaired women shamelessly groping one another in skimpy outfits, I'll go to the half-price sale at a north Dallas Nordstrom's. (Come to think of it, that would make for great Olympic theater.)

While we're at it, let's jettison rhythmic gymnastics, the four-day opening ceremony, professional athletes, John Tesh, Olympic mascots...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Putting The U-R-I-N-A-L Back In Journalism

Say what you want about the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News, but there's not a media outlet on this planet (or any other for that matter) that consistently breaks more news stories than the WWN. Just yesterday, I was shocked to learn of the Pope's near-death experience after being hit by a falling meteor. Did "fair and balanced" Fox News bother to share this with the American people? You decide. All I know is WWN not only had this exclusive bombshell, amazingly one of their intrepid photogs actually captured this horrifying moment on film! What luck!

Having worked in both local and national newsrooms, I can report to you with some authority that the only real difference between outlets such as CNN and the WWNs of the world is the number of credible sources needed to verify a story and put it on the air. CNN's minimum number is zero; Weekly World News' is slightly lower.

The truth is, nothing in Weekly World News is any goofier than the stuff of my dreams. For years, I've had this recurring quasi-nightmare that the light goes on in a radio studio signaling the beginning of my sportscast, and I'm dashing in at the last minute...without my script. So I stumble through 60 seconds of ad-lib audio gobbledygook. (Some of you who've actually heard me on the air are saying, "How does this differ from his real sportscasts?" To you I say, "Gobbledygook!")

Seriously, what is that all about? Does anyone else dream such things? My dad has led worship in churches for 50 years. He says he still dreams he's on stage ready to begin when he looks down at his book only to find a song he's never seen before.

I've even heard of a particular pontiff who kept dreaming a large object would come crashing down on him from the heavens. You would've heard about it, too, if the mainstream media would've done its job for once and actually reported the news. Maybe they couldn't find their scripts.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Leaving No Oliver Stone Unturned


It finally hit me yesterday. How could I have missed it all these years? It took columns by "Molly Ivins" and "Cal Thomas" appearing on the same editorial page for me to wake up and smell the newspaper ink...hang on, I'm still smelling. Mmmmm...okay, here it is:

These two are the same person!

Can you honestly say you've ever seen these two in the same room? Of course you can't. It's actually quite clear after even a cursory examination of the evidence. Exchange Cal's carefully-lacquered coiff and cheesy 'stache for Ivins' eyeliner and Shaggy Doo and...ZOIKS!!! We might all need a Scooby snack after this revelation.

Even if you don't see the proof in the polaroid, check the fine print. Both use a poorly-disguised vehicle to spew their own personal, political venom: Thomas takes the religion route; Ivins prefers humor. And each, in a weird way, keeps the other in business. It's a schizophrenic he said/she said. (Or would that be I said/I said?)

If you're still not convinced, you need look no further than their noms de plume. Rearrange the names "Molly Ivins" and "Cal Thomas" and you get - what else? -

Mostly Macho Villains.

I rest my case. As the great Johnnie Cochran would say, "That'll be $10,000 an hour." Also, "If the names can be rearranged, they must be the same."

You don't need to thank me. Just know I'd have figured it out sooner if it hadn't-a been for these meddlin' kids...

Monday, June 14, 2004

Son Of Butt Darts

In loo of anything meaningful to write and based on the whelming response to my "butt darts" post, I can only assume that you're about to burst in anticipation of more hidden bathroom humor from the Golf Channel archives. Well, America, urine luck!

Last June, a couple of hours prior to our Friday broadcast of the Club Professional Championship north of Albuquerque, I was tooling around the near-vacuous Twin Warriors Golf Club, stopping at the par 3 15th hole. Spotting the tower cameraman in his perch high above the green, I figured it was high time for some high jinks. I waited for him to see me, then stepped behind a large immobile tumbleweed and pretended to, as the French say, "whiz." The act was caught on tape, and the crew had a hearty laugh. (Remember, we're the same people who play butt darts at the Glory Hole.)

Not long after returning to the television compound, our production manager approached and asked if I'd relieved myself in the bushes at 15. I said, "No, the first time I did that I was 22." She wasn't laughing. Turns out one of the volunteers working the tournament had spied my shenanigan and reported it to the PGA of America. They weren't laughing either. Apparently, they thought I'd really relieved myself and on sacred Native American soil, no less.

I quickly explained the situation, repeating every 10 seconds or so that I'm an idiot. They agreed and let me off the hook. Naturally, my fellow crew members immediately unzipped a steady stream of excretory one-liners at my expense. I was the butt of their darts, you might say...or not.

As we signed on and I began introducing the various announcers, I decided to fall on my own sword or, in this case, microphone and end this madness. After my buddy Jerry Foltz finished his remarks and tossed it back to me, I said, "Thanks, Jerry, we'll look forward to youranalysis today."

I hope that volunteer wasn't watching.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

No Weddings, Two Funerals

The longest funeral procession in American history is underway. Beginning in California and ultimately ending with his interment in Washington, D.C., Ronald Reagan's farewell tour has already and will continue to elicit an eclectic outpouring of mourners, from Bo Derek to Lech Walesa, all paying final respects to the 40th President of the United States.

Smack in the middle of those two geographical points and a world away from the international spotlight, a mother and two young children in suburban Dallas will say an unspeakably sad and sudden goodbye on Thursday to a man who meant more to them than any world leader ever could. Brad Byker dropped dead at home plate Tuesday night while coaching his 7-year-old son's Little League baseball game. His 3-year-old daughter, decked out in full cheerleader regalia, watched with her mother from the bleachers, first with uncertainty then horror, as the most important man in their lives lost consciousness then his life.

Ronald Reagan lived twice as long as Brad Byker. Depending on your point of view or political persuasion, Reagan saved the world from the threat of Communism, freed millions of oppressed people, and made Lee Greenwood forever famous by allowing a lot of ordinary folks to feel proud to be an American again.

And not one bit of that matters to Brad Byker's family. Who cares about world affairs when your own world is turned upside down? And what's a political crisis compared to personal tragedy?

Don't be misled. Nothing makes this okay. Nothing. At least not in this lifetime. No cliche, no grief strategy, no religion. Byker had given his life to Christ as an adult. He'd lived a little bit, heard the story of Jesus, counted the cost, and made the decision to accept God's ticket-punch into the kingdom of Heaven. His family is faithful, too. But this still makes no sense. Resolves no issues. Hurts no less.

In his book, Disappointment With God, Philip Yancey makes a fantastic (and accurate) claim: that those who ask "Why?" when life deals its most cruel blows don't really want an answer. What answer, Yancey writes, could possibly swallow up the pain? If God gave us an answer, would that really make it all better? Yancey suggests what we most desperately want is to know that someone is there, someone's in charge, and someone will hold us when we can't stand to go on. And for that, we can indeed look to the One who watched his own son absorb the most unjust penalty of all time. That still doesn't completely solve or salve. What it does mean, though, is that however good we may have had it here, the best is most certainly yet to come.

What a wonderful and awful life this is. So much blessing. So little we really have. Today. And nothing more.

Mourning has indeed broken. May we join this somber chorus and plead more earnestly than ever for the rapid return of the greatest leader any world has ever known.
"There's nothing wrong with nepotism...as long as it stays in the family." - billionaire Steven Forbes

Friday, June 04, 2004

Does It Depend On What Your Definition Of Would Would Be?

Once a year or so, I flip over to C-Span just to make sure our elected officials are all fully clothed and spewing their requisite vitriol.

Last night, they interrupted regularly scheduled programming to bring us Bill Clinton's address to BookExpo America in Chicago in anticipation of the release of his autobiography, My Life. The president of the company which published the book said in his introduction, "...this is a man who, if the laws of this country were changed and he were allowed to run again, would I dare say be a landslide winner."

Four years removed from his eight in office, I find Bill Clinton way too much like me to completely accept or categorically abhor. But the question had me wondering: would Bill Clinton be elected in November if he were allowed to run again?

Friday, May 28, 2004

Ifs, Ands, Butts, and Darts

My greatest challenge in broadcasting golf isn't keeping track of the scores, sharing heartwarming stories about each player's path to stardom, or even saying one thing while at the same time listening to the producer profanely count me down to commercial. No, for me, the real fun is making oblique, on-air references that crack up the crew but keep the viewing audience out of the loop. I may've hit the bullseye two years ago this week at an LPGA tournament in Corning, New York.

Thursday of that week, our veteran 18th tower cameraman, Dan-O, told me in his unintentionally dead-on Rodney Dangerfield brogue, "Hey, we're playin' butt darts tonight at The Glory Hole." (This was like an Oscar nomination: it was an honor just to be invited.)

The Glory Hole is one of a couple dozen sidewalk dives on the main drag in Corning, an otherwise sleepy little village in upstate New York that springs to life every May when the ladies come to town. And butt darts is an activity that could've only been concocted in a place where large quantities of alcohol are readily available. The object of the game is to keep a quarter securely tucked as you walk toward a shot glass positioned on the floor. When you get to the target, you "let go" of the quarter and try to land it in the glass. Not exactly the sport of kings, but, hey, it's Corning, and we're a TV crew.

During the next day's telecast, I waited patiently for the perfect moment to deliver the double entendre of all-time. Finally, 45 seconds into the show, the opportunity came:

"The players had hoped the overnight rain would soften up these greens and allow them to fire straight at the pin like darts. But with the windy conditions this morning, it's been anything BUT darts..."

In my earpiece, I could hear the guys in the production truck howling. I had to pause half a beat myself to keep from losing it. And if you looked closely, you could tell the camera at 18 was shaking ever so slightly. I'm sure viewers thought it was because of the wind. But I knew it was Dan-O, our cameraman-cum-Captain Ahab, laughing his head off and fighting for dear life to hang on to his Moby Dick.

I can't really recall a single golf shot from that day in Corning. But I'll never forget the crack about butt darts and my own personal Glory Hole.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Eat and Get Gas

I filled up my Jeep this morning at the cheapest place in town: 17 gallons for a mere $32.30. With gas prices averaging nearly $2 a gallon nationwide, I think it's only fair that professional sports team owners dole out a per troleum in addition to each player's per diem.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Carpe Per Diem

In this most incendiary of election years, one question being intentionally ignored by both sides of the political aisle is: How can today's professional athlete afford to nourish himself/herself on road trips? Elected officials play politics while the enfranchised of America get dissed. Where are the people's candidates like Steve Forbes?

Thankfully, benevolent team owners voluntarily assist their players with meal money (after each union voluntarily threatened to voluntarily strike). Here's the per diem amount during road trips for players in different leagues, according to the Dallas Morning News:

NBA: $96 (minimum annual salary - $366,000)

NHL: $85 (minimum annual salary - $185,000)

NFL: $80 (minimum annual salary - $230,000)

MLB: $77.50 (minimum annual salary - $300,000)

MLS: $41 (ironically, this matches the league's gross ticket sales from the 2003 MLS season)

SWINE (Sumo Wrestlers In Need of Employment): $1,400

...it's possible I may have made that last one up.

What's amazing for most of these players is that at least one meal a day and often two are provided in the clubhouse/locker room! They might toss in $30 for visiting clubhouse dues, but that still leaves multimillionaires with $45 a day for one meal. Shameless.

I know what some of you are thinking. You're wondering about my per diem when I broadcast tournaments for The Golf Channel. Well, if you must know, I get $45 per day. And while TGC does provide two meals a day at the golf course for the crew and while I'm not required to chip in clubhouse dues like the athletes and while I could pocket every nickel of that and live off twizzlers and beef jerky absconded from the television compound, there's a big difference. The difference is that what happens in my situation is none of your business while what happens with athletes is yet another example of how out of touch they've become with those of us who cheer them on. How do they sleep at night?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Sweepless in South Abilene

Couldn't find a winning position (see previous post) to lead the Rangers to a weekend sweep of the Yankees.

The only rally I may've snuffed out happened when Mark Teixeira (pronounced "mark") led off the bottom of the 6th with a stand-up double. Instead of staying put, I disconnected from the internet, closed my laptop, and put it under the bed in preparation for a big rally. No doubt dizzied by my blatant disregard for viewer position etiquette, Texas promptly went pop-up, whiff, flyout to center. Clearly not my best stuff.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Best Seat In The House

History will record that the Texas Rangers have now taken the first two games of their weekend engagement with the New York Yankees. It's the most important series of the young season for the upstart Rangers while merely the most current for the fat-and-happy Yankees, who have nearly as many world championships as the Rangers do years of existence. You can read recaps of these two games in the newspaper or even the Abilene Reporter-News, but your intrepid reporter has the inside scoop on the real reason for this Texas two-step.

Yes, the key that unlocked these two triumphs can be found not in good pitching or timely hitting but instead in the west wing of my house, specifically the couch in the den and my bedroom rocking chair. (Don't expect regular updates from the Boone boudoir.)

Let's go back to Friday night. I'd helped the Rangers erase a 4-1 deficit and build a 9-4 lead through 8 innings by patiently sticking to the couch in the den, fully reclined with my right foot propped up on the coffee table, making it perhaps the only five-legged coffee table in the world. Long story short, things get crazy in the top of the 9th. (My exasperation over modern relief pitcher substitution patterns may turn into a book. Hey! Something for the five-legged coffee table!) Anyway, the Yankees chip away with a barrage of bad-bounce singles and 12-hoppers through the infield. Now it's 9-7, and the temptation to relocate begins to bubble. Undaunted, I stick to my guns and, more literally, my seat. Francisco Cordero rewards my loyalty by fanning Hideki Matsui with 99 mile-an-hour heat -


Matsui may as well have used a chopstick! He couldn't touch Coco's gas! -

then sending Tony Clark and the rest of the no-good New Yorkers home with a final helping of high cheese. Ballgame. Cordero was credited with the official save, but I knew I'd done my part, too. I'm not in this for the stats, people.

Saturday. New day. New game. These are the Yankees. It doesn't take them long to figure out how to counterattack your strengths. For the first part of the game, the couch remains red-hot, possibly due to bearing the brunt of my nearly 200 pounds two days in a row. The impressive young Ryan Drese is perfect through the first 4 2/3 innings before Bernie Williams and Tony the former Tiger go yard on consecutive pitches, turning a 1-nil deficit into a 2-1 Yankee lead. Meanwhile, Texas - apparently wielding Matsui's chopstick instead of their usual lumber - collect exactly no hits from the 3rd through 7th innings. With New York leading 3-1 and the bottom of the 8th fast approaching, I make my move, announcing my intentions to find better luck in another venue to anyone who'll listen. I reposition my aforementioned brunt and hunker down in the bedroom rocking chair. Hank Blalock, having looked awful in three previous at-bats, immediately rips a single into right to begin the 8th. Amy yells from the den, "Stay in there. It's working." (Is she not fabulous?!?) Fonzie Soriano dribbles a grounder toward the player for whom he was traded, Alex Rodriguez, who can't field it cleanly and throws late enough to convince the first-base umpire to rule Soriano safe. A bad call, for sure, but an error for Alex, leaving runners on first and second with no one out. You may recall the Rangers had to agree to pay some of A-Rod's wad each year to make the trade with the Yankees happen. I figure he's being paid by both teams, he ought to help each win. Thanks, E-Rod. And - oh, by the way - the chair is rockin'!!!

Nicholas, not aware of the geosportalitical ramifications of relocating during your team's rally, leaves the den and runs into the bedroom to celebrate with me. Lay off, he's only 5. I'll learn him yet. Sure enough, Brad Fullmer hits a comebacker to the mound, a perfect double-play ball for veteran reliever, Tom "Flash" Gordon. But the power of the chair is too much. Gordon throws a perfect split-finger fastball to Derek Jeter who watches it go through his wickets for another error. Blalock scores to make it 3-2. Soriano's now at third, and the crowd has no idea to what lengths I'm going to make this rally happen. Mark Teixeira (pronounced "teixeira") follows with a topspin lob to left field that would've made McEnroe drool (more so than normal). It lands safely, and the game is tied, 3-3. This is where I nearly blew it. Mistakenly thinking the power was in the room and not the chair (not to mention being discombobulated by the Nicholas shift), I get up from the chair - I know, I know, but it all happened so fast! - and lean back on the edge of the bed. David Dellucci hits another comebacker, and again Gordon goofs, throwing another one-hopper to short. This time, with the chair empty and the space/time continuum upset, Jeter scoops it up and salvages the out at second. With runners on the corners and me still clueless, Kevin Mench grounds into an inning-ending double dip. Tie game, but it could've, should've been a Ranger lead.

The double play does serve to snap me back into reality. I gently but firmly explain to Nicholas the impact his returning to the den will have on this epochal moment in world history. He laughs, as he often does at my offerings, and stays put. Desperate, I return to the den. I can't prove this, but I think my equivocation actually confuses these forces of fate! While they try to decide where I'm going to watch, Carlos Almanzar routinely retires the side in order! Hah! The game remains knotted at 3. Alas, said spirits self-correct in time for the bottom of the final frame.

Friday night's two-homer hero Laynce Nix - rendered powerless now with me in the den and the chair empty - strikes out to lead off the 9th. That's when it happens. Rod Barajas, suddenly the everyday catcher because of an injury to promising rookie backstop Gerald Laird, makes his way to the plate, stride for stride with my own epiphany.


I dash back to the bedroom and begin rocking as Barajas falls behind 0-1. With cheeks planted firmly on felt and order having been restored, Rod and his Staff they comfort me, sending the next offering deep into the left field bleachers. FLASH! Gordon and the Yanks go down, 4-3! Rangers win! Rangers win!

The ballpark and our house - all 50,005 of us - simultaneously erupt. Nicholas strips down to his underwear and begins running around like a chicken with his head cut off. (Family ritual.) And I, exhausted, click off the TV and begin charting seat assignments for tomorrow's potential sweep. You're welcome to watch the game over here. Just don't get too comfortable.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Red Light District

Before my unscrupulous colleagues in the fourth estate take this story public and the pictures permeate the net, I want you, my friends, to know the truth. Last month in Los Angeles, a large metropolitan area in southern California, I was caught on film perpetrating an act that for the purposes of decorum I'll describe only as "unlawful." The transgression occurred at the corner of La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. ("Hollywood after hours" + "someone named Grant" hasn't historically equaled a winning combination, though my experience wasn't as Divine as Hugh's.)

As I maneuvered the mean streets of Beverly Hills that evening, en route to my place of accommodation, I was flashed! as I drove through a busy intersection. Not by a human being, though for the right price I'm sure such things could've been arranged. No, this flash came from a camera tethered to a traffic light under which I had - as I later learned - too tardily traveled.

I ran a red light. And the Fuzz has the film to prove it. Somewhere George Orwell is giggling fiendishly.

Ten days after returning home, I was greeted by correspondence from the Los Angeles County Superior Court and Visitors Bureau, thanking me for my patronage. Enclosed was a series of snapshots, celluloid souvenirs, beginning with:

- a photo of where my rental car was when that particular light turned red
- then of my car recklessly rolling through the intersection (along with approximately three-fourths of Los Angeles County)
- then a close-up of me - hopeless miscreant that I am - behind the wheel, cavalier and criminal, ready at any moment to take an 11th item to the express checkout line or remove the tag from my hotel bed mattress. ("I have a pair of fingernail clippers, and I'm not afraid to use them!")

Go for a ride, and they take your picture. Kind of like Disneyland, except not as expensive. The court only charged me $340.

My own little Kodak moment in the shadow of the Kodak Theater. This ugly imbroglio begs a couple of questions. First, isn't this a violation of my rights, specifically my inalienable right as an American-born...American to obey only those laws which I deem worthy of my compliance and/or those which don't infringe upon my personal freedom to do whatever I jolly well please? What's next, asking accounting firms to open up their audit ledgers?

Second, can the cops get any lazier? I mean is it humanly possible? Can't we hook up television monitors in their living rooms so they won't have to get off the couch? Think of the money they'd save on uniforms. If Krispy Kreme would offer home delivery, we could start tomorrow morning.

I realize mine will not be the most widely-publicized or titillating controversy involving people in L.A. doing naughty things on camera. Thanks to sensationalist media sleazeballs like The Wall Street Journal and Barron's, we were all kept abreast of how the porn industry, concentrated primarily in the San Fernando Valley, was recently shut down for a couple of weeks because several "actors" tested positive for HIV. That headline, while sobering for the subjects involved, was about as shocking as "Bonds Draws Intentional Walk" or "NBC Cancels 'Whoopi.'"

But don't get distracted. The most pressing issue at hand is whether we as citizens will allow our personal and private privacy to be invaded by these invasive invasions. And also where am I supposed to get $340? I hope they at least throw in a set of mouse ears.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Sister Christian

Forty-eight hours ago, some dear friends of ours in Nashville were living the American dream. Today, they're desperate to wake up from one of every parent's worst nightmares. Late Sunday afternoon, the dad backed over his 3-year-old son with a riding mower. Most of the little boy's right foot is now gone. Best case scenario at this point is to save the rest of the leg from the heel up. The left leg was badly butchered, but it appears skin grafting will allow doctors to keep that entire limb intact.

Just curious. What's your initial reaction? Horror? Sadness? Anger? All are justified, I'm sure, but compare your feelings with the response of the boy's 7-year-old sister, who was standing next to him when it all happened but didn't know the severity of the injury.

Told Monday that her brother had lost his right foot and maybe more, she replied, "Is he going to be okay?" When told the situation was not life-threatening, she smiled and said, "Good," and that was that.

Big sis wasn't being cavalier or coarse. It's just that she got the answer she was hoping for when she asked the only question that really mattered to her: "Is my brother going to live?"

"Unless you become like a little child..."

My reaction to the news was much different because I thought other things did matter. And I certainly had more than one question...

Will he be able to function? What will it look like? Can he ever play soccer, the sport his dad coaches? Will he ever walk at all? Across the stage at graduation? Down the aisle at his wedding? Will the dad think it's his fault? How can he ever mow the lawn again? Will the mom wonder why she wasn't there to protect her son? When they quit praying for healing, what will they say to God next? And where exactly was He during this ordeal anyway? If He kept Abraham's blade from incising Isaac, how hard would it have been to stop the blade of my buddy's mower?

However legitimate or understandable my questions may be, each is constructed on a common and dangerous denominator: expectation. I didn't think I needed a refresher course in how fleeting all of this is. Family. Health. Wealth. Blood counts. Bank accounts. Today. Tomorrow.

Apparently I did. That little girl's reaction to what befell her brother brought me back. He's going to be okay. What he won't be is what we all prayed he would be. (Try again.) What we hoped he would be. (No.) What we figured he would be. (Keep going.) What we took for granted he would be? (One more time.) What we thoughtlessly assumed he would be because having perfectly healthy children is our God-given right as parents in 21st century America? (Better.)

This, by the way, is not a discussion topic for these friends of ours. Certainly not now. This is awful, no matter how holy the perspective. Their job is to grieve and pray and thank God and pray and mourn and pray and wrestle and pray and trust and pray. And keep praying.

My job, along with the praying, is to re-read the warranty. The real warranty. Not the American Standard Version. What's promised continues to be delivered by the manufacturer in spades. What's not in there continues to conflict with my conception of what life abundantly really is. Maybe it depends on what my definition of is is. And maybe I need to remember the words of Moses in Psalm 90, eerily apropos in this case: "...people are like new grass of the morning - though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered."

I still wish what happened to our friends hadn't happened. And I still hope my children stay healthy. But most of all, I still believe that little boy's sister got it right. One of these days maybe I will, too.

(NOTE: Amazingly, this article on ESPN.com was posted yesterday. I cried.)

Friday, May 14, 2004

Seen and Obscene

This week dawned with my sinuses empty and my parents' guest bed full, specifically of me. I retire tonight with the opposite being true. Actually, the entire week featured equal parts topsy and turvy, to wit:

Sunday: I spent as much of Mother's Day with Andy Rooney as I did my own materfamilias. Mom was violently ill, and Rooney didn't seem much better. He opened one of his routine rants on "60 Minutes" Sunday night by saying, "Am I the only one who's tired of this election campaign already?"

I have a question: "Am I the only one who's tired of Andy Rooney." Here's a guy who's paid roughly the annual GNP of Ghana to be crotchety. And no one puts the "crotch" in crotchety like Andy.

Monday: Word began circulating that an American had been decapitated in Iraq. Nothing could match the unspeakable evil done to Nic Berg, but the way we reacted back home ran a close second. No sooner had word hit the net than each side sent their Rumpelstiltskins to the spinning wheel to tell the world "why these monsters must be wiped out/why President Bush is a monster and why he should be wiped out of office." The Berg family gets a pass to say whatever the heck they want, in my opinion. But I can't imagine adding a more egregious insult to such a heinous injury than the shameless politicizing of Berg's demise. I suppose it's easier to have someone tell you what to think than to think for yourself.

Tuesday: Waiting for an appointment at CNN Center in Atlanta, I spotted the Jackson Five: Jesse (cutting an impressive figure, tall and trim) and four of his lackeys ushering him out of a studio where he'd been interviewed and into one of those BALCO SUVs, a Suburban stretched out across multiple zip codes. I'd never thought about what I might say to Jesse Jackson if given the opportunity, which is perhaps why I said nothing when I had the chance. The only thing that popped into my head was asking him to recite that "Green Eggs and Ham" riff from his Saturday Night Live turn a few years ago. Not sure that would've gone over well with his goons.

Has there been a more inescapable or enigmatic figure over the last 30 years than Jesse Jackson? His celebrity was born about the time I was. He's a Reverend, but I can't say I've ever heard him invoke the name of Jesus. He's been praised, parodied, panned, pandered to, and paternity-papered. No wonder he has so many minions.

Wednesday: En route back to Abilene after a week away from home, I popped into the Admirals Club at DFW. The Admirals Club is:

a) a must for busy businessmen who need a place to conduct their busy work away from the din of a busy airport
b) the only climate on the planet capable of growing fully-ripe, racquetball-sized apples
c) $400 a year
d) all of the above

Taking up 6 feet 10 inches of this particular Club was Jack Haley. Not the Tin Man from "Wizard of Oz" but the erstwhile benchwarmer for the Chicago Bulls' championship teams of the '90s. (Actually, the Tin Man had better moves than his namesake, even before Dorothy's lube job.) This Jack Haley seemed a perfect Admirals Club customer. A guy rich enough to separate himself from the bustling bourgeoisie but not big enough to fly privately. Guys like me. Who like really small apples.

It's good to be home and fill up my half of my own bed. And now that I'm heavily medicated, I'm ready to taken on the trials and triumphs of another week. I might even be ready for Andy Rooney.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Backseat Evangelist

You never quite know what'll happen when you bring a loaded Bible onto an airplane. (To see what happens when you bring a loaded cowboy onto an airplane, see my previous post.) As I was exiting a Delta flight Friday morning in Jacksonville, a passenger behind me said, "I noticed you were reading the Bible. Here's one for ya: the Jews don't recognize Jesus as the Messiah; Protestants don't recognize the Pope in Rome; and Baptists don't recognize each other in the liquor store." Rimshot.

Flying back to Nashville Saturday, I had a great view of my own little Bermuda Triangle from seat 10 C. Directly in front of me, an attractive, eloquent woman - maybe late thirties - was chatting up a spunky, outspoken girl, who introduced herself as Annie, an aspiring singer trying to make it in Nashville the hard way. Annie was impressed to discover Sharon is a globetrotting gospel evangelist, returning in this particular case from a speaking engagement in the Bahamas. (I said, "Now that's picking up your cross." No response. A prophetess is without honor at 28,000 feet.)

As Sharon started sharin', I handed her my Bible and told Annie to listen carefully to what she had to say. Sharon has spoken all over the world to thousands of people, but did that stop me from butting in with my little sermon nuggets? Yeah, right! Do Baptists recognize each other in the liquor store?

Imagine someone looking up at Michelangelo from the floor of the Sistine Chapel. "How 'bout painting Jonah getting puked up by the whale right next to that naked cherub?" Or co-teaching a mathematics course with Stephen Hawking. "Yes, class, what he said, and also, 2 plus 2 is 4. You'll be responsible for that on the final."

Despite my dabbling, Annie was drinking in this beautifully-presented proffer along with her two pops of Jack and Coke.

The enemy, losing ground on that front, drew a new battle line for my attention just one seat over. The guy next to Sharon, a fellow minister traveling with her, was watching "21 Grams" on his portable DVD player. Of course the screen was in my line of sight, and of course - because it's a Sean Penn movie - you're never more than a few frames away from at least partial nudity. Wait for it...wait for it...there it is! The booby prize! A tete-a-tete in seats 9 B and C and in 9 D...well, you get the idea.

Unbelievable. Is there no such thing as a "no fly zone" for temptation? Meanwhile, another weapon of mass distraction was sharing an armrest with me in 10 D. This Michigan man was more interested in the year of our Lord than the Lord's prayer.

"Let me tell you what really makes me mad. What year was it a hundred years ago?"

"Uh, 1904?"

"Okay, how 'bout 200 years ago?"

Expecting a punchline in here somewhere, I replied, "1804?"

"Exactly! So how come everybody says 'two thousand four' instead of 'twenty oh four?' We didn't say 'nineteen hundred four,' did we?"

"No, sir. This is important to you, isn't it?"


He went on and on A.D. nauseam. (I didn't dare ask him how I should say "21 Grams.") You can't make this stuff up.

The plane landed with Sharon promising to drive in from her rural home outside Nashville to see "The Passion" with Annie, who was touched by the offer and willing to give it a shot. I promised Millenium Man I'd try to remember to say "twenty oh four." And I resolved to avoid all "21 Grams" at Blockbuster...or at least wait 'til all the Baptists head for the liquor store.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The High Life

To really crack up a cabin of airplane passengers on a pre-dawn flight, you either have to be extremely funny or severely drunk. Having never been either, I marveled at the work of a cowboy from Potosi, Texas this morning on American Eagle Flight 3624. He was unashamedly both.

Decked out in full wrangler regalia from hat to boot, he boisterously boarded and moseyed his way back to row 14. If his reputation didn't precede him, his pre-flight beverage did. The back half of the plane was secondhand drunk by the time we took off.

Removing all doubt, he announced to everyone and no one in particular that he'd been drinking. ("Really? You hold it well.") Continuing his unsolicited soliloquy, "We started out ridin' the buckin' harses. Then we hopped onto the dirt bikes. Then we got into the Crown Royal." Somewhere an out-of-work reality show executive has new life.

They say you let go of your inhibitions when inebriated. Not sure this guy ever had any, but if he did they were as non-existent as his whiskey at this point. He asked a casino-bound couple, "Where y'all headed?"

"Las Vegas," they replied.

"Vegas? D-mn, I'm on the wrong plane! I'm goin' to Dallas!"

I think he was kidding.

To the guy in front of him, a perfectly-chiseled (not that I noticed) rock of an African-American, he said, "Howdy. What are you, one of them linebackers?"

Guy (with perfect diction and eloquence, which obviously threw our friend off): "I'm the fitness director at Dyess Air Force Base."

Cowboy: "Huh?"

Guy (again with the diction): "I'm the fitness director at Dyess Air Force Base."

Perhaps subconsciously summoning his last extant instinct of self-preservation, he ended that conversation and started in on the flight attendant's futile attempts to show him and the rest of us how to buckle our seat belts.

"What she say? Sump'm 'bout everybody in Oklahoma's gettin' drunk."

The people next to him were howling hysterically. Officially on a roll, he began getting buzzed on their laughter. To the flight attendant's demonstration of how to use the oxygen mask (which the rest of us could've used by then):

"Breathe deep? Yeah, breathe deep as the plane spirals...

- there's no way to phonetically describe how this man pronounced the word "spirals" -

to the ground at 700 miles per hour."

Somehow I dozed off and missed the rest of his in-flight routine, but I woke up as we were landing to see him hand a quarter to the Vegas hopefuls and say in full throat, "Let 'er ride on red! H-ll, I don't even know how to gamble, but let 'er ride on red!"

As we exited the aircraft (such as it was), he fired off a couple of closing quickies. To the pilots:

"My turn! Fill 'er up! I'm 'on' take 'er fer a spin!"

To a smily infant in her mother's arms:

"I betcha you gotta pee, don't ya!" (My guess is both parties went in their pants.)

As I made my way to the next gate, I thought, "No wonder Jesus hung out with drunks and other 'notorious sinners.'" At least when you tell that crowd to turn from their sins and turn to God, they clearly understand what you're saying. As long as you're not talking to them over an airplane loudspeaker.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Grant Boone, Esquire

Just when I begin to buy into the delusion that I'm a pretty good writer - insert laughter - I pick up a copy of Esquire magazine and see what real writing is. Real profane writing, occasionally, in a melange of man-friendly material. But great writing, nonetheless. The latest incontrovertible evidence was submitted in this month's issue by Tom Junod, an article entitled "Dude, Where's My Jesus?"

See if it challenges you as it did me.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Bathroom Humor

Sooner or later, all of us will need to use the word "port-o-john" in a sentence. For that very moment, I thought you might find helpful these septic synonyms from CBS golf announcer David Feherty, who's both Irish and incontinent:

1) the blue room
2) squirtatorium
3) dungfunnel

You don't get this kind of stuff from Deepak Chopra, who's both Indian and in complete control of his bladder.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

He Would've Given It A Thumbs Up If Not For The Handcuffs

Dan Leach stopped short of giving Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" his full imprimatur. In Leach's opinion, the film "didn't completely follow the Bible account."

Quite obviously, neither did Leach.

According to published reports, the 21-year-old Texan impregnated his girlfriend, Ashley Nicole Wilson, last year. In January of this year, inspired by the CBS hit series "C.S.I.," Leach hanged Wilson, then made it look like a suicide, right down to the note next to the noose found in her apartment.

March 7, shortly after seeing "The Passion of the Christ," Leach stood in front of his home congregation - the Avenue N Church of Christ in Rosenberg, Texas - and asked for prayers, saying he was embarking on a journey that would take him away for a long time. Later that day, he confessed to killing his pregnant girlfriend, an act that would have to be considered a double murder to remain consistent with how most conservative Christians view the unborn. Police didn't detect remorse in Leach's mea culpa; instead, he told them he had to fess up to keep his place in heaven secure.

The tragedy of this case begins and ends with the deaths of Ashley Nicole Wilson and the baby she carried. But somewhere in the middle is a disconnect between Bible knowledge and daily discipleship so drastic you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

A worldwide directory of churches of Christ lists the Avenue N congregation as "non-institutional," a term used to describe a church that doesn't believe in supporting parachurch ministries, such as missions and relief organizations. (No word yet if Leach will try to invoke his "non-institutional" status to try to clep out of jail time.) Somewhere along the way, Leach learned "the Bible account" of what happened to Christ on the cross and that you can't go to heaven if you haven't been forgiven.

What he obviously didn't get was everything Jesus said pre-propitiation. Subtle truths, such as, "Don't kill people" and "Don't tear apart what God has joined together." And more esoteric teachings, like "Whatever's in your heart determines what you do" and "I don't want rote obedience; I want your heart."

I'm sure it thrills the flock at Avenue N to know it took the work of a Vatican I Catholic, Mel Gibson - Catholicism being somewhat institutional - to convict unto confession one of its own. (I'll go out on a limb in guessing Avenue N doesn't genuflect toward Rome, seeing as how "The Christian Chronicle" quotes a member of another church of Christ in Rosenberg as saying there's virtually no communication between his church and Avenue N.)

Leach told authorities "The Passion of the Christ" was one of several "pricks in his heart" that prompted his profession of guilt. Fortunately for him AND for those of us who think our theology superior, the pricks in Jesus's hands and feet are sufficient to save us from both our unspeakable sin and our misguided doctrine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Needle in a Haystack

Matthew 19:23-30
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I say it again – it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!" 25 The disciples were astounded. "Then who in the world can be saved?" they asked. 26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible."

A decade before Mel Gibson turned the movie industry (and religion) on its ear with "The Passion of the Christ," a guy named James Barden wrote, produced, and scored a film entitled "The Judas Project," which turned the movie industry (and the 11 people who paid good American money to see it) on its funny bone. The idea was to show what it might look like if Jesus first came to Earth today instead of 2,000 years ago. Instead, it showed what it might look like if a bunch of previously out-of-work actors read a really bad script on camera. The movie grossed roughly half a billion dollars less than Gibson's flick and became to Christian film what "Plan 9 From Outer Space" was to sci-fi cinema. (I can't decide which is funnier: the website panning "The Judas Project" or the one ripping "Plan 9.")

While I was too busy laughing at "The Judas Project" to seriously explore the idea it endeavored to posit, the above passage from Matthew 19 has me wondering how Jesus would tailor that text to fit '04. Best we can tell, wealth and holiness were first-century synonyms. That more fully explains the dumbstruck disciples when Jesus said a camel could navigate a needle's eye more easily than rich people could earn eternal life.

If wealth indeed equaled righteousness circa century one, then help me fill in the following blank: "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a __________ to enter the Kingdom of God."

(To bring it completely into present-day patois, maybe we should change the beginning of the equation, too: "It's easier for the Red Sox to win a World Series than for a __________ to enter the Kingdom of God.")

Would Jesus target political conservatives, who say they're Right while virtually ignoring those Left behind or at the very least attaching quids pro quo in their benevolence to the very "least of these."

Would he finger liberals, who blow the trumpet of tolerance to drown out their promotion of permissive behavior; and who'll defend the defenseless all the way, just as soon as you're all the way out of a mother's womb?

Each of those two types carry too much baggage to be considered the modern-day equivalent to the first-century wealthy. It would have to be someone who, though certainly not perfect, would be rendered reverent, even by those who didn't share his or her parochial perspective. People whose pictures of piety are taken not with zoom lenses but wide-angle. I'm talking the surface saved, the brazenly holy, the...uh oh...

"It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a church-goer to enter the Kingdom of God."

Now that would make a great movie.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Hand in Glove

Amy has often said during our 15 years together, "You have the weirdest friends." It's a difficult point to argue on its merits, but I'm still usually able to muster some catty retort, such as, "Present company included."

What she really means is that, for whatever reason, I'm a nutcase magnet. (See my previous column for incontrovertible evidence.) Society's slag sidles up to me with frequency and abandon. Quite honestly, it's a badge I wear with honor, though it's nothing to brag about, for it's not intentional. Probably more like a genetic defect that resonates with the world's third wheels.

Well, Amy got a taste of my medicine Easter Sunday night as she exited the church building into the chilly evening air. (I'd say the weather was unseasonable but that would suggest Abilene actually has seasons.) As she was getting into her car to go home, a woman approached and asked, "I don't suppose you'd want to buy these gloves, would you?" Having never been asked that question, Amy was working without a net at that point, replying, "What do you need?" The woman - somewhat long in the tooth but short in stature and fragrance - answered, "I only have 11 cents, and I need something to eat."

Amy told her she'd take her to get some food, thinking they'd find the nearest drive-thru. Turned out, she needed breakfast for the following morning. Easter in Abilene means capricious climes and a good excuse for supermarkets to close early. The only store open was the one with the highest prices (starts with "Albert" and ends with "sons"). Then again, you only know these things when you actually have money to spend. Any amount over free is exorbitant when you have nothing. And this woman had nothing. Amy had a lot, so she shared, telling her new acquaintance to get "whatever she needed," which in this case totaled $42.

The stuff in the basket was legit - bacon, eggs, milk, peanut butter. No scratch-off cards or cancer sticks or cheap liquor. Amy took her home, which is to say the place she lived, a small shanty on Abilene's north side which she shares with a couple she believes is mentally unstable. (No word on what they think about her.) She has a son, a Marine now living in Germany who was recently hit by a car and is now convalescing on the other side of the world. She said she owed the couple she stays with $10 in rent and doesn't get her social security check for another 90 days and, "You don't - oh, God forgive me for asking this - you don't have $10 I could borrow, do you?" Amy, not knowing for sure, opened her purse and, of course, sticking out of her billfold was the corner of a $10 bill. What a coincidence.

Having invested $52 and 90 minutes in this woman and what with it being Easter and all, Amy figured she had nothing to lose when she said, "Do you know what Easter is all about?"

"Oh, yes," the woman answered, "I know all about God and Jesus. Maybe I'll come over and see your kids sometime at Highland."

"That would be nice," Amy said, then added, "Would it be okay if I prayed for you?"

"Oh, I wish you would," the woman replied, "and could you also give me a hug?"

Amy did both and drove back to her home on Abilene's south side that she shares with a husband she's now convinced is mentally unstable and three civilian children, all of whom were at the moment safe and sound and sleeping comfortably under warm covers near a full fridge.

As she recounted her own personal Easter service, I couldn't help but think that two millenia after the first Resurrection Sunday, Christ had indeed been raised once again.