Archives For Sports

It’s the question I’ve been asked from time to time.

Should Christians Cheer for Tiger Woods? 

I feel like I have grown up with Tiger Woods. I had great aspirations of becoming a world-class college golf player and then on the PGA Tour but those dreams didn’t quite come true. While I was struggling to make cuts, he was winning US Junior Amateurs and US Amateurs. Then, as a senior in high school we witnessed him obliterate the field at the 1997 Masters. Since then he has gone on to become one of the most well-known athletes in history. He motivated millions to take up the game, buy Nike gear, and hack it with the rest of us. He inspired us to seek greatness. That was until the world discovered Tiger was human in 2009. He then was simply, Eldrick Woods. The superhero Tiger Woods’ kryptonite was revealed in the form of adultery, greed, lies, and the root of it all, pride. What came next was the real horror.

During The Master this year, it was interesting to hear what self-proclaimed Christians were still saying about Tiger.

Tiger Woods…

  • Is a fornicator
  • Is a cheater
  • Always gets his way
  • Dishonored golf
  • Is a (insert racist slur here)
  • Is a crazy Buddhist
  • Only cares about himself

Sounds a bit like my 3 and 5 year olds. I confess that it sounds a lot like me too. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t sit in my holy chair and judge others, especially people like Tiger Woods. This scene of judgment is not much different from the pharisees with stones in hand ready to throw at the sinner. There have been some great articles and blogs written about this question of how we biblically should respond to Tiger Woods, most notably in Sojo. I encourage you to read this for good perspective.

Why do I cheer for Tiger?

I cheer for Tiger because

  1. It will be good for the game of golf for him to win. He brings excitement like few others in history have provided. That excitement has encouraged friends of mine whom would never have played to give it a shot. Golf has suffered when Tiger isn’t on top of the leaderboard. He is not perfect but is striving to earn his way back for the game, for himself, for us. I do get annoyed from time to time when the golf media focuses on him when lesser known players are leading. But I know that it helps everyone financially and professional golf is indeed a business.
  2. He pursues greatness in golf. He has been humbled in that pursuit but his undaunted spirit is inspirational for any golfer.
  3. I believe God’s story is about redemption and he may very well be doing some amazing that we don’t know yet in Tiger’s life.
  4. Tiger’s story isn’t over yet. He still has a golf career and a life to live.

I love the “what if” dreams.

What if we put our rock down and looked in the mirror more?

What if Tiger’s golf comeback is merely the beginning of something bigger in his life?

What if his comeback story leads him to Christ?

What if his redemption story could inspire millions? Inspire me? Inspire you?

What if?

My Stan Musial Story

January 20, 2013 — 4 Comments

On Saturday evening, January 19th, 2013, beloved St. Louis Cardinal legend  Stan Musial passed away. In his Hall of Fame career, he helped the Cardinals win three World Series titles, won three MVPs, had 3,630 hits and 475 home runs, won the NL batting title seven times, while also appearing in a record 24 All-Star games. Despite all of those accomplishments, he even gave up the 1945 season to serve in the Navy during World War II. One of my favorite additional pieces is that in 1957, he became the first major league player to earn an annual salary of $100,000. After a sub-par season in 1959 and hit a career low .255, Musial asked the Cardinals to cut his salary to $80,000. Can you imagine someone today doing that? In 2011 he was given the much deserved Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. The numbers speak for themselves. But there is more to the man than the numbers.

stantheman

His statues grace Busch Stadium in St. Louis because of something different many always knew. There is a reason people would call him “The Man” that most people outside of St. Louis would not have had the opportunity to witness. The blessing for anyone living in St. Louis was that sooner or later you would have run into Stan The Man. I saw him at several events playing the harmonica or interacting with people at a game. That was just his character. I never got to see him play but I did get to see something even more special.

When I was 18, I was caddying and working in the pro shop at Old Warson Country Club in Ladue, Missouri. That summer of 1997, I was also worked as a “greeter”, which meant that I was the person who welcomed people driving up to the front entrance to drop off their golf bag before parking. My job was to make sure they had a pleasant and smooth experience.

One day, the legendary Cardinals broadcaster, Jack Buck, came to play with his son Joe (now famous as Fox Sports Commentator), and they brought none other but Stan the Man. It was special day because while they were warming up on the golf range, both Jack and Stan stayed to talk with me for thirty minutes.  I don’t remember specifically what we discussed but they were so cordial and interested in my life, and avoiding the temptation to talk about themselves. Once their time was ready, they went off to play their golf round.

Four hours later, I was slammed by a large group of people from a tournament that came in from the course so I was taking care of 4 or 5 people at any given moment. Unfortunately, the Buck-Buck-Musial threesome came back in at the same time and Stan walked up to me while I was running around.

Stan said to me while handing me his shoes and car keys,

“Hey Dave (yes he remembered my name), do you mind putting my shoes in my car while I go back and get something inside the clubhouse?”

I quickly replied,

“Yes of course, Stan. Right away.”

I immediately took care of that task because it was Stan and went back to taking care of every other golfer who needed help. When Stan came back from the clubhouse, he walked toward me and said,

“Dave, I’m ready to go. Do you have my keys?”

I put my hands in my pockets to get the keys and they weren’t there. I replied,

“One moment Stan, I’ll go find them, I think they are in the golf cart.”

I walked back to the cart and they weren’t there. I wondered where in the world I left them. I did what I knew and retraced my steps. I walked back all the way to Stan’s trunk of his car. I stopped and stared at the trunk for a few moments.

I thought to myself, Oh my God, I locked his keys in his trunk with his golf shoes. I’m dead. I’m fired. My boss will kill me. This is it, I’m done. Game over for me at Old Warson. I was the village idiot. On top of that, the realization that I just locked the keys in the car of a legend, my dad’s boyhood hero, Stan The Man, was hitting me. There was nothing I could do because I needed to tell him. So, I humbly walked back to Stan and as I approached him, Jack Buck walked up next to Stan. This became the humiliation-fest times ten now.

I said in a lowly voice,

“Stan, I am so sorry but I locked your keys in the trunk of your car with your shoes. I was moving much too fast and I’m incredibly sorry. How can I make this right?”

Stan replied with a big smile,

“Oh Dave no sweat at all, Jack is right here and he can take me to my house to get my spare set. We’ll be right back.”

The thirty minutes they were gone was agonizing to me because I was so worried that my boss would find out and they would be frustrated when coming back.

When they came back to me, both Jack Buck and Stan said,

“Thank you, Dave”

Then they handed me a $20 tip with 2 front row tickets for the Cardinals game that night. I was speechless but quickly regained composure to thank them.

It was the tip of a hat grace I will always remember. It was the character and action of real grace that Stan Musial will always remind me of in life. I remember coming home to tell my dad about what happened and he laughed so hard. I think he gave me a hug that night too as a reminder that no matter what mistakes we make in life, there is always a need to show another person grace. My story is not unlike many others who encountered Stan The Man thank God. It was his ongoing story of grace given to all of us.

Thank you Stan for that memory. For all of the memories.

Thank you for inspiring all of us.

Thank you for showing all of us what real grace looks like. 

stanharmonica

Is not to gloat.

I think we all know that. But we still do it for some reason. Why?

History is against us and we can sit and complain about what happened in the Garden of Eden all day long. Still today, pride and envy plague the best of us because we’re human. It has the ability to overcome us and bring the worst out of us.

My latest bout with gloating was more in my head. It had to do with the confusion on why Albert Pujols is playing so poorly with his new team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

As a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, I wish so many great things for Albert Pujols. He gave us so much and I wish he would have stayed in St. Louis. I wish the negotiations last fall would have gone better. Oh I just wished he would have just come out and said that the decision to leave was complicated and it involved so many factors that only he, his family, and God knew. As of today Albert Pujols is batting .197 with only 1 homer after over a month of play in a new uniform with a near record 10-year contract. His performance thus far is hardly the impact compared to his previous 11 years batting well over.300 and belting 30-40 homers a year. As a Cardinals fan, he has made it quite easy to gloat especially since his team is in last place and St. Louis is in first. Even though I wasn’t openly laughing about Albert Pujols, in my heart I certainly was.

I’ve made my peace knowing that the Cardinals will move on and of course be fine. Albert Pujols is by far one of the greatest players of our generation and he’ll get his game back in due time and hopefully make an impact for his new team. I pray more that he’ll continue to embrace humility in this time to ultimately give more and more glory to Christ for why he is where he is. After all, his faith made as much of a headline as did his bat.

My encouragement is this:

If you are holding that grudge, let it go.

If you have an inner smile when someone you don’t like messes up, give it up. It will eat you up for years to come and you will never live free and wise to be the person God wants you to be. 

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)

Thank God it didn’t end for Adam and Eve that fateful day because in God’s plan, Christ took on their sin. He took my sin. He took yours.

Albert Pujols will forever be my reminder that God’s grace overcomes my gloating, my pride.

Stop worrying about your “Albert Pujols” and open up your heart to God. 

When you do this, your ability to live free is glorious. 

I was impressed with the 15 minute story on 60 Minutes this week about “Redshirt Students”. I became aware of this issue since having kids and if you do not know much about it, you can read a great article in Huffington Post. To summarize the issue, many parents are holding back their kids to start Kindergarten a year later. Why? The idea is so their kids will be older and have an edge on other students. They could be physically bigger to be more developed athletes (read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on Canadian Hockey players). They could be more advanced in the classroom. They could eventually be the first to drive at 16 to have a social edge. They could also be better leaders just for the fact of being older. It seems to be an issue affecting boys more than girls but nevertheless it is happening to both. I envision a Tiger Mom’s saliva dripping from its mouth at the thought of this.

There are plenty of negatives to this like being bored in the classroom, have behavioral issues, trouble relating to the younger students, etc. Yes, it is confusing for the kids.

But this is not about the kids. 

Photo Credit: Premus

Brooke and I have two wonderful, unique, and imperfect girls. Our oldest daughter will be starting a Pre-K class next year so this issue hits home as we observe what other parents do for their kids. Brooke and I could technically hold back our daughter a year from Kindergarten and start her at 6 1/2.  Yes, 6 1/2, which is crazy to us. Despite being the youngest in her class, so far she has every ability to keep up with the older kids. There are many instances of younger kids need to be held back, which is understandable and shows how each situation is unique.

The idea of redshirting students reminds me of my experience dealing with some of my friends’ parents at a young age. When I was even eight years old, I knew that these parents were pushing my friends at every sport. They verbally abused them, practically broke out a whip to keep them practicing, rarely praised them, etc. It was disgusting and if they were smart enough to start their kids earlier in school, they would have (maybe they did). But most of my friends who were pushed around so hard by their parents were stressed, unhappy, and eventually ended up in serious therapy (or should have). I am thankful for my parents were not pushy but encouraging in that process and ultimately helped me to be successful in the things I was most passionate about in those years.

Why do parents do this?

There are three reasons:

  1. Envy: They see other parents’  kids “succeeding” early in life. They see it as necessary to make sure their kids do the same or better. It is pure envy.
  2. Fear: God forbid their kids would not be the best in something or not succeed. They feel the need to “protect” their kids because they fear failure.
  3. Pride: Even parents want to feel significant. Perhaps it is through their child’s success? Perhaps they are trying to make up for some issue in their own life and forcing it on their own kids? But pride is at the root of all of this.
All of this points to a redshirt life. We all are susceptible to this lie.

The redshirt life is about safety, control, and lack of adventure.

Brooke and I have discovered as parents how easy it can be to be caught in this trap. The idea of redshirting our kids is a reminder that Brooke and I need to give our kids up to God. We want to be great stewards with the gifts God has given us, especially our kids. But ultimately this all is a reminder that we need to give up control. God reminded me this week through 2 Timothy 1:7 (King James),

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

There will be many more times we will encounter issues like this. May we all be in prayer for our kids and to also ask God to reveal our own hearts in the process. The verse above is about trusting God, thinking with the good mind he gave us and to always act in love for our children.

We live in a reactionary culture; in church, politics, sports, and just about everything in-between. The firing of ESPN’s headline writer Anthony Federico is the latest example of this.

I am the problem.  Here is why.

After New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin’s first loss as a starter, Federico wrote that there was a “Chink in the chain”.  Jeremy Lin is of Taiwanese descent so to me and many others, the headline was cutesy racism that went overboard and it just made me mad. Here was my reaction on twitter the morning after reading (from other media sources) about the ESPN headline issue:

ESPN getting racist on Jeremy Lin last night. Their lesson? Don’t let drunk frat interns update web content.

This was my reaction.  Instead it was just a “reaction to a reaction” because all I did was pay attention to what everyone else was saying, especially the media, civil rights groups, etc. I joined an online mob.

The ESPN headline writer was fired soon that day.  I learned that Headline writers like Frederico have to come up with quick headlines every few minutes.  Federico claimed that it was an “honest mistake”.  Saturday Night Live did a great job with their sketch highlighting the hypocrisy of who can say what about races and get away with it.

Messages like mine are what puts ESPN in a position to fire someone without learning more and listening to all sides about why this happened. ESPN acted in cowardly fear. They were wrong and I was wrong. Who gets hurt? A promising young career is knocked down in the form of Anthony Federico, the 26-year-old who posted this headline.  Anthony Federico issued this incredible apology after he was fired by ESPN. Read it here. I was impressed with his candor, thoughtfulness, regret, but also a helpful explanation about how it happened.  He happens to be a Christian, which is relevant because I understand more about why he did this.  Jeremy Lin is also a prominent Christian, which makes the media firestorm even worse.

After reading Anthony Federico’s response, it caused me to look deep in the mirror. I failed. I reacted. I was lazy and didn’t take the time to understand all sides of this story. I can think of dozens and dozens of instances where I have jumped to conclusion too quickly and people got hurt. Most of the time I was wrong and should know better. What I learned today is that I should have more of the character of Anthony Federico. I’ll leave you with his words:

My solace in this is that ‘all things work together for good for those who love the Lord.’ I praise God equally in the good times and the bad times.

Anthony, I am sorry. You don’t deserve this. We all owe you this apology. Please forgive us all.

Follow Anthony on twitter, he seems like a great guy. @antfeds

This post is Innovate Like Moneyball Part 2 so try to read that first.

I recently heard a great spot on NPR from Frank DeFord about the fascination with Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American New York Knicks basketball sensation.  Jeremy Lin has become the latest version of Tim Tebow.  Anyone looking at his previous stats would say he was an average backup player to having no chance at an NBA career at all.  Pretty soon, scouts will be saying things about their recruits as having “The Lin Factor”.  It’s that special thing about him that gets fans excited while executing on the court (or field) in an amazing way.

In Moneyball fashion, can a statistician find a Jeremy Lin?

Perhaps, but it would be a long shot and they’d need some divine help. Here is why.

Life and business can be only calculated so much.  I’m asked all the time in marketing from clients how we can have better “quantifiable” results.  It always amuses me because a client definitely wants life to be put together in an organized fashion that they can control like a wizard.  Don’t we all, especially when money and reputation is at stake?

Left photo: Tim Tebow. Credit: Barry Gutierrez / Associated Press Right photo: Jeremy Lin. Credit: Frank Gunn / Associated Press

A statistician would say that people like Doug Flutie, Tim Tebow, or  Jeremy Lin are flukes.  They rose to the occasion when given the chance and delivered but their overall stats might be considered mediocre.

Ultimately life and business should be both about quantifiable and qualitative results.  That is how the best research is done to understand stats and behavior.

Clients say they want the “Lin Factor”,”Apple Factor”, or “Nike Factor” for their brand.

Can you quantify how to get that?  That’s not the point. We should celebrate the statistician and the scout equally.  When working well together, that “Factor” can happen and I’ve seen it time and time again with teams I am a part of.

The result can be “greatness”.  And you know it when you see it.

 

 

 

Innovate like Moneyball

September 28, 2011 — 9 Comments

Confession:

I have a romantic love affair with Baseball.  It may be weird to you but it isn’t to me.

I left my baseball love, St. Louis, seven years ago to move down and be with wife Brooke. I have quite enjoyed Nashville but the physical distance from St. Louis baseball only grew my love for the game.  Nashville unfortunately isn’t known as a baseball town but when I meet another “real” fan of the game, we immediately are friends regardless our favorite team.  These days, I follow box scores like it is my balance sheet.

Brooke and I just watched Moneyball (2011) starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  This is based on MIchael Lewis’ bestselling 2003 book.  Hands down, this is the finest baseball movie since Bull Durham/Field of Dreams.  Critics call Moneyball the baseball movie for nerds but I think it is made for all of us.  It has inspired me to act and here is why.

If you have not see the movie, here is a summary.  Faced with putting together a baseball roster 1/4 the budget of the NY Yankees, General Manager of the Oakland A’s Billy Beane had enough.  Year after year, he would develop amazing players only to be robbed by them in free agency by rich teams like the Yankees or Red Sox.  Instead of drafting players solely by basic stats like batting average, home runs, and RBIs, with assistance,  he employed computer-generated analysis and found a better way to rate players. This idea stressed the greater importance of “on base percentage” (hits plus walks and being hit by pitches), which gives their team a statistical advantage over time.  And it worked albeit with heavy opposition of the idea for his first season in 2002.

Was it easy?  No.

Did the “establishment” scouts cry foul and think he was crazy?  Yes

Moneyball should awaken the “innovative spirit” within all of us.  Whether in business, school, personal life, church, or your little league team, we must pay attention to the dragon that needs to be woken in us.

I lead a marketing team in publishing and there isn’t a day that goes by when I just wish there was a standard to go by.  Marketing Plans I wrote only 6 months ago can seem archaic compared to what is needed in today’s complex publishing environment.  I think in “context” so it is particularly harder for me to stretch to innovate and think through better ways of doing things.  But the past is the past and we can still learn from it.  But…

The world is changing faster than I’m writing these words.

So here is where we go.  Here is where I need to go with you.

When someone says “that’s just the way it it is” or “that’s how it worked before”…

Pause.

Question the status quo.

Focus on the outcome and that will tell you how to play in today’s world. 

If it didn’t work today; research, try, fail, try again, and keep learning.  You will get there.  But you can’t just keep pulling out the “driver” when you need what you really need is to hit a cut 3 iron. (I apologize for the golf lingo, I can’t help myself)

Innovate and swing away.