Friday, December 11, 2009

How to End Poorly

Yesterday, a man named Brian Kelly accepted the head coaching position at Notre Dame. I had never heard of Brian Kelly before a few weeks ago, when I watched his former team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, beat Pitt in a miracle comeback, 45-44, to finish their regular season undefeated and win the Big East championship.

Brian Kelly seems to be a very good coach. He took Cincinnati's football program and built it into a national power in just three years. This year they are ranked third in the nation and will be playing in the Sugar Bowl in front of millions of viewers.

In that game, however, they will not be coached by Brian Kelly. He's already left for South Bend. He grabbed the money and the prestige and headed for the promised land faster than any of his players can run the 40.

This displays a lack of character that I find disheartening and shameful.

It's not his leaving that I find offensive. He's Irish and he's Catholic. Being the head coach at Notre Dame is to Irish Catholics what being being the quarterback of the Steelers is to boys from Pittsburgh. It's how he did it that I cannot fathom.

He accepted the job and agreed to leave his post while his team prepares to play their biggest game ever. He left his assistant coaches and more importantly, a group of young men he invested in and supposedly cared about, right before their greatest challenge. He's like a ship captain abandoning his vessel right before the battle. His actions demonstrated incredible lack of tact, shameless cowardice, and a frightful sense of narcissism.

This is how he did it. He met with his players after their football banquet (what should have been a happy time) and told them he was grateful that they made this possible for him. Then he told them he would not be coaching them in the Sugar Bowl and then snuck out the back door, with a police escort, leaving them to answer questions for the media. On the way out, he had time to change his Twitter and webpage, replacing Bearcats with Fighting Irishmen, red and black for green and gold.

Some of his players cried. Others were angry. All of them had to ask themselves a very legitimate question: Couldn't he have stayed for the Sugar Bowl, and headed off to his new job with a sense of completion? Couldn't he have taken some time to say goodbye to everyone he purported to care so much about? If he had done so, he could have left with honor and good will. He could have left with unburned bridges and relationships intact. He could have taught his team a lesson about commitment. He could have ended well. Instead, he made it all about him, left under the cover of darkness as a coward, and alienated everyone he purported to care about so deeply these past few years. In doing so, he revealed his true character as a selfish glory chaser and not a leader of young men.

Good luck, Notre Dame. I have a feeling you will regret this decision. You hired a good coach, and a lousy person.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I am a V

Our latest diversion/indulgence/obsession at the Andersons is the new TV show, "V." "V" stands for "Visitors." It's a cheesy, poorly-written, hole-filled, inadequately-acted new series about the appearance of an alien race above the skies of earth, who set about to win the loyalty of humanity with promises of healing, goodness and peace while secretly planning to eat us or something (ultimate purpose yet to be explained). I have to admit, it's so bad that I find myself enjoying it immensely.

I don't suppose the show will last all that long, but for now, it's looking promising for some escapist entertainment on Tuesday nights. Since I'm letting my mind wander into a catatonic state for an hour each week, I figured I should offer a penance and perform some intellectual exercises on Wednesday morning. So here it is.

I am a "V." Here's how:

I am an alien. The earth is not my home.
I am exceptionally attractive on the outside, but pretty ugly on the inside.
I cannot allow anyone to see the inside or they would be horrified.
I do everything I can to fit in and appear normal.

I speak good things while secretly plotting evil things.
I sometimes use people for my own purposes.
I have secret plans to rule the world (see Blog title).
I am only here for a season, or maybe a few.

There you have it -- my true identity. I am a "V," living among other "Vs," some of whom are aware of their true identity and some who are not. If you want to join me, put on the uniform and meet me at the New York spaceship. We can rule the world together.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thomas and his Father

I live in a household dominated by teeangers.

Jonathan and Timothy are the driving forces in our home. They are busy with friends, sports, church activities, and now girls, work, and requests for the car. Weekends come, and my plans to hang out with Karen, watch a movie, or go out to dinner, are usually squashed by the Paris Hilton-esque social calendars of my teenage sons. They seem to go to any lengths to avoid being home or seen with me outside of church.

It makes me thankful for Thomas.

He's still 11. He's not a teenager yet, hasn't discovered girls, doesn't have to go "out" to have fun, and isn't a social networker like his brothers. He's been the easiest of our three kids to raise. He is easy to please, talented, funny, affectionate. He loves the things I love (baseball, Steelers, music). And every day he teaches me a simple lesson about God.

It is this: Every time he leaves for school, and every time he goes to bed, he asks for me.

"Tell Dad I said 'goodbye,' he says as he leaves for school if I'm not up yet. "Tell Dad 'goodnight' and I love him,' he relays through Karen to me if he is going to bed while I'm still downstairs watching TV. He can't leave the house or go to bed without communicating a quick message to his father. It's as if his life is not complete without an acknowledgement to me -- a word of love, a hug, a goodbye -- before moving on to even the most mundane of things like sleep or school.

I love my son. And I love what he teaches me. May I do the same with my Heavenly Father, every moment acknowledging him, telling him I love him, when I rise, when I sleep, when I am on the road or safe at home, so that no moment is lived separated from him.

Deuteronomy 5:4-9

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Redskins to try novel approach to QB position

-Landover, MD
Having already benched Jim Zorn as play-caller and replaced him with newly-hired consultant Sherman Lewis, the Washington Redskins are now set to try something totally unprecedented in the NFL -- a passing-only QB.

Head Coach Jim Zorn, reading a memo from Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Vinny Cerrato, which was then translated by Offensive Consultant Sherman Lewis, hand-copied by Offensive Coordinator Sherman Smith, and sent to Zorn via a carrier pigeon, announced this morning that starting quarterback Jason Campbell will no longer throw any passes. Instead, backup Todd Collins will enter the game whenever the Redskins plan to pass. Campbell will remain in the game for all running plays.

"We love Jason Campbell. We think he gives us the best chance to win the game as the starting quarterback and has a great future in this league," Zorn said. "He hands off as well as anyone. But the passing game just isn't there, and we think it's time for a change, so we are bringing in another arm to try and spruce up the passing game."

"It may seem unusual," Cerrato's memo said. "But I just found out the other day that some teams have what they consider 'third-down' backs whose primary responsibility is to catch passes out of the backfield. So I thought to myself, Why not have a third-down quarterback? I've talked to Mr. Snyder and he likes the idea. We ran it by Sherman and Sherman and Jim, and we all agree this is the thing to get our offense going."

Campbell wasn't thrilled with the idea of sitting out the pass plays, but seemed resigned to the need for a change. "Let's face it," he said. "Getting those plays called from the booth to the sideline to the other sideline to the front office and then to me -- it has made things awfully complicated. If this simplifies things and helps us win, then I guess we can try it.

"At least I won't get sacked."

Collins, on the other hand, seemed happy to get his chance. "It will be nice to come into the game and run for my life and throw the ball," he said. "I just hope somebody catches it."

Asked about the likelihood of opposing teams looking exclusively for the pass when Collins enters the game, Zorn said, "We thought of that. But we've already been pretty predictable, so this is just the next step in that process."

Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache had no comment.

Running back Clinton Portis had this to say. "The way this season is going, it's definitely time for a Todd Collins."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Give Me Eye to See

Friday night I was on my way to meet Karen and Thomas at the Frederick Fair. It was about 8:30 and I was coming from a dinner meeting, driving on Reich’s Ford Road, when suddenly my contact attacked my left eye. I don’t know what made it angry or how he snuck a needle into my eye, but within seconds I was crying like a baby as my contact made its way inside my eye socket and into my brain. I pulled over and spent about 20 minutes trying to get it out. Finally, using scissors, duct tape and a toilet plunger, I was able to pull it free with most of my eye remaining. However, the contact was not so lucky–he was ripped in two during the struggle and perished. I only ever saw half his body, though I suspect if I sniff really hard I could probably make the rest come out my nose.

So there I was -- one good eye, sitting in the driver’s seat a mile from the fairgrounds, wondering how I was going to get anywhere, let alone find my wife. Not a good place to be.

Do you ever feel like you this? You’ve just had an attack of some sort. You can’t see where you’re going. You feel stuck and separated, and you are wondering how you’re going to get anywhere, let alone home? I suspect it’s not uncommon.

Some friends and I are reading Waking the Dead by John Eldredge. One of the themes of the book is clarity – being fully aware of God’s presence and his work in our lives so we can navigate well and find our way home. We are asking God to give us the clarity we need to walk closely with him day by day. I don’t know about you, but I need more than two working contacts. (Now I need these doggone reading glasses, but that’s another story.) I need to be in constant communion with God every day so that I can navigate well, be the person I’m called to be, and make it home safely to my wife and kids at night. Walking with God like this is a lot easier than wandering blindly through life. A lot less painful, too, I'm finding out.

So what did I do Friday night? I managed to drive (slowly) to the front gate of the fairgrounds and park along the side of the road. I called Karen on the cell phone and she found the car. It was sure good to see her, or at least a blurry outline of her beautiful form! We made it home in one piece. More than I can say for my contact. I thank God for good vision, good companions, and God himself.

Driving Lessons

So yesterday was a big day at our house. We entered a new stage of parenthood. We are now a three-driver family.

Jonathan was ready. He’s almost 17. He’s a good, responsible kid, though I would say his driving skills remain a bit unrefined. And, like all teenagers, he thinks he knows more than he does. We made him do all 60 hours of practice (despite his insistence that “no other parents make their kids do all the hours.”). He drove to the MVA, to get in a little last-minute practice. I was going to make him parallel park one last time, amidst moving traffic, on Rt. 70, just for good measure. But I decided against it. Despite all his “experience,” he admitted he was nervous. I figured that was a good sign.

We arrived at the testing site, signed in, and pulled up to the stop sign which serves as the starting gate. I got out of the car and let the friendly lady with the clipboard get into my seat. She told me I could watch if I wanted, but I went to the bench around the corner and sat down. I didn’t want to make Jon any more nervous than he already was. Besides, I couldn’t bear to watch.

A few minutes later, after a quick “How’s he doing?” phone call from Karen, I saw the car come around the corner and pull into a parking space. There were no noticeable scratches on the car, nor were there any farm animals, pedestrians or other bumpers stuck to the front grill. Jonathan got out of the car, a smile on his face. The lady with the clipboard was smiling too. She gave me the words I did and did not want to hear. “He passed.”

Maybe it was because he was tired from a long day at school, or perhaps it was the post-stress letdown, or maybe it was because he wanted me to know I was still important enough to matter; whatever the reason, Jonathan handed ME the keys and said, “Why don’t you drive home, Dad?” I was glad to oblige.