FAST Sonnets in Cyberspace #11

01/05/2020

THE SONNET might be the best poem for time-challenged 21st century readers — forgoing lengthy free verse, the sonnet aims to concisely convey its subject in 14 power-packed lines.

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Come winter Your canvas is bare and gray —
But for pine and hemlock splotches, wood’s scene
Speaks silence, waits for April rain to play.
Each spring You sing the lifeless canvas green,
Add kaleidoscope of color — deep pink,
Gold, purple — impressionist paradise.
When summer’s palette appears, You rethink
Hue and rearrange designs, now thrice
Changed. Then lawn-and-leaf luster is replaced
By fall’s consuming fire — forest-clad hill
Ablaze with passion’s brush, painfully traced —
Until tree-glory yields to winter’s will.
    Oh Master True — Your masterpiece, such art!
    Let Your beauty draw me to Your true heart.

© Bruce William Deckert 2020

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POETRY 411 NOTES

• Here’s an alternate closing couplet — i.e., the last two lines:
    Oh Artist True, You paint each season’s art —
    Let Your canvas draw me to Your true heart.

You can vote here for the closing couplet you prefer.

• Since this blog focuses on sports-and-faith issues, each sonnet I’m posting has at least one sports connection — in this case, it’s the fleeting reference to “play” in the third line … and “play” is about as sports-related as it gets!

• This is a Shakespearean (or English) sonnet — a poem comprised of three four-line stanzas and a closing couplet, with the following rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg. The Shakespearean sonnet has 10 syllables per line, often employing iambic pentameter — five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables (an iamb is one pair).

• Thanks for stopping by — I hope your time here has been worthwhile.

All-Name Teams #29

12/15/2019

Featuring names from across the world of sports

• All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means “God with us.”

• Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
— From the Gospel of Matthew

All-Christmas Team 5
Emmanuel Ekpo — soccer
Brenda Frese — basketball
Richie Incognito — football
Omar Infante — baseball
Patrick Towles — football

All-Star Team 2
Starlin Castro — baseball
Brady Morningstar — basketball
Gary Nova — football
Anastasia Rodionova — tennis
Kate Starbird — basketball

Procedural Note — If you’re wondering why there are five people per team, it’s simple: Basketball was my favorite sport as I grew up, and since the rules of basketball (last time I checked) allow five players per team on the court, I’m going with five-person All-Name Teams.

— Bruce William Deckert

All-Name Teams #28

11/07/2019

Featuring names from across the world of sports

Let us learn to appreciate there will be times when the trees will be bare, and look forward to the time when we may pick the fruit.
— Anton Chekhov

All-Fruit Team
Jayne Appel — basketball
Edner Cherry — boxing
Craig McIntosh — football
Amber Orrange— basketball
Darryl Strawberry — baseball

All-Tree Team
Barkevious Mingo — football
Saudia Roundtree — basketball
Warren Sapp — football
Nicole Sappingfield — softball
Tiger Woods — golf

Procedural Note — If you’re wondering why there are five people per team, it’s simple … basketball was my favorite sport as I grew up, and since the rules of basketball (last time I checked) allow five players per team on the court, I’m going with five-person All-Name Teams.

— Bruce William Deckert

Non Sequiturs + Other Quasi-Funny Stuff #14

08/31/2019

UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR from the journalism realm — actual excerpts from stories published on the internet are in bold, along with some commentary from me … except for the items that seem self-explanatory.

ALL FIVE ITEMS BELOW ARE FROM …
THE DEPARTMENT OF REDUNDANCY DEPARTMENT

1 — The Cowboys are coming off a very impressive home win over the St. Louis Rams, where they out-rushed the Rams 193-35 on the ground.

If you’re not a football fan, perhaps you’d like some help identifying the redundancy here. If so, here’s the spoiler — rushing the ball always takes place “on the ground” … so you can surmise correctly that there’s no need to refer to both “out-rushed” and “on the ground” in the above sentence.

2 — The reality is that the Dodgers have needed the left-hander to step up because of need.

3 — After a 10th-round knockout loss … he talked about retirement but elected to fight on and won his next four fights in a row before announcing that he was done.

Wondering where the redundancy is here? Look at the phrase “his next four fights in a row” and then ask yourself — isn’t “in a row” unnecessarily repetitive after “his next four fights”? If you’ve answered yes, I agree.

4 — A final last word for the Thunder was coming later that afternoon.

5 — The Broncos’ defense cashed in during a must-win that all the players said they had to have.

Hmm, a “must-win” that players said “they had to have” — a classic case of … yes, redundancy!

Until next time, remember to protect the football when you’re rushing on the ground.

— Bruce William Deckert 

All-Name Teams #27

06/30/2019

Featuring names from across the world of sports

What is a farm but a mute gospel?
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

All-Farm Team 2
Mitch Barnhart — athletic director
Jordan Farmar — basketball
Nirra Fields — basketball
Charles Tillman — football
Markus Wheaton — football

All-Flower Team 2
Jasmine Camp — basketball
Lily Feldman — soccer
Danielle Flowers — roller derby
Derrick Rose — basketball
Dave Rozema — baseball

Note — Why are there five per team, you ask? Basketball was my favorite sport as I grew up, and since the rules of basketball (last time I checked) call for five players per team on the court, I’m going with five-person All-Name Teams.

— Bruce William Deckert

All-Name Teams #26

04/28/2019

Featuring names from across the world of sports

Don’t you fret now, child, don’t you worry — the rain’s to help you grow, so don’t try to hurry the storm along: The hard times make you strong. — singer/songwriter Jamie Owens-Collins

All-Storm Team
Usain Bolt — sprinting
James DeGale — boxing
Anthony McCloud — football
Hannah Storm — broadcaster
Storm Warren — basketball

All-Weather Team
Tavoris Cloud — boxing
Kyle Fogg — basketball
Floyd Mayweather — boxing
Bobby Rainey — football
Steve Weatherford — football

Procedural Note — If you’re wondering why there are five people per team: Basketball was my favorite sport as I grew up, and since the rules of basketball (last time I checked) allow five players per team on the court, I’m going with five-person All-Name Teams.

— Bruce William Deckert

Non Sequiturs + Other Quasi-Funny Stuff #13

03/31/2019

UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR from the journalism realm: Actual excerpts from stories published on the internet are in bold — but the all-caps headlines are mine.

A HISTORICALLY SMART BALLPARK

• Baseball headline:
White Sox ballpark changing name to Guaranteed Rate Field

Apparently, this is the first time in sports history that a ballpark has changed its own name … unless the following headline revision is needed — White Sox changing ballpark name to Guaranteed Rate Field

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THE AMAZING FEET WITH 20/20 VISION

• From a football story on a running back:
His vision and feet allow him to see holes before they develop.

Unless this running back has eyes in his feet, something is amiss with this line. Perhaps you could say it’s poetic license … but since the context is sports journalism, not Sports Poetry 101, let’s go with the less-is-more approach — His vision allows him to see holes before they develop.

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AIRBORNE BULLPENS

• From a baseball story:
The veteran pitchers are scheduled to throw their first official bullpens Tuesday…

However you slice it, the pitchers who are throwing these bullpens could enter the World’s Strongest Man competition.

As baseball fans know, major league bullpens are comprised of two pitcher’s mounds, two plates, a bench and the walls that enclose the large bullpen area — unless bullpen as used here refers to a team’s group of relief pitchers, seven or eight men who weigh roughly 170-200 pounds each.

Either way, these veteran pitchers must be eating their Wheaties … wait, what’s that? You say I’m misunderstanding the meaning? OK, how would you revise the above sentence to make it clearer?

Actually, before you email me or post your thoughts, here’s my wild guess — The veteran pitchers are scheduled to throw their first official bullpen sessions Tuesday…

Is that what you were thinking too?

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WORST FOOTBALL DEFENSE EVER

• From a football story:
The Redskins didn’t cover or tackle in the secondary last year.

If this were actually true, how many tackles did the entire Redskins’ secondary have last year? Zero.

This is an example of a hyperbolic statement that might be voiced by an on-air analyst, but in writing it sounds absurd … to me, anyway.

So the editor in me is inclined to make this change — The Redskins had coverage and tackling issues in the secondary last year.

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DEPARTMENT OF REDUNDANCY DEPARTMENT

• From a baseball story:
He was scheduled to lead off and bat first … in the first of two exhibitions…

Baseball fans, help us out here — if a hitter is leading off, by definition he is batting first.

I’ll leave the edit to you.

Thanks for stopping by — and until next time, watch out for airborne bullpens.

© Bruce William Deckert 2019

FAST Sonnets in Cyberspace #10

02/28/2019

After the snowfall, there dawns a new peace —
Woodland delights in the welcome release
Of the morning splendor. Pine-green trees stand
Row upon row, a hushed and grateful band,
Boughs whitened, humbly bowed, glad to applaud
Day’s advent. Like the faithfulness of God,
Sun keeps dawn appointment — poignant rays pierce
Cloud-spread canopy. Still, the freeze is fierce,
And the cold can kill — as tree plied coldly
Once did when Tree-King died instead of me.
He came for winter-weary hoi polloi —
Hear wise trees, rising glow proclaim with joy:
Oh, now is the time to find a new start —
Let Maker’s beauty mend your tomb-cold heart.

© Bruce William Deckert 2019

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POETRY 411 NOTES

• This sonnet form is known as a Couplet Sonnet, with the following rhyme scheme: aabb ccdd eeff gg. The sonnet is a 14-line poem with 10 syllables per line, and there are numerous types of sonnets.

• I wrote the first version of this poem when I was in college, and have since revised it into the above sonnet form — and yes, as you may have guessed, I wrote that first version the day after a … snowfall.

• Since this blog focuses on sports-and-faith issues, each sonnet I’m posting has at least one sports connection. Here the connection is perhaps oblique — at the end of the fifth line: applaud. But perhaps not so oblique, since applause is certainly a prevalent aspect of the sports world.

• Thanks for stopping by — I hope you’ve found this sonnet offering to be worthwhile.

FAST Blast: Musings on sports and marriage, Part 3

01/02/2019

• Musings on sports and marriage: Part 1Part 2

PARENTS INTRODUCE THEIR CHILDREN TO LIFE, and then introduce their children to the concept of marriage.

All spouses and parents bring both upside and downside to their marriages and child-rearing. There’s one simple reason for this: Every human being is comprised of upside and downside. As far as I can tell, this is as evident as the New England Patriots’ 5-5 record in the Super Bowl.

This isn’t an excuse for not doing all you can to prevent your downside from damaging others. But no one I know of has been able to consistently elude this paradoxical reality of human nature.

Yes, we’re better off when we grow out of bad habits and into good habits. And certainly, we all possess gifts and skills. Yet since none of us is exactly perfect, it appears that one of the habits we all need to cultivate — on an ongoing basis — is forgiveness.

Easy? No. But as difficult as forgiveness is, the relationship gurus typically agree: Forgiveness unlocks the gates that bar our own hearts while serving as the foundation for strong marriages and families.

From the amazing story of Nelson Mandela’s courageous work to end apartheid in South Africa, to NBA title-winning coach Rudy Tomjanovich in the aftermath of The Punch, to the dying cry of an itinerant first-century rabbi on a Roman cross — “Father, forgive them” — there are countless examples of the wisdom and power of forgiveness.

Some Jackson Browne lyrics resonate:

Don’t you want to be there?
Don’t you want to cry when you see how far
You’ve got to go
To be where forgiveness rules instead of where you are?
Don’t you want to be there?
Don’t you want to know
Where the grace and simple truth of childhood go?
Don’t you want to be there when the trumpets blow?
— from “Don’t You Want To Be There”

But I digress … let’s return to this: Parents introduce children to life and then to the concept of marriage, whether by their presence or absence — or both. In intact families, parents who are present daily in their children’s lives can sometimes be absent or hurtful emotionally and otherwise. Cue the need for the difficult task of forgiveness.

At other times these same parents can be caring and constructive. Cue the need to be thankful.

Again, we need to make every effort to care, yet despite our best efforts we fall short. It has been said that every family is a broken family. This rings true, given the upside-and-downside reality of the human condition.

Of course, some families are more broken than others. I experienced the conventional definition of a broken family: My parents divorced when I was in eighth grade.

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MY DAD WAS A BIG-TIME SPORTS FAN. New Jersey born and bred, he watched the Yankees win multiple championships as he moved from adolescence into adulthood. He witnessed the wreckage of the Mets’ early years and their first World Series title in 1969 — the so-called Miracle Mets.

Meanwhile, he shipwrecked his marriage: an anti-miracle.

Despite his tragic choices, my Dad showed that parents who are absent from the home can be present in their children’s lives.

My Mom didn’t follow pro sports but was a big-time fan of me and my brother as we played sports — as was my Dad. She was also a fan of my Dad, extending allegiance even after he betrayed her via an affair … but after she forgave him and took him back, he broke his vows again.

Sports betrayals surely occur. A beloved player becomes a free agent and high-tails it out of town. A freak twist of fate costs a squad a title. A team leaves a city for greener financial pastures.

One example: The NFL’s Browns unexpectedly left Cleveland after the 1995 season. Per Cleveland.com: “The love affair between the Browns and their fans generated a strong bond … all of the other disappointments associated with Cleveland sports combined could not reach the magnitude of betrayal and heartache suffered [by Browns fans after the team’s departure].”

Clearly, the betrayal my Mom suffered was far worse.

As an adult, occasionally I think about my Dad celebrating the Mets’ 1969 championship in the same month when he caused my Mom and my family heart-wrenching grief — such a painful and incongruous circumstance — and I wonder why I don’t hate sports.

I know, this isn’t exactly a fair association: Sports didn’t cause my Dad to leave us, though I can see in the experience of my heart how we human beings are capable of making knee-jerk connections that aren’t always accurate or fair.

Once more, cue the need for forgiveness.

Yes, my Dad caused me and my family tremendous pain. Yet my Dad also gave me tremendous encouragement about my sports and academics. Over the years, teachers and friends and professors encouraged me to keep writing — yet my Dad stands out most in that arena.

Influenced by my Dad, I did grow up a sports fan — I’ve also witnessed numerous World Series titles by the Yankees, and one by the Mets. I wound up serving as an editor at ESPN.com for 15-plus years. But ironically, by the time I reached ESPN I had stopped following pro sports religiously in favor of cheering for my son’s and daughter’s teams and investing in their success as student-athletes.

My Dad once instigated a literal investment for my brother’s basketball team: Believing the squad’s uniforms at the cash-strapped Christian school had become too ratty, my Dad handed a hat around at a home game to raise money for new duds.

Antics like that — along with his propensity for attempting to persuade certain referees of their incompetence — almost got him banned from the home gym. But my brother’s coach appreciated the support and returned it by taking this stand: He said his team wouldn’t take the court if Mr. Deckert was banned.

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THE MARRIAGE GURUS TELL US that love is a decision. The first person I heard utter this phrase? My Mom.

Author and social activist Shane Claiborne puts it this way: “The most radical thing that anyone can do is to choose to love those around them — again, and again, and again.”

For couples, true love is able to deepen when they keep choosing to love each other and keep investing in their marriages. As author Fawn Weaver says: “Happily ever after is not a fairy tale — it’s a choice.” Choosing the alternative keeps love from growing as surely as covering a garden with a tarp.

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers” — so said Ruth Bell Graham. While forgiveness is hard, it is exquisite fertilizer in the garden of marriage and friendship.

My Mom attributed her ability to forgive my Dad to the God of the universe. She didn’t cave to bitterness. Until the day she died of cancer — my Dad had died years before — she maintained faith in the itinerant rabbi mentioned above, counting on Jesus of Nazareth as the crucified-and-risen One whose forgiveness models and informs and empowers our forgiveness of others.

My Mom said that when my Dad first betrayed her in the fall of 1969, he told her, “I never loved you.”

Years later, when I reflected on that sad comment, I concluded that my Dad was really saying this: He didn’t know what love is … he didn’t know what true love is. At the time, he thought he knew. Toward the end of his life, he expressed remorse over his misjudgment.

Cue the need for forgiveness.

This is the third in a series of blog posts that consider the relationship between marriage and sports.

— Bruce William Deckert © 2019

FAST Blast: Musings on sports and marriage, Part 2

12/20/2018

Musings on sports and marriage — Part 1

MARRIAGE, LIKE SPORTS, IS A TEAM EFFORT — requiring the care and commitment of two people with skills and idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses, gifts and imperfections.

As with every team, a marriage is impacted by both the blunders and triumphs of the team members.

After reading the previous two paragraphs, you might be thinking: Sure, but tell me something I don’t already know. Actually, I might not be able to tell you something you don’t already know … but I do want to relay what I believe about marriage, for better or worse.

Let’s extend the sports-and-marriage metaphor — the marriage enterprise at its best is like scoring a flurry of 3-pointers, or recording a pivotal goal, or hitting a home run, or making a key defensive play or a huge save. At times like these, life is good and the sun shines bright and an out-and-back training run seems downhill both ways for both spouses.

At its worst, the team effort of marriage is like a painful injury — caused by a teammate during practice — or the extreme training teammates endure to prepare for the next game or the next season, like running ladders or suicide sprints … or fill in the blank with the severe workouts your coach devised.

One of my daughter’s soccer teams would run 200-yard sprints as a preseason workout — 20 consecutive 200-yard sprints. Yes, 20 200s.

One of my son’s soccer teams would run up an old ski hill. When I asked him how fast the coach expected his players to go, he said the intensity of the workout wasn’t in how fast they were moving (the hill was extremely steep) but in simply keeping their legs going. The next time I ran up a hill, my aching legs and lungs reminded me how true that is.

One of my basketball coaches had us run double suicide sprints. By the time you were done running the first one, your lungs felt like fire and your legs felt like a blend of lead and cooked spaghetti — paradoxical, I know — and then you had to keep going at full speed through a second suicide.

Well, I suppose you didn’t have to — but because of your dedication to the team, you did. You ran the sprints and felt the fire in your lungs and the distress in your legs with (and for) your teammates. This commitment that teammates make to each other in the crucible of training is comparable to the commitment couples make to each other when their marriage goes through a crucible, for however short or long.

Persevering together through the training of marriage makes it possible for a man and a woman to share the joy of the triumphs that follow.

To say there are many views of life and marriage is like saying there are many claims about financial investments or climate change or the favorite to win the next NBA championship. The question is, which view is true?

Every year, the Christian worldview celebrates Christmas as the day when Jesus of Nazareth entered the arena of human history to endure intense training for the sake of His bride. I pray that we find inspiration and strength in His example and His reality as we live out our marriages and other relationships.

This is the second in a series of blog posts that consider the relationship between marriage and sports.

— Bruce William Deckert © 2018