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

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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.

Wow, 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.

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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

FAST Blast: Musings on sports and marriage

11/25/2018

THE REALM OF MARRIAGE and the world of sports have much in common. If you’re not sure about that statement, read on and see if you agree.

My wife and I both played sports as we grew up. I focused on basketball with some success, and she was a standout soccer player. Our son and daughter also played sports while participating in other worthwhile pursuits, and it’s safe to say they surpassed our accomplishments.

Our son was all-conference in soccer and baseball in high school, and our daughter was an All-American in Division III college soccer. (Pardon me for indulging in a proud-of-my-son-and-daughter Dad moment — mea culpa.)

All those who’ve played on a team have likely considered the helpful metaphors sports can lend on life’s journey. Let’s look at how the metaphors and lessons of sports apply to marriage.

One classic sports cliché refers to “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” In marriage, a husband and wife commit to each other “for better or worse … until death do us part” — the thrill and the agony, indeed.

Winning is the objective of sports — at least, the most visible objective. There are other intangible aims, such as learning life skills and developing vital habits. But winning in sports is, yes, thrilling. You’re on top of the mountain and on top of the world. Yet for most teams, defeat also occurs often enough.

Marriage is in the same ballpark — a blend of wins and losses, for better or worse … sometimes on top of the mountain, sometimes down in the trenches.

All the wisest marriage gurus I know say commitment is the foundation of marriage, the fuel that moves a couple through the ups and downs, the wins and losses. The romance can come and go, the emotions can ebb and flow, the connection and chemistry can head south … but the commitment to love your spouse is the bedrock. This is comparable, it seems, to the commitment teammates make to each other, though the marriage commitment goes beyond because it’s a lifetime pledge — certainly, lifelong devotion is the view of marriage presented by the Christian worldview.

I grew up in the Church, and while I’ve wrestled with what the Christian worldview means in the context of other faiths and philosophies, I see an inescapable conclusion in the midst of my questions and uncertainties: The best philosophy, faith or worldview to embrace is the one that’s true. If Jesus of Nazareth truly is the Son of God and Son of Man — and the risen King of the new creation — He is the absolute difference-maker. And He defines life and marriage.

To utilize another sports metaphor, He is the owner of the franchise. He calls the shots … while giving every team member freedom to make decisions for or against His management desires.

Jesus’ desire for marriage, as expressed in the Gospels, is as clear as the goals on a soccer field: “In the beginning the Creator made people male and female, and God said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.’ So they are no longer two, but one. No human being must separate, then, what God has joined together.”

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

— Bruce William Deckert © 2018

All-Name Teams #25

10/31/2018

Featuring names from across the world of sports

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful, you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners.
― Soren Kierkegaard

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In case the timing of this post isn’t clear, I’ll state what is perhaps obvious … this All-Name Team marks All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and Halloween (Oct. 31):

All-Saints Team 3
John Abraham — football
Joel Caleb — football
Isaiah Crowell — football
Ezekiel Elliott — football
Isaac Redman — football

All-Horror Team 3
Amazombie (horse) — horse racing
Ken Bone — basketball
Matt Hackett — hockey
Tomas Pekhart — soccer
Phil Savage — football

Procedural Note — If you’re wondering why there are five members 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

All-Name Teams #24

09/30/2018

Featuring names from across the world of sports

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame;
Each to his passion; what’s in a name?
— Poet and writer Helen Hunt Jackson

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All-Book Team
Bio Kim — golf
Matt Read — hockey
Jarrad Page — football
Chad Pennington — football
Rick Story — mixed martial arts

All-Literature Team
Connor Hamlett — football
Junior Hemingway — football
Marco Huck — boxing
Dontari Poe — football
Dante Scarnecchia — football

All-Word Team
Tyler Chatwood — baseball
Danny Gabbidon — soccer
Boris Said — motorsports
Tris Speaker — baseball
Ed Werder — sports reporter

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 #12

08/31/2018

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

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DEPARTMENT OF REDUNDANCY DEPARTMENT

After Tuesday’s game, [the coach] insisted that he wouldn’t change the roster, which produced just two goals in its first two games and was outscored 7-2.

By specifying that the overall score was 7-2, perhaps the writer makes it clear that the team produced just two goals. And perhaps I didn’t need to use the word perhaps.

Yes, let’s just streamline that phrase and move on, to wit: …which was outscored 7-2 in the first two games.

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THE PUZZLE OF THE UNBEATEN BOXER

Headline:
Denis Shafikov defeats unbeaten Jamel Herring by TKO

This is a classic head-scratcher — how could Herring be unbeaten after losing to Shafikov? Before you puzzle the riddle too long, though, consider that a key word is missing: previously.

As in: Denis Shafikov defeats previously unbeaten Jamel Herring

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THIS JUST IN

But they would have also led to hits — and when a quarterback in the NFL is hit, he exposes himself to potential injury.

Sometimes a statement is so obvious that one wonders whether it needs to be made. The above seems to me to be such a statement.

It’s like saying: Football is a contact sport and can cause injury.

Hold the presses!

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AGELESS WONDER

Tyron Smith is in his sixth year in the NFL, and he’s still only 25.

Wow, now that’s something — apparently Tyron Smith has been 25 years old throughout his six-year NFL career. After all, he’s still only 25!

Either Smith has discovered the Fountain of Youth, or one word needs to be deleted from the above sentence. Yes, you guessed it — still. So the revised phrase reads: … in his sixth year in the NFL, and he’s only 25.

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REDUNDANCY REDUX?

While fans chanted his name during the win over Sheffield Wednesday Wednesday night…

You might be wondering: What’s quasi-funny about this? It’s a simple mistake, an inadvertent repetition of the word Wednesday. Delete it and the meaning is clear — …the win over Sheffield Wednesday night.

Right?

Not exactly. However, this is unclear unless you’re familiar with English soccer beyond the Premier League: Sheffield Wednesday is the name of a soccer club.

So the above sentence requires, for greater clarity, not the deletion of a word but the addition of a word: on. Thus — …the win over Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday night.

Still, even then it appears there could be a mistake of repetition. In the journalism realm, it’s an example of the editorial importance of asking a question — of the writer or assigning editor — before changing a story based on an assumption about inaccuracy.

No American pro teams (that I know of) have days of the week as part of their names. Imagine how confusing it would be in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry if Boston Tuesday had a series with New York Thursday … that began on Wednesday.

© Bruce William Deckert 2018