Monday, March 16, 2009

A friend invited me to join him and another at the Big 12 Basketball tournament this past weekend. At first, I thought, “Nah” but then reconsidered. I haven’t been out of town since the day in January when all the fun started at the hospital so I guess I was a little apprehensive about traveling. Close to home has been comfortable and familiar and safe.

It was a short flight to Oklahoma City on Thursday and I took a cab to the Ford Center where the men’s games were being played. Honestly, I’m not much of a March Madness kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the level of passion in the fans of college basketball, and I guess if the round ballers from Louisiana Tech University were in the hunt for a berth at the NCAA Tournament, I might be a little more interested. But hey, it was a guys getaway weekend.

There was a game in progress when I arrived and we watched two more after that. I had asked Jim, before deciding to go, what it would be like. “Overeating” he replied. Not food – over indulging on college basketball.

I have to say I loved it. Out of all the games we watched, there was only one blowout and all the rest were really close. The most intense was between Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State. Of course, the place was packed with fans from both places and to say they were loud would be an understatement. It came down to the wire with the underdog OSU Cowboys going on to the next round.

The only personal tie I had to any school represented was to Baylor University. My youngest son Adam is an alum as is my wife. So the Bears were the pick. Again, I’ve not followed Baylor basketball at all, but in this setting, it was a lot of fun. By the way, Baylor won their way through the brackets to be in the finals only to be beaten by Missouri. No one, from what I hear, expected them to go that far. Baylor had to be on a real high after beating the mighty Texas Longhorns. I think everybody in the room, except for Longhorn fans, wanted Baylor to win. David and Goliath kind of thing, you know.

The one thing that makes college basketball so electric and draws so much interest from so many has to be the passion all around it. These young men play like they’re dying - like there’s no tomorrow. As much as I appreciate the skill it takes to play in the pro ranks of any sport, I’ve grown a little weary of the going-through-the-paces-now-pay-me attitude of many professional athletes. For a lot of these college players – most of whom won’t go on to play pro – these will be some of their finest moments. Few of them will work or play in venues where eighteen thousand people cheer their every move.

Another thing I couldn’t help but notice was that the fans were, for the most part, very civil toward one another. Alcohol sales were suspended during the entire event so maybe that helped everyone keep their heads. Mostly, there was good natured ribbing and posturing for school pride. Sitting beside me at one game was a husband and wife – one a grad from OU and the other a OSU alum. When OSU beat the favored OU team, the husband asked his wife how she was gonna get home. Hee Hee.

Every school had it’s pep band there to make a little noise and inspire their team with music. I know you can’t see it in this picture, but in the bottom corner of the band stand, there are three girls playing piccolo. In a room of thousands of cheering fans, a section of trumpets, trombones, a few tubas, and a drum set, these three played their piccolos as if they were center stage. Says something about teamwork to me. No, the contribution you make might not seem to make much of a difference. No, you might not even be able to hear it but take enough elements out of the whole that you can’t audibly distinguish and something is just missing. Everybody has a part to play.

And now let’s take the offering.

On Friday, Roy and I went to the Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. Roy’s dad was a real, working cowboy as were some other members of his family. He really wanted to see the museum so I went along. Like the tournament, I didn’t know how much I’d be interested in a cowboy museum.


I think most of us blow things off that we’re not “into” and miss a lot as a result. Being too cool for school make you feel hip and edgy? We’re all real impressed.
Get over yourself. I’m talking to you!

OK I’m talking to me, too.

Here are some pics from the museum. What’s Honest Abe doing here? Fact is, he opened the door for the development of the Western United States with some of his presidential power.

The statue, “The End of the Trail” is the original that has been reproduced so many times in much smaller scale. It stands in the entrance of the museum.

The Duke. Enough said.

There were displays of all kinds that made me feel like (and almost wish I were) a kid again. You know, when someone would ask you, “Son, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Back in the day when the first answer that popped into your head was cowboy or fireman or astronaut.

Some of the sweetest memories I have of my father were of Sunday nights at home after church. My mom and brother stayed and had choir practice before I was old enough to join, so Dad and I went home and made BBQ beef sandwiches from the lunch leftovers. Dad had a homemade sauce recipe that just killed. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Once, he and I talked about bottling it. Taking into account the ingredients, we figured it would cost about $9 a bottle – and this was in 1963!

Anyway, we’d make up a batch of chopped BBQ and sit down to watch Bonanza on TV – just me and Dad. Still a great memory of a day when I dreamed, even if for a short time, of being a cowboy. They made it look so cool. I’m sure it had it’s down side and probably wasn’t as neat and tidy as the Ponderosa looked to be. Dreams of being a cowboy quickly faded into dreams of baseball stardom then on to something else.

When do dreams stop? Is there a predetermined age when you’re not allowed to dream anymore? Of course not. Dream on. Time’s flying.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

OK… I’m coming clean.

There is a Seinfeld episode where Jerry and friends find themselves in a police station somewhere in the city. Kramer has a friend who’s a sketch artist and before George will go on a blind date (being arranged by Kramer) he wants to see some likeness of the woman of the hour (but with these characters, it’s really more like the woman of the half hour). Jerry, usually uninterested in anything that’s not about him, finds his mind and his eyes wandering until he spots an attractive blonde in uniform. They make small talk and the subject goes to the polygraph machine. The female sergeant makes a comment about the famous people they’ve had on the machine – “A certain member of the cast of Melrose Place. Do you watch the show?” “No – never watch it” says Jerry. For some reason, she wants to put him on the polygraph. “I think you’re lying – I think you watch it” she says.

I watch American Idol.

Not all the time but I do watch it. I know, I know, I’d come off much more hip and mysterious if I said I’d never seen it but it’s fascinating because it’s one of the most popular shows on television. That alone should make me suspicious but something like twenty-five to thirty million people watch every episode. Mind boggling – or as one of the judges said last night, “I’m mind-boggled.”

But I have to tell you it’s becoming more and more difficult to watch. The commercials alone would be enough to make me never turn the thing on if it weren’t for DVR. We usually start watching about fifteen minutes after the show starts, but more and more often, we catch up to real time in no time. Then it’s just painful.

The assortment of talent this season is above average and I’m intrigued at the song choices they make, the keys they choose to sing in, the dance steps (wow, a lot of them have to be Baptist, ‘cause the dancing is, well, it ain’t pretty and I should know!), the things they say during the interviews, etc.

These kids have to be shell-shocked to be living in relative obscurity (a couple of them are sixteen . . . and they’re some of the better singers on the show) then suddenly pushed onto a stage in front of hundreds in the live audience and millions watching on TV.

The promise of fame and fortune is a strong magnet.

I saw a piece on Van Morrison on CBS Sunday Morning this past week. Yes, I recorded it and watched it later. Yes, I was at church while it played live. OK? Anyhoo, Van Morrison is 63 years old, has sold seventy million albums, has done, almost, an album a year over his 40 year career. He’s reluctant to do interviews but is promoting a new album that was cut live at Madison Square Garden. Actually, it is a re-recording of one of his earliest works. When asked if there was anything good about fame, he replied, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

Come on Van. I like the whole semi-reclusive bit and I appreciate the shadowy artistic struggle persona and all but your fame has been pretty good to you and frankly, at 63 you can still bring it! You might want to say “Thank You” to Somebody! Maybe he does. I hate it when I jump to conclusions about people I don’t even know. He does reflect a spiritual side in some of his music so let’s hope the best, believe the best and pray that Van knows from where his gift and his blessings flow.

So do you think that any of the Idol contestants don’t want their shot? Of course they want their shot just like you do and just like I do. They’re young and have their whole lives before them. There are behind the scenes stories about these good looking kids – some are single parents (already?), others starving artists trying to make a statement. There’s one guy named Danny that obviously has a church music background (hey, he might even know the words to Watercolor Ponies or something). Last night, one of the judges commented on Danny’s joy. Hmm. Ya think?

When the contestants pick the wrong song, as happens so often, things don’t go well. I think more often, they pick the wrong key. I know when I’m sitting alone with the guitar or piano, writing something new or getting ready to lead worship, the key that feels comfortable in private is just too low for the platform. Adrenaline kicks in and most of us need to pitch things a little higher to communicate the passion and put the edge on the voice. This happens all the time on Idol. Just a thought.

And some of the songs don’t need to be touched by these relative newbies. If nothing else, it should make them and all of us appreciate the musicality, if not the lifestyle, of the original performer. Last night, they sang songs of Michael Jackson. Some great pop songs but otherwise, “No comment.”

Be wise and careful, I would say. And raise the key one step!


“OK mister, is there anything remotely spiritual about any of this?”

Oh, I think there’re spiritual elements to most everything. I can’t help but pull for the underdog but appreciate the greater talent. That’s a primal spiritual struggle right there. I can’t help but be a little sad that our culture praises and elevates someone yet unproven with little more to offer than cool clothes, a good voice and a firm resolve to face down Simon Cowell. But maybe they’re deeper and made of bigger stuff and just need the chance to show it. Things so unimportant and insignificant are made to seem so important and so significant. I suppose this contest is significant to those in the running because it could change their lives, the lives of their families. I just pray it will be a change for the better, for the more honorable, the more noble.

And I pray that I’ll live this day pleasing to God wherever I go and whatever I do. You too?

By the way, the picture at the top is of a house in our neighborhood. Unbelievable. Clark Griswald eat your heart out. I took it a Christmas and, well, with all that's happened since, I just forgot to share it with you. How'd ya like to be this guy's neighbor??