Black “Sleepers”, A Review of Creed 3 by Michael B. Jordan

In “Sleepers” a few men who had been abused as boys in a group home years earlier get revenge in a skillful, tactful, and above board way.

In “Creed 3” two men who had been beat on as boys in a group home years earlier box each other, one of the men being Apollo Creed’s son.

“Creed 3” is not a Rocky movie.

As if that assertion isn’t damning enough, I will go one step further to make my point.

“Creed 3” is heartless. It is a body without soul. It fails Mark Twain’s marvelous rule for Romantic Literature that essentially requires, “that a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.” “Creed 3” accomplishes nothing and goes nowhere.

It should be clear now that I have essentially worshipped Rocky Balboa as a second-order deity since first viewing Rocky 3 as an impressionable, skinny boy who was good at pushups. More recently, my devotion manifest itself in the following remark I made to a new friend on the topic. I said that if I ever got a tattoo, I would get the sound of Clubber Lang’s grunts.

I’m not desiring to be a hater here. There are many powerful moments and good decisions in Michael B. Jordan’s film. To name two, the inclusion of Mexican boxing is notable and probably financially sound. And the presentation of fantasy black life is almost realistic.

But Mr. Jordan hijacked the Rocky franchise with his directorial debut.

And that’s disappointing. I really did like the first two spinoffs.


Why I Keep Watching the Ja Morant Story

I find every reaction story to Ja Morant’s stupid gang banger IG Live video fascinating. I keep watching YouTube clip after YouTube clip to try to discern how this is going to play out.

Are they spinning it to forgive and redeem? Are the spinning it to drop him from the pedestal? Are they closing options? Are they keeping options open?

I just can’t stop watching.

I know what all the major commentators think—they are fairly unanimous and all seem against crucifixion—and so now I am even curious what the YouTubers themselves think.

I even read all the comments, or most, and I skim the replies if there are quite a few.

Why? Why does this interest me so?

Because Ja Morant is my competition.

I am a dad.

I want my kids to be smart. I want my kids to be clean cut. I want my kids to have fun. I want my kids to be successful. I want the best for my kids.

But I would never commend anything Ja Morant does. Too many tattoos. Too stupid. Too flashy a hairstyle. Talks too much trash.

And yet kids see only, “Smart, cool, rich, successful, the best.” They feel that he has achieved what I preach.

So I just want to know what is going to happen and how everyone will think about it.

If he gets away with it, and doesn’t change substantially, then I lose. Or at least I have a very uphill battle.

If he gets meaningfully blackballed, then I win. Or at least I don’t lose all credibility in their mind.

We’ll see.

“The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.”

“Suddenly he follows [the harlot], as an ox goes to the slaughter.”

We’ll see.

On Emails from Teachers and Administrators

It immediately pleased me when I learned that Tolstoy’s epic “War and Peace” was initially released as a serial in the newspaper or equivalent. The book is so daunting in size (nearly one thousand pages) that I always wondered how any mortal chose to begin it—especially back then.

But wow. If you can start it, it will change your life.

It is fair to say that Leo Tolstoy, the greatest novelist, has been replaced by the words of teachers and administrators.

Is anyone else receiving epic and asinine emails from their child’s teachers and administrators? The vanity involved in this exchange is without equal.

People who have demonstrably no writing skill whatsoever (wouldn’t even consider claiming they do) are bludgeoning parents on the head—as if being a parent needs anymore discouragement—with well-meaning, lists of demands.

Just today I received a 300-word message which amounted to, “Stop communicating to us about our weather decision. We get it.”

Earlier today, 416-words from a drama teacher.

Even earlier today, 40 word fundraiser. 166 word weather decision.

Last night, 463 words about the fact that a weather decision may need to be made.

Each email demanded something from me. Contrast this with how Tolstoy’s words give something to me.

Teachers, administrators: you already have my kid. What else do you want?

You want my time? You want my attention?

Sorry. Not gonna happen. You wasted my time throughout childhood. Not gonna fool me again.

I Hate That

Click bait, surely. But I don’t know how else to describe what happened.

I have two babies right now. A- is 2.5 and J- is 11 months. When A- was younger, I wanted to get her the classic shape sorter game/activity.

If you don’t know, they have many versions these days. The old red and blue one with yellow pieces is retro.

The one I decided upon is a blue dome with a knob or button thing on top that rotates the top half. So the shapes change each time the knob is depressed. A square/cube area becomes a top half triangle, bottom half cube. And the oval piece changes to top half concave thing, bottom half oval. You get the picture.

Anyhow, my wife and I have been embattled for some time now. (Not ever going to go into details here, sorry.) Almost every conversation becomes an argument. Well, I get on the floor with the babies tonight and start to play. I have been working a ton of late and this is a rare event these days.

I see my wife helping J- to put the cube in the cube space.

Good, I think.

Then I see her encouraging him to put in a wrong piece that happens to fit sideways into that same hole, but is clearly (by markings on the pieces themselves) not meant for that spot.

“That doesn’t fit there,” I exclaim, as if I believed the LORD could actually prevent J- from becoming Special Needs at this point.

“Yes it does,” my wife responds.

“What?” I ask, dumbfounded. “It may fit, but you don’t train the baby to put it there. The entire point is the right piece to the right spot.”

“I know.”

“Are you sure?? Because it seems like you just told me that ‘it fits’, even though it doesn’t?”


With Metallica’s new album and tour announcements, I have been mentioning to a coworker that I may text him some songs as he is uninitiated. I haven’t yet. It’s actually a daunting task to share something so intimate.

As I wait and consider songs, I found myself listening to the radio today, and a perfectly poetic—in the “eternally powerful” sense of the word—rock song came on. It’s main lyric is, “I hate everything about you/why do I love you?”

This got me thinking. I know exactly what he means. Not because I hate everything about my wife, but because it’s a killer lyric. Here’s my attempt at a killer lyric.

I want my wife to think/She never thinks anymore

I hate that my wife won’t think/When she does think, I have seen good results—like with most people/I think

Why won’t she think?

Teaching our son the wrong way to do the game is tantamount to abuse

Abuse/Not because the game matters—though it does

Abuse/But because other kids (her son for example) didn’t or don’t have games

Abuse/Because it’s a complete waste of an opportunity

Abuse/And I hate that

I Believe I Speak for All of Us

I believe I speak for all of us when I say, “Sorry, but you’re wrong, Mr. US Official. This is like Top Gun. Shoot it down.”

How do I know we’re right?

First, I became a US military pilot because of Top Gun.

Second, anytime a representative of China speaks, they are lying.

Third, on the topic of espionage, anytime any government official from any nation, even our great USA, speaks, they are lying.

Fourth, what great patriots they would be who sacrificed their lives to the falling debris.

Fifth, instincts have a role in decision making. And we all have an instinct that the puny Chinese believe they’d win if they fought us. We have an opportunity here. I’m talking send up a B actor or X Games “has been” with an Air Soft to bring it down. Doesn’t anyone desire glory anymore?

In any case, I repeat, I believe I speak for all of us when I say, “Sorry, but you’re wrong, Mr. US Official. This is like Top Gun. Shoot it down.”

On the Relationship Between Motivational Speaking and Biblical Interpretation

At any point where motivational speaking and the teachings of Scripture reveal discordance, it is one’s interpretation of the Bible that needs adjustment.

Youth sports again being the catalyst (pretty low point in marriage too), I have found myself re-visiting some motivational speaking to help orient my thoughts and perspective. And I have to say that I love it.

For most of my life I’ve always wanted to hear what folks had to say about how motivational speaking relates to the Bible. As far as I had seen and experienced, whatever the actual content of the Bible, many Christians “let go and let God.” The trouble with this is that motivational speakers are out there getting results for people. And oftentimes, they use Scripture—sometimes even in context—to get the job done. So what gives? Or, more to the point, I wondered, “What do real theologians do with motivational speaking and the Bible?”

I still don’t know.

But I know my Bible today more than I ever did in the past and more than most and I know what I think.

I think that at any point where motivational speaking and the teachings of Scripture reveal discordance, it is one’s interpretation of the Bible that needs adjustment.

3 Reasons Youth Basketball Is Better Than Church

I am kinda the last Boy Scout. I am definitely one of the last pilots of the last male-only squadron of the USAF. And I think my generation was the last one which didn’t turn youth sports into the all-consuming beast that it is.

I’ve mentioned how easily my own 12 year old went from 2 practices a week and five tournaments in 12 weeks, to Mon-Fri practices/games, in addition to the 5 weekend tournaments. It’s been crazy.

I’ve also mentioned how my attempts to join a church have been actively rebuffed. One church’s staff member actually told me I could watch but not speak at their Wednesday night youth service. Another church’s head deacon invited me to coffee to suggest now isn’t the time to join his church.

Keep in mind that I have a “Graduate Certificate In Biblical Studies” which means that I certainly care and also that I certainly have studied the Bible and Christian History (history and philosophy in general too) more than any rural Christian member (or Pastor) ever could dream to have. (Only slight hyperbole.)

I have done light internet research into the topic, “Youth Sports are better than church” and the only or main results are articles written by Christians which offer tips on how to navigate the two worlds.

That said, it’s time someone tell the truth.

Here are three reasons youth basketball is better than church.

1. Basketball is fun.

Attend any youth or children’s activity at a protestant Christian church and you’ll find adults trying to make said activity fun. Well, with basketball, it is fun.

2. Basketball, win or lose, instills youths with desirable life skills.

Attend any youth or children’s activity at a protestant Christian church and you’ll find adults trying to persuade kids that the Bible has eternal life skills within it. Well, with basketball, life skills (perseverance, growth, not to mention hand-eye coordination) appear like wetness with water. No advocate needed.

3. Basketball games provide a perfectly indirect (safe) way to make new friends, both for kids and parents (me).

Attend any youth or children’s activity at a protestant church and you will not find parents. If any parents are there, they are too occupied to talk, what with making speeches to kids that church is fun, and that church will endow them with life skills.

Put simply, as a Christian man and parent, now that I’m involved, honestly, I am not afraid to report that youth basketball is better than church. Sometimes the games are on Sundays. Sometimes not. I’m not recanting my faith; Jesus Christ is Lord forever and ever and ever. Glory. Hallelujah. Amen.

But I won’t ever feel guilty for recognizing that basketball is the better activity for my kids and I and skipping church.

I’m Twelve. And I Believe Exile is Worse than Death.

My wife responds to my news, with barefaced contempt, “Because he’s black?”

“No. I didn’t say he brought the gun to school because ‘he’s black’. He did it because he’s stupid,” I clarified. “The reason I said he is black is because your son thinks all things black are right and cool, which itself is stupid, but the main point is I want to know what your son, A-, has told you about it. Because it is important that he agrees with me that this kid did something truly stupid.”

“He told me it was stupid.”

“Really?” I wondered, in blunt disbelief.


“Hey. How come you didn’t tell me about W- bringing the gun to school?” I asked A- nonchalantly as we drove home from school ball.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, what do you think?”

“I don’t understand why he would be expelled for bringing it.”

“Did you mention it to your mom?”

“On Monday I told her about it, but I thought it was a toy gun then.”

“Did you ever use the word ‘stupid’?”

“I may have said that I thought it was stupid that he was in so much trouble.”

“Okay,” I said. (I knew the boy would not react, ‘W- did something stupid.’ Check.) Then I took a father’s breath. “Here’s the thing. The most famous school shooting happened when I was a senior in high school. That’s over twenty years ago. And they have been happening regularly since then. For someone to bring any kind of gun to school at this point is absolutely, totally, and irredeemably stupid. Understand? Guns destroy. School, in theory, is about creation. The two will never mix. He was stupid. Or his decision was stupid. I don’t really know him.”



“Well,” I answered my own 12 year old, H-, that night on FaceTime, “one of A-’s teammates brought, like, a bb gun to school. He’s probably gonna be expelled. So that’s causing some drama amongst the kids.”


“Why is this shocking?”

“I can see suspended, but expelled? From the entire district?”

Drawing enough air to fill a sermon, “Guns kill people. Kids have been killing people in schools for twenty years now. What are we even debating, my daughter? So what if the kid has to go to another school. His parents maybe should be forced to move and try to live another way somewhere else. What they’re doing so far has failed. No person alive can suggest that ‘they didn’t know’ to NOT bring a weapon to school. How are we even talking about this, H-?”

“Okay, geez.”

“Tell me that your father thinks it is absolutely stupid to bring a gun to school and that it is absolutely fair to expel a kid who does.”

“You think-”

“-No, say, ‘my father’,”

Oh, the glare.

“My father thinks it is stupid to bring a gun to school and fair to expel anyone who does.”



Please, dear reader, lament with me. You already know how much I loathe public school. To hear that both my not-so-bright step-son and my I’d-like-to-believe-has-paid-attention-at-least-once-in-while daughter believe that expulsion or exile from the community is worse than being killed by a school shooter only feeds the fire.

Education is supposed to liberate, not indoctrinate. It’s supposed to turn the brain on, not off. Create, not conform.

Choose life, kids. Especially if it means alone.

People are stupid.

Our Little Exvangelical

Of all the annoying words that unfortunately carry usefully definite meaning, I have to say “exvangelical” is my least favorite. But I just listened to the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast and so it is now in my lexicon.

In any case, this is a word which upon one hearing the meaning is clear. Or rather, in one use we can tell what it does not mean. It isn’t denoting apostasy from Christianity, it is just expressing that the tenets of evangelical Christianity are too much too bear.

Well, tonight I discovered the exvangelical roll has an additional name.

My step-son, A-, is twelve, as I have mentioned. That’s seventh grade.

He is playing traveling basketball, which here in rural Minnesota is not quite insane or indicative of his abilities or desires. It’s just what they call the most base level of youth basketball. Two practices a week. A few three-game tournaments.

Traveling basketball as a term is also useful because, we have learned, there is another kind of youth basketball being played in the winter months—school ball.

Long story short, since hearing that there is such a thing as school ball, A- is now practicing or playing basketball 6 days a week. What can I say? Basketball is something A- enjoys. I’d rather see him do something he enjoys than yell at him for being (fill in the blank with undesirable qualities) all day and night.

For my part, too, I have been fascinated at comparing my youth basketball experience with my local church experience.

Remember my, “Guests cannot speak. Not even me.” post? That was church world. Now, in youth sports, as of a few weeks ago, I am coach of the B Team.

Why did they let me? What are my qualifications? Did I go to the equivalent of seminary for basketball, you may ask?

I simply had to display interest and availability.

Next thing I knew, I was choosing tournaments and directing where the money should be sent.

Back to our little (and new) exvangelical.

Tonight at dinner, keep in mind it is Wednesday night, I said to A-, are we still aiming to make YTH tonight? (Out loud you would’ve heard “youth”, but the trendy multi-site Assemblies church calls it YTH.)

“Oh,” he says sheepishly. “I kinda forgot about that.”

I then said, chuckling, “Well, now you know what it feels like for every other Christian in America.”