Tagged: basketball

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.


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.

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.”

Trying To Help Somalis At Open Gym

So I took A- (12 year old step-son, immigrated to America at 8–not my 2 year old daughter of the same initial letter) to the community center earlier today so he could horse around playing basketball.

Being the overbearing, meaning perfect, step-dad that I am, I initially wanted to work on his individual skills—like last Saturday—but he clearly indicated that he just wanted to be a kid today. Whatever.

While there, I witnessed the typical community center basketball court open gym scene. One of the two courts had a 5-on-5 pickup game going. The other two hoops had free shooting. Oh, and big dreams could be seen every time a kid made a basket.

Next, two Somali kids barged in with a decently loud presence. They headed to the wall where some gymnastic pads were hanging and it soon became clear that some sort of mischief is afoot. Behind the mats, emergency exit doors. Two Somalis soon grew to four. Isn’t that always the case, Minnesota?

(Switching to present tense, for effect.)

I yell out, “Hey. Why don’t you just pay?” (It’s $3.)


“Why don’t you just pay?”

I live for these moments. Everyone has to decide what’s appropriate. Escalate? De-escalate? Either choice requires a decision that the entire world witnesses.

The kid says, playing it cool, “We don’t have the money.”

I shake my head. They walk away knowing I’m watching them. For a second I feel unresolved. I’m not interested to get them in trouble. I’m interested to get them to improve. At this moment, I’ve lost. But I won’t give up hope. What can I do? What options do I still have to achieve my goal?

I walk over to the bench where the future inmates are getting their shoes on etc. I say, “Hey, where are the two guys? I’ll pay for them.”


I take out some cash like a big shot.

“It’s only six bucks. I’ll pay. Let’s go up to the front.”

Only one of the criminals follows me. That’s enough for my purposes, I figure. The entire mosque will know who I am soon enough. These illiterate people have a knack for oral histories, I hear.

He patiently waits as I explain the situation to the young ladies at the desk.

He even said, “Thank you.”


What do you think, dear citizen? Did I waste my hard-earned money? Did I buy a jihad? Or was this the best path imaginable? Is Jesus knocking at their hearts? Maybe something in between?

How To Be The Best Ever

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

Whoa there!  Slow down a minute.  Have you really considered what you’re doing?

You know who you are.  You’re the one believing that you really do excel at one particular skill.  You’re so confident that you could be the best ever at it, that you are on the verge of totally restructuring your life in order to prove it to the world.

If there’s not one confusing thing about life, there’s another.  Take definitions for a moment.  They can be descriptive or prescriptive.  If you’re like me and strive to always exist in the present, you likely find yourself drawn to descriptive definitions.  If you’re not like me and you prefer to live in a fantasy world, you’re likely drawn to prescriptive definitions.  For example, dictionary.com defines “peace” as “the normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world.”  That is a prescriptive definition.  Howard Bloom, crazy thinker that he is, suggests a more descriptive definition.  Starting as a Tabula Rasa, he writes “peace” usually means, “‘Since I’m on top, let’s keep the status quo;’ or ‘Now that I’ve managed to climb on your back, would you please be kind enough to sit still'” (Bloom 265).*

Reading over dictionary.com’s definition is quite comical if it is supposed to be descriptive.  The ‘normal’ condition of the world.  Right.

Back to you, though.  Here you are.  The best ever.   But no one knows it.  We don’t need sources to know what being the best is.  It is simply being better at something than everyone else.  With 20/20 hindsight, let’s see what we can learn by looking at how a couple of people who are arguably the best ever did it.

I’m thinking specifically of Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong.  If you haven’t watched MJ’s Hall of Fame speech, what you need to know is that it disappointed most people.  Not me.  I took notes.  Here was someone who was the best ever.  How did he do it?  I wanted to know.

Next we have Lance Armstrong.  Even more than MJ, Lance Armstrong solidified his place in history as the best ever.

But we’re talking about you.  So without further ado, here are the instructions.

Instructions for How To Be The Best Ever:

Step 1 –  Forsake everything, literally every other thing in your life if it doesn’t help you become the best ever.

Step 2 –  Believe, really believe that when you finally get the recognition you so desire, it will have been worth it.

*Bloom, Howard K. The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1995. Print.