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Category: Sports

The Strange Saga of NBA Star Jonathan Isaac

jonathan isaac

Guest post by Steven S.

Many people do not think I am a fan of sports. That could not be further from the truth. My dad is a scout for high school basketball. His love and passion for the game influenced me tremendously. I love all kinds of basketball. I think it is the most graceful and progressive sport out there. That opinion was reinforced when the NBA recently resumed games this past week. The latitude the NBA allowed the players to highlight their messages and causes, especially as it relates to the Black Lives Matter movement, was moving and inspiring. The first game back, all the players kneeled in solidarity. It was enough to move me to tears.

Then something happened. One of the players in the next game: a young man from the Orlando Magic named Johnathan Isaac refused to kneel for the anthem or wear a jersey with a social justice message printed on it. The media outlets wondered, what could make Isaac break so drastically from the pervading sentiment of the league? What was his reasoning? Was his motive a well-thought, finely-nuanced work? Most folks withheld their criticism until Isaac had a chance to speak.

When Isaac did eventually speak, here is what he said:

For me Black lives are supported through the gospel. All lives are supported through the gospel. We all have things that we do wrong and sometimes it gets to a place that we’re pointing fingers at who’s wrong is worst. Or who’s wrong is seen, so I feel like the Bible tells us that we all fall short of God’s glory. That will help bring us closer together and get past skin color. And get past anything that’s on the surface and doesn’t really get into the hearts or men and women.

What does this sound like if not a religiously-influenced and misguided attempt to evangelize and make a stand for Jesus? What does it sound like if not a paean to the “All Lives Matter” crowd of Evangelicals? What does this sound like but an equivocation of the grievous sins of White supremacy and privilege, police brutality, slavery, racism, and discrimination with sins like adultery and not going to church on the Lord’s Day?

How could something like this go so wrong? Of course, Mr. Isaac has the right to believe and act as he wants. I will defend his right to act as he did, but I will dissect the religious toxicity behind it.

For too long, Christianity, especially Evangelicalism, has been used as a shield from the wrongdoings our society has committed in the past and present. Isaac’s actions fit into that larger picture. All sins are equal in the eyes of God, now that we are washed in the blood and saved. Jesus is the answer. The Gospel is the great uniter. It all seems so simple. Win enough hearts to Christ and all the ills of this world will be wiped out. It would all be so great if these beliefs, held by tens of millions, weren’t so deluded.

Our actions in the here and now matter. What happens in the here and now matters. Attempting to distract and deflect from that is what Evangelical Christianity does best. Isaac’s statement takes away from the special, critical gravitas of the here and now, placing it on a someday when every knee has bowed and every tongue has confessed. It is a very myopic worldview that extends no empathy to those of other beliefs or nonbelievers.

The whole idea that Christianity will help bring us closer together and suThe whole idea that Christianity will help bring us closer together and supersede skin color is laughable. Christianity has driven people apart for over twenty centuries. People used Christianity to justify torture, murder, and owning others as property. How someone can expect that process to not continue is beyond me. Christianity does not change, but instead amplifies the kind of person a believer already is, albeit perhaps in a milder form today than in previous centuries.

Isaac’s words effectively cast a pall over one of the most critical movements to ever spring up in our nation to lead us toward grappling with and addressing the White privilege and supremacy inherent in all of our institutions. They diminish the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and the many other Black lives lost to White vigilantism and police brutality.

While Mr. Isaac is undoubtedly a phenomenal basketball player, he is not so phenomenal at seeing how his actions hurt instead of help our nation heal from the tragedies White supremacy has inflicted on this country. My hope is that he educates himself with the help of his teammates on why his actions, instead of providing hope, provided a sense that he was grandstanding for Jesus. I sincerely hope Mr. Isaac can one day see how disrespectful his actions were to a movement and league that wants nothing more than for the oppressed to have the same rights as their oppressors.

Since the writing of this post, Isaac has torn his ACL and is out for the season.

NFL Bans Prayer

nfl players praying

In a move that is certain to shake the very foundation of masturbatory Evangelical Christianity, the National Football League (NFL) told players they would not be permitted to have prayer spectacles after games. That’s right, players will have to keep their piety to themselves.

Is this not yet another sign that evil atheists and secularists have taken over America? First, these tools of Satan took over our schools and Costco, and now they have infiltrated the One True Church — The NFL. Where will it all end?

I call on Evangelical football players to take a stand by wearing Evangelical Prayers Matter shirts. Regardless of the anti-prayer edict from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, “Give God All the Glory” players should gather after the games at the fifty-yard line, kneel, lift up holy hands — especially wide receivers and tight ends — and pray.

If Evangelical football players don’t stand their ground, the Christian God will no longer bless their endeavors. Worse yet, without players praying, Western Civilization will collapse. Forget all that Black Lives Matter nonsense. All that matters is pretense and making a show. Everybody knows that God only hears prayers when there’s an audience.

And when Evangelical football players prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray kneeling at the fifty-yard line, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, their fame is their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into the corner of the locker room, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to Jesus which is in secret; and he which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly with more catches, touchdowns, tackles, sacks, and interceptions. (Matthew 6:5-6, NFLV)

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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The Summer of 1968: Little League Baseball and Dad’s Corvair

bruce gerencser eighth grade
Summer of my eighth grade year, with my mom and a friend (that’s a Rambler in the background) My mom is five foot eight, so as you can see I was quite short at this age.

Several weeks ago, I attended my grandson’s Little League baseball game at the Ney park. In 2007, my wife and I bought a home in Ney, three blocks from the park. Ney is little more than a spot along Route 15, home to one stoplight, two bars/restaurants, one gas station, and 354 people. The park has several ball fields, one of which is used to play youth league baseball games. What makes Ney’s field unique is that it has lights. My grandson’s game had an eight o’clock start time, meaning that part of the game would be played under the not-so-bright lights. A half-hour before game time, I gathered up my Sony camera, my water bottle, and my oversized lawn chair and headed down to the park. Bethany, my twenty-eight-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome, gathered up her purse, water bottle, and backpack — filled with coloring books, colored pencils, and crayons – and headed down to the park with me.

I positioned myself just beyond the first base line so I could photograph the action. My grandson plays for Tinora. Their adversary for the night was a team of players made up of boys from Ney and the surrounding area. As I surveyed Ney’s players, I noticed that one of them, who was of slight build, had fiery red hair. Seeing this boy brought memories of another redheaded boy who played under the lights on this very field fifty years ago. In the spring of my fifth-grade year, my dad moved us from Harrod, Ohio to Farmer, a small community five miles west of Ney. We moved into a farm house two miles outside of Farmer, a home owned by my dad’s sister and brother-in-law. We would live there for two summers. During these summers, I played baseball for the Farmer Tigers. Back in the 1960s, country boys roamed the countryside, rode their bikes, went swimming, and if they were lucky, played baseball. I was never a great baseball player. If fifteen players were being picked for a team, I was always one of the last boys chosen. I had two things going for me: I was left-handed and I was a fast runner. By the time I made the Farmer team, I had already developed bad habits that hurt my ability to hit a baseball. These bad habits would follow me through Little League and into summer league high school baseball. Being slight of build and left-handed, I stood close to the plate when I batted. This made me an easy target for balls thrown by wild pitchers who were not used to throwing to left-handed batters. Over the course of the four years I played Little League baseball, I repeatedly got plunked in the head, back, and legs with wildly thrown pitches. These repeated beanings made me gun-shy, and my inability to stand in there and hit the ball turned me into an offensive liability. My coach for the two years I played for Farmer decided the best approach for my lack of offensive prowess was to have me bunt and run like hell. I was fast on my feet, and as a left-hander, I was two steps closer to first base than a right-handed batter.

I don’t remember my parents ever attending my games while I played for Farmer. On occasion, my father would pick me up after a game and take me home, especially if it was late and I would have to ride my bike home after dark. One night, Dad came to pick me up with his blue Corvair. For those not familiar with the Chevrolet Corvair, its motor was in the rear and its trunk was at the front. Dad opened the trunk so he could put my bicycle away. After doing so he shut the trunk so we could be on our way. For some reason, the trunk wouldn’t latch. After several attempts to get the trunk to latch shut, dad came up with an ingenious plan: he would have me lie down in the trunk and hold it down while he drove us home. And that’s what we did. At the time, I saw my ride in the trunk as a great adventure; and indeed it was as we bounced down Route 249 to our home. I suspect if my dad did the same thing today, child protective services would be paying him a visit the next day. I am sure some of the parents of my fellow baseball players wondered what Bob Gerencser was up to. Who in their right mind puts their son in the trunk? Right mind or not, this redheaded old man has never forgotten his ride home in the summer of 1968 — a time when war raged in Vietnam, race riots inflamed American cities, and assassins’ bullets claimed Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. This remains one of the few “good” memories I have of my father.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Sorry Sister Jean, God is a Michigan Fan

sister jeanIf you are a fan of NCAA college basketball — especially March Madness — you have likely heard of Loyola-Chicago’s biggest fan and cheerleader, Sister Jean. Today, Sister Jean — who is also Loyola-Chicago’s chaplain — made a bold prediction. When asked if she thought the Big Kahuna was on Loyola’s side, she repliedRight now, yes. It’s been awhile since Catholics have had a team to root for, so I suppose I should cut the ninety-eight-year-old Sister Jean a bit of slack. However, I have it on good authority that Michigan, not Loyola, is actually God’s team. In fact, the Holy Spirit let it be known that God, the Father picked the Wolverines to win it all. The Holy Spirit also told me that Jesus had all his money of number one seed University of Virginia. Well, we know how that all worked out. Virginia was thrashed by number sixteen seed, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County — a school no one ever heard of before the tournament. The Spirit said that the Jesus was so depressed after Virginia’s loss that he almost killed himself — again.

Sister Jean says that God’s put the fix in, and Loyola-Chicago is going beat Michigan. Yet, the third part of the Trinity says that God, the Father let it be known at Trump’s Heavenly Sport’s Bar® that Michigan is going to take home the title. What are mere mortals to make of this confusion? If Sister Jean is as plugged in with God as she says she is, surely she would be rooting for Michigan. Sister Jean should take a stand on the infallible basketball picks of God, even if it means suffering great persecution from Loyola fans and players. I am sure Sister Jean doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of history. I know it’s a Catholic thing to always be on the wrong side of monumental historical events – say, legalization of same-sex marriage — but one need to only to look at the relevant stats and game film to know that Michigan is the better team. And if there’s anything I learned as an Evangelical Christian it is this: God’s always on the side of winners. Montana, Houston, Texas A&M, and Florida State all learned that God wears maize and blue. I call on Sister Jean to repent and start rooting for the Team Up North®. If I, a lifelong Ohio State fan, can swallow my pride and root for God’s team, so can Sister Jean.

Of course, all jesting aside, Saturday’s game between Michigan and Loyola-Chicago will not be settled by the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. The game will be decided by the play on the court, not prayers or other frivolous religious antics. Suggesting a deity cares about and is interested in the outcomes of a game — any game — makes a mockery of religious faith. Think of all the things God could or should be doing — you know, stopping wars, putting an end to gun violence in schools, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and helping Kenneth Hagin get a new jet. Oh wait, God gave Hagin his new jet. Awesome job, God. Another world crisis solved. Now if you could do something about war and school gun violence, that would be great.

Sister Jean is certain that God is on her team’s side; that they are going to beat Michigan on Saturday. I wonder what she will say if her certainty is rubbed into the dirt of Big 10 physicality? Will God be blamed for the loss, or will the blame be placed on Loyola’s players and coaches? Surely, if God is the divine bracket designer, shouldn’t he be held accountable when the pronouncements of his followers fail to come to pass? Sister Jean, as with many Christians, says she knows the mind of God. If this is so, what are we to make of all the times clerics gave us a word straight from the mouth of God to our ears, and it proved to be wrong? Are these men and women of God mishearing what the divine puppet master is saying? Or, is it possible that the only voice that they are hearing is their own? That when they authoritatively say that they are one with God in some sort of Vulcan-like mind meld, that what they are really sensing or hearing is the machinations of their own mind and that “God” is, in fact, nowhere to be found?

There will indeed be a winner come Saturday night. The team that shoots, rebounds, and defends the best will win the game. I have watched Michigan play numerous times this year. My money is on the Wolverines, even if rooting for them causes Woody Hayes to roll over in his grave. I am an Ohio State fan first, and a Big Ten fan second. Once my team is eliminated, I root for whichever Big Ten team is still alive. I thought, at first, Michigan State would make it to the Final Four. After they lost, I turned my loyalty towards Purdue. A broken elbow sidelined Purdue’s center, Isaac Haas, and without him, Purdue had no chance to make it to the title game. After Purdue lost, Michigan was the last Big Ten team left standing. So, on Saturday night, I will hold my nose and cheer for Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Jordan Poole, Mo Wagner and company as they thump the Catholics. May Sister Jean learn that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the mighty Wolverines. As Michigan coach Beilein said, If God be for us, who can be against us? Mark it down … Michigan, by twenty.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

There Are So Many Gays in the Olympics Now

gay olympians

My wife and her mother talk via telephone every Sunday evening around 9:00 PM. One recent topic of discussion was the Winter Olympics. Polly and her Mom both shared what events they liked watching. Polly’s mom, a devout Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christian, shared one observation that left Polly and me laughing when she told me what her mom had said. There sure are a lot of gays in the Olympics now, Mom said, with, I am sure, a shaking of her head a low sounding, umm hmm — the sound she makes when something or someone doesn’t meet her approval.

Polly said nothing. She could have, of course, told her mom that there have always been gay athletes in the Olympics. Gays, gays, gays, everywhere gays, but for most of Mom’s life, they quietly hid in dark closets, so she didn’t see them. Out of sight, out of mind. Now that closet doors have been flung open, Fundamentalists are forced to see and engage people who are considered by them to be abominable reprobates. I have no doubt that Fundamentalists wish that gays would stop flaunting their sexuality — you know like heterosexuals flaunt theirs.

Mom’s youngest brother died of a viral heart disease at age fifty-one. Art was a wonderful man, a pacifist who refused to carry a gun during the Vietnam War. He was a telecommunications operator. Art lived in Michigan, hours away from his Fundamentalist family. When he traveled to Ohio to visit on holidays, he would attend church with the family at the Newark Baptist Temple. I never heard Art talk about God, Jesus, the Bible, or Christianity. He supposedly made a profession of faith as a boy, but I doubt that Art attended church other than when he was visiting his Fundamentalist family. After Art died, it was left to his two preacher’s-wife sisters to settle his estate and take care of his personal property. There were things “found” at his apartment that still can’t be talked about to this day. I’ve thought, over the years, surely everyone knew Art was gay. The first time I met Art was Thanksgiving 1976. I knew immediately that Art was “different” from the rest of us fine upstanding Christians. It’s too bad he died so young. I suspect he would have found today’s societal openness towards gays liberating. I would love to have had an opportunity to talk to him about life as a gay man in a Fundamentalist Baptist family.

I don’t fault my mother-in-law for being homophobic. She was raised in a Fundamentalist Christian home where human sexuality was defined by the Bible. Gay people were disgusting, vile cretins in need of old-fashioned Baptist salvation. Getting saved turned sinners into saints, homosexuals into heterosexuals. This is how I was raised too. From my elementary school years forward, I heard pastors, youth directors, and Sunday school teachers say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah over the sin of ho-mo-sex-u-al-ity (shout the word loudly, enunciating each syllable while pounding on the pulpit). Gay people were viewed as sexual predators. No child was safe when near homosexuals. Church was considered a safe haven because there supposedly weren’t any gays in IFB churches.

I didn’t personally know a gay person until high school. I knew a lot of people who were called queers and faggots, but these slurs were often hurled towards boys who refused to participate in gym or who acted in ways deemed unmanly. They may or may not have been gay. In ninth grade, my gym teacher decided to teach us how to square dance. My pastor got wind of this and made a fuss. Dancing? In school? This resulted in me sitting on the sidelines while everyone else, save two other boys, learned to do-si-do and swing their partner round and round. The other two boys? Yeah….the two “queers” who refused to participate in gym. I was thoroughly embarrassed by having to sit with these boys. (Please read Good Baptist Boys Don’t Dance.)

I am sure my mother-in-law, along with her fellow Christians, is upset and alarmed over how out-in-the-open gay people are these days. Why, there’s even gays kissing on TV! Umm hmm. What Fundamentalists fail to understand is that there have always been gay people. Religious oppression kept them from openly expressing their sexuality. Now, LGBTQ people are out of the closet and openly living their lives as they see fit. Their openness scares the Jesus right out of Fundamentalists. They genuinely believe that homosexuality is a sin above all sins, and that societies which endorse and support such behavior will be judged and destroyed by God. This is why Fundamentalists opposed same-sex marriage and continue to threaten boycotts of companies that support the “gay agenda” or the “gay lifestyle.”  The problem now, of course, is that anti-gay Fundamentalists make up a small and shrinking percentage of Americans and tend to live in southern or rural communities. They no longer have the political power necessary to turn back the Sodomite horde. As the United States becomes more inclusive and tolerant, Fundamentalists are forced to admit that Christianity no longer rules the roost; that even some Evangelicals now think it is okay for people to be gay; that come the next Olympics there will be gay athletes. Umm  hmm…..

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Living with Chronic Pain and Disability: “It’s Not Too Far Away, You Can Walk it”

girls high school basketball february 24 2918What follows is a letter I wrote  several days ago to the athletic director at Miller City High School and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA):

February 27, 2018

Dear Deb,

Today, I attended the Fairview vs. Spencerville High School Tournament basketball game. I arrived at the venue seventy-five minutes before the doors opened. I asked the parking lot attendant to point me to the handicapped parking spaces nearest the gymnasium. He had me park in the handicapped spots in front of the main entrance. Indeed, this allowed me a short, easy path to my seat.

After the game, attendees were required to exit via the doors opposite of where I entered. When I realized that this path was going to take me away from where I was parked, I asked a man handling crowd control to tell me the best way to get to where I was parked. I told him exactly where I was parked. Instead of allowing me (or anyone else who parked in the front handicapped spaces) short, easy access to my parking space, he told me I had to exit the far side of the building. He then said, and I quote, “it’s not too far away, you can walk it.”

First, how did he know what “not to far away” was for me? There was a reason I parked where I did, and I expected to be able to return to my vehicle via the same path I entered the venue. Second, how did he know I could walk it? Did he have magic powers that enabled him to divine my handicap and physical abilities? Not wanting to press the matter further, I walked the long hallway to the far exit and exited the building. I then had to walk around the building to the front where my car was parked. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time I reached my vehicle.

I am writing this letter to make you aware of this issue, asking that you please address my concerns with the relevant people. In the future, if people parking in handicapped spaces are expected to exit the far side of the building, then the parking spaces should be on that side. If the parking spaces remain at the front of building, then handicapped attendees parking in them should be able to exit the venue the same way they entered.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Bruce Gerencser
345 East Main Street
Ney, Ohio 43549

I received a prompt reply from Miller City’s athletic director. She assured me the matter would be looked into and changes made so handicapped people don’t face this or similar problems in the future. I appreciated Deb’s thoughtful reply. As of the writing of this post, I have not heard back from the OHSAA.

I am a professional photographer. During the winter months, I attend local high school basketball games. I take numerous photographs, sharing them with the players and their families on Facebook. On a few occasions, I have even made a few bucks off my work. I thoroughly enjoy watching high school sports (both boys’ and girls’), so attending the games and photographing them provides a brief respite for me as I struggle with chronic pain and disability.

This past season, I attended thirty or so games. It’s tournament time now, so opportunities to see local teams play are becoming fewer and fewer. I have grandchildren in the Tinora and Stryker school districts, and my oldest granddaughter plays for Stryker, so I try to attend as many Tinora and Stryker games as I can. I live in the Fairview school district, so I try to attend their games as well. During the latest holiday season, I donned my red stocking hat as I attended games, leading to countless adults calling me Santa Claus, and more than a few children wondering if I was the “real” Santa. (Seriously, if I was Santa Claus, would I be spending winters in Ohio? Not a chance!) Bit by bit, high school players I have photographed have struck up conversations with me. I have learned much about high schoolers through these conversations. Attending games gives me opportunities to get out of the house, even when I don’t want to. As people with chronic pain and illness will tell you, they have to battle the tendency to want to curl up in a corner and be left alone. In my case, I know it’s good for me to be out and about, even if it causes my pain levels to rise.

In 1997, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Since then, the list of my afflictions continues to grow. I daily battle unrelenting chronic pain from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Over the weekend, I was sitting in my recliner watching TV with lover, friend, and caretaker, AKA Polly. All of a sudden, my left foot felt like it had been repeatedly hit with a hammer. My toe, if you can imagine this, was pulled back to about the ten o’clock position. For thirty or so minutes my foot throbbed with pain. I tried to walk, but I couldn’t. Finally, the pain subsided, the tears dried, and I returned to watching TV. Just another day in the life of a chronic pain sufferer. You never know what you’ll face on any given day.

I also have osteoarthritis in my neck, hands, hips, shoulders, upper back, lower back, knees, and feet. In other words, Uncle Arthur is my constant companion. Throw in high blood pressure, diabetes, incontinence, and bowel problems . . . well, life is grand. It is what it is. I embrace every day as it comes, grateful that I am still among the living.

When I attend public events such as the aforementioned basketball game, I plan my day carefully. I always arrive at least an hour early. This allows me to get parking close to the entrance, and it helps me avoid dealing with rude and inconsiderate people as they push and shove their way towards their seats. Arriving early also allows me to find seating that accommodates my handicap. At basketball games, I prefer to sit on the first row at floor level. I haltingly walk with a cane, so it is best for all involved that I don’t attempt to walk up or down bleachers. I have fallen on more than a few occasions. I suspect if three-hundred-and-fifty-pound Bruce Gerencser landed on someone it would cause serious harm. I do all I can to avoid contact with others.

Seating, of course, is not my only concern. I also have to contend with access to concession stands and bathrooms. I try to go to the concession stand when there are not a lot of people in line. Bathrooms provide a unique and, at times, harrowing experience. Public school bathrooms are supposed to be ADA compliant, but older schools are not required to follow the code. On several occasions I have had to back into stalls, shut the door, and then turn around just be pee. Zeus help me if my bladder is screaming, Gotta go NOW! Accidents happen, and all I can do is hope that no one notices the dark wet stain on my blue jeans. And going #2, as my grandchildren say? I avoid that like the plague. Everything from small stalls, cheap single-ply toilet paper, and my suspenders coming loose, conspire to make taking a dump — another euphemism for defecation which my grandchildren use — a nightmare.

I write all this to give some context as to why someone saying to me, “It’s Not Too Far Away, You Can Walk it” is a big deal. The last thing I need is for someone to dismiss my disability — even if the person does so innocently — because he was in a hurry, or just following the “rules.” I have learned that the only way for disabled people to be heard is for them to shout loudly above the noise of the crowd. In my case, shouting loudly means writing letters, emails, or blog posts. By doing so, I hope that people will be educated about the difficulties the disabled face when attending public events.

Jesus Won the Super Bowl

sorry super bowl fans

As tens of millions of Americans did on Sunday, I watched the Philadelphia Eagles defeats the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Patriots were expected to win, so kudos to the Eagles, head coach Doug Pederson, and quarterback Nick Foles for doing their part to provide TV viewers with one of the best Super Bowls in history. Thanks should also go to Patriot head coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and his defense for allowing a back-up quarterback to thoroughly and completely rout the Patriot defense. Outside of missing a pass that would have led to an easy touchdown, Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady did all he could to win the game, setting several NFL Super Bowl offensive records in the process.

After the game, news reporters turned their attention to Eagles players, asking them how they beat the Belichick-Brady dynasty. Here’s some of what they said:

My faith in the Lord means everything. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ and that’s first and foremost. That’s everything. I wouldn’t be able to do this game without Him because I don’t have the strength to go out and do this. This is supernatural.

It’s also an opportunity to go out there and share what’s He’s done in my life. And it’s not about prospering at all. It’s about how He’s humbled me. In my weaknesses, He made me strong, 2 Corinthians 12:9. You know, whenever I was at my lowest, that’s where my relationship with Christ grew.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles

I can only give the praise to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity. And I’m going to tell you something. I’ve got the best players in the world, and it’s a resilient group. I love this coaching staff. Mr. Lurie, the owner. And not only do we have the best fans in the world, we now have the best team in the world. Thank you guys.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson

Uh, I had better score. I mean, glory to God first and foremost. We wouldn’t be here without him. This team is amazing. I mean, each and every day we go out there, we love to practice, and I think that’s the foundation of this team. And wow, what a run it’s been.

Eagles receiver Zach Ertz

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Evidently, JESUS, and not the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl.

As I did research for the post, I stumbled across several articles detailing recent conversions of Eagles’ players to Evangelical Christianity. Both Nick Foles and fellow quarterback Carson Wentz view themselves as evangelists for Jesus. One report stated that at least five players have received Christian baptism in the team’s recovery pool and several more have been baptized in hotel pools.

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WND.com reports (no link due to possible virus threat):

In March, tight end Zach Ertz committed his life to Christ.

“I was baptized in March, got married the next day. Our marriage has been built on that foundation from the Word and Jesus and it’s changed my life. And just to have these guys hold me accountable on a daily basis has been phenomenal,” Ertz told CBN News.

A few months later, wide receiver Marcus Johnson was baptized in a North Carolina swimming pool ahead of a game against the Carolina Panthers.

Five teammates — linebackers Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Kamu Grugier-Hill, and wide receivers Paul Turner and David Watford — were baptized in the Philadelphia Eagles’ recovery pool late last year, according to reports.

The above mentioned article quotes Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as saying:

I think it [Evangelical Christianity] helps you be a better teammate. Our primary calling in life as a Christian is to bring out the best in other people. That’s the primary message of Christianity. We’ve been created to glorify God. How do we do that? He gives us gifts and abilities, and we’re supposed to bring those out in other people.

The article also mentions that Evangelical Carson Wentz created a promotional video for a faith-based group that uses the Super Bowl as means to evangelize non-Christians. Wentz stated:

If you are a pastor anywhere in the world who’s looking to impact the people in your community, please consider inviting me and other NFL players into your church this Super Bowl weekend. I promise it will be something God uses to transform the people you are called to serve. And I believe for all eternity.

So there ya have it, JESUS won the Super Bowl. According to numerous Eagles players, it was Jesus who gave them the strength and ability to defeat the mighty Patriots. The Bible says, in ALL THINGS give thanks. And this is all these players are doing. They are just thanking Jesus for taking time out from healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, tending to victims of child sexual abuse, and ending war to influence the outcome of the Super Bowl. What an awesome God, right?

The New England Patriots also have a number of Evangelical players. However, none of them thanked God after the game for causing them to lose the game. If God picked the Eagles to win, that means he also picked a loser — the New England Patriots. If Evangelicals are to give God thanks for ALL THINGS, why do we never hear football players thanking God for their teams going down in defeat? Surely, Jesus is worthy of praise, regardless of the score? Or does the silence from the Patriots locker room reveal the truth about how Evangelicals view life; that all good things come from God and all bad things come from Satan or are the result of sin/personal failure; that Jesus is all about winners, not losers.

And when the Eagles fail to replicate their magical 2017 season? Will Jesus get the blame, or will the blame rightly rest on being outcoached, outplayed, or not having talented enough players to win the day? Evangelical sports figures make a mockery of their faith and their God when they attribute their wins to God. With all that is going on in the world today — a sure sign that the Evangelical God is on vacation or in the bathroom — surely God can’t be bothered with the outcomes of sporting events. Yet, players assure us that he is, reminding millions of Americans of the fact that when it comes to things that matter, God is nowhere to be found.

According to the Catholic chaplain for the Minnesota Vikings, God indeed cares about and watches the Super Bowl, but he is careful not to pick a winner:

There’s a lot of praying going on during these games. If the Super Bowl is important to 115 million people, it’s important to God…If you pray for victory, your team, you pray for loss of another. But God is the God of both sides.

Way to hedge your bets, Father — a typical Catholic response to the “hard” questions of life. Evangelicals will have none of that. God is the sovereign Lord over all, including who wins the Super Bowl. And on February 4, 2018, God determined that Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles would win the Super Bowl, and the New England Patriots would lose the game. Forget all the post-game analysis. God’s will for the game was an Eagles win and a Patriots loss. No need to critique player performance, coaching decisions, or the officiating. For at least one night, the thrice Holy God who created the universe in six days was an Eagles fan. Stay tuned for which team God will choose to win next year.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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What Fans and Coaches Teach Children and Teen Players When They Scream at Officials

fairview vs defiance basketball game january 20 2018 (10)

I attend forty or so High School basketballs games a year – both boys’ and girls’ games. In the process of doing so, I shoot thousands of photographs. I have attended games at every school in the Buckeye Border Conference and the Green Meadows Conference, along with games at schools affiliated with the Northwest Ohio Athletic LeagueWestern Buckeye League, and the Three Rivers Athletic Conference. (I also attend numerous tournament games.) I could spend the next hour or two critiquing the various facilities, including how suited they are for photography.  I have watched dozens of officials work these games. Some of them are consummate pros skilled at their craft. Others, not so much. Some officials have rabbit ears, reacting negatively to coach or fan criticism. Other officials are stone cold killers, indifferent to critics in the stands. I guess what I am saying is this: I know a fair bit about Northwest Ohio basketball.

 Coaches

High school basketball coaches come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Some of them are teachers of the game, patients with their players, and rarely raise their voices. Others, are Bobby Knight-like screaming psychopaths. These screamers constantly berate their players and officials. On more than a few occasions, I’ve watched verbally assaulted players stop listening to their coaches. I am surprised that school boards think it is still okay to employ coaches who treat players in this manner. I can’t think of a thing such behavior accomplishes that couldn’t be accomplished with a lower voice raised from time to time as needed. The best coaches in the area are men and women who know how to motivate their players to play better and harder, all without psychologically brutalizing them. These screamers are throwbacks to the days when I played basketball. I have been screamed and hollered at more times than I can count, often deservedly so. That said, I had far greater respect for coaches who were passionately firm, men who kept their emotions in control, even when the play on the court was dismal.

Officials

I was always taught that you never allow a game to get to the place where the officials determine the outcome. Officials are going to miss calls. They are human, and will, at times, have a bad night. Smart players discern how the officiating crew is calling the game. Sometimes, officials let players play, rarely calling fouls. Others, call everything, even nit-picky fouls. My coaches frequently reminded me that “if it looks like a foul, it is a foul.” Players have to play smart. In doing so, they keep the officials from being the deciding factor.

Some coaches allow their players to question or talk back to officials. In my playing days, such behavior would have gotten you a technical foul and a quick trip to the bench. Several weeks ago, I attended a boys’ game where one of the players screamed at one of the officials, when are you going to call a fucking foul? The young man rightly received a technical foul and his coach took him out of the game for a couple of minutes. He should have been tossed out of the game and suspended for the next game. Should the official have called a foul? Maybe. It doesn’t matter. Respect for officials and your opponents is a crucial part of the learning experience; a fact often forgotten is that high school sports are meant to teach teenagers life lessons. When coaches, fans, and parents are screaming at the officials, is it surprising that players think it is okay to do the same?

swanton vs bryan basketball game january 19 2018 (23)

Fans and Parents

I attended girls’ basketball games tonight (both the JV and Varsity games) where a man and his wife spent the entire night berating and badgering the officials. These fans were able to see from 90 feet away that the official standing two feet away was making the wrong call. Traveling was their favorite complaint — all directed at the opposing team, of course. (The opposing team won both games, with the varsity team winning by 40.) During the JV game, the clock hadn’t ticked off 30 seconds before the home team coach was screaming at the officials for “missing” a foul. She was so abusive that one official went to her and said, I’ve heard enough. Sit.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that screaming coaches beget screaming fans. Fans smell blood in the water and go after the officials. Do the officials miss some calls tonight? Sure, but they were hardly the reason the home team received a forty-point beat-down. Lazy defense and poor shooting, and not the officials, cost the home town girls the game. As the game got into the fourth quarter, local fans started grousing about the visiting team’s players. They seemed to think that the opposing team should have stopped playing hard. One girl shot a successful three-pointer and one fan said the girl lacked class. Don’t want the girl to make the shot? Try playing defense. Play harder, play better, realizing that on some nights you are just going to get your ass whipped. (This is the same school where fans several years ago ridiculed an opposing player for being fat. Talk about class.)

Fans think their $6 ticket gives them a right to be an asshole, and to some degree they are right. I wish they would, however, consider what they are teaching children and players alike with their behavior. Some fans act as if the most important thing in the universe is their team winning the game — an event that will long be forgotten weeks or years later. Over the weekend, Polly and I attended a boys’ basketball game where a man in his sixties sitting two people away from us spent the entire night — with a blood pressure-raised red face — hollering at the officials. He was quite entertaining. He was also a buffoon.

The worst fans are the parents who spend their time constantly coaching their children from the stands or verbally disciplining them for not playing harder, making the shot, defending the opposing player, or countless other offenses. These parents, intentionally or not, embarrass their children. I have seen more than a few players cringe when Mom, Dad, or Grandpa hollers at them from the stands. These players have coaches, so there is no need for parents to be coaching them from the stands. Let the coaches do their jobs.

What is it we want high school players to learn from the game?  Sports are meant to teach life lessons; lessons such as life is hard and sometimes the best team doesn’t win the game. Sports teach players that life isn’t fair and that sometimes no matter how hard your work you are going to fail. These life lessons and more prepare these teenagers for the real world, a place that will eat them alive if they aren’t prepared. Facing adversity is essential to future success as an adult. I mentioned in a post titled Dear Bruce Turner one such experience I faced as tenth grade basketball player:

You were my basketball coach. Trinity sponsored a team in the ultra-competitive high school age Church Basketball League. One game I had a terrible night shooting the ball. I was frustrated and I told you I wanted out of the game. You refused and made me play the whole game. My shooting didn’t get any better but I learned a life lesson that I passed on to all my children years later.

I learned on that night to never quit. Play hard, even when it seems everything you do is failing. Teenagers need to learn these kinds of lessons if we expect them to grow up into mature, responsible adults. What they don’t need to learn is that it is okay to yell, holler, scream, berate, and ridicule people who do something you disagree with. Coaches and fans alike do a great disservice to players when they go after officials and the opposing team’s coaches and players. The game’s importance will quickly fade away, but the lessons taught to players and children in the stands last a lifetime.