Sports

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

Video Link

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.

Video Link

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.

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.

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?

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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.

Donald Trump and the NFL: The Fight for Racial Equality and Equal Protection Under the Law

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Warning! I know some readers love my atheism, but hate my politics. If you are a supporter of President Trump, you might not want to read this post. I certainly wouldn’t want you to have a stroke. Thus warned, read at your own risk!

Unless you have been hiding in a nuclear fallout shelter out of fear of a Donald Trump-fueled war with North Korea, you know that numerous National Football League (NFL) players refused to stand for the playing of our national anthem — The Star Spangled Banner. Overwhelmingly black, these men of conscience are protesting not only Donald Trump’s racist Twitter attack and offensive campaign speech that targeted protesting players, but also issues such as Trump’s support of white supremacy and the continued use by police of deadly force against innocent or unarmed black Americans. Following in the steps of Colin Kaepernick, (please read Why I Stand With Colin Kaepernick) these players are using their place in the public spotlight to call attention to racial discrimination, inequality, and hostile government actions against people of color.

Many Republicans believe that racism no longer exists in post-Obama America. Americans elected and re-elected a black president in 2008 and 2012.  A black man being elected president serves as proof to a culture steeped in white privilege that racism either no longer exists or is not that big of a deal. Yet, as events in Charlottesville showed, racism is alive and well. Thanks to the election of racist dog-whistler-in-chief, Donald Trump, white supremacist groups, the KKK, Nazis, and bigoted Evangelical Christian nationalists have, without fear, preached the old-time gospel of white superiority.

Donald Trump revealed how tone-deaf and blind he is on matters of race when he used Twitter and a campaign speech over the weekend to attack protesting black players, both in the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Here’s what President Trump had to say at a political rally for U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, “That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.

When the NFL ratings are down massively, massively. The NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening… with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard—15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.

But you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.

Trump also took to Twitter, his favorite tool for sending his words of genius out to the American public:

“…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!’

“Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!”

Supporters of Trump were quick to defend his words. What follows is a compendium of pro-Trump statements.

First up is hypocrite Rex Ryan, former coach of the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. Ryan had this to say over the weekend about Trump’s statements:

“I’m reading these comments and it’s appalling to me, and I’m sure it’s appalling to almost any citizen in our country. It should be. Calling our players SOBs and all that stuff. That’s not the men that I know. Men that I know in the locker room, I’m proud to be associated with those people. I apologize for being pissed off, but guess what, that’s it. Because right away, I’m associated with what Donald Trump stands for and all that because I introduced him. I never signed up for that. I never wanted that. That doesn’t mean I support 100-percent of the things he says, and clearly this is a case.”

Just last year at a Trump campaign rally, Ryan had this to say about the future president:

“There’s so many things I admire about Mr. Trump, but one thing I really admire about him is, you know what, he’ll say what’s on his mind. But so many times, you’ll see people, a lot of people want to say the same thing. But there’s a big difference. They don’t have the courage to say it. They all think it, but they don’t have the courage to say it.

“And Donald Trump certainly has the courage to say it, and that’s why I respect him. And you know what? So do the people of New York. This man, he’s one of the greatest businessmen, obviously, that we can ever remember. There’s no question about that.”

Some Trump officials came out in support of his attack on black NFL players:

“The owners should have a rule that players should have to stand and have respect for the national anthem.This isn’t about Democrats, this isn’t about Republicans, it’s not about race, it’s not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin

“Look, I think the NFL is an issue where the president has made a case that, as we’ve talked about, there are coaches across this country, at high-school level, who are penalized and disciplined for leading their players in prayer. And yet, you see an issue in the NFL where the media champions those who are taking a knee to disrespect the American flag. That is a dichotomy that most Americans can’t understand and for good reason. And the president’s raising attention to that. Well, he’s making the case that, in many cases, there are generations of Americans who have fought and died to protect our freedoms and fought and died for the red on that flag that represents the blood that’s been sacrificed by so many Americans. And what the president is doing is saying, “This is not the appropriate place to raise your social activism.” And I think he’s made the case that you have a First-Amendment right, if you wish, to protest the flag. But owners have a First-Amendment right, as well. They have the First-Amendment right to fire those players, if they so choose.

White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short

“I think if the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag,”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Nor wanting to be left out of the limelight, some Evangelicals unapologetically supported the pussy-grabber-in-chief:

“There’s a whole lot of talk going on about taking a knee during our national anthem. Yesterday even Stevie Wonder said he was taking not one knee, but two “for America.” I can tell you how getting on our knees could make a real difference—not in protest or in pride, but in PRAYER. Praying for each other, praying for unity, and praying for this great nation and our leaders. “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore” (Psalm 105:4).”

Franklin Graham

God bless Richard Petty, Richard Childress, and NASCAR owners for doing the right thing. They told their employees that if they disrespected the flag or the national anthem, they would get them a ride on a Greyhound bus! I think NFL owners should take a lesson from them! Do you agree?

Franklin Graham

I don’t know about you, but it’s just about time for a boycott of the NFL. At the very least, we should all agree to turn off and/or walk out of ANY game where ANY player of ANY color kneels or sits during the playing of our National Anthem. They exercise their free speech by kneeling, we exercise ours by turning them off. Much respect to the players who did not kneel, and to Jags owner Shad Khan who locking arms and standing. Good job. Everyone else, you’re fired. Go take a knee in the unemployment line.

Geoffrey Grider

I agree with our president on this issue, but my protest has nothing to do with Donald Trump. I am boycotting the NFL because I refuse to be used as a pawn in what is obviously a well thought out plan to divide America along racial lines.

So go ahead and kneel all you want during the National Anthem, and raise your fist in the black power salute because guess what? I won’t be watching you do it. And guess what else? I just happen to think there will be more than a couple of million other true patriots of this great nation not watching you along with me.

Geoffrey Grider

It’s difficult to see athletes, many of whom are black, who are paid tens of millions—some hundreds of millions of dollars for their contract to play football, stand against our country and our president, dismissing the interests of the fans who in fact pay their salaries. And it’s also difficult to see them essentially standing on a flag that so many gave their lives for. And that so many of us love, and are proud of. It is about the president. And it is about disrespect for our country. In fact, in the game yesterday between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens in London, American players kneeled during the American anthem, then stood during “God Save The Queen, Britain’s national anthem. How would McDonalds respond if the kid working at the drive through window, after taking your money, announced he was going to lecture you about his social beliefs and concerns before he would give you your burger? If the football players are calling for acceptance of the homosexual agenda—and some are, after taking the money of tens of millions of biblical Christians, they are asking us to disavow biblical teachings on the matter, including the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself. The same would apply to abortion. If the players are truly advocating for women’s rights, they could encourage the millions who watch them play to become a Christian. Christianity has done more to elevate the value of women than any other belief system in the history of the world.

Gary Randall, president of Faith and Freedom

“It is a deliberate undermining of another American institution. I’ve been convinced from the time I was a young guy that American boys play football. American boys play football, they don’t play soccer. They play soccer in Europe, they play soccer in Russia, they play soccer in Japan; in America, we play football. You look at what’s going on all across society [and] they’re doing everything they can to destroy football. Mommies aren’t letting their little boys play football anymore” because of concerns about concussions. You don’t want to get hurt? Well, quit riding in a car. There are a lot more concussions in cars than ever were on a football field, I can promise you that. You’re afraid you’re going to get hurt? Quit walking down steps. People break their legs all the time walking down steps. We’ve got to see exactly what’s going on. America’s sport is being destroyed right in front of us.”

Dave Daubenmire, former football coach

And of course this is all meant to divide America. It’s social engineering by the globalists to make whites racist. You know what whites are is lazy, candy-ass, politically correct trash. There’s not much worse in this country than white people, to get to the end of the day. They’re the ones all saying the white people are the devil.They’re the ones that came up with this race-baiting to make everybody racist. I don’t want to give an anti-white rant, but if you want one I’ve got one because I’ve been watching who’s been leading all of this. And they’re a bunch of sociopaths. And I’m sick of them.”

Alex Jones

I’m all for exercising Constitutional Rights, but this new trend is alarming. Standing honors those who have given their lives for the freedoms that we now enjoy—freedoms that allow these individuals to make millions of dollars and never have to worry about retirement or hard work. Our arrogance, as a nation, is mind-boggling. “We have forgotten God, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own” (Abraham Lincoln)….Today, entertainers mock God and America, the church is silent and passive and the courts have taken it upon themselves to assume the role of a law-making body, rather than a protector of the Constitution; they have become political rather than constitutional. The wall of separation of church and state that was designed to protect America’s freedoms has now imprisoned her…One of my great concerns is for the pulpits of America. Many are exchanging truth for tolerance, boldness for balance, and conviction for cowardliness. We don’t want to offend; we might lose our audience. But we are not to seek the applause of men but the applause of God.

Pastor Shane Idleman

I think what these players are doing is absolutely wrong. These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking a knee like they would be if they were in North Korea.

Pastor Robert Jeffress

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Unsurprisingly, given their flag-waving, white, redneck demographic, a few NASCAR luminaries came out in support of Trump:

“Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America.”

Richard Childress

“Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”

Richard Petty

“I would sit down with them and say it’s the wrong thing to do that [take a kneel], and many people, including myself, view it as an affront to our great country. If there is disenchantment towards the President or a few bad law enforcement officers, don’t have it cross over to all that is still good and right about our country.”

Andy Murstein, principle owner of Petty Motorsports

And finally, leave it to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a man who has made millions off the backs of black players, to oppose players sitting for the National Anthem:

“I do not think this is the place to express yourself in society as we recognize the American flag. So that’s not the place to do anything other than honor the flag and everybody that’s given up a little bit for it.”

Trump certainly has a constitutional right to say whatever he wants, and so far, he has exercised that right to its fullest, giving Americans a clear picture of his narcissistic personality and Make America Great (and White) Again view of the world. Unlike many on the left, I do not support silencing hate speech. Trump, along with his white supremacist supporters, have the right to pour vitriol and hate upon the heads of liberals, socialists, people of color, immigrants, and anyone else deemed un-American or inferior.  However, with the right of free speech comes the freedom of others to respond, and respond they did over the weekend:

“We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports. This union … will never back down when it comes to constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men in a game that exposes them to great risks.”

NFL Players Association executive director De Maurice Smith

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

“The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!”

Richard Sherman, player for Seattle Seahawks

“I can’t take anything our Celebrity in Chief says seriously. He’s a real life clown/troll”

George Iloka, player for the Cincinnati Bengals

“It’s disappointing that Trump is the president and talks the way he talks, though. It’s just incredibly disappointing. Rick and I had never been real political people, but prior to when all of the campaigning was going on, I mean, it didn’t take more than a minute to realize we didn’t want Donald Trump in the presidency. The guy is not all there, and I can’t tell you how shocked we were when he won, but we have been pretty vocal about it since long before Colin took a knee. So, we have some pretty strong feelings about that part of things. To see this man that you have no respect for, basically because of all that he’s done in this presidency so far, slandering my kid publicly.”

Teresa Kaepernick, Colin Kapernick’s mother

“The idea of civil discourse with a guy who is tweeting and demeaning people and saying the things he’s saying is sort of far-fetched. Can you picture us really having a civil discourse with him? It was an actual chance to talk to the president After all, he works for us. He’s a public servant. He may not be aware of that, but he is a public servant, right? So maybe as NBA champions, as people in a prominent position, we could go in and say, ‘This is what’s bothering us, what can we do about this? How about the irony of, ‘Free speech is fine if you’re a neo-Nazi chanting hate slogans, but free speech is not allowed to kneel in protest? No matter how many times a football player says, ‘I honor our military, but I’m protesting police brutality and racial inequality,’ it doesn’t matter. Nationalists are saying, ‘You’re disrespecting our flag.’ Well, you know what else is disrespectful to our flag? Racism. And one’s way worse than the other.”

Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors

“As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards equality and justice for all. Respectfully, the players of the Seattle Seahawks.”

Seattle Seahawks

Video Link

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The battle for racial justice is far from over. I suspect that the skirmish over the weekend is the first of many battles that will be fought over matters of race, equality, and what kind of country America wants to be. Some Trump supporters have argued that recent protests are all about hatred for the President. I am sure more than a few Americans hate the President. I know I do. I can’t wait for the day when either Robert Mueller or voters run Donald Trump out of office. The man is, in every way, unfit for office, a divisive individual whose simplistic worldview focuses on one word — winning. Trump is the classic playground bully, out to attack and pummel anyone and everyone who crosses him. If the President was just an oft-bankrupt billionaire reality star, few Americans would pay attention. However, Trump and his minions currently hold the keys to the kingdom. They have in their hands the power to cause untold suffering, heartache, and death. Those of us who value freedom, democracy, progress, and civil rights for all must not grow weary in well-doing. If we quit now, we are turning America over to racists, fascists, and theocrats. I want a better tomorrow for my children and grandchildren, so I do what I can to make America a better place to live — a place where people are no longer judged according to the color of their skin or the balance of their checking account.

Note

I recently participated in a forum discussion on Racism in Northwest Ohio. You can listen to the podcast here. The podcast is also available on iTunes.

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Then and Now: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

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Kate Upton, 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover Model. (See Upton interview here)

Warning! PG-13, slightly adult conversation ahead!

I have on and off over the years subscribed to Sports Illustrated (SI). Published weekly, SI features stories about athletes and sports leagues. One issue every year is devoted, not to sports, but to the wonder of the female body. The Swimsuit Issue, as it is called, is chocked full of photographs of bathing suit-wearing models. SI chooses exotic locations for the photo shoots. The photographer part of me lusts over what can only be described as a dream gig — splendid locations and beautiful women, what’s not to like, right?

Over time, the bathing suits have become skimpier; a reflection of our society’s increasing comfortableness with nudity. Every year, Evangelical groups express their outrage over the Swimsuit Issue, and every year countless Baptist preachers rush to the mail box so they can preserve their SI copy before their wives get a hold of it. Evangelical morality police are not the only people who get a self-righteous hard-on over the Swimsuit Issue. So do Catholic groups such as Catholic Youth Apostolate:

That takes us to the other half of your question, one of swimsuit models on magazines. Again, the real question here is one of intent. Swimsuit catalogs exist to sell swimwear for women. One could safely say that these kinds of images should be harmless to someone striving to live chastity [sic]. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (we use this example because the SI Swimsuit Issue is the highest grossing, most widely distributed issue of their magazine every year… interesting, for a magazine that is supposed to be supporting a culture of sports fandom) exists to sell supermodels to men. No one purchases that particular issue of SI in order to buy a new swimsuit for his wife. The women in those magazines are styled and posed in such a way that could easily lead anyone viewing them to lust – they’re often topless, sometimes naked; posed not to show off the swimwear, but their bodies.

One might say, ‘But I’m just admiring their beauty, what’s wrong with that?’ The problem lies in JPII’s quote above – you can’t admire their full beauty as a human person, because you don’t know them. All you have to admire is their physical form, separate from their heart, mind, and soul, so it’s impossible not to objectify them. Furthermore, the women in those magazines don’t express the wide variety of God’s beauty in all men and women – all the women in those magazines are roughly the same size and shape, a cultural standard of ‘beauty’ that simply means ‘sexy’ and is impossible for the average woman to achieve. Beauty is much broader than the images displayed in magazines. It’s not that these images show too much, but too little.

Does this mean that if you happen to catch a glimpse of the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue in the check-out line at the grocery store, you have sinned? Probably not. But in order to grow in the virtue of chastity, it would be wise to not pick it up and flip through the pages. In as little as two-tenths of a second, an image can be emblazoned in one’s memory for years. And Jesus would rather you not risk it, since he said that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:28). Again, make no provisions for the flesh…

This could just as easily of been written by an Evangelical preacher.

Back in my Evangelical preacher days, I would watch for the Swimsuit Issue to be delivered so I could throw it in the trash before I or one of my teenage sons was led into horrible sexual sin. One particular year, the magazine never arrived. Hmm, I thought at the time. I wonder what happened to it? Months later, while working on a vanity light in our master bathroom, I found the missing issue hidden above the cabinet. How did this magazine get here? I wondered. Come to find out, one of my sons had intercepted the magazine and hidden it. I made sure my mag-stealing son knew that he had sinned against God, and then I tore the magazine up and threw it away. Today, we heartily laugh about this story, but at the time, absconding with the magazine was viewed as a serious act of disobedience to God. I felt it my duty to make sure that my sons were not exposed to pornography, be it Playboy, Hustler, or the SI Swimsuit Issue.

Fast forward to today. Last Saturday, the 2017 SI Swimsuit Issue arrived in our mailbox. I spent 20 minutes or so looking at the magazine while we were driving to Defiance for our granddaughter’s basketball game. I didn’t have lustful thoughts or feel the need to masturbate or engage in sexual intercourse. Shouldn’t I have been filled with lasciviousness as I dared to gaze upon the exquisite bodies of the fairer sex?  What’s changed between now and twenty years ago? Gone is the fear and guilt caused by the teachings of Evangelical Christianity about sin — especially sexual sin. As many former Evangelicals will attest, once the fear and guilt are no longer a part of the equation, things once considered “sin” can be enjoyed (or not, depending on one’s tastes and desires) without feeling like the reader just committed a heinous crime. Now that God, the Bible, and Evangelical moralizers no longer have my attention, I am free to be a normal, healthy heterosexual man. What is most interesting is that, once something is no longer taboo, it often loses its power and draw.

I will leave it to Evangelical men to guiltily shuffle into the darkness with a flashlight to look at their copy of the Swimsuit Issue. I no longer need to deny myself pleasures, wants, and desires. I know that the Swimsuit Issue is not everyone’s cup of tea. Each to his own, right? No one is forced to look at the magazine. People are free to subscribe, not subscribe, or cancel their subscription over what they believe is Sports Illustrated’s promotion of “soft-porn.”

Did you, or your father, back in your Evangelical days, subscribe to Sports Illustrated?  How was the Swimsuit Issue “problem” handled? Did your pastors preach sermons about the Swimsuit Issue? Do you know of anyone who committed adultery or fornication after perusing its pages? Do you know of anyone who, after viewing the scantily clad models, turned to pornography? (You know, the Swimsuit Issue acting as a gateway drug of sorts.) Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Christian Nationalism and American Militarism on Display at Local High School Basketball Game

american militarism

It was ten after four as I pulled into the Bryan High School parking lot. I arrived thirty minutes before game time so I could make sure that I had a first-row seat for the night’s slate of basketball games between the Swanton Bulldogs and the Bryan Golden Bears.  Bethany, my daughter with Down Syndrome, was with me. Armed with pens and spiral notebooks, she spent the night drawing pictures and entertaining those who sat nearby.

I brought my camera equipment with me. I ALWAYS bring my cameras, feeling naked on those rare occasions when I leave them at home. I love watching high school basketball games. I am reminded of a time long ago — forty years ago now — when a young redhead boy sprinted up and down the court, hoping his meager effort would lead to a team victory. Never a great player, I still love the machinations of the game. Tonight’s varsity match was a blowout until late in the fourth quarter when Swanton mounted a comeback.  A flurry of shots fell through the net, trimming Bryan’s lead to eight. I wondered, would Swanton find a way to snatch victory out of jaws of defeat? Alas, it was not to be. Swanton lost all three games — ninth grade, junior varsity, and varsity.  My cousin’s son plays on Swanton’s ninth grade team. He, statistically, had a great game, but his fellow teammates did not.

I knew that tonight was going to be difficult me. It was Veteran’s Night — an opportunity for locals to recognize and applaud veterans for their service.  Surrounding me were fans wearing Trump tee shirts and hats, along with hundreds of people wearing flag apparel. These are the same people who would be outraged if I burnt a flag, demanding my arrest for violating the “flag code.” Lost on them are their own violations of the code with their Trumpesque accoutrements.

The public address announcer let the crowd know that the pregame events would begin with the Bryan band playing God Bless America. Everyone stood to their feet as the band began to play America’s second national anthem. Those near me put hands over their hearts, and several of them lustfully sang the words made infamous by the terrorist attacks on 9-11.

I did not stand, silently voicing my disapproval of the insertion of Christianity into a secular public high school event. It is not easy for me to do so. I can feel the stares, and in the past I have had people rebuke me for not giving Jesus his due. I remind those who dare to challenge me that I am an atheist and a secularist. Why should I give reverence to a mythical deity or show my support for those who care little for the separation of church and state.

Once the Christian Tabernacle Choir® finished with their hymn of praise and worship to America’s God, it was time to move on to the patriotic portion of the pregame events. The announcer asked all the veterans in attendance to stand while the rest of us stayed seated.  Dozens of veterans stood as people cheered and young millennials ran to them, giving them high fives and thanking them for their service. I did not clap, hoping that since we were seated no one would notice my lack of applause. Alas, I was quickly outed as the crowd rose to its feet, applauding and cheering those who were lucky enough not to return home in a body bag. Their raucous applause went on for several minutes.

I was the only person not standing. Across the way stood my uncle, a veteran of the Vietnam War. I am sure my refusal to participate in the night’s glorification of American militarism offended him. However, he knows that my refusal to do so is a matter of principle for me. I resolutely stand in opposition American imperialism and militarism. My refusal to stand is me saying that I oppose America’s continued involvement in violent, unwinnable wars in the Middle East.  Without soldiers, politicians would not be able to stuff American exceptionalism down the throats of the world.  Most of all I refuse to stand because I don’t want one more drop of blood shed in my name. I don’t want American men and women dying just so I can have the “freedom” to watch basketball games. I will gladly not watch another sporting event if it means no more violence, carnage, and bloodshed. How dare we cheapen military deaths with empty words about freedom and the American way of life. Enough! I say, to the endless violence and destruction.

After the veterans were seated, it was time for the playing of the National Anthem. As is my custom, I stood, removed my hat, and held it over my heart with my right hand. As the band played, I turned my gaze to the flag and quietly sang the Anthem.  A tear trickled down my cheek as I pondered what has become of the United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Tim Tebow!

tim-tebow-praying

The Adventures of Tim Tebow

“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!”

“Look! Up in the sky!”
“It’s a bird!”
“It’s a plane!”
“It’s Tim Tebow!”

Ah yes, Tim Tebow is in the news again, this time for praying over a man having a seizure, supposedly resulting in divine deliverance. CHARISMA breathlessly reports:

Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow’s effective prayer for a fan suffering from a debilitating seizure sparked a social media frenzy Tuesday night.

Tebow was signing autographs after his first baseball game as a Scottsdale Scorpion when a fan suddenly hit the ground and started convulsing uncontrollably.

Tebow sprang into action and laid hands on the man, praying for his healing and comforting him until paramedics arrived.

The violent seizure reportedly stopped moments after Tebow prayed with him. The miraculous healing had many people take to social media expressing their amazement at the power of prayer.

Kari Van Horn tweeted, “Tebow signing autographs. Fan has what looks like seizure. Not moving. Tebow puts hand on him and says a prayer. Man breathes. WOW.”

@danielkellybook took to video and wrote, “My friend had a seizure at Mets game and Tebow prayed for him and stayed with him until paramedics arrived.”

This is not the first time Tebow has prayed for the sick. Earlier this year he prayed for a fellow passenger who went into cardiac arrest on a plane.

Tebow prayed with the dying man and comforted his wife while a physician worked to save his life.

“I watched Tim pray with the entire section of the plane for this man. He made a stand for God in a difficult situation,” one witness said.

Evidently, Tim Tebow’s prayers can heal the sick and raise the dead, but they can’t help him accurately throw an NFL-quality pass or hit a Major League breaking ball. There’s no evidence for Tebow’s prayers doing anything for the latest victim of Tebow’s prayer-power. There was a time when I thought Tebow was just a naïve young man who was easily manipulated by the media — especially Evangelical media outlets who take the minutest God “sighting” and turn it into Moses parting the Red Sea. I now think that Tebow is an aging jock who is having a hard time accepting that his glory days at Florida are behind him. What better way to let everyone know that you are relevant than by running to public scenes such has this one and “praying” for someone. Evangelicals will drool over “God using Tebow” and sports media outlets will use his latest Superman-like escapade as filler for one of their endlessly droning talk shows. For Tebow, he gets another opportunity to remind fawning fans that is he still pursuing his “dream.”

There comes a point, at least for me, where Tebow is the man who always shows up first at house fires. Every few months, it seems Tebow is front and center at a house fire. Perhaps it is time for sports pundits to ponder whether perhaps Tebow is always first on the scene because he’s a publicity whore who craves public attention. Tebow could privately pray, asking God to heal the subject of his utterances. Instead, he continues to behave as he did in his NFL days — Tebowing before the world. In the two stories mentioned above, neither person needed Tebow’s help. Other people were already helping them. Tebow, instead of fading into the background and quietly praying, jumped to the forefront, saying humbly to all, never fear! Tebowman is here!

I am well aware that Tebow does many good things for others, but it seems that reporters and cameras are never far away when he does. I’ll leave Tebow’s BFF Jesus with the last word on this matter:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:1-6)

 

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Is Man Getting Smarter? by Bodie Hodge

neanderthal

Our secularized culture teaches a strange history. We are told that we were once dumb brutes in an evolutionary past—no different from animals—but over the millennia we got a little smarter and came out of Africa and learned how to be farmers instead of hunters and gatherers.

Then we began building basic settlements and then civilizations and finally empires. So here we are sitting on top of the food chain because, unlike “other animals,” we have become smarter and smarter to become masters of our domain.

Okay, so this is a bunch of hogwash—man is made unique from animals and created in the image of God! But people believe these lies because this is what has been imposed upon them in secular schools, secular media, secular museums, and so on. Do you realize this alleged evolutionary history is not recorded by ancient historians in any culture? It is a modern fairly tale. It is a story that comes out of religions like secularism (including atheism and so on).

But as a result, kids of the next generation look at technology today and misunderstand it. They presume that, since we have more technology, we are “getting smarter” just like the evolutionary story says.
….
After the Flood, a godly worldview dominated. As cultures deviated at Babel and down through the ages, man abandoned a godly and biblical worldview (of what had been revealed from Adam down through Noah) in favor of man’s flawed ideas (i.e., forms of humanism). As they began worshipping ancestors and false gods, their general worldview deteriorated into many various paths of paganism.

This affected science and innovation in a general pattern. It caused technology to remain nearly stagnant—with a few exceptions of course. A mind and culture with little hope has little desire to grow in the knowledge of God’s world (albeit sin-cursed and broken). Many worldviews even deter science and technology because of their very nature (e.g., animism). Animism, for example, has spirit beings that help or harm human interests in the physical world. Thus causality, which is the basis for observable and repeatable science, is meaningless because aspects of nature are controlled by the spirits rather than by a God who has promised to uphold things in a consistent fashion. (For more on world religions read World Religions and Cults Volumes 1–2.)

As Christianity began to explode in Europe prior to AD 1400, people began returning to a godly, biblical worldview leading up to the early modern period. This gave them the proper understanding of the world around them. Acknowledging that our all-knowing (Psalm 147:5) and all-powerful (e.g., Jeremiah 32:27) God upholds the world (Hebrews 1:3) and that He has promised to do so in the future until the end (e.g., Genesis 8:22) gives us the basis for doing observable and repeatable science. This presupposition is vital to make science possible.

As a result Christians began systematically studying the world and how it works (operational science). Most fields of science were developed by Bible believers—even the scientific method was developed by a young-earth creationist, Sir Francis Bacon!6

As Biblically based science erupted, technology, knowledge, inventions, and innovation built one on top of the other. This brings us to the world in which we live, built on centuries of technology.
….
I humbly suggest that as the culture moves away from a biblical understanding of the world, so will they also miss out on certain scientific advancements—or at least delay them. Consider the unbiblical worldview of millions of years: researchers never thought oil could be produced quickly because they had been indoctrinated with the idea that oil production took vast ages. Yet oil can be made in 30 minutes from algae.12

Imagine if researchers in the 1960s had been thinking correctly (i.e., a younger age of the earth and thus rapid oil production at the time of the Flood) and had developed technology based on that truth. It could have revolutionized the oil industry in our current age! Instead, researchers only recently figured it out.

I want to encourage you to think biblically. The Bible makes sense of the world and makes sense of science and technology. Even so, we are in a world where the Bible comes under increasing attack, and secular scientists want to divorce science from the Bible (see “Is Science Secular?”). Science exists because the Bible is true. There is no reason to suppress this knowledge (Romans 1:18–21).

According to the Bible, man has always been brilliant—both in the past and in the present. The difference today is that we have more accumulated knowledge and technologies.

— Bodie Hodge, Answers in Genesis, Is Man Getting “Smarter”?, October, 2016

Chronic Pain and a Football Game

tinora-vs-ayersville-2016

It is a beautiful Friday night in rural Northwest Ohio. Football weather — the time of year when I go to local high school football games with my sons. While none of my grandchildren is old enough to play football, I do enjoy watching young men battle it out on the gridiron, each hoping to be that night’s victor.

On this Friday, the game of choice is Ayersville vs. Tinora — billed as THE must-see game. I arrive early at the field so I can secure a good seat. Second row up, 50 yard line, perfect for viewing and photography. As always, I have brought my camera, hoping to shoot a few keepers before the darkness of the night forces me to stop.

I am the first person in the stands, but not for long. Soon the bleachers start to fill. By game time, late arrivers will be forced to stand along the fence that cordons off the stands from the field. I smile as I think of those who will have to park great distances away from the stadium. The early bird gets the best seat, I think to myself, and Bruce Gerencser is ALWAYS early.

I soon settle into my seat. I sit, thinking of nothing but how nice the weather is for a September football game. By the time the Ohio High School Athletic Association crowns its divisional champions, the weather will have turned cold and snow will blanket the landscape. Today, I will enjoy the warmth of the sun and the balmy breeze that make it a perfect night for a football game.

Eyes closed and head tilted slightly towards the sun, I bask in the nothingness of the moment; that is, until my state of mindfulness is rudely interrupted by an elementary school boy. A younger family with children arrived a few minutes ago, taking up seats several rows above mine. Their restless son, unable to contain his energy, jumps from his row to mine, landing on the metal stands with a big thud. My seat bounces as his feet hit my row, causing me to abruptly return to reality. Not thinking, I said, quite loudly JESUS! Better than a swear word, right? The mother is offended by my utterance, choosing to ignore how her son actions in using the stands as a trampoline might affect others.

The young family soon moves to different seats. Did my taking the Lord’s name in vain cause them to move? I don’t know. Not that I care. As the stands continue to fill, an elderly man and his forty-something son make their way into the bleachers. I always sit on the end of the row. This allows me to control who sits next to me and it also allows me to stand up and move when people need to go to the bathrooms or concessions. I know I am a big guy, and not wanting a night filled with lap dances, I prefer to stand up and move into the common aisle so people can get by me.

Sitting on the end of the row has its disadvantage too. Over the years, I have been repeatedly beaten with purses, coolers, and the like as people make their way to their seats. Some people say sorry, but most often they ignore their personal assaults on my body. I accept that this is the price I pay for sitting near the common aisle. Tonight is no different. As the father and the son make their way up to their seats, both of them plow into me as if I didn’t exist. Soon they settle into their seats right in back of mine. This begins what will be a night-long beating from both of them. I have suffered many such beatings before, so I smile, grit my teeth, and say nothing. I am still the polite Christian, I think to myself. I want to tell my oppressors, Dammit, PLEASE stop hitting me. But I say nothing, choosing instead to slide forward on my seat, hoping that the extra distance will keep me clear of their feet and knees.

The son brought with him an oversized stadium seat, a seat so large that my son asks him to move it so he can sit next to me. My sons are far less “Christian” than I am these days and are quite willing to ask people to remove themselves from their personal space. The man quickly complies, but as he does, his metal-framed chair smashes into my back, causing my pain-wracked body to scream its objection. Before I can turn towards the man and give him my really, asshole? face, he slaps me hard on the back twice and says, sorry ’bout that.

I can feel my face flushing with anger. I want to tell the man what I think about his assaults on my body and personal space, but I say nothing, choosing instead to weakly say, that’s okay. It’s not okay, I tell myself, but what’s to be gained by telling this man what I really think? My grandchildren are sitting next to me, and their friends’ families sit nearby. What will they think of me and our family if I give this man the verbal lashing he so richly deserves?

I reach for my pain medication, taking a double dose, choosing to suffer in silence. I am here to watch the game, my inner Bruce says. Ignore this asshole. Half time arrives and the game of the year is a blowout. The Tinora stands are quiet, shocked by the beat-down Ayersville is putting on the home team. With four minutes left in the game, I decide to leave, hoping to escape the throng that will soon pour from the stands.

I gingerly make my way down the stands to the walkway that leads to the parking lot. I walk haltingly, relying on my cane to keep me from falling over. Free from the man who assaulted me, I wrongly assume that I am safe from further indignities. As I walk slowly to my car, filled-with-life teens run into me. With a quick sorry uttered to a stranger, these youths continue to playfully run, hoping to catch friends. I don’t blame them for running into me. I remember when I was their age. I had little thought of others and how my actions might affect them. I don’t, however, have the same sympathies for the adults who rush by me, hoping to beat the traffic. Surely, they know better, I think to myself. By the time I reach my car, I have been run into countless times. I feel as if I have been forced to run a gauntlet. I unlock the car door, open it, and slowly pull myself into seat. I sit for a few moments, a tear of exhaustion in my eye. I can’t do this anymore, I tell myself.

In a few moments, my mind and body settle down enough for me to start the car and head for home. Several hours later, I text my son: “Tinora vs. Holgate next Friday. Want to go?”