Friday, December 29, 2006

Red-Headed Stepchild

When I first came to A&M in the mid 90's, the titular epithet was a favorite for describing Texas Tech's relative rank as a state "flagship" school. Much has been written on the "rivalry" (e.g. here, here) or lack thereof in recent years. Talk from school administrators about holding the annual game in Dallas certainly does nothing to quash such debate [sidebar: Dr. Gates recently outed himself as Ranger65 on the premiere on-line destination for Texas Aggies, where he reported his own opinions that 1) the game should not be moved to Dallas, and 2) Tech shouldn't be considered our principal rivals].

I started this post two months ago after the first of three heartbreaking losses at Kyle Field that would have gone our way but for the combined total of six points. I saw the loss coming when, at a crucial third and two...from the two yard line...Coach Fran calls a timeout and J. Train knows what's coming because you could see a disgusted look on his face as he pulled his helmet off going to the sideline. Sure enough, when the Ags took the field again, we go for the pass (when we haven't completed one all night) and muff it, settling for a field goal. There are a lot of things that are out of the control of a coaching staff, but play calling is not one of them. (One astute poster at Texags.com put together this impressive set of data, knowing Coach Fran's penchant for coaching by the book, illustrating how thick-skulled this call was.)

Another thing that is a coach's responsibility, in my opinion, is a sense of urgency. Throughout the season I've commented on our apparent lack of a "hurry-up" offense and the lacksadasical manner in which the offense trots from the huddle to the line. I know, it's apples and oranges, but when I played in high school Coach Basinger taught us that the intensity it takes to drive your opponent off the line begins with the attitude you bring from the huddle. The commentators at last night's debacle of a Holiday Bowl echoed those concerns.

I closely resemble the titular epithet, though I can gladly report I wasn't mistreated the way the rest of the saying usually goes. I wonder if the Aggies (at least in football, hopefully not in basketball) are taking Tech's place as the hopelessly ill-fated younger siblings to the perennial powerhouses of the Big XII South (the recent win over t.u. notwithstanding).

Earlier in the week, my brother asked me if the Aggies were going to help him win his fantasy football bracket and I had to confess that the outcome depended alot on whether or not our secondary could stop the big plays. The defense in general and the secondary in particular have made great strides this season. But, we still couldn't shut down Cal's passing attack...and then were too demoralized to shut down their running attack. Perhaps one reason is that it looks like we spend too much time trying to strip the ball. I'd much rather see us hit with abandon (and wrap up!) and let the turnovers happen as they will.

So, I have an idea: co-head coaches. Has this been done before? Could we afford it? We give the Defense to R.C. Slocum and the Offense to Fran...maybe between the two of them they can strike the necessary balance of emotional connectedness and strategy we so despereately need.

Goodbye to 2006

A quick end to the year's postings...since I doubt I'll get the opportunity to set anything else down this weekend, and I'm apparently being quite prolific tonight. Here's hoping that some of you 80 visitors will check back and be rewarded with new (not necessarily useful or interesting) content for doing so.

It has been a year of travel for me: London, Seattle, Vancouver, Oahu, Galveston, Denver, NYC, Philadelphia, Marshall, Shreveport, and Dallas (and that's just nine months!)

I'm a first time daddy (or will be shortly)!

Aggie football gave us hope, Aggie basketball will hopefully give more results than hope.

Big-Government Republicanism failed, let's see what the Dems can do.

Here's hoping for Kucinich in '08 (let's see, in '04 his platform was universal health care and ending the war in Iraq)...maybe Obama will run with him...Dennis is, apparently, the black candidate in the race.

Rummy's out and Dr. Gates is in...

Saddam is also out

and so much more to be thankful for and cry God's mercy. May He bless each of you richly in the coming year!

Hurrah for books! and marriage! and books about marriage!

Observant readers (there are 80 of you so far...from as far afield as Europe and South America no less!) might have noticed the ever increasing list of books to the right hand side of the screen. Go ahead, look, I'll wait.

OK, now that you've had a chance to peruse the list of books I'm reading, have recently read, and my own sad, egotistical attempt to put together a list of books about Orthodox Christianity, let me mention something about a few of the books. Since elementary school (at South Davis), I have recognized in myself a penchant for reading. During my second grade year (in addition to wetting my pants while waiting to use the restroom in our class room...aren't elementary school teachers saints? aren't I glad that I lived literally next door to the school?) I read something on the order of 120 books to receive a certificate that required only forty or so. My mom tells me that my teacher disbelieved my reports until she quizzed me and I was able to give a plot synopsis for every book when asked. Anyhow, since then, I've loathed the book report (and it's grown-up cousin, the book review) mainly because I have a hard time getting past the whole work to provide a condensed version. If you're so interested, why don't you read the book yourself! *grin*

So, I'm not likely to give regular reviews on the books I'm reading (though I will be more than happy to discuss them if you ask...hopefully with specific questions), I wanted to take the opportunity the happy occasion of Shauna and Tony's marriage (and my current seclusion in a hotel room in east Texas) to mention the books on my list that deal with marriage.

Fr. John Meyendorff's book Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective is a wonderful exposition on how the vocation of marriage can and should be a reflection of Trinitarian theology.

Fr. Thomas Hopko's book Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction also deals with the theology of correct human marital relations, as well as providing a Patristic, nuanced, and thoughtful guide to how to lovingly deal with the marred expressions of our created intent for completing each other.

Dawn Eden's book The Thrill of the Chaste is unique in this collection in that it is written from the perspective of someone outside of the Orthodox Church. I was first alerted to Dawn Eden's blog and writing through the blog Orthodixie, written by a Houston-area Orthodox priest. Ms. Eden's book, like the other two mentioned above, provides a clear exposition of principles with which I had wrestled previously to express in internet conversations (e.g. here) and in email exchange.

The basic tenet shared in all three books is that marriage is an ascetic vocation (like monasticism) in which the selfish individual will is transformed by submitting to grace into a person in communion with God and the person's intended husband or wife. A point that I've made in personal conversation is that marriage was revealed to humanity before any other sacrament, and is thus, I believe, a natural state...one that is yearned for despite what ecclesiological, sociological and/or political structures might guide the expression of such a union. And since marriage is a sacrament, and sacraments are the participation of the material with the divine, we can look to what we know about God to describe marriage in its intended state. Fr. Meyendorff and Fr. Hopko's books accomplish this exposition explicitly through Orthodox teaching. Ms. Eden does so by faith-fully communicating the lessons she has learned through trial and error. And that is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that your religious/philosophical tenets need to provide a satisfactory explanatory framework for existence.