Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why America Needs Tim Tebow's Faith

America needs Tim Tebow. In the midst of a deep recession, a national mood of cynicism, a farcical election campaign and a supposed apocalypse in 2012, Tebow inspires. Before watching his magical 20 yard touchdown run to beat the New York Jets in the last seconds of the game, I could have cared less about the Denver Broncos and their anemic season. Tebow's flagrant proclamations of his faith in the media and on field demonstrations of piety have inspired both ridicule and awe on a global level: see I'm sure God doesn't care if the Broncos win or lose, but Tebow's evangelical zeal has given him unwavering faith in himself. He is neither arrogant nor egotistical and with Tebow at the helm, Denver has won 6 of its past 7 games. Sports pundits across the nation have scratched their heads in disbelief as a quarterback with terrible mechanics and a low pass completion percentage continues to win games against formidable opponents. Of course, if he were losing, he would simply be the laughingstock of the nation.
Karl Marx wrote that "Religion is the opiate of the masses." When I think of evangelicals, Ted Haggert of the New Life Church comes to mind. His relationship with a drug dealing male prostitute exposed his true hypocritical nature. I think of crazed humans speaking in tongues awaiting the rapture to save them from this earth filled with sinners. But faith in a higher power channeled into service to humanity has given us our most iconic figures. Preacher Martin Luther King catalyzed the civil rights movement; Mother Teresa served God in the form of the the most destitute human beings; Gandhi harnessed his profound faith to free India from British Colonialism. Tim Tebow merely passes a football. He's no saint, but his purity of spirit in raising the level of his team's play, despite the obvious flaws in his game, make him an inspirational leader. As the recession churns on and America's zeitgeist plummets further downward, the powerful optimism of a young quarterback is worth paying attention to.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sports vs. Politics

It's been a long winter in the mancave. The damp air and heavy grey skies have fostered this sudden introspection like so many young poets with dank body odor and unwashed dreads in Seattle coffee shops. Now that Osama bin Laden is dead and buried at sea, I now feel safe enough to express myself to the world at large. As an International Affairs student at CU for several years, I paid rapt attention to NPR, the New York Times, CNN and the BBC. I noticed that after 4 hours of piping news into my brain, I'd feel depressed and helpless. My attention these days is on the NBA playoffs and the nascent Colorado Rockies baseball season. A game offers a controlled environment with a definite outcome: someone either wins or loses. Although the same could be said about politics, the geopolitical field is so vast and complex that no one really knows what's going on. Pundits speculate, politicians prevaricate, and bloggers bloviate all to the effect of confusing the end consumer: us. Whenever I engage in political debates, the person I'm debating and I have a sense of oppositional self-importance. We have our opinions, based on myriad media sources - but in the end we have no idea what we're talking about. In sports, we are either for or against a particular team. In baseball, you have 9 men on the field, in basketball, 5. The rules are complex, but knowable. The political field is anarchic, unquantifiable and frustrating. Only elections have a satisfying sense of gamesmanship, where candidates vie for seats based on the electorate's choices (or whoever owns the Diebold voting machines).

The last time I turned on CNN our cunning Navy Seals were offing the world's most wanted man and masses of patriotic Americans were celebrating outside the White House walls. Thus the end game of the Global War on Terror initiated by George W. That game lasted 10 years. An average baseball or basketball game is less than 3 hours, commercial breaks included (or half that time on DVR). And now that bin Laden is gone, do you really think we've ended the GWOT?
The NBA playoffs, now in their 7 game format, seem endless. But in June when the finals are finally over, a victor will emerge. Sports have few real life consequences, unless you're the guy squashed under a mob of people in a soccer stadium. You pay to get in, you get entertained for a couple hours and you leave. The athletes get rich and pumped with steroids and we read about them in the daily paper or follow them in fantasy leagues. When our team loses we are momentarily sad. When they win, we're elated. When the Rockies made it to the 2007 World Series, I had a renewed sense of childhood glee unlike anything I've ever experienced.
I still listen to the news or pick up a Sunday Times on occasion. I would argue that we'd be much happier human beings without 24/7 bombardment of negativity. The kooky and brilliant astrologer Rob Brezny wrote a book "Pronoia, the Antidote to Paranoia- How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower you with Blesssings" I saw Brezny in Boulder a few years ago on his tour to promote the book; he busted out a rap-like list of all the good things happening in the world that day that one never hears about. Although it's hard to convince a holocaust survivor that "It's all good", optimism and attention to positive thoughts are powerful medicine.
Meanwhile, I'll be looking forward to Dirk Nowitzski's next 48 point performance in an NBA playoff game, or the Rockies' Carlos Gonzales, the 2010 NL batting champion, hitting another 453 ft. homerun. These athletes won't end terrorism, get us out of the recession, pay off trillions of dollars of national debt, keep China from becoming the next world hegemon, solve immigration reform or reduce crime rates, but I'll sure have fun watching them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Jewish Christmas to Forget

I tried to make Christmas go away this holiday season. Since I’m mostly Jewish, Christmas doesn’t mean too much to me and my strategy for this season was to avoid it entirely. Most of my friends, and my girlfriend, were out of town, rendering the day nearly moot. Christ was reportedly born in the summer anyway, so December 25th seems like historical fiction. The only bright spot on a day reserved for excessive amounts of eggnog and piles of non-recyclable wrapping paper for me was the thought of a traditional Jewish Christmas dinner: Chinese take-out. I called my favorite Chinese restaurant around the corner from my house several times during the day only to get their answering machine. The other two most popular Asian restaurants in town, one serving Chinese food, the other Vietnamese, had lines of hungry Jews literally out the door. It was worth just seeing that many kindred children of Abraham enduring an hour plus wait to chow down on the holiday. I decided to Google map the closest Chinese take-out and found Jin Chan. It had gotten rave reviews by at least one internet pundit and I was running out of options. The chef who’d been cooking up masterful cuisine for more than 35 years was lauded on the site. When I entered the dingy fluorescently lit hole in the wall, a brusque young guy at the counter took my order. 5 minutes later a balding man, stooped over came out with my bag of food – perhaps he was the master chef. He looked like he could have been an elder assassin from a Tarantino flick. My Yuletide spirit was ebbing low that evening, and I opened my paper bag full of anticipation. The Kung Pao vegetables were overcooked. Pallid broccoli without its deep forest green patina; oversteamed peanuts; brown sauce that had the consistency of watered down soy sauce; bamboo shoots as tough as Saran wrap. I ate the food trying to project a kind of optimistic Jewish faith upon it. “It’s not so bad.” In fact, I called it mediocre in my mind. We are long suffering people. We are the people who’ve always been chased out of our ancestral dwellings on forced migrations – and worse. But in paradisiacal Boulder, we are entitled to great Chinese food on Christmas Day. I wasn’t. I redeemed the evening by watching The Town. In the Christmas zeitgeist I should have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” or something with a morally redeeming theme. But I wasn’t looking for inspiration, only entertainment. I made the day pass. It’s only one day out of the year. Next Christmas I’m going to order my meal from my favorite Chinese restaurant the day before Christmas and reheat it the next day.