the holy and the common

This idea of a new pope has really got me thinking…

 

Now while not a member of the Roman Catholic Church (even though some seem to think my membership would be fairly solid), the Intramuralist promotes great respect for all faiths. I appreciate Catholic tradition, and like-faith or not, there is zero doubt the pope has significant, global influence.  Hence, I will be watching which color of smoke blows over the Vatican as the next wise leader is selected.

 

Thinking about this process, my mind has focused on the role of a priest — not necessarily a Catholic priest — but a leader within the Christian faith.  What is a priest called to do?

 

Different denominations may assign different duties.  Varied religious rituals may be a part of the process.  Yet time and time again, as I study ancient historical documents, one role stands out that seems to stand for all time.  It is the responsibility of the priest to differentiate between the holy and the common.

 

The holy and the common…

The sacred and the secular…

 

As a culture, I don’t think we get that.

 

Friends, please take that as no judgment.  I include myself among the “we” who doesn’t get it.  We live in an age where all things go, where all is accepted, where tolerance trumps intolerance — well, except, arguably, if you’re tolerant of the reality that some things are actually holy.

 

Last weekend, “Saturday Night Live” ran a new skit, entitled “Djesus Uncrossed” — a sarcastic spin of the Oscar-nominated “Django Unchained.”  In the SNL skit, Jesus is resurrected, but — and that’s an incredibly huge “but” — instead of returning to save the souls of sinful men, Jesus Christ takes vengeance upon his one-time accusers.  The skit then features approximately 2 minutes of bloody gore, similar to “Django Unchained.”  In pops the narration:  “He’s risen from the dead … and he’s preaching anything but forgiveness.”

 

The public dialogue since has been fascinating…

 

There have been claims of outrageous blasphemy.

There have also been numerous retorts to “lighten up”…

 

Can’t a guy take a joke any more?

 

I wonder…

I wonder if the joke was on Muhammed, the historic leader of Islam, if that kind of joke would be asked to be tolerated? Can’t you take a joke any more? … especially in light of the fatal September Benghazi attacks, when the American government actually paid to put commercials on Pakistani TV, apologizing for any offense to Muslims for an unrelated, anti-Islamic 13 minute movie trailer by 1 American citizen…

 

I wonder if mocking Muslims would — could — be considered a joke…  I wonder if they would have been told to lighten up.

 

Great questions, friends.  Truthfully, I don’t know all the answers.  But what I do know is this…

2 things:

 

  1. The creators of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” are not “priests.”

And (2) They have no idea of the difference between the holy and the common.

 

Respectfully… always…

AR

she

She did it.  She finally did it!

 

Next Sunday, the 55th running of NASCAR’s signature event takes place.  It’s the Daytona 500 — the first race of the year — and it’s also considered NASCAR’s most prestigious event.  It’s where Richard Petty became a household name, where everyone from Pres. George H.W. Bush to Whoopi Goldberg has been an honorary starter, and where Dale Earnhardt tragically saw his life come to an end.

 

And so next Sunday when the green flag once again waves at “The Great American Race,” it commences with a historic, new aspect.  Starting in the pole position — for the first time ever — will be a woman driver.  This past weekend, Danica Patrick became the race’s fastest qualifier.  She did it.

 

While Daytona typically garners more attention than any other racing event, there will be even more attention now on Patrick because of her historic accomplishment.  As ESPN wrote in the initial hours after her qualification, “The spotlight is nothing new.  But never has it been this bright before.”   The attention is big; the spotlight is brighter.  My question today is what that spotlight should be on…

 

We are a funny people…

 

On one hand, we say the world should be colorblind.  In other words, when we look at others, we shouldn’t define any of them by the color of their skin, their ethnic background, gender, nor any demographic description.

 

But on the other hand, we also enjoy celebrating the unique success of the individual…

 

… the first African-American president…

… the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice…

… the first female astronaut…

… the first (potential) American pope…

 

Let me unambiguously opine:  those accomplishments deserve to be celebrated.

 

The inherent contradiction, however, is that in our celebration, we often employ the exact practice we say we wish to prevent; we often identify color; we often promote ethnic background; we often focus more on the demographic than on the greatness of the actual accomplishment.

 

Danica Patrick is well aware of the historic significance of her success.  But something else is more important to her, as visible via her post-qualifying interview:  “I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl.  That was instilled in me from very young, from the beginning.”

 

She then received the ultimate compliments from her fiercest competitors, as racers Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, for example, talked about what an excellent racer Patrick is and how she accomplished this in only her 2nd year at the 500.  Interestingly, the focus on her femininity only seemed obvious when prodded by the media.  (… makes one wonder how altruistic and helpful the role of media is in society… hmmm…)

 

So on Sunday, February 24th, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Danica Patrick will start on the pole.  The Daytona 500.  As their 2013 motto reflects, “The Race of a Lifetime.  Every Time.”

 

She did it, friends.  She finally did it!

 

The world will be a wiser place when the focus is no longer on the “she”… when there truly exists no focus on the race, gender, or demographic category…

 

Respectfully,

AR

no hero among us

he·ro [heer-oh]

noun, plural he·roes; for 5 also he·ros.

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.

3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.

4. Classical Mythology.

     a. a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.

     b. (in the Homeric period) a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability.

     c. (in later antiquity) an immortal being; demigod.

5. hero sandwich.

 

(#5 is easiest to unambiguously define.)

 

For some reason, we seem always in search of a “hero”…  finding that person who is truly heroic, who can do no wrong, whose character is impeccable.

 

In South Africa this past Valentines Day, a beautiful model, Reeva Steenkamp, was shot multiple times and thus killed.  She was allegedly shot by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee runner who caused the world to take notice as he took competitors by surprise in the London Olympics of 2012.  Pistorius is an Olympic and South African “hero.”

 

The Intramuralist has no idea whether Pistorius is guilty or innocent; what I do know, however, is that the nicknamed “Blade Runner” has reason to lie.  Allow me to put this mildly:  his “hero status” is in jeopardy.  That’s a tough thing to lose — an intangible seemingly incapable of retrieving once lost.

 

Remember that when our “hero” speaks, we listen.  When our “hero” opines, we believe; and when our “hero” encourages, we oblige.  Our “hero’s” character is impeccable; we have made it so.

 

Their character is impeccable because we have forgotten that our “heroes” are first human; and short of the Messiah, no human’s character is flawless.  We forget that.  And so, when a “hero” perceives they may suddenly lose their privileged status — falling far, far from grace, so-to-speak — they have significant reason to lie.

 

Who’s your “hero”?

 

Oscar Pistorius?  Steve Jobs?  Barack Obama?

Martin Luther King?  Pete Rose?  Margaret Thatcher?

 

Living or dead — “good people” or not — our “heroes” are first and foremost human.  Human means not a savior, no where close to a messiah, and always capable of error.  Hence, because a “hero” often arises to such status due to the inflating by the people around him/her, when that status is jeopardized, they are tempted to do what it takes to keep it afloat.  They have learned how to juggle and maintain the inflated status for so long, they are then motivated to do what it takes to survive the for-once-penetrable claim.  Lying is an option.  Perhaps lying (egad) was even learned long ago… learned as a means of actually juggling the status…

 

When confronted with the charges against him, the family of Oscar Pistorius released an immediate statement:  “The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms.”

 

Of course the murder is disputed…  No hero would do such a thing…  This is impossible!  We should note that the reality is that even though no other person is known to be their house that morning — and that Pistorius has been involved in previous domestic violence incidents — that Pistorius may be innocent.

 

Innocent or not, our “heroes” sometimes lie.  They unfortunately have reason to do so.

 

Respectfully,

AR

fleeting beauty

Did you notice the reaction to Sunday night’s Grammy Awards?  (… no worries if not a music fan…)

 

“See Katy Perry’s 2013 Grammys Dress!”

“Kat Dennings Grammys 2013: Actress Stuns In Strapless Dress”

“Rihanna Flashes Toned Tummy For Grammys After-Party”

 

It doesn’t have to be from the Grammys (… still, no worries…).  From the Super Bowl, for example, much of the post-game reaction was in regard to Beyoncé’s halftime show and whether she was provocative or powerful….

 

“Beyoncé Is a Sex Kitten at the Superbowl”

“A Defiant Dance of Power, Not Sex”

“Beyoncé’s Sexy 2013 Super Bowl Outfit Slammed by PETA—Too Much Skin!”

 

Pick your event, awards night, athletic competition, etc.  We have this all too frequent tendency of focusing on the external…  on what we can see, the outward adornment, or appearance.  We make all sorts of judgments and distinctions based on the external appearance of man.  We like to say ‘we’re not a judgmental people,’ yet we draw countless conclusions based solely upon what we can see.

 

In fact, in a little less than 2 weeks, the Oscars will be upon us.  What’s the initial focus of the Academy Awards?  The beloved red carpet.  Outside Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, for hours fans will flock to the edges in order to gain a glimpse of their favorite star.  And reporters and pundits and commentators and critics will copiously opine how the celebrities seem to be faring these days — all based on how they look.

 

I’ve frequently wrestled with this increased fascination.  What is it that attracts current culture so quickly to the external?  Why do we feel so emboldened to comment on others based solely on what we can see?

 

What causes us to judge — when it is a person’s inner disposition that makes them beautiful?

 

My sense is that as society has digressed, we’re torn with what’s inside.  We don’t always know how to deal with the individuality of a person’s character and heart, and so we accept it, as opposed to being willing to acknowledge certain aspects are unhealthy.

 

Too often, for example, we simply accept adultery.  Whether it be Julia Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, or someone nearer and dearer to our hearts, we often ignore whatever lack of moral grounding internally existed that caused them to act upon their unhealthy impulses.  If we actually focused on what was inside the adulterer’s heart, it would be incredibly challenging to deal with respectfully.  We would have to admit that there exists right and wrong in this world, and that persons we appreciate had made a wrongful choice.

 

Friends, I am not advocating judgment.  In fact, my strong sense is we’ve done an incredible disservice to the younger generation when we define judgment as the acknowledgement of right or wrong.  In it’s most basic definition, judgment means feeling empowered to render the consequences for actions; it by no means equates to a lack of acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

 

Why then do we focus on the external?  Because it’s easier; it’s far easier than dealing respectfully with what’s inside the character of the person.

 

At the Grammys Sunday evening, singer Carrie Underwood won her 6th Grammy Award, this time for Best Country Solo Performance.  The Intramuralist has no relationship with Underwood, but those who know her well speak of a tender, beautiful heart.

 

Did you happen to see her dress?  It served as a fascinating, changing, light up, digital screen!  Supposedly (but not surprisingly) it stole the show.

 

Respectfully,

AR

state of the government

Today marks our 4th annual State of the Government address.  In our initial analysis, we made the following primary observations:

 

The State of the Government is too partisan.

The State of the Government is too influenced by money.

The State of the Government is too big.

The State of the Government is financially imbalanced.

The State of the Government is too far removed from the Constitution.

 

The following conclusion has also been expressed these past 4 years:  “The State of the Government has digressed over several decades, and until we responsibly address partisanship, special interests, size, spending, and straying from the Constitution, we will be challenged to admit even the Union is strong.”  My strong sense is the above is still true; the question is what can we do.

 

Government is too partisan.  Pre-speech analysis from multiple, varied sources suggest that Pres. Obama’s speech will be aggressively progressive this evening.  As Politico states, the President will “pay lip service to bipartisanship, but don’t expect anything like the call for peaceful collaboration that defined his first address to a joint session of Congress in 2009.”  Is the partisanship right?  Is it wrong?  Let me not answer the question; let me only ask another:  does this approach help?  Rightly or wrongly, during both the Obama and most recent Bush administration, the partisan divide has only gotten bigger.  If persons within either party or the media have intentionally drummed up partisan passion in order to propel one side of the divide, then they have done an ethical disservice to our country.

 

Government is too influenced by money.  Sticks and stones seem to fly on this issue, with people blaming one person or party or a singular judicial decision.  Based on objective research, it’s my conclusion that the moral digression due to money increased exponentially during the Carter administration, when lobbyist restrictions were significantly eased.  Until lobbyist monies are again restricted, the purity of our democratic process will continue to be obscured.

 

Government is too big.  Let me make this is as simple as possible.  Who watches their pennies more:  a small business on a tight budget… or a massive conglomerate with no budget?  The nonpartisan CBO projects the cost of the federal government to be $47.2 trillion over the next 10 years.  That’s an annual growth rate of approximately 6.7%, trouncing the growth of the private sector.  In a government that was created for the people and by the people, it was never intended to do all things for all people.  There is no way $47.2 trillion is being spent effectively.  And there is no way all those pennies are being counted.

 

Government is financially imbalanced.  Whether monies are spent on war or domestic programs, the government continues to spend.  They don’t balance their budget; they don’t even have a budget.  No business entity that attempts to operate with continued deficit spending for this long with zero plan to pay it back would be allowed to exist.  The elect continue to simply kick the plan for balanced spending down the road.  Is it because, as some say, in this economic state, we can’t do that right now?  Or, as I believe, do they avoid cutting spending in the sake of political expediency?  Let’s balance the budget.  Let’s make a plan.  Let’s stick to it… like every other wise, existing household in this country.

 

Government is too far removed from the Constitution.  Far too many are far too comfortable believing contemporary opinion trumps foundational truth.  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  The above Preamble was written to inspire an improved government (improved from that which was established via the Articles of Confederation).  Our founders desired a country that would be just, internally peaceful, and externally protected.  They desired our citizens would be blessed and free.  Too many today justify legislation that dictates exactly how people should prosper, how tranquility is insured, and what (in their opinion) is a more perfect union.

 

As said previously amidst these posts, far be it from the Intramuralist to suggest that the State of the Government is the sole fault of the current congress and administration.  But far be it from the current congress and administration to suggest it is the sole fault of their predecessors.  The reality is still true that the State of the Government has digressed over several decades, and yes, until we responsibly address partisanship, special interests, size, spending, and straying from the Constitution, we will be challenged to admit the Union is strong.

 

Respectfully,

AR

sweet grace

There’s that one moment in time…  that moment when circumstances are so intense, so blinding, that you can’t see anything else around you…  when the weight of the world is so heavy that you are forced to ask life’s deeper questions — bottom line Q’s — questions that get to the heart of every issue.

 

Some days I get so frustrated… at the…

 

… dysfunction, discord… the arrogance, lack of accountability… in our families, communities, Washington, and world… the total lack of respect for others… the hypocrisy… the judgment… so often justified in the name of passion, emotion, self-focus, or self-inflated-ness…

 

I get frustrated, too, as to how each of us falls prey…  how I fall prey… how I, too, can justify a foolish response or approach in the name of something lesser…

 

And then a moment arises that jolts us to the truth… where all else crumbles to the ground and our sense of self finally deflates, as we are forced to ask those deeper questions.

 

At midnight Wednesday night, the teenage daughter of dear friends kissed each of her family members ‘good night’ and told them how much she loved them.  She then left.  She has not been seen nor heard from since.

 

… every parent’s worst nightmare…

 

As of this posting, it has been over 70 hours of not knowing where this beautiful 16 year old is.  Pause for a moment…

 

Grace was not some troubled teen with obvious, flashing warning signs, where any of us would have previously contemplated the concept that “yeah, this is a behavior I would have expected from her.”  Not at all.  Grace is a beautiful, sensitive, sweet, faithful young lady.  This could be happening with any of our children.  With any of us.

 

So many (especially) teens get an irrational thought in their head that they then justify acting upon because of how they feel in the moment.  They have all these feelings inside that they don’t know what to do with… fear… anger… failure… They don’t know how to resolve all the emotion inside of them; they no longer want to feel that way.  They don’t know what to do.  And so they run.  They leave.  They are not running to something; they are running away.

 

How my friends now ache wanting to wrap their arms around their little girl, saying, “It’s ok.  We’re here for you.  We’ll walk through this together.  And there is absolutely nothing in this world that happens, that God isn’t big enough to handle.  There is nothing you have done or can do that will make God — or us —  love you any less.  He is real.  He is here.  And with his help, nothing is impossible.”  In other words, my friends know that circumstances are incapable of changing who God is and how he so desires to have a relationship with each of his children.

 

But instead, we choose to run.

 

We run from God.

 

Ok, ok, so our running may not appear as painstakingly obvious as beautiful Grace.  Adults are a little better (and definitely more intentional) at covering up and managing the impressions other people have of us.  We don’t necessarily leave our homes and abandon our families, but we do get caught up in foolish approaches and responses; then what happens?

 

We begin to justify the dysfunction, discord, arrogance, and lack of respect for others.  We justify them in the name of passion or emotion.  We inflate our sense of self, as our circumstances now blind the reality of God’s existence and who he really is and what he calls us to do.

 

Pray for Grace.  That she would come home.  Pray for the family.  That they would be blessed with an uncanny sense of peace and would continue to trust God…  that they would trust him regardless of circumstance.

 

That’s the message for us all.  Can we trust him?  Can we believe in him?  Can we recognize the reality of God’s existence?  Or will we allow heartbreaking circumstances — perhaps even a parent’s worst nightmare — to get in the way?

 

Respectfully… for you, sweet Grace…

AR

YOLO!

Fail.

Probs.

Sick.

Swag.

Hater.

Ging.

Rachet.

Photobomb.

Hakuna matata.

Whatever.

 

‘Kids say the darndest things.’  The question is whether our teens are more “kids” or adults — and whether “darndest” qualifies more as foolish or as wise.  One “darnd” thing I’ve heard far too often from these growing young men and women is the colloquial justification that “everybody’s doing it.”

 

“Everybody’s doing it, Mom…

“He’s doing it.  She’s doing it.  I should be able to do it, too!”

 

Seemingly suddenly, society’s evolving standard of morality is dependent upon what everyone else does — hence, the existence of a slippery, (un)scrupulous slope upon which current culture continues to ride.  Sometimes it feels like a bit of an ‘adventure land‘ — like riding a roller coaster… hands up… smiles on… the participants unaware of any lurking calamity awaiting at the end of the ride.

 

Don’t let me be too hard on our teens.  It’s not as if this is merely a problem indigenous to their generation.  They have watched their parents; they have watched celebrities; they have watched the politicians and elected leaders in the land; they have watched them squabble and base their behavior on what others do.  Dare I suggest, they have watched us all a little too well.

 

Prior to our teens being teens, they’ve watched previous generations ride an often parallel, (un)scrupulous pitch.  We may or may not have articulated our actions via the “everyone’s doing it” logic.  However, the teens have seen our not-so-subtle “keeping up with the Jones’s” act; they’ve seen us subtly (or not) be continually indignant or stubborn or selfish or even refuse to extend grace — again all based upon the behavior of other people.  They’ve even seen us look, act, or even dress a certain way, all motivated by “impression management” — our fairly futile attempts to control the perception others have of us.  Further still, in my semi-humble opinion (emphasis on the semi), the youth in this country have seen reasonably intelligent adults discern what’s right or wrong based on other people.  Worse yet, they’ve witnessed us actually change what we believe to be right or wrong — based upon other people.

 

“Eveybody’s doing it, Mom…”

 

On what do we base what’s right and what’s wrong?

Does it change?

If it continually changes, how can it be wise?  … even from reasonably intelligent adults?

 

From Jan. of 1998 through June of 2000, gifted comedian, Bill Cosby, hosted a comedy series on CBS entitled “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”  The premise of the show was that Cosby would ask a kid a question, and that kid — usually between the ages of 3 to 8 — would respond with a “cute” answer.  The inherent joy of the show was found in the innocence of the child.

 

While our teens aren’t quite still children nor quite yet adults, the reality is that their justification for all sorts of beliefs and behaviors may or may not be innocent; we haven’t necessarily always taught them well.  The reality also then exists that the articulated justification for their beliefs and behaviors — and the articulated justification for our beliefs and behaviors — is nowhere close to “cute.”

 

What will we base our belief system upon?

 

“YOLO!” as the teens sometimes say.  You Only Live Once.  Yet if we only live once, we better figure the basis for that belief system out.

 

Respectfully,

AR

brothers

Pick your passion.  Go ahead.  Pick it.

 

What’s the issue that drives you?  … that you are totally passionate about?  … that you have such a strong opinion on that you are certain that no one — absolutely no one — could convince you otherwise?  You know this topic.  You feel strongly — incredibly strongly.  In fact, you feel so strongly, you believe you are incapable of having any aspect or perspective that is skewed — that is — dare I suggest — even, possibly, partially, wrong?

 

What is it?  What’s your driving passion?

 

… abortion… adoption… gay marriage… the defense of marriage… mandated healthcare… mandated prayer… mandated anything… responsible economics… environmental responsibility… individual responsibility… freedom of religion… freedom from religion… freedom… birth control… government-provided birth control… income inequality… education inequality… any perceived inequality… cloning… hate crimes… gun control… gun rights… securing our borders… securing the rights of illegals… racial discrimination… gender discrimination… religious discrimination… sexual preference discrimination… social justice… administering justice… drug abuse… disabilities… parenting… parenting teenagers… gray hair removal…

 

(… sorry, but after listing all those passions, for some strange reason, my growing gray hair came to mind…)

 

On Sunday — if we were paying attention to more than the food and the football — the estimated 108.4 million of us who watched the Ravens prove victorious over the 49ers, were treated to a wise lesson modeled by the brothers Harbaugh.

 

John coaches the Baltimore Ravens.  Jim leads the 49ers out of San Francisco.

 

The game was excellent.  After a soaring start by the Ravens, tamed seemingly only by an odd electric outage, the game was both competitive and close.  With less than 2 minutes to go and trailing by less than a touchdown, the 49ers had opportunity to finally forge ahead.  3 chances.  No touchdowns.  1 chance arguably remained.  On this fourth and final opportunity, the 49ers threw a fade into the end zone.  All eyes watched as a play of several seconds seemed executed in undoubtedly, slow, slow-motion…

 

Incomplete.

The ball fell to the ground.  Incomplete.  The Ravens could then hold out for the win.

 

But on that final 49ers play, the physical contact was significant.  Did the receiver push off?  Did the defense interfere?  Jim Harbaugh, the San Fran coach, screamed at the refs, throwing his hat in disgust, clamoring for defensive holding.  John Harbaugh, the soon-to-be-victorious coach, felt just as strongly that no defensive penalty was in order.  The 2 men disagreed.  No one seemed capable of changing either of their equally, incredibly passionate opinions.

 

The 2 men — the 2 brothers — disagreed passionately on the call.  Regardless of extent their passion, one good man won.  The other one lost.

 

The winner did not gloat in his accomplishment.  Even though he won the absolute, pinnacle game of his career, there was no public utterance of arrogance, of how he was better, how his team was better, nor what a big [bleeping] deal this was.  The “winning” brother was continually mindful that his circumstances still meant someone else’s loss; someone else he cared about passionately disagreed with what led to his success.

 

Don’t let the outcome also cause us to conclude that Jim Harbaugh (the Super Bowl’s losing coach) suddenly changed his opinion, acted as if it was no big deal, nor simply suggested he was happy for his brother.  Jim declined immediate post-game interviews.  When he did speak, he was very clear that he passionately disagreed with the call.  However, Jim Harbaugh was able to disagree without reverting to disrespect.

 

No gloating by John; no assuming he knows best.  No pouting by Jim; no assuming he is a victim.  The two men won and lost, while continuing to remember that people they cared about believed and felt differently.

 

Somehow we miss that…  We feel so emboldened in our “wins” and our “losses” that we seem to actually forget those we care about.  We forget that those who feel differently are not always evil, not always disrespectful, and (God forbid, probably) not always wrong.

We forget that we are brothers.

 

Respectfully,

AR

‘super’ bowl

A “super” day…

 

If we compare to last year, 111.3 million of us will sit down in front of the television at some point this evening and turn on Super Bowl XLVII.  The San Francisco 49ers — led by Coach J. Harbaugh — will face the Baltimore Ravens — led by Coach J. Harbaugh.

 

We will watch the obviously super brothers, and… we will eat…

 

In fact, we will eat a lot…

 

Some of us will grill.  Regardless of snow covering half the country, Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest grilling day of the year — the first being the Fourth of July.

 

We’ll eat chips; an estimated 11 million pounds of potato chips will be consumed.

 

(… uh, not a ton of health food…)

 

Pizza will be served in plethoras.  It is, no doubt, the busiest day of the year for pizza restaurants, with major chains supposed to sell double what they do on a regular day.

 

Not to be out done, however, by wings and rings and even more things, as 1.23 billion chicken wings are expected to be consumed, accompanied by 49.2 million cases of beer.

 

Second only to Thanksgiving, Americans are expected to double their food consumption to 33 million pounds of snacks.

 

So we should be satisfied physically, enjoying the creativity of newly aired commercials and thus money exchanging hands…

 

CBS is charging advertisers an estimated $3.7 to $3.8 million dollars per 30-second spot.  30 seconds.  3.8 billion.  That equates to $125,000 per second.

 

(…I could do a lot with $125,000 per second…)

 

How about betting?  Is the Super Bowl the number one gambling day of the year?

 

Probably.  According to “Business Week” magazine, “No one knows for sure since the huge majority of the money changes hands under the table.  Last year, Nevada’s 184 sports books wrote $93.9 million worth of bets.  The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, aka March Madness, recently surpassed the Super Bowl’s handle (the total amount wagered) in the state with roughly $100 million in bets, but that’s over 67 games.  According to the American Gaming Association, a gambling lobby in Washington, the Super Bowl is still the biggest for illegal wagers.  The AMA says the Nevada handle accounts for only 1.5 percent of the Super Bowl total, which would make for more than $6 billion nationwide.  March Madness, the lobby says, citing the FBI, is a $2.5 billion betting event.  But Pregame.com founder R.J. Bell estimated in ‘USA Today’ that March Madness topped the Super Bowl last year, $12 billion to $10 billion.  Again, nobody really knows.”

 

So allow me to get this straight…

 

Tons of money exchanges hands…

Money that could arguably be more wisely spent is gambled away…

We will eat and drink lavishly, ‘stuffingly’, unhealthily…

And upon completion, the winners will call it the ‘best day of their lives’…

… the losers will articulate the utter agony of defeat.

 

All for what is best described as a “game.”

 

A “super” game, no less — but still just a “game.”

 

Yep, our country is sure messed up sometimes…

But can’t wait to watch…  love those brothers Harbaugh…

 

Respectfully,

AR

hating politics

I hate politics.  Ok, so really… that’s kind of a lie.  Sorry, I attempt to be transparent.  I’m also very human.  While several of you consider yourselves among that camp (a camp that includes my very respected spouse), I do not hate politics.  If, however, there were ever days when the Intramuralist was most tempted, Monday and Tuesday were two.

 

From this semi-humble vantage point, politics is a tool that is best used as an ethical, responsible means to govern and assist people.  When I come to the proverbial breaking point where the thought of “hate” creeps into my head, it’s typically prompted by a distortion of that responsible means — typically, too, made manifest via the perception of either arrogance or self-servingness.  It’s a point where what’s best for the country seems secondary to some other motive — a motive which may or may not be able to be discerned with certainty.

 

Afford me first the grace to offer both caveat and confession…

All parties and all people are capable of arrogance.  All parties and people are capable of self-servingness.  I am equally capable.  Note:  neither Democrats nor Republicans are overwhelmingly noted for their outstanding ethics; neither is known to consistently put what’s best for the country first.

 

Hence, follow the sequence of events leading to Monday and Tuesday…

 

Both Pres. Bush and Pres. Obama promised to enact immigration reform.  Bush promised it within term 2; Obama promised it within year 1 of term 1.  Neither prioritized such as promised.  With arguably up to 12 million persons living in this country illegally — impacting our workplace, healthcare system, etc. — this is an issue that undoubtedly has bipartisan appeal (hence, the promises)… hence, also, why the Intramuralist believes this is not a partisan issue.

 

Consistent with that thinking, on Monday, a group of 8 leading senatorial voices (which included Dick Durbin, John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Chuck Schumer) excitedly and incredibly respectfully announced the bipartisan agreement they crafted in order to deal with this challenge well.  Look at the polls.  Citizens have no desire for “liberal rule,” “conservative rule,” or anyone’s dictatorship; they want — we want — effective, bipartisan agreement.  American citizens do not seem to believe that one party has the complete and always correct way.  Hence, Monday’s bipartisan agreement — where both Democrats and Republicans had to “give” on something and were still excited about it — seemed a potential, effective solution.

 

That solution may still exist.  It may not.

 

On Tuesday, the President decided it was necessary to announce his immigration proposal.  He flew to Las Vegas and back to D.C. solely to deliver this address (note:  such a trip costs taxpayers an estimated $1.6 million).  While commending the senators for their announced actions, Obama added that the Senate must move fast, saying, “If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.”  The President’s proposal seemingly differs from the mixed group of senators in that it does not require border security prior to offering free legal status.

 

As a person who (does not) hate politics — and questions this of all parties — I question the motive of the President’s speech.  Was the proposed bipartisan solution not enough?  Was the senators’ joint excitement not ample to keep the momentum rolling toward achieving what’s best for our country?  Or does there exist some secondary motive — something that true, we cannot discern with certainty?

 

In the White House Press Secretary’s daily Monday briefing, Jay Carney added the following:  “I think it’s important before we let the moment pass to acknowledge that the progress we’re seeing embodied in the principles put forward by this bipartisan group is happening for a reason: I think it’s happening because consensus is developing in the country, a bipartisan consensus, and it’s happening because the President has demonstrated significant leadership on this issue.”  [emphasis mine]

 

“Because the President.”  President Bush?  President Obama?  My sense is that who is responsible pales in comparison to actual solution.

 

Wait.  Allow me one more significant tangent prior to this post’s end…

If you find yourself excessively irritated or joyfully ‘amen-ing’ at today’s dialogue, please be aware of the prodigious potential for naiveté on each of our parts.  Know that persons from both parties have secondary motives, and also know that no politician is exempt from hidden motive, regardless of how much of our admiration they tend to attract.

 

Ok, ok… enough…  I don’t really hate politics.  It’s just that sometimes both parties really tempt me.

 

Respectfully,

AR