Thursday, June 27, 2013

The appropriate balance when it comes to texting and urinating

Recently, while visiting an establishment, I walked into the bathroom and saw a man texting while standing at a urinal.
Let me repeat that:  I walked into the bathroom and saw a man texting while standing at a urinal.  I’ll pause for a moment just to let that visual sink in.
Seriously? Is this what it has come to? Have our social media gadgets become so glued to our bodies that we cannot put them down for a minute while we take care of our normal bodily functions?
I guess our minds are becoming so desperate for electronic interaction that we cannot even put our cell phones aside for the basics of life.
However, maybe I should give that person the benefit of the doubt. I did not know him, so maybe he is a very important man. Even though he only looked old enough to be just out of college, his input on important matters might be so significant that even the slightest delay in responding to people could upset his entire world.
Of course, it is hard to picture President Obama texting while urinating. After all, of all the important people in our country, most people consider the president to be the most important of all. However, I cannot really picture the president texting the president of Russia during such a private moment.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I enjoy certain aspects of social media. I occasionally text people. I use Facebook and am on there several times a week. Still, our dependence on this type of technology is becoming ridiculous and showing signs of addiction.
The whole point of social media is to help people connect, but often it keeps us from interacting with people right in front of us. Frequently, I see people wandering in stores and on sidewalks with their faces buried in their smart phone of choice. With their intense focus, they look like walking zombies. All the while, they are ignoring people around them and not making eye contact with them.
We see this technological dependence reveal itself in the most unusual ways. For example, the church bulletin we have at my church states each week: “Please turn your cell phone off or mute it!”
Though this seems like an obvious request that really should not have to be made, it is truly necessary. This is because many of us think our lives have become so important that we cannot spend an hour focusing on God without having our lifeline to the world at our fingertips.
Seriously, when did we all become so important? I am not talking about those accidental times when we forget to turn our phone off and it rings at an embarrassing time. I am writing about the need to have open access to everybody and everything all the time.
I taught a Sunday school class for several years, and some weeks, I would notice people with their phones out and glancing at it for messages (or whatever). I never said anything about it, but looking back at it, maybe I should have. If we are trying to focus on too many things, we really are not focusing on anything at all.
Unfortunately, I do not see this getting any better in the near future. Smart phones (and similar gadgets) guarantee an acceleration in the self-absorption factor we have in our culture.
I am not saying these tools are bad, but like most things in life, we have to strike a proper balance when it comes to their role. Right now, we are having trouble maintaining that balance. Hopefully, we will try to resolve this issue, but I am not so sure.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jake Locker behind the eight ball as Tennessee Titans season nears

Titans have a long way to go and a short time to get there.

The 2013 National Football League regular season is still months away, but no single player in the league has more riding on it than Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Jake Locker.
This will be his third season, and it may be make-or-break time for him. This may not be fair, but in the instant success world of the NFL, results are demanded now rather than later.
The success of rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck have put additional pressure on Locker as they proved inexperienced quarterbacks can lead the turnaround of bad teams. Luck piloted the Indianapolis Colts to an 11-5 record just one season after the team imploded at 2-14. Also, Griffin led the Redskins to their first playoff appearance in years.
This leaves Locker with a lot to prove. In his first season, he was brought along slowly as he learned from veteran Matt Hasselbeck. Last year, he was handed the starting job and the results were mixed. He suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in the opening game loss to New England, and it hampered him all season.
He only started 11 games, posting a 4-7 record. He also threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10).
However, in his defense, the Titans were a bad team on both sides of the ball last season. The team finished 6-10, but since four of those wins were by four points or less, the team was perilously close to going 2-14.
The defense ranked dead last in the league in points allowed (471). In eight games, the team gave up 30 points or more, and opponents eclipsed the 50-point level twice. It does not get much worse on the professional level.
Still, expectations are high for Locker this year, and if he does not show improvement, his future in Tennessee could become limited. The Titans certainly demonstrated this in their numerous offseason personnel moves.
Despite the enormous problems on defense, the Titans invested considerably on free agents for the offense, as well as several draft picks. The Titans shocked many by spending their first two picks in the draft on offensive players (guard Chance Warmack from Alabama and wide receiver Justin Hunter from Tennessee).
Additionally, the team brought in several offensive free agents that will diversify the unit. Guard Andy Levitre, tight end Delanie Walker, and power running back Shonn Greene bring quality where the Titans were lacking last year. Greene, especially, should provide a much needed change of pace to speedster Chris Johnson who often danced his way into trouble in short yardage situations. Johnson clearly is still the number one running back, but Greene brings an added dimension.
Though the team has also brought in several free agents on the defensive side, it is clear the Titans are looking at an improved offense as a way to keep the defense off the field. After all, if an opponent does not have the ball, it makes it pretty tough for them to score.
This brings us back to Locker. Clearly, he has been given the resources to do his job. An influx of talent has been inserted into an underachieving offensive line. Quality depth has been brought to the backfield and wide receiver unit. Plus, Walker should provide more consistency than the departed Jared Cook at tight end.
The ball is clearly in Locker’s court. If he does not produce early, will the Titans give him a quick hook?  The team opens with road games at Pittsburgh and at Houston. This is a tough assignment under normal circumstances, but given the pressure on Locker, the stakes are much higher.
Remember, the Titans brought in former Buffalo starter Ryan Fitzpatrick to back him up. If the season goes bad early, the backup quarterback often becomes the most popular player on the team with fans.
Because of this, there will be plenty of intrigue in Nashville this autumn. After last year’s debacle, the coaching staff is under pressure to show significant improvement. Locker’s success or failure will impact many people.
When training camp starts, there will be more pressure than normal, and the spotlight will be white hot on Locker.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

From the mixed-up mind of Gordon Gee

When it comes to life at a university, I am sure most of us have heard the term “ivory tower” used to describe life at such places. It is a term that is often used to demonstrate how life there is not the same as it is in the real world.
However, we recently saw an example of how so-called enlightened people can be just as bigoted and narrow minded as people in the rest of society.
It was recently revealed that Ohio State University President Gordon Gee has some salty attitudes regarding the truthfulness of Catholics and intelligence of people in the South. Unfortunately for him, his comments were caught on tape, allowing us to share in his ugly insights.
Folks here locally might remember Gee from his stint as chancellor at Vanderbilt University. He was known as a colorful character while there, but his recent comments demonstrate how Vanderbilt people should be happy he left their school.
The comments were made last December at a meeting of the school’s athletic council, according to His comments were directed at Notre Dame, which is a private Catholic school that some thought might be going to the Big 10 Conference (of which Ohio State is a member).
However, Notre Dame did not join the conference, prompting Gee to state “those ---- Catholics” can’t be trusted. He also stated: “The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week. You just can’t trust those ---- Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that.”
As he made these comments, laughter can be heard in the background. Since then, Gee has apologized, saying the comments “were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate,” according to the Associated Press.
He should consider himself lucky that he did not get fired, but he has announced he will retire July 1. For whatever reason, our society is more tolerant of hateful speech toward some religious groups compared to others.
Members of Christianity often have to tolerate more of a sharp sword when it comes to words. This is strictly an opinion, but if Gee had made his comments toward Muslims or Jews, then he would have been quickly fired. It appears Christians have to have a thicker skin than everybody else. This may not be fair, but this is the world we live in, so my advice to members of that group is too strengthen your backbone and deal with it.
Gee also had insults for the Southeastern Conference. When discussing comments from fans of the SEC regarding why the Big 10 still uses that name despite having 14 members in the conference, Gee stated: “You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing.”
Ah, yes. The poor, dumb and ignorant stereotype of people in the South remains alive and well. As a culture, we are told that people who live in “ivory towers” have advanced beyond the mundane stereotypes that drive our society, but Gee is walking and talking proof that this is not the case.
The bottom line is the value of people like Gee to a university is not measured in the dopey words they say, but the money brought in through fundraising. If people like him can still rake in the money while making irresponsible comments, it will not matter.
This is probably one of the most cynical examples of how money trumps humanity in our culture. This example should make a cold chill run down all our spines.

President Obama’s lost year

The year is quickly slipping away, and for President Obama, it is beginning to seem like a lost year. His administration is besieged by controversies, and the severity of them is likely determined by which political party a person belongs to.
There is a lot of smoke surrounding these scandals, but there is also some fire. The Benghazi situation grew out of the deaths of four Americans in Libya last September that was the result of a terrorist attack.
Since then, the administration’s handling of the event has remained controversial. Though presidential supporters believe this is old news being rehashed by Republicans for political gain, the president really has nobody to blame but himself for its lingering.
The president claims he has referred to this event as a terrorist attack since the beginning. However, less than a week after the attack, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice did multiple media appearances blaming the attack on an anti-Islamic video that caused inflamed passions in that area and not a terrorist attack. This contradiction has led to much confusion that has not been cleared up yet.
Rice, who at one time was considered a possible successor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, appears to have fallen off the edge of the earth. She has kept a very low profile, and what media appearances she has made has been with friendly members of the fourth estate.
If the president did believe this was a terrorist attack from the beginning, all he had to do is take a straightforward approach with the American people. He apparently did not do that and the story continues to drag out months later.
All he had to do is say the deaths were a terrible tragedy and clearly state it was an act of terrorism. He could have pledged to do all that was possible to track down those who were responsible. He also could have emphasized that he will look at what went wrong in his administration to guarantee this will never happen again.
However, he did not really do that. He did say some of those things, but it was not with the emphasis and action needed to end the story. If he had, there would have been some political fallout, but it would not have been enough to sway last year’s election. He failed to trust the common sense of the American people, and it has come back to bite him.
Of course, there are other controversies, too. The IRS scandal probably resonates with the public more than any of these scandals. This is because we can all relate to it. We all understand the immense power the IRS has, and if it is misused, it can do damage. Any person who has ever opened their mailbox to find a letter from them during non-tax season can attest to how scary that can be.
An Inspector General determined the agency used its power to target conservative groups trying to get non-exempt status.
It does not matter if the president had direct knowledge of the situation. People are already skeptical of our government, and he is the head of it. If the scandal continues to unfold, he will take heat.
And finally, there has been controversy regarding the government’s heavy-handed approach to scrutinizing the Associated Press and other media. The government went as far as to name Fox News reporter James Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator in one situation. Though the public rarely has sympathy for the media, the government’s actions here deserve intense scrutiny.
If they will do this to the media, won’t they do it to you and me?