An imperfect universe is God tickling your armpits.

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I like my universe messy.  I like the fact that Pi is 3.14 without repeating until infinity.  I like that there is a computer somewhere that is trying to find the repeater in Pi and will continue to look and will never find it.  Ever.  I like remainders in my long division.  I like that quantum physicists are compelled to manufacture things they can’t see to fill in the gaps of their theories.  The fact that the universe is a chili cheese dog with extra onions and nacho cheese and oreo sprinkles gives me a sense of peace that a layered salad universe would not.  I think it’s God’s way of holding us down and tickling our armpits.  And don’t think that it is because God hates us or because he’s trying to prove that he’s God and we aren’t.  I love my kids and I hold them down and tickle their armpits all the time.

Some questions were designed to not be answered.  It doesn’t mean stop looking.  The fun is in the pursuit.  If the universe was laid out nice and neat and an answer didn’t lead to another question but rather the end then everybody would go to MIT and be rock star scientists and have quarks and neutrinos and solar systems named after them and you’d spend an inefficient amount of time just memorizing their names.  And science classes would suck worse than they do now.

Da Vinci is widely recognized as one of the greatest painters of all time and the Mona Lisa is butt ugly.  Does that mean da Vinci lacked talent?  No.  It meant that he realized that perfection is boring and art museums are boring enough without a hot Mona Lisa making it worse.  I believe that God works the same way.  The fact that much of the universe is an open-ended question says absolutely nothing about God’s perfection and more about His ability to keep us occupied with relevant stuff that might actually make our lives better and give it meaning.  Let’s face it- if all of the unanswerable questions were answered Stephen Hawking would have nothing more to do than celebrity guest judge American Idol and co-host some E! fashion show with Joan Rivers.  And Melissa Rivers would be chronically unemployed.

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A pitcher throwing a perfect game is unbelievably boring until the 7th inning and then the potential that you are witnessing perfection coupled with the drama that the perfection could be interrupted at any moment keeps you riveted.  I’m pretty sure Einstein felt the same way as he was exploring the possibility of cold fusion.

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The take-home here is that we should all just relax a bit and enjoy the universe without trying to figure it all out.  Look up at the stars and be in awe for a moment.  An imperfect universe is God’s way of taking the pressure off.  If the universe isn’t perfect then you shouldn’t be either.

God says you’re welcome.

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The FBU National Championship, Part 2- A Game of Memory

I watch film. Game film. To most people watching game film as a youth football coach is the equivalent of topping off your boat’s live well when you’re bass fishing with dynamite. But it can mean the difference between a play that wins the game and a play that loses it. Or a player that wins the game or loses it. And while it’s supposed to be fun and esteem building and all of that other stuff, it gets very serious when a coach realizes that thirty something players believe you should have all the answers and put their faith in you to get it right.

So I watch a lot of film.

Of course there is a flip side. The same eye for detail used to break down an opponent’s tendencies and weaknesses can make watching your game film uncomfortable. Every mistake moved from the reel of the projector to the reel of the mind. Every missed opportunity advertised for an audience of one. So, once the season is over, I don’t watch film. Maybe, I say to myself, when my son is thirty and I’m mostly dead and we need something to entertain ourselves during Thanksgiving I’ll drop the tape in and relive the past with a less accusing eye.

Problem is, my memory sucks. I can remember getting ready for the game against Southeast Louisiana. I remember the game plan. Press the offense. Overload with blitzes and force the action. Set the edge and take away the speed advantage- if New Orleans had anything, we reasoned, it was speed and it had to be negated. Defense always shines early in a tournament so don’t overload our guys with too much and let them play fast. The game? Just a blur.

So I put in the tape.

First thing that struck me- Southeast was bigger than we were. And faster. Then I remembered a conversation I had with my son during warm-ups.
Jack: “Here they come.”
Me: “No. Too big. That’s the 8th grade team getting off the field.”
Jack: “Then why are they warming up?”
Me: “Maybe they’re just being thorough.”

Second thing-the game was sloppy. We made too many mistakes. They made more. And that was the difference in the game. It was to be expected when kids had only played together for a week or two. We would see as the tournament progressed that the mistakes would be less frequent, their impacts tremendous.
Third- the game hinged on moments. Cliché, I know, but so true. In a one-and-done tournament you never know the moment that decides your fate, the one that sends you home or sends you on. We had a moment.
Southeast had not made a first down. Mid fourth quarter, down by six and at their own thirty they have their best offensive play of the game. The Hail Mary was picked by our all-everything safety and downed at our thirty. Three and out and we set up to punt.

Then, the moment.

The coaches put their heads together to strategize. Until then we had not punted, trusting our defense- who had not allowed a first down- to keep everything out front. I wanted to get the ball as far away from the other end zone as possible. The others wanted a shot at a first down. I begged not to give my guys a short field. They relented. Everyone’s eyes turned to the punter. The backup to the backup quarterback. Spotless jersey.

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The punt was partially blocked. It should have been blocked into the end zone. Somebody got through but Elliott stood his ground and delivered. The prettiest 5 yard punt I’ve ever seen. I let down my guard and talked to the kid as a grownup as he left the field.

“Son, they couldn’t fit your balls in a dump truck!”

Final score: Northwest Louisiana 6. Southeast Louisiana 0. We lived to fight the next day. We didn’t know it at the time, but this game would turn out to be our toughest victory. Of course, none of the victories were easy.

The film doesn’t lie.

I watch the film and am reminded of things I had forgotten. A play. A conversation. A moment. Things that, at the time, I believed would be etched in my memory forever. Things so powerful I thought I’d never forget. And I think, what else have I lost? What other memories are my “tears in the rain?”

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Maybe I shouldn’t trust my memory so much. Maybe there are memories so important they shouldn’t be entrusted to the same brain that forgets his kid’s lunches or to pay the water bill. Growing up my dad would be in the stands at our games or on vacation decked out like a Japanese tourist. Video camera. Nikon with telephoto lens and kung fu grip. Back then I thought he was trying to get out of riding Space Mountain at Disney World or coaching first base. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe he was making sure the memories stayed when his brain failed. That we’d always have those memories whether we were reminded of them or not. For my fortieth birthday he took all of my game films- the ones he recorded- and put them on DVD for me.

I should watch more film.

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Why I would let Dave Grohl teach my kids.

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Stumbled across this quote by Dave Grohl.  If you aren’t a child of the ’90s he is the lead singer of the group Foo Fighters.  Also played drums for a little known band called Nirvana.  F-bombs aside we should generalize it some and use it as our life mission statement.  How many times have you been talked out of doing something you really want to do?  How many people have told you that you aren’t good enough?  Not talented enough?  Not as good as the next guy? To settle for the easy thing you hate instead of the hard thing you love?  Don’t get me wrong- I like The Voice.  I just worry about all of the potential Nirvanas that will be selling insurance ten years from now because somebody told them they weren’t good enough for their T.V. show.  Here’s another statistic for you: 70% of all youth football players will not play in high school.  Why?  My thought is that many don’t have someone to believe in them, someone that pulls them aside one day and says-

“You can be anything you want to be.  Keep working.  I’ll help you.”

And guess what?  They may suck something awful.  Today.  But maybe they won’t tomorrow.  I’ve coached so many kids that I just knew should find something else to do, and realized that they wanted to be a football player so bad they turned themselves into one. Not all at once.  But it did happen.  And it happens all of the time- but most kids are still naive enough to think adults are smarter than they are and it only takes one knucklehead to make them give up on their dream.  Don’t be that guy.

I spent years becoming very good at a job that I hate.  I’m ready to spend years becoming very good at something I love.  Right now, I suck at being a writer-but every day I suck a little less.  And I’m good with that.

What do you love to do?  Are you doing it?  Why not?

Tweet this……

One of our softball players went 3 for 3 last Saturday.  I know this happens all of the time but until Saturday she had just one hit total.  For the entire season.  Seven games.  I was out of town with our son at a football tournament and missed the game, but later on I threw out a Tweet letting her know I was proud of her.  Problem with Twitter is you only get 140 characters to say what you want to say.

Here’s what I said: “So proud of your 3 for 3.  I knew you could do it!”

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What I meant……..

You don’t realize what you’ve done. Not a clue and that’s actually a good thing. It needs to be a fundamental part of your character, this thing you’ve accomplished over the past few weeks. It is one of the true pleasures of coaching that I was able to watch it happen.  Eight weeks ago you looked like someone swinging a polo mallet and riding a pretend horse. Six weeks ago it looked like Tiger Woods coming out of the sand. Four weeks ago, Happy Gillmore’s tee shot.

Last week I noticed something. The swing was level. The timing was slow and you were juuust behind it. I thought, a few more AB’s and she’ll find it.  And you did.
But I know the rest of it too.  The hours of work in the back yard to fix that swing, Mom and brother feeding you balls and breaking it down. Daddy picking you up after every strikeout, feeding you confidence so you’d have the courage to make that trip to the plate one more time.
Remember this feeling. The weight of the bat. The ball on the sweet spot. Parents and grandparents and teammates fist pumping and hugging after you ran through first base. But remember what got you there, too. You have learned a lesson many adults haven’t figured out:

Most things in life are not going to come to you naturally.  

They will require you to work at them, and success happens when you work at something you’re passionate about. Success is not a gift. It is not a birthright. Many adults have raised their children in a sports atmosphere where we don’t keep score, we try to build self esteem instead of character, and then we act surprised when children want everything and don’t understand why they have to work for it. Then they are equally surprised when they look to someone else for validation of an unaccomplished life. How else do you explain boys barely out of their teens building bombs, high schools that need day care, and 26 year olds still on their parent’s insurance?

Softball isn’t natural for you. Whatever success you have in the sport will be because you worked for it. Because you earned it. And guess what? This won’t be the only time in your life where working at something important will pay off. Your job. Your marriage. Being a parent. Not to overdramatize it, but you are now set up to be anything you want to be because now you know what it takes- the decision that something is so important that the sacrifice is worth it.

Good game.

Everyone is famous for fifteen minutes. Or a famous brother for thirty minutes.

My brother is famous. Not the rock star, in the public eye, get caught by the prying eyes of the media stepping out of your limo in a miniskirt kind of way. But when you say his name everybody knows him. Geriatric great grandmothers whose only link to the outside world is AM radio and Matlock reruns. The Swedish Bikini Team. The Amish. Everybody.

Consequently, the world can be divided into two separate categories. One- people that know me, know my brother, and wish I was him. Two- people that know my brother, don’t know me, and think I’m him. (Hint- I’m older, fatter and don’t reek of Polo.)

The second category has actually made for a rather enjoyable, Walter Mitty kind of experience for me. I have been accused of being thrown out of bars I’ve never stepped foot in, had several ’80s movie stars profess to meeting me that I’ve only seen on Celebrity Fit Club, and had the thrill of leading a KISS tribute band in a rousing chorus of “Rock and Roll All Night.” None of this would have been possible had I not been linked genetically to everyone’s favorite neighbor/coworker/drinking buddy/fellow heavy metal music aficionado.

No, the problem is the first group. Once people realize I am not my brother they usually want to talk about him. What he likes to eat. His most recent tatoo. His views on the United Nations Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. But often they just want to know what it was like to grow up with him.

Below is an excerpt from a day of Twitter back-and-forth. Before Twitter and text messages we would have these conversations on the phone or even face to face if work, spouse, child, or house arrest obligations allowed. It is fairly indicative of our relationship as adults. As children the vocabulary wasn’t as colorful and whatever arguments we initiated tended to end with cartoon like violence involving plastic wiffle ball bats and Atari controllers. But you’ll get the idea.

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