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Covering The Field

This week is the most important week of the NFL preseason.  Forget the preseason games and training camps, with the lockout ended and the new franchise regulations firmly in place, teams and players can finally get down to the business of reorganizing their rosters and signing their free agents.

This is the week that teams stock their shelves for the long war of attrition that is the regular season.

The most coveted free agent is a player you’ve probably never heard of (because he languished in obscurity for the Raiders) with a name you probably can’t pronounce (because it looks like someone just got a bunch of new scrabble letters).

It’s Nnamdi Asomugha.

Mr. Asomugha is a cornerback.  During the game he guards the other team’s best reciever.  His job is to make sure the opponent’s fastest player is never without a companion, and never catches the ball.  In household terms he’s like your lightswitch,  you don’t think about him unless he isn’t doing his job.

The cameras never follow a cornerback unless he’s just made a big mistake.

Since the cornerback spends the majority of his time far away the action, you pay him for his reliability.  You don’t want to have to think about how quickly a game can go badly if he’s negligent in his duties.  When you find someone who can make big problems go away, you pay them well and highly esteem them… even if no one else notices.

Yesterday, a 90 year old pastor and theologian passed away.  If  you’ve never heard of John Stott you aren’t alone.  John Stott was the silent partner to Billy Graham in the evangelical revolution that took place in Christianity during the second half of the 1900’s.

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When Fortune Finds Us

History is alive with tales of how merciless and cruel big cities can be.  Whether the evidence is Biblical or anecdotal, we understand that the culture of the city is a culture of machines and finance, two engines that run on the fuel of human souls… if left unchecked.

New York City does not have a gentle, gracious, or generous reputation.  It’s a city that can devour humanity in a way that is different that the slow fade of Los Angeles or the carnival pleasures of Miami.  New York never sleeps, it’s always working, and it’s always ravenous.

This is what makes the story of Christian Lopez so interesting.  Christian is a 23 year-old, single, New Yorker who sells cell phones to pay off his college debt.  Christian also had history fall into his lap yesterday when he became the finder of the ball that came off of the bat of Derek Jeter’s 3,000 major league hit.

The ball featured in most history making hits comes back to the player after the play is over, and the player keeps it for posterity.  Fortunately for the Yankees, and unfortunately for Derek Jeter’s trophy case, his 3,000th hit was a home run.  The ball went into the stands, and Christian Lopez had a decision to make.

Putting the ball up for auction would have yielded at least 6 figures.  It also meant that the ball would go to a private collector, or that Derek Jeter himself would have to pay money for something he created.

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The Old College Try

I once heard someone say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” This person had clearly never been around a preschooler, because they like to ask questions just to watch you scramble to answer them.

If you’ve ever caught yourself in the middle of asking a stupid question you’ve realized that the questions we typically categorize as stupid are categorized as stupid because the answer is obvious to a majority of people.

I’d like to point out that there is also another type of stupid question and that’s the question that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.  In any given group of people there are some that fail to make the transition from an old topic to a new topic.  They get caught up thinking about an idea that the group has moved on from and the next time they speak, they prove it by asking a question or sharing a tidbit that has nothing to do with the current conversation.

This easily distracted person often finds themselves wandering down hypothetical pathways towards solutions to problems that don’t, or shouldn’t exist.  Their questions typically take the group off topic and leave it mired in minutiae.  Their assumption about what the group is talking about, leads to statements and questions that derail forward progress.

In the wake of the most recent NCAA Football scandal, opinion makers and broadcasters have been asking stupid questions like, “How do you keep players and coaches from breaking the rules?”, “How can we limit an agent’s access to players”, and “Shouldn’t we just start paying the players already?”

Bad questions often come from fundamentally bad assumptions.  Those assumptions are the rabbit trails that keep people from actually addressing the real problems facing people.  Assuming that colleges should be profiting from the entertainment value found on the athletic field comes from the assumption that schools should be responsible for organizing sports teams and sponsoring contests in the first place.

The question we should all be asking is actually, “Do athletics play any meaningful role in the process of higher education?” To raise the stakes, ask yourself what football has to do with a doctorate in mathematics?

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