The Rants of Richelieu

Good time in South Carolina

Right now Rhonwyyn and I are chilling here in South Carolina with my sister Rebecca and her husband Dan. Oh, and of course with their daughter Bellencia (Belle for short), who is almost four months old. Belle is adorable, and for me to say that means a lot. I've been known to be brutally honest in the past about some babies not being too pretty. Belle has a smaller head and a well-shaped face--she's really cute!

It's great to see my sister as a mother. She has been married for eight years and now she's a mother at the age of 31 (tomorrow). Belle is pretty calm, which probably helps Rebecca's demeanor. It's gotten to the point in life where all of us accept one another as equals. We're adults. That's an important step, since I'm the oldest and years ago looked at my sisters as little girls.

Yeah, it's funny how a couple years means so much when you are 10 or even 17 but means so little when you are 30+. My youngest sister is 31 and I'll be 36 in a month. That's so meaningless now, isn't it?

I held Belle today, and it felt good. Usually I don't take an interest in kids until they can speak, at which point I'm very good with them. But I liked holding that baby today and imagining holding my own daughter someday.

Patience, big guy...the time will come.
Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals

It's been 21 years since the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers met in the NBA Finals. Last time it occurred, I was a freshman in high school! Yeah, I remember it because I was a Celtics fan back then. Of course, I was a huge Larry Bird fan and felt that he should have won the MVP in 1986-87 (and the next season, for that matter). Anyway, the Celtics were badly banged up that year, but their starting five was the best ever. They just couldn't keep up with the healthy Lakers, though, and fell in six games.

The game everyone remembers is Game 4 where Magic Johnson hit a hook shot with two seconds left to give the Lakers a 107-106 lead. Larry Bird then missed a shot at the buzzer. What I remember was a referee's mistake that may have cost Boston the game. Celtics were up 106-104 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was fouled. He hit the first free throw but then missed the second. On the rebound, Kevin McHale and Mychal Thompson went up for it and the ball was knocked out of bounds. The ref gave the ball to the Lakers but the replay showed it went off Thompson. If the ball had been given to the Celtics, the Lakers would have had to foul, and Boston was the best free throw shooting team in the league.

Oh, well, it probably wouldn't matter since the Celtics were so beat up. McHale was playing on a broken foot that would require surgery after the season was over. Robert Parish had sprained his ankle several times and had gone down a few times in the conference finals. Danny Ainge had missed some playoff games as well with a bum ankle. Perhaps most damaging, though, was the injuries to their two best bench players. Scott Wedman played six games in November/December and then went down with a heel injury--he would never play again. Bill Walton was out until March, but he looked pretty good in the first round series against Chicago. He would reinjured his foot against Milwaukee, and he was ineffective against LA. It was a courageous effort, but Boston just couldn't do it.

This year I'm rooting for the other side. It's strange how this happens, isn't it? I remained a Celtic fan until Bird retired, and since then I haven't had any interest in that team. In the last three years, however, I've become a Laker fan. They caught my attention in the 2005-2006 season--first with Kobe Bryant's scoring explosions and then with their playoff performance. I found that I like to watch Kobe: when he's hot, no one is hotter. The team is fun too, and I enjoyed seeing Andrew Bynum develop this year.

I don't see LA losing this one. They're too deep, too young, and too talented. I also think they are hungrier for it. Kobe wants to prove that he can lead a team to an NBA title. He already has three rings--and there's no way LA would have won those titles without him--but Shaq was on those teams. Now he's unquestionably the leader of the team, and he wants to show he can do what Michael Jordan did. Yes, Kevin Garnett wants a title, but he hasn't been near the player in the clutch that Kobe has been.

If this Lakers team wins the title this year, they may have a mini-dynasty going. With Bynum returning next season, they will be incredibly stacked. Think of that front line of Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom--huge and ridiculously athletic. The only age issue on the team is Derek Fisher, but he's still going pretty strong. The bench is deep and just getting better. Kobe will be 30 next year but he clearly has plenty left in his tank. This team should be contenders for 4-5 seasons to come.

If they win it all this year, that will shut up some of the critics who have said that Kobe just rode Shaq's coattails. They will have to put the two of them on the same level. Oh, and just so everyone knows, Shaq always had a wingman. In Orlando he had Anfernee Hardaway, in LA he had Kobe, and in Miami he had Dwyane Wade. In other words, he didn't do it himself.
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Best review of Sex and the City

Believe it or not, I have seen a few episodes of "Sex and the City." Who knows why except that I was at one time infatuated with a woman who liked the show. Every once in a while it had a good insight, but most of the time it was unrealistic drivel that depicted older women who were no more mature than high schoolers. They were promiscuous to a whorish level, and any relationship was doomed to failure because of their self-absorbed lifestyles. Their actions, words, and clothing were out of touch with reality. They were simply four repulsive women with virtually no redeeming features.

I'm not going to see the movie, but I did read Roger Ebert's review. He's usually spot on, and this review is great. He captures so perfectly how inane the whole concept is. It takes some perspective, and he has it. Some crazy ga-ga fan would be drooling over the film--probably to a worse degree than a Star Wars fan. Here is this excellent review:
I am not the person to review this movie. Perhaps you will enjoy a review from someone who disqualifies himself at the outset, doesn’t much like most of the characters and is bored by their bubble-brained conversations. Here is a 145-minute movie containing one (1) line of truly witty dialogue: “Her 40s is the last age at which a bride can be photographed without the unintended Diane Arbus subtext.”

That line might not reverberate with audience members who don’t know who Diane Arbus was. But what about me, who doesn’t reverberate with the names of designer labels? There’s a montage of wedding dresses by world-famous designers. I was lucky I knew who Vivienne Westwood was, and that’s because she used to be the girlfriend of the Sex Pistols’ manager.

The movie of “Sex and the City” continues the saga of the four heroines of the popular HBO series, which would occasionally cause me to pause in my channel surfing. They are older but no wiser, and all facing some kind of a romantic crossroads. New Line has begged critics not to reveal plot secrets, which is all right with me, because I would rather have fun with plot details. I guess I can safely say: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is in the 10th year of her relationship with Mr. Big (Chris Noth) when they sort of decide to buy a penthouse they name “Heaven on Fifth Avenue.” Publicist Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has moved to Los Angeles, where her lover Smith (Jason Lewis) has become a daytime TV star. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and her husband, Harry (Evan Handler), have adopted a Chinese daughter. And Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is in a crisis with her husband, Steve (David Eigenberg).

What with one thing and another, dramatic developments cause the four women to join one another at a luxurious Mexican resort, where two scenes take place that left me polishing my pencils to write this review. The girls go sunbathing in crotch-hugging swimsuits, and Miranda is ridiculed for the luxuriant growth of her pubic hair. How luxuriant? One of her pals describes it as “The National Forest,” and there’s a shot of the offending proliferation that popped the Smith Bros. right into my head.

A little later, Charlotte develops a tragic case of turista, and has a noisy accident right there in her pants. This is a key moment, because Carrie has been so depressed she has wondered if she will ever laugh again. Her friends say that will happen when something really, really funny happens. When Charlotte overflows, Carrie and the others burst into helpless laughter. Something really, really funny has finally happened! How about you? Would you think that was really, really funny?

“Sex and the City” was famous for its frankness, and we expect similar frankness in the movie. We get it, but each “frank” moment comes wrapped in its own package and seems to stand alone from the story. That includes (1) a side shot of a penis, (2) sex in positions other than the missionary, and (3) Samantha’s dog, which is a compulsive masturbator. I would be reminded of the immortal canine punch line (“because he can”), but Samantha’s dog is a female. “She’s been fixed,” says the pet lady, “but she has not lost the urge.”

Samantha can identify with that. The dog gets friendly with every pillow, stuffed animal and ottoman and towel, and here’s the funny thing, it ravishes them male-doggy-style. I went to and typed in “How do female dogs masturbate?” and did not get a satisfactory answer, although it would seem to be: “Just like all dogs do, but not how male dogs also do.”

On to Mr. Big, the wealthy tycoon and a victim of two unhappy marriages, who has been blissfully in love with Carrie the last few years. I will supply no progress report on their bliss.

But what about Mr. Big himself? As played by Chris Noth, he’s so unreal, he verges on the surreal. He’s handsome in the Rock Hudson and Victor Mature tradition, and has a low, preternaturally calm voice that delivers stock reassurances and banal cliches right on time. He’s so ... passive. He stands there (or lies there) as if consciously posing as the Ideal Lover. But he’s ... kinda slow. Square. Colorless. Notice how, when an old friend shouts rude things about him at an important dinner, he hardly seems to hear them, or to know he’s having dinner.

The most human character is Louise (Jennifer Hudson), who is still in her 20s and hasn’t learned to be a jaded consumerist caricature. She still believes in True Love, is hired as Carrie’s assistant and pays her own salary on the first day by telling her about a NetFlix of designer labels (I guess after you wear the shoes, you send them back). Louise is warm and vulnerable and womanly, which does not describe any of the others.

All of this goes on for nearly two-and-a-half hours, through New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and other Bonding Holidays. The movie needs a Thanksgiving bailout opportunity. But this is probably the exact “Sex and the City” film that fans of the TV series are lusting for, and it may do $50 million on its opening weekend. I know some nurses who are going to smuggle flasks of Cosmopolitans into the theater on opening night, and have a Gal Party. “Do you think that’s a good idea?” one of them asked me. “Two flasks,” I said.
Headache issues recently

I've always struggled with headaches in my life, but this past week was more than usual. It all started two Fridays ago when my wife and I went to South Carolina. In the long car ride, I got headaches that required Excedrin. Normally, I try not to use too much of that stuff because eight years ago or so I developed stomach ulcers from the aspirin. That weekend, though, I had several persistent headaches as well as a few neck aches that made the time less enjoyable than it could have been. I still had a good time--it just could have been better.

On the way home on Memorial Day, I developed a headache that just kept flaring up whenever I wasn't driving. I had to take Excedrin three times that day. Thankfully, my wife was tired much of the day so I did most of the driving; the pain didn't bother me so much then. There was a brief time when I felt queasy--the telltale sign of a severe headache (or "death headaches" as my father calls them). Thankfully, the Excedrin kicked in before the pain became debilitating.

Since that trip, I've had to take Excedrin at least once each day. That is unusual. Plus, I've had to pop a few Advil too for my neck pain. I can't figure this out--why is this happening? I'm not sleeping any differently--position or time--and there hasn't been any increase in stress or physical activity. If this keeps up, I'm going to see a doctor. Excedrin works for me, but I don't want to become so dependent on it that I end up at risk for getting ulcers again.
Last night I saw that ESPN was showing Game 6 of the 1987 NBA Finals--the last finals game between the Lakers and the Celtics. It was fun checking out that game since I hadn't seen it since 1987. Back then I was a big Celtics fan, so back then the result was terribly disappointing. As I said earlier, though, the Celtics were banged up.

The Lakers were just healthier and quicker. Kareem had an incredible Game 6--at the age of 40! In Larry Bird's biography Drive, he said that K.C. Jones just had no faith in the "Green Team" (the Celtics bench) that season. Once they had lost Scott Wedman and Bill Walton to injury, the only dependable guy off the bench was guard Jerry Sichting. Bird said that Greg Kite, who was the 10th man the year before, was the 7th man in 1986-87. That shows how weak their bench was. Bird felt that Kite was good as a 10th, 11th, or 12th man, but that year he had to function as a 8th, 7th, or even 6th man--roles he really wasn't qualified for.

Boston's bench problems continued the next year as Walton never returned, Wedman was cut (and never played again), and Sichting was traded. They had rookie Reggie Lewis, but K.C. didn't play him too often. It was basically the Iron Five again that year. In the 1988 conference finals, though, Boston couldn't beat Detroit. After that, they never were the same, as Danny Ainge was traded in 1989, Dennis Johnson was getting old and would retire in 1990, Larry Bird battled all kinds of injuries the last four years of his career, and Kevin McHale and Robert Parish just got old and couldn't go full speed for 40 minutes. After that 1988 series with Detroit, Boston never made it past the second round while Bird was still playing.

I waited a few days to post about this, which is probably good. If I had posted on Tuesday, the rage would have been boiling over and my language wouldn't have been nice. The object of my rage was Amy, my group therapist. She's inefficient, disorganized, and a control freak. It's because of her that my wife and I cannot go to Rehoboth Beach at the end of this month. We had planned to go with her family to a cottage they rent out every year. Both of us had made preparations at work so that we could make the trip. On Tuesday I was told that I wouldn't be able to go. Well, Amy said that I couldn't go, and my P.O. just cowered and wouldn't stand up for what's right.

Looking back, I can see where things went wrong. Assumptions were made, and we all know what happens when you assume. First off, I assumed that the system I knew for two years would continue that way. With two previous probation officers and with another group therapy organization, the travel process had been simple and consistent. I would present my travel plans to my P.O., who would then determine if I was to be granted a travel permit. If my P.O. wanted to, he or she would confer with the group therapists. I never had to discuss any trips in group therapy since travel requests are on a separate line on the written probation rules than completing counseling. My P.O. is my boss, and he or she chooses whether I can travel.

Second, my new P.O. made an assumption that the instructions given by Amy were clear. Not so. Amy told me that any proposed trip needed to be discussed in group at least one month before it was to occur. However, such a policy was not included in the written rules. More importantly, such a policy ran contrary both to what I had experienced and what my P.O. had told me. When I began working with this new P.O. in January, I asked her how travel was to be handled. She clearly told me that my requests were to be submitted to her two weeks before the trip. She said NOTHING about bringing up the idea in group to get Amy's approval.

Third, Amy made the most foolish assumption of all. She assumed that I could read her mind and that I somehow magically knew her unwritten "policy." She hadn't told me of this policy when I started with this organization back in December, so how could I know? My wife and I made plans to visit my sister and her husband in South Carolina in May, and to go to Rehoboth Beach in June. These plans were made a couple months in advance. I didn't find out about this policy until May 6, and even then I was not clear on it because I hadn't spoken to my P.O. yet. Once I did speak to my P.O. on May 30, I thought I understand how to approach things. She told me to bring up the proposed trip in group and find out if Amy felt I shouldn't go. That is, she said that she was going to grant a travel permit unless she heard otherwise from Amy. In other words, my P.O. was boss and controlled my travel.

Let me tell you that my P.O. did a 180 on those words real quick. When I went to group this past Tuesday, I told Amy what Pam had said, then brought up the proposed trip to the beach on June 25-28. Amy said that I hadn't brought up the trip at least one month in advance, so she wasn't letting me go. You see, that system is antithetical to what I knew and what my P.O. had established. That system makes Amy the boss: I have to go to her, and if she approves she tells my P.O. it's all right for me to travel. My P.O. should be outraged that my group therapist is undermining her authority!

I guess my mistake was not establishing what the new group's policy was on missing therapy sessions--now that is in writing! If I had looked at that, I never would have planned to miss a group session on the May trip. That's the only reason I ever brought it up on group. I mentioned it on May 6 because I wanted to get permission to miss a group therapy session. If I had known the written regulations, I would have already adjusted the trip so that I wouldn't miss a group. That way, I wouldn't have had to mention it in group on May 6 or any other time. Amy would never have known of my plans and my P.O. would have granted me a travel permit. For the June trip, I again would have been able to circumvent Amy's asinine policy.

Oh well. My wife and I won't be going to the beach, but we will enjoy each other's company. And we won't be spending money on gas. Yeah, this pisses me off, but I have to learn to bear it. Just 10 more months to go and then I'll be off probation.
Today Roger Federer plays Rafael Nadal for the French Open championship. Again. For the third straight year. Nadal has won the last two times in four sets. Last year Fed looked especially lackluster as he converted on only 1 of 17 break point opportunities. Nadal has won all six of his matches this year in straight sets--he's looked scary good.

As much as I'd like to see Federer win the French, I just don't see him beating Nadal on clay. Should he do so, though, it would mean an even bigger cushion for him in the rankings going into Wimbledon. In terms of rankings, Fed has his biggest task coming from Wimbledon to the U.S. Open, as he defends winner's points at two Grand Slam events (1000 points apiece) and one Masters event (500 points), and finalist's points at another Grand Slam event (350 points). calls the competition between Federer, Nadal, and Novak Djokovic the "Trivalry." Djokovic has been breathing down Nadal's back for the #2 slot. If he had beaten Nadal in the semifinals of the French (or the semifinals of the Hamburg Masters a couple weeks ago), he would have supplanted Nadal as #2. The big test for Nadal--once again--will be the hard court season. The last two years he has faded significantly after Wimbledon. Somehow I feel like Nadal will lose that #2 spot without ever getting to #1.
Yowzers! Roger Federer got slaughtered, massacred, annihilated by Rafael Nadal. I've rarely seen any players get butchered like that before. I mean, the match was over in less than two hours. 6-1, 6-3, 6-0--I mean, Fed got bageled!

This destruction was in a Grand Slam Final, and it was more comprehensive than Fed's obliteration of Andy Roddick in the 2007 Australian Open semifinals. I'm just shocked that Federer could be dominated like that, even if it was Nadal on clay.
NBA Finals mediocre this year

Like many fans, I was hyped up about the Celtics and the Lakers facing off again in the NBA Finals. Through two games, however, I've been disappointed. The level of play has been mediocre, with the only exciting moments coming from dumb errors on one team's part or uncommonly good shooting on another team's part. I never thought I'd say this, but give me the Spurs and Pistons over this any time.

This style of play is so spread out--these guys have no idea how to pound it inside. Come to think of it, they don't know how to shoot outside most of the time either. Oh, I've seen the Lakers look very good this year--against the Spurs, for example--but so far they haven't done much. I'm watching Game 3 right now, and the game is still in the sixties in the fourth quarter!

It's almost like the Warriors playing the Nuggets, but without the great shooting. It's really a shame that Andrew Bynum couldn't recover in time for the finals, because he would have eaten Boston alive inside.
Advantages of not being sexually promiscuous

Ever since I started going to public school back in 1985, the word "virgin" has been almost a term of derision. The idea conveyed by young men was that a virgin was a loser--that somehow to really be a man you had to sleep around. And it wasn't just having sex in general: it was the idea that you had to have sex with a lot of females. Oh, and let's not forget the attitude: you had to be dominant and unfeeling and "bag the babe."

Because of my arrogant attitude and logical intelligence, I was incapable of being bullied. I'm not proud of what my arrogance did to me later, but that quality did produce a barrier to attempted criticism. Those who tried to make fun of me were quite disappointed--the smart ones learned that it was a futile venture. There were some who tried to poke fun at me for being a virgin. Of course, I was proud of that: it meant that I had a code of morality and then stuck to it.

It's crazy to think of how society has changed so much since 1985. The philosophy I grew up with seems tame compared to that of today. I mean, I don't remember any girls getting pregnant while I was in high school. Now that's not so uncommon--a local high school has a day care for teen mothers. Through shows such as Maury Povich we can see kids who are having sex at 13, 14, or even younger. When I was 13 I really didn't think about sex. Well, sex has saturated our society to such a ridiculous degree. Movies and television bombard everyone with sexual images and terms. Of course, there's the Internet as well.

Looking back on my life as compared to others, I can firmly say that abstaining from sex until marriage has its benefits. Actually, it has nothing but benefits:
1) I have no unwanted children. Because I didn't have sex until marriage, there was no chance that I would have any out-of-wedlock children. I don't have the financial burden of child support payments and I'm not stressed to spend time with kids whose mother doesn't want me around. The only children I will have will be ones that both my wife and I want and ones that I know I can spend time with.
2) I have no STDs. Because both my wife and I abstained from sex until marriage, we don't have gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, AIDS, or any other sexually-transmitted disease.
3) My marriage relationship is not based upon sex. While sex is an integral part of our marriage, it is not the foundation. Physical love is present, but it is not the only love that exists in our marriage. We have not been brainwashed to believe that sexual satisfaction is the main objective in life.
4) Neither my wife nor I are dissatisfied with our sex lives. Why? There are no experiences with which we can compare our sex. We can't say that our sex "doesn't measure up" because there's on one else to measure that sex with. I remember once when Rhonwyyn and I were dating: this guy asked if we had had sex. When I told him no and that we weren't going to do so until we were marriage, he said that he wouldn't get married if he hadn't had sex with the woman first. His reasoning was that, "You don't buy a car without test-driving it first." I replied that test-driving only has meaning if you have driven before; in the same manner, you would only need to test-drive a woman if you had had sex before.

If you think about it, there really isn't a downside at all to waiting until marriage to have sex. Why do so many people fall into the trap of being promiscuous?
Different Meanings for Father's Day

Father's Day has different meanings for Rhonwyyn and me. For me, it's a happy day. For her, it's an unwelcome reminder of a person she wishes she could forget.

My dad and I are great friends. We can talk about any subject and we just make each other laugh. He's been so supportive and committed, despite my many mistakes and flops in life. I'm continually amazed at what he put up with. I was so rebellious and arrogant for many years, yet he kept working with me. He kept reaching out to me. If it hadn't been for my dad's influence, I very well may have fallen away from Jesus Christ. After I got my own apartment, he called me and encouraged me to go to church and get involved in ministries. Some might say that he "nagged" me at times, but it was needed. I needed someone persistent who wasn't going to give up on me. It's because of my father's positive influence that I got involved in visitation and teaching ministries.

Our relationship has changed over the years. Despite my foolish actions that resulted in my 2005 arrest, I have shown spiritual improvement. Most of all, I've finally begun acting like an adult. Dad has noticed that and has respected me as a responsible adult. Of course, part of that responsibility--financial responsibility--was a direct result of my dad's philosophy. One of his big thrusts was always being frugal and wise with one's money. Since I've been married and moved to Lancaster, we haven't seen each others as often, but we keep in touch and get together every month. Next Saturday my parents will be coming down to celebrate my 36th birthday.

Dad persevered despite my stubborn ways. He loved me unconditionally and did all he could to help me out. He prayed for me and with me. He kept tabs on me. He asked me about my spiritual life and wasn't afraid to ask probing questions. He kept me accountable about my issues with pornography ("Are you walking the straight and narrow?") as well as my anger/arrogance issues at work ("Are you keeping a low profile?"). Now that I've become more responsible, he doesn't quiz me as often, but he still asks. Praise God for that and praise God for my dad.
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My "father"-in-law

I call him Dan, never "Dad." Now I call my mother-in-law "Mom," because she is like a mother to me and she clearly loves and cares about her kids. As for Dan, I see him from time to time, but just in social situations. I saw him at Darren's graduation a couple weeks ago, but we didn't talk much. He used to email me once a month, but he stopped that almost a year ago.

Rhonwyyn and I have come to the conclusion that Dan is unsaved. According to the Bible, he is not a Christian. There's no way he can be since he is living a lifestyle of sin. According to James 4 and 1 Corinthians 6, he is living a lifestyle of sin and therefore is not a Christian. To come to know Christ as Savior, he has to leave this lifestyle.

His lifestyle is adultery and fornication. He cheated on his first wife (my mother-in-law) and left her in poverty with four children. He would remarry and seemed to have changed after a decade. However, issues would surface and he would leave that wife as well; once again, he had been adulterous. That time, he left his wife with two adopted kids. These two girls came from awful backgrounds and needed a loving family, but after three years the father figure was gone. Shortly after he left his second wife, he began living with a girlfriend. He hasn't married this one; he just fornicates with her.

Dan tries to stay in touch with his kids, but he mainly tries to buy their love. He gives them rides and buys them a few things, but he has made no attempt to change. He tries to force his live-in girlfriend on us all, but no one wants anything to do with her. Truth is, we don't want much to do with him either.

I've asked Rhonwyyn if she wants to comment on her dad on my blog, so she may make an entry.
We got an apartment, so that takes a load off our backs. Our old landlords are, well, old. They are in their eighties and want to move into a home, so they're going to sell their house. It's out of our price range right now, so we won't be trying to buy it. Rhonwyyn didn't want to buy it anyway.

We had to be patient about this apartment search. Many times we prayed for wisdom and patience as we looked for one that fit our budget and was in the right location. This one is positioned well for both our jobs. It's more expensive than the one we did have, but we accepted the fact that we weren't going to find another deal that sweet. So we will have to pay electricity and coin-op washing and drying. I'll monitor the spending to see where we can make changes since I'd like to stay on the path we had been on regarding saving for a house.

On the plus side, the apartment complex has a pool! If summer is hot, I might head over there. We're planning on being moved in by the July 4 weekend. Lots of packing to do...
My wife has been encouraging me to start a sports blog on something like WordPress or Blogger. I have been brainstorming ideas and we have decided on a title: Real Sports--True Faith. That is, if that one isn't taken. I'd concentrate on sports and religion subjects. Those are the ones I argue best. When I get it going I'll post a link to it.

Tonight we had a great time at our small group picnic. I had fun playing with the little kids and talking with our friends. Our group leader made some burgers with onion soup mix in them. I loved them--especially when he cooked them medium rare--but Rhonwyyn thought they tasted like meat loaf--and she hates meat loaf!

Tomorrow we'll do some packing before heading over to Mom's for a combination birthday/graduation party. My birthday is tomorrow and my brother-in-law Darren's was last week. He is the one who recently graduated from high school. I'll be grilling the steaks! Maybe we can teach my parents some of the games that my in-laws like.
Finally--I get to watch tennis!

Wimbledon starts tomorrow, and I'm really pumped about it. Even after Roger Federer was beaten in the semifinals at the Australian Open, I felt that Wimbledon would be the real test to see if someone else is going to usurp his spot on top. He had a slow period between the Australian and Wimbledon last year, but then picked things up later on.

Fed has not looked his dominant self. The question everyone is asking is: Is that because he's finally fading or has the competition just caught up to him? Perhaps a little of both, but I refuse to believe that Federer lost his edge so quickly--especially not after the impressive performance he had at last year's Masters Cup. He's definitely had a rough start, with only two titles--and both of them are lower tier tournaments that he didn't even play last year.

At this time last seasons, Federer had three tournament titles: Australian, Dubai, and Hamburg. He failed to defend any of them. He couldn't win in Indian Wells or Miami either. For the third straight year, he was beaten by Rafael Nadal at the French Open, and this year it was a massacre.

So, is Nadal ready to make his move? Will Djokovic take over the #2 slot before Nadal even has a chance to be #1? Can Federer win that sixth straight Wimbledon title? Last year Fed was pushed to the limit by Nadal in the final. Truth be told, Nadal outplayed Federer after the serve. It was Federer's serve, however, that saved him. That match was one of the greatest I've ever seen. Will there be a rematch this year? Not if Djokovic has anything to say about it.

Potential semifinal matchups: Federer vs. Djokovic, Nadal vs. Roddick. I'd love to see both those matches occur. With all the coverage on NBC, I can finally watch some tennis! We are moving, however, so I'll have the matches on while we're doing our thing. I'll have to record the semifinals and finals. Still, I'll get to see some tennis.
I may need more fruits and vegetables

Recently, I've been a little listless. When I'm not at work, I tend to just vege out. I mean, most days I take a 2-3 hour nap. Perhaps I'm not getting what I need in my diet. Truth is, most days I just don't eat much. Usually only two meals, and some days I don't eat breakfast until after noon. Most often I eat what is quick in the fridge. On top of that, we're moving soon, so I don't want us to stock up on too much food.

In all honesty, I don't have a balanced diet unless we eat outside the house, whether it be at relatives' or at a restaurant. My wife reminds me to eat fruits and vegetables, and I do when there's some around. Oh, I do drink plenty of fruit juice, particularly apple. Maybe I'm lacking the vitamins and minerals that fruits and vegetables supply. I like all kinds of food, so I'd be willing to eat what I need. I guess we're a little lazy sometimes in getting fresh produce. Besides, it is expensive and we are trying to save.

A few years ago I tried a multivitamin, but it really didn't do anything for my energy. What I need is exercise, but most of the time my willpower just isn't sufficient to get me moving. If I had some program...hmm, maybe I can try the program my brother-in-law Dan uses. He's lost weight recently and says it's a great workout. Or I could check with my buddy Scott who is a track coach. At any rate, I'd like to increase my energy level before we have kids.
WordPress blog up and running

At my wife's suggestion, I finally got my blog going on WordPress:

It's called "Real Sports - True Faith" and focuses on the two areas I am most adamant about: sports and my Christian faith. I will be concentrating the sports commentary on the NBA, NFL, and men's tennis. After all, those are the only three sports I follow on a regular basis.

Yes, I will be pounding the Larry Bird theme down everyone's throats. It will be the cornerstone of the sports posts. As for the faith posts, I will be emphasizing the truth and solidarity of the Bible.

Please check in and feel free to comment.
I have a cavity

On Thursday I went to the dentist for the first time in three years. It turns out my teeth are pretty good considering how long it had been. I do have one cavity, though. It's pretty small, but still a cavity. It's on one of my canine teeth up near the gum line. That gum line has recessed a lot, but not much recently. About five years ago I was at the dentist and listened to the hygienist's advice, especially about brushing too hard. Since then, I have changed my brushing habits and floss regularly. As a result, my teeth have been strong. The hygienist said that I had been doing the right things and only need to come in once a year for checkups. She also said that my teeth should last me a lifetime. Considering my financial consultant thinks I'll live to be 93, that is great news!
Moving is laborious, but beneficial

My wife has moved a lot in her adult life, whereas I have not. Since she graduated college in 2003, she has had to pack up and go often, including twice since I met her in January 2006. On the other hand, I lived in the same apartment for nine years and four months. Before I met Rhonwyyn, I had only moved once. Well, more like 1.5 moves. I'll explain. Once I got out of college, I had my first teaching job in the fall of 1996 in Elizabethtown. I moved to E-town since I couldn't drive yet. In March 1997, though, I was fired (and rightfully so), so I moved back to Harrisburg to live with my parents. I left a lot of my possessions in storage, though. After a couple months I found the apartment I lived in for nine years.

Well, in October 2006 I packed up and moved my stuff to Lancaster into the apartment my wife and I live in now (for a few more days). Since it had been nine years that I lived in that place, it was filled with junk. It was pretty filthy, too! As I sifted through the place, I found oodles of useless things: old notebooks, magazines, statistics, school assignments. I think I filled up six trash bags with junk. I was shocked at how many old school notebooks I had and how many old papers I had. Oh, I kept a few for memorabilia, but most of it went into the trash.

Even after we moved to this apartment, I went through my things again and weeded out some more junk. I must say that moving helps you get rid of things you don't need: cards, unused gifts, outdated medicine, unnecessary financial records. Without moving, we often don't have the motivation to go through our stuff on regular basis.

So now we're preparing to move a week from today. I've packed a bunch so far, but there's still a lot to do. Today we were just going through some drawers where--no surprise--we found plenty of junk. I can't believe the number of pens, pencils, and markers we have! Oh, and we have enough folders and envelopes to file stuff for the rest of our lives. I even found 300+ reinforcers for loose leaf paper.

There are plenty of things we think we need, but a few years later realize aren't necessary. The key is to streamline: what is really needed? I hope that Rhonwyyn and I can refine our streamlining process before we buy a house.
Great team effort in moving

Today was the day to move, and we were dreading it somewhat. First off, the weather forecast called for rain showers. It showered all day yesterday as we (futilely) tried to have a yard sale (we made $2). It was raining today when we got up at 8:00, but by the time we had the truck and began loading, the rain had stopped and weather was nice for the rest of the day.

Of course, the big thing--well, two big things--is help and room. This time, we rented a U-Haul. This was the first time we moved as a couple. Back in October 2006 I moved my stuff from Harrisburg to our apartment in Lancaster. It took two trips, one with my buddy Matt and one with Rick, a guy who just loves physical labor: both had trucks. We had to pack several cars as well. Then later on Rhonwyyn and I had to move her stuff into our apartment. Luckily, my friend Mike was visiting his parents and was able to help out. His dad had a handicapped-adapted van that was able to fit all her furniture.

So this time we decided to do it all in one trip. Over the last few weeks I've been packing stuff up slowly but surely. Rhonnie did as well, and her family helped her out a couple times. I picked up loads of boxes from a local restaurant--we needed them all.

Today we got started at around 10:00. Our helpers were my parents, my friend Andrew and his girlfriend Jenn, Tim from church small group, Rhonwyyn's college friend Tim, our friend Jon, and another old friend also named John. Things went so smoothly! We had everything packed into that truck in two hours. We got a 17' truck, so we had to use some interesting packing techniques. Oh, and we certainly used everyone else's cars as well. But, we were able to make just one trip per vehicle. My wife, my mom, and Andrew and Jenn stayed back at the old place to clean up, while the rest of us headed to the new place to unload.

Unloading was somewhat easier to do, although we had to arrange things in a a certain manner so that we could get all the furniture in. Then, it was time to arrange everything. Luckily, we have a balcony of sorts--a ledge, whatever you want to call it. We were able to put our grill, a table, two kitchen chairs, and two recliners. You see, we want to sell some of that stuff at the neighborhood yard sale next Saturday. We hope to sell a lot, really. We might be able to considering that Millersville University is nearby.

Eventually we got the living room and the bedroom roughly set up. I think the bedroom is bigger than I initially believed. This apartment is in a complex, so no lawn-mowing or snow-shoveling. Plus, we have a storage area in the basement. I want to get all the books unpacked today, which will clear up some area in the living room. I want to get my clothes out and hung up as well.

To top off the great team, my mother-in-law made food for all of us. She went to Camp Hebron this weekend, so she couldn't help us move. However, she prepared a nice meal, including delicious grapes and watermelon.

The team even pulled off some spontaneous moves. Tim from church ran out and picked up a few hardware supplies to repair our bed, and Andrew picked up some beverages and some ice. We really appreciated all the help. Things went so smoothly.
Still getting moved in

I haven't spent much time on Yappi in the last few weeks, and I haven't posted on my new blog in over a week. I'd like to post, but I'm still very busy unpacking. Well, unpacking and rearranging. We have more living room space in this one than our last place, but not as much kitchen space. We are still figuring out where all our foodstuffs will go. In the old place, there were two large rotating corner shelf units. I never realized just how much we could fit on those units until I looked at all of it in boxes here.

This Saturday we'll make another attempt at a yard sale. This time, it's a neighborhood yard sale. Hopefully the person who organized this thing advertised it well. If we can unload some of the big stuff I'll be happy.

Next week I hope to check in on Yappi more often.
Why are there two sexes--only two sexes?

What explanation does evolution have for the sexes? I mean, why are there two genders? Or only two?

If live really did evolve from primordial goo billions of years ago, then where did gender come from? The first life was supposedly a single-celled organism, but they don't have gender; they just reproduce asexually. At what point did gender "evolve?" More importantly, why?

What reason is there for gender? From an evolutionary standpoint, humans should be self-reproductive--just like their single-celled ancestors. Does gender serve any scientific purpose?

Even if gender were a result of evolution, why did it stop at two sexes? Shouldn't we have hundreds of sexes as a result of so many eons of evolution? Why only two?

Of course, there is no evolutionary answer for that question. The only reasonable answer is that an intelligent designer made things that way.
Why can't men and women just complement each other?

Are men and women different? The obvious answer is "yes," but we're not supposed to talk about those differences unless it's regarding emotional--and especially sexual--needs. Those differences aren't to be viewed as weaknesses. Or are they? Men's differences are often mocked as fatal flaws, aren't they? It's no wonder men fill the prisons, not women. Sure, men and women are different, but does that mean that they perform certain functions better than the other sex?

Men and women are different, but modern feminist thinking tells us that women can do anything as well as men can. What does that really mean? While men and women were created differently, that doesn't mean that either sex is better than the other--even if we're only talking about individual tasks and not about the big picture. If a man can be a CEO and direct a billion-dollar company, then so can a woman. If a man can play professional basketball, then so can a woman. If a man can be the leader of a country, then so can a woman. It's even gotten to the point that a woman should be looked upon as just as viable a military leader as a man.

What's forgotten here is what women have done so well for so many years: being mothers, elementary school teachers, helping people, etc. Am I saying that a woman can't make a good CEO? No. What I am saying is there are certain things that women do well and there are certain things that men do well. That doesn't make one sex inferior to another--just different. It's the idea of complementing each other. It has its roots in marriage and then in family. The problem there is that the family unit is disintegrating in the United States. Marriage is crumbling as well. Families aren't thought of anymore as being one man and one woman living in harmony and raising their children together. Instead, parents become separate entities and feel they have to do everything alone. It's the "single mother complex."

The symbol of the single mother as being the persevering fighter is really the calling card for modern feminism. Whereas in the past the husband/father was the breadwinner and the leader of the family, today single mothers take on those roles. Sure, sometimes it's forced upon them (my own mother-in-law is an example of that), but more often than not the situation is a mutual choice: illicit sex leading to illegitimate children, and neither parent wants a relationship. So, you end up with two people pursuing their own ambitions and trying to fit children into the schedule. It's the "me first" society we live in.

It didn't used to be that way, and the Bible clearly says it's not supposed to be that way. The man is the be the leader. Is that sexist? No, because the Bible does not say that men are superior to women. God chose the man to be the leader, and He did create men to be leaders. Are all men better leaders than all women? No, of course not, but on the average men are better leaders than women. Still, that doesn't make them superior--only different. Women are more emotional than men, and that makes them better "carers". They care for children and for people in general. They have their role in marriage and in family. Both roles are equally important.

Is there anything wrong in acknowledging difference? Men are on the average better athletes, better businessmen, better scientists... You know what, though? Women are more beautiful, more creative, and have a better sense of fashion. Just because the supposed "big jobs" are dominated by men doesn't mean women are inferior. Is there anything wrong with accepting one's lot in life and performing your duties to the best of your abilities? Men are women were not created to vie for the most authority or the most money, but to work in harmony. You can't work in harmony if everyone wants to dominate.
Only a matter of time until Nadal is #1

At this time last year I couldn't imagine Roger Federer losing his #1 ranking by the end of 2008--and certainly not to Rafael Nadal. I tell you, though, it looks as if that's going to happen. Federer was upset by Gilles Simon in the second round of the Canada Masters. Last year he made it to the final, so he's going to drop over 300 ranking points (not for another two weeks, though, since that tournament was moved up two weeks this year to accommodate the Olympics). Nadal made it to the semifinals last year, so he can pick up as much as 275 points if he wins. If that happens, he will be within definite striking distance come next week's Masters tournament in Cincinnati.

I've just been perplexed this year at Federer's troubles. Yeah, he was beaten last year more often than usual (nine times, compared with four in 2005 and five in 2006), but he still won three of the four Grand Slams, made it to the final at the French Open, and took the year-end Tennis Masters Cup. His first half of 2007 was disappointing, but from Wimbledon on he was quite good. Sure, he lost twice to David Nalbandian late in the year, but he seemed to be back on track with some dominant performances at the Masters Cup.

Hey, I thought he was going to come back tougher than ever, but it hasn't happened. There have been reasons--such as his bout with mononucleosis early in the season--but there have been too many flat-out failures to explain away. His loss to Nadal at Roland Garros was especially baffling. Federer had pushed Nadal on clay at Monte Carlo and at Hamburg (actually, he was in control in Hamburg but let the match get away). I still don't know what happened.

He has his work cut out for him if he hopes to finish the year at #1. I don't think he can do it. I certainly don't think he can stay #1 through the U.S. Open--especially considering that Nadal is only defending 150 points. He has had a run like no one else ever has. In four years he won 11 Grand Slam titles. He made it to 10 straight Grand Slam finals and has a current streak of 17 straight semifinals.

The big question is whether the field has caught up to him or whether he has slipped. I think the answer is clearly the latter. Only Nadal really causes him consistent trouble, and he's been #2 for three years now. (Djokovic is rising, but he and Federer haven't met nearly as often as Roger-Rafa.) His other losses have been to middle-of-the-pack guys or even lower. He's no longer the picture of consistent greatness. He doesn't deserve to be #1 the way he's playing right now.
My wife and I babysat last night for some friends from church. Good experience, I'd say. They have a two-year old and an infant (six months). The little boy was active running around in the back yard for awhile. I did my best to keep up. The baby girl was quite well behaved after finally taking her bottle. She fell asleep at around 6:00 or so and slept right through our time there.

My sister once told me that she wasn't going to spend lots of money on toys. "Just give a kid a rock," she would say. She remembers an event from her own childhood where she was outside and occupied about a half on hour playing with a rock. Well, last night the little boy was fascinated with rocks, sticks, sand, dirt, water, and insects (dead and alive). Of course, his attention span was brief, so he went from interest to interest around the back yard. He like to place sticks in the ground, toss sand up in the air, and scoop water up. He was a grubby little thing by the time it got dark.

I think the activity was a good experience for when we have children. I had to keep an eye on the little boy: once he put some vegetation in his mouth and another time he drank a little stagnant water. Yuck! The plant was mint, so at least that's edible. I read him some Bible stories and sang him some songs from another book. He liked all that, but he kept asking, "Where Mommy go?" Of course, no matter how often we told him she was at work, he kept asking. And at that age, they really have no perception of time, so telling him she'd be back in a few hours was a futile endeavor.

The place they live is interesting. It's a downtown mansion that has been converted into apartment buildings. Some of the original architecture is intact and quite ornate. Their ceilings are so high! I'd say over 15 feet high. In their one room there is a marble fireplace with a huge mirror above it. I mean, this mirror is massive! It has to be over 10 feet tall and six feet wide. I can't imagine how much it weighs. The mirror has a metal frame--I think it's gilded with gold.

For all its beauty, however, the apartment is somewhat small. The kitchen is especially cramped. My wife had been getting a little discouraged that we hadn't gotten settled into our new apartment quite yet, but we're more organized than that other couple. They are having some rough times though. I'm not going to go into details, but we pray for them a lot.
Church Discipline

NewSong Fellowship Church has been a blessing to me. I owe a lot to that church. God has used the sermons and its doctrinal stands to change my heart. Since November I feel that my mind has been renewed by the Holy Spirit. It's been wonderful as my focus has begun to shift from the things of the world to the things of God. Maybe that's why I've been spending less time on Yappi...

Well, today Pastor Jamie gave a great sermon on the purity of the church. He talked about the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 4, but the part I really remember was the segment about church discipline in Matthew 18:15-18. It's one of the foundational doctrines of NewSong. In fact, it's one of the things that sets NewSong apart from the rest of the churches in the area. I'll tell you, I didn't even realize what true church discipline was until I started going to NewSong. Now that I know and have seen it in action, I am a big proponent of it.

What really is church discipline, though? To many people, it has a bad connotation. I know Christians who cringe at the thought of someone being disciplined by the church. They think of some old stodgy guys shaming someone in front of the church. Some think of a scene like The Scarlet Letter, where an adulteress is publicly shamed by being made to wear a scarlet letter "A."

True church discipline is not that way. It involves love and accountability, and its goal is restoration. You see, when a fellow Christian is living in sin, we aren't supposed to just ignore it. (Many people erroneously say that Christians aren't supposed to judge others. That doesn't mean turning a blind eye to sin.) In Matthew 18 there are four steps in church discipline. If handled properly, the person is not embarrassed and gossip is avoided.

First off is a one-on-one confrontation. If a Christian suspects that a brother or sister in Christ has been sinning consistently (i.e. living a lifestyle of sin--drunkenness, adultery, deceit, etc.), he should go to see that person. NOT email him, text him, or even call him. Face that person and determine what the facts are. Don't spread a suspicion to other people before going, either. After all, your suspicions may be unsubstantiated by the testimony. Tell that brother or sister in Christ why you suspect they are living in sin. The Bible says that if that person listens to you and commits to repentance, "you have won your brother." Pastor Jamie emphasized that you are NOT to go directly to church leaders when you have a suspicion.

If that brother or sister does not respond to the one-on-one meeting, then one goes on to the second step: take one or two witnesses with you. Tell them what you know and what happened at the first meeting. Then go see that person again--face to face. With other witnesses there, the person may decide to reveal more and see the error of his ways. Again, here is an opportunity for restoration and repentance to occur without notifying any church elders or even other members of the congregation. If steps one and two are followed properly, gossip can be avoided.

Of course, not everyone responds with repentance. The third step is to take it to the church. If the person does not respond to the first two meetings, then the elders should be informed. They will then meet with the offending person and confront him or her. Once again, an opportunity for restoration is there. The person may choose to repent and seek to be restored. The elders should do all they can to help out with counseling, accountability, etc.

Unfortunately, there are people who do not respond to this either. It is at that point--and only then--that the congregation should be informed. This is when the elders present the person's name to the members and inform them of his or her sin. The emphasis should be love and they should ask the members to pray. However, they also need to make it clear that the person has not shown repentance up to that point. Matthew 18 instructs us to treat that person as someone who is unsaved. That doesn't mean being unfriendly or mean to them. It just means that we are not to treat them as we would a brother or sister in Christ. Pray for him or her to come to salvation.

Only at NewSong have I seen church discipline meted out as the Bible dictates. You know what? The church has seen great growth because of it. My wife and I were impressed at our first visit when Pastor Jamie told the congregation of a married couple who had split up because of the husband's drug addiction. The man had been approached in steps one, two, and three, but had been unresponsive. We were amazed at the honesty of the church and the way everything was out in the open.

Both Rhonwyyn and I could not help but think about her dad. He still goes to church somewhere and professes to be a Christian. However, his life shows absolutely no evidence of salvation. He has left two wives in his lifetime, committing adultery both times. He is fornicating with another woman right now. When he left his first wife--my mother-in-law--the church did nothing. Actually, I don't think anyone really confronted him. My mother-in-law went to the Mennonite church leaders, but they basically brushed the situation away, telling her she needed to be a better wife. I wonder if things would have turned out differently if church discipline had been meted out the way the Bible dictates. Maybe he would have been repentant at some point in the process.

Look, all Christians sin, and there are people who get caught up in lifestyles of sin. I once was a slave to pornography, and for many years I lived a lifestyle of arrogant defiance, thumbing my nose at authority. There are going to be people who sink into sinful lifestyles. We aren't supposed to ignore it. The Bible tells each of us what our roles are. We are to call out that sin for what it is and then seek to restore the offender. He or she is not be to be cast out of membership unless he or she is totally unrepentant. How can repentance and restoration occur if no one acknowledges the sin for what it really is?
Three Sport Guy

Now that I'm married, I don't watch sports nearly as much as I used to. At least, I don't watch as many live sports. In my spare time I still watch a fair amount of sports--especially NBA classic games--on video. In addition to being married, I have experienced a spiritual revival in the last eight months. I don't feel quite so controlled by sports anymore.

As an adult, I've seen my sports focus narrow. My belief has always been that only sports nuts follow everything religiously. Those who seem to know everything (think "Stump the Schwab") either cover sports for a living or they just have no lives. I'm always suspicious of someone who seems to know all the up-to-date information on every sport. They either have a near-photographic memory or they don't pay much attention to other areas of their lives.

Hey, I used to follow lots of sports, especially in the 1980's when I was growing up. In 1982 my parents bought me my first World Almanac and Book of Facts. This was long before the Internet, of course, so books that that were the sources of sports truth. Well, that book had lots of facts in it, but I concentrated most on the sports sections. Oh, I couldn't put that book down. Each Christmas someone bought me a new almanac and over the years I kept the sports sections as references (I cut them out and bound them together with packing tape). I couldn't get enough information.

I loved to just memorize facts. Now I never really tried, let me say. It just came naturally from looking at those books so much. Let me add here that "those books" included other references later on, such as sports almanacs and encyclopedias. It's crazy to think that I still retain much of that information even though I haven't followed some sports for years. Let me test my knowledge here. Hmm, I haven't followed college basketball for 15+ years except for the Final Four. I think I can still name the winners of the tournaments in the 1980's and the MOPs.
1979 - Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64, Magic Johnson MOP
1980 - Louisville over UCLA 70-59 (?), Sidney Moncrief MOP (?)
1981 - Indiana over North Carolina 63-50, Isiah Thomas MOP
1982 - North Carolina over Georgetown 63-62, James Worthy MOP
1983 - N.C. State 54, Houston 52, Akeem Olajuwon MOP
1984 - Georgetown 84, Houston 75, Patrick Ewing MOP
1985 - Villanova 66, Georgetown 64, Ed Pinckney MOP
1986 - Louisville 72, Duke 69, Pervis Ellison MOP
1987 - Indiana 74, Syracuse 73, Keith Smart MOP
1988 - Kansas over Oklahoma 83-79 (?), Danny Manning MOP
1989 - Michigan over Seton Hall 80-79 (OT), Glen Rice MOP
1990 - UNLV over Duke 103-73, Anderson Hunt MOP
1991 - Duke over ???? (I want to say Kentucky), Christian Laettner MOP
1992 - Duke over Michigan 71-51, Bobby Hurley MOP
1993 - North Carolina over Michigan 77-71, ???? MOP
After 1993 my memory kind of fades.

All right, let me reference that info to see how accurate my memory is. OK, I was wrong about the 1980 game score: it was 59-54. The 1991 score was 72-65 over Kansas, not Kentucky. I was wrong about the MOP in 1980 as well: it was Darrell Griffith. I couldn't remember the MOP in 1993 because it was Donald Williamson.

It's the same way with the World Series. I remember watching the World Series in the 1980's. If I recall correctly, I watched all seven games of the 1987 series of Twins vs. Cardinals. I vividly remember watching Kirk Gibson hit that homer in Game 1 of the 1988 series. I cheered for the Tigers in 1984. As a Phillies fan, I'll always remember Tug McGraw striking out Willie Wilson to end their 1980 title run, and then there were the "Wheeze Kids" in 1983. Yeah, I liked baseball back then.

College football is much the same as college basketball. My dad is a Penn State alumnus so he follows their season every year. I used to watch plenty of college football, even in the regular season. I was on the Nebraska bandwagon in 1983 and was heartbroken when they lost to Miami in the Orange Bowl. I'll never forget seeing Doug Flutie's Hail Mary in 1984. Let's not forget Jimmy Johnson going nuts when Miami won the championship in 1987. There were memorable Penn State games too, like their championship games in 1982 and 1986 ("...intercepted Giftopolous!"). I think the one I remember most was in 1981 when they beat Pittsburgh. The Panthers were up 14-0 and were about to score again when Penn State intercepted Dan Marino in the end zone. The momentum shifted instantaneously and the Nittany Lions won 48-14.

Now I watched tennis, too, but not nearly to the degree that I do now. I do remember seeing Borg-McEnroe in 1980 and 1981 at Wimbledon. I liked Borg and was upset when he lost in 1981. More often, though, I watched women's tennis because that's what my mom watched. Dad doesn't like tennis. I was a fan of Marina Navratilova (Mom liked Chris Evert) and later of Steffi Graf.

Since I became an adult, though, I gradually stopped following all sports so closely. By the new millennium, my focus had narrowed to three sports: the NFL, the NBA, and women's tennis. Yes, women's tennis, not men's. I wish I had been following men's tennis back then: I would have seen some of the great Sampras-Agassi matchups. Instead, I continued to follow women's tennis. I remember Steffi Graf's French Open title in 1999 and her run to the Wimbledon final later that year. I remember the Williams sisters finals in 2000-2003. I certainly remember Justine Henin's match with Serena Williams in Roland Garros in 2003 (the one where Justine called time but the umpire called a fault on Serena).

In 2004, though, a strange evolution began taking place. I heard about Roger Federer and began tuning in to see him play. I was amazed by his ability--no one else could play like him. I still watched women's tennis mostly, but I kept track of Federer. I remember watching his great Wimbledon final against Andy Roddick in 2004. Now at that time I did not have ESPN as I had cut my cable down for financial reasons. In 2005, though, I upgraded my cable and started watching more tennis on ESPN and USA. I checked out every Federer match I could, and as I watched him more I began to fall in love with the men's game: speed, power, amazing angles. Rafael Nadal surfaced in 2005 and he and Federer would begin a great rivalry. I grew interested in more than just Federer, although he was--and still is--my favorite player. Since 2005 my focus has fully shifted to the men's game. I rarely watch women's tennis anymore, especially since Justine Henin, Martina Hingis, and Kim Clijsters retired. Men's tennis, however, I can't get enough of. My wife and I have agreed to keep our cable cut down to just the minimum until I'm off probation. It's tough since I don't get ESPN2; if I did, I'd be watching the Cincinnati Masters tournament this week. Come April 2009, though, I'll be watching some more tennis.

The other two sports I follow are the NFL and the NBA. Yes, I am somewhat disappointed with the NBA game today. It's so inferior to the glory days of Magic and Bird. I prefer to watch classic games (I have 30+ on tape or DVD), but I do follow the current seasons closely. Now I don't watch many games during the regular season (especially without TNT), but I check the standings, stats, and box scores almost every day. In the playoffs, I tune in more, but certain teams are just unwatchable. I prefer the Western Conference style. I hate the grind-to-a-halt style of the Celtics, Pistons, and others in the Eastern Conference. I found the Cavs-Celtics series this year agonizing: poor shooting and sloppy play across the board. Still, there are always some gems in the playoffs. I had really started to sour on the NBA until the 2006 playoffs. Man, there were some great series and incredible games that year; my interest in the NBA was revived.

I've always been high on the NFL, and unlike the NBA, it hasn't morphed into a shell of its former self. Yeah, I don't like all the pass-first offenses, but overall the game is great. The playoffs continue to deliver and the athletes just get better and better. I'd say, though, that men's tennis has replaced the NFL as #1 for me, especially since I got the Internet and can track the entire tennis season.

The truth may be that the NBA is #2 for me now. Oh, I still prefer the current NFL seasons to the current NBA seasons, but I watch classic NBA games all year round whereas I rarely think about the NFL during the offseason. Once the season begins, though, I'm more dialed into the NFL than I am into the NBA.

So, it's three sports for me: men's tennis, the NBA, and the NFL. I am a casual (very casual) follower of women's tennis, baseball, college football, and college basketball. I don't follow the NHL, NASCAR, or boxing at all.
It's official now: Rafael Nadal will take over the #1 slot next week. After a record 158 weeks at #2, he'll finally be #1.

When the season began, I didn't think he'd ever be #1. I thought Novak Djokovic would overtake him in the rankings before he ever got to #1. Well, Djokovic had his chances: in Hamburg and Paris he faced Nadal in a semifinal with the opportunity to supplant him. Both times Nadal would win.

Up until this season, Federer had been the more consistent player--even last year, when he lost nine times. This season, though, he has been quite inconsistent, while Nadal has been, well, more consistent. Since the Hamburg Masters he has been rock solid, winning five straight tournaments. He's facing Djokovic today in the semifinals of the Cincinnati Masters.

How long will he be able to hold onto the #1 spot? Tough to say. My gut feeling says not long. Djokovic is hungry to become #1, and Federer's fall to #1 may light a fire in him that hasn't been there for awhile. Plus, the ranking system is based upon consistency; that's why Federer's streak of 235 weeks at #1 is so phenomenal. You have to match your performances from the previous year or else you lose points. With Federer's relatively poor performances this year, he can gain a lot in the rankings in 2009.

I'm still not sold on Nadal on hardcourts. Yes, he won in the Rogers Masters last week, but both Federer and Djokovic had been bounced earlier. In 2006 and 2007 he did not perform well after Wimbledon.

While I'm sad that Federer has fallen from his #1 perch, I appreciate the "trivalry"--as it's called on three great players atop the rankings.
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OK, so Nadal lost in the semifinals of the Cincinnati Masters today. He was dropped by Djokovic 6-1, 7-5. Still, he has enough points to surpass Federer as #1 when the August 18 rankings come out. This is because the Canada and Cincinnati Mastetrs events were moved up two weeks in the schedule to accommodate the Summer Olympics. That means that for two weeks players have points from both tournaments for 2007 and 2008 (since the rankings are based on a rolling 52-week total). On August 18, they lose their points from last year's Cincinnati Masters, which means Federer will lose 500 points (since he won the tournament last year). Nadal will be #1 by a slim margin.

He's in great shape, though, because he only made it to the fourth round at the U.S. Open last year. That means he's only defending 150 points, whereas Federer--last year's winner--is defending 1000 points. Anything short of the U.S Open title for Federer means a drop in his points, while anything better than the fourth round means an increase in Nadal's points. Nadal shouldn't have to worry about Djokovic either; he was last year's finalist, meaning he's defending 700 points.

The big question will be what half Djokovic falls into. At the Australian Open and Wimbledon, he was in Federer's half: he beat Fed in Australia but was dropped in the second round in Wimbledon. At the French Open, he was in Nadal's half and lost in straight sets.

This threesome is making tennis very interesting, though. They are so far ahead of the rest of the field ratings-wise that they should be #1, #2, and #3 (in whatever order) for some time. That means that when a draw comes out, there's either a #1 vs. #3 or a #2 vs. #3 matchup in the semifinals. This year, Djokovic is 2-2 against Nadal and 1-1 against Federer in semifinal matches. Will we see another great semifinal matchup this year at the U.S. Open?
I'm really disgusted by the whole Brett Favre affair. Or saga, if you will. First of all, the who thing took the sports world captive for a month. It was horrible. There was plenty of other sports subjects out there--like the change atop the men's tennis rankings--but all we kept hearing was Favre.

I felt really sorry for the Packers management. What were they to do? There comes a time when you have to move forward, right? They handled it about as well as they could. Look, Favre has played 17 seasons, so he's old by football standards. He may be able to muster up one or even two good seasons, but he's not the foundation of a franchise, especially one rebuilding as the Jets are. Aaron Rodgers is young, so he is a possible foundation.

The irritating thing is the way the "win now" mentality has won out over the "be consistently good" mentality. It's what the Miami Heat did in the NBA. They traded for Shaq, and that got them an NBA title, but it also sabotaged the team as the mortgaged their future; now they are absolutely putrid. Is it worth holding onto Favre because the Packers might win the Super Bowl even if it means they will be rotten in a year or so?

Favre should have stayed retired. He had a good year last year and the Packers were good. He could have gone out on a high note. Instead, he came back, forced his team's hand, and ended up on a new team. And in the worst media market. In Green Bay, Favre is a god: the most loved athlete ever for that great team. In New York, he is no such thing. He's entering the city that has decimated Eli Manning for the last few years. Remember, the New York press has ripped Alex Rodriguez to shreds--and he's the most talented player in baseball. Favre will be under the most intense scrutiny of his career.

Part of me wants Green Bay to win the Super Bowl. It would be so ironic--and hilarious! Even better than the Giants winning without Tiki Barber. Favre would look so stupid.