Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Michael Vick and a Wake-Up Call about Dog Fighting

Even if you’re not a sports fan, you know about the legal troubles of Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick. Mr. Vick is known in the NFL as an escape artist who manages to elude the opponents’ biggest, toughest defensive linemen. However, he found that not even his legendary scrabbling skills could help him avoid the biggest, baddest pursuer he’s ever faced—the federal government.

Next week in federal court, Michael Vick will plead guilty to being a major participant and money-man in dog fighting, some of which occurred on his property in Virginia. He is certain to spend at least a year in prison and is in real jeopardy of losing his $130 million pro football contract. That seems like a very high price for “keeping it real.”

I must admit the existence of this extensive dog fighting subculture came as a complete surprise to me. I cannot imagine that anyone of any age, social class, income, or other demographic would find the spectacle of one dog killing another dog to be fun. Yet apparently dog fighting is the modern equivalent of gladiators in many metropolitan areas, especially among drug dealers, gangs, and hip-hopsters.

The outrage in this country has been explosive. The reason is simple: many of us have dogs and we can’t imagine such cruelty being visited upon such lovable animals, as our own Casper—an energetic Bishon Frise.

One infuriating aspect of this story is that Michael Vick, who was living the fantasy of so many sports fans, threw it all away for the sake of such a barbaric pastime as dog fighting. You wonder why some of his true friends of advisers didn’t tell him how foolish his dog fighting involvement was. Maybe they did and Mr. Vick just assumed he could get away just like he always did on the playing field. As it turns out, he was not as invulnerable as he thought.

One final infuriating aspect of this sad story is now emerging. Just today the NAACP is publicly defending Michael Vick and insisting that the NFL allow him to play when his prison sentence is over. Doesn’t the NAACP remember the principle of its most eloquent spokesman Dr. Martin Luther King? Dr. King looked forward to the time when people would be judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” NAACP should passionately defend people of character not simply those who share a skin color.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


This is a picture of a miracle in a box. Recently my wife gave me a Garmins® global positioning device, commonly known as a GPS, for me to use when I travel by automobile. I confess I am not a tech person and therefore am easily amazed by the wonders of today’s technology. But, this device is an awesome piece of computer wizardry.

The concept is wonderfully simple. It uses signals from satellites orbiting hundreds of miles about the earth to pinpoint your current location, and then gives you step by step directions on how to get to where you want to go. What’s more, while you are traveling the map on the screen shows precisely where you are and how far away you are from your next turn. If you make a wrong turn, it immediately alerts you to turn around then tells you how to get back on course.
[One word of warning, if you are paranoid about the government always watching you, GPS technology is going to make you even more wary of “them.”]

What’s more, you can store in memory a number of your favorite locations for quick recall as needed. If you forget—let’s say—your way to church, you simply bring up that location, and off you go! Or, if you are really confused and forget how to get home, you simply pull up that location, and head for home.

GPS seems like something Captain Kirk would use on the Starship Enterprise. In fact, I had a Captain Kirk moment as we were traveling to visit family in Tennessee. As I was using the GPS to guide me to where we were going, I pushed a button on my center console which gave me computer readout of gasoline mileage and distance before my tank would be empty. Meanwhile my wife was talking on her cell phone. I felt ready to cry out “Beam me up, Scotty!”
This idea of clear step-by-step directions to get where you want to go and warning when you get off course is terrific for driving. But what if there was a GPS for life? What if there was something that would take you step-by-step through learning to hit a baseball or surviving junior high school? What if there was a GPS for guiding you step-by-step to a happy marriage or a successful career? With the 20-20 hindsight of a parent of adult children, how I would loved to have had something that would have given me step-by-step directions to raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children! Even doing these things by faith in God, the directions were never as clear or immediate as my GPS.

I highly recommend this wondrous gadget to you. Like all technology, the price is continuing to decrease on them—my wife got ours on sale! However, the manufacturers of these miraculous devices are missing a great selling point in their advertisements. The greatest thing about a GPS is not the convenience or safety. The greatest thing about having a GPS is that I will never have to be nagged about stopping and asking directions again!! That alone is worth the purchase price.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Where has he been?

Did his computer die?
Did he die?
Did he get mad and quit?
Did he run out of things to say already?
Who’s he anyway?
These may be things anyone who has visited this blog before has been wondering, if they bothered to think about it at all. It has been a month since I posted anything on this blog. I realize this is a cardinal sin for bloggers. For the record none of those things are true! Let me explain myself.
I love writing. I express myself most fully through writing. What’s more I like the give and take of public writing. For a number of years I wrote regular opinion columns in local daily newspapers; I even got paid for them. I loved it when something I wrote inspired an emotional “Letter to the Editor” or telephone call.
It never ceases to bring joy to me that someone takes the time to read and respond to something I write. For that reason, I have really come to enjoy the quick response time of blogging. Often you get feedback to a blog within hours of posting it—sometimes even in minutes.
So why haven’t I written anything in a month?
Certainly there has been no shortage of things to write about. I considered writing about the drought that is crushing farmers on the Delmarva Peninsula—but I didn’t. I wanted to write something following the very public death of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner—but I didn’t. I wanted to write something about the Stephen King-like discovery of the skeletal remains of four babies in the front yard of an Ocean City, Maryland, taxi driver—but I didn’t.
I find myself in something of the quandary that the Biblical writer Paul described when he said “The things I want to do, I don’t do and the things I don’t want to do, that’s what I do.” Lately, I find that my time and energy get devoured by things that are urgent but not necessarily important. Writer Charles Hummel called this the “Tyranny of the Urgent.” [I highly recommend his essay written in 1967 by that title; it’s more true today than ever.]
This leads to great frustration because the things that matter most are left undone while all my efforts are being spent on things that seem necessary but bring little joy.
I think this problem is not limited to bloggers or writers in general. I suspect many of us find this kind of frustration smoldering within. I can’t give you 3 or 5 easy steps to overcome it. I can tell you the first step is to recognize it is happening. You may find that this tyranny of the urgent is keeping you from spending more time with people you love, playing golf, reading the final installment of Harry Potter, or writing your own blog. In any case, recognize that you are missing out on what would bring you real joy.
Next, in the immortal words of Nike “Just Do It!” I had to find a quiet spot, open my computer, and start writing. It wasn’t enough for me to keep saying to myself “I wish I had time to write something” or “My schedule is keeping me from writing.” This is certainly not the best piece I have ever written but it’s better than anything I wrote in the last 30 days! The same will be true of time you spend with your loved one today or that round of golf you play tomorrow—it’ll be far better than nothing.
Let me know how your own battle with that terrible tyrant of the urgent goes. As for me, I am writing regularly again so I hope you’ll be back.