"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25
Midnight Blue (1963): Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell featuring Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Major Holley on double bass, Bill English on drums and Ray Barretto on conga. Midnight Blue is one of Burrell’s best-known works for Blue Note Records. In 2005, NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library", describing it as "one of the great jazzy blues records".

He said, She said...

"You are not designed for everyone to like you - Wise Man Phil

FRAGILE: Sting, Yo Yo Ma, Dominic Miller & Chris Botti

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks...

Appreciation: gratitude; thankful recognition.

"Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."
-1 Thessalonians 5:18

As I was running this morning, pondering another Thanksgiving Day, I wondered what it was like during the first Thanksgiving celebration. I wondered when first the "Turkey Day" took place and how different it was from how we celebrate Thanksgiving today. Obviously there are major differences between the first Thanksgiving in 1621 and the one we will experience today. I'm sure in the beginning there were no discussions concerning "Black Friday" shopping plans, little to no interest in the latest apps and no football or Macy's parade on the television. 

It's safe to say that times were different and with all of the points that could be made concerning the many differences, it was the 102 pilgrims that displayed tremendous resolve, strength and character in the midst of the most trying of times that gives me reason to pause.  

Depiction of the 1st Pilgrims.

The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of survival during a time of terrible hardship.

Many times we as Americans tend to romanticize the pilgrim, we think of them as well dressed men, women and children with buckled shoes and frock coats. Those visions couldn't be farther from the truth. In the winter of 1620 a group of 102 pilgrim pioneers had began an adventure that had no turning back.

 Jean Craighead George in her book "The First Thanksgiving" shared with her reader that by the following spring many pilgrims didn't survive the winter, being reduced by illness and hardship to 56. Surrounded by the land's native people, whose intent they could not know, they buried their dead by night so the tribes wouldn't realize how quickly their numbers were dwindling and prayed by day that they would live to see another.

Portrait of the 1st Thanksgiving.

So when the fruitful harvest and late fall arrived in 1621, it was natural that the weary settlers and their native benefactors should gather in a great feast of lobster and goose, turkey and venison, duck and pumpkin, fruit and corn. These Pilgrims, sorely tested, gave thanks for a hard-won survival and the help of friends. I truly believe that it would be impossible for all involved not to count their blessings without thinking of the trials just endured, the terrors of their strange new land, and the loss of their dearest comrades. The original 102 pilgrims, lived and died, bravely in the face of danger and most likely prayed daily for strength and safety.

And with all of this they found reason to be grateful producing their greatest legacy; a legacy of gratitude and appreciation

Enjoying the harvest... 

So that's where I find myself this morning, feeling tremendous gratitude for my faith, family and friends. Many things come and go but these three things have been with me for a lifetime.  

My faith has been the biggest blessing to me over the course of my life. I'm very thankful that my mother, the spiritual patriarch of our family, took my sister and me to church every Sunday morning, and Sunday and Wednesday night, without fail. I'm grateful that she instilled in me the importance of consistently attending church, and more importantly, that our faith in Jesus Christ is the most important quality we can develop while on earth. It is true what is said in Proverbs 22:6; "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." In the end, my parents "God" could no longer be mine. I had to decide to find Jesus for myself and invite Him in my life so He could become real to me. 

I'm grateful that my relationship with God has become more personal over the past five years, very personal. It has made all the difference for me and my family. 

When speaking of my family I feel very blessed and thankful for the "little" things. I'm thankful that we all made it home safely every night over the past year and were able to share the day's events with each other around the dinner table. I'm thankful and appreciative that so many people have made it possible for my oldest two boys to be currently attending college, and that Bryce received to full scholarship to play football at Miami, in Oxford, Ohio.

I'm full of appreciation and gratitude that my mother and father-in-law acknowledged, accepted, and without judgment, invited a man that had been divorced twice and had multiple children by multiple women (5 children by 4 women to be exact... one child with their daughter at the two) into their home and in doing so making that man, me, a part of their family. I'm thankful for the fact that my parents pretty much provided Christmas for all of my children over the past 16 years and especially thankful that my wife has accepted her role as wife, mother, stepmother, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law with such grace and class.  

She is wonderful. 

I'm also very thankful that my three oldest boys have accepted Jesus Christ into their lives. 

Finally, I'm thankful for my friends that I have had for the better part of my life. Craig Birkhead, Joe Ceravolo, Todd Onusic, Mike Elfers, Steve Iannarino, Mark Eissy and Jeff Wright all have been close friends for over 25 years. Craig has been a best friend for over 33 years. In each case they have given me their money, their time and their ear. They have blessed me with their constructive criticism and unforgettable understanding. 

  Charlie & his friends.  

They have often shared with me what I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear. 

They have been a truthful and true friend to me and for that I'm very grateful. 

In the end, I'm thankful for the 46 pilgrims that set out on a difficult journey that died along the way and for the 56 pilgrims, on that same journey, that were able to find something inside of themselves that enabled them to survive the journey.

In both cases many sacrifices were made. I believe greatness comes in many forms but it has been my observation that sacrifice is often the loneliest form of greatness.

 Giving thanks & sharing...

Today I recognize and honor their many sacrifices and their true greatness. With that being said, let all of us take pleasure in the simplest and most meaningful of things during our holiday celebration.  

Today let's remember that, as the Roman philosopher Seneca once wrote, "Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart." And with that let's remember and reflect upon the things that are in our life that we are grateful for and give thanks for them.

It has and always will be about grace, the grace that has been bestowed upon us and the grace we have the opportunity to share with others every day. I wish I could say it better but Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best when he said: 


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Grow Up, Stand Up: Incognito & Martin

Insecurity: lack of confidence or assurance; self-doubt: He is plagued by insecurity.

"Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to."

Col. Nathan Jessup

If those words are eerily familiar to you its because they are. That powerful statement was taken from the 1992 movie "A Few Good Men", starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and, the one and only, Jack Nicholson. That infamous rant was the doing of Col Jessup (Nicholson) during his courtroom standoff with Lt. Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise.

I began this piece with that quote because I believe there to be identifiable correlations between the movie 'A Few Good Men' and the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin issue that has unraveled down in South Florida; one that has shed a disconcerting light upon the NFL culture in general. 

Happy Days: Richie incognito & Jonathan Martin

I've never played one down in the NFL, nor have I stepped foot in one NFL locker room, so to act like I know the intimate inner workings of this sacred place would be disingenuous on my part. What I can speak to is the fact that I have been in many locker rooms during my lifetime while playing high school and college basketball.

All I can say is a lot of what happens in a locker room, and the many conversations that are had in this private, and sacred, setting are not meant for public consumption.

The locker room can be complicated, and a breeding ground for immature behavior. It's not my intention to make excuses for the poor behavior in a locker room, but I do think it's unfair to judge all NFL locker rooms by its cases of abuse. At the end of the day, the fan base that is the NFL, and football in general, doesn't really "want the truth" about what is discussed, or the actions that are committed, behind closed doors.

Alpha males can be, well, alpha males.

Getting older & growing up are two different things.

All that is really desired by the organization, and the fan alike, is a tough, animal like, man that will aid his team in winning. Teams ultimately need men like Incognito on that line every Sunday pushing "their" team to victory whether they publicly admit it or not, because the more "they" win the more money there is to be earned.

We don't want to know, and we ultimately don't care how they behave because that isn't how organizations are defined in public, nor do they define themselves in this manner behind closed doors. The media might project that agenda, but all an organization wants is wins and increased revenues.

Don't believe me? 

Two simple "collegiate" examples: no one cared about Maurice Clarett or his behavior until he could no longer aid Ohio State in winning games. When this became apparent he was readily dismissed and marginalized as a thug. The same is true with Terrell Pryor. I believe both of these instances to be another sad commentary on how athletes are readily dismissed once they can't help their team. Yes, both kids made mistakes, but neither should've been thrown to the curb. In the end, "Fans", and society at large, have short term memories, and have no problem living in denial when it benefits their agenda.

I need you and you needed me: Terrell Pryor & Jim Tressel
(During his 3 years at OSU, Pryor complied a 31-4 record with 2 BCS bowl victories. 
He was the 2011 Sugar Bowl MVP, threw for 6,177 yards, 57 TD’s, 26 picks, completed 60.7% of his attempts in three years as a starter. He never lost to Michigan. 
As of today, he is no more welcomed, nor allowed, on the OSU campus.)

This phenomena is repeated every year, in some NFL city or college town, across America. Our behavior as a society supports the fact that we don't care.

Look at these stats: though the NFL crime rate has decreased by 40% since 2006, the year Roger Goodell coincidentally became NFL commissioner, violent crimes still represent 30% of all crimes in the league. And though the arrest rate is about one fourth, 2.9%, that of all males 22-34, we still see a major difference in the punishment that is handed out. "In a 1997 study, Northeastern University’s Jeffrey Benedict and Alan Klein found that the athletes in their sample who were charged with sexual assault were only convicted 31 percent of the time, compared with a 54 percent conviction rate for the general population. In 1995, Maryann Hudson at the Los Angeles Times found that athletes charged with domestic violence were only convicted 36 percent of the time, compared with a 77 percent general conviction rate. In a 2010 Harvard Law Review article, Bethany Withers wrote that 'conviction rates for athletes are astonishingly low compared to the arrest statistics. Though there is evidence that the responsiveness of police and prosecution to sexual assault complaints involving athletes is favorable, there is an off-setting pro-athlete bias on the part of juries'."

In reality we think we want the truth, but we really can't handle the truth.

So where does this leave us?

The commentary surrounding the events within the Dolphins locker room and the team at large has taken many different directions. Some of the commentary has been effectively stated and well written; some not.

Discussions and opinions have traveled from the interesting to the sublime, from issues of bullying to a hostile work environment; hazing to racism. Many times a situation like the Incognito and Martin case become an easily accessible target for a larger agenda. This situation is no different. Whether you agree or not with the behavior Incognito employed there is no denying the fact that he has become the poster child for bullying. Jonathan Martin, on the other hand, has become the poster child for being "soft", and being a "victim." I have no idea if Martin is soft or not, but my initial feeling is how can a 2nd round draft pick, that is one of only 64 starting tackles in the NFL, be soft? If he is so soft how soft must his backup be? Is his backup receiving the same treatment?

Jonathan Martin
@GeorgeRaveling: A fundamental responsibility bestowed 
on each of us, is to defend who we are as individuals.

In America today, one of the worse things you can be is a bully. {And}, rightfully so. In the NFL the worst thing you can be is soft.

There isn't even a close second.

NFL locker rooms will turn a blind eye to abusive behavior, drug use, the physical assault of a woman and even racism, but what that environment will not tolerate is one of their comrades being weak. It goes against their code. Right, wrong or indifferent, that is the undeniable truth. In pro football there is a "greater responsibility" than making their fan base feel comfortable with their behavior. The mantra is "just win baby." Just win and everything else will go by the wayside. The popularity of the league, the advertisement dollars that are generated and TV ratings support this fact.

So where do we go from here?

I think there are many issues that could be discussed but I don't think they should be centered around bullying, poor work environment, or racism. I believe those issues to be easy targets and ones that enable lazy thinking.

The NFL is nothing short of a hostile work environment and encourages the activity of bullying. It's not your normal work environment. It's about survival of the fittest, and though Incognito's behavior, "while grotesque and incomprehensible" to many, has been going on for decades in the NFL. Some would say not to this degree, but if a "60 Minutes" type of expose were initiated, looking over the past 25 years in the NFL, you can rest assured that there are many more incidents of poor and dangerous behavior surrounding the treatment of a teammate by another teammate. In some way the importance of being tough and standing up for yourself is paramount for the entire team's safety and the success of the league, especially when it comes to the offensive line. If one lineman is soft it threatens the entire operation and the safety of their most valuable possession, the quarterback. The QB is not only each individual team's most important commodity, it's also the NFL's most prized possession. 

There is no other professional athlete that garners more attention, on and off the field, than does the NFL quarterback. 

{And}, a team can't win without a really good QB either, and the NFL knows that. The league has drastically limited the amount of contact a QB can endure to such a degree that the product resembles less and less like football.

All of this is done to protect the golden goose.

Gisele Bundchen & Tom Brady: Everyone has their eye on the QB.

There is a reason why a large majority of endorsement dollars are garnered by the quarterback. Companies, and society at large, can identify with a quarterback, not an angry offensive or defensive lineman.

There is a large amount of TMI that comes with offensive lineman and defensive players.

 NFL quarterbacks are more than athletes, their celebrities & icons.

I believe the real issue that needs to be discussed is why someone would behave in such a negative and destructive manner? {And}, why someone would tolerate being treated in such a negative and destructive manner?

Time doesn't permit doing a comprehensive mental and psychological examination on the two parties, but I think it's safe to say the glaring problem is centered around the insecurity of both men. If someone feels the need to treat someone to such a degree that it tears their prey mentally and emotionally apart, all the while providing some sort of ego power trip and praise within their peer group, then what you're dealing with is a very insecure and immature individual. Bully? No. Racist? No. Insecure and immature? Most definitely. The verbal weaponry that was aimed at Martin gives everyone a glimpse into who Incognito could very well be.

Often the words we use give life to our destiny and have the ability to define who we are. The words we use has the tremendous ability to set into motion how we think and how we behave. People say don't listen to the words because "actions speak louder than words." I say watch and listen to both.

Proverbs says many things about the words we choose; these are four of my favorites:

"Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose." - Proverbs 18:21

"The words of a fool start fights; do him a favor and gag him." - Proverbs 18:6

"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." - Proverbs 16:24

"Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush your spirit." - Proverbs 15:4

The words we use matter. Matthew 12:36-37

Our words matter, no matter who we are and what environment we live or work in. Our words have the power to build up or destroy another; to build up or destroy our self.

In the case of Jonathan Martin, the verdict remains the same. One of the best quotes I've ever heard came from Dr. Phil; "you teach people how to treat you." Whether Martin is 6'5" or 5'5", and weighs 150 lbs with a rock in his hand, or his actual weight of 306 lbs, you don't allow someone to talk to you in that manner.

While I'll readily admit Incognito's behavior went well beyond good natured hazing, what was needed was a private talk between the two parties, initiated by Martin, stating his dissatisfaction with the current status quo. Holding the meeting in private would eliminate the other partying trying to save face amongst his peers. If a private conversation doesn't work, then metaphorically speaking, guard the walls of self respect, and do it with the "guns" of resolve and dogged determination. In the end, if you don't stand up for yourself no one else will.

That's just life.

"Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up. Don't give up the fight." 
- Bob Marley

I've only shared this story once in my life outside of my parents, and I did so with a close college teammate this past week. When I was a freshman in high school I was on our freshman basketball team. I was good player, and I was the only black player on the team. I was actually one of about eight or nine black kids in the entire school, and with seemingly each passing day I was called a nigger with out fail. Any time there was an argument on the basketball court, football field or lunch room the first word that came out of the opposing parties month was nigger. I don't say that with malice or for shock value. I say it to be factual and to state the truth. I still remember a disgruntled parent calling my dad after his son was cut from a traveling team my dad was coaching - one I did not play on -, and calling my father a nigger on the phone for doing so.

There were times I wondered why we even stayed in the community.

I also still remember the fear I had my entire sophomore year in high school every morning as I walked to my first class; shop class. It was during class time the radio would be on and someone would inevitably want to turn the station to listen to QFM 96 (classic rock) only to pass an all black music radio channel in doing so. You can only imagine the cat calls and the racially insensitive comments that were made. I always remember being so embarrassed and shameful for not standing up against that type of ignorance.

{But}, one day I did, and I did so in the most unlikely situation, with the most unlikely person.

It was during my freshman year of basketball that my coach repeatedly called me "Brownie." It occurred on a daily basis. Seeing the red faces of my teammates, and the hearing the muffled giggles were almost too much for me to bare. I shared the situation with my parents, and as you could imagine, they were understandably concerned and angry. {But}, with all their dismay and disapproval concerning the situation my Dad told me that I had a decision to make: "either live with it or change it, but don't complain about it." Well, I wasn't going to live with it. {And}, though I was only 15, and scared to death, I approached my coach before practice and told him that I needed to talk to him in private after practice. He agreed. Once practice was over I can still remember standing in the old Hilliard Middle School gymnasium/auditorium and telling my coach that I didn't like when he called me "Brownie." His irritated reply, and lousy excuse, was that he coached a player many years before that had the last name of Brown, and that I reminded him of that player. I told him I didn't care who I reminded him of, and that my parents named me Shawn Bailey, not Brownie. As the coach walked away he half apologized and said it won't happen again.

[And}, you know what? It didn't.

It was my David and Goliath moment; one that still shapes who I am today. I don't know if I could do what my Father did with one of my sons, but I do so appreciate him providing me with a life lesson that will never be forgotten. It was a difficult time for me because I too often found myself ostracized by the black kids for being too white, and by the white kids for being black. {But}, with all that, it was in that Seminole moment, when I stood up for myself and I realized that I had a voice, that I learned "you" ultimately teach people how to treat you. 

The message was loud and clear: stand up for yourself, because no one else will.

What really needs to take place in the Incognito/Martin fiasco is both men coming to grips with their insecurities, and in the case of Incognito, "growing up" is the key, and for Martin it's "standing up" for himself, because if you don't "grow up and stand up" life can be very tough. Tough for both of them, and for everyone involved.

Life is just cruel that way.

sbb 13.11.13