Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Christ, Budda or La Virgen Maria

When I was a kid in El Paso, there were two things I never saw/knew.

1. People who were NOT Catholic.

2. Men who did NOT drink, with one exception: my maternal grandfather, who gave up the juice in my toddlerhood at the beckoning of my mother.

Since my migration to the Chicken Friend Nation (Dallas-Fort Worth) in 1992, mine eyes have seen the aforementioned and much, much more.

One statement I can never understand, and it might be my insensitivity as a result of of being here almost as long as in El Paso is: "Oh no, I'm not Christian. I'm Catholic," or "Oh, he/she is not Christian. They are Catholic."

But...but...to be Catholic is to be Christian. I guess the line which divides both sides is still as deep as the days of Martin Luther and The 95 Theses.

So, what are we talking about here? The pros/cons of the Roman Church vs. the Protestant faction?

Not really. In fact, my thoughts today run much deeper than that. Where it that easy, i.e., picking a denomination, my concern wouldn't be so. But, it started last year, when a business statistic at the office caught my attention above all.

After reviewing a stats report, one (statistic) stood out. According to that report, over 40% of families declared no formal association with any church. The stat does not imply all those people are churchless -- or worse -- non-believers, it basically implies that many people aren't members of any church, or don't attend any church in particular.

Wow! That's 4 out of 10 or 40 outa 100 or .400%. Even the greatest baseball hitters can't reach those stats, save -- maybe -- the great Ted Williams, and that was only for one season. Focus, focus.

So, what?

Well, I seem to know all those 40%-ers. In fact, we just made new friends during Spring Break, and they are churchless, also. I did a quick count of our friends and the stat was just right. In fact, in my group it's more like 50%.

Back in the day, it was understood everyone was Catholic. The women and children went to church and included the men for weddings and quinceaneras. All men drank, except my grandpa, and nobody every disputed it.

Every now and then I revisit the thought, if only to wonder -- again -- why this is happening?

We made some new friends this past Spring Break week. They hail from L.A., and have three kids. We spent a lot of time at each others' homes, and entertained the kids all week.

At one point, after a few cold drinks, the topic came up. "Where do you go to church?" they inquired.

It turns out the wife in this couple is Catholic, but he is not. He was raised in a Catholic home, but the family left to join some Protestant cause of sorts.

In all these conversations about God and the state of our churchness with these and other friends, there is one common school of thought: the raising of our children. It is agreed that adults can live a life without organized religion, though they should not. But children, like their formal education, need constant cultivation. Mine are in a menagerie of religious ideology at school -- all inclusive. Two of their most beloved friends are from Islamic families. The rest are from the unchurched and/or all layers of Christianity.

There's much to say about this subject, but one statement made by the husband of our new friends said it best...

A former U.S. Marine, he is a veteran of the Desert Storm conflict. During combat, he expressed this, "I turned around and realized that night myself and two of my friends were praying to three different Gods. I was praying to Jesus, my friend to the right was praying to the Virgin Mary, and my friend to the left was praying to Budda. All three of us made it home unscathed, and later, over drinks, we ask one another, 'Which of our three Gods brought us home?' To this day, I don't know."

That event led to his eventual separation from his former Protestant church.

In my business, I have seen -- literally -- ministers pray to all forms of deity in honor of the dead. After participating in over 5,000 funerals, and in a similar line of thought as my friend, I wonder how it's all sorted on the other side.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Big Papi at 30,000 Feet

So, my sister-in-law, who my girls candidly call, "Tu," secured a great picture and autograph from one of my favorite athletes of all time.
David "Big Papi" Ortiz was on her flight today, as she serves one of our great airlines, and he was nice enough to take this picture and give me an autograph.
Should you be one who does not know who Big Papi is, please see the first picture. Why that one? Papi has one of the most memorable batting routines ever known to man. I know, only a crazy Red Sox fan like myself would know that.
Either way, it was a great moment.

Monday, March 9, 2009

UFL Trophies Awarded, Finally

Friends, Six Belows and Cannolis finally received their trophies vintage style the other day at UFL headquarters.

In the "old days," we used to present trophies in front of the men's bathroom at the office. It just sorta happened that way.

Well, in light of Digger Bowl VI celebrations in El Paso, and both winners absent, we presented their hardware at a later date here in Fort Worth.

Again, congratulations Six Belows on winning Digger Bowl VI, and Cannolis on College Bowl V.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Joe Theismann

One of the Notre Dame greats, appeared in two Super Bowls with the Redskins, winning one.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

D-Day on My B-Day -- Should Have Taken That Bet

In the world of one Jerral "Jerry" Jones, the famed Cowboys owner and GM, nothing seems impossible. I have read many things about Mr. Jones, and his story(ies) always keep me entertained.

The local paper had an entire section dedicated to the day he bought the Cowboys from Bum Bright. The date? February 23, 1989. It was a Thursday and my birthday. I turned 16. They shook hands on the deal that day, but it was not announced to the world until Saturday, February 25, right after he created one of the darkest moments in American sports history, certainly for Cowboys fans.

Jerry flew to Austin, Texas, early that Saturday, where he met and fired Tom Landry at a golf course. Tom Landry was believed to expect the moment, as Tex Schramm had filled him in on the goings-on at Cowboys headquarters. Mr. Landry was due $900,000 for that coming season.

Yeah, so what? That was twenty years ago. THAT'S WHAT! IT'S BEEN 20 YEARS!!!

I was in the second half of the most embarrassing academic year of my life. I had given up honors classes a year before and gave in to the jock, attention-grabbing life instead. I went from honors English, to wood shop -- even contemplated dropping out of school on a scheme one of my best friends and I had for a business: an auto shop, which would serve beer to patrons. Or, was a dry cleaning shop? Naw, we didn't even know what dry cleaning was.

Anyway, academically it was a wasted year. Many of my fellow honors students continued the quest and would later get into prestigious colleges. I shaped up in the Fall of 1989, going into my junior year, playing catch-up and regaining some of those honors courses.

I remember coming in Monday for a workout at the football field house, when the rumors were flying high and mighty about Tom Landry's firing and some rich oilman buying the Cowboys.

In those days, the mighty fad was to dress in Western gear: Resitol straw hats, boots, Wrangler denim and/or polyester (what were we thinking?), and even cow ID tags affixed to our very large key chains, which would hang on our belt loops. Cheros, we were called. We were essentially wanna-be cowboys, tagged with ID numbers meant for cows. The great majority of the Western wearers had never been on a horse, maybe never even seen one.

El Paso has always been a Cowboys town. In fact, fans there are much more loyal than local fans.

Well, the story was not one, especially on this gorgeous day in the Chicken Friend Nation, except as I read all there was to read about this day twenty years ago, I remembered a quote that is truly uncanny.

We had a tough defensive coordinator in high school. He was in his mid-forties, athletic and hot-headed. He chewed enough tobacco to keep Redman in business and screamed during most practices and games. And, he wasn't without bias and/or prejudice, which was ironic for an Anglo to be teaching/coaching in a school with about 98% Mexican-Americans.

Anyhow, I caught up with coach later at track practice, as one of the positives things about that year for me was that I joined said team and "learned" how to run. I mean, I could run, but quickly learned I could much faster with a few techniques. I did, and at one point was the fastest man on campus, including two "brothers," who were lightening bolts.

He said, "Can you believe that s*$&! This redneck oil man has ruined the Cowboys! How can ANYONE fire Coach Landry for some unproven college coach? (see Jimmy Johnson). The Cowboys are ruined. I bet they don't win another Super Bowl in twenty years. It'd be like saying in twenty years we'll have a black President! Any takers on that bet?"

I agreed and just grinned, as I was winded and hurting supporting 425 lbs. on a bar, doing squats.

Twenty years. No Super Bowls. Cowboys ruined. Black President.

Well, Jerry didn't win another Super Bowl with the Cowboys, he has three so far. And, that Jimmy "The Jimnster" Johnson, well, some say the day he quit the Boyz was even black-er than the day Coach Landry was fired, God rest his soul.

Black President.

I should have taken that bet, though I can't imagine collecting on that one.