Monday, October 09, 2017

Rat Poison Helps Sometimes As Well: My Mid-Season SEC Football Report

Ok- there has been enough ball played to provide some compare and contrast to the current SEC team's status and gives us some legitimate prognostication going forward.

The countdown has begun and I do believe the SEC champ will have an automatic entrance in the final four.

I will also give a rat poison status to each team's dynamic. Rat poison can help... last week was an example. The longer Texas A&M stayed in the game.... the more their momentum grew- and playing closer than the poison purveyors said it would actually will make them tougher going forward. 



ALABAMA- Current favorite and should have low levels of rat poisoning (for now). I was talking with longtime friend, Tom Brakefield last Friday night and we both agreed that Alabama was in for a test at Kyle Field. The last two blow away wins just can't help a team as far as player and fan expectations are concerned.

The key for Coach Saban was to try and prepare his team for that and SURVIVE the dose of reality that ALL travel games in the SEC mean.

I was pleased with Alabama's performance... the defense is getting better and better and having Isaiah Buggs show up on the defensive line was a bonus. The final clock killing drive under pressure was a good growth opportunity for this year's version of the team.

Calvin Ridley needs to stay healthy for this team to peak.

Games Left:
Arkansas- Team will need to come out fast and fiery... no more injuries
Tennessee- Team will need to come out fast and fiery... no more injuries
OPEN DATE WILL BE BENEFICIAL
LSU- time to prepare for Matt Canada's shifts and motions will be helpful
at MISS STATE- this is the trap game..... this one will take more  to win than anyone realizes unless Fitzgerald is hurt
Mercer- will probably be a sloppy game
at Auburn- will be a great game- some of this is if West is still up for play or not. The AU QB does not have the mobility to hurt Alabama- will have to be low scoring for Tigers to have a chance. Alabama does not want it to be a FG game.

One more prediction about Alabama- watch for designed QB runs at the end of season in big games. Alabama has not called many but will roll the dice as Tua gets better as a playmaking back-up. Turning Hurts loose as a runner will make him the Cam Newton of this year's SEC teams and I do think he will run Alabama to the SEC title.



GEORGIA- Current East favorite.

Georgia is riding high- a huge win at Notre Dame and running roughshod over UT has them energized. This is a solid team... good defense and efficient offense. This is a team that is pressurized, but is built to win close games. 

RAT POISON STATUS OF GEORGIA- if Georgia beats Auburn on the road on 11/11- their next TWO games AFTER THAT could result in deadly levels rat poison ..... look out for both Kentucky and Georgia Tech in that scenario.




AUBURN- Legitimate SEC and Playoff Contender.

Auburn's defense is super good and they have a FG kicker that is the best around. That is always a good advantage going into any game.

I'm still not sold on Auburn's offense. What makes the Mahlzahn offense almost impossible to stop is the danger of a running QB... when he has one who can run and throw even a little bit, it is a nightmare.

It might help to get Pettway back.... but I don't see Auburn's offense scoring more than 17 points on LSU, Georgia, or Alabama.

RAT POISON STATUS  OF AUBURN- it is high this week. but if Auburn beats LSU, look out at Arkansas... (you heard it here 1st)- and if I were an Auburn fan, I would be more concerned about the game at Kyle field vs Texas A&M MORE than the home game against Georgia.


THE SEC TRIANGLE AT THE TOP

The Georgia, Auburn, Alabama triangle is interesting to me. How do things need to go to get two in the final 4? It will be hard..... I see a scenario where Alabama loses a close one to either team and is still given a 4th spot. I don't think Georgia or Auburn gets in with such a loss- but a 1 loss team could get caught on the outside looking in because the league is down.... suffering from a lot of rat poison.


But we all will be watching.... because you never know....... 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Yancey Magic, 300 Wins, and What Really Matters

Longtime coach and friend, Shane Harmon, tapped me on the shoulder right before kick-off last night and said, "Did you know tonight could be Fred's 300th?"

And as a guy who takes GREAT PRIDE in knowing things and doing what is right... I felt a huge sense of panic.. NO... I didn't know and NO... I wasn't prepared to honor my friend on such a historic milestone for this guaranteed future Hall of Fame coach.

I do know he got his 250th BCS win last season and was given a nice ceremony and a gold helmet with 250 painted on it.....

So I wandered out to him during the humid pre-game warm-up and asked him if he knew he was at 299...he did.

Then I joked with him... 'Coach, I'm not ready to honor your 300th- I guess I could get a black sharpie, a gold helmet and write 300 on it".... we both laughed and we both knew... Coach really doesn't care, he really doesn't... to him it is a number.

Don't get me wrong, we know it is special, but I have spent too much time with him over the years to know that the accolades don't register for him... but I also know it was pre-game and the fires were burning... he would trade them all to get the NEXT one.. and not for him... not for him... he WILLS the wins for one reason.... he feels like he OWES it to the kids. He wants it so bad for them that he aches... but the reason he aches for them may surprise you.

WHAT IS 'YANCEY MAGIC'?

Those of you who know my story, know that I coached football for 28 glorious years... all but 7 of those with Coach Yancey.

But it was my 7 seasons as a head coach that I really understood Yancey magic... it was why his 2 pt calls worked and mine didn't, why his fake punts scored and mine fell short.

But you want to know why? I know.. while I just wrote the word 'mine' 2 times....he doesn't even think in those terms.....

There is no Yancey magic... He is just a humble servant of God, loving kids, and has a burning fire for winning.. for all the right reasons.

Don't get me wrong.. He is a fantastic coach.. excellent x's and o's... but there is something more and deeper... and it is why his former players and parents LOVE him.

300 WINS

Oh my goodness... does anyone know what an accomplishment this is?

It isn't just perseverance, it is a long time of excellence.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS

When the game was over.. I hugged his neck and congratulated him... "Congrats coach, 300 is special." He squeezed me extra hard... 'You know you had a big part of this, coach."

And the tears filled my eyes.... he NEVER is selfish... he always deflects to others...

and I'm still crying now.. because I can't stop praising the Lord for allowing His grace to make a man/coach like Fred Yancey.

BCS Coach, Fred Yancey won his 300th game as a head-coach and the 259th at Briarwood – a school and Shelby County coaching record- last Friday night at Fairfield.

Coach Yancey is now 300-111-1 overall in a career that has spanned 34 years. He has compiled a 259-91 record at Briarwood since 1990, and is just the sixth football coach in AHSAA history to record his 300th win in the AHSAA.

Coach Yancey, who ranks third in AHSAA history with most wins at one school, has guided the Lions to 24 straight playoff appearances. He has a 54-22 playoff record and has won 3 state championships.

Throughout his career, Coach Yancey has modeled a consistent Christian testimony and taught countless players and students how to be a winner on the field and in life.

Congratulations, Coach Yancey!

-records source AHSAA


What a man.... what a legacy!


Sunday, September 17, 2017

My Bama Report- CSU Review

Author's Note: I'm glad to post this as a request of some friends who have asked for me to do this. 

Again, this is just an opinion based on impressions from a TV view of games. I have not studied film nor am I familiar with the specific schemes that Alabama employs.



Let me start this week by pasting a quote from last week's write-up:

"What will surprise everyone but me is how competitive CSU, Vandy, And Ole Miss will be."

Game ReCap:

I posted early last night a positive improvement from the Fresno Game:



And that was what I was happiest about early... the defensive front 7 came out with some early energy.... and though they didn't sustain it the entire game... this team shows some pop when they are pumped.

Who had the worst night?

Ok- if I am writing these things... I need to be able to be honest....

Coach Saban made a mid-week request for the fans to come out loud and intense... which would hurt CSU tempo and checks... no matter how you work on it ... a Mountain West Conference team would almost never hear a raucous SEC night crowd.....

But the fans are sleep walking... and I get it... but if I am grading Alabama... I'm giving the team an A- and showing signs of improvement... but the average Tide fan isn't turned up yet... and the stadium atmosphere will need to get better when Ole Miss comes to Tuscaloosa on Sept 30- this team needs you. I guarantee you Nashville will be louder Sat night than any moment from last night's game.

To the WOE-IS- US  Bama 'Fan'.... no we didn't win by 100- but it is OK...

And not all quiet fans are negative fans... You may just be saving up LOL.

GOOD WIN- AND IT IS A GOOD COACHING OPPORTUNITY

As a former coach, I loved getting early season wins with my team still making mistakes... it allowed me to continue pressing them for improvement.

Sometimes, you can play a (seemingly) flawless game early in the year and it can create a stagnation... if Alabama is made of the right stuff, they will learn and grow.

I LIKE THE DABOL OFFENSE:

My favorite part of his calling is how early we are in the play clock with a call and a snap.

Again, I didn't see any new play... I'm guessing he is holding some cards for SEC play.

The 3rd level safety read RPO that Hurts threw to Ridley may be new... but it is a common play in College Football right now.

HURTS BEST GAME:

This guy is Bama's MVP and, if he stays healthy, will become a Heisman candidate before the year is out.

NOT A DOMINANT DEFENSE...YET.

And the reality may be, that this defense just won't be like last year's.. one of the best I have ever seen.

I do know that we have stayed in a lot of base calls- and the blitz game has been effective.

THE ONLY THING I DON'T LIKE ABOUT NICK SABAN'S COACHING...

Now I'm really about to step in it....

This is my personal opinion, but I do not like the way Alabama plays their corners. It is what Coach believes in... and I think he should play them 90% that way... but I ALSO think he should have a change-up call and allow them to make a zone turn from time to time and not always the man turn to the #1 receiver on the outside vertical throw.

In football, they call it a 50/50 ball.... but (especially to the boundary) when it is against Alabama it is a 65/35 ball- We tend to get pass interference or a completion 2 to 1 against us.

If we showed press and bailed just a few times a game, making a turn to the QB (zone turn)  and playing the ball (not the receiver)- it would not be as easy a call to make vs. our defense.

But- he is not going to change... but it is too easy a call for OC's to count on 4 to 6 times a game.

VANDY PREVIEW:


In some ways, Vandy beating Kansas State and coming in 3-0 isn't good for them... their expectations are up and Alabama will match that intensity.

Having a hostile crowd will be good for the guys... the tepid home crowd the last two weeks has them playing in a practice pace... not a big game pace.

This game will go one of two ways.... huge momentum plays for Vandy early... with Alabama pulling away in the 4th quarter.

But call me crazy... this one will be in hand by the half. It will be Bama's best defensive performance and Hurts will have his come out SEC game.

At the same time, I have watched enough football over the years to know that YOU NEVER KNOW.

RTR






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Lord of Anxiety?

As a young man, I read the following passage in a much different light than I do today.


Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; [2] before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, [3] in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, [4] and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—[5] they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—[6] before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, [7] and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. [8] Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. “(Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 ESV)


In my youth spring of optimism- I saw it as a story of those who DON”T walk with God at an early age. Forget God, and your life becomes a twisted, empty, and miserable maze of melancholy.


As I grow older, I NOW see that this passage describes periods of time in which all humans share- whether in the Lord or without. No one escapes. The one most surprised by it was me.


There are hindrances to blog writing… this topic in particular needs more than a book to dissect and deliberate…. And many who I work with find the struggle to be in decades and not days. But I will delve into this just a little as a testimony that there is victory in Christ in this area- and winning sometimes is as simple as breathing.


Though modern Christianity tends to shy away from these topics… the Bible and the history of Christianity is a hard core, blunt testimony to believers who walk in periods of darkness and despair.


If you doubt this - read David’s laments as he cries through lonely nights, Naomi who called out to those around her to change her name. She said “Don’t call me Naomi (pleasant), Call me Mara (Bitter)”. Jeremiah was known as the ‘weeping prophet”.

There is an ENTIRE book called “Lamentations”- I guarantee we don’t read that book a lot.

Martin Luther was famous for fits of what he termed a malady of melancholy.The great nineteenth century preacher Charles Spurgeon suffered from acute depression. Often he was bedridden and unable to preach, sometimes as much as twice a month.


Now, again, it is so important here to not put all of these experiences in a simple basket called 'the blues'.


The more we learn about these conditions from acute to chronic, from chemical and genetic disorders, from weather related conditions, from trauma in early life, from tragedy in life, from fear and anxiousness, to identity crisis… even spiritual crisis… this is never going to be simple and the cure will often appear out of the reach of reality… but God is never absent and we are never without hope.


I also wanted to make reference and distinguish to something similar, but not the same. Early church fathers spent much time on a season they referred to as , “The Dark Night of the Soul”.
The phrase comes from an 8 stanza poem by St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), a Spanish monk and mystic.Gerald May, in his book  Care of Mind/Care of Spirit, says that these dark night places are doing a work that is deeper than our experiences of emotion, thought or action. In some ways, it might be more helpful to call the “dark night” a non-experience or a process of ‘unknowing’ .


The word ‘distinction’ is so important in ciphering through these experiences….

“It is important for us to make a distinction between the spiritual fruit of joy and the cultural concept of happiness. A Christian can have joy in his heart while there is still spiritual depression in his head. The joy that we have sustains us through these dark nights and is not quenched by spiritual depression. The joy of the Christian is one that survives all downturns in life.” R.C. Sproul



SURPRISED BY DEPTHS OF LONGING AND DEPRESSION

I may be wrong, but I NEVER remember being ‘depressed’ for any length of time throughout my teens, 20’s, and early 30’s. Sure, I got ‘disappointed’ and I suffered loss. I went through seasons of unrequited desires.

But not only do I not remember fighting depression or negativity, I actually had little patience with anyone who did. I disliked anyone who spoke in defeatist terms.. and the ‘blues’? My shallow and unfeeling reply was ‘get over it, you loser’.


BUT LIFE (and God) made sure I experienced what Ecclesiastes was promising.

Sure I was still a man of faith, I was loved, I was blessed- I was a peaceful man more with joy than regret..


but I also found myself dealing with a strange new friends… fears, doubts, loneliness, and emptiness. And they were tangible.. I could taste them. They made my eyes tired, they kept me up at night, and I couldn’t even introduce them to my wife.


It wasn’t dramatic enough to be labeled a ‘mid-life crisis’- I wasn’t thinking of convertibles and Corona’s…..But I was pulled by a strong gravity inward to wrestle with deep desires and questions that I had hidden with youthful exuberance and a smile.


Now, here is the weird thing….looking back over 20 years of meeting these friends in sneak attacks and seasons of grief or pain….. It was wonderful!


Because I did find the one person who met me there, in the dark, under the accusing crooked fingers of my demons.


Jesus was and is there, though many times I did not see Him. He didn’t say much.. but I knew He cared. You know the old Marine saying? “You can pretend to care, but you cannot pretend to be there.” One of the greatest growth moments of faith is to look into the darkness and know you are not alone... HE WAS THERE!

How was He there? I found that God’s Word powerfully attached to all of those dispositions. I particularly found healing in Psalms and in the gospels.


“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:7­-10).


The apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians gives me the admonition to be anxious for nothing,” telling me that the cure for anxiety is found on my knees, that it is the peace of God that calms my spirit and dissipates anxiety. Again, I can be anxious and nervous and worried without finally submitting to ultimate despair.


IDENTITY CRISIS AND EMPTY SLOGANS OF LIFE


Before you give me a wreath of victory… the struggle remains. And for some people, it is a lifelong battle that requires consistent medication, evaluation, and professional support. At this time, I haven’t had to go there, but it is no lack of faith and no reason for shame if I did.


I was also helped by Os Guinness in a book titled, “The Call”

For me,  Os Guinness began to articulate about finding authentic love and truth in the dark.


He writes: The notion of calling is VITAL to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself.


He outlines stages of human identity that is connected to our own sense of purpose. All human worldviews and philosophies speak to aspects of these ‘labels’ of identity


One is “I AM CONSTRAINED TO BE”– this simply is where we are right now by following the path that led here. It is the lot we find ourselves, and can present itself like a prison of our own circumstances. Sometimes these constraints look insurmountable… and some are.


The next one is “COURAGE TO BE”- this is the one that I held to as that optimistic 20 year old. I bought into all the snappy slogans that turned into self-help best sellers. “Be all you can be”- “Shoot for the Stars”. Now, to he honest- these are great challenges and they do ‘birth’ dreams that are helpful in the process of pulling against our restraints.


The third one is “CONSTITUTED TO BE”- this one is where most secular philosophies stop and ‘mission accomplished’ is celebrated. We have broken out of our constraints and now revel in a life. We have FOUND our identity in context of experience, passion, and skill. The power is within ourselves and can be described as a kind of 'intestinal fortitude' or 'guts'.


But the Bible does not stop there… it wants me to take one more step… a step of faith..and it is a huge deal…


‘CALLED TO BE’– this is the relationship of love that moves us with purpose and not a product of chance and whim. By being called to a person… especially the Creator and Lover of our souls, we have a place to go when our soul is wounded and crushed or flooded with anxiety. Who can we depend on when our 'guts' run out?


R.C. Sproul said it like this:


The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light in the presence of God.


My relationship with a FATHER… THE FATHER.. the lover of my soul… gives me a NAME that matters.

My despair... anxiety... loneliness.. depression... grief... was good- because it drove me to the One who was seeking me all along.

C.S. Lewis says it is in our stories…. a ‘desire for a far off country’  the scent of a flower we have not found… the echo of a tune we have not heard..news from a country we have yet to visit”

And when we find Him in the depths.. we still don’t know a lot… but we know Him. And our question becomes “What do you desire me to do?”


Remember Naomi… the one who wanted to be called “Bitter”?


Naomi knew darkness. She and her husband had to sojourn in famine conditions in Moab. She had 2 sons who married Moabite women. Life was tough, but grew desperate as Naomi had to experience the death of her husband and, 10 years later, she went through the pain of losing her two sons!


And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”  (Ruth 1:19-21 ESV)

But, OVER TIME, Naomi experienced the love of God through Ruth and God stepped in and provided a Kinsman Redeemer and lifted this family up!
I hope you know the story about how Boaz, a kind and devout man, met Ruth and sacrificially worked to gain Ruth as his bride. And when Ruth gave Naomi a grandson… the blessing was complete.


Naomi’s identity was miraculously changed:


“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! [15] He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” [16] Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.” (Ruth 4:14-16 ESV)


The depression/anxiety that we struggle with may be profound, but it is not permanent, nor is it fatal.


And sometimes, all we can do… all we need to do is just keep breathing… our hearts need to keep pumping… and listen for the word of Your Father… He is THERE and He does CARE.


Don’t run from God in the midst of chaos and tragedy of life..cling to the One who loves and restores.


One day we will all see Him face to face...He will wipe away our tears… and we will truly know a freedom from human misery, death, and deceit.


"The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

Can you dare to believe this?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Early Analysis of the Tide

I had an amazing time last weekend in Tuscaloosa. The Alabama game day experience is incredible and any chance we get to do it, we always enjoy it.

Also loved my view- A high endzone seat is great for an old coach like me and I love finally watching formations and safety rotations from both teams. It also helps to get some thought on the chess game of adjustments and personality of the play callers.

EARLY SEASON ANALYSIS-

It is just too early to accurately get a team report. I'm a guy who likes to see what teams grow during a season and how they handle the grind, injuries, internal chemistry, and outside messaging.

But here are some of my take aways from a beautiful day in Alabama:

STILL HIGH ON HURTS

As my blog post said a week ago, Hurts is dramatically improved. His poise is his greatest asset, he plays under control and makes good choices which is hard to do in the pace of a game. He seems to have a great time clock on his scrambles and is deadly with his feet.

He threw two bad balls (which is a great game number). Two weeks in a row he has had a vertical throw go out of bounds, which was always a big no/no to me. But his second deep throw to the right was just a bad decision and a bad ball. In cover 1 (man free) the Qb needs to be aware of the FS, and Hurts threw a hang up too far inside and it should have been picked.

DO WE KNOW DABOLL YET?

As far as 'plays', Alabama has shown nothing new from last year. It is what most teams do these days... a lot of gun, formations, shifts, motions, and personnel packages. Alabama loves to run the power O or Pin and pull off of jet sweep motion. The do some RPO's that are fast screens or runs. They do some zone read, but they also have called QB runs.

My guess is that there are some plays still in the toolbox but yet to be used, which is a beauty of this year's schedule-

Here is how it works....

The game tapes are flooding in... and before long, every team will have an MO and though you try to break tendencies, you still go with what you are good at-

Here is where Daboll will excel- an NFL approach is the be as basic as you need to be to get the job done. The game plan is more clinical than mood of the moment.

I had a lot of chats with Norm Chow when he was coordinating with the Titans... he said he was most surprised with 2nd and short yardage philosophy between the colleges and pros. In college- 2nd and 2 is a 'shot down'- get a big play. In the NFL, it is 'get a 1st down' call- because 3rd and 2 in no gimme in the NFL.

Daboll went power run on most of his 2nd and shorts.

I like what he is doing.... not flashy but efficient- very clinical and sound- and we are snapping the ball in plenty of time- there won't be the 'whistling Kiffin' wanting to check to HR throws - but in the long run, that approach can cost you some opportunities.

I haven't seen that slot- possession receiver yet- the one we will use to play off of Ridley- Who will be our Amendola?

OTHER GAME DAY NOTES:

I was impressed with Fresno States offensive gameplan. This was a well schemed offense and had yin plays in for Bama's yang.

I did notice that the 2nd time the play was called- Bama had already adjusted... it was especially cool to see when Fresno called Chip Kelley's rail route flood play- it was a big gainer the 1st time and 2 yds the 2nd time.

I do think Bama's defense wasn't stoked- they played a lot of 'catch the block' instead of 'attack the technique" and it allowed runs to go two more yards or give QB one more count in the timeclock to throw.

The chewing by Pruitt was expected, justified, and predictable - as all DC's are LOL.

FG kicker seems to be settling down- he seemed jittery in game 1.

Our punter is something else- Jk Scott.... fun to watch him- his apex on the punts is just how you want them.



THE JOURNEY BEGINS...

The Fla State win is money in the bank- and despite HUGE losses at the OLB position, a place like Bama has TIME now to build.

And that my friends is what the whole season now depends on... and there are NO GUARANTEES that it will happen. Even though the head coach and the system is as outstanding as it can be, it is now up to the players to lead, work, and compete.

A championship team will block out the outside noise and intensely focus in the film room and meetings, and relentlessly compete in the weight room, on the practice field, and on Saturdays.

There will need to be team leaders who demand it happen.....

Along the way, there will need to be injury luck and a will to win when the momentum shifts due to bad breaks.... etc.

CONCERNS?

I haven't seen last years D-line push- but rarely does that happen at that level... that is why those guys went so high in the draft.

And (this will sound crazy) but will the Bama Nation allow this team the time it takes to build?

All players are on social twitter and the noise comes in.... are the wins big enough? What player will be labeled as unproductive and get his mind on his performance and not the team? How loud is the doubting or dissension?

What will surprise everyone but me is how competitive CSU, Vandy, And Ole Miss will be.

For fans sleeping and lounging on the butterslide of expectations, it will be opportunities for fret.

But if the team will take these a moments to mend and opportunities to grow...we can continue to enjoy unprecedented achievements.

I do like the culture of my team and the way they play!

RTR


Friday, September 08, 2017

Our Prayer Regarding Irma

Father,

We come to You with hearts that are yearning and needful. We are truly grateful for the truths in Your Holy Word regarding the love and compassion You lavishly demonstrate in countless ways. You also, Oh Lord, are the powerful creator and sustainer of all things.

Lord, You are never absent in a storm like Irma. Indeed You are ever present in that storm... and though it turns within the properties of nature that You designed, it also swirls in the majestic control of Your mighty hand.

Father, I am like most humans in that I don't understand that... and if I am honest I don't like that. But I am so thankful that You have many promises that we can cling to when life doesn't make sense or when we don't like it.

You are so patient as we cry out in misunderstanding and dissatisfaction.

Lord, if I am honest I will say to You that what Paul says in Romans is true... but frustrating...

"But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' [21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Romans 9:20-21 ESV)

So Father, we pray for Your will and Your mercy. We understand that this storm has already struck places and many calamities fall in different ways everyday. Your love stands true in the midst of any human condition. Your gracious offer of  eternal salvation to all who call upon Your name far outweighs even the darkest human story.

But Lord, You also encourage us to pray... to wrestle with You... to knock... to seek... to ask.... You encourage us to pray in faith and You teach us to pray in unity of numbers and perseverance.

And ultimately, we trust Your every answer.... sometimes "Yes", sometimes "No", and sometimes "Not yet". We know that Your ways are not our ways and Your purposes are just and Your acts are good.

We bow before You as sinners. We come before You as a people who often ignore You and cling to idols who offer nothing but lies.

And yet, Your heart is still so full of compassion. You demonstrated Your love in space, time, and history.

[7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8 ESV)

So Father, we cry out to You- the ONE WHO CAN turn the storm called Irma and we ask that even as Your people pray, the steering winds would pull north and east and steer the mighty creation of Your majesty out to sea.

Father, if it be Your will to not relent in that way- we know that You are gracious and loving. Your children know how to pray as Job prayed, "Though he slay me, I will hope in him" (Job 13:15 ESV)

We also pray Lord that You would move the hearts of Your people to rally to the needs of others. We thank You for 1st Responders and countless thousands of others who give cups of water and words of healing in Your Holy Name right in the darkest places of human suffering.

Lord, when You move the storm... may many people recognize Your mercy and fall their knees in thanks. We know the skeptics will mock and jeer.... they will say that it is only soul-less 'science' and resist You in hardened rebellion.

But Lord, may they even see Your majesty and peace and patience and love while the door of mercy is still open.

So Lord, Your people pray and we wait. We are not helpless or hopeless. May we be found dressed- clothed in the righteousness of Jesus- ready to respond to Your call in the peace that passes all understanding and the power of Your Holy Spirit.

So thank You for even the privilege the pray... to ask that You move the storm so that all the world may see Your ways and be amazed.

In The Name of The King of Kings and Lord of Lords... Jesus Christ.

AMEN

Update 9/11/17

In some ways I had to chuckle that  my prayer to steer the storm northeast, ended up going northwest with the eye coming right over my city....

But the command to pray, the call to pray, the collective power of prayer has not changed.

God is Lord and I am not- and my trust in Him never wavers.

His plans have very little to do with me and yet, He is ever mindful of my needs moment by moment.

I see the storm so far as very merciful in terms of what could have happened- and God's people are ever present and helping. Thank you to all of those heroes that we never hear about... God sees you!

The Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to All generations!

UPDATE 
How does one Biblically respond to a Hurricane?

#1 God is in control- He was not absent from the storm. He was the fury of it. He was the pilot of it. Nothing happens outside of His sovereignty.

#2 The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5). Irma represented judgement for some and graduation to heaven for others. See Jesus commentary in Luke 13 on human disaster. The question is always- "Am I ready for my death?"

#3 God is love and compassionate. In the storm, is also God's love. It is the same love shown on the cross. Where was God when Irma struck? He was in the same place as when His Son hung on the cross. He is in control and full of love.

#4 For the believer. tragedy is turned to triumph. Rom, 8:28 promises that all things work for good. How can that be? The reaction to the tragedy shows God's truth. It shows mans depraved nature (Rom 3:23) in the looting and crime. It shows the existence of God in how we value life (we spend money and risk lives to save lives). It gives God's people a chance to show compassion (II Corin 1). It wakes us up from trivial lives of idolatry.

What is more comforting? Irma with no God in control or Irma being used by God to fulfill His purposes?

How you answer that question shows what risk you have taken for eternity.

See Joseph's faith in Genesis 50.

Psalm 74:9 You stand up to judge those who do evil, O God, and to rescue the oppressed of the earth. 10 Human opposition only enhances your glory, for you use it as a sword of judgment. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

In Defense of Hurts

I debated whether I should write and post this.... just adding to the noise.


But coaching and evaluating Qb's was something I did as a career for over 25 years. It was one of the great honors of my life and I have a special interest and passion for that special position.


My comments AND almost all other opinions expressed about Jalen Hurts are short-sighted... unless we know the calls, the expectations, and the teaching from the coaches- we are (I am) speculating at best.

But a majority of the sports talk I have heard this week from the 'experts' is troubling to say the least and irresponsible to say the worst.

This is typical of most of this week's analysis



However, I was blown away by Hurts progression from last year to this year by the end of the 1st quarter.

Those who know me, know some of the things I didn't like about Hurts last season...even though I loved his performance as a true freshman and came away super impressed with his production last year.

I had concerns about his grip and didn't like his motion last season. The ball tilted down in his hand and he had a 'long stroke'- which means he didn't release the ball as fast as I think a QB should playing at that level of football.

This is Hurts grip in National Championship game- see the downward tilt?

This was last Saturday- much better ball position


By the way, Peyton Manning had the same issues as a true freshman at Tennessee. I was privileged to watch Coach David Cutcliffe and Peyton put in the work to 'shorten his stroke' and 'improve his grip'.

To say it paid off is an understatement.

Saturday night I saw a completely revamped plant and release by Jalen. He was much more balanced and fluid on his throws when he was given protection.

Many of his throws were a balanced, plant and a quicker release than last year.

His worst throw was actually his first down the field throw that sailed out of bounds. His best throw was a back shoulder rocket that carried Ridley just out of bounds.

Without having the benefit of a true game field view (the standard TV view is limited) I saw in many ways a typical first game offensive performance against a really good defense.

The hardest thing for us to understand as fans is that Alabama resembles the style of an NFL team, not a college team. Most NFL games are tight... a 4 yd run is a bonus... and the ultimate wining edge is hidden yardage in special teams and turnovers.

Coach Saban is a defensive minded coach, which means... if his defense is clicking, he wants an offense that will run clock, wear the other team down, get explosive plays when the situation allows them, and not turn the ball over.

The average fan doesn't like that kind of game.... and it isn't as glitzy as the fun and gun style that a lot of teams play.

But I will say this.... that style wins under pressure, when it matters most.

The detractors will say.. "Sure, until you get beat by Clemson."

But go back and watch that game.... it was an amazing football game...a clash of styles... and we watched a special QB put the ball in super small windows and earn the championship. Congrats to them.

You know what else about that game? A true freshman QB in Crimson pulled up in the pocket and scrambled for a TD that could have won the game as well.

We are blessed to have a great kid as the starting Qb and I am also thankful to have a quality back-up as well... my guess is that we will see both develop this year and always excited to cheer on these guys as they go on a long journey full of ups/downs and everyone gunning for them each and every week.

RTR


Saturday, September 02, 2017

In Defense of Coaches

Some of you may know by now that I have recently been appointed to be the Athletic Director of our high school. I take on this role with great excitement and a sense of the responsibility that comes with the job.

I have been blessed to have a great team of people to work with and I am under no illusion that I can guide this ship as a solo effort.

From time to time, I want to dedicate blog space to thoughts about my new position and my desire to always encourage and support our coaches.


Coaching is not for the faint of heart. In some ways, it has never been harder. We live in a world of high expectations and free wheeling opinions. Our media has tuned our ears to accept outspoken critique and instant judgement.

Before I am mis-understood.... this doesn't mean that coaches should be defended in all circumstances... coaches are human being who do things at times that are indefensible. Some of these are serious enough to result in very tough consequences. But our so called 'tolerant' society is not quick to forgive and there isn't a lot of 'bearing with' and 'forgiving'.

My biggest concern in this area is when players, fans, or parents get caught up in a vicious cycle of negative talk that builds on itself to the point that a coach is damaged in the process.

How can this happen?

Part of it is the fruit of a culture of endless 'opinionating' and prognosticating. I had a well respected college head coach tell me a decade ago that ESPN was making his job harder. He said, "My players hear week in and week out a powerful message of how good they are, how likely they are to win or lose, how good I am, and whether I am on the hot seat or not. They are swayed by slick music and graphics and it is frustrating that they will take more stock in what a commentator will say more than a coach who is with them and invested in them."

And though it is hard to feel a ton of empathy for those who get millions in buy out clauses, it still hurts .... and when those same free wheeling comments drop to high school and jr high school teams, the results can be devastating.


EXPECTATION AND DESIRES

There are times a coach should be let go.... incompetence and of course unethical or immoral behavior.

But the bar to change coaches has never been lower....

In some cases, it isn't even about the won-loss record... sometimes the call to remove a coach is simply 'my kid isn't happy'.

My philosophy is to be slow to ever replace a coach... I would rather work with a coach than take a chance on an unknown quantity.


CANNIBALIZING YOUR OWN TEAM

I am a parent of athletes... so I see this as a former player, coach, and parent.... we must always be careful about what we say concerning those who have been placed in a position of authority in our children's life.

The ability for a coach or teacher to have the credulity to speak in our children's life is related in degree to whether we have built up that person or torn them down in the eyes of our children.

The power of the parent cannot be underestimated.... that parent can set that coach up for success or failure wth just a few statements in their presence.

But it isn't only a parent or fan problem.....

I have seen examples too many times in my professional life where players began to distrust their coaches and it prevented their ability to ever improve as a team.

But even then, I am still slow to hold that against a coach.... I would rather graduate the negativity than succumb to internal negative spin.

GROWTH, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND SUPPORT

My main commitment and philosophy as an athletic administrator is to provide a support system where they feel free to coach and, at the same time, feel a healthy pressure to improve.

All coaches need to improve.... most I have known in my life WANT to improve.

And a program with stability and encouragement will show a better track record than those who change with every whim.

It is easy to write these things...much harder to stand in them...

But if there is a coach in my program.... he or she won't have to believe my words.... they will only have to watch me work.

My advice to fans, parents, and players.... step in with both feet and support the TEAM and don't worry about the coach.... that part is going to work out just fine.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fighting the Illogical Mood of the Moment

Recently, I began to recount some of the conversations I have had in my office over the last 5 years with students who are either apathetic or resistant in  their fellowship with God.

To be honest, it is the most important part of my job. Good honest conversations.... building a trust to where a kid feels free to tell me the truth......

I have had to practice the art of asking questions and choosing to 'lecture' in small amounts... at some point the glaze begins to grow... it makes me sad, frustrating, and fills me with urgent prayer. But during these times, I never feel more alive.

I have written on this many times...but even my writing seems to be impacting a smaller and smaller group of readers.... apologetics seems to be on the way out and living life based on a 'mood' is in. Logic is out and blind allegiance to an acceptance by the 'elites' of culture is in. Satan has done a good job of making truth seem old and outdated- there has never been a greater need for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The pomp and pressure of those who present themselves as the cultural elite offer much promise, but in reality, they only produce exclusive caste systems and cynicism. The ultimate fruit of intellectual oppression is a quest for power and the greatest use of that power is cynical, dream killing, skepticism.  Logging in hours and hours of cultural messaging through screen time hasn't helped.

As a parent, I have failed here too many times. How often I have gotten caught up in whether my child is hitting benchmarks of societal success, but spending too little time unraveling the lies of our culture. 

There is nothing sadder to me than a 15 or 16 year old kid who is so wooed by a virtual world that he rejects the real world of people who really matter and who really care. I continue to love them, pray harder than ever, but wonder if God will have to break them to make them.

I recorded an Os Guinness quote in 2010 about this: "Yes, there was brilliance (of the cultural elite), but its darker side was the empty rhetoric, the hypocritical poses, the shabby compromises. the betrayal of friends and causes, with some people fellow-traveling with the communists, and others more or less sleeping with fanaticism...The legacy of this kind of general mood became a more effective inoculation against the faith than any of the skeptics of a former time."


It makes me constantly aware that there is a growing class of students who need a new delivery system of the true message of hope. I mean- I still have a ton of traditionalists, the most common student in a Christian school. Traditionalists have a strong sense of right and wrong- they have a foundation of TRUTH.
But I am also increasingly living among those (especially the young- media savvy- who tend to think by sight and act by impulse) who judge truth not by objectivity, but degrees of plausibility.


Again, Guinness's weighs in on this....- "we have created a climate in which a thing's seeming to be true is often mistaken for its being true." or WORSE, they just accept what twitter and snap chat is telling them without any discernment.

And what is the means of this change? By changing the definition and standards of 'belief'.

We allow and even applaud people who believe or disbelieve on non-rational or psychological grounds. 

Ca you see what is wrong with the following statement?

YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID AND YOUR ACTIONS ARE JUSTIFIED BECAUSE THEY ARE PLAUSIBLE, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT CONNECT TO REALITY OR TRUTH.

What has become of logic?
Guinness has an analogy where we accept a person who is an atheist- not because they have weighed truth and fallacy- but simply because their father was a religious hypocrite who alienated the family from God as much as himself.

Unfortunately, we fall into this trap when we begin to elevate psychology over Scripture or only accept interpretation and application of Scripture as it fits the latest psychological models.

See how subtle it is? We agree with truth if the support structure is strong. But if the support structure is weak, it is harder to believe.

In today's world...."Coach your opinions with care and and, soon,  plausibility will upstage credibility"- this is a scary time in history!

The church is struggling with this culture.... she has a heart suffering from fibrillation - the rapid, irregular, and unsynchronized contraction of muscle fibers- 

------one spasmodic side is the Christian philosophers- who expound the theoretical- but seem to be impotent of gospel power....

 -------the other equally meaningless beat is the 'just give me Jesus' anti-intellectual crowd who throw out doctrine.

The Apostle Paul still helps us in this struggle.... He provides a framework for the fight. 

PAUL knows that the church is the pillar and bulwark of truth... not theory. 


Guinness: "Paul would have believed his faith was objectively true if he had been the last one convinced of it."

The truth of Christianity is NOT dependent on a strong church.. but a weak church hides TRUTH as it seems less credible, and a less credible church is a less plausible church. Again, there is a lot of teaching out there, but we have retreated from the fight and hope some smooth talking apologist will win the day.... but that is not how Jesus wants us to evangelize and disciple.

A huge roadblock in this mess is the frenzied pace of communication technology and global mobility. I haven't worn a watch since 2010 because of a Kenyan saying, "All westerners have watches... but Africans have time." Our fast paced, entertain me world has definitely impacted our approach to worship.

A culture of mobility plus convenience leads quite naturally not only to (drive-in food) and banks but also drive-in churches.

As our children see belief as a feeling of plausibility and relevance- as they are spun dizzy by infinite activity- as they are enticed by the promise of convenience- as they are distracted by new cool tools of transport of information tsunamis- they cannot understand that TRUTH is TRUE even if no one ascribes to it. 

'When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?' He won't, if we have lost what 'faith' means. What will He say when we respond "It just didn't 'seem' right... It didn't feel true"?

So we can clearly see a Satanic tactic: 'Subtle compromise works better than sudden captivity'.

Is there a route out? Is there hope?

I say yes- students are still YEARNING for love, meaning, security... they are becoming EXPERTS at seeing pretense.

Here are some keys:

We need to slow down- we need to read the WORD- chew it- meditate on it and mull it over- we need true WORSHIP to lift us out of the trivial pursuits and insulated hearts.

We need to commit to personal, messy, time consuming, small group, life on life...discipleship.

In short- we have loved things and ideas that have not loved us back. We live for pleasure while the King suffered and died. 

Culture makes godliness seem strange, but without truth... justification of life is meaningless- 

Our children need to see us forsaking our idols- because the idols will soon forsake them.

But we also need to train our children how to ask the right questions- make men justify their beliefs.... make them follow the consequences of their faith.....and we desire to see the Holy Spirit.. illumine the TRUTH.

I am still hopeful, the gospel is that good- but we can't sit back and hope it happens by osmosis.