All Now Mysterious...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Quarterback of the Church

(Warning: Long Mormon thing.)

I’m a football fan. I like to watch baseball and ice hockey, sure. I’m not a big follower of basketball; I only care about basketball for about three weeks in March and April. (I attribute this to the fact that growing up in Colorado, we didn’t really have a great pro team to follow. We just had the Nuggets.) I like to watch a lot of the Olympic sports, too: track & field, skiing, figure skating, even curling. I’ll watch just about any sport if it’s on TV. But football is my favorite.

I have two favorite NFL teams: The Denver Broncos and whoever’s playing the Raiders this week. The Broncos are coming off their worst season in my lifetime, largely because of their inconsistent (to put it generously) quarterback play. The team has since signed an expensive free agent to help solve the problem, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that they’re going to draft a quarterback next week as well. *

So I’ve been reading predictions and mock drafts and analyses of quarterbacks available in the upcoming draft. The consensus seems to be that four quarterbacks will be drafted in the first ten picks next Thursday. The strengths, weaknesses, and other minutiae of these four young men have been analyzed ad infinitum by anyone with expertise (or even an opinion). The guy from USC seems to be the top prospect, although some scouts apparently worry about his ‘locker room presence’, whatever that means. The guy from UCLA is seems to have all the necessary skills, but some critics question his ability to lead an NFL team. They guy from Wyoming has the physical tools, the height, and the arm strength, but not the accuracy, that some of the teams are looking for. He’s widely considered a ‘project’ who will need to sit and learn for a year or two before becoming an NFL starter. And the guy from Oklahoma has the passion and the winning record, but some people question his maturity.

And so the debate goes on and on.

Can you imagine, when President Monson died in January, if the Church tried to select a new leader the way NFL teams select a new quarterback? †  I can just imagine the scouting reports:

Russell M. Nelson: “Clearly the most experienced. Has had a great apostolic run, but at the age of 93, you have to wonder how much he still has left in the tank.”

Henry B. Eyring: “Solid leader. Doctrinally sound, and a great administrator. Lacks the ‘wow factor’. He’ll get the job done, but will probably never be a superstar.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “Intelligent, engaging, inspiring, and charismatic. Great storyteller. Sets the sisters’ hearts fluttering when he takes the pulpit. Probably the runaway popular favorite.”

Jeffrey R. Holland: “Vast knowledge and experience. Can really command an audience. Has the ability to elicit laughter, tears, and deep thought from those who listen to him. Has almost no stories involving airplanes, however.”

That would never happen, of course, because leadership in the Church doesn’t work the way leadership in the world, or even on a football team, works. (Matthew 20:25-28) Church leaders are not chosen by committee or by election campaigns. Leaders in the Church, from the President of the Church through the Quorum of the Twelve and Quorums of the Seventy, through Stake presidencies and Bishoprics and ward leaders, are called by revelation.  Uncomfortable as it may sound, especially to those unfamiliar with Church operations, the Church is not a democracy. It is, as described by the Lord Himself, a Kingdom, with Jesus Christ as King.  Leadership in the Church is very much top-down—and the top isn’t in Salt Lake City.

When President Nelson was officially recognized in General Conference as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for our day, all Church members had the opportunity to sustain him as such. We do this for all our Church leaders. When we are asked to raise our hands, we are not voting on whether or not we accept this person in the position. We are revealing our willingness to accept the call as divinely inspired and to support them as they serve.

No, we don’t get to pick who the next Bishop or Relief Society president or Sunday School teacher will be—because we believe that decision ultimately rests with the Lord. (For the same reason, we don’t lobby for these positions, either. ‡ ) Christ ultimately reveals who is to serve in those positions. We may not understand (or agree with) the calling, nor like with person called to serve therein, but we are expected to exercise faith in the Lord’s inspiration and to sustain those called by proper authority. And we (rightly) expect others to do the same for us when our turn comes, because one day it will.  There are no spectators in this Church.  Everyone serves.

Most of us will never be quarterbacks—and that’s okay. There’s a place in this Church for anyone with the desire to serve.

--
* I, for one, have exactly zero confidence in the Broncos’ ability to fix the problem via the draft. Of the three quarterbacks that have led the Broncos to the Super Bowl, none of them were drafted by Denver. The best quarterback the Broncos have ever drafted is arguably Jay Cutler.

† Not that anyone else in the league is good at drafting a quarterback, either. Tom Brady, considered by some to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL (*cough* Joe Montana *cough*) was drafted 199th overall in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft. That means that every single team in the league passed on multiple opportunities to draft him. Oops.

‡ In his epistle to Timothy, Paul said, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) I can’t help but think this is a mistranslation. I think what Paul meant to say was, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he’s out of his ever-loving mind.” Nobody who really understands the responsibilities of a Bishop would ask for that.

Monday, February 26, 2018

“Do you have Dark Side of the Moon?”

So, a strange thing happened to me in the shower yesterday. I was just getting ready for the day, like I do pretty much every day, when I suddenly experienced numbness and tingling in my left leg, my left arm, and the left side of my face. It was disconcerting, to say the least, but there was little I could do but finish my shower. Within about three minutes, the sensations had subsided and I felt like normal again.

Still, this was unusual enough to leave me a little worried, so I called the “Ask a Nurse” number at the local hospital (what else would be available on a Sunday morning?) and talked to someone named Stacy. She asked me a number of questions about the incident and about my medical history, then strongly recommended that I go to the emergency room to be examined. Which is pretty much what I had decided I needed to do anyway, but it was nice to hear that I wasn’t a hypochondriac or anything.

So, I woke up Nancy--not something I generally do, if I can help it--and explained the situation to her. She called her Mom and made arrangements for her to watch the kiddos, and before too long we were out the door. We dropped Sophia and Sam off at Grandma’s house (Thanks, Grandma!), and we made our way to the ER.

There was no line at the ER admittance desk--something that I’ve literally never seen before--so I was quickly seated, questioned, and examined. Less than ten minutes later, we were in a room. The nurse came in just a few minutes later and hooked me up to the monitors while asking about why I was there. She conducted a few short tests to make sure my right and left sides were symmetrically strong. Shortly after that, the doctor came in and I explained to him what had happened. (Between Nancy and all the medical personnel, this was about the fifth time, so I was getting really good at it.) He did some of the same strength tests, and then said he thought it sounded like I’d had a transitory ischemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke) and wanted to run some more precise tests to clarify.

First, a nice lady came in and stuck electrode connections all over me so they could run an EKG. Then the nurse (who, coincidentally, had the same name as a girl I dated in college) came in to take a blood sample. I hate needles, but I got through it. Then they came in and told us that they wanted to get me a CT scan and an MRI. I’d never experienced either of those before, so from a strictly scientific point of view, I was curious.

They conducted the CT scan almost immediately. A tech came and got me and wheeled me to the imaging area. I was lying almost flat on the bed, so it felt a little like I was on a luge run. I commented on this, and he didn’t seem as amused by the idea as I was. He probably gets weird comments all the time. Anyway, he got me to the room where the scanner was located. They laid me inside the donut and took a reference scan, then told me they were going to inject me with a contrasting agent that would make me feel really warm for a few seconds. It did, but I didn’t feel the “wetting myself” sensation they had also warned me about. It was really interesting. Through dark red plastic on the inside of the donut, I could see the emitter spinning around at about one revolution per second, bouncing X-rays off the iodine atoms I’d been injected with. It was actually kind of cool, in the nerdiest way possible.

Results from the CT scan were quick in coming; the doctor said they looked good. He then told me that the MRI wouldn’t be so lickety-split (his actual words). I rested for an unspecified period of time while Nancy watched over me. She really was fantastic during the whole experience. I know that’s not what she wanted to do with her Sunday, and it had to have been disconcerting, but she never complained. She really is the best.

At length, they came to take me to the MRI. No luge jokes this time, as I was seated more or less upright now. When I got there the tech explained to me how the whole process was going to work and handed me a pair of earplugs. He then had me lie down on the narrow, poorly-padded slab and locked my head into place with something like an oversized helmet. From there, I slid up to my chest into the central tube. I’ve never had claustrophobia, so the fact that the tube left less than a foot of space over my face wasn’t didn’t particularly bug me. He ran a quick mike check to make sure we could hear each other, then began the scan.

When they tell you that you’ll need earplugs, they’re not messing around! What followed was several minutes of loud clanks, thuds, buzzes, and other assorted noises. When the noises stopped, he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was fine, and he told me the initial images looked good. He told me there was one more round that would last about ten minutes and asked if I was ready. I told him I was, and the noises began again. As I lay there with literally nothing to do but listen, my mind started picking out patterns in the sounds. With my eyes closed, I started visualizing different images and patterns to go along with the noises. It was kind of trippy, like a laser show at the planetarium. When it was over, he took me out and asked how I was doing. I told him I was fine, and that if there had been another round, I was going to ask if he had “Dark Side of the Moon”. He laughed. I guess you had to be there.

We waited about half an hour for the results, during which time my High Priest group leader and his first assistant came to give me a Priesthood blessing. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I do remember being promised that the people working with me would be guided in what they did and that I would be okay. Less that two minutes after the blessing--while they were still in the room, in fact--the doctor came in and told me that the MRI results had come back clean. The transient ischemic attack I had experienced had been minor and had done no permanent damage. He recommended that I begin an aspirin regimen and referred me to a stroke clinic for a follow up visit. He sent the nurse in to take one final set of vitals, and then I was discharged.

I stayed home from school today at Nancy’s insistence (the doctor also suggested it, by the way). I’ve had a chance to get some rest, and I’m feeling a lot better. All things considered, I feel quite blessed that things turned out as benign as they did. Long story short (Too late!), I’m okay.

Anyway, that was my Sunday. How was yours?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The State of the So-Called Union

The State of the Union? Here’s how I see it:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at an all-time high. But so is xenophobia. Our President blames ‘both sides’ when a white supremacist drives his car into a crowd and kills someone. The President keeps pushing for a wall that won’t work and that will only drive the country deeper into debt. Meanwhile, immigrants who have been here for years—decades, in some cases—are being unceremoniously deported back to their ****-hole countries, often without their families. Travel bans based on thinly-veiled anti-Muslim paranoia continue to wind their way through our courts.

We just experienced a government shutdown. Partisanship in the House and Senate is keeping either side from getting any real work done. The Congressional majority has tried and failed on numerous occasions to ram through legislation to undo the Affordable Care Act and other laws they don’t happen to like, seemingly without regard to what their constituents actually want and value. On the other hand, Congress did manage to pass a tax bill that, according to non-partisan analysis, gives little to no relief to the middle and lower classes, but provides big tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and the corporations they own and manage.

The President’s Twitter misadventures grow more bizarre and unstatesmanlike by the day. Random and unprovoked attacks on Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, demonstrable lies and misrepresentations about easily verifiable events and facts, and personal attacks against ‘fake news’ media outlets are the routine of the day. Anyone who disagrees with these tweets or tries to point out the factual inaccuracies is shouted down, shamed, and bullied. Above all that, the President is in a personal p*ssing match with the leader of North Korea; the only reason we’re not at war yet is that Kim Jong-il is the only world leader more bombastic and incompetent than ours.

We’ve pulled out of the Paris Accords, because our government leaders are more willing to listen to the 3% of scientists who agree with their political and economic agenda than the 97% who agree that climate change represents a credible threat to the future of life on this planet. But this is hardly surprising; for the past year, government science agencies have been defunded and their social media accounts gagged. Agencies like the EPA and the National Science Foundation can only publish what Capitol Hill approves.

We have a climate change denier at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a brain surgeon running Housing and Urban Development, and a Secretary of Education who has never attended a public school (and neither have her children). The White House has become a revolving door of staff appointments and resignations, and the sole voice of reason at the top levels of government appears to be a Marine Corps general nicknamed Mad Dog. And there’s still that little Russian election issue that nobody wants to talk about.

Our nation is less respected, less truthful, less welcoming, and less stable than it was a year ago. President Trump ran for office on the promise that he would Make America Great Again©. By all independent metrics, that hasn’t happened and isn’t happening.

But hey, the Dow is up, so it’s all good, right?

Friday, January 05, 2018

My Latest Brilliant Plan for Fixing College Football’s National Championship Mess

This will never, never, ever actually happen, not ever. But if I were the King of College Football, as powerful as I am benevolent and unfettered in my righteous autonomy, this is exactly what would happen.

So now we have a playoff, and that’s a good thing. Teams can now realistically say that they played their way into the national championship game. But the playoff are still chosen somewhat arbitrarily. This year’s playoff features--you guessed it--Alabama, who not only didn’t win the SEC, but didn’t even win the SEC West. They got waxed by Auburn, who then got waxed by Georgia in the SEC Championship game. Nevertheless, the committee decided that Alabama, arguably the third best team in the SEC, was one of the four best teams in the nation and gave them a place in the semifinals. Meanwhile, B1G champion Ohio State and PAC-12 champion USC played each other in a Cotton Bowl that made it pretty clear that neither team wanted to be there.

The idea of having five major conferences represented in a four team playoff is inherently problematic, of course. One conference is always going to get left out. Except for this year, when two conferences got left out.

My bold solution? It’s twofold: expand the tournament, and rearrange the conferences.

At present, the Power Five (P5) conference membership numbers look like this:

ACC: 14 (plus Notre Dame)
B1G: 14
Big XII: 10
PAC-12: 12
SEC: 14

That’s a total of 65 teams currently participating in P5 football. In practical terms, these 65 teams are the only with with a shot at the playoffs. No team in the so-called Group of Five (G5: American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt conferences, plus three or four independents) has any chance whatsoever at playing for a national title. More on that in a bit.

Anyway, here’s my idea: Take these sixty-five teams and add five historically high-achieving G5 teams, making a total of 70. Divide these 70 teams into seven Regions based on history and geography. The Power Five conferences become the Power Seven (P7) Regions. Each team plays all nine other teams in its Region each year--seven true round robins to determine seven Region champions. These seven champions, along with the highest ranked conference champion from G5, are the eight playoff participants. The committee’s job will be to seed the teams as they see fit, but will have no voice whatsoever in determining who gets into the playoff. Playoff qualification will be determined strictly on the field.

This will necessitate a few logistical changes, of course. First, there will be no conference championship games for the P7. Region champions will be determined during the regular season via the round-robin schedule. The regular season will conclude Thanksgiving weekend, with the playoffs beginning two weeks later. This still leaves time for a twelve game schedule for the P7: nine Region games, at least one game against another P7 school each year (Sorry, K-State) and two games against old rivals, G5 teams, FCS teams, etc.

The first round of playoff games will be held at campus sites; with the #1 - #4 seeds hosting the #8 - #5 seeds, respectively.  Semifinal and final games will be held at neutral sites, with semifinal games perhaps being played as part of the bowl season.  Semifinal games will be played just before Christmas, with the national championship on New Year’s Day.

What about bowl games? Well, for the 122 FBS teams not participating in the playoffs, nothing changes. The conference realignment will undoubtedly lead to some changes in bowl affiliations, but that can’t be helped.*

Okay, so what are the seven Regions? So glad you asked.  Take a look:**


  • Region 1: Boston College, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Navy, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse.
  • Region 2: Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, NC state, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia, VA Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia.
  • Region 3: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, GA Tech, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina
  • Region 4: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
  • Region 5: Boise State, BYU, Colorado, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah
  • Region 6: Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech
  • Region 7: Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

Yeah, I know, I know, these Regions aren’t balanced. Yet. Give it time. If every school in this arrangement knows that it can play its way into the national championship picture in any given year, recruiting should be equalized in short order.

So, let’s look at hypotheticals. For this season, our champions would have been something like this:

  • Region 1: Penn State
  • Region 2: Clemson
  • Region 3: Georgia
  • Region 4: Ohio State
  • Region 5: Boise State
  • Region 6: Oklahoma
  • Region 7: USC
  • G5 participant: Central Florida


The committee would be responsible for seeding these eight teams, leading to a bracket looking something like this:

  • #8 Boise State at #1 Clemson
  • #7 Central Florida at #2 Oklahoma
  • #6 USC at #3 Georgia
  • #5 Penn State at #4 Ohio State


From there’s it’s a single elimination tournament. Win, or go home.

Eight teams. Seven games. One national champion determined entirely on the field.

That’s how it would be, were I the King of College Football.


--
*Also, under my reign, bowl games can no longer be named solely after their sponsors. “TaxSlayer.com Bowl”? Give me a break.)

**For the curious, the five teams I elevated were Boise State, BYU, Houston, Navy, and Northern Illinois. In a similar exercise, someone else might have chosen different teams. That’s fine. Different schools might lead to slightly different conference arrangements. (For example, you could replace Navy with Central Florida by shifting West Virginia to Region 1 and South Carolina to Region 2. Cincinnati could be swapped directly for NIU. And so forth.) Otherwise, it works exactly the same.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

In Memoriam

In a way, this is the end of an era for me. When I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet and President of the Church was Spencer W. Kimball. I couldn’t even hazard a guess who his counselors were. When I went to college, the Prophet was Ezra Taft Benson and I can tell you who his counselors were: Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson. The same was true when President Benson died and President Howard W. Hunter was called to the Prophetic office.  Upon his death shortly thereafter, President Hinckley was called to be the prophet, and naturally President Monson was his first counselor.

For pretty much my entire life in the Church, Presidents Hinckley and Monson have been in the First Presidency. Now they have both been called home.

Much has been said about President Monson’s reunion with his wife, Frances, and rightfully so. But I can’t help but believe that President Hinckley was also there waiting to greet him when he arrived.

Thank you for your service, your example, and your teachings, President Monson.  Thank you for making this world, and this Church, a better place by your service.  May God bless your family as they mourn your passing and celebrate your life.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Two Jokes

 In reviewing my blog posts of the last several months, I realized – to my horror – that  most of them had been political in nature. That will never do. So, here's something amusing to break up the monotony. You're welcome.

--

A guy went to see his psychiatrist. He said, "Doc, you've got to help me!"

"What seems to be the problem?" the psychiatrist responded.

"Whenever I meet somebody new, instead of saying 'Hello' or 'How do you do', I just blurt out, 'What's new, pussycat?' It's weird, but I just can't help myself."

"Very interesting", the psychiatrist said. "It appears that you have developed a condition called Tom Jones Syndrome."

"Tom Jones syndrome?" the man asked. "I've never even heard of it. Is it rare?"

"Well," the psychiatrist responded, "it's not unusual."

-

A man found himself standing at the pearly gates before St. Peter. He gave his name, his address, and a few details of his life. Saint Peter then said, "I have located your information, and it looks like we have you listed for provisional acceptance into Heaven. It doesn't look like you've committed any particularly serious sins, however you haven't really done anything to distinguish yourself for the side of Right, either. If you could tell us about something you've done that was particularly courageous or heroic, it would really make the issue a lot easier to resolve."

"Well," the man said, "I was walking home from the pub when I looked down a dark alley and saw a young girl on the ground, surrounded by five or six tough-looking bikers. They had her trapped, and I could tell their intentions weren't honorable. I don't know why, but it made me really angry. I knew I had to do something.

"So I turned and walked right down that alley, right towards the biggest, toughest-looking one. He turned around when he saw me coming, and before he could do anything, I kicked him right in the family jewels, if you take my meaning. He dropped like a rag doll, and the others started to close in on me. Well, I picked up a piece of metal pipe and brought it down right on the next guy's head. He dropped, too.

"By then they'd hesitated for a minute. So I shouted at them. I said, 'All right, you scum, that's enough! I've never seen a more disgusting collection of human filth in all my life! You're all animals! You leave this poor girl alone, you freaks! Now get lost, before I give the rest of you a serious lesson in pain!' "

"Wow," St. Peter said, "that's quite remarkable. That would certainly qualify you for entry into Heaven. When did this happen?"

The man replied sheepishly, "About two minutes ago."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

In Which I Lament the Unfortunate Juxtaposition of Football and Politics

Okay, Broncos 'fans', let's get one thing straight here: The Broncos did not lose today's game because a number of players knelt for the National Anthem. It wasn't 'karma' or 'justice' or any of that nonsense.

I mean, a number of Buffalo players also knelt for the anthem, and clearly they weren't suffering 'karma' or 'justice'. Think about it.

No, the reason the Broncos lost today was because they couldn't make big plays at key times and Buffalo could. That, and maybe Von Miller's late flag. That's it.

So please knock it off with the "They lost because they disrespected America" crap. It's just not true. You're smarter than this.

And while we're on the subject: Those players who knelt during the National Anthem weren't disrespecting the flag, or America, or the nations veterans.

They were protesting the profane and inappropriate remarks made by our increasingly provocative and belligerent President.

Consider this: If the President of the United States publicly calls for a private organization to fire its employees over a protest, that's tantamount to government suppression of free expression--and that is expressly forbidden by the First Amendment.

President Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. He's not doing that.

And the players have every right to call him out on it, in whatever nonviolent way they see fit.

President Trump owes those players he referred to as "sons of b*****s" a serious, legitimate, and very public apology.