Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nice Knowin' Ya, Pudge

I just had one of the crummiest conversations I've had to have in awhile. I had to inform my 8-year-old son, Brennan, that his favorite baseball player, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, had been traded from the Detroit Tigers to the dreaded New York Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth. Not only is Pudge Brennan's favorite Tiger, but he was mine as well. At least Brennan could have a bit of a sense of humor about it. He had just gotten a new Tigers bracelet yesterday with Pudge's name and number on it. After I told him the news tonight and he let it sink in for a second, he said, "I knew I should have gotten a Granderson bracelet!"

I understand the business side of baseball in that Pudge's best years are behind him and being rid of his contract will save the Tigers a lot of money, but it's still sad to see him go. Prior to his arrival in Detroit in 2004, the Tigers were the laughingstock of baseball and I point to his signing as the turning part for the Tigers recent resurgence. Having already won a world championship with the Florida Marlins, not to mention his numerous All-Star starts, Silver Slugger Awards, Gold Gloves and MVP in '99, Pudge was a proven leader upon his debut in Motown. After he brought some respectibility back to the Tigers, other proven veterans began signing with the team (namely Magglio Ordonez, Kenny Rogers and Gary Sheffield) and the combination of these guys, along with a great crop of young players from the farm system, lifted the Tigers back to being one of the top teams in baseball the past few years.

So even though he's not quite the player he once was, the Tigers are losing a great leader and someone that is still an above average hitter at the plate and one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He'll be a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer and is arguably the greatest catcher ever, although Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench might have something to say about that. We'll miss you, Pudge. Thanks for the memories!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Review of 'The Dark Knight'

I have wanted to see the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, since it opened nearly two weeks ago, but with other commitments and four young children, my desire to get to the movies these days doesn't always match up with reality. But Lori and I finally got the chance to see it yesterday and it was well worth the wait. The movie has already brought in over $300 million and could possibly go onto challenge Titanic as the highest-grossing film ever.

The Dark Knight picks up where Batman Begins ends with Batman (Christian Bale) bravely fighting crime in Gotham. However, a slew of impostor Batmans have risen up to "help" and actually cause more harm than good. The citizens of Gotham City begin to turn on Batman and a new villain, The Joker (Heath Ledger), has emerged. District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) seeks to fight the criminals of Gotham as Batman contemplates his future.

Not only have moviegoers been kind to director Christopher Nolan's take on the Batman franchise, but critics have also loved the movie. Bale's second turn as Bruce Wayne/Batman showcases his acting skills and there are a number of other fine acting jobs exhibited, but much of the focus has been on the performance by the late Heath Ledger. Oftentimes when someone in the public eye passes away at a young age, there seems to be a glorification of their accomplishments and an over exaggeration of just how good they actually were. But in the case of Ledger, the attention he is receiving for this movie is well-deserved.

Showing a much different Joker than Cesar Romero's cartoonish act in the original Batman television series or Jack Nicholson's goofy role in Batman (1989), Ledger's performance was simply brilliant. Far from the previous campy representations, Ledger's Joker is demented, psychotic and pure evil. From his voice, his cackle, his walk and wicked sense of humor, Ledger gets lost in his character and demonstrates his true acting ability.

Already nominated for an Oscar for his role in Brokeback Mountain, Ledger will most surely receive another nod from the Academy for The Dark Knight. Truly one of the best actors of his generation, you can't help but wonder how many Oscar-worthy performances we'll never see because of his death. Whenever I think about his death, I experience a similar sense of sadness to when I think of others like Tupac Shakur, Chris Farley, Kurt Cobain and Len Bias who were very talented at what they did, but left this life too soon.

Although much of the press on The Dark Knight has focused on the acting job done by Ledger, it is a great movie overall. It deals prominently with issues of good and evil and how to see justice lived out. But because of its dark themes and subject matter, parents should heed the PG-13 rating and not take children younger than their teen years.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Night at Comerica Park

Lori and I the kids, along with my sister, niece and mother-in-law, had the chance to go to Comerica Park last night to watch the Tigers play the White Sox. Thanks to the Central Michigan University Alumni Association we were able to get discounted tickets on some decent seats. Although the Tigers lost in the ninth (Todd Jones -- you drive me crazy!), it was a great night for baseball. The weather was beautiful, there were over 44,000 in attendance and the night recognized those that had played in the Negro Leagues. There were even fireworks after the game. The only thing that was lacking was a Detroit win. Here are some photos from our evening...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Saddleback Members Making a Difference in Africa

Apart from Billy Graham, Rick Warren is perhaps the most well-known pastor in America. The church he pastors, Saddleback, is one of the nation's largest and his book, The Purpose Driven Life, has been read by tens of millions of people. But these days he is getting quite a bit of attention for the focus that he has placed on eliminating debt and addressing the HIV/AIDS problem on the continent of Africa.

Pastor Warren is nobly using the platform that he's been given to minister to Africans and help to meet their physical and spiritual needs. According to an article in USA Today, over 1,000 members of his church have traveled to the country of Rwanda (not to mention other countries) in the past three years to volunteer their time for days or months at a time.

However, some question the motives of the mostly middle-to-upper class, white members of Saddleback that have traveled to Rwanda:
"Outsiders professing good intentions are regarded with some suspicion on a continent that has seen its share of failed Western interventions: colonialism in the 19th century, exploitation of natural resources and Cold War meddling in the 20th. But many American programs are paying off with declines in AIDS deaths and poverty rates. African governments also are doing more to encourage peace and economic development.
Nowhere has the transformation been as dramatic as Rwanda, where in 1994 as many as 1 million people were killed in a horrific 100-day spree of ethnic violence. The economy is still recovering — the average wage is less than $1 a day — but visitors to the capital, Kigali, are often shocked by the strides Rwanda has made. The airport is orderly and clean; the streets are safe to walk; and a tourism boom has led to several restaurants opening.
Warren told USA TODAY he believes that, the way things are going, within a few decades, Rwanda could be an oasis of prosperity — "the next Singapore," he says."
Because of the complicated history of the countries of Africa, there will likely always be suspicion when it comes to outsiders traveling to the continent to "help." But this should not stop individuals and churches who desire to help from making themselves available to do so. But we should be mindful to examine our own hearts first and check to make sure that we are seeking to serve and not trying to push our agenda (no matter how good an agenda we may believe it to be) above the needs of those that we are seeking to serve.

There are those that like to knock individuals like Rick Warren who are seeking to make a real difference in the world. But I applaud him for his leadership and his attempts to help make an impact in a part of the world that much of the western Christian world has often neglected. He certainly will have misteps and make his share of mistakes (as we all will), but at least he is trying to influence his world for Christ and make a lasting eternal difference.

For those that fault Rev. Warren and his efforts, I can't help but think of one of my favorite quotes from Teddy Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
What are you doing to impact your world?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Not All African Americans Think Alike

While that headline should not be news to any of us, the reality is that many think that African Americans somehow have a collective conscientiousness when it comes to worldview. Many of my black friends have shared how they find it peculiar when asked by those of other ethnicities to give an opinion for all African Americans. Even more odd is when I get asked this question. Because of friendships that I have with black people and because I minister among black students, well-meaning white friends often say things like, "Tell me, Scott, how do African Americans feel about affirmative action?" or "What do black people think about the war in Iraq?" Well, how am I supposed to know?!?! It's kinda difficult to answer for 40 million people, ya know?

It is true that there are generalizations that can be made about various ethnic, national or religious groups. For example, most African Americans are not fans of the Confederate flag, evangelial Christians in America are generally opposed to abortion and Americans usually root for the athletes from the U.S. during the Olympics. But there are always exceptions to every rule. And, because of this, all individuals need to be treated as individuals with their own thoughts, feelings and opinions.

An article last month in USA Today reports on a study that confirms this. Because of varying factors such as the growing black middle-class, increased access to technology for many Americans and the diversity with those that identify themselves as "Black", there is a shift in how many African Americans view the world. From the article...
"...the survey finds that blacks have made progress economically and educationally and that most have a positive outlook for the future. Nearly one-third make more than $50,000 a year and 47% own homes. Those surveyed also believe that blacks have a distinct history that makes solidarity important. Many also maintain a high level of distrust of the government, criminal justice system and mainstream media.
The study should widen the lens through which other ethnic groups view black America, says Catherine Hughes, Radio One's founder. Perhaps most important, Hughes adds, it will give black Americans a more informed view of each other. The survey's findings can be viewed at
The study pinpointed 11 distinct segments within black America. "There's a difference between the folks who are multigenerational descendants of slaves in the American South as opposed to people who are immigrants," says Ann Morning, an NYU professor who teaches the sociology of race and ethnicity. "To be a black person living in California is not the same as being a black person living in Georgia or New York."
The survey found that the so-called digital divide that previously was leaving behind minorities and others without access to the Internet has narrowed greatly. About 68% of blacks spend time online, the survey found, compared with 70% of all Americans, according to other surveys."
So next time you're curious about how someone feels about something, feel free to ask them, but don't ask them to speak for their whole race.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Favorite Superheroes

With a summer full of summer blockbuster movies based on popular comic book heroes, there seems to a renaissance of interest in superheroes. As a child growing up in the 70's and 80's, superheroes were quite popular. Although I was not an avid comic book reader, I did read them occasionally and I enjoyed the superhero television shows, movies and toys of that era. I've enjoyed introducing my children to my favorite superheroes of my youth. Of course, I also got a kick out of the "Diversity Day" episode of one of my favorite shows, The Office, when the employees of Dunder-Mifflin are asked to define a "hero" by the facilitator, Mr. Brown. Here is the exchange...
Mr. Brown: At Diversity Today, we believe it's very easy to be a hero. All you need are honesty, empathy, respect, and open-mindedness.
Dwight Schrute: Ah, excuse me? I'm sorry, but that's not all it takes to be a hero.
Mr. Brown: Great, well, what is a hero to you?
Dwight Schrute: A hero kills people. People that wish him harm. A hero is part human and part supernatural. A hero is born out of a childhood trauma, or out of a disaster, that must be avenged.
Mr. Brown: Uh, you're thinking of a superhero.
Dwight Schrute: We all have a hero in our heart.
With that lead-in, here are my top five favorite superheroes, with a childhood connection for each. (For a more comprehensive list of popular superheroes, check out Empire Online's "The Fifty Greatest Comic Book Characters" found here).

5. The Fantastic Four

A group of four that gained their powers after being exposed to some cosmic rays, the members of The Fantastic Four are Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), a brilliant scientist that can stretch his body to unbelievable shapes and lengths; The Invisible Woman (Sue Storm), Richard's wife who can disappear and resist force fields; The Human Torch (Johnny Storm), who can turn his body into a gigantic flame and fly; and The Thing (Ben Grimm), a kindly giant who is made of rocks and has unbelievable strength.

When I was little I had this money bank that was in the shape of The Thing's head. It was plastic and about the size of a volleyball. It was really cool.

4. Superman

Superman is widely considered the most popular comic book hero ever. Born on the planet Krypton, Superman escaped that planet's destruction as a baby when his father rocketed him to earth. Raised in the loving Kent family on Earth, Clark Kent grows up to become a reporter at the Daily Planet, where he falls in love with Lois Lane. When not writing articles, he saves the world from crime by being able to pretty much do anything. He's fast, can fly and is stronger than anybody else.

The Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve came out the year that I was in kindergarten. I had the lunchbox and thermos with the Superman logo that I took to school each day. I even had a Superman trash basket for my bedroom that I've held onto throughout the years and it currently resides in my boy's bedroom.

3. The Incredible Hulk

One of the most misunderstood and reluctant superheroes there is, The Hulk is certainly one of my favorites. After exposure to some gamma rays in a test gone wrong, scientist Bruce Banner's internal DNA morphs to the point that every time he gets really angry, he turns into a gigantic green beast with incredible strength. Although he simply wants to be left alone, Banner and his alter ego, The Hulk, must continually battle the military and others that are trying to capture him. Like many children of the 70's, I fell in love with the television series that starred Bill Bixby as Banner and Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk.

In one of my best Halloween costumes ever, my mom painted me green and put some balloons under my green sweatshirt and purples pants for my "muscles" and a mild mannered seven-year-old turned into the menacing Hulk.

2. Batman

The Dark Knight is one of the most beloved comic book heroes in history. Although Batman doesn't really possess any super powers, he ably fights crime in Gotham city. As a young child, Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents and vows to fight crime for the rest of his life as Batman. Battling arch enemies like The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and Catwoman, Batman is joined by his sidekick Robin. I grew up watching the campy and enjoyable Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. There was nothing like seeing Bruce Wayne go behind the bookshelf and down the pole in order to transform into Batman.

While visiting an auto show in my hometown as a young child, I got to see one of the Batmobiles that had been used in the television series. Definitely a highlight for me and I couldn't believe that I had seen the real Batmobile!

1. Spiderman

And last, but certainly not least, is my favorite superhero, Spiderman. After a normal and average teenager, Peter Parker, is bitten by a radioactive spider, he gets super powers like being able to climb walls, a sixth sense for detecting trouble and the ability to shoot webs from his wrists. Spidey has a sense of humor and calmly battles criminals like the Green Goblin, Doc Ock and Venom. Another superhero with his own live action T.V. show in the 70's, I also watched the Spiderman cartoon -- "Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can..."

On a personal note, I think another reason Spiderman is my favorite superhero is that he was also my older brother's favorite. Sadly, Chip passed away as a child. My parents demonstrated his love for Spiderman by placing an image of Spidey on Chip's headstone.

I think introducing my love of Spiderman to my children is one way to keep my brother's memory alive. And when I think of Spiderman, I usually think of Chip and that makes me happy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Inspiring Story of Josh Hamilton

If you are any kind of Major League Baseball fan then you have most likely followed the story of the Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton. A number one overall draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays back in 1999, Hamilton squandered away his opportunities in baseball through a lengthy addiction to drugs. Though blessed with obvious talent for the game, Hamilton was out of baseball for several years due to his addictions.

Then in 2006, having kicked his drug habits as a result of rehab and his newfound relationship with God, Hamilton entered back into baseball. He spent the 2007 season with the Cincinnati Reds where he had an impressive rookie season by batting .292 with 19 homers and 47 RBI's. Traded to the Texas Rangers before the start of this season, he has gone on to have one of the most productive season of any players in the game. At the All-Star break, he has 21 homeruns, 95 RBI's and a .310 batting average and will be starting in centerfield for the American League in tonight's game.

Many in the nation found themselves rooting for Hamilton when, as one of the participants in the annual Home Run Derby, he set a record with 28 homers in the first round. Although he went onto lose the contest to Justin Morneau of the Twins, the Yankee Stadium crowd was behind him with each swing of the bat.

I like what Mike Lopresti has to say as he recounts Hamilton's dream from a couple of years ago:

"Ask why people gravitate to his story and he'll show a grasp for a reality of human nature that Pete Rose and Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds would have been better off understanding. People want to forgive. But you have to give them a reason. "I've been honest about everything," he said. "I've taken responsibility. I haven't made excuses. I made mistakes. I don't know many people who haven't."
Monday's fireworks display came with a story from the past. This was 2006. Hamilton had been sober only a few months. But he went to bed one night, and dreamed. "I was in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium," he said. "I'm not making this stuff up. I didn't see how I did. I just saw the microphones stuck in my face after I was finished hitting, and I got to share with the people the reasons I was back." The dream turned real Monday night in the Bronx, with a New York night that goes in the All-Star scrapbook. Really, can this comeback become any more of a Hollywood production?
What thrilled him most was his family was here to watch. "Everything I went through," he said, "they went through." But the consequences of the dark days are not over. He has to take a drug test today. Three times a week, All-Star Game or not."
A living example of the Prodigal Son that Jesus referred to in Luke 15, Josh Hamilton is demonstrating that there are no lost causes in God's eyes. I hope that he continues to stay on the straight and narrow and serves as a positive role model for young baseball fans everywhere.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Barack Obama and African American Christians

With the very real possibility of Barack Obama becoming the next president of the United States, there is a certain level of excitement that is sweeping across a number of circles, especially for many in the African American community. Since I work with college students, mainly African Americans, I can see how so many have placed a lot of hope that an Obama presidency could bring to the nation.

Because of his position on some issues, it places Christians (black and non-black alike) in an awkward place when choosing who to vote for. I certainly feel it. I believe that his faith in Christ is genuine (just like I also feel President Buth's faith is genuine), but I also am troubled by some of his stances (just as I'm troubled by some of our current President's). So whether it's Senator Obama or Senator McCain or some other third-party candidate, I can't find anyone out there that holds an agreeable stance on all the issues that I find important.

Politics is a tricky issue and I doubt there's ever been a politician that's been able to fulfill all of their campaign promises. But the case of Obama is a unique one. This country has only known a white man as its chief executive and never before has a black man been a viable candidate for President (sorry, Revs. Jackson and Sharpton, but you never had a prayer). So his candidacy does represent some progress in America. But the questions still remain. Pastor Eric Redmond, a friend of The Impact Movement and respected pastor from Maryland, has some great insights on this matter which can be read in his post entitled, "How Can Any Christian African American Vote for Obama? Throwing the Race Card on an All Black Table" Pastor Redmond shares his thoughts from an African American perspective when he says:
"...for African Americans, there is a sense of hope no longer being deferred. Instead, hope is at the front door knocking furiously, waiting to see if African Americans will answer. If we open the door, forty million African Americans are going to witness a fellow African American getting the largest slice of the American Dream Pie—a dessert many had hoped to see people of color eat in their lifetime, but the many fell asleep having embraced such promises from afar.
As the struggle for social and economic equality has been a struggle for all African Americans, regardless of belief system(s), we all share in the joy when one of our own achieves the (presumptive) nomination for the highest office in the land—an office that has been reserved for white males only until now. Obama’s candidacy would allow all African Americans to say to our forefathers, “we finally did it!
Your attempts at escaping slavery, deaths by lynching, scars from the scourge of slave masters’ whips, pain from the full blast of unleashed water hoses and muzzle-free police dogs, humiliation by white hecklers at lunch counters, degradation at “coloreds only” fountains and restrooms, indignation on the back of buses, forced acceptance of poorer educational materials and facilities, and marches at the threat of beatings and bombings have not been for naught! Hope, yea victory, is finally here! We are equal at the highest level!"

Whether you are a supporter of Barack Obama or not, hopefully you can see the historical significance of his nomination and what it represents for so many in the black community.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Heart of a Lion

A website that I visit often is Snopes is a great internet resource when trying to determine if the many things we read on the web or that we receive in e-mail forwards are actually true. In fact, my dad was just sharing a funny story that he had recently heard a speaker share. Though funny, I doubted the veracity of it. Sure enough, a quick visit to Snopes told me that particular story was an urban legend.

One of the stories that has apparently been circulating around the web is the story of a lion named Christian. It is told that a couple of young men in London bought a lion cub and raised it in their home. And as lions do, this cute little cub grew to close to 200 pounds in a year and they had to get rid of it.

Through some various circumstances, Christian was sent to live in Kenya. After being apart from the lion for some time, the men traveled to Africa to see him one last time. This is actually a true story and you can read more about it here. Not only that, but the reunion between the young men and the lion was all caught on videotape. It's quite touching and you can view it below or here if the video player doesn't show up.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Top Sports Movies of All-Time

It is supposed to be the dog days of summer, but in Michigan, where we're visiting for the summer, it feels more like autumn. And for sports fans, this is a fairly hum-drum time of year. It's almost two months until the football season. The NBA season is complete. Hockey's done. The baseball season isn't even to the All-Star game yet. We do have the Olympics to look forward to, but that's not until a number of weeks.

It's during these times that I enjoy kicking back and enjoying a good movie when there are not too many games to choose from. If you're like me and you're a fan of both movies and sports, then you might like this list I've created of my favorite sports movies of all-time. To offer a disclaimer, these are movies that are not only good, but that I've seen a number of times. So there are some great sports-themed movies (Breaking Away, Raging Bull and Seabiscuit come to mind) that didn't make the list simply because I've only seen them once.

So without any further adieu, here's the list...

10. Miracle (2004) - A great film that chronicles the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that upset the vaunted Russians and went onto win the gold medal. An inspiring story with a real-life Hollywood movie ending, the cast is led by a stellar acting performance by Kurt Russell, who plays coach Herb Brooks. Those that remember the real hockey game can't help but relish this movie.

Favorite Scene - When Coach Brooks quietly celebrates by himself in a back hallway after his team has done the unthinkable and actually beat the Soviet Union.

9. The Karate Kid (1984) - What kid from the 80's has not stood on a post and done the iconic "crane kick" from this movie? The Karate Kid tells the story of young Daniel who is bullied by new classmates and gets mentored by the wise Mr. Miyagi, marvelously played by Pat Morita. The film culminates with a classic fight scene where Daniel must overcome an injury to defeat the despised Johnny from the Cobras.

Favorite Scene - When Mr. Miyagi finally demonstrates to Daniel-san that all that "wax on, wax off" stuff has a purpose behind it and Daniel "gets it."

8. The Rookie (2002) - Dennis Quaid does a marvelous job portraying small town Texas high school teacher and coach Jimmy Morris. Morris's dream of becoming a pitcher in the major leagues never panned out and years later accepts a challenge from the varsity team he coaches to try out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Remarkably, he makes it to "The Show" is this movie from Disney based on a true story. A great family film.

Favorite Scene - When Morris calls his young son from a pay phone to let him know that he has finally made it to the majors.

7. Caddyshack (1980) - This is one of the funniest movies ever made. Caddyshack follows the antics of the members, groundskeepers and caddies of an-upscale country club. It showcases Bill Murray and Chevy Chase at their finest and Ted Knight is hilarious as well. There are just too many classic lines in this movie to list here.

Favorite Scene - When Ty (Chase) visits Carl (Murray) in his "dwelling" while taking in a late nine at Bushwood. Every line of this scene is memorable.

6. Field of Dreams (1989) - Though some accuse this film of being a bit schmaltzy, the story of a man longing for the carefree love of baseball from his youth and the regrets of his relationship with his father hit home for many people. Though one of the many baseball-themed movies starring Kevin Costner, I think this is one of his best performances. Plus, any movie with Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) is good in my book.

Favorite Scene - When Ray (Costner) gets to play catch one more time with his deceased father.

5. Hoop Dreams (1994) - The only documentary on this list, Hoop Dreams tells the story of two kids, William Gates and Arthur Agee, with dreams of playing in the NBA. The film follows them throughout high school and the challenges they and their families face growing up in the inner-city of Chicago. You can't help but pull for both William and Arthur as the movie moves along and see the many obstacles they face along the way.

Favorite Scene - When Arthur and his father engage in a battle of one-on-one on the court that brings out a little more than his dad expected.

4. Rocky (1976) - This is the movie that put Sylvester Stallone on the map. Though I doubt that there are many that haven't seen this film, it follows Rocky Balboa, a small-time Philadelphia fighter who gets a shot at the heavyweight title. Rocky's budding relationship with Adrian is what makes this movie so endearing and his accomplishment of going the distance with the champ is what makes this film a winner. I doubt there is a more beloved figure in American cinematic history than Rocky Balboa.

Favorite Scene - The ending, of course. After the conclusion of Rocky's fight with Apollo, his embrace with Adrian at center ring can't help but make you feel good.

3. Rudy (1993) - Sean Astin delivers an inspiring performance as Rudy Ruettiger, an undersized and underskilled man who wants to live out his childhood dream of playing for the Notre Dame football team. A true story, Rudy could have been so much better if only the producers do as they do with so many true stories and changed its setting from South Bend to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. Could you imagine Rudy in the winged helmet at the Big House with "The Victors" playing? Couldn't get any better than that!

Favorite Scene - When Fortune (Charles S. Dutton), Rudy's friend and mentor, sees Rudy get the chance to play for the Fighting Irish. His clap and fist pump and quiet celebration after Rudy's play as he leaves the stadium always gives me goose bumps.

2. Hoosiers (1986) - I have possibly seen this movie more than any other in my lifetime. The trials and rise of the Hickory Huskers, led by coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), is as good of a feel-good story as there is. During basketball season when I was in high school, I must have watched this film at least a dozen times each season. And for those that knew me back then, you'll know that my nickname was Jimmy Chitwood, after the sharpshooting guard for the Huskers. This movie was based on the story of the 1954 Milan team that won the Indiana high school championship.

Favorite Scene - When Jimmy gets up to speak at the townhall meeting being held to decide whether Coach Dale will continue on as the Hickory coach.

1. Jerry Maguire (1996) - Even beyond sports flicks, I think this might be my favorite movie ever. Jerry Maguire stars Tom Cruise as a sports agent that suddenly gets a conscience and learns about what is truly important in life. In addition to Cruise's Oscar nominated performance, Cuba Gooding, Jr. won an Oscar for his turn as NFL receiver Rod Tidwell and this is Renee' Zellweger's breakout role. There are so many things to love about this film. It's a drama and comedy. It deals with romance and sports. It focuses on friendship, marriage and parenthood. And it addresses race and greed. One of the aspects that I enjoy most is that it features an African American male as a devoted and loving husband and father.

Favorite Scene - When Rod and Jerry share an emotional hug after Rod's huge Monday night game.

So those are my favorite sports flicks. Any that you think should have made the list?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Realities of South Africa

I can vividly recall back in middle school when I first learned of the system of racial segregation, Apartheid, that existed in the country of South Africa. Even as a young teenager, I recognized the historical similarities between this country and my own, the United States. Just as slavery has left a sad legacy in the U.S., South Africans are still seeking to overcome the stain of the racist system that they operated under for a good portion of the twentieth century.

As one that has always been intrigued by history, I've held an interest in South Africa for as long as I can remember. In fact, I even took a class on South Africa while in college. We learned about the history, people, languages, and culture of the people that live in this country on the southern tip of the African continent. Though separated by thousands of miles, the parallels between the United States and South Africa are eerily similar.

For some time, this was a country that I hoped to visit. In 2002, I got my wish as I joined a team of over fifty people with The Impact Movement as we spent seven weeks in Johannesburg, South Africa as a part of Operation Sunrise Africa. During our time there we exposed thousands to the gospel and saw over 700 indicate decisions to receive Christ. After over 15 years of walking with the Lord, this experience was (and still is) my greatest ministry highlight. This was just eight years after the wall of apartheid came down, but the remnants were still obvious. As we ministered in Soweto and other township areas, the deprived opportunities of black Africans was obvious.

And now fourteen years after the fall of apartheid, its after effects are still felt. Mark Galli writes of this reality in a recent Christianity Today article entitled, "Seige From Within: Day and Night in Johannesburg." Though this is a country with a real crime problem, just as the U.S., Christians have the opportunity to make a difference. South Africa is dealing with the consequences of years of racial oppression and hatred and the only answer to this kind of history is for individuals to visibily be the hands and feet of Christ.

For a great read and to learn more about South Africa under apartheid, check out Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

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