Tag Archives: new york times

The Death of Junior Seau & Head Injuries: 10 Essential Resources

Junior Seau, football hall-of-famer and former New England Patriot, is dead.  It appears that he committed suicide.  Seau was 43 and had an ex-wife and three children.

This is the latest in a growing line of NFL suicides, and Seau is the sixth member of the 1994 San Diego Chargers team to die from suicide, alcohol or drugs (two other Chargers died in freak accidents).  It is not immediately clear that Seau killed himself because of brain trauma and resulting mental illness, but there are forbiddingly ominous signs of the same (he did suffer many concussions, that much is clear).  Two years ago, Seau survived a 100-foot plunge off a cliff following a fight with his girlfriend.  He said that he fell asleep at the wheel, but one sees a pattern here in relation to previous tragic deaths of NFL players and other athletes (see below).  All this discussion must, of course, be conducted with clear reference to human sinfulness, which is our primary problem.  But our physical actions can aid and abet our sin and fallenness, that much seems clear.

On Twitter, I discussed this issue with some friends and connected this death to the strong possibility of brain injury.  Good questions were raised, and someone asked about hard data that helps to substantiate the connection between football violence and bizarre, even deadly, behavior.  Below are some links that I’ve culled on this subject, one that has personally interested me for three years.

1. The New York Times compendium on brain injuries and sports–The foremost journalistic resource on this entire subject, with dozens of articles (Joe Nocera of the NYT has led the charge, to his credit).  An absolute must-visit, though you may burn through your 10 free articles per month here!

2. Jonah Lehrer’s Grantland essay–Filled with data, scientific discussion of the brain, and why the problem of concussions is bedeviling (it’s not easy to stop the brain from moving around).  Frightening fact: includes mention of the only youth brain studied, that of an 18-year-old player–the brain showed clear evidence of irreversible brain trauma.

3. ESPN reporting on Owen Thomas–A Penn football star who committed suicide and whose brain clearly showed CTE

4. New Yorker piece by Malcolm Gladwell–Famously compared football to dog-fighting.  Included some of the earliest research on collision impacts on football, which liked a UNC practice to a series of “minor car crashes”

5. ESPN coverage of the death of Dave Duerson–Committed suicide and shot himself in the chest, apparently in order to preserve his brain for concussion research (Seau did the same, possibly for similar reasons)

6. Early GQ piece on brain injuries and the courageous doctor studying them–”[He saw] brown and red splotches. All over the place. Large accumulations of tau proteins. Tau was kind of like sludge, clogging up the works, killing cells in regions responsible for mood, emotions, and executive functioning.  This was why Mike Webster was crazy.”

7. First Things essay I did on this subject linking to many articles on this topic

8. Coverage of a pro wrestler who went crazy and killed his wife and son–”Benoit’s brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.”

9. Minnesota Public Radio coverage of the brain injuries of deceased hockey player Derek Boogard

10. Research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine that shows negative brain effects from heading balls in soccer

In listing these resources, I’m not suggesting that Christians can’t play or watch football or other contact-oriented sports, but surely there must be productive things that we can do to address these issues.  That all starts, of course, with information, and though I’m not a doctor nor a researcher, I want to try to help others think well about violence, sports, and the application to every area of the Christian conscience created by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Are Mixed Martial Arts Ethical for Christians?

As it has done before, the New York Times just covered Mixed Martial Arts.  The article, “The Fight Club Generation,” is well worth reading.

Here’s a snatch:

Evidence that cage fighting has replaced boxing as the combat sport of choice, at least to some men of a certain age, has been quietly mounting for years. The annual pay-per-view audience for Ultimate Fighting Championship matches first surpassed boxing and professional wrestling in 2006, and has continued to rise almost every year since. And among men ages 18 to 34, the sport is fourth in popularity only to baseball, basketball and football, according to research by Scarborough Sports Marketing in New York.

The NYT writer attended the match and came away with this funny impression:

Most audience members attend in support of a specific fighter — a friend, a brother, a trainer, a sensei — so emotions, and testosterone, run high. There is fist pumping, back slapping, shirtless posturing and screams for oddly specific moves (“Get the mount!”). It’s like a boxing match crossbred with WrestleMania, presented in the middle of an Insane Clown Posse concert.

Read the whole thing.

I have spoken out fairly strongly against MMA in the past, and my basic convictions about the sport haven’t changed.  Christians should encourage the development of physical courage and ability in young men, yes.  They should reject pacificism, and they should encourage boys to be adventurous and tough.  But I don’t think that we should tie courage to unnecessary violence.  Courage for a needful aim is good; courage in service to a needless fight is not good, particularly when that fight will cause great damage to the body, much more than is necessary in “manhood training” or whatever you wish to call it.

For that reason, I can’t support MMA, much as readers of this blog know that I advocate a robust brand of full-orbed, Christ-as-warrior manhood.  I do think, though, that the NYT piece is right when it suggests that part of the cultural interest in MMA among men is that there are so few outlets for boys as boys in today’s society.  Many young men don’t grow up hunting, fishing, farming, camping, or even just playing outdoors.  In my sleepy neighborhood in Louisville, there are a number of kids who go outside with the same regularity as their elderly grandparents.  They sit in basement caves, locked in to video games, denizens of the indoors.  A whole world sits outside.  It is not discovered.

So in this light I understand (but still do not endorse) MMA.  It allows men to be men in a physical sense, to get out their aggression and channel it.  Because many boys go to public schools that damp down masculinity and a sense of adventure, they crave outlets of the kind that MMA provides.  I get that.

The challenge before us as Christians is to immerse our boys in the world.  We don’t want them to be jellyfish, to be weak, to be afraid.  We want to develop courage in them, as Harvard philosopher Harvey Mansfield eloquently said in a Hoover Institution essay.  Our boys should be physical, in the world, exploring, questing, playing.  They need above all to learn their manhood in the school of Christ and to understand from the dawn of their youth that God has given them strength so they can serve, not so they can dominate others.

MMA says something true about men, I think.  You can’t watch a performance like Tom Hardy’s in “Warrior” and not be stirred as a man, for example.  But it is a sport that is in need of Christocentric ethics.  Our capacities for energy and force are not given us to damage others, unless their sin places others in harm’s way.  These capacities are given us for enjoyment, for service to our families, churches, and society, and ultimately, for sacrifice of a profoundly Christlike kind.

(Image: Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times)

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Doing Big Things: City to City Church Planting in Paris

One of the most encouraging developments in our day is church planting in global cities.  My buddy Freddy Wyatt, for example, is planting the Gallery Church in Manhattan, a work that I love (featured recently in the New York Times).  Aaron Coe of the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention) is doing high-level thinking and strategy in this area.  The NETS program is targeting cities like Boston and major college campuses like Harvard and Dartmouth.  How can a believer not be excited and moved to prayer by efforts like these?

Another hugely encouraging program is the City to City initiative connected with Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Tim Keller.  This video gives you a feel for the CtC plant in Rome.  Watch it, get inspired, and pray for efforts like this.

Or maybe you won’t just pray.  Or maybe, like Keller and Freddy, you’ll discern that you yourself should do big things in joyful service to a great God.  Maybe you’ll launch out into a global city, taking on the incredibly challenging and exciting work of bringing the gospel to dark places.

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Linsanity! Part 4: An Essay on Why David Brooks Is Wrong on Jeremy Lin

David Brooks just suggested in the New York Times that athletic success and humility necessarily conflict and cannot coexist in a person.  He wrote his piece, “The Jeremy Lin Problem,” on New York Knicks star (I love writing that) Jeremy Lin, who led the Knicks to their eighth win in nine games yesterday against NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

Here’s what Brooks said about the conflict between “greatness” and “humility”:

Ascent in the sports universe is a straight shot. You set your goal, and you climb toward greatness. But ascent in the religious universe often proceeds by a series of inversions: You have to be willing to lose yourself in order to find yourself; to gain everything you have to be willing to give up everything; the last shall be first; it’s not about you.

For many religious teachers, humility is the primary virtue. You achieve loftiness of spirit by performing the most menial services. (That’s why shepherds are perpetually becoming kings in the Bible.) You achieve your identity through self-effacement. You achieve strength by acknowledging your weaknesses. You lead most boldly when you consider yourself an instrument of a larger cause.

And here is his closing word:

The odds are that Lin will never figure it out because the two moral universes are not reconcilable. Our best teacher on these matters is Joseph Soloveitchik, the great Jewish theologian. In his essays “The Lonely Man of Faith” and “Majesty and Humility” he argues that people have two natures. First, there is “Adam the First,” the part of us that creates, discovers, competes and is involved in building the world. Then, there is “Adam the Second,” the spiritual individual who is awed and humbled by the universe as a spectator and a worshipper.

Read the whole piece.  It’s very thought-provoking.

My buddy Barnabas Piper responded to Brooks last week.  He said this: “Brooks smelled something that stinks. He is on to something because the tension does exist, but his conclusions miss the mark. I believe there is tension present in the world of Christian athletes. But it is not a tension unique to that situation. It is simply an expression of the tension that exists in all our hearts all the time – that of seeking to glorify myself rather than glorify God.”  I think Barnabas is right.

If Brooks is correct, then humility essentially swallows ambition.  There cannot ultimately be a place for what Alister Chapman has called “godly ambition” in his recent biography of John Stott (a work I commend).  Stott believed that he best glorified the Lord by putting his gifts to work, not by stifling them in fear.  Dave Harvey offered some similar thoughts in Rescuing Ambition.

Brooks is of course operating not from an evangelical worldview (though he is friendly to evangelicals, including Stott) but from a Jewish one.  In the New Testament, Christ teaches the parable of the talents, in which he makes explicit that it is good to dream big and act boldly for kingdom purposes.  In the story, a master rewards servants who “make” more talents by dint of effort and ambition.  They hear “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).  There is another servant who fearfully buries his talent in order to preserve it.  He reaps condemnation to himself:

“You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:26-30).

Clearly this parable is about more than just ambition; like so much of Christ’s teaching, it starts with a fairly mundane matter–how one works–and ends up setting the issues of faithfulness and diligence in a frightening eschatological context.  Nonetheless, it seems clear that what one could call “godly ambition” is commended here.

As Barnabas pointed out (and Chapman notes), there is gray area in this discussion.  We are sinful people, and even when we seek to please God, we can have some kind of mixed motive.  I think we’re wrong to see ourselves in strict black-and-white.  But this must not restrain us from working hard to promote the kingdom.

There were two moments in yesterday’s game against the Mavericks that I thought spoke pretty nicely to this discussion.  At one point, Lin was on a fast break with no defenders to stop him from scoring; his teammate Landry Fields was on his wing.  Many of the NBA’s leading lights would have taken the opportunity to show off, dunking the ball in spectacular fashion.  I’m personally not going to say that’s wrong, though it’s not selfless, either.  What did Lin do?  He gave up an opportunity to make himself look good and passed the ball to Fields, who slammed it home.  He made Fields, his weird-handshake buddy (read more), look good.  In that instant, in my view, he showed Christian virtue, the humility Brooks suggested could not exist meaningfully in such a star.

Another play spoke to a different strength.  The clock was winding down at the end of the first quarter.  Lin realized as he must that he was the best playmaker on the floor.  He attacked just before the buzzer sounded and hit a floater in the lane over Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks’ best player.  In that moment, he showed confidence in his own abilities, but this was a confidence that served his teammates.  Yes, it’s possible that there was pride in the decision to attack the basket, but I would see that play more as a way that Lin, clearly an unselfish point guard, served his teammates by using the skill given him by God.

This applies to all of life.  We should practice humility and “esteem others better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3).  We should also take pains to identify the abilities God has given us and use them with great effort in service of the kingdom of Christ.  Until Christ returns, yes, we will feel some tension at times over whether we’re putting ourselves forward, whether we’re acting in a given moment out of godly ambition or what James calls “selfish ambition” (James 3:16).  It is right as sinful yet redeemed people that we feel this inner conflict.  We must not make the mistake of thinking that our conversion naturally ennobles our every motive, every action, every word.

But in our sphere of productivity assigned us by God, we should work with alacrity and without slavish fear or worry for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).  That’s true of the woman who wants to be the best mother and homemaker she can, the stockbroker who wants to make a great deal of money to bless his family and church, the church planter who believes that he is called of God to preach the gospel in a place that frankly doesn’t want it, the family that runs the best homeless shelter they can to care for the needy, and the athlete who plays, ultimately, for an audience of one.

 

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The “Immobile Class”: On College and Work in the New America

The New York Times recently published a thought-provoking article on the new American economy entitled “A Mess on the Ladder of Success.” Here’s a snippet:

Rather than dividing the country into the 1 percenters versus everyone else, the split in our economy is really between two other classes: the mobile and immobile.

This is an interesting metaphor that has resonance with Richard Florida’s conception of the “creative class” as a group of creative, talented, mobile workers who will move to new cities (primarily) for stimulating work.

Here’s what economic opportunity used to look like, according to the author, Adam Davidson (of NPR):

In the past, it was perfectly clear where young people should go for work (Chicago in the 1870s, Detroit in the 1910s, Houston in the 1970s) and, more or less, what they’d be doing when they got there (killing steer, building cars, selling oil). And these industries were large enough to offer jobs to each class of worker, from unskilled laborer to manager or engineer. Today, the few bright spots in our economy are relatively small (though some promise future growth) and decentralized. There are great jobs in Silicon Valley, in the biotech research capitals of Boston and Raleigh-Durham and in advanced manufacturing plants along the southern I-85 corridor. These companies recruit all over the country and the globe for workers with specific abilities. (You don’t need to be the next Mark Zuckerberg to get a job in one of the microhubs, by the way. But you will almost certainly need at least a B.A. in computer science or a year or two at a technical school.) This newer, select job market is national, and it offers members of the mobile class competitive salaries and higher bargaining power.

Here’s what it looks like now for the “immobile class”:

Until now, a B.A. in any subject was a near-guarantee of at least middle-class wages. But today, a quarter of college graduates make less than the typical worker without a bachelor’s degree. … Those without such specialized skills — like poetry, or even history, majors — are already competing with their neighbors for the same sorts of mediocre, poorer-paying local jobs like low-level management or big-box retail sales. And with the low-skilled labor market atomized into thousands of microeconomies, immobile workers are less able to demand better wages or conditions or to acquire valuable skills.

Let’s assume that Davidson’s essay is right (a big assumption, but let’s try it).  What does this mean for the aforementioned history major, Bible major, English major?

It means this, I think.  Assuming once more that Davidson is right and that non-technical disciplines may be a hindrance to getting good work, students who major in the humanities or Christian studies will be well advised to prove that they have accrued real-life, workplace skills through internships, carefully selected summer jobs, and other programs that allow them to gain a field of expertise beyond their more theoretical academic study.

I for one do not think that a piece like this–if it is correct–should inspire droves of students to leave the humanities or Christian studies in order to graduate with a degree in the hard sciences.  I do think, though, that families and students would be wise to heed material like this and to realize that the days of graduating and then finding a nice-paying job regardless of one’s degree may be, if not over, lessened.

So study whatever you want in college.  Stretch your mind.  But while you do that, gain skills.  Be strategic.  Position yourself well for the future.  All this will mean, of course, that you take service in Christ’s kingdom seriously, and that you work with alacrity to take dominion of your life and not waste the time you have.

(Image: David Turnley/Corbis)

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Evangelical Gnostics and the Mind-improving Nature of Physical Exercise

This snippet from the NYT Well blog should encourage you to get whatever exercise you can in these winter months:

To learn more about how exercise affects the brain, scientists in Ireland recently asked a group of sedentary male college students to take part in a memory test followed by strenuous exercise.

First, the young men watched a rapid-fire lineup of photos with the faces and names of strangers. After a break, they tried to recall the names they had just seen as the photos again zipped across a computer screen.

Afterward, half of the students rode a stationary bicycle, at an increasingly strenuous pace, until they were exhausted. The others sat quietly for 30 minutes. Then both groups took the brain-teaser test again.

Notably, the exercised volunteers performed significantly better on the memory test than they had on their first try, while the volunteers who had rested did not improve.

Want to do better in school?  Remember more things?  Memorize more Scripture?  Remember that you’re not a brain in a vat, but a holistic person created by God to glorify him in both body and mind–or perhaps the fusion of the two.  It’s remarkable how much care for your body affects your overall life performance.  A story from The Atlantic a few months back suggested that careful attention to diet and exercise may play a potentially major role in warding off and defeating disease and bodily illness.  For more on this point, see Matthew Anderson’s helpful Earthen Vessels.

Evangelical gnostics, take note.  Many of us, I’m guessing, could use less snacking, less sugar, and more attention to our health, not because we’re scared of dying, but because we want to steward what the Lord has given us for the glory of his Son.

(Image: Adam Weiss for Getty Images)

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NY Times: Readers Register Discomfort Over “Pregnancy Reduction”

Those who read about the New York Times magazine story on “pregnancy reductions” (a euphemism for the abortion of one or more gestating babies) on this and other blogs might find this graphic from the NYT interesting.

It’s a bit hard to make out (click here for the link to the graphic), but it shows that a majority of commenters on the Times‘s website found the story hard to bear.  The commenters are undoubtedly from a wide range of backgrounds, but the range of responses recorded to the left show a profound discomfort with the practice of “reducing” twins from a mother’s womb.  This response is heartening.  Part of comprehending the world aright is being unsettled by ghastly things.

Also worth noting: 21 people responded by noting that they are twins and “couldn’t imagine life without their twin.”  I can scarcely imagine what it would be like to bear the continual memory of a child aborted in the womb, let alone to be visibly reminded of this abortion on a daily basis by the presence of the living twin.  In the smile, the childish ebullience, the sleeping face of one’s child, one would always see the frail image of another, departed brother or sister.  This sounds like the subject material of a particularly dark work of fiction, but it is not.  It is the reality for a growing numbers of dads and moms.

Ghosts are not real, but they can almost be real.

I am reminded of the chilling scene from The Pianist when, awaiting deportation to Treblinka, a mother wails, for hours and hours, “Why did I do it?”  She had smothered her baby to avoid being discovered by Nazi guards and was haunted to the point of insanity by her decision.  I think modern parents choosing “pregnancy reduction” may face such realities.  May Christians be vigilant to peacefully and prayerfully oppose their efforts, and to offer the hope of Christ when the weight of guilt comes crashing down and the ghost of a twin flits through an ordinary morning.

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Why Grades Matter to Christians: A BibleMesh Post

Why should you care about grade inflation? First, because it’s happening en masse.

In a post entitled “A History of College Grade Inflation” on the New York Times Economix blog, Catherine Rampell recently drew attention to the work of Stuart Rojstaczer, formerly a Duke professor of geophysics, and Christopher Healy, a computer science professor at Furman University.  According to Rampell, “The researchers collected historical data on letter grades awarded by more than 200 four-year colleges and universities. Their analysis (published in the Teachers College Record) confirm that the share of A grades awarded has skyrocketed over the years.”  Here’s the central finding of the study:

Most recently, about 43 percent of all letter grades given were A’s, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. The distribution of B’s has stayed relatively constant; the growing share of A’s instead comes at the expense of a shrinking share of C’s, D’s and F’s. In fact, only about 10 percent of grades awarded are D’s and F’s.

What does this mean in the aggregate?  ”By the end of the last decade, A’s and B’s represented 73 percent of all grades awarded at public schools, and 86 percent of all grades awarded at private schools,” Rampell notes.

These are stunning findings.  Consider those two data points once more:

  • 43% of all grades are A’s.  (This despite the fact that students spend less time studying today than they did in the past–27 hours per week instead of 40.)
  • Secondly, 86% of all grades given at private schools are A’s and B’s.  (Garrison Keillor’s vision of America as populated exclusively by “above-average” children is realized!)

This plays out, of course, in real life, in classrooms in which many students expect at the very least a B for even marginal effort.  Completing the paper, successfully double-spacing it, plopping together a bibliography–this is the material of outstanding work today in many of our schools.  Professors who dare to touch this emotional live-wire risk criticism, low class enrollment, or the fate worse than death, damning reviews on online “rate-my-professor” sites.  Call this the Self-esteem Code.

Beyond an entitlement mentality–driven by often-unseen narcissism–many students approach college transactionally.  They give the college their money, the professor teaches them, they earn the degree.  Writing in The New Yorker, Louis Menand has commented on this trend:

They attend either because the degree is a job requirement or because they’ve been seduced by the siren song “college for everyone.”…the situation [is] analogous to the real-estate bubble: Americans are being urged to invest in something they can’t afford and don’t need. Why should you have to pass a college-level literature class if you want to be a state trooper? To show that you can tough it out with Henry James?

In other words, a good number of students enter college viewing the professor as a kind of job-partner.  The person up front teaching the class has some kind of unspoken requirement to pass all of his students; call it the Competency Code.

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To read more about Harvey Mansfield, The New Yorker, and why the mind matters to Christians, go to the BibleMesh blog.

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Sportswriter Bill Simmons Profiled at Length in the New York Times

Some of you out there enjoy sports, and you read Grantland.com‘s Bill Simmons.  Simmons is not a Christian writer; his material can be racy, even gross.  If you enjoy thoughtful sportswriting, however, he is tough to beat.  I read him with discretion.

The New York Times recently published a lengthy magazine piece entitled “Can Bill Simmons Win the Big One?” by Jonathan Mahler on Simmons, whose rise has been meteoric in recent years.  It covers interesting ground on such topics as the distinction between fans and sportswriters.  Here’s a bit:

Simmons is the most prominent sportswriter in America. He’s also a Boston fan. During his early years as a columnist in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was sustained by the angst of backing losers, above all, the Red Sox. More recently, with Boston’s various sports franchises prospering, he has sought poetic inspiration in the teams he hates, and, with the exception of the Yankees, he hates no team more than the Lakers.

Here’s more:

For Simmons, this distinction — between fan and columnist — doesn’t really exist. Unlike many sportswriters, for whom detachment is a point of professional pride, Simmons makes no pretense of neutrality. This is at least one explanation for his extraordinary popularity. According to ComScore, Simmons’s “Sports Guy” Web column, which he publishes every 10 days or so, attracted 740,000 unique visitors in April, making him probably the most widely read sportswriter in America today. The column is just one of several media through which Simmons connects with his fans. He has written two best-selling books, the first a memoir of Red Sox fandom, the second a popular history of the N.B.A. His regular podcasts, “The B.S. Report,” are downloaded an average of 600,000 times each.

Later this month, Simmons will take another step in the ongoing expansion of his empire, starting his own Web site, in conjunction with ESPN, called Grantland. Simmons says Grantland will be to ESPN what Miramax was to Disney, a boutique division with more room for creativity. Another metaphor might be Martha Stewart Living, a magazine similarly constructed around a single person’s market-tested sensibility. Much has been made of some of the well-known, literary writers Simmons has already attracted to Grantland, but as a business proposition, the site is basically an attempt to leverage Simmons’s take on sports and, really, life into something much bigger than himself.

These trends in media are fascinating to watch.  We’ve observed this past year as Oprah Winfrey started her own television network, not show or even channel.  Martha Stewart Omnimedia is a sort of media galaxy unto itself.  Never before has a sportswriter attempted to build a branded site in quite the way Simmons is.  He’s essentially got his own online sports magazine, with a booming podcast, writing team, and other features to boot.  Will this venture succeed?  Will it fail? We’ll see.

Sportswriters are generally a tribe unto themselves.  They enter the business because, well, they like sports.  They like writing, of course, and they can get close to athletes and enjoy the action.  But sportswriters are not generally the most entrepreneurial type.  Simmons is part of the new media breed.  He’s building his own brand rather than residing under the ESPN umbrella.  It’s fascinating to watch this shift in sportswriting platform, and it will have implications.

Perhaps we evangelicals can learn something by the way Simmons connects with his audience.  He’s a real guy, he wears his passions on his sleeve, and he interacts with his readers like they actually matter.  He doesn’t write or lead (in his way) from an athletic Mount Olympus; he seems like a friend you might have as a sports fan, albeit the highly intelligent, uncouth, emotional fan who will burst a blood vessel arguing whether Mark Jackson or Travis Best was a better pass-first point guard.

There’s something about Simmons’s approach for us to consider, I think.  Those who are in ministry, who are leaders in some way, are not unapproachable demi-gods.  We’re very normal people.  We should work hard to connect with the people we lead and seek to reach for the glory of Christ.  We can work entrepreneurially for the advancement of the kingdom–a fun subject for another day–but we should always do so with people, real people, in mind, not our own glory.

(Image: Dewey Nicks for the NYT)

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The Return of Ralph Reed, and the Prospect of Evangelical Politics

The New York Times just ran a story on former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed entitled “A Political Revival for Ralph Reed.”  It’s worth reading.

Behold this selection:

Hardly bashful these days, Mr. Reed suggests that his party needs him. He said that “a couple good friends, fairly senior in the party” told him, “You need to do something.” They said, “Since you left the Christian Coalition, we haven’t had a lean, mean operation focused on the grass roots.”

Mr. Reed is pursuing these grand, some say grandiose, plans with a nonprofit group that he has described as “a 21st-century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids.” As the name implies, the Faith and Freedom Coalition hopes to rope in a broader constituency. His “sweet spot,” he says, is the millions of people who were fired up by the fiscal concerns of the Tea Party and share the cultural values of evangelicals.

The whole thing’s worth your time.

(Image: Chip Litherland, NYT)

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