Funny Things You See On Facebook: Hiding from Jehovah’s Witnesses

Background Information: Jehovah’s Witnesses are probably the most evangelistic religious group in the world. Many members spend 100 hours a month going door-to-door to spread their beliefs.

Mormons are close behind in the door-to-door business, with many of their visits being performed by young (19-21 year-old) men who are on mission trips.

Humorous Anecdote: The other day I saw the following Facebook status of a Mormon acquaintance of mine:

“Hiding from the Jehovah’s Witnesses who won’t leave me alone!”
Now that’s ironic.


The Teammates

Baseball has not been quite as appealing to me this year.

The steroid sagas of Clemens and Bonds have left me a bit cynical, the season-ending injury to John Smoltz and Atlanta’s inability to win one-run games has left me depressed, and TBS’ decision to no longer broadcast Braves games has left me out of touch.

But two things have kept me interested: Chipper Jones’ impressive run at .400 (maybe I’ll write about that later), and one of the best baseball books I have ever read, The Teammates, by David Halberstam.

The Teammates tells the story of four Boston Red Sox icons—Ted Williams, Dominic DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky—the years they played together and the friendship they shared, which spanned 50 years.

In October of 2001, when Williams fell ill and his friends knew it was near the end, they traveled 1,300 miles by car to see him one more time.

Much of the book focuses on Ted Williams, the leader of the group, and possibly the greatest hitter in baseball history. On the relationship between Williams and Joe DiMaggio, Ted’s rival as the other dominant player of the 30s and 40s, Halberstam writes:
“The two had not been close when they played. Joe DiMaggio was the most aloof of men; he held out genuine warmth of friendship not even to his younger brother or his long-time teammates, let alone to Ted Williams, the one baseball player against whom he was constantly measured. Ted, by contrast, was far more open, far more generous, and far more volatile. After they quit playing his only real connection to Joe, other than through his admiration for him and his love of Joe’s younger brother, was the fact that for some 50 years they stood together atop the same pedestal of excellence, honored and celebrated at countless baseball dinners, posing for a seemingly endless number of photographs reflecting baseball’s royalty from an earlier age.

Because they had shared so much of an era, even if they had shared nothing else, their mortality was in some curious way a shared one; if they were linked in life by greatness then they would surely be linked in their obituaries. If Joe, who was nearly four years older than Ted, was dying, then Ted's mortality was at stake as well. The imminent death of Joe DiMaggio meant that an era that belonged to Ted, as much as it did to Joe, was coming to an end. Thus when Joe’s health began to fail badly in the fall of 1998, and when it became clear that he was dying, Ted was deeply moved and his regular phone calls to Dominic started, always at the same time of day. As soon as the phone rang, Dominic knew it was Ted calling about Joe, wanting to know how he was, whether he was doing any better, asking what the doctors were saying. When Joe died, Ted took it, his friends realized with surprise, like a death in his extended family.”
Halberstam had interviewed Williams before for another book, and had come to know him pretty well:
“I have this view of him now, and it was beginning to form back then, that…he was not a modern man, had always gone his own way, always outside the bounds of contemporary society, and had been so absolutely true to himself. He did not wear ties to tie-certified events. He had crash-landed his plane in Korea once because he thought that there was a better chance to preserve his body that way than if he parachuted out, which might have been harder on his legs. It was a bet, and he had won. He always, if you think about it, bet on himself. He did not go around doing things that would make him popular; instead, even when there were things about him that were appealing, he tended to keep them to himself. He was always his own man.

I think in that sense the .406 is special and defining, not that he was the last man to accomplish it, but much more important was the way he did it. On the last day of the season, Boston faced the Philadelphia Athletics in a doubleheader and Ted’s averaged rounded out to .400 and Joe Cronin offered him the day off. But Ted Williams did not round things out, and he had played, gotten six hits, and taken the average up to .406.”
On the journey of three men who are desperate to see Williams one last time:
“The voyage of Dominic, John, and Dick Flavin from Marion to Hernando took three full days. All three men in the car were proud that they never turned the radio on, not once. Dominic loved the opera and had brought along a few tapes, and on occasion they played one, mostly Pavarotti and Domingo. But never the radio. There was just too much to say, too much to reminisce about, and they knew they would never be together again like this. This was the last time.”
Ted was in awful shape by the time his friends arrived, but just being with them again brought about a change in him, and for a while, again made everything as it should have been:
“Now, in his wheelchair, Ted was suddenly in charge again. It was fascinating to watch him become stronger by the minute with the arrival of his friends. He had to take charge, of course, because that was the natural order of things and that was what his friends wanted.”
I thought The Teammates was an amazing book, sometimes humorous, often poignant, and always interesting. Halberstam truly is a poet, and uses the story of four old-time ballplayers to talk about the things that are really important in life.


Away For A While

My blogging will likely be sporadic over the next few weeks.

In a few minutes, I’ll be on my way to Green Valley Bible Camp where I’ll be spending the week as a counselor. This year, I’ll be in a cabin with a bunch of 13-14 year old boys, which is an age group I like well enough.

Generally I enjoy camp, but it’s always exhausting (and seems to get more so every year), so I’m not looking forward to it quite as much as I usually do.

The day after I get back from camp, the wife and I will be making a quick trip to Memphis for my father-in-law’s Retirement Ceremony.

Then back to Fayetteville to work for the rest of the week, and then Friday afternoon we’ll be heading to New Orleans, where we will board a boat and go cruising around the Caribbean for a few days.

I’m betting that will be fun, but honestly, until I’m actually on the boat, thinking of everything I have to do between now and then just makes me tired.


Don’t Waste Your Time

I watched The Happening last night.

I enjoyed every M. Night Shyamalan movie I had ever seen (although I didn’t see the critically maligned Lady in the Water), so I was expecting a good movie, but boy, was I disappointed.

The plot was lacking, the dialogue was terrible, the acting was suspect—it was bad all around.

Don’t spend the $8 to see it in theaters.

Don’t spend the $3 to rent it when it comes out on DVD.

Don’t waste a spot on your Netflix cue for it.

In fact, if you’re walking on the street six months from now and happen to see a copy of The Happening lying on the ground, don’t even bother to pick it up.

It really was that bad.


“The Kid” at 600

Ken Griffey Jr. made history Monday night by becoming just the sixth player in Major League History to hit 600 home runs.

If you watch a lot of ESPN, you knew that he was approaching the milestone, but otherwise, you might have been unaware, because it hasn’t really been talked about too much. The way Griffey hit the home run was somewhat fitting: on the road, at a largely empty Dolphin Stadium in front of just 16,000 fans.

Why does no one seem to care about such an achievement from Griffey, once the most popular baseball player on the planet?

This article offers some ideas. First, the fact that Griffey plays in small-market Cincinnati certainly doesn’t help. When Alex Rodriguez approaches 600 home runs in New York, he’ll certainly get more coverage.

It’s also true that Junior has battled one injury after another ever since he started playing for the Reds, and that has whittled away at the enormous fanfare that he once enjoyed. Just ask Grant Hill or Nomar Garciaparra—as an athlete, it’s hard to stay popular when you never get to play.

But likely the biggest reason is the fact that a home run just ain’t worth what it used to be. Ever since 1998, when McGwire, Sosa, and their enormous bodies started the assault on all of the home run records, each successive milestone has seemed less and less impressive.

Hitting 500 home runs used to be a special thing, but nowadays, it’s almost commonplace, and 600 doesn’t seem that much more exciting.

But in Griffey’s case, we should be excited.

Not only a great player on the field, he’s also been a great ambassador for the game. He’s not surly with reporters, he’s been a positive role model, and in this era, maybe most importantly of all, there’s never been any hint of steroid use.

He’s not perfect. People have called him greedy, and they’ve questioned whether or not he’s a winner, but at the end of the day, Griffey is one of the greatest players of all time, and he did it the right way.

As he got older, his body began to break down. He couldn’t make the spectacular plays in the outfield, didn’t have the speed on the basepath, and much of the time couldn’t seem to stay in the lineup.

But when you think about it, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen. It may have happened a little bit too soon for Griffey, but still it was right—as we get older, our bodies break down. They can’t do the same things they used to. And “The Natural,” who early in his career lived up to his nickname with his seemingly unending talent, lived up to it later in his career by making the most out of what his body could give him without enhancing it with drugs.

In an era where the alternative has become all too common, and we’ve seen the artificially inflated bodies and numbers of player after player, Junior should be applauded for doing the right thing.

But there’s an important lesson there too, I guess. Sometimes when you do the right thing, you don’t get recognized for it. You don’t get the credit or the acclaim you deserve. But the acclaim isn’t what’s important.

Doing the right thing is.


Coolest Dream Ever

I don’t remember a whole lot of the dream, but I was helping Optimus Prime and the Autobots fend off an attack from the Decepticons, and in the process, I stabbed Megatron in the eye with a lightsaber.

Half of his face melted, he got really mad, and then I woke up.

Transformers and Star Wars combined. I told you it was cool.


Kobe: Just How Good Is He?

People have been comparing Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan ever since he first appeared in the NBA, but it’s only been fairly recently that I’ve started to hear people actually suggest that Bryant is the better player.

This is shocking to me. I know that Kobe is great, and one of a handful of players all time who can legitimately be compared to MJ, but really, I don’t think it’s even very close. Then I saw a statistical comparison of the two players, and as it turns out, Kobe is better—at least, at free throw shooting.

Jordan dominates pretty much every other category.

Don’t get me wrong, Kobe Bryant is a stud. He’s one of the best players of all time and unless and until LeBron James learns how to play defense, he’ll be the best player in the league.

But until he wins several championships without having a Hall of Fame center to shoulder the load, let’s give this debate a rest, okay?


“The Most Noble And Benevolent Instincts Of The Human Heart”

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Neville Chamberlain, maybe because, not unlike Fred Merkle, he is another example of a historical figure who is remembered primarily for his biggest mistake.

Of course, in Chamberlain’s case, his mistake was more significant than losing the National League Pennant.

Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Britain from 1937-1940, is (in)famous for his “policy of appeasement”—an attempt to deal with the rising threat of Nazi Germany through diplomatic channels rather than military action.

This policy led to his being duped by Adolf Hitler into signing the Munich Agreement in 1938 in hopes of maintaining peace in Europe, but in reality, it just allowed Hitler to overrun Czechoslovakia without interference from Britain and France.

Chamberlain returned to Britain among cheers, declaring that “peace for our time” had been accomplished. But then, as it became clear that Hitler was less interested in freeing Germans from the Sudetenland and more interested in taking over the world, the cheers ceased and Chamberlain’s popularity plummeted.

He lost his Prime Minister position by May 1940, and would be dead by November of that same year.

Winston Churchill, a great critic of Chamberlain and his eventual successor as British Prime Minister, eulogized him in the House of Commons in this way:

“It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart—the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour. Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.”
People who are filled with hope and idealism are often disappointed in life and taken advantage of by others, but I don’t think that makes them any less admirable.


Harrison Ford, Propagandist

I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the night after it came out. I didn’t think it was amazing, but I wasn’t too disappointed either.

The plot was far-fetched, and there were parts that were absolutely ludicrous, but really, since when do we go to Indiana Jones seeking realism?

All in all, I thought Crystal Skull fit in pretty well with the other three movies in the Indiana Jones franchise. It may have been the worst of the four, but it didn’t shame the series or anything like that.

Well, that’s just my opinion—the Communist Party of Russia apparently disagrees.

According to this article, they sent an open letter to Harrison Ford calling for Crystal Skull to be removed from Russian theaters and condemning it as “anti-Soviet propaganda.”

The film is set in 1957, and with no more Nazis left to fight, Indy finds himself competing with a group of vicious Soviet agents to find a mystical crystal skull in Peru.

The letter to Ford takes great exception to this, reminding him that, “in 1957 the USSR was not sending terrorists to America but sending the Sputnik satellite into space!”

It’s a year Soviets remember clearly—after Sputnik, everything was pretty much downhill.

Oh and by the way, so far, the Communist Party’s pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears: Crystal Skull is being shown on over 800 screens in Russia, which is the most ever for a foreign film.

The Doc File © 2006-2012 by Luke Dockery

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