Tuesday, August 28, 2012

George Whinebrenner

A reality check from Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play by baseball player/broadcaster Bill White:

George Steinbrenner's determination to control everything about the New York Yankees didn't end with the team itself. He not only wanted to control the Yankees, he wanted to control what was said about the Yankees – not just by sports reporters, who routinely found themselves frozen out when they displeased Steinbrenner, but also by broadcasters in the Yankees booth. Steinbrenner had a red phone installed in the broadcast booth so he could always be sure to get through when he heard something he didn't like. When that red phone rang, everybody knew it was Steinbrenner – and that he was [not pleased]. ...

Steinbrenner made no secret of the fact that he wanted "homers" [people with unquestioning enthusiasm for the home team] broadcasting his Yankees' games – and [my broadcast partner] Phil Rizzuto was a true homer, unable to hide his love of the Yankees and his joy when they won. I'm not criticizing Phil for that. That was simply the way he was, and it worked for him.

But I was another story.

Unlike Phil, I didn't have an emotional attachment to the Yankees, as a player or as a broadcaster. My job was to call the games as I saw them. If the Yankees played well I said so, and if they didn't, I said that, too. But Steinbrenner wanted something else.

"Why can't White be more like Rizzuto?” he would ask the broadcast producers. As diplomatically as possible – most of them were afraid of Steinbrenner's rages – they would explain that the broadcast needed straight play-by-play to balance Phil's homer-ish style. And in any event, they would say, “Nobody's going to change Bill White.”

Still, the calls from Steinbrenner to the broadcast booth came in during almost every game. A production assistant whose job it was to monitor the red phone would take the calls and write down Steinbrenner's demands and then pass the notes to whoever was calling the game.

If an umpire blew a call to the Yankees' disadvantage, Steinbrenner would want us to rip the ump. If a Yankees player who was in Steinbrenner's doghouse bobbled a play, Steinbrenner would want us to question his playing abilities and value to the team. With managers especially, if the Yankees were doing badly, Steinbrenner would want us to knock the manager's decisions on-air. Sometimes he seemed to think that such on-air critiques would actually be a motivational exercise, driving the player or manager to do better. At other times Steinbrenner, who was notorious for using the news media to communicate his displeasure with a player or manager, apparently wanted to use us to validate his intentions to get rid of a guy.

But whatever his motives, I wouldn't go along. The first few times I got the notes, I ignored them. Finally I told the young production assistant, 'Tell the Skipper I'm not even going to read this note.' Given Steinbrenner's temper, that probably wasn't fair to the production assistant.

The notes from Steinbrenner kept coming, and I continued to ignore them. Then suddenly one day they stopped. When I asked the production assistant why, he said, “Mr. Steinbrenner is still calling in the notes. He just told me not to give them to you anymore."

Truth is…some people whine and gripe and complain, not because it does any good, or even that they expect it to do any good, but because they like to whine and gripe and complain (…not that I’m complaining about that).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Brave Prayer

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:36-39 NIV)

Until I read this passage (for the umpteenth time) this morning, I had always considered it a phenomenal demonstration of courage for Jesus to pray the words "not as I will, but as you will." He knew exactly what his father's will was...that Jesus would go through the kangaroo court of the Sanhedrin, be publicly ridiculed and tortured by the Romans, and then nailed to a cross until he died...all while carrying the emotional/spiritual burden of all the sins of everyone in the whole world since the beginning of time until it all ends.

No wonder he didn't want to drink from that cup.

But this morning, I was floored by this thought: the really brave part of the prayer was "if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me."

There was Jesus, praying for something he knew was against the plan...taking the risk of being absolutely honest with his father...and trusting God to do the right thing.

Truth is...I sometimes pray what I think God wants to hear, instead of what's really real in my heart of hearts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How This Blog Got Started / On Forgiveness

A conversation was happening between Pastor Dave, a female friend, and me. The subject at hand was the amount of the Powerball jackpot, which at that time was stratospheric. Not surprisingly, thoughts of "what would I do with that much money" started flowing.

In the midst of us talking about how cool it would be to be able to really make an impact on some church project or mission work, or to share liberally with friends and family, the aforementioned female friend said something to the effect of, "Well, I know for sure that my husband's ex wouldn't get a penny! I know we're supposed to be forgiving and all, but that woman...augh!"

My response to that included a reference to the mostly-ignored epilogue to "The Lord's Prayer," where Jesus gives His own commentary on the phrase "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors".

Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (NIV)

I followed that up with a clever epigram...not original with me. At that point Pastor Dave, alluding to my mostly-humorous blog, Almost the Truth, said, "Ooh, that's profound! You should have a blog called "Actually the Truth" and post that!"

And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains...and has become what you see before you.

What was the clever epigram, you say?

Truth is...holding a grudge against someone is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cure for the Blues

If you're like most people on the planet, there are times in your life when you don't feel as happy and hopeful as you would like. You take a look at yourself and don't necessarily like what you see.

Some call it "the blues," or "feeling down," or "temporary minor depressive tendencies."

There is good news, though, and it's backed up by scientific research, according to this quote from Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, by Martin E. P. Seligman.

OTHER PEOPLE are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up. ...My friend Stephen Post, professor of Medical Humanities at Stony Brook, tells a story about his mother. When he was a young boy, and his mother saw that he was in a bad mood, she would say, "Stephen, you are looking piqued. Why don't you go out and help someone?" Empirically, Ma Post's maxim has been put to rigorous test, and we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

An old song we used to sing in Sunday School comes to mind: "Jesus then Others then You; what a wonderful way to spell JOY."

Truth is...getting our minds off our selfish wants and focusing on helping others with their needs is bound to lighten the emotional burdens we bear.