Several years ago I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the NBA’s Bobcats. While my favorite team has always been the Indiana Pacers, living in the city quickly proved to be ideal because I could see most teams come through at a great price. After getting settled at the start of 2011, I anticipated catching an occasional game, but the season ended up being shortened by the NBA lockout. Eventually, basketball would commence and the Bobkitties achieved the status of being the worst team in NBA history (percentage-wise) with a record of 7-59. If I had to summarize that season in around 30 seconds it would look something like this:
Now up to this point I had never owned season tickets for pro basketball, and I didn’t see this changing anytime soon. But the Bobcats marketing department took a chance and created a deal that seemed too good to pass up: the “Pick the Pick” promo.
“Come see the Bobcats,” they said.
“It’ll be fun,” they said.
And just like a bad Internet meme, I became a first-time season ticket holder for the newly crowned “Worst Team in NBA History.” The team ended up drawing the second overall pick, so I paid about $190 total for a set of season tickets. If nothing else, I could resell them and make my money back.
(As a side note, work kept me from seeing Kobe and his Lakers come into town, so I sold my pair of balcony seats for $145.)
The first game of the season rolled around and it just so happened to be against my beloved Pacers. So my first game as a Bobcats season ticket holder was spent wearing the opponent’s jersey. I was just thrilled that the Pacers would start the season off on a good note. Except they didn’t, as ex-Bobcat D.J Augustin missed a potential game-winner in the corner.
For a short while I honestly believed that the normally underachieving Bobcats had bought into the system of new head coach Mike Dunlap. He essentially ran a college offense with a lot of presses and traps on defense. The team started the first 12 games with a record of 7-5. People in the city were once again talking about the Bobcats in a positive light and maybe even watching video of some of the games.
Apparently the other 29 teams were monitoring the situation as well. At this point the squad dropped a few games. Eighteen consecutive games to be exact, but who’s really counting?
The next big moment (for me at least) came when the Cleveland Cavaliers came to town, giving the Bobcats a chance to win their second game in a row. I was genuinely excited to see Kyrie Irving play in person.
Until four minutes into the second quarter.
With the Bobcats trailing by 16, Luke Walton moved beyond the arch and gracefully airballed a three-pointer. No big deal, right? We all miss the mark sometimes. So ex-Bobcat Shaun Livingston promptly rebounded the ball and located his teammate again. Walton then confidently airballed a second three-pointer on the same possession. With eight minutes left in the second quarter, I promptly gathered my belongings, left my seat, and found the nearest method of public transportation that would take me back to the safety of my house.
Later in the evening I discovered that the Cavs won off an Irving game-winner, but I have no regrets.
As the season progressed, I realized I needed to develop some sort of standard for leaving games early. I hesitated resorting to this, as I typically hate leaving games early. I still remember getting upset when my uncle escorted me out of a Pacers/Nets blowout at Market Square Arena in 1997. But Reggie Miller wasn’t stepping onto this court anytime soon.
And so the RUFUS RULES were created and laid out as follows:
- If the Pacers play the same night as the Bobcats, leave at halftime to go home and watch the Pacers.
- If the Bobcats are playing an NBA headliner (Heat, Knicks, etc.), disregard Rule #1.
- If the Bobcats fall behind by 20 points or more, quickly navigate to the nearest train and return to your place of residence (unless they are playing the Pacers…I DO NOT leave Pacers games early).
*Named after Rufus the mascot, who still looks horrifyingly similar to Guy Fieri.
Between my work schedule and the newly instituted RUFUS RULES, I saw considerably less Bobcats basketball in the second half of the season than I did in the first. Nonetheless…I soldiered on, and the team ended up finishing with a record of 21-61 (there was another ten game losing streak but I refuse to talk about it).
Overall, I would say my experience as a Bobcats season ticket holder was enjoyable. Between injuries and a depleted frontcourt, I knew the team would struggle, but at the end of the day, I love professional basketball. Oddly enough, I also ended up making money after selling a few key games from the season.
Toward the end of the year, there were even a couple of bright spots worth noting, as new addition Josh McRoberts provided some much needed energy and passing in the frontcourt, and a healthy Gerald Henderson emerged to be the scorer many fans thought he should be. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t make a bee line to the team store to buy a jersey, but it was refreshing to win some games at the end of the year, even if the opposing teams were tanking.
With that being said, I got a voicemail from my ticket rep several weeks ago, hoping I would renew, but this time at full price.
“Oh, by the way, I figure you’ve heard the good news, we’re changing our name to the Hornets the season after next. You can secure seats for the Hornets return by renewing for this coming year!”
Nice try Bobcats, don’t push your luck.
(Check back in the near future or subscribe to read about some of my other NBA ventures this season, including a trip to Miami and also the Playoffs)
In my most recent posting, I was able share the story of a tumultuous week from June of 1968. During this short timeframe, the citizens of Los Angeles saw their star pitcher, Don Drysdale, break a Major League record for consecutive shutouts. Later in the same day, they shifted their focus to the California Democratic Primary, where Senator Robert F. Kennedy edged out his opponent Eugene McCarthy by a mere 4%. However, shortly after mentioning Drysdale’s record in his victory speech, Kennedy was shot and killed in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. After this unexpected turn of events, the city would once again turn to Drysdale to help cope with disaster, and he obliged by breaking baseball’s consecutive scoreless innings record several days later.
While the real meat and potatoes of the story had already been told, I was also curious about a story I kept seeing referred to on the Internet regarding Drysdale and a tape of Kennedy’s last speech. For as often as the story is mentioned online, I had never found any legitimate proof and I was afraid the real culprit was this snippet from Wikipedia’s Drysdale entry:
Among the personal belongings found in Drysdale’s hotel room (upon his death) was a cassette tape of Robert F. Kennedy’s victory speech after the 1968 California Democratic presidential primary, a speech given only moments before Senator Kennedy’s assassination. In the speech, Kennedy had noted, to the cheers of the crowd, that Drysdale had pitched his sixth straight shutout that evening. Drysdale had apparently carried the tape with him wherever he went since Kennedy’s murder.
I also found it strange that the source and citation Wikipedia used never mentioned any sort of tape. Additionally, I was unable to find any archived articles or interviews that confirmed this. With that being the case, I curiously contacted a few people who might have knowledge of the situation.
The first of these contacts included former Dodger Claude Osteen, a teammate of Drysdale’s in 1968. Initially, I asked him about the buzz in Los Angeles surrounding Drysdale’s record and the Democratic Primary. He shared an interesting tidbit in the process:
L.A. was a buzz when that was going on. Drysdale’s streak was allowed to continue when the umpire ruled that Dick Dietz did not make an effort to keep the pitch from hitting him. He was ordered to come back to the plate to hit and made an out.
When I mentioned the rumor of the tape and asked him about any possible clubhouse reaction to the speech, he shared the following:
I remember the RFK congrats to Don and also the tragic ending. I wasn’t aware about the tape, but I remember Don speaking about the charisma of the Kennedy’s.
Claude was kind enough to answer several more questions for me, but I was still eager to find some sort of evidence to verify if such tape existed or not. It was time to move on to another source, Ann Myers Drysdale, Don’s wife at the time of his death and also a member of the basketball Hall of Fame. I jotted a quick note to her asking about the tape, and she replied in a timely manner:
Kyle – It is true, but Don never did mention it, or talk to me about his days with the Kennedy’s. I guess I was a new chapter for him in his life. Thank you for asking. - Ann
And so my curiosity was satisfied.
Ultimately, whether Drysdale actually kept a tape with him or not doesn’t alter the course of history at all. It does, however, provide an additional piece in an interesting saga between two friends that will forever be linked in history by that tumultuous week in 1968.
Thanks for reading…feel free to comment below.
Growing up, I noticed mostly floral arrangements or generic paintings hanging on the walls at my friends’ houses. On the contrary, my family’s living quarters housed a framed newspaper announcing the death of President Kennedy. Looking back, I recognize the decor might have been a bit abnormal, but I honestly never thought anything of it. My mother was eleven years old when the tragedy occurred, and she still recalls the events of November 22, 1963 with an incredible clarity. The day obviously had a significant impact on her even at such a young age.
Only five short years later, my parents’ generation was once again reminded of ’63, as they were forced to endure the gruesome murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, only 63 days apart. What this generation did not realize, however, was that America’s favorite pastime could possibly provide some source of present healing for a city and a nation that were very much in shock.
As I write this in 2013, I hope to bring some light to this tumultuous week from June of 1968. You see, 45 years ago this week, Los Angeles was not only subjected to the tragic murder of yet another Kennedy brother, but they were also treated by the majesty of Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale, most assuredly as a sign of hope, a sign of better things to come.
Let me begin by briefly trying to map out of the political landscape of the Democratic Party at the time. The California Democratic Primary of 1968 was quickly evolving into one of the most important political races throughout the year. Originally, the general consensus was that LBJ, the sitting President at the time, would carry the Democratic nomination into the convention in Chicago. Pressures (and perhaps memories of JFK) were mounting, nonetheless, for fellow Democrat and New York Senator Robert Kennedy to challenge Johnson. Similar to today’s practices, it was considered to be of bad taste for a candidate from the same party to challenge a sitting President. Additionally, LBJ, against his best wishes, had endorsed Robert Kennedy for his Senate bid in 1964. So Kennedy patiently waited, perhaps as a sign of respect.
The game changed, however, when Eugene McCarthy (armed with the majority of the anti-war movement) mounted a ridiculously strong showing in the first primary at New Hampshire. Forever being labeled as an opportunist (usually in a negative fashion), RFK decided to throw his hat into the ring as well. Shockingly, President Johnson would soon withdraw from the race, making Kennedy and McCarthy (and eventually Humphrey) the key players on the Democratic side.
At the same time, the citizens of Los Angeles could turn to the sports section of the Los Angeles Times to read about the recent happenings at Dodger Stadium. A substantial buzz was developing regarding pitcher Don Drysdale’s consecutive shutout streak that began on May 14th in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Several weeks later on May 31st, he would proceed to tie a record that had been held for 64 years as he notched his 5th straight shutout in a 3-0 win over the Giants. June 4th was beginning to present itself as a day that might have historical implications of some sort, as Drysdale would attempt to break the record and California voters would also have a chance to help select a new Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. As the Dodgers star pitcher proceeded to break the record with a 5-0 shutout over the Pirates, all eyes turned to Kennedy and McCarthy, and later to the Ambassador Hotel.
It was unlikely that a victory in the California primary would clinch a nomination for any candidate, but it would provide some much needed momentum as the race progressed. After a hard-fought campaign on both sides, California voters showed up in full force and RFK narrowly defeated his opponent Eugene McCarthy, acquiring 46% of the votes. The charismatic and newly victorious Kennedy would go on to announce his victory at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. After being serenaded by chants of “We want Bobby, we want Kennedy,” RFK graciously thanked his supporters and quickly transitioned to his opening remarks.
“I want to first express my high regard to Don Drysdale…who pitched his sixth straight shutout tonight.”
The remark, quite obviously, was met with cheers and applause. Perhaps the statement was purely political. But then again, he had already been crowned victorious. He then proceeded to transition to the remainder of his victory speech by noting,
“And I hope that we have as good of fortune in our campaign.”
This lighthearted transition would unfortunately never be realized. Roughly twenty minutes later, Kennedy lay in a pool of his own blood in a kitchen of that same Ambassador Hotel. The man known simply as “Bobby” had been shot three times by a disgruntled 24-year old named Sirhan Sirhan.
And just like that, the nation, and more importantly the City of Angels had been dealt two consecutive victories followed by unbelievable tragedy all in the span of one day. Obviously they weren’t prepared to deal with this scenario, and they were left asking, “How will we cope with the heartbreak?”
Once again, the city would turn to their beloved Dodgers and their star pitcher, Don Drysdale. He had just broken the Major League Baseball record for consecutive shutouts (6), as Kennedy had mentioned, and he was still gunning for the consecutive scoreless innings streak. Ultimately, RFK died on June 6th, and his friend Don Drysdale was slated to take the mound two days later, with the chance of once again captivating the hearts of Dodgers fans in the process. This time, there was more at stake than simply inking a new Major League Baseball record. According to MLB.com columnist Ben Platt:
Drysdale set the record for consecutive scoreless innings with 58 2/3 (the record was later broken by former Dodgers right-hander Orel Hershiser, who hurled 59 straight scoreless innings, in 1988). As the pitcher stood on the mound to receive the accolades from the fans at Dodger Stadium, Drysdale wore a black armband in memory of his slain friend.
While the game of baseball most certainly didn’t provide permanent healing for a whole city, it did serve to provide a meaningful distraction. And that is how, in the summer of 1968, for the citizens of Los Angeles and baseball fans nationwide, baseball proved to be more than “just a game.”
(Thanks for reading. Come back tomorrow for some extra material, as I explore the rumor of Drysdale carrying a tape of Kennedy’s speech with him for the rest of his life.)
Where do you take a hobo for his first meal out of prison?
My best guess was Denny’s.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Back in my college days, some friends decided to start an outreach where they handed out food downtown. It sounded like a noble cause so eventually I decided to join them. Quickly I found myself thrust into a role that involved helping to plan some of these outings.
The whole operation seemed simple enough – bag up some PB&J’s, set up a table, and surely the people would come. It was a Kevin Costner philosophy of sorts. But we quickly discovered that PB&J’s just didn’t cut it, and that folding tables make for inconvenient barriers. So we changed our strategy. Over time, these sandwiches evolved into grilled cheese and bacon. And as a side note, I often left with the impression that Natty Ice goes with anything.
During these outings, we befriended a man named Earl who could change the mood of any conversation with his smile. One month, Earl disappeared, and the word on the street was (I’ve always wanted to use this cliché in a literal sense) that he was taken to prison.
By this time the semester had ended and most of our group was scattered across the east coast. I was still in town working only two or three days a week (picking up baseballs at a batting cage I might add), so I decided I would pay my good friend a surprise visit.
That morning, I made the short drive to what I thought was the mecca of redneck civilization (Bartow, Florida), and pulled into the poky visitation parking lot. I stood with a small group of people, presumably family members of other inmates, and the guards confiscated our keys, wallets, and every other last pocket-sized symbol of outside civilization. We made our way down the corridor and into the visitation area, surrounded by white cinderblock walls, which reminded me of my elementary school back in Indiana. I now sat inside these walls and pondered my surroundings, subconsciously learning many lessons in the process. But these were quick life lessons as opposed to something so trivial like primary colors in elementary school.
I looked at the phone I would use to talk to the man on the other side of the glass. Two seats to the left of me a lady was crying. Twenty feet to the right the guards were escorting a screaming man away. Knowing the visitation time was limited, I turned back to my friend and picked up the phone.
“Eh…what’s up man?”
I always was a sort of wordsmith when it came to sensitive situations. The two of us chatted for awhile before the guards escorted our group back to civilization.
Several months later Earl contacted me to let me know he would be getting out and he’d like a ride to downtown Lakeland. He didn’t have a cellphone now and I ended up wandering around downtown Bartow for 20 minutes until I finally found him.
“Hey man, you hungry?”
He complimented my Mercedes Corolla and we were on our way.
As we were driving I thought to myself, “Where do you take a hobo for his first meal out of prison?”
Ten minutes later I pulled into a Denny’s parking lot, a safe haven of sorts during my college years. I guess fate brought us to a small booth on that warm autumn day (remember, this is Florida).
I don’t really have a list of warm anecdotes to describe this time. He spent most of his time in the bathroom, and I nervously shuffled hash browns around my plate, wondering how I ever ended up in this situation.
My friend returned to the table with a smile on his face. “You know I been eatin prison food for months now…Denny’s just doesn’t agree with me.”
I smirked. I should’ve known better. Denny’s doesn’t really agree with anyone. And on that day, that might have been our common ground.
Life was getting weirder and weirder at that time, and I started finding myself in more and more new and unusual situations, while still cherishing the familiar.
So like every other time I’d sat in that booth in college, I shrugged and took another sip of my drink and continued to show that Grand Slam who was boss.
Yesterday my boss asked me what all I was going to do on my week off in Florida and I told him I had plans to attend a couple of Spring Training games.
“Is Spring Training kind of like preseason football?”
My initial reaction was to give him some sort of condescending look, as if to say, “How could you even ask such a question?” But instead I regrouped and simply denied the accusation that Spring Training was just preseason baseball. Frustrated, I walked away realizing I didn’t have the time to really attempt to give the explanation I had hoped for.
You see, I think at the root of every conversation we have a deep longing to be understood. The struggle for all of us, and especially those who attempt written or verbal communication, is that a proper understanding typically necessitates some level of experience. Most people have experienced a baseball game in some capacity, and they’ve experienced many of the other components of Spring Training in separate areas of life, but the idea of these components coexisting has never come into the picture. So I’m going to try and link some of these experiences.
While I’ve watched baseball sporadically for most of my life, my best memories go back to my days in college. For eight years, I lived in Lakeland, Florida, Spring Training home of the Detroit Tigers. However, I never actually took advantage of this location until I was a year or two into college. But for a couple of short months at the beginning of 2007, America’s pastime became a large and consuming part of my present.
Initially I started showing up at some of the practices because I collect autographs (or as some of my friends call it, professional stalking). The more time I spent around the stadium, the more leads I began following to uncovering why people would spend so much time there, especially on non-game days. So several days a week you could find me out in the backfields, lugging around a baseball bat, trying to get as many players from the roster to sign as I could. Some days my mother would join me, other days I would take friends from school, as I spent many, many hours out there simply waiting.
Starting off, spending all of this time waiting was a major buzzkill. I began observing the dozens, sometimes hundreds of people out there to figure out how they passed the time. Many of them had traveled from Michigan for the week, as they had been doing for a number of years. Others were locals who were deprived of pro baseball for the previous ten months of the past year. With this being my first season out there, I was incredibly envious of the stories they possessed. I relished the rare opportunity to share a story of my own from a previous day or week with a family that had just arrived for their yearly trip. Often these stories were probably embellished, but being veterans of the game as they were, these families recognized this and still allowed me to take my turn (figuring I would probably pass the memories along to a family of my own some day).
Before I knew it, several more weeks had passed and I became one of the couple of dozens of people who lined the sidewalks and watched the moving trucks pack up the complex to head back to Detroit. I tried to fill the next ten months with watching baseball on TV and attending minor league games, but Spring Training had now seduced me and left in the middle of the night.
I trudged through the ensuing months with spring in mind. While I had worked outside of school through the end of high school and the majority of college, I had decided to take a semester off from work. Additionally, I was commuting to school and structured my schedule so my classes would only fall three days a week. Now I’ve never been an opportunist of sorts, but even I could see that the stars were lining up and the spring of 2008 was shaping up to be a great one. One of those rare moments where expectations might just match up with reality.
February rolled around and the moving trucks pulled up in the same haste they had left with in the previous spring. The only difference, of course, was that smiles had replaced the frowns on the faces of the fans lining the sidewalks. And this year, these faces were familiar to me. This year, I had a year’s worth of true stories to share with people. This year, I pledged to somehow surpass the experiences of the previous spring.
Once again, the weeks passed and the “waiting times” were just as incredible as they had been the previous season. Getting an autograph here and there was just a bonus. But I needed something to put things over the top. A defining moment of sorts. That’s when I saw a headline and got a crazy idea. “Detroit Tigers to Hold Tryouts in Lakeland, Florida.” I was unemployed and on Spring break; I had to go. Some friends thought it was funny while others thought it was foolish, but I justified it by telling them I was doing it for my baseball blog. Deep down, I just wanted to do it. I showed up in my basketball shorts and tank, despite not having played since I was in Little League, had a blast, and will never forget the thrills of that day (I’ll be brief about the experience since I’ve already written about it before). The best part was I still had a whole month before spring of 2008 was over. I knew better, but for those short moments, I felt like I had it all.
Looking back, 2008 was the last full spring I got to spend at the baseball fields, and it most certainly had its ups and downs. Occasionally I would travel the 30 minutes to Winter Haven to catch an Indians game in their last season at Chain of Lakes Park. I was also privileged to be there for the very last Indians last game in Winter Haven. When all was said and done, people were ripping signs off the walls, taking pictures, and doing whatever they could to somehow help preserve the feelings of spring. I saw grown men covered from head to toe in baseball apparel crying. I could picture Tom Hanks screaming, “There’s no crying in baseball!” but deep down a part of me understood. There was a real pain for these people knowing that when the moving trucks rolled around in a few days, they wouldn’t be back the next spring.
Now that I think about it, I’ve shared similar sentiments since moving out of the sunshine state. Real life sort of got in the way and the fantasy is gone. There are a lot more responsibilities I have to take care of compared to those spring seasons of my college days. I know I’ll probably never spend a full spring out there again, but that won’t stop me from enjoying the few times I get to go back and spend a day there.
So when my boss asks me, “Is Spring Training kind of like preseason football?” I sort of shrug my shoulders.
He doesn’t need to hear about the time I stumbled into Peter Gammons while sitting at a fence by myself, the time I ran across a not-so-sober Lou Whitaker, or the time I tried out for the Detroit Tigers. But the vacationing families, the familiar faces, and most importantly, my friends and family out at the ballpark…they do need to hear those stories.
And once again (even if for just a day), I’ll head out to the ballpark with my family, and I’ll feel like I have it all.
I feel like I’m really doing myself a major disservice here if I don’t start writing about basketball more often. And soon. Now there are a number of storylines going on right now that I should discuss (the demise of the Lakers, Paul George slowly becoming a star, the reemergence of the Knicks, etc.), but something happened yesterday that surpasses them all in terms of importance.
The time was 2:38 in the afternoon and I get the dreaded text. “rondo torn acl ouch.”
Honestly, my first thoughts were selfish. I have a small amount of money on the line for my fantasy basketball league that has become somewhat of a tradition with some friends from high school. I laugh at the idea of Moneyball. I spent 50% of my fantasy budget on LeBron James and another 25% of the budget on Rajon Rondo (or as I call them LebRondo). And admittedly, team Roe v. DWade has been performing very well (I actually picked up a few great role players on the cheap including DRose). The money will be nice (I still plan on winning), but the bragging rights are worth so much more.
But the biggest blows from yesterday were not dealt to my wallet or my pride. They were dealt to the NBA and the sport of basketball. While Rondo is currently my second favorite player in the league behind Kobe, I’ll admit, when Rondo was new to the league, I wasn’t a fan at all. He was cocky, he couldn’t shoot, and I felt just about anyone could dish the ball to KG, Pierce, and Ray Allen at that point in their careers. But the more I watched him, the more I realized I was way wrong. Let me spare you all the details and instead show you the top two Rondo moments that cemented my sentiments for him:
- May 7, 2011. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Boston trails in the series 2-0 at this point and the team desperately needs a win. In a dirty play (one of many in Wade’s career), Rondo dislocates his elbow but essentially plays the rest of the game with one arm (and does so efficiently), netting Boston the win.
- Rondo plays every second of 53 minutes. Game 2 against the Heat 2012. 44 pts, 10 dimes, 8 boards (unfortunately Boston would end up losing the game).
I have no doubt in my mind that Rondo will come back strong next season, but his injury comes at a crucial time in Celtics history. While I’m not a huge Celtics fan (in the same way I don’t like the Knicks), any team that has that kind of history needs to be able to be a force in the league. There’s a remarkable buzz and energy about the league when one of its historic franchises begins a path of repeating history with new players. I love watching Knicks home games this year – NYC loves Knicks basketball. One of my bucket list items is to experience a playoff game at MSG. I feel the same about the Celtics and the TD Garden.
Unfortunately, despite the return of Avery Bradley, KG and Pierce simply can’t shoulder the load any more. Analysts were calling for Rondo to do more. Magic Johnson, looking through his own eyes, said Rondo should score more (repeating a similar situation where Pat Riley commanded Johnson to do the same). But Magic and Rondo aren’t the same kind of point guards. Even though he has developed a 15 footer, the Celtics never needed more scoring from Rondo. They needed their older veterans to go back in time and do something that was simply not possible. And the city of Boston knew that, but they still unfairly put that impossible burden on the back of Rajon Rondo. Death in any form is hard to handle, and even though it might seem trivial to some people, the slow death of a good basketball team is hard to watch. Doc Rivers is already telling people not to count the Celtics out. I’m sorry Doc, but this team finally lost its heart and soul yesterday.
I feel like I’m turning a new corner in life. I write this sentence in part because it’s encouraging for myself to see it, and also because I want people to help try and keep me on the right track. As I mentioned previously, I’ve had some major struggles with faith in the last six months. While I can’t adequately summarize these thoughts and struggles in one statement, I would say it had little to do with doubt and more to do with purpose. One of my pastors always says, “Imagine what your prayers would look like if you felt God were listening.” I agree that this is a very powerful statement. On the contrary, I felt like God was listening and not acting at all. And it was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I had been strung along for several years now and I refused to talk to him. I felt like all prayer was meant to do was to change our perspective so much that our minds were essentially tricked.
Faced with these thoughts, I had to take a huge step back from leadership. I had, after all, essentially moved away from faith. Its not that I wanted to leave the realm of faith, but I just didn’t feel anything like a man of faith. But this necessary action proved to be a debilitating change for some time. I’d spent the last 6+ years getting an education and preparing to help plant a church. I had placed my identity in all these things and when they came into question it crumbled. So there was never any formal announcement, but I stepped away from helping to plan the church, from leading the meetings, and even really contributing. I quietly showed up week after week. I was miserable.
Thankfully I had a few good friends in the process. I won’t say I was overwhelmed by a great amount of people, but it did allow me to see who was there for me and that I need to stop shutting so many people out. The natural introvert in me forced me to withdraw for the longest time, leaving my own self as my chief source of influence. Influence is a great force in life, and when we deny our exposure to good sources of influence, we become dark and calloused. I was in dire need of a change of perspective. However, I was in deep enough that the change is still very slow and painful.
Change, nevertheless, is beginning to take place. Over the last four days I have been able to pray a little bit again. Hearing and reading the Bible doesn’t disgust me. I feel at peace again. I feel the desire to write again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hanging up a bunch of Thomas Kinkaid paintings or anything, but I feel I’m back on the right track. So I would appreciate your prayers during this time.
Earlier this week I was approached with the question, “Do you have any regrets in this life?”
Now if you don’t want to read the rest of this entry, here’s the bottom line: Yes, I do have regrets. And I will at least try and make significant efforts to own up to my mistakes.
So now that my Internet tough guy routine is out of the way, I’m going to use an Alice in Chains song to help unpack these thoughts a little bit.
(Have I really gone this long without exposing my love for 90’s grunge?)
There are many interpretations of the song Love, Hate, Love, and singer Layne Staley simply noted it to be “a song about pain.” In the song, the singer longs to love a girl so much that he ends up trying to control her, thus hurting her. We can’t act on good intentions alone.
I feel like I can relate here. I had my first serious relationship when I was in my late teens. I had the best of intentions. But I became very controlling. Over the course of a year and a half, I tried to dictate every course of action not only when we were together, but also when we were apart. Did I have a clue things were getting to this point? Unfortunately not. So she chose freedom, and I don’t blame her. And years later, we’re on good terms.
But I don’t feel like that should eliminate regrets.
“I have no regrets” is difficult for me to interpret, so I’m probably about to simplify the phrase too much. But I almost feel like it’s used as a defense mechanism of sorts. Kind of like “I’m not happy with what I’ve done and I’m willingly practicing denial so back off.” And even so, it’s probably better than the alternative. Because if a further response is prompted for the perceived lack of regrets, the reply is typically, “I learned a lot from the situation” or “I grew a lot as a person then.”
Let me get this straight. You have no problem hurting someone else if you can manage to be educated in some manner or fashion? That doesn’t really sit well with me. Our learning shouldn’t necessarily come from making people expendable or even causing them some sort of pain. When I make these sorts of statements, I haven’t learned, and I haven’t grown.
So in the end, I regret some of my actions. I will try and remember the pain I have caused others. I will try and consider this when making decisions in the future.
But I can’t control the past. And I will sleep well tonight.
Very rarely do my public writings and private scribbles resemble one other. You don’t really think I journal about meeting pro wrestlers, do you? But there is a time and place for all things, as I find this entry to be a matter of deep and personal importance (although I will only be sharing the basics for now).
Over the last four months, my thoughts regarding faith have been rocky at best. And the last two months have been pretty dark. Now it’s not like there was one event that brought everything into question, but it was more or less a chain of frustrating thoughts and times. Being an introvert, this causes me to keep to myself even more (I apologize to those of you who I might have seemed aloof around), and I pour myself even more into my work. I recognize that this isn’t healthy, and I’ve been able to talk to a few close friends about matters.
But these conversations didn’t happen immediately – I was pretty guarded. I guess what makes it so challenging to me is that over the last ten years, I have built an identity around the idea of faith. So in this case, when one’s faith is in question, one’s identity seemingly crumbles as well.
And through all of this, I was afraid to tell people. I didn’t want to come off as a fraud. I was afraid it would hurt people in some way. I was afraid it would hurt the church I am working with. So I put on my best church leader mask and hated who I was.
Realizing I couldn’t do this anymore, I began to open up to a few close friends. Several encouraging thoughts emerged throughout these conversations. To begin with, this struggle, even though not my ideal situation, denotes some sort of movement of faith. It’s not a loss of faith.
Finally, several people expressed to me that many people navigate struggles in faith. I’ve wrestled a little already in the past two years, but never to this extent. And to be honest, I almost felt as if my two faith-related degrees entitled me to some sort of supernatural faith. But at the end of the day, faith is still faith. You can’t just go out and earn it.
So my big question was, if so many people struggle with faith, why don’t we hear about it more? Why don’t we try and facilitate these conversations? And that’s really where this post ends. Sorry if you were expecting some type of Touched by An Angel feel-good ending. Here is my forum to express these struggles. Feel free to join me.
In one of my previous entries, I hinted at the fact that blogging provides a healthy challenge for me. While I really enjoy writing, I struggle to release any form of that writing without constantly re-reading it and squirming as I try and hit the publish button.
I think a lot of this comes from being introverted. And I have no problems with being an introvert (which really deals more with gathering and expending energy for people – I’d like to elaborate on some introvert/extrovert thoughts but I’ll hold off for now). One of the byproducts of introversion, however, is that words seem to become extremely valuable. In other words, if you rarely speak, you want to make certain that your words accurately represent what you’re trying to convey. There is no room for rephrasing and elaborating (yes, that last sentence was included purely for self-satisfaction).
While I whole-heartedly agree that all words should be considered before spoken, this sort of mindset also places some unnecessary pressures on people. I’ve always run into this when writing, preaching, speaking, and teaching (all things that I love to do). Additionally, I always thought that if I could verbally convey the Gospel in just the right way, change and a love for God would naturally follow. Or if I could’ve presented moral principles better in my Ethics class, it would possibly be life changing instead of a grade needed to move along. But that kind of attitude really cheapens the process of communication. And I should know better.
Just the other day, I was reading an interview with another introvert, Neil Peart (you might know him as the drummer and lead lyricist from the band Rush). In talking about lyrical inspiration, Peart notes:
“I always thought if I could just put something in words perfectly enough, people would get the idea and it would change things. That’s a harmless conceit.”
I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the interview, but I found this tidbit to be somewhat comforting and humbling at the same time. At one point, I felt my greatest strength in writing was an ability to progressively organize thoughts. Now I almost feel like this obsession is preventing me from writing at all. So from here on out, I want to try and find some type of balance. While I want to continue to choose my words wisely, I also want to focus less on “perfection” and more on writing and releasing. Lately I have been journaling a lot of thoughts in a notebook and leaving them there. No rewriting. No editing. It’s been pretty enjoyable.
Now I have no idea how to end this blog. In the past I likely would’ve scrapped the whole effort. Progress?
P.S. I re-read this entry way too many times.