You can’t spell Spurrier
without a “U” and a “T”

Vols 31, Gamecocks 24

It’s a shame that Steve Spurrier has done away with his visor. The Ol’ Ball Coach could have added his famous half-hat to the mix as the South Carolina fans tossed trash and other debris onto the field. Rough game for the Vols, but hats off to them for the win. It’s tough to mount a fourth-quarter offensive, but Tennessee has pulled it off two times in as many weeks.

It feels good to be 7-1 again, but I hope Ainge’s ankle recovers for a November schedule that won’t be quite the cakewalk it usually is.

Smoggy Smoke on Rocky Top

Vols 16, Crimson Tide 13

Years before tradition was trumped by the timidity of political correctness, it was custom for the winning team of the Tennessee-Alabama football game to smoke cigars together in victory. A few years ago, the institutional powers-that-be decided that universities that send out their students to bludgeon themselves in a football game shouldn’t be exposed to the more serious dangers of second-hand smoke. A locker room cigar ban was put in place.

Rumor has it, however, that the restrictions were given a wink and a nod, and the tradition continues to this day. If the rumor is true, then the Volunteer locker room tonight is a haven for smoggy smoke.

Despite the rankings, along with the naysayings of the Alabama fans, today’s game was a classic battle worthy of the rivalry. Though Tennessee never really did figure out the Bama defense, Ainge and Co.’s persistent offense paid off. There were a few pretty bad calls made by the Vol offense, most notably the 4th and 1 quarterback sneak when the Tide made it no mystery that they were going to block — you guessed it — the quarterback sneak.

Yet another network (this time CBS) outmentioned David Cutcliffe to Phillip Fulmer 10-1. Cutcliffe was in the box, and even managed more facetime than Fulmer. I don’t really have a comment about it, I’m just saying…

All in all, it’s a victory I’ll gladly celebrate. If I only had a cigar…

Alabama Fans

I love Alabama fans. I have to. After all, an entire branch of my family tree comes from the Southern state that stars fell upon. Growing up as a Tennessee fan with an Alabama-alumnus father made for an interesting time come football season. I and my brothers were forced to wear crimson clothing as young children, the photographs of which popped up at inopportune times like wedding receptions.

In case you’re not from the South, you may not know that the Third Saturday in October traditionally plays host to the Tennessee-Alabama game. And traditionally, Alabama fans lead up to game day with a grand chorus of downplay and self-doubt.

No matter what the Tide’s record, Bama fans always set themselves up for a loss. “Alabama is sorry this year,” they’ll say, “it’s a wonder that they’ve even won a game.” And so the the naysaying will go. Every. Single. Year.

And yet Alabama leads the historic rivalry 44-37-7.

This year, the #7 Vols outrank the unranked Tide in the polls. Tennessee (5-1) has a better record against better teams than does Alabama (5-2). Ostensibly, the Vols have better players — and we all know that Tennessee head coach David Cutcliffe can outsmart Bama coach Dennis Franchione with ease.

Just this once, I’ll agree with the Bama fans. Alabama really is “sorry.”

And yet…

And yet it is still the Third Saturday in October. The slate is cleared every time — and every time, I hope the Bama fans are right.

(In)fertile Israel: The State as God in the Promised Land

Do we have a right to have children? If so, whose job is it to guarantee this right? These are tricky questions. On one hand we are faced with the biblical injunction to “be fruitful and multiply,” and on the other hand, there are those who are willing to lay aside any ethical considerations in order to fulfill that mandate.

Perhaps the much abused vernacular of “rights” is inappropriate for a discussion that’s better framed in terms of privilege and blessing. It seems that whenever rights are on the table, someone gets them wrong. This story out of Israel is a good example of the recklessness with which some seek the so-called right of parenthood:

Every Israeli woman, regardless of marital status, is entitled to have two children through in-vitro fertilization, no matter how many courses of treatment it takes, the cost of which is heavily subsidized by the state. In North America, such treatments can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And Israel performs more IVF than anywhere else in the world — an average of more than 3,300 cycles per million people in 2002 — compared with rates of between 200-300 in Canada and the United States.

But while Israel’s goals — to reinforce the value of the Jewish family in a state where birth rates of Jewish and Arab Israelis are carefully scrutinized — are generally popular here, this open-door approach to complicated reproductive technology is drawing increasing criticism, in part for providing treatment to some women who would be turned away from clinics elsewhere as unlikely to conceive.

When I was in Israel several years ago, I asked an Israeli how he felt about its socialist government. He said that he didn’t mind the loss of freedoms and high taxes because he felt that they needed it in order to be more secure. While I found the inherent security of socialism questionable, my friend’s answer reflected typical statist thinking — the assumed goodwill of the state, and the general acknowledgment of its supremacy.

It seems in this instance that the state of Israel is putting itself in the place of God. Indeed, the article goes on:

“The first [instruction] we have in the Bible is ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ ” said Avraham Steinberg, a professor of medical ethics at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “This combination of, on one hand, having an ideology to have children and seeing this as a blessing, and on the other hand having this survivor philosophy – this combination calls for this state support for fertility. I think it’s worth it, based on the principle that couples who have a chance should be given a chance.”

Who is the giver of this chance? The state, of course — and a state that serves as guarantor of fertility attempts to fulfill a role that only God can. Notice here how easily the blessing is cast aside in place of the pragmatic need for “survival.” Sadly, the casualty in this type of survival is the soul of a nation. When families and their children become bodies rather than blessings, mankind has devolved into mechanism.

The Real World is Not Virtual

What in our lives can’t we do on the web?

We can order pizza, groceries, clothing, and DVD’s (what more could one need?) over the internet. We can telecommute to work, have the WebMD diagnose our illnesses, and get spiritual nourishment at Cyber-Church. We can make our friends at MySpace, find our spouses through E-Harmony, and tell all about it with in-depth detail on our blogs. Our baby pictures are found at Flickr, and when we die, those who still remain our friends list or blogrolls can find our graves at

An entire life can be lived online. Almost.

Of course what is missing from the above scenario, among other things, is the act of meeting someone face to face.

Martha Irvine has penned a thoughtful, must-read piece for the AP that highlights a few young Americans who are giving up their Facebook and MySpace accounts in exchange for actually meeting people face to face in the real world. Irvine interviewed Michael Bugeja, author of Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age:

Though he’s not anti-technology, Bugeja often lectures students about “interpersonal intelligence” – knowing when, where and for what purpose technology is most appropriate.

He points out the students he’s seen walking across campus, holding hands with significant others while talking on cell phones to someone else. He’s also observed them in coffee shops, surrounded by people, but staring instead at a computer screen.

“True friends,” he tells them, “need to learn when to stop blogging and go across campus to help a friend.”

Even introverts like me still have the need for face to face contact that can’t be replaced by the internet — no matter how “connected” it makes us. I’ve worked in places where colleagues would page each other over the intercom rather than walk the ten or twenty feet to the office next door. Sure, time and energy may be saved via technology, but lost is the invaluable non-verbal communication that could likewise reduce wasted resources.

The point is that while the soul can be honed and shaped by wired (or wireless) connectedness, we must always be aware that it carries with it an inherent disconnectedness that can only be bridged through person-to-person contact.

Party Between the Hedges

Vols 51, Bulldogs 33

Tennessee hasn’t looked better this century.

In fact they haven’t looked better this millennium. With the exception of our familiar not-so-special teams, the Vols looked eerily flawless against Georgia tonight. Erik Ainge was spot-on perfect with 267 passing yards against one of the most touted defenses in the country. Bret Smith aptly showed that he is more than an also-ran receiver with 94 yards, and Robert Meachem was, well — Robert Meachem.

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that the Volunteer defense was brutal against the Dogs, forcing 4 turnovers. Jonathan Wade was the cause of one of those, and it’s not a stretch to say he’s one of the teams MVP’s.

One interesting thing I noticed: on the ESPN broadcast, David Cutcliffe’s name was mentioned ten times for every time Fulmer’s was…

Christianity and Its Competition

This New York Times article entitled “Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers,” seems misunderstood on many levels, the least of which is its assumption that evangelical Christianity is merely an alternative to the cornucopia of other lifestyles available to today’s teens. This statement, in particular, is telling:

Genuine alarm can be heard from Christian teenagers and youth pastors, who say they cannot compete against a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion, and the casual “hooking up” approach to sex so pervasive on MTV, on Web sites for teenagers and in hip-hop, rap and rock music.

The notion that following Christ is in competition with these other, less wholesome activities misunderstands not only the world, but Christianity itself. Indeed, Christ does not call his followers to compete with the world so much as he calls them to run a completely different race.

Molestation Nation

A week ago, after watching an episode of Criminal Minds on CBS that dealt with a pedophile, I remarked to my wife how pedophilia had become the crime du jour in popular culture. After all, it’s hard to find these days a television crime drama that hasn’t tracked down a villainous child molester just in the nick of time. Even on reality TV, Dateline NBC makes catching pedophiles a regular event.

Little did I know that a couple of days later the Mark Foley scandal would break, giving pedophilia and even larger stage. Only days after that, it came to light that the Amish school shooter was likewise a pedophile.

I’m not sure what to make of all this, but I am certain that it’s abhorrent. Do I think there’s a connection between more frequent portrayals of pedophilia in pop culture and more frequent instances of pedophilia? Probably not. I do, however think that it’s interesting how the last sexual behavior that is almost universally condemned has gained such a public forum. On one hand it is good because it makes us aware that there are twisted, evil people like Mark Foley out there waiting to prey on our children. Let us take heed and be on our guard.

On the other hand, I fear that such an obsession with pedophilia as occurs in our culture today desensitizes us. The gravity of the crime is lessened as it becomes more commonplace (I’m speaking primarily about fictional accounts in TV and movies). I pray that we do not lose our outrage at such sins.

Sin is not a word that many like to use. These days, it’s typically reserved for high crimes like murder, rape, and pedophilia. Even then, more often than not these crimes are attributed to childhood experiences or social factors rather than resident evil in a person. And so it goes with sin. Once the weight of a sin is lightened, we tend to give it a new label. It’s not so bad, is it?

One by one we’ve seen sexual sins normalized, made commonplace, and even praised. I pray to God we keep pedophilia away from this trend. Let us give it the proper gravity, and let us be shocked, disgusted, and just.