Game 7

I’m a huge Hawks fan, having grown up in Chicago, and these last few years have been a stellar time to be a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks.  In the last five years, the Hawks have won the best trophy in sports twice and are still alive for a third in the last five years.

In order to achieve that third Stanley Cup Championship in the last five years, the Hawks will first have to get past the Los Angeles Kings in a Game Seven Sunday night in Chicago at the Madhouse on Madison (also known as the United Center)


Here are some numbers to get you ready for the final game of the Western Conference Finals to see who will play the New York Rangers in the Finals


are 6-0 in elimination games this postseason so far, tied for the second most wins under those circumstances ever in a single postseason (the 1975 New York Islanders won 8 elimination games).


are 2-0 in elimination games this postseason, but are 5-0 in the last two seasons when their backs are against the wall.

The LA Kings are 7-1 in the last two postseasons in games in which they can be eliminated.

That one loss?  To the Blackhawks last season.

The LA Kings own Game 7s.  Current LA Kings players have played in a combined 77 Game 7s.  The Kings players are 70-7 in those Game 7s.   Gaborik, Williams, and Richards are each 6-0 in Game 7s in their career.  Carter is 4-0 and Quick is 3-0.  The team is 2-0 in Game 7s in this postseason.

The Blackhawks own Games 5-7 lately.  In the last two seasons, the Blackhawks are 13-0 in Games 5-7, 6-0 this postseason in those games.  This is the first Game 7 for the Blackhawks for this postseason.

The Kings are the third team to play all 21 possible games in the first three rounds.  The 93 Maple Leafs played all 21 games and lost to the Kings.  The 02 Avs played all 21 possible games and lost to the Red Wings.

Prior to this season, no team had ever faced two game sevens in the first two rounds and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Now, only the New York Rangers of this season have achieved this, and they did it by facing a Montreal team that lost its best player (Carey Price) in the first game of the series for the entire series.

The Kings struggle in the postseason in Chicago.  They are 1-8 in Chicago in the playoffs with the one win coming this season in game 2.  The Kings are 5-11 all time against the Blackhawks in the playoffs.  In the last two seasons, the Kings are 1-5 in Chicago in the playoffs and are 4-10 against the Hawks the last two playoffs against the Hawks.  The Hawks were also 3-0 against the Kings in the regular season this year.

The Blackhawks own their home ice this postseason (as they did last year).  This year, the Hawks are 8-1 at home in these playoffs.  They are 18-3 in the last two seasons at home in the playoffs.

Jonathan Quick comes up big in big games.  This season when facing elimination, Quick is 6-0 with a 1.33 GAA and a .957 save percentage.

Crawford is big when the lights are brightest as well.  He is 9-2 in his career when the Blackhawks are facing elimination.

When he has a chance to eliminate the other team, Crawford is otherworldly.  In those situations he is 6-1 with a 1.4 goals against and a .950 save percentage.

Crawford at home in the playoffs this season is 8-1 with a 1.89 GAA and a .936 save percentage.

Quick in Chicago in the playoffs in his career is 1-5 with a 3.16 GAA and a .888 save percentage.

Sure the Kings have been great so far this season facing elimination, but the Hawks don’t usually let the other team up when they have a chance to close out their opponent.  In the last six seasons, the Blackhawks are 12-1 with a chance to finish off the other team.

Obviously, as a Hawks fan, I believe Chicago will win, but the numbers seem to be in their favor as well.  However, the game isn’t played on paper, it’s played on the ice.  It should be great.

Go Hawks!

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 18

“They named the bow Wiliken,” said the githzerai. The tribunal of Douglas, the wizard Jenkins, and the Baroness of Felshore sat before him, not in some regal courtroom or even in a public square. The three protectors of the Shining City sat on a bed in the barracks, and the githzerai on a wooden chair, no chains and no ropes, but also nowhere to hide. “I think it was the githzerai elders. I have trouble remembering that time. My adopted father named me Embrion, just as I named my own son Embrion, but I took the name Iiuza while training to become a blackguard, and so also with my son. The nearest translation for the deep tongue word wiliken is ‘true shot.’ As for Iiuza, this word means ‘Son of Iuz.'”

A chill went through the room. None in the Felshore seemed to have any problem speaking of the kingdom of Iuz, the Iuzians, nor even the dark Lord Iuz himself, but the githzerai suspected that Iuz had a different meaning in this city out of time. For the Shining City mere moments had passed between the complete destruction of the surrounding areas and the future some decades later, but for the githzerai and the rest of the world the time had crawled. The hours and days crawled slowly during the in-between time, and as the world began to forget the city that once was, the rumors had spread of how it was put to ruin, tendrils of gossip running from village to village about the one responsible. It was the Son of Iuz, a legendary figure whose heart was supposedly filled with malice. The githzerai could see the truth unfolding in the eyes of those gathered, for even during their short tenure in this time period they must have become acquainted with the cautionary tomes, the vulgar drawings on ruins, but now they understood that the destroyer, this Son of Iuz, sat before them and they were reverent to that fact.

“You,” said Douglas. “You brought this city to ruin. You murdered countless innocents. It was YOU who fired the arcane weapon upon us.”

“And it was only because of those gathered before me today that the death toll was not greater,” the githzerai said. “I am no arcanist, but it was I who gathered all of the innocent children needed to power the weapon, and it was I who introduced them to my blade. I suspect Valgaman was looking for history to repeat itself when he invited me to his palace. Perhaps my son requested that he invite me as a test, to see if I am the ‘traitor’ he believes me to be. But I would not repeat what I did that day. I vowed never to kill an innocent or to raise my hand to one weaker than myself as I watched that beautiful city fall. I dropped my sword and have never again picked it up. That said, I am responsible for enough deaths to damn myself a thousand times over, and none of my actions since then can atone for what I have done.”

There was silence.

“Are you surprised your son followed in your footsteps?” Douglas asked.

“He couldn’t follow in my footsteps,” the githzerai said. “I was born with a father who cared for me, who guided me on the path to manhood. True, he was an Iuzian, and his love lead me to a very destructive place, but I always felt supported. My son… was never supported. At least, not by me. When he was old enough he trained to be blackguard. The son of Iiuza, and yet he struck fear in nobody. He was never meant to be a warrior. He should have been something better, perhaps a builder or a poet. But he took the name Iiuza even though it didn’t fit, and his cruelty surpassed my own. I never wanted to prove myself evil. I just followed the path set before me. Embrion is set on proving to the world that he was chosen by the god Iuz, and I’m convinced he’ll kill anyone… perhaps everyone… to make his point.”

The three judges exchanged glances. Is this the moment, the githzerai wondered. Is this the moment where they hold me before their justice? When they pronounce my death?

The baroness looked forlorn. “Iiuza… Or Embrion… How do we stop him?”

“I’d hoped to devise a plan with Jurgen,” said the githzerai. “He had suggested that I help him find the remnants of the arcane weapon. I had intended to tell him whatever he wanted to know if he’d help me rescue my wife and stop my son. But now Jurgen is gone…”

The darkness that had first crossed the baroness’s face had crept its way onto the visage of both Douglas and the wizard. This was the moment in which all would be revealed. The githzerai expected that they would find his answers not good enough. He expected death, and in the most private confines of his heart he welcomed it. There had been a moment when the githzerai first saw Douglas again in which he’d wanted to bum rush the man, to snap his neck before the wizard could strike him down. If he had only been allowed to leave the Felshore instead of spending those long weeks imprisoned. If only he could have sent a message. But Douglas’s only concern was for the precious city. In that moment, the githzerai had wanted to kill them all for letting his wife die. In truth, the githzerai knew that he could have broken out of his prison at any moment, and if he’d really been that concerned he could have escaped the city without anyone noticing. It didn’t matter that Douglas watched his every move. If he’d cared he could have been invisible. But he didn’t care. His wife’s blood was on the githzerai’s own hands. He was alone in the world, without purpose, wasting away the moments until “Iiuza” caught the githzerai and murdered him for a blood traitor. Better that Douglas kill him now.

“Do you have a backup plan?” Jenkins asked.

“No,” the githzerai said. “I would have to think about it.”

“Then you will think about it outside of this dank prison,” Jenkins said. “The Shining City is open to you in its entirety, and you are free.”

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 19.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 17

Heightened awareness has its advantages, but it has its disadvantages as well. That evening, after Jean-Baptiste parted ways with the githzerai, as Wiliken attempted to go to sleep, the new level of understanding he had reached was much more taxing than ever before.

Wiliken could feel his bow through the wall that separated them. It was not just there. It was as if the bow were running its hand along the wall, tapping here and there, trying to communicate something to him. He could feel tendrils of consciousness emitting from the device, slithering through holes in the matrix of space, creeping ever closer to the githzerai.

Conscious or not, there was no reason to believe that the bow wished its owner any harm. The dreams that the weapon provoked whenever Wiliken slept within close proximity of it were frightening, just as any unexpected glimpse into some higher power might be, and yet they did not seem to mean him harm. Though the vision of the camel prompted the githzerai to act foolishly and get a group of party guests killed, the vision itself lead Wiliken to free a wise old man stuck in animal form. That man was Jean-Baptiste, and for all Wiliken knew the mystic may have been the only thing that kept Douglas, Jenkins and the Baroness of Felshore from relieving Wiliken of his head. For the most part, Wiliken believed that the bow had, for lack of better words, good intentions.

But then there was the one dream that Wiliken could not shake. He remembered witnessing death and destruction across the entire empire, and not in some abstract way. Clear scenes of real people in real turmoil had appeared before his eyes. A woman dressed in rags being raped by a brute of a man with thick hair on his knuckles. Nearby a church aflame, its bell still ringing as the flames raced up to silence it. A boy coming home to find his baby brother, still in his crib, but in pieces. The githzerai wondered how pictures like this could lead to any kind of greater good. Was he supposed to stop them? And if so, why so many scenes of the problem and none of the solution?

It was these troubling thoughts that occupied Wiliken’s mind until he finally drifted off to sleep. What greeted him in his slumber was the most realistic vision of them all.

At first, the githzerai had thought he was witnessing a continuation of his recurring dreams of death and destruction, and, in truth, he was. But this one was different. There was a woman running. At first she was carrying some clothing and picture frames, but after stumbling on loose cobblestone they all fell to the ground and she was too imperiled to pick them back up. When she got back to her feet, the hood covering her face fell, revealing Wiliken’s wife Iseley. The githzerai attempted to will the dream in another direction, to give more force to Iseley’s flight or at the very least to wake up from his nightmare, but events continued unaffected by his thoughts and Wiliken was powerless to stop them.

Behind Iseley was a hunting party of some twenty Iuzian soldiers. Guilt colored the vision blue, for it was certainly Wiliken’s decision to stand against Valgaman’s torture that brought down the ire of the empire upon his wife. Yet, there, at the head of the party, was the one Iuzian Wiliken was certain would keep his wife safe, his son, the one they called Iiuza. His laugh was a cackle, and he taunted Iseley, calling her a traitor. The hunting party cornered the githzerai’s wife in no time, and Iiuza held a blade to his mother’s throat.

“You will die an unpleasant death,” he said. “A traitor’s death. The same death that father has waiting for him.”

With a quick flick of the wrist, Iiuza opened a gash in his mother’s throat that would never close again. She collapsed as her lifeblood soaked the street and snaked eventually into a gutter. Wiliken felt his mind hovering over the scene, and with one last push, he attempted to manifest himself into the dream, to take flesh and strike his son, or at least to hold his wife in her last moments. Doing so made him feel like his skin was on fire. He remained stationary in that place of terror until his body naturally awoke.

The other visions had been of events that would happen in the future, events that the githzerai could reasonably affect and turn another way, but this one felt different. It happened under the same stars that Wiliken would be able to see were he a free githzerai, people dressed for the same weather. The vision described events that were happening simultaneously as Wiliken slept. He had just witnessed his wife’s murder in real time.

The githzerai felt guilt. He knew he had never been present for his wife. He had seen her as a gift from her grateful father, the first possession bestowed upon Wiliken as he began his life as a human. As he trained and warred and even later as he settled down, Iseley had been someone who was there in the background as he lived his own life. If he were worried about something, instead of confessing these concerns and discussing strategies, Wiliken preferred to trust his own instincts, to steel his mind and solve his problems on his own. He had been self-obsessed. And just as he hadn’t been there for his wife, the murder scene he witnessed from afar was proof that he hadn’t been there for his son. What child could grow to hate his father and kill his mother? If Wiliken had only been more involved…

Wiliken went through all the possible situations, the things he could have done to prevent Iiuza from murdering Iseley, and it kept him awake until morning. As the room began to heat and light began to poke in underneath the door, Wiliken felt dry, nauseated, and most of all, he felt that everything was his fault. Wiliken was the cause of all of the problems, of the murder of his wife, the capturing of the innocent children, the battle at Valgaman’s. He would confess his sins.

He would confess his sins and he would die. Most important of all, he would die.

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 18.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 16

When Jean-Baptiste stood to leave, it felt different this time to the githzerai. It had a strange feeling of finality, as if Wiliken would never see the man again. Despite this, the human’s visage softened and transformed into a smile.

“Thank you,” he said.

“For what?” Wiliken asked.

“Thank you for not asking about Douglas.”

Wiliken knew that there was not much time left to question the old man. He considered asking if Douglas had been the one Jean-Baptiste was sent to protect, but thought better of it. It was not much of a question after all. Douglas seemed to be the only person Jean-Baptiste had any affinity with. He respected the others. Perhaps he even cared for each and every one of them. But Wiliken had lived many years, had seen his friends simply fall asleep, never to awake again. There was a feeling there like Douglas was the only thing keeping Jean-Baptiste alive.

After considering, the githzerai chose a different question to close the conversation, “What is next for me? Ransom? Slavery?”

It was not uncommon for people in border territories to sell their enemies into slavery. Wiliken abhorred the notion. Better to die, he thought. The history books told of a time before the schism of the githzerai and githyanki, when they were one united people, united under the foot of the ilithid, a race of tentacle-faced sentients better known as “mind-flayers.” Before his ancient ancestors rose up against the mind-flayers, they had been slaves to the ilithid for ages untold. Wiliken’s people had known slavery long before even history had been invented. He often wondered, before settling down to sleep, if there had been a Time Before, in which his people had been a free nation, or if his entire race been conceived under the slaver’s whip.

“No,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Nothing like that. You fought nobly at our side, and yet you arrived to an Iuzian event wearing the standard Iuzian grays. At this moment, they do not know if they can trust you. And who can blame them. But you are already a better man than you were yesterday, and tomorrow you will be better yet. Tell them the truth. They will certainly free you once they know the truth.”

“And what is next for you?” Wiliken asked.

“Meditation,” Jean-Baptiste said.

As Jean-Baptiste left the room, he thought upon what Jean-Baptiste had said. Tell them the truth. The old man thought that the truth would set Wiliken free. Earlier the githzerai had suspected that the wise one-time battle companion had surmised Wiliken’s true identity, but once Jean-Baptiste said those words about truth and freedom he showed his ignorance. Some sins are not so easily absolved, Wiliken thought. If they knew the truth, they would kill me on the spot.

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 17.

Genesis 3: The Bro Code

Cut and paste existed long before there were computing machines and word processors. Before Ctrl-X (Apple-X) and Ctrl-V (Apple-V) there were scissors, blades, paste, tape, and the ever intoxicating rubber cement, and even before that portions of scripture were taught to people without the support of the narrative context to counteract doctrinal leaps and religious improvisations. I can think of few works more often cut-and-pasted than the first few chapters of Genesis.

The division of the second creation story and the “fall of humanity” into the second and third chapter of Genesis causes a bunch of problems for interpretation. We rush headlong into the story of a serpent who is actually the devil in disguise – the home audience knew right away because the serpent was talking in a non-Disney and non-parseltongue context – who wins woman over to his side with deceit a single sinful suggestion. Eve becomes a sorceress, wielding the magicks of her womanly ways in order to tempt her noble and innocent husband Adam into eating the forbidden fruit, and as the camera fades to the tune of “Careless Whisper” we fill in the blanks for the fruit metaphor.

The woman and the devil become man’s two favorite scapegoats. This was, of course, before man enacted the holy ritual of coming home from work and kicking the dog, so I decided not to add man’s best friend to the list just yet. Adam wasn’t the first man to pass off his own iniquities upon women. It happens today whenever a man blames his “impure thoughts” on the woman that is the object of said thoughts, and it happens every time it is determined that a woman is asking for what comes next. Have you ever wondered why nuns wear habits? It is because the priests were incapable of looking at a woman’s flesh without falling from grace. Their answer: cover up the flesh.

This story has spread like an unfortunately virulent game of telephone, and much of its popularity stems from the fact that people don’t trouble themselves to read the entire story. A snippet is enough.

In the previous two chapters, it is made clear that humanity is created in God’s image. As if that weren’t enough, humanity is also the most beloved of created things. It is not a stretch from these distinctions – and I think this interpretation would hold up even if I had a rudimentary understanding of Hebrew, which I don’t – to call humans god-like, or at the very least godly. In fact, God reveals in Chapter 3 that the only components humans are missing for godhood lie in the very garden he has blessed them with, namely, knowledge of good and evil and eternal life. No wonder we’re so prone to personify our deities, to call God a “he” and to get butt hurt when someone suggests that God might be anything other. We are so much like gods that God treats humanity as equals to the divine, or at least as near equals, when God decides to parlay with the first human, to enter into a covenant. After all, one never signs a treaty with one below ones station. It is not as if the farmer signs a contract with the fox who kills his chickens in which they promise to put down shotgun and teeth respectively for the sake of mutual peace. Also, I never read anything in the Iliad about proud Agamemnon negotiating the surrender of Troy with a Turkish peasant. To go into business in this way, humanity would have to be at least similar enough to God for the terms of the agreement to make sense.

God places an offer on the table that will certainly intrigue the first human. “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden” [Gen 2:16 NRSV]. In other words, Adam is offered a home in the garden of Eden in which each every one of his needs is completely taken care of. God offers something beneficial for humankind, but there is one condition: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” [2:17]. This is beneficial to God, because if humans obtained the knowledge of good and evil it would be as the serpent explained, “[F]or God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” [3:4]. Not only that, but Adam “might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” [3:22]. A human who had become a god would be threatening to the God who created them, so God made this covenant in order to assure that this would never happen. As if any human would give up the perfection of the garden of Eden, God added an additional clause upon breach of contract detailing that death is the punishment for obtaining knowledge of good and evil. The details of this first covenant have been outlined, but the main point has not: God made a treaty with Adam after the creation of terrestrial vegetation, before the creation of animals, and before the creation of Eve.

God does not entreat with Eve. While there is certainly something misogynistic about this whole endeavor – the creation of Adam first (which is contradicted in the first chapter), a covenant of a God who has historically been depicted as a man with the first human who has also been depicted as a man, the whole kit and kaboodle – there must be some people out there who realize that it is wrong to blame the woman in the story when the man is found in breach of contract. Do I believe that the covenant between God and Adam is meant to extend to Eve? Yes. I actually do. When the serpent first mentions eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve recites the wording of what was said to Adam. Later, when God asks the woman what she has done, Eve responds that the serpent had tricked her. She acknowledges her guilt. I’ve used a couple of analogies before, of a couple of parents talking to their child and of a family entertaining a house guest, but in order to elucidate this point I want to use yet another, that of the manager of a business.

Adam is the manager of Eden. It is his job to name all of the animals. He holds dominion over them, whatever that means. He has entered into covenant with God for the sake of all humanity. He is the point person for this contract. If my business promises to deliver a truck full of goods to another business and my employees in shipping can’t get the product out on time, it is nobody’s fault but mine. I am the manager of the business. I signed the contract. I will need to hold my shipping department accountable, but this is an internal matter. The fault, in the eyes of my customer, is mine, and rightly so. The buck stops here. The responsibility goes no further than my own desk. As misogynistic as it is to imagine Eve as one of Adam’s underlings, this analogy works only insofar as it assigns blame. It is Adam’s duty to make sure that everyone in the garden is compliant with their contractual obligations with God. They should all be trained on day one on the locations of the exits, the places to meet in case of tornado or fire, the placement of fire extinguishers and eye wash stations, and not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (In a business environment, the aforementioned tree would be turned into an acronym, because businesses LOVE acronyms.) If Adam had been the noble and innocent soul that we are lead to see him as, when God found them hiding from him and called them out for eating the forbidden fruit Adam would have hung his head and said, “It is true, God. I have come into conflict with the terms of the deal.” Instead he throws Eve under the bus, who in turn throws the serpent under the bus. His spinelessness does not redeem him, but rather reveals yet another one of Adam’s shortcomings as a manager.

One again I flash forward to modern day where I see the story of Genesis 3 playing out in this world right now. I once read that the natural resources present just within the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo are enough to sustainably feed the entire population of the earth forever and always. The trouble is that the area has been constantly engaged in one war or another at least since the time of the first European settlers. Though the earth might itself turn into a desert, if we had only this, our own garden of Eden, none of us would ever go hungry. It is through this lens that I think we have proven what we would have done with our godhood were we to stay in Eden and sup on the fruit of the tree of life as well. We’re currently only god-like and we’ve managed to destroy significant portions of the rain forest, poison the land, air, and sea in myriad ways, to taint our own food supply, to kill one another as farmers turn their plowshares into swords, and so on and so on. We gained the ability to destroy and irradiate entire cities – an ability we have already demonstrated on two occasions – when we discovered the nuclear bomb. But that is nothing compared to what just one of us could do with the powers we understand God as having.

We’ve proven again and again that we’re not worthy of the gifts given us. Thank God we’re not gods! There would be nothing left to be a god of.

Further Reading:

Letter to a Confused Young Christian at Political Jesus
The Quest for the Historical Eve & Adam at Political Jesus
Sunday Funnies: Real Men of Genesis 
at Political Jesus
Welcome, Real Men of Genesis! at Real Men of Genesis
Is The Devil Real? 
at Political Jesus

Genesis 2: Enter Human

If you’re into science fiction and fantasy there is no shortage of stories about fallen and/or rebel angels. Sure, it’s hip to be noble with an edge, like the main characters in Rebel Without a Cause, Easy Rider, Road House or Rumble Fish, but why would an angel choose this path. They spend their lives in heaven, the exotic destination that everyone everywhere else wishes they were, contemplating the good, the just, and the beautiful while everyone else is wallowing in the bad, the unfair, and the ugly. It slowly starts to make sense when you think of these celestial beings and their perspective on life. Your eyes are trained upon the face of God, but God’s eyes are not trained right back upon you. God is looking elsewhere, and according to Genesis he’s saying “This is good,” and “That is good,” but he’s not spending a whole lot of time basking in the good that has been at his side the entire time. The creation of humanity might be something that the angels aren’t aware of. All they can see is God’s face, and what they notice is that God’s focus is elsewhere. Soon an all-too-human emotion begins to surface, and even the heavens prove unguarded against the power of jealousy.

I’m sure that if you polled all movie and television angels and asked them why they fell from grace, they would talk about how humans were created with free will, that they screw up ALL THE TIME, and yet they are still God’s favorite in all creation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the events of Genesis 2 were the cause of this enmity.

In Genesis 1, we are told the story of the creation of the universe, or at least of history, or at least (according to my buddy Rodney) of theology. We are amazed at how quickly popular movie series are rebooted in 2014, but in Genesis the origin story from Chapter 1 has already been retold differently by the time we get to Chapter 2. And this is before the advent of Sam Raimi’s emo Spider-man, even. What happened in seven days in the original now appears to happen in one day, or perhaps one particular era, something we might call the creation era. Not only do we get rid of the days of the week as a method of organization, but the order of events is completely different as well. Genesis 1 told the story pretty succinctly, but now that we have to add Genesis 2 to the story what we’re left with is a mess. The one thing both stories have in common, a touch stone to help us push forward, is that humankind is placed at the center of all created things.

In the first creation story, the creation of mankind is placed at the end of the narrative, making it feel like the wonders of separating night from day and the waters from the dry land, the creation of all other living things, was all simply a herald for the really special moment, when humanity enters the cast. What was created before us was created for us. Perhaps my own situation seeps into this reading. For the last year and a half I have been doing everything I can – looking for better paying positions at work, getting engaged and planning a wedding, struggling to find a way to buy a house, trying to get two reliable vehicles – to prepare my world for the child Amy and I plan on having some time after we become husband and wife. I can’t help but to see the creator of this chapter acting just as we are. While Amy and I are trying to make a better world for our potential future children, this deity has the bigger duty of actually making a world. It seems that there wasn’t really a world before Genesis happened and for the good of humanity you kind of need a place to put them.

If I’m sticking with analogies I think the second creation story is more like entertaining guests in your home. The first step is to invite your guests into the house. After that, you have to offer them some lemonade, or perhaps some sun tea you brewed on the back porch. You have to show them the bathroom, in case they need to use it, open up a guest toothbrush for them and then show them to the guest bedroom where they can throw the private, personal items they brought with them. It is your job to keep your guests company even when you are not present to do so yourself, so you have to introduce your guests to the television, because how else would we pass time in 2014? The entire time you’re afraid that what you have provided is not good enough. Genesis 2 is kind of funny, reading a little bit like a sit com. “Here, have a garden. Honey, they seem bored with the garden. What should we do? Well, we have some lovely animals in this garden. You simply must name them all. Darling, we have to think of something else. Do we have any other people handy for our guest? You didn’t forget to pick up more people at the grocery store, did you?” There is certainly some comedy to this scene, but throughout there is a theme. This story is for humans (with the establishment of traditions), about humans (and our origin), and perhaps most difficult to deal with, this story is by humans.

I can’t help, sometimes, to see the hubris in this story. Maybe this is only because I know the often spoken of “fall” is coming. But a group of humans tell a story about how humans are the most beloved by God in all of the cosmos. Say what you will about how the humans are divinely inspired or even dictating the perfect word of God – I’m not here to argue that point – but regardless of the source of this text, there is no better way for humanity to become the most hated creatures in the universe, by the angels, by the animals, by the plants and their mother earth, than to be labeled the most beloved. At this time we were unashamed of our nakedness. We didn’t have any of the rules of society or the smell of civilization. We simply lived as the other animals lived, without struggling for purpose, without fearing our inevitable death. But we had to be elevated above all that, and in so doing God, and the storyteller responsible for this tale, painted a target on our backs. Humanity was created in a land governed by peace, but the seed of violence, the pride of being the closest to God’s heart, was planted in us even at the very beginning. We never even had a chance. Everything was bound to fall apart.

I keep going back to the idea of a community fresh out of exile in Egypt and wandering through the wilderness looking for a land that seemed more like a pipe dream than a promise, and I think of the parents who are telling their children these stories in order to let them know that who they are and where they com from. They know all of this gets spoiled by violence, and it leaks even into their telling of this perfect era. They are aware of the irony in the story of how humanity is elevated above all else because they know the story of two brothers named Abel and Cain and the first murder that was caused by God elevating the gifts of one over the gifts of the other. I could take another step back and imagine that the story of these parents is being told by another set of parents who lived their lives in the promised land only to see everyone they know scattered by the powerful empire that ended their dream of Israel. These parents see another irony – that the exile in the wilderness ends in even more violence than these former slaves experienced themselves, only this violence was committed by the children of God. With one last step, I imagine telling all of these stories to my children when they come of age. Will I be willing to take responsibility for the violence caused by my people and driven by the way we tell the stories of God, humankind and creation? Or will I experience the third irony, that even in this age of enlightenment, at the end of all stories, we have not learned to curb the appeal of being at the top of the pile, that we have not yet overcome our violent natures?

Further Reading:

Letter to a Confused Young Christian at Political Jesus
The Quest for the Historical Eve & Adam at Political Jesus

Genesis 1: A History of Nonviolence

Genesis 1 tells a story of six days in the life of the creator of Earth. On the first day, our main character, the one called God, creates day and night by separating the light from the darkness, and yet this is not a day, at least, not how we know days. The great light that rules the day (presumably the sun) doesn’t get created until the fourth day, which rules out the traditional measure of a 24-hour period of time, and the atomic clock won’t be invented for, well, for another couple days, so what are we talking about here? It seems like the only real point of reference we have is that a “day” is the space (for lack of a better term) for rising and falling, for development, that on the first of these days God created time. How much time is there in a day? It appears that there is just enough time to complete a great work.

If time is created on the first day, and God swept over the face of the formless void like a mighty wind “before” (time words become more difficult in a time before time) creating time, then this is not exactly the story of the creation of all, of everything, of the cosmos. This is the beginning of history. And everything else – the formless void, the darkness, the face of the deep, the wind and the water – all of that is pre-history.

On the second day the atmosphere is created in order to separate the terrestrial waters from the extraterrestrial waters. The third day brings the separation of earth and the seas, and with the introduction of Earth we meet one of the first co-creators, for it is Earth who brings forth plants and trees and fruit and seeds, all the vegetation of the world. I already mentioned that the sun and moon and stars poke their head in during the fourth day to assist in human measure of time and direction, but I’m getting ahead of myself by even saying the word human. On the fifth day, the world was populated by sea and sky beasts, including the “great sea monsters” [Gen 1:21 NRSV]. I wonder what these horrors of the raging waters must have looked like so near the beginning of time. The sixth day introduces humankind (“male and female God created them” [1:27]), and with humankind, violence.

To be fair, the violence comes later – it is something I talk about because I’ve read this story before – but as of this moment, this day, this moment of great works, we see a brief respite from violence, a hypothetical time of nonviolence before the popular Christian concept of “the fall” into violence. I can’t help but to think of a series of Tweets I read recently from comic book writer Justin Jordan (Green Lantern: New Guardians) about theme parks / lodgings created to mimic the actual conditions of so-called Golden Eras.

The implication of these Golden Aging camps is that the actual conditions and way of life would be so difficult that people wouldn’t even want to stay there if it were rent-free.

On a side note, Jordan also referenced the Biblical days of the week in a Tweet shortly after this particular rant:

For all intents and purposes of the narrative, the golden era before the advent of violence is just as unreal as the good times of old that Jordan talks about. I imagine that the Genesis account is a tale told from a parent to a child at about the time of the story that unfolds surrounding Moses and his people in the book of Exodus. Some of these people have experienced enslavement and oppression in Egypt, though not, I imagine, the child actively listening while on a seemingly never ending walk, all of them have experienced the destructive forces of nature while wandering on their way, and many the age of this child will have to witness and participate in horrible acts of violence that put the previous ones to shame during the conquest of the land that was promised them at the end of this road. These former slaves, now nomads, have known nothing but violence, suffering and death, but in their stories they imagine this present existence is bookended by peace, the peace that was in the beginning and the hope of peace to come.

For these people nonviolence is order in the midst of chaos, a first mover who transforms the formless void into a world that follows patterns and can be understood by the human mind. It is collaboration, a world populated by the fruits of some divine force working alongside the earth and the sea, plants with the seeds of the next generation, animals commanded to fill the land, sea, and air with their offspring, and humankind who are created to be creators (“God created humankind… in the image of God” [1:27]). Every “plant yielding seed” and “tree with seed in its fruit” [1:29] is given over to the animals of the land (present company included) for food – not the meat of animals or even the portions of plants that will result in their death; no flesh, only the food that can be regrown with little effort, the fruit offered as a gift freely given. This paints a picture of radical pacifism – thou shalt not kill humans, animals, or eat of plants in such a way that brings about their destruction. Humankind is given dominion over life on earth, but in this context it feels less like the power to dominate than it does stewardship, a duty to promote the proliferation of all life.

Of course, this dominion might also be the first in a series of flaws in the ordering of this universe that prove deadly in later chapters. When I look back on the years I attended Grand Valley State, I grow more and more fond of the Marxist/feminist counter-culture there, of the one or two students in each of my favorite classes who vexed me at the time but who warned of the dangers intrinsic to placing one person above another in terms of power. Is this what is happening in Genesis 1? Adam and Eve (not named, as of yet) have made little more than a cameo and we may already be seeing the peace they were born into unraveling at this early juncture. How horrible!

As anyone who has been tuned-in to current events for the last few lifetimes can tell you, this particular passage is constantly embroiled in controversy. It is a key piece of evidence for the religious persons on the side of creation being taught in schools alongside or at the expense of evolutionary biology, big bang cosmogony, and many facets of science in general. If you ask me, most of the people involved in this argument are talking past one another. The original audience of this text was almost certainly pre-scientific just as the current audience is almost certainly not, but for both the idea of time espoused is rhetorical. The time serves the poetry and the poetry serves the moral and the moral is nonviolence. This, the first story for some people, is a story about how we as a people have experienced peace before, a long time ago, and we called it Eden, or delight. I cannot read this prologue without the hope popping out at me that, maybe, through our actions, we can return to this original state, that we can plant the seeds for the return of peace. And maybe that is where this story belongs, alongside the parents teaching their child in the hopes that the next generation can live without the taint of violence, can escape the wilderness and establish a peaceful way in the promised land.

Spoiler Alert. That is not how the story goes down, but hope is a resilient bugger, not so easy to extinguish. Hope is a funny thing. It doesn’t really rely on the outcome of a series of actions, but emerges as a quality of a person’s character. Some find poets like John Lennon fools for wasting their lives preaching of peace with little to no measurable results, but that does not make his words any less true: “War is over if you want it.” Though everything else may be imaginary and fleeting, a nonviolent way is possible. Genesis holds it as a hypothesis; may the future hold it as a law.

Further Reading:

Letter to a Confused Young Christian at Political Jesus
The Quest for the Historical Eve & Adam at Political Jesus

A Dream Achieved, Cover A Professional Sports Team

An empty Van Andel arena.

An empty Van Andel Arena.

I’ve always enjoyed writing. It may have come as a bit of a shock to my parents when I switched from a computer science major to a writing major, but to me, it seemed like a fitting change.

When I was a kid, I wrote in a journal like the Nickelodeon character Doug did in the self-titled cartoon. I often wrote reviews for my favorite video games mimicking those I would read about in Nintendo Power or Electronic Gaming Monthly.

My love of sports led me to an easy career choice: sports journalism. However, making it as a sports journalist is anything but easy. Think about how many people like sports. Tens of thousands of people fill football stadiums every Sunday and millions more are watching from the comfort of their home, and that’s just one sport and not even the most popular sport in the world.

Now think about how many of those people are die-hard fans who want to share their love of the sport with other people through writing. That’s why I say it’s not an easy profession to make it big in. The majority of guys (and a good portion of females as well) watch sports or at least have a vested interest in sports, and a good chunk of those enjoy writing about it. It’s a highly competitive field.

And now, with blogs such as SB Nation, Rant Sports, Yahoo Contributor Network, FanSided, etc., it gives people the opportunity to write who may not even want to pursue a career in sports journalism. My sports journalism career is still fairly new. I work at MLive Media Group covering high school sports. Obviously, not my ideal career path. However, everyone has to start somewhere.

The Journey

In addition to working at MLive, I’ve worked the gambit of freelance opportunities. I started out with, where I did reviews for South Park and The Office. It was a paid opportunity, but I was making pennies every couple months, as I wasn’t getting very many page views and people will normally go to the bigger outlets for TV show reviews.

Despite the lack of pay, I still enjoyed writing the articles, and it was good practice. I also wrote the occasional sports article, usually opinion articles on various topics. A former ESPN writer noticed my writing and offered me a job writing for a fantasy sports site he was starting, The World Cup of Fantasy Sports. This position was not paid, but there was the promise of compensation down the road if the site flourished.

A former ESPN writer wants me to write for his site? Is this real life? That was a huge confidence boost. I had never written about fantasy sports. I had played them quite a bit, but wasn’t an all-star by any means. I’ve won one hockey title and finished last a number of times, but I figured if the site took off, it could be a foot in the door toward bigger and better opportunities.

My assignment was to write a weekly article highlighting the hot and cold players of the past week in the Western Conference. It worked well for me because that meant I got to do research on my favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings.

I had a lot of fun writing those articles, and I learned a lot about studying trends and new players in different systems. However, the site folded a few months after it started, so I was back to square one. The site owner promised the writers he would keep us in mind if other opportunities came up, but I haven’t heard from him in years. For all I know, he isn’t even writing anymore.

Eventually, I decided to follow in the footsteps of my friend Justin Tiemeyer and start my own blog. It wasn’t going to get the page hits the fantasy site could have received, but it gave me the freedom to write whatever I wanted, and it could wind up on the computer screen of a sports editor looking for writing help.

In November 2012, I found a paid writing position with Yahoo for the Yahoo Contributor Network. It was still freelance work, so I wasn’t an employee of Yahoo, but it was a perfect opportunity to put my work on the top sports site in the world. Millions of people come to Yahoo for their sports news, and thousands of people would find their way to my articles. It was a big step toward finding a permanent position.

Of course, like every other writing opportunity, this one fell through as well, and I was left searching for a new home to write for. I had quite a few conversations over Twitter with John Evans, a writer for FanSided’s Octopus Thrower during my time with Yahoo. I asked if Octopus Thrower was taking new writers, and sure enough, I had found my new (and current) home a month after leaving Yahoo.

FanSided isn’t paid, but it offers what many blogs cannot offer: media credentials. I simply had to fill out a form, send it to my NHL editor, and if it was approved, I could contact the appropriate organization and cover a game in-person. Live coverage was the one thing that was missing from my resume. I had done live coverage of high school sports, even state title games, but it isn’t the same as covering a professional sports team.

By the time I found out I was allowed to cover live games, the Red Wings had already been eliminated from the playoffs. The next best thing was to cover their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins won the Calder Cup last year, and had just reached the second round of the playoffs this year. As luck would have it, Game 4 against the Texas Stars was a home game, and I had the night off from MLive. The stars had aligned, no pun intended.

I had covered the Griffins once for MLive last year, but it wasn’t covering the game so much as covering the atmosphere of the arena. I went to Game 4 of the Calder Cup final, the first game the Griffins had the opportunity to win the Calder Cup, and my assignment was to talk to fans and get their reaction of the atmosphere in the building, as the Griffins attempted to win their first championship.

It was fun. I talked to a guy who was a season-ticket holder since the Griffins’ very first season in 1996, and I found some casual fans who were just excited to have the opportunity to witness history. However, my assignment didn’t allow me to talk to the players and coaches after the game, so I felt a bit cheated. I understand the game story/column is the beat writer’s job, but I felt so close to my ultimate goal, yet so far away.

A Dream Comes True

A year later, my dream finally came true. I walked into Van Andel Arena on May 14, 2014, full of excitement. However, I had to curb that enthusiasm, as I was there to do a job and I couldn’t act like a kid in a candy store, which is exactly what I felt like. I made my way up to the top floor of the arena to the press box. I arrived a half hour early, but I was perfectly content watching the pregame warmup. Plus, I wanted to get set up on Twitter and give people time to figure out I would be covering the game live.

Within 10 minutes of sitting down, who should walk by but Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and former Red Wings grinder Kris Draper. On the inside, I was awe struck. I wanted to talk to Ken and Kris. I wanted to ask Ken what his plans for the offseason were, I wanted to ask Kris what he thinks of Grand Rapids, I wanted to ask them if they like early Beatles music or late Beatles music, anything to start a conversation with two people vital to the Red Wings’ success. On the outside, I acted as if they were just beer vendors. The 13-year-old inside of me sees Kris and remembers the Grind Line and the Stanley Cups he helped bring to Detroit. The 27-year-old reporter has to act professionally and do the job he was sent there to do.

It was tough. It sucked, but I wasn’t there to gab with Ken and Kris, I was there to cover a game. Plus, being apart of the media, I doubt either Ken or Kris would want to open up very much. I’m sure they get bombarded on a daily basis, and the last thing I want to do is make a bad first impression.

The game ends, and the Griffins are victorious. The part I was looking forward to the most was coming: talking to the players. It’s a crucial part of being a sports journalist. You have to ask the right questions to get the right answers, and the right answers can be the difference between a boring story and an eye-catching story.

I made my way down to the locker room area, and the stench of sweaty pads filled my nostrils. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it brought me back to my playing days. It was calming, and it brought me back to a place that felt comfortable.

I enter the locker room, and that excited feeling I got when I saw Ken and Kris before the game, it fills me up again, as I see Mitch Callahan sitting at his stall after a hard-fought game, Luke Glendening, who is back in his hometown after his season with the Red Wings had finished, standing next to him in a suit and tie, goalie Petr Mrazek walks to the back area of the locker room, a section that appears to be off-limits to members of the media.

These were the guys I saw play on TV throughout the season, and they were standing mere feet away from me. This is what I have been working for. This is why I jumped from freelance opportunity to freelance opportunity to get to this very spot where I stood. That night reaffirmed my decision to become a sports journalist.

I’ve had my fair share of doubt. I’ve had a part-time job for the past five years with MLive. I thought about quitting and getting a more stable job with higher pay so I could go on long vacations, buy expensive toys and enjoy my nights and weekends with my friends and family. But that moment right there, that moment of being surrounded by players I watch and cheer for as a fan, that was the moment that confirmed why I wanted to be a sports journalist in the first place.

I didn’t ask any questions, the other reporters took care of any questions I would have had, but it was an experience I will never forget. I listened as Andrej Nestrasil talk about coming back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the series at 2-2 against the top-ranked team in the Western Conference. I listened to coach Jeff Blashill — who I’m convinced is a clone of Mike Babcock’s that was named Jeff Blashill, seriously, listen to the two of them speak, it’s eerie how identical it is — talk about his team’s resiliency and repeatedly tell a reporter he knew nothing of the status of injured forward Tomas Jurco.

Below is a video I took of the interview with Andrej.

I left the locker room to make my way back up to the press box to write my story, and I saw more former Red Wings as Kris, Chris Chelios and Kirk Maltby were talking outside the locker room. Again, the urge to stop and discuss 1990s Red Wings hockey was overwhelming, but it wasn’t the time or the place.

My dream had been achieved, and I want that feeling again. I will do anything to get that feeling again.

Would You Go All the Way for the USA?

As if the epic gravity of the fact that you were at the most highly attended hockey game of all time or the fact that you have probably never paid this much money for tickets to a sporting event weren’t enough, Winter Classic coordinators decided to deliver an added bonus for those brave enough to stay until the very end of the January 1st showdown between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. (If you guessed that Nick Fury inducts Pavel Datsyuk into the Avengers after the credits, you are incorrect. Romanoff never trusted the guy.)If you hadn’t already been carted away in an ambulance after suffering symptoms of severe hypothermia, you had the option to experience the supreme treat of hearing the exclusive live announcement of the 2014 US Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.

I went to the Winter Classic with my buddy Tom Mitsos, a die-hard Detroit and Team USA fan, and had he been able to feel his toes he would have made me stay through to the end of the announcement. As it was, he’d forgotten what toes were like, what they were used for, and how it might feel to wiggle them. While sitting in Ann Arbor traffic for a matter of hours, I found the time to look up the Men’s Hockey Team using my phone’s browser. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was joined by Maple Leafs forwards Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk and a long list of current American hockey royalty. There was no shortage of talent on this team, but there was an unsurprising lack of my guys.

In order to unpack this phrase, “my guys,” we’ll have to flash back a few years to when I waited out the toughest three years of the recession living in North Texas – Denton and Fort Worth, to be specific – and in the process became a lifelong fan of local NHL team the Dallas Stars. While in Denton, my brother Micah and I would walk down Fry Street, which at the time was considered the best bar scene in the area, over even Dallas’s Deep Ellum area, and over to Riprocks (or “Rips,” as Micah called it) to watch the Stars battle their foe-of-the-week on a TV tuned to Fox Sports Southwest. My brother’s love of the team was intoxicating, and fairly virulent, but there was something about this team that was bigger than just sharing a deep love with my brother. I’d watch hockey games while nursing a Ziegenbock and chowing down on a burger and when I looked up at the screen it was as if the Stars were the only team broadcast in color. Even the Detroit Red Wings, the beloved team of my youth and of my home town, only played in grey-scale. The other teams were Kansas and the Stars were Oz. I’d only had that feeling two other sports teams in my life, and both for only a year: the first was with the Dallas Cowboys during Terrell Owens’ last year with the team, and the second was the year the Detroit Lions looked like they might go undefeated, before most of the team had been arrested for drug crimes or otherwise. As of the 2013-14 hockey season, if my calculations are correct, I’ve been a Dallas Stars fan for a full seven years.

After looking over a Team USA roster devoid of Dallas Stars, I started to peruse the line-ups for some of the other contenders for Gold in the Olympics Men’s Hockey tourney. Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen had joined Boston’s Tuukka Rask and San Jose’s Antti Niemi as goalies for Team Finland, up-and-comer Valeri Nichushkin was playing for Team Russia, and captain Jamie Benn joined head coach Lindy Ruff on the roster of a star-heavy Canadian Olympic Team. Just prior to the Olympic break, I remember staying home sick from work, the only thing keeping me both warm and comfortable enough to sleep through my illness being the outdated Brenden Morrow Stars jersey Amy had bought me along with Valentine’s Day tickets to a Detroit-Dallas game at the Joe Louis as Christmas presents a previous year, and posting a selfie on Facebook just prior to a Stars game reading, “Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!”

Exhibit A. Full, original Facebook caption: "Home, sick, but staying warm Micah-style. Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!"

Exhibit A. Full, original Facebook caption: “Home, sick, but staying warm Micah-style. Go Stars! Go Canada! Go Finland! Go Russia!”

I hadn’t followed Olympic hockey in previous years – it was always over before I realized it had even started – but I had always assumed, in the current world climate, that the way I’d chosen which Olympic hockey teams I would support was the same way everyone chose which team they’d root for. For example, fans of Henrik Zetterberg would be fans of Team Sweden and fans of Pavel Datsyuk would cheer for Team Russia. This was not the case. In the days to come, I was bombarded by people horribly offended by my Facebook status simply because I was not rooting for Team USA to win the gold medal for ice hockey at the 2014 Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of these people had good arguments. There were those who said that I am merely a “contrarian,” choosing opposing teams simply to act as a devil’s advocate, and to some extent they are right. I have a lot of trouble joining in the actions of a mob, and one of my greatest fears is the tyranny of the majority. I was also called a “troller,” which is equally accurate. I do like to put things out there so we’re not silent about possible sources of oppression. I even have a friend who is known to refer to me as an “iconoclast,” but in a post-Nixon world of pedophile priests and human rights sacrificed for the sake of fleeting public security, what remains unspoiled to be placed atop a pedestal? The annoying part of the dialogue that followed my post was not being called these names that I clearly have little problem with being called. The annoying part was when people would act like there was a moral imperative to root for Team USA, like my choice to support any other team was simultaneously killing Tinkerbell along with all of America’s deployed armed forces and the American public as a whole. When George W. Bush was deposed of, I thought I’d see an end to McCarthyist accusations wherein ones opponent is labeled a terrorist, but that thought went up in smoke when I ended up on the wrong side of sports.

And this is the point where my good friend and fellow Winter Classic attendant Tom comes into the conversation, at exactly the wrong time. As one might expect, things got explosive. Before you all start lecturing me on the value of tact, I want to let you know that tact is overvalued in our society. It is not tact, exactly, that is the problem, but the thing that people parade around as tact. People prefer to be dishonest, to avoid conflict, and to be generally spineless, a series of vices that they define as a virtue, and as a result we see rumor-mongering and passive aggressive cold wars popping up left and right. Tact is downright useless in today’s moral climate. What it ought to be replaced with is understanding that effective communication requires a particular type of argument coupled with a particular type of delivery, both of which vary according to the circumstance. What follows is a good argument that I managed to attach to a terrible delivery, and the explosive consequences that I mentioned earlier.


While these are not the words that I exchanged with the my various angry interlocutors, they are the foundations of my perspective on the subject. If you’re looking for my response to my good buddy Tom, you can feel free to skip this section and jump ahead to “The Delivery.”

One of the current trends, alongside gluten free and non-GMO, is the buy local movement, but there was once a world where you had little choice but to buy locally. If you couldn’t grow or make a product at your own homestead or with the help of your kith and kin, you would bring your excesses to market and trade them to other people. This myth is both true and false. For many people, all of life took place within a thirty mile radius from birth to death, and yet even some of the earliest civilizations – the pre-Greek Minoans and Myceneans – were known for vast shipping networks, with suggestions of boat routes from Ancient Greece and Turkey all the way to Great Britain. For most, if not all, of recorded history, humankind has been cosmopolitan by nature.

We are more cosmopolitan now than at any other time. While for most people cosmopolitan means a drink or a magazine, it generally means that you are at ease in one country as much as in any other country. It derives from the Greek “cosmos,” or world, and “polis,” or citizen, suggesting that a cosmopolitan is a citizen not of any particular sovereignty, but of the world. There are some who are going to argue, “I am not cosmopolitan. I’ve only ever lived in America. I’ve never even traveled overseas. I did go to Tijuana on Spring Break once, but that doesn’t count.” I challenge these people to look at the nationality of the people who read their blogs, of those who post your favorite YouTube videos, or to simply check the tags on their clothing for their country of origin.

Some might argue that the Olympics was created not to fan the fire of petty local vices and feuds with ones neighbor, but in order to create a greater citizenship, a kindred spirit with people of different regions that might prevent future warring and trade disputes. Whether or not that is the case, I have a lot of difficulty finding any sporting event where you will find something purely American going up against something purely Chinese or purely Latvian. The main threats in the Olympics Hockey tournament were, as always, USA, Canada, Russia, Sweden, and Finland, and we have expected this to be so for some time simply due to the fact that these teams are loaded with highly skilled NHL players while many of the other teams are not. Now, players for these teams don’t simply stick to their home country and wait for the Olympics to come back again. These NHL players spend nearly all of their time practicing, playing, and making money for teams that are located only in North America, US teams like Philadelphia and Washington as well as Canadian teams like Montreal and Toronto. The majority of the players for the Dallas Stars may be Canadian by birth, but they are paid by an American team and in turn make money for the same American team, have houses or apartments in America, buy food and drinks from American drinkers, and bring their cars to American auto repair businesses when they break down.

The time when the purely American team or individual could be found has long been over, and that is assuming it ever existed in the first place. The original European settlers had nothing in common, no unifying language or national origin, and the American identity was defined in the negative, as not-British, not-French, not-Dutch, and they had even less in common with America’s original human settlers, the so-called Natives who traveled across land bridges from Eurasia long before any settlers accidentally stumbled upon the continent. Everyone is tainted, by this country or that country, through coaching, sponsorship, family, friends, financial support, media support, merchandising, or ancestry, and this is exactly as it should be. As a result, our thinking about who we want to support in any sport is rich and complex, allowing us to express our freedom to choose not only through popular vote for US public office but also by rooting for another nation’s Olympic team for reasons as simple as liking their story.

This is the argument that my beliefs on the topic stemmed from…


…and this is how I delivered those beliefs.

When Tom came at me with a “home team trumps everybody else” [Tom, a text] argument, I hit him back with three incredibly long texts explaining a series of questions that complicates the idea of “home team,” asking whether a goal by Tomas Tatar (Detroit Red Wings) or a win for Team USA is better for Michigan, and suggesting that the American revolution was fought so people wouldn’t have to be “guilted into liking the most popular [team]” [me, a text].

Shortly thereafter, I started a guerilla attack on Tom via Twitter. Tom wrote an innocuous statement that perfectly fit his post as a sports writer and Detroit Red Wings blogger / podcaster, a Valentine’s Day tweet reading, “Today is the worst, not because it’s Valentine’s Day, but because Zetterberg pulled out of the Olympics” [Tom, Twitter]. I implied that because of Tom’s position regarding Team USA, he must want Zetterberg to die because his efforts are not for the glory of Team USA and also that Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Max Pacioretty, James van Riemsdyk, and Blake Wheeler should “be hung for traitors” [me, Twitter] because they play for un-American teams in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg during the regular season.

One week later, when Team Canada won the gold medal qualifying game with Dallas Star Jamie Benn scoring the game-winning-goal, the entire thing came to a head. We exchanged angry texts for the entirety of the morning, and it only stopped because my fiancee said that I was being a dick and should apologize to Tom. What happened next was unexpected, and did a lot to change my perspective about petty arguments. We’ll get into that soon, but first a flashback.

Several years ago, I was living in New York City. I spent a lot of my free time on AIM – little did I know, but it would be my last year using the program – listening to my brother talk about this great hockey team called the Dallas Stars and explaining their virtues and victories, and yet this was before I was even a Stars fan myself. I was in a band called Get Stop Ticket with my three friends Becky, Elliot, and Fiona, who had also relocated from Grand Rapids to NYC. We never played any gigs, but we certainly made the rounds of the Brooklyn and Manhattan (and sometimes even Queens) night life. One weekend, another Michigan compatriot and fellow musician, a DJ named Jon came to visit us. We attended a concert at Studio B – I think it may have been the electronic band Modeselektor, and if that is the case then my brother was there in attendance as well for this story – and I remember Jon checking in every couple moments to tell me something about the music or to crack some joke. I remember feeling really annoyed that the experience was peppered with this side-commentary and creating this unfair perspective of Jon as a pest that evening. Later, however, we went to a bar, and Jon started to unload some things about his past that I didn’t really know. We had gone to the same high school and I’d always seen Jon as much more popular than me and having a wealthier family, but I had never bothered to wonder what was going on in his life. That evening at the bar I began to feel for Jon more than ever before and to this date I believe that we are kindred spirits in ways few others are. I respect Jon and value him as a human being and a friend. The lesson I learned that night was like that of the classic parables of ancient history.

It was a lesson that I hadn’t learned well enough to treat Tom with the dignity that he deserved during our Olympic-sized battle. As soon as I backed down from the offensive, Tom felt safe enough to admit that his father had been in the hospital and he was terrified that things might go poorly for him. It’s not my place to tell Tom’s story for him, but it is my place to point out that this was an instance of the same lesson. I spent so much time attempting to meet the teams and players involved in Olympic Men’s Hockey where they are, loving them despite national affiliation, that I had forgotten to meet Tom where he was. Tom was in a scary place and he needed a friend, and what I brought to the table was yet another enemy.

Eventually Tom and I got on the same page, and I think we’ve put this dispute in the past. We’re both firm in our beliefs and I think we respect one another. To Tom’s credit, he was quick to share the blame for the series of events that had us at one another’s throat. In the end, we were two people who held different opinions, both with completely understandable and positive reasons for holding those different opinions (The Argument), and yet we clashed like Titans because of how we decided to let those opinions play out in public discourse (The Delivery).

Children are concerned with fairness, but only insofar as they gain from it. As a child I believed it unfair that my brother got presents on my birthday (Christmas) but that I didn’t get presents on his, so my parents would get me a present on February 4th. People on Facebook speak up for justice, but only insofar as their own cause is served. Tom and I, along with all of the others embroiled in the Olympic controversy I’ve written about, valued the concept of respect, but not in its fullness. We wanted people to respect our own opinions, either before or at the expense of offering the same respect to their opinions. Respect was at best a compromise and at worse a battle won or lost. If I had been able to see past the delivery and even past the argument and noticed the human being behind it all, a lesson I had claimed to learn after the incident with Jon, I would have seen another person who suffers through the difficulties of life just as I do. I would love that person for exactly the right reasons and I would have nothing but respect.

I’ve learned this lesson before, but I haven’t figured out how to live this lesson. Some would say this is the ultimate message that the people of the book (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) profess in unison, the same set of words uttered in different tongues by Confucius and to some extent – to lay individuals – by Lao Tzu and Buddha. As for me, I know that I am often presented a chance to prove that I have become the embodiment of this concept of respect, and that I can think of two times when I have failed. My fear is that I won’t get that many more chances.

(Oh, and by the way, Tom’s dad made it through that difficult time, and we were all pretty darn happy about it. We love you, Mr. Mitsos!)

Campaign Stories: Waiting for the One Who Comes

Jean Baptiste sat with the githzerai.  The crimes he had committed, the crimes his son was committing, were grave.  Without question, they were worse than any that Jean Baptiste himself had ever committed, but the druid’s past was not clean.  Far from it.  Staring into the fire, Jean Baptiste’s mind traveled back, far, far to his own past.


The moment of happiness is always so fleeting, Jean Baptiste thought to himself as the whore took his money and exited the room. It was good while it lasted, at least. But as soon as it was over, he again felt unfulfilled. He leaned over towards the bedside table and picked up the tankard that sat there, hoping to find fulfillment in a glass, but when the tankard is empty, fulfillment is impossible. Jean sighed.

Jean was young, not even fifteen yet. His father had money, and so Jean Baptiste spent it. His father believed that one day the business would pass on to his son, yet Jean was unsure if working for a living was something that appealed to him; though to be honest, as of yet, nothing really appealed to him. Jean wondered if the woman was so far from the door that he couldn’t call her back to fetch him a refill from the bar downstairs so that he wouldn’t have to go himself. He glanced towards the door and nearly fainted in fright and surprise.

Standing at the foot of his bed was what could only be described as a monster. Its torso looked like the fiercest of minataurs, yet it stood tall on a horse’s body. Sheathed (thankfully) at its side was the largest and longest sword Jean had ever seen.

“Greetings, prophet,” it rumbled in a deep voice.

“What…. who…. wh….”

“Be not afraid. I am not here to harm you, prophet. I am Ravpos, a member of the Great Hunt of Trithereon. I come to tell you that my god, Trithereon requires your services. Indeed all the gods require your services. You have work to do.”

“I’m just a child,” stammered Jean, trying to get out of this without the monster drawing that ginormous blade. “I work for my father.”

Ravpos laughed. It was horrendously frightening.

“You only work at spending your father’s money on things that do not last. The work you have ahead of you will offer you true fulfillment. Go to the Shining Citadel. Go to the Monastery of Trithereon. Tell the guard at the gate that you have cake to deliver to Herp.”

“Cake?” This might well be, thought Jean, the strangest encounter with a monster that had ever occurred.

“It’s just a code, prophet. You don’t actually have to bring cake.”

“So, the cake is a lie?” Jean asked, confused.

“Who knows, maybe someday Herp will get his cake.”

And with another frightening laugh, the monstrous creature disappeared. It was as if he was never there. Jean looked into his tankard wondering if somehow his drink had conjured such an odd vision, yet it remained as empty as it had before.

“What the hell…, it isn’t as if I had anything else to do.” Jean Baptiste rose from his bed and began to dress himself, resigned to the journey he had before him.


The guard was young, as young as Jean himself, younger in fact. He appeared to be unarmed, unless the flute strapped to his back was a weapon. He stood before the door. If he was going for menacing, he was failing.

“I am here to see Herp.”

The guard, if indeed that’s what he was, looked at Jean with a sad and confused look on his face. “Then I fear you are five years too late, traveler. The dragon born has left this plane of existence.”

“But the bull-horse thing told me….”

The guard, or perhaps door-man, put his hand out to stop Jean Baptiste from continuing. Excitement, wonder, and disbelief warring across his young face. “You saw Ravpos!?”

“Yes, that is the name it gave. It told me to come here and say I had cake for Herp.”

The young boy’s eyes opened wider. The disbelief was gone. “Well, that isn’t what you said. You should have started with the cake! Then I’d have known what you were talking about. Going on and on about Uncle Herp like he was still here when in actuality you were supposed to be using the entrance code. Herp isn’t really my uncle, you know. I just call him that. He and my Grandpa were best friends. The Champion sure picked a strange person to send a message through. Did he have Ginormo with him? That’s his sword. Well, it’s the heavenly representation of his sword now, I guess. The real one, the one he used when he was mortal is in Grandpa’s office. Grandpa! You gave the entrance code. I’m supposed to take you to Grandpa. Well, really he’s my great grandfather, but that’s awkward to say. Neither my grandma, who is his daughter, or my dad, who is his grandson, joined the Trithereon order, but I did. Almost as soon as I could talk…”

Jean Baptiste stood there as the young boy continued to go on about things that made absolutely no sense to Jean. He looked longingly at the door behind the boy as the journey had exhausted him. Luckily, the young boy seemed to notice that exhaustion.

“Oh, listen to me prattling on and on while you wait to get inside. Stupid, Douglas, stupid.” The young boy slapped his own forehead. “Come on in, and let’s get you to Grandpa so you can tell him whatever Ravpos wanted you to tell him and then we can get you some refreshments. Uncle Herp always wanted cake, but I like ice cream. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Have you ever had ice cream? Grandpa says ice cream is rare and that not everyone has actually had ice cream. I can’t imagine not ever having had ice cream…”

As Douglas continued to prattle on about gods know what, he opened the door and led Jean into the monastery, past the elaborate entry chamber, and through a small side hallway. Finally, they came through an ordinary looking door into an office that was almost sparse. Sitting at a desk was a very old man. He looked to be in intense thought, although his fingers absentmindedly played a hauntingly beautiful melody on a lute. He stopped playing and looked at the door when Douglas ushered Jean into the room.

“Hi, Grandpa. This is…. Um, I don’t know his name, but he said he had cake for Uncle Herp! Also, he saw Ravpos! Isn’t that incredible!”

The old man smiled at the insufferable young man. He raised a finger and the boy, blessedly, stopped talking. “Thank you, Douglas. That will be all for now. Head back to the door for the rest of your duty.”

Douglas gave a serviceable bow and, as proof that there are miracles throughout the world, departed without another word.

“Hello, Jean Baptiste.”

Jean’s jaw dropped in surprise.

“My name is Zayne. Although I might not look like much, I am the Abbot of the Trithereon order. Well, most of it, anyway. After Kylantian died, not everyone approved of my appointment, but that’s neither here nor there. You’ve travelled a long way. Have a seat.”

Jean set in the comfortable, if worn, chair that Zayne had indicated.

“Comfy, isn’t it.”

As Jean nodded in response, an apparition of a dragon-like humanoid drifted through the wall. “Cake?” it asked longingly.

“Soon, Herp. Soon,” the old man answered. The apparition nodded and continued through the other wall. Zayne watched the ghost depart with a smile, “Even though he’s dead, he still has work to do, as do we all, and he wouldn’t get anything done if we actually gave him that cake.” Zayne looked back at Jean Baptiste, who no longer felt that his encounter with Ravpos was that odd. Things had only gotten stranger since then, after all.

“Um, sir, why am I here?”

“Yes, you must have a lot of questions, Jean. For instance, how do I know your name. Well, that’s simple enough. Trithereon told it to me. You’re also probably wondering how old I am. 94. I probably don’t have much time left on this plane, but I still have work to do, and like my friend Herp, might still have work after I pass on as well. As to why you are here, that is part of the work I still have to do. I am going to let you know your purpose, Jean. You’re young. Younger than I was when I discovered my purpose, which happened the first time Herp died, but that’s another story.” Zayne smiled. “You’ll have to forgive me, telling stories is something I’ve always been rather fond of, so getting to the point can occasionally be a little difficult, although I’m much better at it than my great grandson. Anyway, you have a great purpose. Your purpose is important and so it wouldn’t surprise me if you have probably felt a desire to get to work on that purpose, even if you weren’t sure exactly what it was.”

Jean looked up at the old man in wonder, as the truth of that statement made itself known to him. “I have always felt that nothing I did was what I should be doing. Everything I tried left me wanting.”

“That is it exactly. It is because you have a destiny. You are meant to prepare the way for a great hero. A great messiah, a teacher, a revolutionary. Someone that the world sorely needs, or at least, sorely will need once this person arrives. You will mentor this person, help to guide this person towards their destiny. History might not place as much importance on you, if they remember you at all, but the person that history recognizes, that person will always be indebted to you. And as a person that stood alongside, or at least got to watch the people history remembered, that isn’t a bad destiny to have, I can tell you.”

“How will I do this?” Jean asked, wonder and acceptance coursing through him.

“First you must learn, then you must wait. Your training can begin here, although other gods desire you to study amongst them as well. Ultimately, I have no idea where this task will take you. I’m sure I won’t be around to see how it all turns out, but I will be there at the beginning if you will accept this task.”

“Where do we start?” Jean asked, standing, feeling the stirrings of what might just be fulfillment. It felt like a long desired piece of cake.


Jean Baptiste looked at the forlorn man next to him.  He could almost feel the pain that radiated off of him.  “Redemption can be yours, Willikin.  The gods want us to change; they want to redeem us.  My life was one filled with sin, perhaps not to the extent that yours was, but I can not claim to have led a blameless life.  The gods had a purpose for me, and they have one for you as well, if only you are willing to give yourself to them.  I have seen you in action.  You are trying to atone.  Let the gods help you, guide you.  Let them grant you that redemption you desire.  It isn’t too late, my son.  Trust me, the gods don’t let time stop them from having you work towards the good.  They don’t even let death stop it.  Work towards your redemption, my son.  The rewards will be vast.”  Jean Baptiste smiled, “Even better than cake.”

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 16.