Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Valentine's Day - It's Not about You

In just a little more than two weeks we will be celebrating the early Christian saint named Valentinus -- aka Saint Valentine. For performing weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire, this saint was imprisoned. During his captivity, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote a farewell to her. It was called, "From Your Valentine."

Over the years this liturgical celebration has morphed into an occasion in which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, chocolate and candy treats, and greeting cards -- all adorned with hearts, lace and sappy outpourings of love.

Now a lot of men I know believe in the supreme constancy of love, especially when it relates to their wives. For them there's no need to wear down the sentiment by continually rehashing the obvious. It's like, "Hey, I told you I loved you when we got married. If that changes, I'll let you know." While these smooth-talking dudes may woo some of the ladies out there, a brief survey of women indicates something else entirely. For them Valentine's Day is when she wants to be doted on, cherished, and doted on some more. And nothing says you cherish her more than a card and a gift.

Now the card thing is fairly easy: find a Hallmark store, walk in, and some lady will ask, "Can I help you?"

Tell her you need a nice Valentine for your wife, and she will show you racks of them. Find one that's so sweet it makes your teeth hurt. When you've done that it's probably a good pick. Hint: be sure it is addressed to "wife."

Now the gift thing may be a little tricky. I usually try to pay attention at Christmastime to see if she indicates something she didn't receive, then I get it for her on Valentine's Day. But if she didn't give any hints, then try the old standards: candy, perfume, flowers and candles (strategically positioned and lit is a nice touch too) are all pretty safe bets. One thing to remember here is if you don't usually get her flowers, then a nice bouquet is just the ticket: gift solved.

The sage advice I received recently was that Valentine's Day is not about me -- not even a little bit. So giving your woman a nice mallet putter or some new chartreuse crankbaits is probably not the absolute best idea. That being said, those two would rate with all the other suggestions I thought sounded good: box seats to a hockey game, a band saw, a flat-screen TV, a gas grill or the ever-popular subscription to a premium sports channel.

So, gentlemen, what we have here is another day to put her first, along with Mother's Day (if she qualifies) and her birthday. To show her she is unquestionably number one in your life, think about what would please her and then jump in with both feet (Hmmm, a skydiving lesson, perhaps? Probably not.) Believe me, do it up right, and you'll have one thankful woman on your hands. You may even find your thoughtfulness reciprocated to you in new and surprising ways.

And what's better than having your honey believe she's with the world's greatest guy?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Heroes with Clay Feet

It seems throughout recent history there has been one class of hero that children fix on as role models: the sports hero. Many a young man would dream of being the "the Bambino," "the Sultan of Swat," as Babe Ruth blasted baseballs into the upper deck on his way to create long-standing records. Girls aspired to be "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias, as she won Olympic gold and starred in multiple sports. Sports figures of the past often gave children an opportunity to aspire to develop talent through hard work and fair play, so they could be like their hero. Down through the years sports celebrities seemed to make an effort to lead a life worthy of imitation, as they practiced hard, trained hard and played hard.

But sometimes our heroes have feet of clay (gambling, moral failure, steroid use, dog fighting, etc.) which point out the danger of elevating a flawed person to the level of a human role model.

I was encouraged this year, however, by the Baseball Writers Association of America refusing to induct a single player into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. For me it was a noteworthy signal to young people that there are those who value training, talent and honesty, over those who would bend the rules to their advantage. I believe it's the right message to send in today's culture -- in any culture, for that matter.

I also believe these kinds of values have to start at home.


Well, because I have been that obnoxious parent in the stands berating the ump for a call he made at my child's Little League game. I have been that dad everyone looked at as he commented on the referee's call at the Pee Wee football game. I have also been the dad who rewarded wins over honest effort.

And ... I was also the dad who was wrong.

I would have served my child better to concentrate on the training, hard work and mastering of the fundamentals that are necessary to good gamesmanship than to reward him for winning on a blown call.

At all times (and especially with my kids), I must be the person who sets the example in conduct, attitude, fairness and forgiveness, remembering there's not a sports hero alive -- or dead -- who has more influence on my children than I do.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl XLVII will be played February 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. This yearly clash between the best of the AFC and NFC gives rise to another closely related annual tradition: the Super Bowl party. With New Orleans as the backdrop, I predict many a party will whirl around a Mardi Gras theme. I can see it now -- beads and guacamole, pull tabs and jambalaya. Because Beyoncé is headlining the halftime show year, there just might be a few fans sticking around to watch the entertainment. It'll be interesting to see if the event is worth the $4 million price tag the network is charging for each 30-second commercial.

The Super Bowl and its related events have been elevated in today's culture almost to the status of a national holiday. It's big, brawny, adrenalized and completely American. Even if you're not really interested, you don't want to let on that way. It's just not polite to the millions of rabid fans out there who can't get enough of the sport, especially the year-end spectacle that awards the Vince Lombardi Trophy to football's finest. If you're traveling that weekend, fear not. Airports feature the game prominently at gates and in airport restaurants. It's also true that many businesses experience a high rate of no-shows on the Monday following the game. Even those who do not ever follow the regular season get caught up in the Super Bowl hype and hysteria.

Guys, this year we can capitalize on all the hype that surrounds this game for our own Super Bowl event.

How about this year we volunteer to host the big bash? We can invite all those in our circle who might be facing some tough life issues. As for the gals, they can use this time for some sisterly bonding. As for us, we can chew on some wings, lather on the dip, tap the keg, and enjoy an afternoon and evening devoted to some top-drawer football.

I can see it now. Before the game we can set up the event with the Men's NetWork's Colt McCoy study. Nothing says let's talk football better than an interview with one of the best college quarterbacks ever to step on the gridiron.

Depending on the excitement level of the game and commercials, we can use the time together to start talking about some of those issues we all face: troubles at work, family issues, uncertain financial times, and the ever popular litany of broken New Year's resolutions.

Older men can share their wisdom with their younger brothers; young men can share fresh insights with older guys; divorced men can find a safe way to be affirmed; single men can get all kinds of dating advice, and the list goes on.

A friendship formed in a non-threatening environment like a "man cave" can lead to a discussion down the line on the more serious aspects of life.

Have fun and enjoy the company and the game. Since my team isn't a contender this year, I have nothing to cheer about or mourn for, that is, until the cheese dip is gone.

And with that, would you mind passing the wings?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Number One

Now that we know the BCS National Championship has hailed the number-one college football team for the 2012-2013 season (Roll Tide), it's time we move on to crowning the other number-one teams. In the Division I college world, March and April will determine the championship teams in basketball, bowling, fencing, rifle shooting, skiing, gymnastics, hockey, swimming, diving, indoor track and field, and wrestling. The world of professional sports will soon give us the NFL champion, followed by the tournament for the NBA, and the NHL ... maybe.

In the world of sports, it takes a lot for a team to become number one. To do so talent must be honed by practice, players must be coached, plays must be memorized, and bodies must be kept healthy and fit. Individual egos must be held in check, and each player must step up to do that which that player does best. It takes effort and time to produce a number-one team.

Perhaps we need to approach our families the same way. If you are a dad, you are the player-coach of the team. As such you have to practice the fundamentals. These include promoting good manners, using respectful words, and displaying an eager willingness to forgiveness. You may have to apply discipline when necessary, dealing with rough edges when and where you find them. But you also have to let team members discover their own character, encouraging their individuality, as they bring strength to the team in their own way. This can be tough, as you may want to over manage, but there's team strength to be had when its members find their niche. There are also the mundane chores you have to tend to like coordinating schedules and transportation. At the very least you need to delegate these to a responsible person. You need to provide the proper equipment and maintain the best possible facilities too.

As you can see, it isn't easy.

And there's one more thing -- probably the toughest item in the bunch. As a player-coach you have to do that which you demand from the others on your team. After all, the best way to mold a number-one son or daughter is to be the model of an adult that your child can aspire to be.

This year as we celebrate team victories over the next few months, let us strive to make our home team number one as well.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

As we turn the calendar page today to start 2013, it's customary to look back at the events of last year and evaluate the lessons we've learned throughout 2012. For example, we learned new things about ship captains, as the Costa Concordia ran aground in Italy. We also learned that Archie Manning has some talented children. We grieved with the victims of killer tornados, monster hurricanes, and the unspeakable atrocity that recently took place in Newtown, Connecticut. We learned the Internet isn't as secure as we thought, hearing how some major companies had gotten hacked and personal data was swiped. We learned lessons in the election, and we saw the clay feet of some heroes. We crowned sports champions and paused as the world gathered across the pond in London for the quadrennial Olympics. We mourned with our fallen comrades, who gave their lives in service to their country and their fellow men. We experienced market losses and gains. We were touched by many events, some of which will leave a profound impression on us the rest of our lives.

As we look forward to 2013, we can take stock of what we'll learn from the past, while not repeating those errors we know we can avoid. Yes, the annual New Year's resolution list will be drawn up with care.

Though not everything from 2012 has to be trashed, does it? What will you keep this coming year? There are many things I will try to continue in 2013: consistent church attendance, regular Bible reading, daily time spent in prayer, talking to my children, keeping my word, paying my debts, loving my wife, listening more, talking less -- and these are just a few I want to hang on to.

What do you plan to carry over into the New Year?

Of course, I plan on changing some habits in the coming year too. In addition to the ever-popular goal of weighing less and exercising more, I would really like to listen more and talk less, have daily contact with my family, and become the leader I need to be.

It won't be easy. But as I become more the person I can be and less the person I am, the New Year will certainly improve.

And that's something I can already be thankful for.

Happy New Year!