Monday, April 15, 2019

The Tiger Bet

Those of you who have read my blog over years know that I always make predictions each December for the coming year. Starting in December 2011, one of my annual predictions was that Tiger Woods would not win another major. After three straight years of being correct, I got bored with the Tiger Woods slam-dunk prediction. It was just too easy. Tiger Woods would never win another major. So I stopped even mentioning him. Predicting that he even had a chance would have been akin to predicting that Donald Trump would become President. And there you have it… always expect the unexpected.

The 2019 Masters was one of the greatest sporting events I’ve ever watched. I recorded it and my wife and I watched it in the evening, going to great lengths to avoid knowing the outcome each day. My wife has always predicted that Tiger would win another major and when he was in contention after two days, I still predicted he would fail. So we made a bet. If Tiger won the 2019 Masters, I would take my wife to Spain this year. She upped the ante and convinced me to throw in Italy. Modesty prevents me from saying what I would get if Tiger failed to win the Masters. I certainly felt that that the odds were in my favor and it was a good bet.

I’ve never been a huge Tiger fan. I certainly respected his game, but he just seemed like someone with whom I’d never want to play a round of golf. The fans thought he was bigger than the game. He seemed to agree with them and acted like it. He was just “that guy” and that’s not the guy I tend to root for. Granted, he was the best golfer I ever saw, period EOD. Better even that Jack Nicklaus. But, I tended to always root for the other guy…even if they weren’t from the good old U.S.A. Anyone but Tiger, #ABT.

Tiger was a golfing machine and, for me, that was the real problem. Golf is too hard for anyone to play that well. However, when his personal life went off the rails and his body started breaking down, he became human. And when Tiger Woods became human, I became a fan. For sure, some people turned on Tiger and ripped him for being such an awful person. The injuries and the collapse of his golf game were just part of Karma coming to collect. Good-bye Tiger and good riddance.

Even though I became a fan, I never thought he would win another major. He might win another tournament or two, maybe. But, to win a major against a field of great young golfers from all over the world, guys who could hit the ball higher and farther than Tiger ever could, even in his prime, much less now? No, Tiger would never win another major. Bad knee, bad back, bad thoughts…too much competition...too much to overcome.

But, on Palm Sunday in April in the year 2019, Tiger Woods found some magic, or maybe it was more a case of the magic finding Tiger. If there was a course where Tiger had a chance of winning another major it was Augusta. Jack did it back in ’86 when most thought his major win days were over. But, it’s a course where experience can be the great equalizer. Tiger hung around while younger, better golfers couldn’t keep the ball out the water on Number 12. Where the pressure cracked everyone but the old Tiger who still found enough game to be one shot better than anyone else when it all ended early on a Sunday as the clouds rolled in and the rain began to fall.

Later that evening my wife and I spent some time joking about the correct way to pronounce Barcelona, concluding with me betting her that my way was the best, most correct. She laughed and said it sounded more like the way Daffy Duck would pronounce it.

I replied, “Bet I’m right and furthermore Tiger Woods has won his last major.”

She just smiled and said, “Wanna bet on it?”

Thursday, April 11, 2019

What's The Question?

“How do I achieve success and happiness?”. That was the question asked by one of the students.

My little church is part of a campus ministry at a local junior college. If you’ve seen the Netflix documentary Last Chance U about football players, then think of our little JUCO as First Chance U for these kids. A chance to get a couple of years on the cheap before going off to a nearby state university or maybe just a two-year degree in the culinary arts and then a good job at one of the Indian casinos across the river. Or a nursing degree with a ticket to a better life down in the Metroplex.

Some local churches are part of a Tuesday night rotation where do-gooders and bible-thumpers show up for supper with the students. The churches bring pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs or that holiest of holies, Chick-Fi-Let. The kids consume mass quantities. For some it’s grab and go, some stay and eat while studying their smart phones. A few act as if they are paying attention while someone tries to tell them why their church is cool and just knowing Jesus makes life better. Try it, you’ll like it, that sort of thing.

If I sound cynical about such “ministries” it’s because I am. Kids come for free food and leave. No strings attached. Over the years, churches haven’t seen much fruit from all of this effort. But I am told that a couple of kids have become Christians, making a profession of faith and being baptized. That being the case, then it is worth it.

And if it’s worth it, it’s worth doing better. So I suggested that we ask the kids to submit questions (anonymously). I sort of put our pastor on the spot. So now he has to prepare for these suppers and respond to some tough questions about God, good and evil, heaven and hell or just life in general.

I haven’t been going to these events because I thought they were a waste of time plus I don’t want to be the resident Granddad. I also have a tendency to commit 100% or not at all, and I knew that if I got involved, I would take it all too seriously and too personally. Some of these kids would end up breaking my heart or I would break theirs. Valid excuses or me just being chicken---t?

But since the questions were my idea, I decided that I better show up, at least once, and survey the damage. It was interesting and some of the kids actually listened and responded to the answers. When the pastor got to the “success and happiness” question he gave a solid response including the true joys of being a Christian and what really matters in the grand eternal scheme of things. That’s what he gets paid to say.

However, there is such a thing as giving the right answer to the wrong question. If I had been answering the question I would have started by asking this question: “What do you mean by ‘success and happiness’?” If success and happiness for you means financial success and the happiness money can buy (because money actually can buy happiness of a certain sort for a period of time); then that requires a different answer. If success and happiness means getting to do just what you want to do for a living and having as much personal freedom as possible, even if it means sacrificing wealth and security and perhaps even relationships, then it’s a different answer.

Words have meaning and they mean different things to different people. Success and happiness? What that means to 19 or 20 year olds living on campus at a little old Texas JUCO is a mystery to me and probably a mystery to most of them. And what it means to them today isn’t what it will likely mean a year from now, or five years from now, or twenty-five years from now.

At some point in life, if one is lucky enough or blessed enough, one learns that success and happiness are not all they are cracked up to be. We are all going to die and someone else will end up playing with our toys. There’s nothing wrong with success and happiness as long as you know what those words truly mean. And if you know what they mean, live like it. I’ve always known that true success and happiness had more to do with the soul and eternity than ones net worth. But, that never stopped me from counting my chips and figuring that “more” was better than “less”. These days I’m not so sure.

As we draw near the end of the Lenten season and prepare for Easter, I think about the questions Jesus asked. He always asked the right questions and often answered a question with a question. If He were asked “How do I achieve success and happiness?”, I think His response would have been something like this:

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” –Mark 8:36