Monday, December 19, 2011

Not In The Holiday Spirit (Yet)

This past weekend, on Saturday night, my wife and I got a babysitter to watch our two boys. Instead of a romantic night out (mistake #1), we took a practical route and used the night to catch up on Christmas shopping. We started with a quick meal at Generic Chain Restaurant (mistake #2), because of its proximity to stores we wanted to patronize. The food was actually decent, but the atmosphere was bland. When a group of workers gathered together to sing happy birthday to a customer (Holy restaurant cliche, Batman), I was ready to leave. We stopped at Lame Craft Store to get a few ornaments and other trinkets, then headed to Pretend Your House Is Like The Ones On HGTV Store to get a few gifts, then went to the mall to Cute And Cheap Clothes For Kids Store to pick up a few things, and ended at Very Expensive Toy Store to buy $40 Legos for our 4-year-old. My wife and I agreed that neither of us were properly in the holiday spirit. We couldn't pinpoint why. Job stress? Life stress? General holiday stress? I think maybe it has something to do with Consumption Pressure (not sure why I capitalized Consumption and Pressure, but hey, it's a blog). I made an obvious observation that you never feel like you're done shopping. It always feels like you can buy one more thing. And sometimes you have a sense that what you bought just isn't good enough. And why the hell do we spend so much time buying things that people don't need? Granted, I say this from a middle-class perspective. Our family and friends don't need anything. I know that plenty of people do need lots of things. I also know there are good gifts for people who fortunately don't need things. A nice bottle of wine from France makes a good gift for my brother, and a gift certificate to my mother's favorite salon makes a nice gift for her. But the running around to get STUFF doesn't feel satisfying. Maybe I'm just a grinch.

Sunday felt a little different. We took the kids to a tree farm and picked out a nice little Christmas tree. That baby cost $48, then we spent a few more bucks at the gift shop, then a few more dollars on hot dogs and fresh cut french fries (yum). Later on, when the tree was decorated, I felt a little bit of the holiday spirit.

Then, today, I found a nice surprise in my office mailbox: two candy canes. How cute is this, one was a pink candy cane with Dora the Explorer all over it, the other one green with SpongeBob Squarepants all over it. And no card or note. Just somebody who decided to leave two candy canes in my mailbox. That made me happy. I thought to myself: "This makes more sense to me. Leaving fun little items for people without identifying yourself as the gift giver. This is good. Just thinking of someone, recognizing someone in some small way, and not looking for credit. That seems like the holiday spirit."

Well, hopefully I'll lighten up by Christmas. Having kids is supposed to automatically make you enjoy Christmas. And I am excited for my kids. But consumption has a funny way of making you feel empty inside. Anonymous gifts, however, might generate joy and spark some spirit. In any case, happy holidays. Did I really end with a cliche?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Athletes and Religion: The Case of Tim Tebow

I don't know much about Tim Tebow. I do know that he's a Christian. To use 21st century terminology, that's his brand. My impression is that he is serious and sincere in his religious convictions. And my impression is that media outlets have largely approved his displays of religious beliefs both on and off the football field.

I would love to hear a discussion about this. Maybe the subject has already been discussed at length, but I haven't heard it. If ESPN has covered it, I wouldn't know, because I find it painful to watch ESPN. And national sports talk radio shows strike me as boring and distasteful; for example, Jim Rome. But this does seem like a topic that Rome would delve into during his show.

What interests me about the general topic of athletes and religion is the question of appropriate (or inappropriate) displays of religious beliefs on the football field. Of course, what's considered appropriate or inappropriate is a subjective call. That's what makes it interesting. Over the years, I've listened to media figures talk about athletes who point to the sky after scoring a touchdown in negative ways. I've heard many a media personality condemn teammates who circle in the end zone to join in prayer. Overall, I would say that athletes who demonstrate their religious beliefs on the field of play have encountered disapproval. But with Tim Tebow, I'm not sure that's the case. But I defer to people who watch sports and cover sports for a living. They would know more about the tone and content of coverage with regard to Tebow.

If Tebow has generally received positive (or even neutral) coverage about his on-field displays of religious beliefs, that begs the question Why? If he has in fact been treated with respect for his religious convictions, I'm curious to know why this might be. I emphasize that I'm not exactly sure of how he's been treated, so that's why I'd love to hear more about the matter. I came across one story that describes mixed reactions to Tebow. The story includes a link to the website, which has pictures of people apparently imitating Tebow. Some of it's for laughs, some of it seems staged, so it's hard to tell if it's "all in good fun," or mockery, or something else.

I do want to mention race as a possible factor here. Over the years, athletes who faced criticism for on-field displays of religious beliefs have generally been black players. Is Tebow getting a positive response, in part, because he's a white player? Or because he's a white quarterback? I am posing these questions for discussion, I am not posing them as facts or as my opinion. As I've said, I don't know enough about how Tebow's been handled by media so far. I just wonder if race is part of the issue in this case. So I put all of this out there for contemplation and consideration.