For years, I’ve railed against others railing against the “War on Christmas.”
It’s time I give up that fight. There is, truly, a war against Christmas. Problem is, however, as the horror movie maxim would say: The killer’s been inside the house the whole time! No, Virginia, Liberalism, Muslims, Jews and Political Correctness aren’t killing Christmas, neither are atheists, agnostics or any other convenient straw man you wish to set up.
Christians have simply done a horrible job with Christmas, and we’ve effectively lost the right to complain about it.
Full disclosure: I’m a Christian…lifelong Lutheran. Before taking up sports radio and then sportswriting, I trained to be a minister. I grew up in parochial schools, went to a dormitory preparatory high school and eventually onto pre-seminary training. I’ve gone door-to-door to spread the gospel in Saginaw, Detroit, New York City, the Atlanta Suburbs and now in my home in Palm Coast, FL. My wife is a kindergarten teacher at a Lutheran school and I serve on the executive council of that school and the church it’s attached to.
I’m no Johnny-come-lately to this debate.
I’ve also been a lifelong fan of Christmas. Now, let me explain what that means. I’m not a huge Christmas movie fan. I don’t drown out anyone who comes near my home with Christmas Carols starting in mid-October. I don’t put up huge multimedia light displays. I don’t max out my credit cards to buy my two boys anything their hearts desire. I don’t tell my boys tales about jolly men with red reindeer, nor do I set up elaborate overnight hijinks with a mischievous elf.
You know what I really like about Christmas—something I’ve loved for a long time? I love the extra opportunities the season provides for me to remember and worship my Savior who decided to humbly lower himself from his throne in Heaven and be born to a human woman in low estate. I marvel at the Word made flesh (John 1) and the old cherished stories that seem new to me every year (Luke 2). I love the second, often unsung, versus of songs like Silent Night and Joy to the World that remind us that this is the world’s savior who is born and that he reigns!
To many (heck, maybe even my Christian friends), that makes me a scrooge. I don’t like the hubbub around the holiday, because I don’t like how it distracts me from the focus I cherish so dearly. This isn’t to say that it is only I that “celebrate correctly” or that any of those things that typically go with the holiday season are inherently wrong to partake in. I’m not saying that at all.
What I am saying, is that the secularization and commercialization of Christmas has done far more damage for far more centuries to “the reason for the season” than anyone bloviating about “The War on Christmas” would like to admit. They don’t want to admit it, because they’re probably part of it.
Moreover, we—as Christians (and I’m wholeheartedly including myself in this statement)—do a terrible job with Christmas when we forget that it is only the beginning. Christmas, along with the preceding season of Advent, mark the beginning of the Church year. Far too many act like the Will Ferrell character Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights who refuses to pray without invoking “the tiny baby Jesus” because that’s how he likes to remember him. The church year, with holidays like Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, etc, wasn’t set up to provide two convenient holidays to go to church so one can take the rest of the year off.
No, one is supposed to carry the joy of Christmas into the marvel of Epiphany—that this son of God is also true man. Onward, marking his teachings and his life as we eventually pause to take note of our own sins on the road to Calvary and Christ’s death and resurrection.
If there is a “War on Christmas,” the war against the rest of the church year was lost to us long ago. We never even took up arms to fight.
Again, this isn’t to moralize or tell you how “wrong” you are. It is (in part) to remind all of us that the “War on Christmas” commentators probably don’t have in mind the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom. More importantly, it is because my fervent prayer is that Christ’s love shines on each and every one of you this holiday season, and that you find joy in remembering his birth—for all the right reasons.
That’s what Spencer Hall of SB Nation told NFL media at large as he channeled his inner Charles Barkley. Hall, the Editorial Director of SBN, sees a lot of content on a daily basis and probably knows a thing or two about what is good and what isn’t. However, as he is also editor of “Every Day Should Be Saturday,” I (and others) have questioned just what he means by NFL media. The rest of the column seemed to bemoan a few issues Hall has with the NFL itself (labor structure, access, how beholden it is to major sponsors etc), but moved on to his biggest bullet point—the lack of a “Dr. Z-type” and the state of NFL on TV.
For those not familiar, Paul Zimmerman was one of the best football minds to ever put pen to paper (or finger to typewriter key). I’m confident he understood the game better than many players and coaches. He lived it. He breathed it. His “Thinking Man’s Guide to Professional Football” is a seminal work of the NFL space. Every blogger who spends 20 minutes looking at one blocking assignment to get it right is, in some way or another, a descendant of the legacy Dr. Z created.
The problem is: Hall spends almost the entire piece comparing apples to oranges.
Is NFL TV sub par? Well, yes, lots of it is. Only problem is: there’s a ridiculous amount of it. Spend 24 hours watching nothing but NBA TV and it’ll quickly become apparent that “NBA on TNT” is really good at what they do. At the same time, many people complain about the NBA coverage on ESPN and for good reason.
I rarely watch NFL pre-game shows and I spend even less time watching some of the wall-to-wall coverage that ESPN and NFL Network put together. One of my favorite shows, “NFL Matchup” is hidden at 3am and 7:30am on gamedays, but it hits the DVR just the same. That highlights the dilemma Hall is apparently having. Even the “good” NFL TV coverage is hidden. It exists, but in places no one can find it. Dr. Z was never a TV start and if he were still able to write and potentially be on TV today, his show (if he had one) would probably be at 3:30am, right after matchup.
Later, Hall uses another apples to oranges comparison:
Start with the NBA alone, and see just how deep the gulf between the NFL and every other major sport truly is. On one hand: Bill Simmons, Zach Lowe, Adrian Wojnarowski, the entire crew of The NBA on TNT, Henry Abbott, The Basketball Jones, Andrew Sharp, and a crew of competent, engaged, and enthusiastic beat writers. And on the other hand, in the NFL’s corner: Bill Barnwell, Chris Brown, Drew Magary, and anything at Kissing Suzy Kolber.
I enjoy much of the work from both Drew Magary and Kissing Suzy Kolber, but that’s out of left field in this discussion. We’re talking about people who really care about serious football. KSK is a hilarious site (at times), but their top three articles as of 5pm on Monday are simply making fun of media members. The fourth is by a writer named @PFTCommenter who misused “whose” “your” and “to,”—all in one paragraph—as he talks about RGIII’s wedding registry.
Magary doesn’t belong in a list of “NFL Media.” Does he know a ton about football? Absolutely, But his work at Deadspin usually has as much to do with the NFL as it does with the complexities of macroeconomics. Recently, he’s written about Scrabble, boring jobs, sad Bill Simmons, public toilets, etc. He did write about Titus Young on 5/8, but only to show him asleep in an AT&T store.
I don’t want to disparage the work of either Magary or most of the people at KSK who all do good work. But, if you’re consuming NFL media in some way that sets those up as paradigms of good coverage of the league itself? That just doesn’t make sense. To compare them to the Zach Lowes and Henry Abbots of the world just doesn’t seem fair. Even Chris Brown (author of The Essential Smart Football, one of the best books on football on the planet) is barely “NFL media,” as he writes about CFB just as much. It’s not even about my subjective opinion if they’re “better” or “worse.” They’re simply objectively different.
So, for Hall (and others) who want to consume more meat and less fluff with their NFL media, here’s a good place to start:
- Peter King (SI) is kind of the “don” of NFL media right now. I don’t know if Hall purposefully left him out of the column for a reason. Magary and KSK have made making fun of King into a cottage industry. All in all, it’s ridiculous, because he does really good work.
- News gathering? NFL has a trifecta of the best in Adam Schefter (ESPN), Jay Glazer (FOX) and Chris Mortensen (ESPN). Not to mention the tons of guys and gals at NFL Network.
- Jim Trotter (SI), Mike Silver (Y!), Mike Tanier (SOE), Greg Bedard (SI) and Mike Freeman (CBS) all do a great job covering the important parts of the game—both on the field and off, comfortable covering race, labor issues, human interest, etc just as much as Xs and Os.
- Speaking of Xs and Os, Matt Bowen (Chicago Tribune), Lance Zierlein (Sideline View), Adam Caplan (Sideline View), Doug Farrar (Y!), Aaron Schatz (Football Outsiders/ESPN), Eric Stoner (Rotoworld), Greg Cosell (NFL Films) as well as sites like Pro Football Focus, Advanced NFL Stats, Cold Hard Football Facts, NFL Reference, National Football Post and the aforementioned Football Outsiders all do great work breaking down the game.
- This leaves out all the fantastic NFL media who specialize in Fantasy Football and NFL Draft. I could take another 20 bullet points on those two growing industries.
- This also leaves out all of the people that cover one specific team—guys and gals like Bob McGinn (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Sean Jensen (Chicago Sun-Times), Mike Garafolo (Star-Ledger).
- I’ve also purposefully left out Bleacher Report to this point (Hall left out SB Nation because he didn’t want it to sound like a sales pitch), however Ty Schalter, Matt Miller, Alen Dumonjic, Alex Miglio, B.J. Kissel, Ryan Riddle and MANY others all do fantastic work covering the NFL from a league-wide angle.
Frankly, if one heads to all those authors and sites above and comes away with the impression that NFL media is (in any way) suffering, I would be surprised. Also, take a handful of those guys and compare them to Hall’s NBA list and they stack up much more favorably.
The state of NFL media has never been stronger. Is there plenty of wasted print? Absolutely, because the NFL commands a ton of coverage—both good and bad. However, there are more people doing similar work to that of Dr. Z than ever before—breaking down the game from every possible angle.
So, with all due respect to Hall and in light of all of the many good points that he did make, his overall impression of NFL media falls short of the reality of it.
It’s fallen down the page a bit. So, if you’re just stumbling upon my site, make sure you check out this post of great Twitter follows:
Seriously though, if you’re an NFL fan, you’re missing out on a lot of great analysis, information and conversation by not following these great guys and gals. It’s almost criminal that more people aren’t enjoying the insight from the people on that list. Go, read, click, follow…
Realized that I forgot to update this as I finished the Advocare 24-day Trim Challenge. The whole NFL Draft/Zero Sleep/No Free-time really cuts into the whole “blogging for no reason.” Anyways…
- 13 LBS lost
- 7 inches lost from my waist
- 2 points off of my BMI
- Blood Pressure at 129/69
I’ve already ordered another shipment of Advocare supplies. I won’t be doing “the challenge” again for a while, because one is only supposed to do the “cleanse” portion four times a year. I will, however, continue taking the “max phase” vitamins and using the meal replacement shakes. There are also two supplements—ThermoMax and Catalyst—that are supposed to aid fat-burning and metabolism. I’ll be trying those out for the next couple of weeks (once the shipment arrives!).
Had my first beer last night in over a month. 22-year-old Mike would be flabbergasted at that statement. I stopped by my favorite restaurant after a (long) day with both sons. Joshua was home sick, and Silas refused to sleep because his big brother was home! My first post-advocare meal looked almost exactly like my last pre-advocare meal—TomYum Soup, Sushi made with black rice, beer and mango pudding for dessert. It was simple, packed with fruits and veggies and overall a lot healthier than it could’ve been. I’m proud that it wasn’t a greasy burger and fries!
Not really craving alcohol or soda anymore and I’ve nearly eliminated excess salt from my diet. I’ve found I barely even miss it. I’ve continued to eat healthier than I did before the diet. A lot of the swaps I’ve made to our shopping list are going to stay permanent. There’s little reason to switch back!
So, we’re going to keep going. I’ll keep you all updated on the progress.
I’m eight days into the challenge and I’ve dropped eight pounds! Even more exciting…I’ve dropped three and a half inches from my waist. I’m ridiculously happy with the results, but not satisfied…not yet.
Each morning, I eat roughly the same thing. Two eggs with a TON of veggies and a side of oatmeal with cinnamon and fresh/frozen fruit. Some days (not many), I’ll swap out the oatmeal for a whole-grain/double-fiber wrap. The Advocare guide says breakfast should be Protein, a complex carb and a fruit. Veggies can be added anytime! The meal fills me up and isn’t much of a difference from what I’d normally eat except for eschewing the unhealthy/processed add ins like sugar, salt, cheese, etc.
Let’s compare my “Advocare Breakfast” to my “Usual Breakfast”:
Advocare Breakfast—2 Whole Eggland’s Best Eggs, 1/2 tomato, 1/2 cup spinach, 1/4 cup of red peppers, 1/4 cup of onions, 1/4 cup of white mushrooms, 1/4 Avocado, 1/4 Cup Old Fashioned Oatmeal, 1/2 Cup of Strawberries.
383 Calories, 34 Carbs, 7 grams dietary fiber, 18 grams fat, 21 grams protein, 148 grams sodium, 10 grams sugar, 822mg potassium, 66% DV Vitamin A, 210% DV Vitamin C, 7% DV Calcium, 24% DV Iron
Usual Breakfast—2 Whole Eggland’s Best Eggs, 1/4 Cup cheddar cheese, 1/2 Cup spinach, 1/4 cup onions, 1/4 cup white mushrooms…2 slices Arnold’s 100% whole white bread, 2 TBL Kraft Mayo w/Olive Oil, 1 “liberal squirt” of Sriracha, 1 dash of salt.
615 calories, 51 carbs, 30 grams fat, 8 grams dietary fiber, 31 grams protein, 1261 mg sodium(!!!), 12 grams sugar, 440mg potassium, 76% DV Vitamin A, 11% DV Vitamin C, 41% DV Calcium, 22% DV Iron
So, I’m trading calcium, some protein and a little Vitamin A for a huge reduction in calories, carbs and fat. As far as sodium goes…wow. The usual breakfast is halfway to the daily recommended allowance of sodium and almost the entire way to the recommended intake for people with high blood pressure and/or who are overweight.
Meanwhile, I’m getting double the potassium (helps muscles and nerves function, helps prevent high blood pressure, manages electrolytes) and an absurd amount of Vitamin C (eliminates free radicals, helps iron absorption, improves Vitamin E production).
Dairy isn’t completely outlawed in the weight-loss challenge. The guide says that in moderation, it can be a snack. I’ll add some skim milk, yogurt or string cheese to my diet once the “cleanse” phase is over (Day 11—Monday!). Calcium is shown to help weight-loss and fat burning, so I’m anxious to get some more natural sources back into my diet.
For those who aren’t as into eggs as I am (seriously though, you should be!), need more variety, or don’t have as much time to cook that kind of breakfast in the AM, here are some other breakfast ideas:
- Two-Ingredient Pancakes (Banana and Egg)
- Two-Ingredient Pancakes (Oats and Eggs) (Top with Berries!)
- Homemade Turkey Sausage (Make with Extra-lean Ground Turkey Breast)
- “Jewish Eggs” (Healthy version of Bagel w/lox…avoid cured/smoked meats because of sodium!)
- Sweet Potato Hash Browns, In the Waffle Iron! (Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes are a complex carb)
- Cheerios w/skim milk (or plain yogurt) and Berries
- Whole Grain English Muffin w/Egg and Veggies (Can cook the egg in a microwave-safe bowl w/a little non-stick spray!…perfect for busy mornings)
Here are some foods that are good for the Advocare 24-Day Challenge that I’ve culled from the parameters on the informational booklets and from different Advocare mentoring sites around the web. I’m creating this mostly for myself as I get ready to shop/plan meals, but feel free to use as much as you’d like!
But First, Some General Guidelines:
—As much as possible, stay away from the middle of the store and the dairy section. Whole meats, veggies and fruits should make up the bulk of the meals. Venture in toward the dry goods only for whole grains or nut butters, buy sparingly, then get out ASAP. Head into the dairy section for eggs and then ignore the cheese, butter, and other assorted goodies.
—LOOK AT LABELS! “Healthy Food” isn’t always healthy. Why buy peanut butter with 12 ingredients when there are varieties with just peanuts and a little salt. Why buy wholegrain bread/english muffins/wraps with triple the sugar of other varieties or canned tomatoes and beans with five times the salt? Don’t fall for buzzwords like “natural” on the front…LOOK. AT. THE. BACK.
—No liquid calories and no liquid chemical additives. The first 10 days of the challenge is a detoxifying cleanse. Adding the myriad of chemicals in soda (even diet soda) or alcohol to your body is completely defeating the purpose. That means no sugar-free juices or pre-made teas either. No juice either, eat a piece of fruit instead. Drink. Water…lots of it. It’s 24 days! You can do anything for 24 days! Maybe, just maybe, you’ll create habits that you can take with you into day 25 or beyond!
—Be careful with produce. Buy as much as you and your family can eat, but going overboard is going to waste a LOT of money.
(Seriously, just go nuts in the produce section…limit starchy veggies like corn and potatoes, but there is no such thing as a bad vegetable.)…Fresh or Frozen is better than canned!
—Spinach —Kale —Broccoli —Carrots —Zucchini —Cucumber —Tomatoes —Eggplant —Peas —Celery —Lettuce (esp Romaine) —Asparagus —Edamame —Peppers (esp. Red) —Radishes —Mushrooms —Brussel Sprouts —Cabbage —Cauliflower —Beets —Onions
(In general, go with fruits you like. Bonus points for choosing lower-calorie and/or higher nutrient-dense foods. One site called them “Northern Fruits” i.e. Berries, Apples, Cherries, etc. Think more fiber, less sugar.)…Fresh or Frozen is better than canned!
—Apples —Strawberries —Blueberries —Raspberries —Blackberries —Kiwi —Oranges —Melons —Grapefruit (also a known fat-burner) —Banana —Pineapple —Peaches —Pears —Nectarines —Plums —Cranberries —Figs
—Dried fruit is OK, but look for added sugar!
—Grapes are great snacks, but might be wise to avoid on the 24-day challenge because they’re higher in sugar and lower in nutrients.
—Eggs —Fish (Tilapia/Salmon/Tuna/Halibut/Cod) —Canned Tuna —Turkey Breast —Ground Turkey (>93% lean) —Lean cuts of Pork —Lean cuts of steak —Ground Beef (>93% lean) —Tofu —Almonds/Walnuts/Hazelnuts (No added salt!) —Lentils
—Beef is OK, but should be considered a secondary option.
—Stay away from lunch/deli meats.
—Shellfish is good for you normally, but isn’t recommended on the cleanse.
—Brown Rice —Brown Rice Pasta —Black Rice —Wild Rice —Quinoa —Spelt —Oatmeal (Old-fashioned, no added flavors or sugars!) —Wholegrain Bread (Bonus points for making yourself!) —Squash —Sweet Potatoes —Potatoes (Limit, no frying!) —Beans/Legumes —Hummus
—Lemons/Limes —Vinegars (I <3 Rice Wine Vinegar) —Olive Oil —Canola Oil —Mustard —Wasabi/Horseradish —Mint —Cooking Spray —Soy Sauce —VARIETY of herbs/spices (nothing with added salt.)
It’s day three of my Advocare 24-day Challenge and I am feeling great!
Waking up the second morning, I’d already lost 3.5lbs. While those results didn’t repeat from day two to day three, I felt great in the morning (minus some muscle soreness from exercising). I even remarked to Stacey that I felt like a “slimmer human being.” It wasn’t just psychosomatic either, getting ready for church in the morning revealed a baggier shirt and some looser fitting pants.
There have been very few times that I’ve felt legitimately hungry and far more times that I’ve felt excited to eat a meal!
I’m also feeling more-and-more like my body is getting a rhythm back. I’ve been more energetic in the morning (even before the “Spark” drink) and haven’t had mid-morning or mid-afternoon crashes. Without any caffeine in the afternoon or evening, I’m winding down earlier at night. Overall, I feel more productive and get a lot done in-between trips to refill my glass of water!
Here’s what I’ve eaten the past two days:
Day 2 Breakfast: Dinner from the night before (chicken tortilla stew) w/scrambled eggs and avocado.
Day 2 Lunch: Porkchops w/Quinoa Pilaf and Edamame
Day 2 Dinner: Skirt Steak-Spinach Salad (made wraps for Stacey and Joshua)
Day 3 Breakfast: Dinner from the night before w/scrambled eggs in a high-fiber/low-carb wrap
Day 3 Lunch: Leftovers from Day 2 Lunch
Day 3 Dinner: Curry-rubbed Chicken Breast w/yellow squash and brown rice.
Back to the daily grind on Monday when we’ll hopefully get to sign some mortgage papers so we can continue moving on our new house!