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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Obligatory "What Did I Learn From This Lenten Social Media Fast" Post Because I Need To Assess Things And Close Loops


You know the story... I gave up social media for Lent blah, blah, blah.

So now I have this professory impulse to ask myself, "What did I learn?" You know... "assessment," "closing the loop," and all that stuff.

[throws up in his mouth a little bit]

The problem is that I stink at this. So how about I just pilfer from my friend Doug Thompson, who as I have noted before joined me on this Lenten social media fast.

Last week, Doug summarized his own thoughts on this exercise, concluding, "I learned on this side of the lenten journey that being present to people in literal and virtual form matters to me." As he explains it, ditching Facebook and Twitter certainly cleared out some clutter. But there can always be new ways to bring clutter into one's life, pulling us away from strengthening our relationships.

Indeed, I'm pretty good at cluttering up uncluttered spaces.

As I found during Lent, the Internet has no shortage of rabbit holes to explore outside of the world of social media. Goodbye new chunks of time for myself! Hello DuffelBlog!

The trick, then, isn't just to give something up. Yes, it was a liberating act to deactivate Facebook and Twitter. And yes, the silence was golden at first. But the novelty wore off as the weeks passed. Once that happened, it became apparent to me that social media is a tool. Accordingly, there are times when I have used it well. And there are times when I have not.

Let's return to Doug Thompson once more.

I  have only met Doug a handful of times. But all during Lent, I found myself conversing with Doug over text and email about things that I would only share with my closest of friends. This is a relationship that started with social media and has continued through all sorts of other virtual platforms. No doubt, knowing Doug like this has brought value into my life.

On the other hand, there are all of those times when social media overtakes my senses, colonizing my attention. Scroll, scroll, scroll. Mindlessness at its best.

Now that I am back to the noisy room that is social media, I am finding it difficult not to fall back into old habits. When I am facing a challenge or unsavory task, it's SOOO tempting to go trolling for likes and retweets. It's a tendency that is entirely unproductive and lacking intention.

What's the solution?

Moderation and self-restraint. I know this already and so does everyone else. But the experience of stepping back from social media created a space for me to see this more clearly.

Now actually doing something about it, well... maybe I just need to "sin boldly" when it comes to my virtual bad habits. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Rundown Of Everything You Missed (And Yes, This WILL Change Your Life)

No, this is not an image of a bear eating poo.

If you visited this blog during Lent, you could actually hear the crickets chirping.

Indeed, unplugging from social media might have helped my mental wellbeing. But my pageviews plummeted from their already modest numbers. 

So now that I am back to Facebookistan, I thought that I would give a rundown of my posts over the past few weeks. This probably violates the spirit of my exercise in electronic abstinence. But I have to resume my bad habits some time. Might as well start now, and build up for Lent '18....

"In Shape, Out of Shape, and Ursine Urban Legends"
"Shape" is a ubiquitous word in the runner's lexicon.  
In general, it's used to signal a state of fitness in the past, present, or future.   
     "When I was in college, I was in great shape."
     "I wish I was in better shape right now."
     "I just started a new training program. I should be in good shape soon." 
 
Indeed, "in shape" and "out of shape" are the extreme ends of the runner's fitness continuum. Our position on this line is always changing, and entirely relative. [Continue]
"Ever Heard of the Clericus Cup? Me Neither... Until Now"
The Clericus Cup. It's a soccer tournament played at the Vatican. Most of the participants are seminarians, so it's known as the "clerical equivalent of soccer's World Cup."  
Yea, I've never heard of it either. 
That is, until my friend Janelle Peters submitted an article about the tournament for the edited volume that I am working on, Gods, Games, and Globalization 
She also recently published a very interesting piece on the cup over at Paste. [Continue]
"Football Kisses?"
Tom Herman coached football at Houston before he moved on to take over the Texas program. Back in the fall, with his star clearly on the rise, a news story grabbed my attention.  
"Tom Herman kisses all his players before Houston games" 
Really? I thought that there had to be a catch. Something other than a coach's lips making contact with his players heads, necks, and cheeks.  
No catch. Just kisses. [Continue]
"That Moment When The Philadelphia Love Run Lived Up To Its Name"
Running creates family bonds. The struggle to finish connects people from all different ages, abilities, and backgrounds. On the course, sometimes things go well and we can celebrate together. Other times stuff goes sideways. And when that happens, we are comforted by the fact that we are not alone. [Continue]
 "Putting a Price Tag On Service To The University?"
FEVER: A Forum Engaging Values, Education, and Responsibility is a blog run by my friends at the Society for Values in Higher Education.  
Last month, they featured a lively exchange by my SFU colleagues Bill Strosnider and Denise Damico on community engagement and the liberal arts. You can read their contributions here and here.  
This month, I wrote a piece that looks at how we value--and don't value--a professor's service to the university. [Continue]
 "Limbic Politics, Then and Now"
It all started with a news story about violent protests at a university after a cancelled talk. 
"Who is this speaker?" I wondered. So I Googled the name and discovered that he is a celebrity among the "alt-right" crowd. As a self-described "provocateur," he delights in ridiculing the norms and standards of what he considers to be liberal America. 
It's a strategy that has drawn him widespread attention, but has also led to his downfall. He recently resigned from Breitbart News after crossing a line that no one around him would dare to tolerate. 
I watched a few videos of this fast-talking political pot-stirrer. I resolved quickly that we are mistaken if we try to find some logical consistency in his positions. He transgresses for the sake of transgression. He trades in outrage. He prods, he pokes, and he laughs a dehumanizing laugh.  
In other words, this is limbic politics. [Continue]
 "Sin Boldly! Or Bold-ishly..."
"Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still," proclaimed Martin Luther. 
It's one of those phrases that I have probably seen before, but is only now sticking with me. I came across this when re-reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship 
For Bonhoeffer, Luther was certainly not saying anything like, "Go forth and sin, because nothing that you do or don't do will secure your salvation." Nope. There's more of a challenge embedded in this injunction. It's about plainly and honestly acknowledging our shortcomings, and trusting in the power of forgiveness. [Continue]
"'All people are strange in different ways'... Rest in Peace, Ed Whitlock"
My heart sunk when I learned that Ed Whitlock had died. If you are unfamiliar with this remarkable athlete, read his obituary over at Runner's World. It begins... 
Ed Whitlock, the Canadian runner who rewrote the 70+ record books and forever altered conceptions of human endurance performance in older age, died on Monday in Toronto, not far from his home in Milton, Ontario. . . .  Just last October, at 85, he ran 3:56:33 at the Toronto Marathon, becoming the first in his age group to break 4:00 and taking 28 minutes off the previous 85+ record.
Indeed, that marathon he ran last October put Whitlock back into the headlines. At around that same time, I drew upon Whitlock's life and example to organize an address that I gave to a group of cross country runners. 
Here, then, are my 3 "Whitlockian Wisdoms" [Continue]
"A Big Day for SFU Men's Basketball!"
This past Saturday, the Red Flash won a thrilling playoff game. And then they showed up on ESPN. Check out "the shot" if you haven't seen it already (it's at the 2:24 mark). 
Now it's on to the NEC championship game against Mount Saint Mary's. I'm traveling to Emmitsburg tonight to watch. If SFU wins, they head to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991. So it's been a while. 
But beating Mount Saint Mary's will be no small task. The Flash are 0-2 against the Mount this year. Still, we have some serious momentum headed into this game and a surprisingly good record on the road. [Continue]
 "Spring Break Means.... Making Tofu?"
SPRING BREAK!!!!! 
Guess what I did? I made tofu. Really. [Continue]
 "On Quieting the Chatter"
It's day one of my social media fast. 
I signed off last night, not before learning that my friend Doug Thompson will cross the Tiber and join me in this Lenten exercise. In his words, Doug hopes that the time away will help him to "figure out my writing practice and clear my head of the chatter." 
The chatter. Yes, the chatter. [Continue]

Thursday, April 13, 2017

In Shape, Out of Shape, and Ursine Urban Legends



"Shape" is a ubiquitous word in the runner's lexicon.

In general, it's used to signal a state of fitness in the past, present, or future.
"When I was in college, I was in great shape."
"I wish I was in better shape right now."
"I just started a new training program. I should be in good shape soon." 
Indeed, "in shape" and "out of shape" are the extreme ends of the runner's fitness continuum. Our position on this line is always changing, and entirely relative. For example, last year at this time, I had enjoyed the fruits of an extended period of injury-free running. I competed in two track miles, running the second at a time faster than my high school PR. I also ran my fastest time for a 5k since I turned 40.  

Back then, I would have insisted that I was in "OK shape." I thought that my times were a good start, but I had more work to do. Now, however, I look back and marvel at the "shape" I was in. After struggling with an injury in the fall and winter, I witnessed my "shape" decline deeper and deeper. Since returning to running, each attempt to quicken my stride has fallen short of last year's accomplishments.  

After thinking about how and why we use this word, I decided to consult Dr. Google to see if I could figure out its origin. After five solid minutes of research, I didn't turn up much in the way of answers. But I did unearth this little nugget from The Phrase finder website for "lick into shape," which, "sprang from the belief held in mediaeval Europe that bear cubs were born shapeless and had to be made into ursine form by their mother's licking." 

Hence, this is not an image of a bear eating a random pile of poo... 


Rather, this is a mother bear "shaping" her offspring--or at least that's how Pliny the Elder and others imagined it. 

It is reasonable to assume that our fitness-related usage of "in shape"/"out of shape" connects back to this ursine urban legend. It is, after all, a metaphor for form coming from formlessness, order emerging from chaos. Running when you are "out of shape" is clumsy, awkward, and unfamiliar. As we improve, the movements and motions of the run become more familiar, more of a part of our ordinary flow.   

To be "out of shape," then, is to be in a state of anticipation, aspiring to be "in shape." No bear licks needed to get there. Just time, effort, good fortune, and some reliable folks to run with.  

Happy trails, friends.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Ever Heard of the Clericus Cup? Me Neither... Until Now



The Clericus Cup. It's a soccer tournament played at the Vatican. Most of the participants are seminarians, so it's known as the "clerical equivalent of soccer's World Cup." 

Yea, I've never heard of it either.

That is, until my friend Janelle Peters submitted an article about the tournament for the edited volume that I am working on, Gods, Games, and Globalization. 

She also recently published a very interesting piece on the cup over at Paste. An excerpt...
As a tournament that priests and seminarians refer to as their World Cup, the Clericus Cup remains firmly rooted in the Vatican City and Rome. The hundreds of seminarians who participate each year come from dozens of countries, but there are no 'away' games—all the seminarians have a home in Rome. And it's not just any home, but one with student-priests-gone-wild, chanting songs and wearing flags and country-specific costumes (Captain America, the Super Mario Brothers, et al.). There are even Star Wars-themed homage videos in which aspiring goalkeeper priests get kidnapped by the LA Galaxy, much to the chagrin of their Clericus Cup teams. (Thankfully, the LA Galaxy has never actually attempted to poach any player while he was competing for the Cup's trophy of a hat-wearing soccer ball with cleats.) 
The tradition of having soccer matches among the pontifical colleges in Rome is much older than the Clericus Cup, of course. Fr. Jim Mulligan started an eight-team tournament called the Rome Cup in 2003, when he was a seminarian at Pontifical Beda College. Among other teams, the North American Martyrs (unsurprisingly) have a history of trials and tribulations. None of that history, however, has impacted their successive Clericus Cup wins. Even the Martyrs have risen to soccer glory, dominating the 2012 and 2013 years. 
Though not every player in the Cup is a priest, the hope is that the seminarians and priests on the teams will direct the play toward more lofty spiritual goals, and to help the personal growth of the friars in cleats. Previously, it was also partly to help restore decency to the game after the Calciopoli scandals and to convince world soccer organizations such as FIFA to adopt the so-called “sin cards.” For the Clericus Cup, these blue cards put a player in the “sin bin” for five minutes.
You can read the entire article here. It's a terrific story of a religious institution intersecting with an athletic institution that both have a rich history and global reach.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Football Kisses?

Tom Herman coached football at Houston before he moved on to take over the Texas program. Back in the fall, with his star clearly on the rise, a news story grabbed my attention. 


Really? I thought that there had to be a catch. Something other than a coach's lips making contact with his players heads, necks, and cheeks. 

No catch. Just kisses. 


The New York Times explained...
Physical expressions of affection certainly exist in big-time sports. Nothing says “Good job!” in baseball like a firm pat on the behind from a coach, and in international soccer it is not uncommon to see teammates peck each other on the cheek after a big play. 
But kisses in football’s gladiatorial culture seem as incongruous as a Gatorade shower at the ballet. 
For Herman, 41, there is no better way to demand the painful sacrifices of the game than to forthrightly convey his affection for his players.
“How do you motivate a human being to do things against his own nature?” Herman said in an interview. “There’s two things: love and fear. And to me, love wins every time.” 
 ...
Herman reckoned he has kissed his players for more than a decade, going back to his days as the wide receivers coach at Sam Houston State.
“I’m a bit confused as to why it’s garnered so much attention and why it’s seemed so odd,” he said, “because I think most college coaches would tell a young man in recruiting — or his parents — ‘Hey, I’m going to love you’ or ‘treat you like my son.’”
In fact, Herman expressed sadness that the ritual seems so uncommon.
“I can tell you I was disappointed — they said it was the first time they’ve ever been kissed by a man,” Herman said, noting that several of his players grew up fatherless.
“Which,” he added, “is a shame in our society.”
I must confess that this challenged my own perception of masculine shows of affection. Handshakes are fine. I can add a shoulder slap if I really mean it. Hugs are OK. I was raised by New Englanders, so I have to work at this one--alcohol and/or sports helps.

But kisses. That's just no. Not at all.

But as a parent, I kiss my kids all the time. In fact, I never give it a second thought. When I watch Tom Herman kissing his players, this is what I see--a loving exchange between a parent and a child. I don't know much of anything about this coach and his team. But this gesture seems entirely authentic and sincere.

This brings be to this whole teaching thing that I do.

I have said before that I continue to learn about my profession by hanging out with coaches. The best ones know how to show their love for their players. I know that this doesn't just happen either. Coaches spend more time with their athletes than any professor would over a four year period.

Still... I could do better with showing that I care. And no, there won't be kisses. That's a bridge too far. A creepy bridge too. And one that ends in me getting fired. So maybe I'll stick with fist bumps.

Friday, March 31, 2017

That Moment When The Philadelphia Love Run Lived Up To Its Name

This video has gone viral, and for good reason. Via the Washington Post... 
As 21-year-old Haley Klinger neared the finish line at Love Run Half Marathon in Philadelphia, her legs started to buckle. 
Video footage from Sunday’s race shows the young woman stop, grimace and reach down toward her feet. Without missing a step, two fellow runners grab her under her arms and carry her along with them. 
That was the moment triathlete Joseph McGinty, 31, turned around to find his training buddy, 45-year-old Bryan Crnkovic. He saw Crnkovic and the other man, who has not been publicly identified, helping an exhausted woman finish the race. 
So McGinty ran back and scooped her up in his arms. 
“I saw she almost fell to the ground, so I grabbed her and said, ‘Let’s go,’ ” McGinty told The Washington Post on Tuesday. He added: “It was instinct. Someone was in need and I wanted to help.” 
Feet from the finish line, McGinty set Klinger down to let her cross it on her own. Medics put Klinger, who was exhausted and dehydrated, in a wheelchair.
One of the helpers, Joseph McGinty knew exactly what it was like to be in Klinger's shoes. An article over at Runner's World explains...
McGinty...recalled the Challenge Atlantic City race two years ago in which he was attempting to set a personal record in a triathlon of Ironman distance. In the last two miles of the marathon, he hit the wall and started to unravel. His father joined him for the finish. "He pushed me to get across that finish line, and if I can ever help anybody out like that, that’s what I want to do, and that’s what I did for her," said McGinty, who fell just 18 seconds short of a personal best that day. "Knowing in my heart I didn’t give up is just as good as a PR. You just never want to give up in life."
Appropriately enough, McGinty and his friend have been labeled "Good Samaritans." Indeed, because of them, the Philadelphia Love Run lived up to its name--philia, "brotherly love."

Running creates family bonds. The struggle to finish connects people from all different ages, abilities, and backgrounds. On the course, sometimes things go well and we can celebrate together. Other times stuff goes sideways. And when that happens, we are comforted by the fact that we are not alone.

Happy trails, friends.     

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Putting a Price Tag On Service To The University?


FEVER: A Forum Engaging Values, Education, and Responsibility is a blog run by my friends at the Society for Values in Higher Education

Last month, they featured a lively exchange by my SFU colleagues Bill Strosnider and Denise Damico on community engagement and the liberal arts. You can read their contributions here and here

This month, I wrote a piece that looks at how we value--and don't value--a professor's service to the university. It opens...
Teaching, scholarship, and service—the “holy trinity” of a professor’s professional life. When it comes time for tenure and promotion, the final decision hinges entirely on these three areas. To be sure, the weight given to each category differs from place to place. Research and teaching institutions respectively prioritize scholarly output and classroom competence. Irrespective of the setting, though, professors have at their disposal tangible artifacts to demonstrate their effectiveness in either domain, from books and articles to student evaluations and classroom observations from their colleagues. 
When it comes to service, though, things get hazy—especially when it’s university-related work. This category gets reduced to a mere list of committees, searches, and assorted administrative tasks. Accordingly, much like the Supreme Court’s infamous definition of pornography, those reviewing these lists assume that they know a sufficient service record when they see it. 
While this is an institutional habit at many universities, it should also be a cause for concern. Taking service for granted has enabled an unjust system that has placed the burden of this sort of work onto a select few—most of whom are women.
 You can read the rest here. My solution to this dilemma is to monetize service to the university in the same way that we monetize something like teaching loads.

I am curious to hear if anyone out there has thoughts on this. Are there schools doing this? Or are there other solutions for leveling out university-related workloads? Let me know--in the comments or something... because that whole social media fast...