Friday, June 25, 2010

Manute Bol: Fool for Christ

Source
By JON A. SHIELDS
As any churchgoer who tuned in to watch the recent NBA finals contest between the Lakers and Celtics already knows, the term redemption is probably now heard more often in NBA sports broadcasts than in homilies. A Google search under "redemption" and "NBA" generates approximately 2 million hits—more hits than "redemption" and "Christianity." The term can also be found in more than 2,600 stories on ESPN.com.

What does redemption mean in the world of professional basketball and sports more broadly? It involves making up for—or, yes, "atoning"—for a poor performance. When the Lakers beat Boston, for instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times called the victory "redemption for the Celtics' 2008 Finals beating."

More often, though, sports journalists use the term to praise the individual performances of NBA superstars. Thus, the Associated Press reported that Kobe Bryant "found redemption" after he won a title in 2009 without the aid of his nemesis and former teammate Shaquille O'Neal.

Manute Bol, who died last week at the age of 47, is one player who never achieved redemption in the eyes of sports journalists. His life embodied an older, Christian conception of redemption that has been badly obscured by its current usage.

Bol, a Christian Sudanese immigrant, believed his life was a gift from God to be used in the service of others. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: "God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back."

He was not blessed, however, with great athletic gifts. As a center for the Washington Bullets, Bol was more spectacle than superstar. At 7 feet, 7 inches tall and 225 pounds, he was both the tallest and thinnest player in the league. He averaged a mere 2.6 points per game over the course of his career, though he was a successful shot blocker given that he towered over most NBA players.

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: "Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals."

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William "the Refrigerator" Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol's life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior "humiliation" by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

It is of little surprise, then, that the sort of radical Christianity exemplified by Bol is rarely understood by sports journalists. For all its interest in the intimate details of players' lives, the media has long been tone deaf to the way devout Christianity profoundly shapes some of them.

Obituary titles for Bol, for example, described him as a humanitarian rather than a Christian. The remarkable charity and personal character of other NBA players, including David Robinson, A. C. Green and Dwight Howard, are almost never explicitly connected to their own intense Christian faith. They are simply good guys.

Christian basketball players hope that their "little lights" shine in a league marked by rapacious consumption and marital infidelity. They could shine even brighter if sports journalists acknowledged that such players seek atonement and redemption in a far more profound way than mere athletic success.

Jon A. Shields is assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crazy

Remember this video? I can't remember if I posted it here, but it went viral a while back:

(If you haven't watched this yet, you must. I have no idea why, but it is mezmerizing.)


Well, here's a remix. If the original was funny, this is hysterical.


Enjoy

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Covers, volume 3

I've discovered some really cool covers in the past few weeks. So, I thought I'd share:

Dala - Ohio (originally by Neil Young)


Jill Sobule - Hot in Here (Nelly)


Jack Johnson - We are Going to be Friends (The White Stripes)


Daniel Merriweather - You Don't Know What Love is You Do as You're Told (The White Stripes) -- incidentally, this is one of my favorite White Stripes tunes.


Lavender Diamond - Chiquitita (ABBA): there is a youtube video, but it's poor quality. So here's a link to another blog that allows audio embedding.

The Bird & The Bee - How Deep is Your Love (The Bee Gees)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Compendium o' Links

First a rick roll:


Now some nature:This mouse has accepted his fate:


What we would see if were not for light pollution:


Now for some lighter fare:
Remember that song, Whoomp, there it is? Well it turns out that Obama was in the video. Well, at least someone who looks like him.

Bread Art

When engineers have dogs:


Remember the Star Wars Kid? Well he's a lawyer now. If you care.

I want to go to this store:


That's all for now.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Thundercats Are Back!!

From MTV:

Thundercats... Ho!

Lion-O and the warriors from Thundera will be back on television next year in a new animated series set to air on Cartoon Network in 2011.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, the new "Thundercats" series will be the studio's first project to use anime-style animation, and promises to be a "21st century reimagining" of the classic '80s cartoon series.

Along with the first promotional image from the series, WBA also sent over a brand new, ridiculously cool poster announcing the series' 2011 debut.

Here's the first image from the series:





According to the studio, the new series will appeal to both longtime fans and newcomers to the universe of Lion-O and his Thunderan brethren.

Calling it "a sweeping tale combining swords and science and boasting ferocious battles with the highest of stakes," the studio offered some hints about what the new "Thundercats" series will involve, including "the grand origin story of Prince Lion-O’s ascension to the throne – and of those who would thwart his destiny at any cost."

For the project, WBA will collaborate with noted Japanese animation Studio4°C (“The Animatrix,” “Gotham Knights”), who will update the characters' look for the series.

"Thundercats" will be executive produced by Sam Register (“Teen Titans,” “Ben 10,” “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”), with Michael Jelenic (“Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” “Wonder Woman”) and Ethan Spaulding (“Avatar: The Last Airbender”) as producers.