Volatile, Historic Times and the Spider Who Doesn’t Care

Righteous indignation on each side; blustery public diatribes backed by legal or biblical authority; verbal wars among foes and friends and family which take no idealogical prisoners—this seems to be the state of current events.

But this tiny spider doesn’t seem to know, or care. She’s not angry, or justified, or changing the color of her web to the rainbow.1 She doesn’t notice at all. The sun came up, she made her web, she’ll eat if bugs show up, and the sun will go down again when the day is through.


Yet we struggle, we fight, we vehemently beat back opposing views.

Views. That’s what we’re fighting. Views. Opinions. Beliefs.

I am a person. I have my own views. I do not think it’s wise to equate the marriage between a man and woman with one between two people of the same gender. I do not think it needs to be illegal, but to me—my belief, my opinion, how I would choose—it would be wiser to proceed as God designed us to be.

(Please note: in this post, I’m not going to address any “how we are made” thoughts other than the obvious reproductive gender differences which I am referencing above. Of course there are so many other mental/emotional/chemical/physical factors.)

Since God has said that it is unnatural for a man to have sex with a man, or a woman to have sex with a woman;2 well, I believe him. He also said he hates divorce; so I plan to never choose that, no matter how much “sense” it might seem to make at some future time, or how much I might want it (to be clear, I do not want it now). He also said adultery is wrong, no matter how much it might seem like a good idea, or we might want it. Sex is for marriage, between one woman and one man—that is God’s best design. (And nothing else.)

It is not our place to condemn sin. (As Romans 2 says, then you’re just condemning yourself, too.) Sin is anything which takes the place of our reliance upon our Father. It’s often a counterfeit of the good he wants to give us. Sex is great, of course, in the context above. But every other form will harm us, or somehow harm our relationship with God, who is our Life.

It is not just homosexual sex, nor any other “great sin” our friends on the conservative right rail against which is sin. Nor is it neglect of the poor, or greed, or religious bigotry against which our more liberal friends crusade. There is so much sin. None of us is free from it, or immune from it. None of us has never sinned.

(Sidebar: if you have never read John 8, please take a moment to read it now. So enlightening.)

Now that I’ve shared my opinion on the matter, do you think I hate anyone wanting to marry someone of their own gender? Do you hate me for thinking that is not what God intended for them?

Of course I do not.

I do not hate anyone. Really. I don’t. I think I might be labeled as hating, though, because I believe some things (behaviors) are harmful, and wrong. (I think drinking pop is harmful and wrong… so maybe I’m not a good test case?)3

Difference of beliefs is not hate. It’s really, really not.

But let’s wrap this up with a return to my new friend, the spider.

As I ate my lunch, thoughts of all the discord and self-righteous banter, Facebook photos and links swirled through my mind. In that mental maelstrom, I felt noticeable peace. (Despite the noise of the traffic which passes our house most hours of the days.) I saw that very tiny spider, quiet and still on her web, swaying with the gentle breeze. I could imagine her saying, had she the voice, “What’s all the fuss about?”

I’m not saying these things aren’t important, but they are not worth a war of words. Certainly they do not justify hate in return for perceived hate. If someone thinks differently than you (so long as they are not actually harming another) then just let them. Just let them.

The world will go on. Until Jesus returns, there will be harm and good, pain and joy. Both coexist together.

I think the spider would say that we should, too.

  1. It is ironic, though, is it not, that there are rainbow-colored pinwheels in the background. 🙂
  2. Read Romans 1-2, especially Romans 2 if you are a Christian reading this.
  3. One more sidebar: I am currently reading a very interesting history of the Confederacy. The Story of the Confederacy was written in 1931 by Robert Selph Henry. Should I burn this literary work? It is not condemning the Confederate flag, nor its people. Rather, the author is hoping to present both sides of the story in our country’s history. It’s important. Does my interest in this mean I hate black people?

A Vacation (of sorts)


I need a vacation.

I think I have for a very long time, actually.

And we’ve had some. We enjoyed a really nice visit with family this summer. And we just had a nice weekend in Buffalo with more family this past Labor Day holiday. And I’ve had some really nice days off here and there.

But I really need a break.

With an increase in activities beginning this week, one break is going to be here at GregsHead.net.

There will be no new posts this week, but there is so much content here (remember… over 800,000 words worth) that I’d love for you to scroll back through the recent posts, or use the archive links in my 10th anniversary post, or just click around wherever you’d like. Much to ponder, encourage, challenge, and I certainly welcome your responses—even to things written over 10 years ago!

I can’t really call this break from writing a vacation … but at least I can put this pen down for a while, and perhaps a true break will come at some point in the near future.

And perhaps not.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Have you never heard?
     Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
     the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
     No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
     and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
     and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
     They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
     They will walk and not faint.

The Monday Night Flag Football League

ROCHESTER, NY – The MNFFL is a flag football league comprised mostly of home-schooled children (though not exclusively so) that plays its six-game season on Monday nights under the approaching-autumn skies of western New York State.

Begun by the enterprising youngster, Alex Campbell (then aged ten), it is entering its second season, and boasting nearly fifty percent more players.

MNFFL 2013 Season Begins

“We’re so excited for this season,” says the now eleven-year-old Campbell. “We have a new team, some new logos, and plenty of new players. I think we learned a lot from that first season, too, so we’re much more prepared for all the details that need to be taken care of as we start this year.”

The details include securing a field big enough for two flag football fields, which are a little smaller than a full-sized football field, and this year, room for the younger siblings to play their own game on the side during game nights. The fields are measured out at thirty-five yards wide, by seventy yards long. (Twenty of those yards being the two ten-yard end zones.) The “Youngers” field (as it is being called) will be a bit smaller, using whatever space is available.

Flag football is a bit tougher than you might think. In tackle football, the object is simple: get the man with the ball down on the ground. In touch, it’s in some ways easier, but there are all sorts of qualms and squabbles over whether or not the player was touched, and/or if it was one hand or two. It can get ugly.

The difficult part of flag football is that, in order to end the play and get the player “down”, you have to grab the flag. If you have not done this before for yourself, you might find it is much more difficult—that the flag is much more elusive—than you might think!

MNFFL Inaugural Season, 2012

The players range in age from ten to seventeen, both boys and girls, and many levels of skill—but one level of competition: competitive! The six-game season culminates with a Championship Day—the first Saturday in October—with the teams playing as they are seeded: 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3, based on the regular season records.

The champions take home individual trophies with their name, their team name, and the 2013 MNFFL Champions inscribed on their plaque.

Last year the Heat Lightning were the champions in a fiercely-fought championship game. Tempers flared during the contest, but there were genuine congratulatory remarks and high fives after the game was over. True sportsmanship.

With a fairly small roster of players, this league is still in its infancy, but there is much promise for the future. The league plans to expand to at least six teams next year, anticipating another fifty percent growth in membership. If the growth is larger, there is room for four more teams, which would necessitate two conferences.

“It’s really exciting,” Campbell admits, “This league was just something I sort of dreamed up in my head. I started creating the logos, and thinking of who I’d put on what team. My Dad helped me out a bit, and here we are, playing our second season. It’s really almost unbelievable!”

Indeed it is. Amazing what you can do when you aren’t limited by thinking about what you can’t do.

This little flag football league in Upstate New York is one more proof of that.

MNFFL - Good, competitive flag football

DOMA Arigato

Defense of Marriage Act, section 3 ruled unconstitutionalJust about a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was in the news for two rulings in regards to same-sex marriages. One was specific to California (Proposition 8), and I won’t address that here, but the first was regarding a case challenging the constitutionality of section three (§3) of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In a 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS ruled that §3 of DOMA was indeed unconstitutional, based on the protections guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. (The Full Faith and Credit clause.)

And so, what began as a not very good idea continues to crumble.


In 1996, Congress rushed through (with great approval, based on the votes) the Defense of Marriage Act. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton—who at that time personally, publicly opposed gay marriage, in addition to his belief that it should not be sanctioned by the Federal government—and ever since then, DOMA has been challenged by one court case after another, slowly eroding its frail constitutional structure.

And really, I agree with this ruling.

I do not agree with same-sex marriage. I think God was pretty clear (stick with me here) speaking strictly anatomically, that there is a proper “match” between a man and a woman. The physical is obvious. And then there is the story of Adam & Eve: when God made a partner for Adam, he made Eve. (Not “Steve”.. haha!! Good one!!!) 🙂

And, the other obvious reason for a marriage to be between one man and one woman for life is procreation. You can’t actually have kids without both sexes being involved. Are you with me?

Now, I know there are seemingly a billion nuances to this. There’s one side yelling, “Homosexuality is a SIN! God hates fags!!!” And then the other side—properly and rightly offended—begins to hate the God whom these “Righteous Ones” claim to represent. And the former dig deep into the scriptures to sling judgmental condemnations straight from the Mouth of God upon these forlorn, wayward, despicable sinners! (Meanwhile ignoring their own filthy rags, and/or logs in their eyes, etc.)

The debate about what is right and what is wrong will never, ever get us anywhere.

So, if we’re arguing from the Bible, let’s take a look at Jesus. He is the final, fullest revelation of the Father, right? So, Jesus must have said plenty of times that he hated homosexuality (and then, it stands to reason, he hated homosexuals too, right?)—AND he hated, opposed, campaigned against gay marriage. Of course.


But… I don’t think Jesus ever addressed homosexuality? Weird.

Does that mean it is not a “sin”? No. Does it mean it’s “right”? Still, no. (In fact, logically you can’t presume something is “right” from the absence of a declaration of it being “wrong”, can you?)

Liberty is Paramount

What I think it does show us is the first way that we can deal with this issue.

Back off. Love people. “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

We are not the police of anyone. (Unless of course you are a police officer, and then, well, we thank you for your service.)

It’s not my job to tell you—or as is the pattern of some—to make you do what I think you should do. If you want to marry someone who has the same body parts as you, well, I personally can not “sanction” that, but, I do sanction your right to choose differently than me.

And I expect you to do the same for me.

This is the crux of the whole thing for me: Liberty. It’s not a moral issue, though of course underneath the minutia of all these cases, and legal and political battles it has moral implications.

It’s an issue of liberty. And not only that of the people wanting to legalize same-sex unions.

I may strongly disagree with you, but inherent in my understanding of liberty is your liberty. You are entitled to live your life however you please, so long as no one else is hurt (without their full, willing consent) in the process. We are all guaranteed these inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Even if it’s “wrong”, or even if it might hurt us. (Larger portions at fast food restaurants? Smoking? Drinking? Marijuana? Driving without seat belts? Riding bikes without helmets?)

We have become a people who no longer celebrate diversity, and we are increasing the pace toward total control over everyone’s lives.

Equality? Or Victory?

The cry from those who want to legalize same-sex marriages at the Federal level—thus requiring all States to abide by this legal status, whether or not they sanction such unions—is that of “equal rights”. But what is happening is really just an attempt to gain control, and force others to do what you think they should do. One group telling another how they can and will act. Bakeries have to make wedding cakes, and churches will be forced to perform same-sex marriages1.

The bottom line is: if you want freedom, then you must also give freedom.

You can have freedom, and the consequences of freedom, and you must concurrently and equally allow others to think and live differently than you. There are obviously places where these freedoms intersect, and at that point a society must decide how to resolve such disputes. That is what our Constitution (and the government it created) allow for.

I am opposed to gay marriage. But I am even more opposed to legislating any bit of this. In fact, I’m all for unlegislating marriage altogether. I love being married to Jen—it’s maybe the most important piece of who I am after being a child of God. Do I care that New York State “recognizes” my marriage? Not really at all.

Much of this fight is because of tax penalties (including the case that brought about last Wednesday’s ruling) and legalization of immigrants, and other financial/taxation concerns. So drop them, as much as possible. Don’t tax money bequeathed to a loved one. Don’t provide financial benefits to married couples.2

Just leave me be.

Legislating Morality

I agree with the Supreme Court that defining marriage is unconstitutional, but not because it violates the constitution as much as because the federal government has no place defining marriage in the first place. Traditional marriage, or same-sex marriage, or multiple concurrent marriages, or polygamy, etc, etc.

Some seem to see government as the protector of morality, but is that really our government’s role? I heard a statement in regards to this subject on a podcast just this morning:

“It’s the government’s job to treat [marriage with] equal[ity], it’s not the government’s job to make moral choices for people.”3

Spot on.

Stop thinking that you can pass laws and make people into what you want them to be.

Laws do not shape people’s minds and hearts. Education, the Holy Spirit, and in general, a caring instructor will do that. (As well as common sense and life experience; those can be the best teachers sometimes.)

You can’t say “Gay marriage is legal and approved!” and change people’s beliefs by that statement. Nor do we conform people to “right thinking” by saying, “Gay marriage is abhorrent and banned!!!”

It just doesn’t work that way. The morality of our laws and government reflect who we are, the do not make us who we are. In addition, our laws are about blind justice (not preferential prejudice) and equality, for all.

God made us free. Our Founders recognized that. We are born with the right to choose, and our government is We the People, protecting each other’s inalienable rights. I’m still going to disagree on the specifics regarding gay marriage, but that’s my inalienable right. And yours.

And that is what we most need to protect here.

It’s not “hate” to say that homosexuality is a sin. (Nor is it usually very helpful, in a public setting.) It is encroaching on freedom to say that someone can’t think that, or even express that.

(Again, it may not be helpful, but let truth be truth. If you say homosexuality is not a choice, but as natural as different skin or hair colors, then let that be true. Don’t force it on someone who strongly disagrees.)

But that’s where we fall sadly short. We are supposed to be the Land of the Free, but we really want to be free to make other people like me.

How sad. We’re meant to be more.

Love mercy, do justly, walk humbly with your God

So let’s be. Love your neighbor—whatever they believe. Find common ground, even if there’s barely any to be found. Stop trying to make other people think like you do!

And most of all, pray. Not for God to change other people, but so your eyes will be opened to what he is doing. First in you, and then around you.

I think it’s good that DOMA is being questioned. DOMA arigato, SCOTUS. Hopefully that means there is a semblance of constitutuional liberty still present in our bloated, overreaching federal government.

And now we proceed with liberty our goal. And justice for all.

True justice, not petty political victory.

May God help us as we do.


  1. Note, I realize this is in Denmark, but this mentality is being championed here in the US. When we make the gay view the “right” view, the same errors in how we treat each other will inevitably be carried out, just in the reverse.
  2. I’m sure there is much more here than I even have time to consider, but the general principle makes sense to me. Less government is better government!
  3. Wayne Jacobsen, The God Journey Podcast – Sexuality & Transformation (6/28/13)

Regarding Liberty

Edward Snowden - NSA WhistleblowerWe’re being monitored. At least, we’re being recorded. Straight out of the storyline in George Orwell’s novel 1984, technology has gotten to the point that anyone who wants to, and has the resources to—like, the US Federal Government—can monitor and store all electronic communications.

That really is astounding.

This past week, Edwards Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee revealed many things about the clandestine agency’s daily operations, apparently because his conscience would not allow him to remain silent regarding the obvious overreaching. (Read more.)

Reactions to his revelations vary, but one certain result of his actions is that we as a nation (and perhaps the entire globe) are considering what is just, and necessary, and maybe even ethical, in regards to security versus liberty.

That reminds me of the words of Benjamin Franklin:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

It’s pretty amazing that we have the capacity to collect and store every email, phone conversation, video or audio chat, web browser session, and so on. And with indexing and cataloging software, as well as analytical algorithms, it’s incredibly easy to discover critical facts and piece them together to thwart nefarious plots. Truly remarkable how our technology has come.

But at what point is it too much? Do we really need to collect—and store—all of this information… especially when there is no evidence or even suspicion of wrongdoing? What about “innocent until proven guilty”? What about the right to liberty, established in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence?

With all of these thoughts fresh in our minds, I thought it might be a good time to revisit a draft post I started and saved shortly after finishing a book by Ron Paul titled, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom.

I asked Jen if she would type out the last couple pages of Ron Paul’s book, because I thought it was just an excellent summary of his book, his thoughts on liberty, and the current culture of our country. (AND, because she really does love doing things like that! Anyone need a secretary?) 🙂

I’m not sure of the copyright usage permissions here, but if Mr. Paul or his people contact me and request I remove this post, I will.

Until then, please read his words, and consider what Liberty means to you. (And what you can do about that.)

Please comment below, too, if you’d like to do so. This is not a “no comment” subject, to be sure.

Also, if you have the time, click the Related Posts links at the end of this post, too. They are all worthwhile reads regarding liberty.

Excerpt from Liberty Defined by Ron Paul

Many people are deeply discouraged at the state of affairs in America. They look at goings-on in Washington and see graft, power grabs, senseless regulation and spending, and a government completely out of control, having grown far beyond the size and scope that a free people should ever permit. They are confused about ongoing wars around the world. They are puzzled by the dampening of economic opportunity. People are worried about the future.

These people are right. Some are active in politics and trying to make a change. Others are discouraged to the point of utter cynicism. There is a third path here that I highly recommend, and that is the path of winning hearts and minds through education, first of the individual, and then of others through every way possible.

We must recapture what it means to be free. By this I do not mean that we should all become policy wonks or waste our time studying the details of this or that political initiative or sector of life. I mean that we need to form a new approach to thinking about society and government, one that imagines that we can get along without such central management. We need to become more tolerant of the imperfections that come with freedom, and we need to give up the illusion that somehow putting government in charge of anything is going to improve its workings, much less bring utopia.

To embrace the idea of liberty is not a natural condition of mankind. In fact, we are disposed to tolerate far more impositions on liberty than we should. To love liberty requires an act of the intellect, I believe. It involves coming to understand how all the things we love in this world were given to us under conditions of liberty.

We need to come to see government as it is, not as we wish it to be and not as the civics books describe it. And we need to surrender our attachments to government in every aspect of life. This goes for the right and the left. We need to give up our dependencies on the state, materially and spiritually. We should not look to the state to provide for us financially or psychologically.

Let us give up our longing for welfare, our love of war, and our desire to see the government control and shape our fellow citizens. Let us understand that it is far better to live in an imperfect world than it is to live in a despotic world ruled by people who lord it over us through force and intimidation. We need a new understanding of what it means to be a great nation; it should mean, as George Washington said, that our nation is a beacon unto the world, not that we conquer the world militarily, impose our will on everyone, or even remain number one in the GDP rankings. Our sense of what it means to be great must be defined first by morality.

We must come to imagine liberty again, and believe that it can be a reality. In order to do this, we do not need songs, slogans, rallies, programs, or even a political party. All we need is access to good ideas, some degree of idealism, and the courage to embrace the liberty that so many great people of the past have embraced.

Liberty built civilization. It can rebuild civilization. And when the tides turn and the culture again celebrates what it means to be free, our battle will be won. It could happen in our time. It might happen after we are gone from this earth. But it will happen. Our job in this generation is to prepare the way.

(Emphases mine)

Are Buffalo Sports Eternally Doomed?

Aaron Maybin, Bills First Round BustThe Buffalo Sabres got their first win in five tries last night. It came by way of a(nother) great performance by goalie Ryan Miller. They have seven wins in this lockout-shortened season. Strangely, they are currently the worst team in the Eastern Conference, and yet they are only four points out of the final playoff spot.

The level of ineptitude (and apparent apathy) that they have displayed thus far was actually sufficient to cause the organization to fire their coach of sixteen years. (Which, honestly, even though it happens all the time in the league, many people in Buffalo figured it would never happen here!)

And now, the Buffalo Bills, who cleaned house at the end of the last season, are potentially not going to draft a quarterback in the first couple rounds?

Are we ever going to see a championship team here in Buffalo?

They really have come close. Obviously the Bills in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, a Ronnie Harmon catch away from six straight AFC Championship games. SIX, people! And the four straight Super Bowl appearances will likely never be rivaled. And, the Hall of Fame inductees from that team keep coming.

Tyler Myers - SabresThe Sabres have a couple Stanley Cup Finals appearances to their credit. (But no Cup…) They have a President’s Trophy (first place in the league for the regular season) and that team had some really notable names… but they are all gone.

Now names like Tyler Myers, and Tyler Ennis, and Stafford, Foligno, Enroth, Grigorenko, Brennan, McNabb, Adam, and on and on, are leaving a bad taste in the mouths of Buffalo sports fans everywhere.

Why can we never catch a break?

Free Agency is coming up for the Buffalo Bills. It begins on March 12th. The draft follows that in late April. The NHL trade deadline is much later than usual this year (because of the shorter season) at April 3rd. The Sabres’ deal makers have repeatedly stated that they are interested in making moves, “but we need to have a partner. It’s not like XBox.”

Since late last year, the Bills have said they want to draft a top-notch QB.

But since the new coaching staff has come in, they have been releasing (or not re-signing) veteran players at an alarming rate. This leads one to believe that they will use the draft to fill those holes. (Oh, and they also re-signed QB Tarvaris Jackson, and “reinstated” QB Ryan Fitzpatrick by publicly announcing that he and Jackson will compete for the starting job.)

With so many “new” holes, and making that move at quarterback (along with what most who follow the draft say is a “weak” class of QBs) does that mean that the Bills won’t draft a QB in the first couple rounds??

It may not even matter.

Unfortunately, the Bills’ recent track record with the draft goes something like this:

  • 2012: Stephone Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham
  • 2011: Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams, Kelvin Sheppard
  • 2010: C.J. Spiller, Torrell Troup, Alex Carington
  • 2009: Aaron Maybin, Eric Wood, Jairus Byrd, Andy Levitre
  • 2008: Leodis McKelvin, James Hardy, Chris Ellis
  • 2007: Marshawn Lynch, Paul Posluszny, Trent Edwards

No QBs. And not a great list overall, though there are some good players there. (Even a couple Pro Bowlers in Byrd and Spiller.)

It’s a bit unfair to come to any real conclusions regarding last year’s draft (though, it does seem they did get a very solid player with the pick of Gilmore), and one must also consider that there were two different “regimes” overseeing those drafts (Jauron/Levy, Jauron/I forget, and then Nix/Gailey).

But the italicized players are no longer with the team, and in some cases, no longer in the NFL. These are guys picked in the top three rounds.

C.J. Spiller is going to be great. And there’s no way that BOTH Byrd and Levitre leave Buffalo (they just are not currently signed). But the rest…

It sure seems like perpetual, eternal sports doom for this city. For both of the major pro sports franchises.

I do find myself hoping that the bottom really falls out for the Sabres. From what I’ve read, there are three really good prospects in the 2013 NHL Draft. So, if we add one of those guys to some promising young players already part of the organization at some level … seems good, no?

But then you remember the whole Buffalo thing.

It seems like we have a lot of this to look forward to in the near future…

“Tarvaris Jackson throws it deep to T.J. Graham… he’s got his man beat! … OH! He drops the ball and the game is over! I don’t know why they didn’t give the ball to Spiller a whole lot more than they did in that game, do you, Mark?”

“Tyler Ennis makes a move to get around Chara… a beautiful pass across to Myers… OH! He fanned on it! But the Sabres get it back again, Leopold around behind the net… out in front to Foligno…. OH! He fired it badly wide of the open net! Rask was completely out of position, but he fired it WAY wide!”

Yep. Seems to be the way it shall forever be…

End Of The Lindy Line

Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo SabresThe Buffalo Sabres announced today that they have “relieved Lindy Ruff of his coaching duties”.

That is the “nice” way of saying, “We fired him.”

It’s been asked for, begged for, longed for, pined for, and even fully expected for a few seasons now. Sabres fans (and players?) have felt the need for change due to the teams year after year being appropriately labeled “Underachievers”.

Actually, it is only because of loyalty to the man who has spent 25 years of his life with the Sabres organization, both as a player (1979-1989) and as its head coach (1997-2013) that he was still employed by the team.

Strange. Writing that closing date for Ruff’s coaching career felt a bit like an obituary just now.

Prior to today’s announcement, Ruff had been the second-longest tenured coach in American pro sports. Now the silver medal would currently go to Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators. (This could be the proverbial writing on the wall for Mr. Trotz…)

I actually remember the day, as a long-time Sabres fan, when the team went through coaches as fast as their Buffalo pro-sports counterpart have in the last decade and a half, or so. Rick Dudley, John Muckler, Ted Nolan… all fine coaches, actually. But they all only lasted a few years, then they were “let go”.

Lindy Ruff 1998But not Ruff. His record at his departure: 571-432-162. That’s one thousand, one hundred and sixty-five games. That, folks, is rather impressive. Even if you’re not a fan of his coaching of late (or ever) you’d have to give at least a slight tip of the hat to his incredible longevity. (And a winning percentage of .560 over that span, as well.)

Only three coaches in NHL history have coached more than a thousand games with the same team.

The Sabres have replaced Ruff with Ron Rolston, who was the head coach for their farm club, the Rochester Americans, up until about 5pm ET today.

And thus begins a new era.

I’m not really sure what to expect. I am an eternal optimist, and even I have been saying for a few weeks now, “I guess it’s time they fire Ruff!” The players have been lackluster (by many accounts) in several of their games this season. The 2013 season began well, with two straight wins, but since then the Sabres are 4-10-1.

Some of their wins have been fantastic. A 7-4 win in Boston, scoring four goals in the third, and overcoming a 3-1 second-period deficit as well. They’ve even looked pretty good in at least a couple of the losses: this past Sunday 4-3 to Pittsburgh, and a loss to the Ottawa Senators by the same score a couple weeks prior.

Were the players purposely not playing their best or their hardest to force management’s hand? Did they hope to see Ruff’s tenure severed?

No one can know that but the players.

We will now test that theory beginning tomorrow. The Rolston era will begin in Buffalo.

Boy, that sounds weird.

I look forward to seeing a new and different Sabres team. It can only get better, right?

And I wish the man, Lindy Ruff, who has lived for a while now in one of my home towns (Clarence, NY) only the best. Whether he coaches somewhere else or not—the affirmative being most likely—he will be forever admired and loved by the Buffalo community.

He’s a bit of an icon.

And now he’s gone. May he rest in peace.

Well, at least, his longest tenured coach bit.

Constitutionally Speaking: Freedom of Religion (not FROM religion)

Freedom From Religion? Or, Freedom OF ReligionToday we often think of the First Amendment as restricting all forms of any religion in the public forum; it being essential to our freedom of religion—that all may worship, or not worship, as they see fit, without being forced to do so by any government hand.

A simple reading of the actual amendment will clearly show that this was not its intent; rather it was included in the founding documents to allow unrestricted practice of any and all religion. So, the federal government can not say you can’t pray in schools. That’s the part we have backwards… it’s meant to allow greater freedom, not provide more restriction.

Let’s look at the Amendment again, focusing on the first sentence:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now, to the point of yesterday’s initial question: while a state would almost certainly never propose a bill mandating prayer in schools, a local, smaller community might? And the First Amendment protects them in that, at least, as I read it.

The words, “Congress shall establish no religion” do not prevent any religious symbol or words or ceremony from being present in any federal or state (or local) government event or edifice. So much the opposite. If the People want to express a religious belief or sentiment, they are protected in doing so by this First Amendment.

The biggest thing that so many of us have completely backwards in our general opinion of government today is where the power rests: with the People.

The federal government is granted very specific and limited powers by the Constitution. When the framers of the Constitution were determining the structure of our government, it was entirely without any “rights” specifically assigned to the People. That’s because, the government can not grant rights to the people.

Some argued that putting any rights in such a document implies that they do originate with the government, but in the end, the majority wanted to ensure that they were present in our foundational documents. The first ten amendments were added in 1791—two years after the ratification of the original Constitution in 1789. [ref]

James Madison warned against the idea of including a Bill of Rights in the Constitution thusly:

It has been accurately noted that bills of rights began as an agreement between a king and his subjects that limited the king’s powers in favor of privileges of his subjects; or in other words, they were a defense of the rights which had not been surrendered to the prince…

In this country the People surrender nothing, and since they retain everything, they have no need for a Bill of Rights. ‘We the People of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America’: this is a better recognition of popular rights than all the many truths which represent the bulk of our state bills of rights… Federalist No. 84

Again, the Constitution which established the US Federal government can not grant rights to its citizens, since it is the People in the first place who hold the rights, and grant any power at all to their federal representatives.

Each state and local community should be free to establish their own laws (or, to have fewer laws) without the federal constitution limiting that.

It is really very interesting—so fascinating—how our thinking about government has changed over the two hundred plus years since our founding, and yet, the Constitution is still in place, and still holds us together; protecting all of our rights, at least for now.

We’ve all heard and seen the stories about guns. One side wants to eliminate senseless killing by removing the weapon (through legislation and even, in some cases, by government force), while another fights to protect a right which was spelled out by these amendments. (Maybe the framers were on to something with this hesitation to list specific rights?) Often the anti-gun people will allow for gun ownership for hunting, but the Second Amendment was written—as was most all of the entire Constitution—to greatly limit the powers granted to the Federal government, and ensure that it remained with the People.

That really can’t be stated too often, nor too strongly.

An interesting side note here involves a post-Civil War amendment to the constitution, which has been the grounds for many Supreme Court ruling which would seem to reverse the initial intent of Madison and the other framers of the Constitution. I will discuss more of the States vs. Federal powers application tomorrow, including how much of that was greatly—perhaps “officially”—shifted following the Civil War.

It is essential to remember that the Bill of Rights does not establish rights of the People; rather, it calls out some specific rights which are not to be abridged, abrogated, or breached. The emphasis was and must always be on the rights being inherent to We the People, not granted by any government or authority other than our Creator.

Also, proper context is always important. From our modern perspective, we must reconsider the definition of “religion”.

Today we hear that word and think of world religions like Christianity (in all of its forms, as one), Islam, Buddhism, etc. However, at the time of its writing, the first amendment was speaking more toward the various Christian denominations present in the individual States of the Union. (Though, not to the exclusion of any religions other than Christianity.) The amendment states that Congress (federal) was prohibited from establishing any one religion, thereby restricting in any way the “free exercise” of religion by the peoples of the States, whom were of many different “religions”; meaning, denominations.

Today we are quick to sound the alarm if any government representative does or suggests anything that smells like religion. However, it’s probably more of an affront to the Constitution to restrict such things, including prayer in schools.

Mandating is definitely a step beyond allowing, and, fourteenth amendment precedent would probably rule in favor of individual States not having the authority to mandate school prayer on the grounds that it might appear to be “establishing” one “religion” over any others.

Such was not the original intent of the Constitution.

Tomorrow will conclude this series, looking more in-depth at the separation of powers between State and Federal governments, and how it has changed over the two centuries of our existence. It’s quite a striking contrast, and very interesting to see what factors have pushed us more toward a centralized, more powerful federal government, and one that grants rights to People, rather than the other way around, and how that affects the way we view and interact with our government today.

A straightforward reading of the First Amendment should lead one to conclude only one thing: it exists to preserve the extant, natural rights of the People; rights that were never, and are never to be breached by the government established by the Constitution: the US Federal Government.

Note: The modernized version of the quote from Federalist No. 84 was taken from The Original Argument: The Federalists’ Case for the Constitution Adapted for the 21st Century., a book we highly recommend!

Twitter RSS

TwitterQuick techie update here, since it’s on my mind…

Are you a Twitter user? I am not. Well, not really. I never really had any need for it, though I would and do often recommend it to my web clients. It’s a great way to keep in touch with clients, send out short updates, links, multimedia, etc to people who follow you or your product.

But as an individual, it just seemed… well, not for me.

However… I do follow people via Twitter. Folks who share newsy updates, sports-related tidbits, etc. I finally broke down and set up a “Buffalo Bills” account for myself to follow (and yes, even interact with) the Buffalo sports world. That’s been interesting. (Even have gotten to interact with Bills Hall of Famer, Thurman Thomas, which is neat…) But still not really for me.

The way I prefer to follow regularly published updates (to any service) is via RSS. Using Mail.app in Mac OS X, I simply add the RSS feed and I get any RSS item to my inbox with all my other email. (Links to the full web content included with the RSS item.)

BUT, Twitter changed all that when they dropped support for RSS feeds with the release of their new API last month. (September 5th, I believe.)

I wondered why I was seeing the dreaded triangle with the exclamation point icon in my inbox. After a small amount of research today, I ascertained that my method of obtaining updates is (at least slightly) antiquated.

Yes. I am old-fashioned.

(Wait… can you be “old-fashioned” if you use RSS? Hmm…)

Well, after a bit more research, I learned there is still a “backdoor” way to get a timeline via RSS! (Yes!)

It’s quite simple. Use the URL below, and just replace the Xs with the username of the person whose timeline you wish to receive as an RSS feed. It’s that easy!


We’ll see how much longer that backdoor option remains open. But it works for now.

Thanks to SEO-Alien.com for the info.

UPDATE: Jun 12, 2013

(From the dev.twitter.com homepage:) Having trouble with your app? API v1 is retired and no longer functional. | Read more →

The State of the Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots Sep 30 2012It’s ugly.

No way to sugarcoat that. It’s just ugly. BUT, as with all things, there’s always hope.

First, though, here’s what’s wrong.

Loser Mentality

There is still a feeling among Bills fans—and apparently among the players, too—that the Buffalo Bills are supposed to lose. In the past, that may have been so, with second-rate players and coaches, and roster depth at next-to-none. Is that really where we are now? What about the offensive line that had the team near or at the league lead in rushing, and essentially allowing zero sacks through one game? What about having the league leader (or near it) in rushing and all-purpose yards last year and this year (before injuries)? (And, they were two different players!) What about Fitz still leading the league in TD passes? Stevie Johnson is the first Bill ever to have two straight 1,000-yard seasons; Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, even the somewhat inconspicuous Mario Williams… our whole D-line! Plus Chan Gailey and Dave Wanndstedt are two fairly respectable names around the league on offense and defense.

This team does not lack for talent.

What they also do not lack is a preponderance for self-doubt, throw-in-the-towel, fatalistic, roll-over-and-die…ness.

Chan Gailey mentioned this in the preseason. He saw it in the game against Pittsburgh—you know, the one where the teams play all their starters for most of the game? He said (my paraphrase) that the team gave up too quickly on defense. They had been completely dominant up until allowing Pittsburgh a third-and-very-long conversion from their own goal line. Then they were just in a daze, which the Steelers were happy to take advantage of, marching down the field for a score before half-time. Prior to that, the defense was truly amazing. After that, they were truly horrendous.

Somewhere on this team (I’m still hoping it’s not all of the team) there is a good deal of “loser mentality” that accepts (almost welcomes) being run over (literally) by the opponent.

Somewhere else, there’s the never-give-up, fight to the finish that we saw last year. But it’s been gone for a while now, and the team’s record shows it. They are 3-10 since last October 30th.

(Note: I offer that statistic knowing full well there are many factors. It is still factual. 3-10.)

Thurman Thomas' Super Bowl XXVIII fumble

The Thurman Thomas Fumble

What Bills fan can forget the four straight Super Bowl appearances? We may try, but it’s still enough of an accomplishment that it’s oft-mentioned with pride.

There was the heart-breaking wide right of Super Bowl XXV, then the dominant performance by Mark Rypien and the Redskins offense in Super Bowl XXVI, the disastrous blowout in Super Bowl XXVII, followed by the deflating fumble by Thurman Thomas in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Do you remember that play? The Bills had a good lead into the third quarter of that game. On an offensive possession in the third quarter, Thomas fumbled the ball away, and the Cowboys scored on the return. After that score, the game was still tied, but that didn’t matter. Somehow (see above) the Bills knew they were going to lose—and they played like it.

The Cowboys went on to score a few more times and ended up with an “easy” win, when the reality was, the Bills had been in it, even winning it into the third quarter.

I believe that same thing happened in yesterday’s game.

The Bills had a good, solid lead into the third quarter. Donald Jones scored on a long TD play from Fitzpatrick to make the score 21-7. The Bills had held New England in check (well enough that they had only scored 7 points!) and they had been able to move the ball and score. All was well.

Then the Pats answered.

They moved the ball by running AT WILL. It was bad. Large chunks of yards. It really seemed like the defense was stunned. (See #1 above…) I think they actually were. They were barely moving at the snap of the ball. They seemed shocked that the Patriots—or anybody—could put up yards like that against them on the ground.

(This is almost a case of the opposite of the “loser mentality”, where they seemed to think they were “too good” for that to be happening.)

The Patriots marched down the field and scored their second touchdown of the game, and even though the Bills were still winning, the entire team was completely deflated and had (apparently) already given up the game.

Just like in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Too Much Money?

Everyone in Buffalo is questioning Mario Williams.

Clearly, the expectations were high (probably too high) when he arrived. He was to be the savior of the team. The next coming of Bruce Smith, forever beloved by all Bills fans everywhere.

But Mario Williams was not and is not and will not be Bruce Smith. So far, he’s not even Aaron Maybin. (OK, maybe not that bad…)

The craziest part to most of us fans aside from just being unnoticeable is that he also seems to not care. You can’t really know whether or not someone “cares”, but he just doesn’t seem to “go after it” as they say. There’s no energy to his play. And he’s going up against guys he should just completely dominate as a former 1st overall pick (or even just as a 6’6″ 292 lb “freakish” athlete, as some of his teammates have described him).

My wife commented earlier in the preseason that Fitzpatrick “doesn’t seem to care”, either. Is there something to this? What’s going on with these guys with their mega-bucks contracts? Is part of the reason for (at least slightly) lackluster play or effort due to the fact that they’ve already made their (guaranteed) millions? Perhaps…

I’m actually (strangely) hoping it’s more due to #s 1 and 2 above. But, when you’re not working to get paid … it’s easy to get a tad (or more than a tad) lazy.


What do we say then about these Buffalo Bills? After week one, they were the laughing stock of the NFL. The hapless NY Jets (who have indeed appeared quite hapless since week one) put up 38 points on their newly renovated, brick wall defense. Then a pretty sound thrashing of Kansas City (akin to what NY had done to them one week prior) turned the conversation around—or, at least, confused it—and all was at least OK again in Buffalo. After a comfortable-but-challenging win (on the road) in Cleveland—with zero INTs from Fitzpatrick—things were looking up again, even to the third quarter of the game against New England.

45 second-half points later, and the sky is falling, the season is over, and all the familiar refrains resound throughout Bills-landia.

WHEN will it EVER END!?

It only ends when this team decides that they can and they will win. Two big (and I do mean “big”) setbacks are the loss of Cordy Glenn and Kraig Urbik will both be out for 2-3 weeks or more. That’s not good news for a line that was looking like it might be the best in the NFL (until yesterday). Add on the upcoming schedule: @ San Francisco, @ Arizona, Tennessee, @ Houston, and @ New England (followed by Miami at home 4 days later)… things do not look well for the Bills.

However, there’s still reason for hope. (If you’re an optimist like me.)

Surprisingly, Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the league—all by himself—with 12 TD passes. (He also has thrown 7 INTs, which also ties him for the league lead, unless Jay Cutler has a bad night tonight… hmm… doesn’t he always?) CJ Spiller doesn’t lead the league anymore, but he’ll be a week healthier next week, as will Fred Jackson. Scott Chandler seems to be a top-tier tight end. We do still have Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and the rest of the DL (even if Mario is a no-show). Leodis McKelvin has been pretty impressive when returning kicks (didn’t really get to yesterday).

If this humiliating defeat was a good, hard slap to the face for the Bills players (and, if they actually do care about winning) then I expect they’ll have a big turnaround in effort, attitude, and hopefully results this week. San Francisco lost to Minnesota (they did!) but they also shut out the Jets. (In New Jersey, no less!!) So, it’s a tall task, especially if you watched that 45-pt second half unfold. But it’s doable.

All depends on how the team responds to what happened yesterday.

If Buffalo is cursed, I guess there’s not much we can do. Otherwise, I think they do have the talent they need to have a winning season. They’ll have to win at least one more than they lose the rest of the way to do that.

At this point, that feels like wishful thinking. Sunday in San Fransisco, they get a chance to start making it reality.