Derek Johnson Muses

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Monthly Archives: January 2012

If You’re Counting Pennies, it Means You’re Petty: Thoughts on Tipping

A couple weeks ago, I was having lunch at the FarmHousE Cafe (my favorite eatery in Omaha-another subject for another blog post) and getting money to tip the waitress. The check was $8.22, and given that service was good not outstanding, I decided that I would tip just above the standard twenty percent. That was how I ended up standing up at my table, feeling like a complete fool as I counted out my pennies and nickles to make $1.71. I remembered how, while it was better than no tip whatsoever, I always hated counting out the pennies and quarters at the end of my shift.

As a former waiter and delivery person, I take tipping seriously because I know  how hard it is when a waiter cleaning up for a table who hasn’t tipped or driving to a house that you know won’t tip you (longest ten minutes ever), and how exhilarating it is when you get a great tip that carries you through the entire night. So I had have a habit of tipping generously, even to a fault. When I was at that lunch, I decided that perhaps I shouldn’t just tip with wide open wallet, but then I thought I should write down my tipping rules

First off, twenty percent is standard for a restaurant tip; your grandfather may have tipped ten percent in their day, but even if you don’t think it’s fair, everyone around you is tipping twenty percent are looking cheap and will get bad service.

If you are dining alone (life of a traveling man), tipping really is an art. When I spend three or four days on the road, sometimes the people I have the most personal interactions with are the people who wait on me, and I always try to be generous with them if I take up a whole table that could hold four people.

But now to the tip itself. When you look at the check, ball park twenty percent in your mind, and (crucial point) if you have  go either over or under in your approximation. What you consider: how soon the server greets you, attentive and pleasant the server was, especially considering the pace of the restaurant. Always let your mind wander this path when you consider the tip: I’ll at least give this person their twenty percent, but have they earned more?

So, here is a fundamental question on tipping: if the food is bad and the service is good, how should you tip? In this situation, I would tip a little over the twenty percent. Read the situation: unless the server submitted the wrong order or brought you the wrong thing, consider that a consider that a good server might have to overcome bad help. Remember, you are tipping the server, not the kitchen help.

Another situation: should you tip for exceptional food, no matter what? As long as the service isn’t bad, I would tip a little extra for food I really do like. Yes, you are tipping the server, not the kitchen or management. But, if you are getting a good meal that pleases you, be generous. You don’t have to tip forty percent.

Time is a huge factor. If I go to a restaurant and linger at a table, I tip more than if I eat and leave quickly. Lingering means they can’t sit someone in your spot sooner, so you take money away from your server. Plus in some cases, you may keep the server on shift longer. Be generous in these instances. Similar rules apply in the middle of the day, if they have to break from prep work to wait on you, be generous.

The golden rule for going under the twenty percent: don’t do it unless the server does something obviously wrong. If the server is attentive and concerned, even if there is a mistake with your order, don’t hold it against him or her. And if the food is good, and the server was a little out of it, don’t gyp him or her. Just give the standard twenty percent.

General rule: in restaurants you go to regularly, never tip below twenty percent, unless the service is really bad. If you go to certain place at least six to eight times a year (or more) or they know your name, make it a point to tip them generously, and on some occasions, leave a really generous tip. If you frequent a place, you will have a reputation there, and if you don’t tip well, the wait staff will be cooking up a fake smile all the way to your table. Granted, if the place is an IHOP or WaffleHouse, it is probably fine if you tip twenty percent every time.

Finally, a word about tipping at coffee shops. I briefly worked at a coffee shop, and we didn’t collect tips their, but many coffee shops do. Personally, I have never put anything more than spare change into a tip jar at a coffee shop. I don’t make it a point to tip every time at a coffee shop or Starbucks, but I have consulted with a former Starbucks employee who says that most baristas don’t consider tipping to be optional. I do try to tip every time at coffee houses I go to on the road (places I may never go to again), although I will admit I forget to do so. I have never put a full dollar bill into the tip jar, and I don’t know why a single person would A coffee shop, while there is some element of performance involved, doesn’t require as much service as a sit-down restaurant. One factor possibly in play-if there is one person working at the shop and if that person brings your drink out to you, give a little more.

Hate Religion Love Jesus: Trying to Survive in the Wilderness on Cheeseburgers.

A week ago, I watched the hate religion-love Jesus video as soon as “hate religion” started trending on twitter. (Dom Cobb theorized that positive emotion took hold more readily than negative emotion, but this was an instance where he was wrong.) so I watched the hate religion video:

My major problem with it was it assumed that everyone knew what exactly religion was, and what exactly  Jesus meant. It makes Jesus for the modern audience-take out the institution of the church, and just worship Jesus on your own, just like what Micah was trying to do in Judges 18. What this gentlemen’s most inaccurate portrayal of Jesus was that he disdained the church of his day-not true. Jesus criticizes the behavior of the Pharisees, but he tells the disciples to respect him. (Matthew 23.) He also very observant of the temple law.

If we use the word “religion” as sociological term, there would be no reason to find it offensive. But because our culture looks inward to find the meaning of life, any outward turning toward a higher power is frowned upon.

LCMS pastor Jonathan Fisk made a very nuanced, informed response to hate religion-love Jesus video, reflecting on the false dichotomy:

And, while I haven’t listened to it yet, hear Pastor Fisk’s interview on Issues Etc.:


Judge it for yourself.


Tebow: the Aftermath, and the Off-Season

Saturday night,Tim Tebow lost to the Patriots, and honestly: I find it to be a non-event. I had already made up my mind on Tebow weeks ago and was not surprised that Patriots buried the Broncos. While I thought that maybe the Broncos could have come up with a better defensive plan the second time around for Brady, it turned out that once again, Brady was motivated to show everyone how a real quarterback plays, and that was that.

When I was watching the highlights of the second Broncos-Chiefs game with a friend who is a retired coach, I asked him what I suspected, and Gene said that yes, the Chiefs’ defense was playing the Broncos’ man for man. As long as each player tackled the player he was assigned to, they didn’t have a problem with Tebow. In the handful of plays I watched in that game (and against the Patriots), players knifed straight to Tebow on the option. It reminded me of when Nebraska in the late 90’s and early 2000’s played teams with lots of athletes.

Football, as odd as it may sound, isn’t usually a game of 11-of-11. It’s a game (especially in the NFL) where the best players dictate match-ups: a great pass-rusher or wide receiver has to be double teamed. The whole principle of a two-deep zone is that the offense will have four players who can burn you. A defense prepares every week to stop a best players, not play teams man-for-man.

The success of Chiefs and the Broncos shows that indeed, the league has caught up to Tebow. Once they’ve seen his option game a couple of times, it’s not that hard to stop. And once a team goes into a game with their assignments, they can play with reckless abandon and shut down Denver’s offense. Here’s why no one runs the option in the NFL.

Still, Elway and Fox are right in bringing Tebow back for next year. Given his work habits, it is likely that Tebow can improve as a passer. But one question in my mind is, will Eddie Royal, Demaryius Thomas, and Eric Decker stay after practice to work with a quarterback whose presence on the field means that they will catch the football less? And who’s going to be Denver’s backup? Could Donovan McNabb be the answer? With a skill set similar to Tebow’s, it could that McNabb would make the ideal backup, all though his work ethic has come into question since he left Philadelphia. David Garrard also seems like a good backup option.

But the one thing in my mind that I hope to see Tebow improve upon is his foot work, mainly because watching him run one and then the other is so painful. I do think he has improved to a degree: there are times after read or two he can find a receiver, but if he gets pressured, he runs outside the pocket, as if he thinks that somehow, he’ll make it around the end and there’s a play to be made.

Elway (and by extension, Tebow) did receive one bit of fortune: the Chargers decided to keep Norv Turner and AJ Smith. Had Dean Spanos decided to clean house and bring in Jeff Fisher (or perhaps one of the more high profile coaches waiting for the perfect coach), Elway may not have had the liberty of giving Tebow another year.

Five Mid-Major Coaches who could be Trading Up

Since it is college football’s off-season, and I’m a college football degenerate, get ready for some speculative stories. Today, here’s the five mid-major coaches who I think will be trading up to bigger and better jobs in the coming years.

  1. Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Granted, Malzah has not coached a game yet at Arkansas State, put his pedigree at Arkansas, Tulsa, and most recently Auburn will get him the dream job sooner rather than later. Malzahn runs the kind of offense that dazzles recruits, wins games, and most importantly to a university administration, sells tickets. He could get the next good job in the SEC.
  2. Steve Addazio, Temple: Earlier this year, I watched a video interview with Addazio on a Philadelphia news outlet’s website, and was blown away by his presence and ability to sell his program, when asked if Temple should be allowed into the Big East. Addazio has the perfect resume: assistant at a two major programs (Notre Dame and Florida), work and filled in for a top 10 head coach (Urban Meyer), and crushed a recruiting rival from a BCS conference on the road (Maryland). If Addazio goes into State College and beats Penn State next year, Nittany Lion fans may want him to replace Bill O’Brien someday, if he’s still available.
  3. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator stepped in for Jerry Kill and didn’t miss a beat with the Huskies, guiding them to the MAC title in his first year. Kill, Todd Beckman, and Buth Jones all traded up from the MAC to better jobs after three years; it may take less time for Addazio and Doeren to do so, especially if Bill Synder heads back to retirement. (Doeren is a native of the Kansas City area).
  4. Mario Cristobal, Florida International: while it certainly helps that Cristobal is Cuban American and major colleges are eager to hire minorities, it’s more than his ethnicity that had Pitt calling him. This year, Cristobal nearly doubled attendance from two years prior for the fledgling FIU program, not an easy feat in event driven Miami. Even though his overall record is sub-.500, Cristobal beat Louisville this year and won the Sun Belt last year. Every school in the east needs to recruit Florida.

5. Dave Christensen, Wyoming: While arguably his biggest achievement in coaching was turning around Missouri’s offense to a spread in 2005, he’s done an even better job to turn around one of the country’s most remote programs in Laramie. While his second year was a disaster when he lost his quarterback, Christensen won eight games this year with a freshmen quarterback, and like Malzahn, his offense will make him a popular hire.

My Voyage into the Twitter-Verse: Speaking the Way No Man Has Spoken Before

Facebook is that most of us use with ease, but Twitter, while it is in the same social media breath, is harder. I started out on twitter two  and a half years ago and I followed public figures, but I rarely tweeted myself. Over the course of the last few months, I’ve learned how to tweet regularly, and now I frequently tweet at least five or six times a day, and sadly, as many as twenty. I still only have about forty followers, but I’m keeping my hopes up. But since I learned how to tweet from scratch, hear are some of the things that I’ve learned about the process of tweeting.

The first step in learning to tweet is listening. While I ended up driving myself crazy refreshing my feed every five minutes, it helped to teach me how other people tweeted. I knew I couldn’t just put out information, like reporters or Adam Schefter do; I had to be original, which is hard with the character restrictions. At a social media seminar I attended, Lisa Landry (@LisaaLandry ) said that she monitored twitter for a year before she started tweeting regularly. (By the way, Lisa is a great follow if you want to learn about developing your twitter and social media skills.)

Follow like-minded people who share your interests and who get you thinking. Don’t just try to imitate them or retweet them: challenge them and interact with them. Remember, twitter is a conversation, not just random chirping. And the great thing about twitter is, they provide trending topics to the side. If you nervous, just pick one of those topics, and just give a quick thought on it. Or see what others are saying about it, and respond to what others say about it.

The second step for me was learning to think in “twit-speak”. You thoughts have to be short and quick to fit in the 140, and ideally, 120 characters. Consider all the topics you think about every day, the information you consume, the decisions you make, and shoot it out quickly. Trustworthy sayings, as one of my college professors said about 1 Timothy. Malcolm Gladwell based his book Blink on his theory that first impressions are usually right; I take that midset into the tweets.

The experience that really taught me how to tweet was college football, and specifically Husker football. When I watch the Nebraska football game, I would often have my computer in front of me and be updating my twitter feed throughout the game. I found my experience to be enriched as I watched in the middle of the thoughts of beat writers and other fans, and added my own thoughts to the conversation. It’s also easier to get injury updates mid-game. And when I went to games and didn’t have my twitter in front of me, I was easily frustrated.

From that experience, I learned to separate my thoughts into little containers. I think of it like this: every day, I take in and process a lot of information. When I get up in the morning, I say prayers, so it’s a good time to tweet out a line of Matins, the morning prayer office. I make a point to tweet out a line of my devotions. Then, I turn on ESPN radio to list to Mike and Mike and the Herd, and I’m tweeting my takes at them. I look for at least one person a day to pump up on twitter. I usually take on at least two or three trending topics to comment on. If there’s a game on that interests me, I tweet about it. When I’m watching TV, I tweet about the episode (another way to get started-shows now show you the hashtag that you should include in your tweets. So if you favorite show goes bad, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.) If I buy a new product or find a new restaurant, I’ll tweet about it. Now, when I’m reading a book or an article, or a new movie trailer comes out, I can spot the key thoughts that I want . And when I’m on the road, I tweet about where I’m at and set pictures out.

So, in summation, here’s how you can learn how to tweet: make a list of everything that you do in the day, all the information you consume, everything that you eat, what you do at work, what you read, and what you learn at school. Do what I did: watch a game, or a movie, and write your thoughts down as it plays.  Your attitude toward all that, those are your tweets.

Since I tagged some specific people on Facebook to read this, I would like to give a specific encouragement to these people to tweet. I know that all of you have busy live, and I fully support people riding their lives of needless information. But I believe each and everyone of you can be a great tweeter, and I know if I got regular tweets from you, my life would be better, especially those of you in church work. If all of you get on twitter and follow the action, I would be very grateful. And if you don’t get it at first, don’t worry just follow the right people, and eventually, it will click for you.

So, to all of you, I hope to see you signed up and on twitter in the near future, and even if you don’t tweet yourself, you can always follow me. That should be reason to get on twitter enough!

Spotting the Weak Spots in a Conterfeit E-mail

Today, I almost got ripped off by a spam e-mail. Yes, I should be embarrassed. But this particular e-mail did do a good job of presenting itself, and I had to look hard to find the flaws in it.

Here is the e-mail

Dear Yahoo mail Subscriber,

We are currently carrying-out a maintenance process in all Email Accounts. To complete
this, you will have to reply to this mail immediately and use the link below to
validate your account against spy-ware and Spam Mails.

(Link to the phony page which will steal my e-mail password)

This process will help us to fight against Spam Mails. Failure to update your Account
in the above link, will render your email address in-active from our database.

Thanks for your understanding

Copyright © 1994-2012 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
Terms of Service – Copyright/IP Policy – Guidelines
NOTICE: We collect personal information on this site.
To learn more about how we use your information,
see our Privacy Policy – About Our Ads

In retrospect, the first thing I should have noticed was that there were no yahoo-graphics, just plain texts, which should have given it away to me. But what did cause me concern was when they used the word “Subscriber”. I don’t subscribe to anything on Yahoo, I’m just a user.

The other part of the e-mail that prompted my to click on the link was the word immediately (the golden word of any scam). The Yahoo copyright statement looked convincing too, but when I clicked on the link, it opened up a page on google docs (red flag). Then, I typed out my e-mail and password, and when my password appeared without encoding, I really smelled the fish. That’s when I searched several of the lines in the e-mail and found it to be inaccurate.

I suppose what this means is I’m still just a naive home school boy at heart. But at least my discretion did take over at the last minute.

To Penn State Fans: Know yourself

The other day, a Penn State fan, in response to my previous posts on the Bill O’Brien hire, informed me that I didn’t know anything about Penn State, and marveled at “how many omniscient people have been delivered to earth in the last few months.” When I  asked him to specify what he disagreed with in my post, he didn’t respond. Unfortunately, I must remain oblivious to my terrible mistake.

But it did get me thinking a little about what a lot of Penn State fans, even noted alum Todd Blackledge, have been talking about since Paterno has been fired: that whoever is hired to lead has to have an “understanding” of Penn State. At the risk of sounding preachy, let me say this to Penn State fans: you may have understanding Penn State confused with understanding winning.

I know you’re probably want to strangle me, and to your point: yes, if there were a qualified you assistant on your staff to take over, it would be great. But, not every program has a ripe young assistants or a former assistant who is blossoming at another progra ready to step in. I know you’re telling that you have Tom Bradley, but he’s a 54-year-old yes-man to Paterno, a year older than Frank Solich when he got the Nebraska job (Trust me, you don’t want to go there.) Answer me honestly: if your search committee had narrowed the list to either Bradley or Nick Saban or Bobby Petrino, would Bradley really be the guy you would want them to hire?

Just because you hire an outsider doesn’t mean you’ll forget your great coach. Even though Saban’s rolling people at Alabama, Bear Bryant will always be the man there. Oklahoma still remembers Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer, even though they have a great coach now in Bob Stoops. And as a Oklahoma fan noted on Colin Cowherd’s show, Wilkinson, Switzer, and Stoops were different guys, with different coaching styles. And the style of successful coaches can change from generation to generation: Bryant and Wilkinson were screamers, Stoops and Urban Meyer are tough but look much better on television.

Now, I don’t mean by this that Bill O’Brien is automatically the right guy; I’m just saying Penn State fans, you shouldn’t hold it against him that he isn’t one of yours.

A story from the program of my following, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, illustrates this point. In December of 2007, Tom Osborne interviewed both Bo Pelini, Nebraska’s defensive coordinator for a year in 2003, and Turner Gill, a Husker icon with eighteen years in the program, for Nebraska’s head coaching vacancy. While Gill had a close relationship with his former coach and boss (Osborne was the best man at Gill’s wedding), Osborne picked Pelini, and I think this played a part: as soon as he arrived on campus in the winter of 2003, Pelini blew everyone away with his demeanor and attitude, and his ability to inspire others. (Similarly, in 1994, Pelini joined the San Francisco 49ers organization as a scout, and after he spent a few weeks around the organization, they immediately made him their secondary coach. He had only been a college graduate assistant for a year.) Bottom line: Gill had the experience, but Pelini wowed people.

To surmise, my point is this: promoting an assistant who’s one of yours can be great. It worked for Penn State with Paterno forty-six years ago, it worked for Nebraska with Tom Osborne, and its even worked in the last ten years with Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, Kyle Whittingham at Utah, or Brady Hoke at Michigan. But if you think Tom Bradley would have been a good hire because he “knows Penn State”, you are kidding yourself

What if Nebraska could play them every year?

Given the realignment  that college football has gone through and the rivalries that have gotten left behind by it, I began to think to myself, what is it college football should look like in an ideal universe? I thought that, in an ideal universe, every school would have a set of about six or seven teams that they played every year, the situation in most major conferences, as well as with Notre Dame. Then there would be about another three or four teams that you would play two out of every four to six years. And you should have at least a couple of once-in-twenty years, or lifetime opponents.

To experiment with this, I took the team of my heart, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and devised a such a schedule for them. Here are the six teams I think Nebraska should play every year.

Oklahoma-the classic game-yes, it has lost its luster from 1960-1980’s, but this was one of the most influential games of a generation. Let’s get this every year.

Colorado-Over my life and memory, Colorado was the opponent, other than Texas, that generated the most passion on the Nebraska side. While Colorado doesn’t have the passion for football that Nebraska does, when both schools are good, it’s a culture clash between the hippie Buffs and the conservative Cornhuskers.

Iowa-It is debatable how Iowa should be on this list, given that they haven’t met regularly since the 1940’s. But Iowa is only school that really has a strong following in Nebraska (almost a cult following in Omaha); Colorado is the only other fanbase who Nebraska fans intermingle with regularly.

Kansas-Notre Dame plays Purdue every year. Up until Nebraska joined the Big 10, Nebraska-Kansas was one of the longest rivalries in college football. It should go on.

UCLA-if Nebraska is going to be a national university, it needs to play a west coast opponent every year for its substantial California-Arizona fan base. Arizona State would also be a great fit in this spot, but nothing would match a bi-yearly date in the Rose Bowl.

Penn State-this rivalry, while not in plum recruiting territory, is more about the shared rural, family-first culture of both Penn State and Nebraska. They’re also the two teams who’ve kept virtually the same uniforms the past fifty years.

So there’s your six yearly opponents. Later, I’ll introduce some of the regular rotating rivals that I’d love to see Nebraska play

New Apple Muffins

This week, I decied I need to bust some apples, out of my freezer and make some apple muffins. So I did just, mixing them up with sour cream. (Sorry, I forgot to write down the recipe when I goggled it. If you just add about a third of cup of sour cream to any apple muffin recipe, that should suffice.)

The recipe called for a crumbly topping, but instead, I busted out some caramel topping we’d originally used on ice cream.

The muffins turned out smooth and delicioius, although I wish I could taste the caramel more.

The Bad Luther Sermon: Please, just Tell us he Whiffed on the Lord’s Supper

I heard about a sermon Martin Luther one time when I attended a large non-denominational church. The sermon series was on figures in Christian history, and I was intrigued to see how Luther would be portrayed. The preacher did teach history at a local college, but wasn’t Lutheran himself. It seemed important to him to distance himself from what Lutherans believe. (Thanks, ELCA).

The sermon focused solely on Luther’s spiritual journey to grace by faith, with a few easy jabs at Rome along the way. The preacher highlighted Luther’s struggle with the concept of God’s righteousness, but concluded that it was some kind of “enlightenment” on the part of Luther himself. Nothing more after that. It was the typically evangelical mantra: if you just believe, you’re saved. Who cares about the rest of what Luther said and did.

Yes, Luther’s story of spiritual struggle and finding comfort in God’s unlimited, abounding mercy is universal, and a lot of why he’s so appealing five hundred years later. But too often, I find that the non-dems championed Luther’s spiritual journey and ignoring his theology. Dr. Larry Rast said in an Issues Etc. interview comparing Confessional Lutheranism and American “Evangelicalism”, the Pietists who followed Luther by a few hundred years said he didn’t go far enough. It is easy enough to believe: Luther, in his time, did try for a while to just reform the Catholic Church, which is admirable. Now that that bridge is burned, why not do what you should have been doing all along?

What I really wish that the non-dems would do is dig more into how the Lutheran documents of the reformation, and how the Lutherans sought to connect themselves to the historic church practice. The revivalists of the early 1800’s and their descendants the non-dems have sought a theology of ongoing revelation and enlightenment appeal, focused only on the now. So what if the early church celebrated the sacrament every day in

Granted, non-demism doesn’t go down the road of Mormonism’s more radical teachings, but it is a movement that seeks to cater to the culture and the now. When you study the early history of Christianity, you see Christians fighting with vigor to clarify their teaching and draft creeds and statements, even in the face of persecution. Now, we have Rick Warren calling for a reformation of “deeds not creeds”. Creeds are divisive, the non-dems tell us. If we can just agree on salvation through Christ, then it doesn’t matter what we believe.

But that’s not it. The migration of the mainline protestants into a more liberal agenda proves that.

If there’s one thing I wish non-dems would do differently about their approach to Luther, it’s that they would honest about our differences. A couple of years ago, when I was at theological symposium at Concordia Theological Seminary, a non-dem professor was going up to speak about the third use of the law in the church. He began his lecture by speaking glowingly about Luther, but in the end, many of the other people there ended up mocking him, for not being honest about the differences between Luther and Calvin at the time of the reformation. And it didn’t help that his talk wasn’t very good either.

So I have this to ask the non-dems: please just be honest about your differences with Lutherans. Don’t try to just hold Luther up as this shining example. Tell us what you really think about his position on the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and all those things. Do it respectfully, and I’ll have more respect for you.

The O’Brien Hire, and the Big Picture for Penn State

The first I saw the LaVar Arrington’s tweet saying “I’m done all my PSU stuff will be down before obriens introduction! We are! No more for me!”, it was on feed, simply retweet by someone else I follow. I tweeted back to him, if you are down with Penn State now that they’ve hired a coach who wasn’t Joe Paterno, why didn’t you part ways with the program when the information about Jerry Sandusky first came out? Reading the level of criticism from Arrrington, and from Penn State’s Letterman’s makes me shake my head. Lydell Mitchell, a former Penn State player, defined myopia in an interview when he said that Paterno should have been allowed to coach the rest of the season and help pick his own replacement.

Granted, even I thought Penn State would get a coach with a better resume than Tom O’Brien, so yes, I think Penn State and its alums  have a right to complain. At least if you had hired a Tommy Bowden or a David Cutcliffe, there would be the prospect of likely going to bowl games every year, as mediocre as they may be. But O’Brien, a green, first year head coach at forty-two and no experience at a program as big as Penn State, will likely stumble out of the gate, give what he has to work with.

Just going back to last year, Penn State barely had any talent on offense and won most of their games close, even against bad teams. Against BCS teams and good mid-majors Temple and Houston, the Nittany Lions scored 11, 14, 16 (against Indiana and their 100th-ranked defense), 13, 23, 34, 10, 14, 20, 7, and finally 14, in a bowl game they had a month to prepare for. In addition, Penn State won five of six games decided by a touchdown or less, games were coaching tactics matter and that any first year head coach will struggle in close game. The September slate is challenging to say the least-opener against MAC-runner-up Ohio, then at improving Virginia, home to  Navy, and finally, the Temple team that worked Penn State last year in Philadelphia.

My guess is, O’Brien probably has significant on-field struggles in his first year, but might have a chance to make a bowl his second year as schedule gets easier. At least O’Brien is forty-two, and he could grow into the job, if he can survive past his second year. But having watched first-hand the vehemence Bill Callahan faced at Nebraska from day one, following the end of Nebraska’s glory days, I would say that it could be very tough row to hoe for O’Brien. And of course, O’Brien is following more legendary coach then Callahan did.

But here’s the upside with O’Brien, Penn State fan: there will be no middle ground. Here’s what happens when you go out and hire “one of your own”: you always feel obligated to give him more time, because you to think he’ll be successful even when the evidence is to the contrary. Just hope that O’Brien is good enough to recruit and keep the job for at least three years; if he can recruit, a good coach can come in, and you can start winning right away.

In the meantime, Penn State had better get its act together and resolve the issues that put it in this position to begin with. Hire a permanent president and athletic director. Settle the civil cases with Sandusky’s victims. Comply fully the NCAA investigation, and don’t fight the penalties. Make sure anyone who assisted with the Sandusky cover-up is put out of the Penn State family for good.  Take all those steps, and if you do happen to fire O’Brien in three or our years, and someone will want to be the guy who follows Bill O’Brien.

In closing, I postulate this conspiracy theory. Back on December 10, Penn State decided that they would hire Bill O’Brien. The next day, O’Brien staged the shouting match he had with Tom Brady on the sideline, so that people would have actually heard of O’Brien when PSU announced his hiring nearly four weeks later. The nearly four week gap is completely unexplainable.

Separation of Football Analysis and Faith: a Lesson in Syntax


1. to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so: Only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.

2. to have confidence or faith in the truth of (a positive assertion, story, etc.); give credence to.

3. to have confidence in the assertions of (a person).


1.confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.

2.belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

(definitions found on

I would like to take a minute to make a public service announcement to all football commentators, and sports commentators in general: please stop using the words “faith” and “believe” when you are discussing a team or an athlete. Let’s just reserve the terms for God and religion. Is there techninically anything wrong with you doing this? No, not technically, but the reason I want you to stop using these terms has more to do with society than with any misuse or phasing of them on your part.

Techinically, it is not inaccurate for you to say “I have believe that the Patriots will win today”. To say you believe that will happen is accurate, but why I want you to refrain from saying that is that society has sought to find religious meaning outside of religion itself. Whether it’s in their football teams, or in self-help, or one-self, everyone is looking in at their own filth for self-meaning. Instead of saying, “I have faith in Tebow to lead the Broncos”, you can say, “I think Tebow can lead the Broncos”, and still mean the same thing.

And speaking of Tebow, people, don’t say you have faith in your football coaches or star players. Tim Tebow probably doesn’t want you to have faith in him. Just say you admire Tim Tebow and that your faith is encouraged by his. The most notable example of fans having “faith” in a sports figure was Joe Paterno, and look where that got Penn State. Yes, extreme example, but my point is made. Even great men are falliable, the evidence of original sin.

It’s like Colin Cowherd says: like your sports, but find meaning in your life elsewhere. Believe in things you can’t see. Yes, you do have to believe and have faith in certain other small things (your car, that it can get you to work every day), but let’s just save those terms for religious terms, not sports figures.


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