When you’re hit by a baseball…

…it usually hurts.

It don’t really matter who you are. The brief impact, the sudden abrasion against your skin, the force of a round object against you – all of these events are unwanted experiences for your body. And yet, if you play baseball, you’re bound to be hit by a ball sooner or later. Whether it be at home plate, in the field, or in the bleachers – there’s a good chance you’ll be hit at some point. And when you do get plunked, it won’t be enjoyable.

When we increase the amount of times we do something, we also increase the possibility that something bad will occur. Take dating, for example. The more you go out on dates and the more people you decide spend time with, the more liable you will be to have your heart trampled upon. The same can be applied to driving. Drive a car long enough and you’ll probably witness a few crashes or heaven forbid, be involved in a crash.

If you broke this concept down a little further, you may refer to this phenomenon as “probability”. Or rather, the likelihood that an event will eventually take place. Anyone who has ever driven a car knows that there’s an inherent chance that something bad might happen while they’re driving. The engine stalls, tire goes flat, and so on, but we rarely focus our energies on the one-in-a-million situation. We fix our eyes on the objective instead. “I need to get groceries”; “I need to pick up my kid from school”, among others. The goal outweighs any possible fear we may possess.

So why am I drabbling on about this stuff? Well, I got hit by a pitch this weekend and man, it hurt. I won’t lie about it. A 75+ mph fastball plunked me right in my side. If my kidneys were positioned on the outside of my body, they would have exploded. Thankfully, they are not but you get the idea.

The ironic thing about all this is how I had just been thinking that I hadn’t been hit by a pitch for a while. Honestly, it’s been about three solid years since the last time I’ve been hit. And for a guy in his late 20s who still plays on weekends, that’s not bad odds. Historically, I get out of the way pretty well, but on Sunday I just didn’t. So as I took my hit to the side, grimaced and threw my bat down, I couldn’t help but think of my earlier thoughts that morning.

You know, I don’t think I’ve been hit by a pitch in a while. That’s not bad.

And from that moment on, I was doomed. I’m sure most people can relate to this. The instance we recognize a glitch in our universe, that quick observation of our own extended bliss; we send an open invite to agony so it can return to our doorstep.

But here’s the reality – agony returned because I got lax. I was comfortable with my circumstances. Rather than keep my guard up, I was content to “ride my good fortune out”. Like I was somehow immune to being hit by a ball again. If I were really watching carefully, on guard and ready for anything, I may have dodged that ball and this blog post would have never happened. But on the flip side of that thinking, I could have reflected upon how I’ve kept my mind sharp. Not being content to let a baseball smash into me after so many years of avoiding a wild throw or errant pitch.

I didn’t though (as you know). I got comfortable. Such is the way with most people. However, I find myself not wanting to be like most people. I’d like to think of myself as someone who challenges himself daily. Moment to moment, second to second, with the understanding that I can change things as they are happening without having to sit idly by. Because if I sit idly, then I’m sure to be caught in that familiar “Hey, that hasn’t for a while, has it?” And we all know what comes next when you have one of those silent epiphanies….

You get hit by a baseball.

Concerning this whole Rutgers coach thing….

I’ve been out of the loop on current events for the past couple weeks. When you’re entrenched in your own work, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s actually happening beyond your personal borders. That, and I don’t watch the news very often anymore. If I see one more story about the inherent danger of rattlesnakes inhabiting my plumbing, which have the capacity to swim through my toilet and bite my colon while I sit on said toilet, I’m going to disconnect my news stations on cable forever. Just saying’.

But this past weekend I got up to speed on a story that concerned a certain college basketball coach – the coach being Mike Rice of Rutgers (formerly coach Mike Rice, that is). Like any American man who has aspirations to send his kids off to sports camp one day, I decided to check into this story further.

Now, when I hear stories about college coaches, it’s not always in the best context. There’s a persistent pattern among these guys where some hidden scandal eeks its way into the light, thus exposing the coach for something other than a proper role model. Unfortunately, Mr. Rice fit right into this pattern. Some “leaked” security camera footage had caught snippets of Mr. Rice’s practices in the Rutgers gym. Conservatively speaking, Mr. Rice’s practice methods and routines were not the most “productive” or “uplifting”.

After watching the footage, which involved Coach Rice screaming profanities, shoving players, and literally tossing basketballs at player’s feets and heads, I was left feeling quite disgusted. He even went so far as to call players ‘f***ing fairies’ and ‘faggots’. Considering how large some college basketball players are, I’m surprised that no one turned and decked him right where he stood. Any one of the guards or forwards could have easily taken out this older man, but that’s just it – he had authority over them. Here was a guy with a position of authority, compounded by absolutely no sense of responsibility for holding that position, and yet every player, regardless of size or class level, did not retaliate because of Mr. Rice’s position. And so, Mr. Rice’s less than redeeming traits continued for a very long time.

Another sad story to chalk up among shady Division I collegiate activities.

You can probably guess what happened next: Mr. Rice was relieved of his duties, the school issued a formal apology and quickly set out to replace the former coach Rice. Bing, bang, boom – we’re off to the races as if nothing ever happened, right? Well, not really.

Since we live in America, we love to tell both sides of the story. The media allowed for Mr. Rice to give his side of the story via a short interview. This is the part I got to after watching the security camera shots. If you missed any of what he said, it was something to the extent of “I’m sorry”, “no excuses”, and “I have to face my family now”.

There was plenty of regret in his voice, I will admit, but there was something lacking in his statemtns. I missed any part where he might have said this: “I got caught and that’s why I’m sorry; not because I really am sorry. I’m just sorry for getting caught.”

That’s what he should have said. Instead, I got treated to the same regretful speech we hear from anyone who gets their hand stuck in the cookie jar. Any person is ashamed by an action that results in reprimand; that’s a no-brainer. But we are also too ashamed to admit how what we thought we were doing was ‘ok’ when we did it.

Rice’s vulgar taunts and poor behavior showed a complete lack of empathy for his players. In no way did he exhibit any of the characteristics one would ask of a mentor. He was a bully, plain and simple. I am sure he thought that by verbally and physically abusing his players, he could whip them into shape. Make them into hard-nosed ball players; the likes of which his opponents would fear and cower against. Because that’s what Rice’s style was about: coaching through fear and intimidation.

Did Joseph Stalin repent for his military tactics during the wars? Was Napoleon Bonaparte regretful in his last letters before surrender? And did Coach Rice really feel like he was doing wrong whilst he badgered and abused his players?

Well, in all honesty, that’s some serious gray area, but it makes you wonder. And by no means am I trying to lump a college basketball coach in with the likes of historically significant figures – I’m merely trying to prove a point. Often our blind ambition leads us into a sea of confused and ill-adivsed procedures. Some considered Stalin to be a tyrant while others praised him for his effectivness. Coach Rice may have thought his tactics as a coach would work in some similar way. That by being a dictator, he would be successful; he would implement his methods thoroughly; and he would be regarded as a respectable coach for his efforts.

Most third-party perspectives would disagree with this though, especially if they are in the business of teaching our youth (aka the staff at Rutgers University). Most people would look at the tapes and call the former coach a ‘monster’ for his actions. They would see the tapes and think, What if that were my kid he was yelling at? What if that were my kid he was putting his hands on and throwing basketballs at? Once they weighed these questions in their minds (and their hearts), they’d come to the consensus that Mr. Rice’s coaching style was truly skewed. That he was in no way a positive representation of what coaches are meant to be like; at any level.

But in his mind? Eh, maybe not so much. That’s why I’d be more impressed if the man actually came out and said, “Hey, I did what I thought was effective. Some people view it as wrong, but that was my style.” And THEN he could follow it up with, “But I see that this particular style of coaching is completely inappropriate. I’ve embarrassed all those around me and I am going to dedicate myself to learning to coach properly.”

Wouldn’t that be more sincere? And wouldn’t you take him more seriously? I don’t mean to single out Mr. Rice on this – he just so happens to be the latest tragedy in college sports scandals. But what I say holds true. By telling me that he watched the footage and had no excuses for himself – yeah, ok, that’s great BUT why not just say that you thought you were being a tough coach? At least then I could take you seriously. Even if I still thought you were a complete lunatic, I could at least respect you for being straight up about it.

Apologizing and saying you’re sorry just means you got caught doing what you thought was right. No matter how you may have justified the wrongdoing in your head – you still thought you were ‘ok’ in what you were doing. Admit that first and then you’ll actually see some change the next time around. That’s what needs to happen after such a lapse in judgment – a complete admittance of wrongdoing and need for character change.

And if I had kids of my own, specifically freshman to senior level basketball players on the Rutgers team, Lord knows what measures I would have taken to get a person like him fired. That’s the most politically correct way I can express that too. Just sayin’.

Downright Good Thought: Idol worship … why it will let you down.

In the fallout of Lance Armstrong’s confession, I felt the need to say something on the matter. Not that he’s a washed up liar or he’s “just like all the other pro athletes”; no that’s too easy. While many will rush to throw blame on him for being a horrible human being, we forget that in the grand scheme of things – we are all human. We are fallible; we make mistakes.

Unfortunately, in the case of Mr. Armstrong, his was on a very public and grand stage. His betrayal is enormous due to his Livestrong message. A message which encompassed a honing of one’s own strength to overcome all adversity. This message of Lance’s, albeit touching and uplifting, was eventually faulted for one reason: Lance Armstrong represented Livestrong; he was the brand of his own brand. He represented courage; he represented determination; but most of all, he represented hope. And hope is not a commodity to be thrown around when you have the weight of so many others upon you. Hope tugs at the hearts of those who are touched by it so to betray hope is to break the heart to pieces.

This is why Lance’s betrayal is so great. The hope that someone stood for and what they endorsed has been tarnished and thus, we must add another name to the list of dirty, little liars and cheats who tried to beat the system. It’s a disgrace to all parties involved (the fans included of course), but the experience should teach us a valuable life lesson. You shouldn’t place all your hope in one person: they will always, in some fashion, let you down. Yes, it is important to have role models, to look up to our mentors and be comforted by their strength, but never should we reserve our last hope in that of another human being. Our true strength, trust, and hope should reside in a much greater source: God.

If you are shaky on this statement or feel like I’m speaking in fluff, I ask that you to consider this for a moment. Do you or do you not believe that human beings are meant to bear the burdens of others? That we somehow, in some way, are meant to carry around the hope and strength of other people? We can encourage, yes; and we can support, lift up, even praise, yes; but we can’t expect ourselves to bring all the support necessary to help and change people’s lives. A changed life is experienced by the one who is transformed, not the journeyman who accompanied the lost traveler. But in addition to that, we should not idolize others to the point that we place our very livelihood and ideals in their image. A person’s image is breakable; like glass and when it is strained, it cracks. So when that glass shatters, its shards will cut all who gathered around it.

The message and hope that God brings is unbreakable and his image is always pure. There are no broken shards to shield yourself from. I feel badly for Lance and how this all went down – I really do and perhaps we as witnesses had something to contribute to his fall from grace. Somewhere along the line, he may have felt too much pressure to perform, like he had no way out; he may have forgotten what he stood for and what he was bringing to the people who believed in him. If he were able to “walk the walk” of his brand, then this never would have happened. So there is another lesson to be learned from this: if you are going to speak it, then you must also walk it. Plain and simple. Easier said than done? Well, of course.

Now, are all pro athletes who promote better behaviors or inspirational merchandise terrible human beings? No, absolutely not, but we must be weary of our “idol worship” as it pertains to these individuals. Even if he did cheat and lie about his PED use, he may have still touched the lives of millions, encouraging them to live better, healthier lives. And that idea alone is worth something more. It’s an ideal greater than any man or sports hero, most of all Lance Armstrong. Lance’s image may be broken, but the Livestrong message should not be. Will Livestrong survive this debacle though? I suppose only time will tell.

DGT: “Gun control? We need some bullet control!” – Chris Rock

For future reference, DGT merely stands for “Downright Good Thought” (I’ve gotten tired of always typing that out and plus, my pinky is still broken so any time I can type less, I’m going to take it).

This post will hopefully be quick to the point but bear with me if I get a little wordy. I wanted to start off with a quote from comedian Chris Rock who did a standup act quite a few years ago in which he talked about the state of gun usage in America. He addressed about how people could just walk around shooting up folks due to the right to bear arms and so forth. In order to parody the situation, he claimed that what we really needed was “bullet control”. One bullet would be worth a million dollars, or more even. That way, if someone was really out to get you, he’d know for certain that he wanted you dead due to impact it would have on his pocketbook. It’s relatively morbid humor, but I remember laughing along with Mr. Rock during this particular show of his. It was funny since who could imagine paying such a large sum of money just to have bullets in a gun? Honestly, who could?

However, in light of the recent tragedy befalling Chiefs linebacker Jevon Belcher and his now-passed girlfriend, it seems like the cost of the bullet really wouldn’t matter. If you are unfamiliar with this sad story, the former linebacker had apparently murdered his girlfriend last week and then promptly took his own life later that day. He did so right outside the stadium at which Kansas City plays their home football games as well. Yet another unfortunate and sad tale synonymous with professional athletes and the inherent pressures linked therein. I am sorry to those close to this family during a time of grievance. It’s something that no family ever dreams of or wants to endure.

Getting back to Mr. Rock’s argument, bullet control seems like the right answer here. Make the cost of something so ridiculously high that nobody could buy a dangerous weapon in the first place. For an individual who plays professional sports though, money can be an expendable thing. The cost of the bullet is of no consequence; only accessibility in retrieving said bullets. Any celebrity, pro athlete, or person of authority with enough capital could buy these so-called million dollar bullets at his leisure. There’s no denying that.

So what to do now? Following this situation, the Chiefs decided to go on and play their regularly scheduled game on Sunday, the 2nd of December. During the national broadcast, acclaimed reporter Bob Costas took a few moments to do something that most TV journalists never do – he spoke out on the issue from a personal level. He called for increased gun control across the States and if there were greater restrictions (dare I say, like bullet control) then these two individuals might still be alive today.

In hindsight, he may have a point, but that’s only hindsight speaking. What’s done is done.

I’m sure that Mr. Costas had the best intentions in mind when he made that statement to the public this past week. I’m almost 100% certain of that. Somewhere in his heart he felt compelled to voice genuine concern and since he had the resources available to him, he made a plea to do something about a growing epidemic in not just sports, but in all facets of American livelihood. I applaud Mr. Costas for speaking out but what I was really waiting to hear from him did not get mentioned at all.

You see, merely taking away the gun does not solve the problem at hand. True, if it were illegal to have these guns, then maybe this event wouldn’t have transpired. But it wouldn’t have happened via the use of a gun. It could have been a knife, or a sling, or who knows what. The point is, there was a deeper issue at hand which drove this individual to make such a rash decision. Regardless of having the gun at all, it was likely Mr. Belcher’s wish to inflict harm to not only himself but to another close to him.

The burning question left for everyone else then is this: WHY. Why did this happen? Who is responsible? And what can we do to alleviate this from happening in the future? Is it bullet control? No, we know that people will find ways around that since money is a material item which can be bartered for, worked for, or accumulated. Should we just take all guns away and outlaw them? No, we know that people will still commit heinous crimes without the use of a gun.

So where does this leave us? I’ve meditated on the subject and can only find one real solution: transformation of the individual. What does that mean? It means a change in the way we live our lives; all the way from the ground up. Our morals, our values, our beliefs; the whole nine yards and then some. It means proactively seeking those who are tortured and broken. Give this person the support he needs because we know, deep down, that this person matters. For if someone can feel love, then he’ll be awakened to alternatives that don’t spell the end of his own life (or the life of another). Am I asking people to sit in circles, hold hands, and sing “Kum ba ya” with one another? No, absolutely not. There is far more work to be done than simply telling a troubled person, “Hey, I care and guess what, you matter.” It’s much, much more than that, but we need to recognize this step first if we are ever going to turn potential tales of tragedy into retellings of rebirth and redemption.

My hope is that you would read this and understand what I’m talking about.

Epiphany: The Olympics are about celebrating athletes … not stirring up trouble when there is none.

I’ve been on relative shut down the last two weeks for a couple of reasons but the major one has been the Olympics. My late night television no longer consists of Big Bang Theory re-runs, Baseball Tonight highlights, or the occasional DVR’ed movie. Instead, I’ve been treating myself to London’s 2012 edition of the summer games.

And yeah, it’s been pretty awesome.

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing some really great things this year too. The USA’s Gabby Douglas took the all-around in women’s gymnastics and thus became the newest member in a very elite group to win the gold. She was also the first African-America woman to accomplish the feat. On top of that, she is only 16 years of age. When I was 16, the greatest thing I did was pass my driver’s test (after my second try of course). All in all, it’s an absolutely amazing achievement for little Miss Douglas, to say the least.

However, if you’ve been reading much of the coverage after her historic showing, you may not be celebrating as much. Yes, there were breaking news updates about the win but swifly behind those posts were other, less appealing headlines. Stories broke with titles like, “Douglas wins gold, but sports bad hair” and “Gabby Douglas captures gold, but mom files for bankruptcy”.

Hopefully you can say this one with me: “Ok, really?”

First of all, Douglas won an Olympic gold medal. Last I checked, that’s supposed to be really hard so having a “pulled back” hairstyle must be one of the last concerns an Olympic athlete is thinking about. Secondly, Douglas’ mom is unfortunately just another statistic in the growing number of Americans who have faced hard times in this economy. Regardless of her financial decisions, I’m sure this was one reality Douglas’ mother wanted to keep in the states while her daughter was conquering the gymnastics world in London. And yeah, I wouldn’t blame someone for that either.

Despite everything that’s happened, these are the comments that come swirling about after Gabby’s amazing feat. Gabby herself was quoted as being “confused” by all the strange comments concerning her hair just hours after her historic win. If I had to relate, it must have felt something like this: being graduated from college, returning home, and then discovering every family member in attendance took closeup photos of your mouth because you forgot to shave that morning. Throw out the fact that you just earned your degree. Or that you wanted to celebrate with your closest of kin. The fact is, you had a five o’clock shadow and by golly, you should have known better.

I’m sure if that were you in that situation, you’d probably be confused as well.

And yet, this is how we, her American supporters, choose to show congratulations to our star athlete. Instead of praising, we scrutinize; instead of boosting up, we mock; and to top things off, we stir the pot on issues that are either long since dead or not even noteworthy during an Olympic competition. For that reason above all others, I salute you, America media. You certainly try your hardest to tear down heroes when they are at their peak.

The same can be said for other Olympians like the human dolphin, Michael Phelps. Here is a guy who became America’s most talked about athlete since the likes of Babe Ruth or Muhammad Ali. Along with winning eight gold medals in Beijing, he stormed to the forefront of major sponsors like Subway and Head and Shoulders to become a poster child for American pride. Then, the unthinkable happened when a photo leaked which portrayed said Phelps smoking pot from a bong. In hindsight, not one of life’s greatest decisions when one’s every move is always under a microscope. What impresses me now, however, is how Mr. Phelps has grown since the ordeal. He’s been quoted as being more “calm”, more “mature” and less “intense” as he was some four years ago. And although the commentators in London have stayed mum on the bong topic, I’m sure it’s something that still crosses Michael’s mind every time a camera gets forced into his face. But even after all this, he’s rebounded from the situation. He’s learned from his mistakes and ultimately, he’s shown the type of resilience it takes to block out media coverage and just focus on what matters most: the end result of years of hard work.

That being said, Gabby Douglas’ reaction over the media coverage she received post-medal ceremony was not surprising. I’d be just as confused as well. Thankfully, she appears to be on such a high right now that these articles speaking against her won’t affect her too badly in the long run. At least I hope that’s the case. As someone who watches the post-event interviews, I’ve seen Gabby at such a loss for words that the best she can do is just smile when asked, “How do you feel?” And who can blame her for that? But hey, that’s what everyone stateside should be doing in light of her victory; just smiling.

At this point in my life, I’ll never win a medal or compete in the Olympics. I’ve had to deal with that crushing reality for some time now. Sure I wish I could could do some event but the chances are very unlikely in my relatively old age. Unless I suddenly decide to take up equestrian or something similar, I’m grounded.  Lord knows I can’t do backflips very well or adequately perform a strong rendition of the breaststroke so I’ll be sitting on the sidelines for the rest of my life in that regard. However, what I can do is cheer on the athletes who have worked so hard for these moments because that’s the most appropriate thing to do. I refuse to turn the Olympics into a fashion contest over racial stereotypes or kick somebody when they’re down (or up for that matter); no, I’d rather just clap at the end of a great performance and then wait another four years to see if it’ll happen again.

Before I end this, I’ve had a second thought about my own Olympic dreams. All things considered, if I ever did go to the Olympics, I’d probably be screwed. My Facebook page has way too many pictures of me acting a fool, my Twitter account makes comments about celebrities being stupid, and a book I wrote has some pretty strong opinions of its own. So yeah, maybe it’s best that the real stars like Phelps and Douglas are winning the gold because if the American media ever gets a hold of me, I’ll have to walk away from social media altogether. Or be forced to defend myself in open court. Until that day comes, I’ll be sitting here writing about the folks who are really doing something special. You know, like winning gold medals and representing their country with pride. So congrats to Michael and Gabby on your achievements. Job well done, says I.

And lastly to Michael, rest easy knowing that I’ll never eclipse your record medal count. I know you were worried.

Downright Good Thought: If you’re going to report on a tragedy…just give the facts, please.

At one time in my life, I was going to be a journalist. This was just moments before I contemplated pursuing a professional baseball career and if that wasn’t going to work out, I’d take up instructing rock climbing.

Yeah, I had big plans early on.

Considering how a life of pro baseball was far beyond my reach and I’m deathly afraid of heights, I ruled out two of my three options and focused more on journalism. I enjoyed my classes in high school and wanted to keep at it through college if I could. That didn’t happen though but I kept on writing nonetheless. And now that I engage in this writing thing more now than ever before, I recollect on the teachings I endured when I first started the gig. And more specifically: journalistic writing.

If you’ve ever taken a journalism class, then you know a few basic principles to follow: check your spelling, report the facts, and know thy order of events. Good standards to live by, but not everyone can catch bad spelling 100% of the time before a story gets to print. We’re all human and we make mistakes; even when it comes to writing. And yes, you must do your best to make sure that the facts you receive, are indeed, the facts.

But if there’s one thing that rarely seems to get screened before reaching “final print status”, it’s the sensationalism we find in news reports. The job of a reporter is to report the news. Plain and simple. If there’s an upcoming event, a major ruling by the Supreme Court, or a deadly breakout of ringworm (ew…) then hey, I’d like to know about it. I’ll even fancy a helpful explanation on why cold fronts occur for good measure. Problem is though, reports are rarely presented in black and white. The news is often written with bias and a flare for the dramatic in order to attract a larger audience.

I say these things because of the horrible events that took place in Aurora, Colorado. Families lost their children because of some distrubed individual who lost touch with reality and adding to the tragedy, news stations couldn’t seem to help themselves with all the coverage on the topic. I read a few articles on MSN to catch up on what had transpired, but I had a difficult time following the facts through all the theatrical narrative. My hope is that the families affected by the shooting remain unaware of the movie-like scripts generated in the aftermath.

In the wake of this situation, I say shame on those of you who wrote such stories about the shooting. If you want attention via dramatic interpretation, then become an actor. Better yet, become a director. But if you intend on being a reporter, then be a reporter. I’m sure that if it were your children or family involved, you’d want some level of sensitivity during this grieving period. I’m so grateful to have free market reporting (truly I am), but where is the line drawn between human compassion and opportunistic marketing?

For the sake of those who lost loved ones, my heart goes out to you. My hope is that the recovery process be a healthy one full of support from those close to you.

Downright Good Thought: There are only 2 types of poker players in the world … rich and poor.

Recently I was a participant in a game of Texas Hold’em. That’s a card game for anyone who doesn’t know. It’s also the version of poker where you only get 2 cards per hand and has been made popular on ESPN’s “World Series of Poker”. So chances are, you’ve probably heard of the game at some point (even if you’ve never played).

And I’ve played several times in my life. Much of my early 20s consisted of playing poker, especially Texas Hold’em. Online poker, poker with friends, poker with family…I enjoyed a good gamut of crowds. The majority of times I played were for recreation only with little money to be lost or had, but yes, there was still money on the table.

And if it weren’t for those games of Texas Hold’em, I’d probably be a richer man.

One of my friends tried to tell me that there are two types of players: those who play it straight and those who are chasers. The players that play it straight tend to play the odds. They’re calculating their chances of hitting a card at the end of a hand, and if they don’t foresee at least a 90% probability of beating the odds, then they bow out, or ‘fold’, if you prefer the technical term.

On the flipside, there are the more reckless players. These guys “chase” after that slim chance that the third ace in the deck will hit and thereby grant them that crucial full house. And if they think they can win, they’re never too bashful about throwing all their money into the pot over the opportunity that some other poor sap will take them up on the challenge. It’s an irresponsible way to play if you think about it, but the reward for victory often outweighs the potential for loss in that player’s mind.

As you might have guessed, I am far more like the latter. I chase. I guess. I bluff. I go “all in” when I have nothing in my hand as I sit and pray for someone else to fold so I can steal the pot. It’s a great strategy if it’s your first time playing with a new group, but if you continuously play with the same people, someone will get wise to your act. They’ll call you out, force you to adjust your game, and when you’re at your weakest, they’ll pounce and make you wish you hadn’t bought back in to play.

Yeah, I’d certainly be a richer person if I didn’t play poker. That much is true. I like the social aspect of the game, but could definitely do without the whole losing money thing. I’ve won my fair share in the past, but whether or not I’m breaking even is up to debate. Which brings me to why I feel my friend is incorrect in his assumption. There really aren’t strategists and chasers in poker; there are simply rich and poor. The winners and the losers. You can strike it rich by being conservative if you know what you’re doing, but you can also get to the top by putting everything you have on the line; even if there’s that possibility you’ll lose everything in the process. And that’s a lot like one’s waking life. You’re either the type that attempts to calculate the most reasonable outcome in your favor or you take that big risk under the hope that you’ll come out on top when it’s all said and done.

Since I find myself constantly in limbo on how I play the stakes, I suppose there’s middle ground to be had in this argument. The only thing that’d be nice is to actually win some dough back every once in a while. But hey, there is that slim chance I’ll eventually win it all back, right? And in the process, make some much needed profit as well. So yeah, I suppose that’s just enough for me to keep coming back.

Theory: Volleyball could be a mainstream sport … if everyone played naked.

Here in America, we have three major sports industries. These are (in no particular order) baseball, basketball, and football. Sure, we have hockey, soccer, and to some extent, golf, but none of these sports possess the annual draw and media attention that the other three do. Baseball alone has 162 games played a year and even when the season is over, offseason trades tend to take precedence over who won the Columbus Blue Jackets/St. Louis Blues game the night before. It’s just a common fact.

I will say that there are die hard golf, tennis, hockey, and soccer fans out there. That’s an undeniable fact too. I also have felt the World Cup fever, been excited over the Stanley Cup from time to time, and even tuned in when Roger Federer competed for his 10 billionth Wimbledon championship. However, I don’t find myself following these sports as closely as I would baseball, basketball, or football. And part of that is the media’s doing.

For instance, the ultra-hyped Super Bowls are a perfect example. Even if you’re not that big on football, you can still watch for the commercials that cost millions of dollars to even put on the air. Unfortunately, the other sports aren’t always as large a platform as football. One of golf’s bigger promotions in the last few years has been the comeback of Tiger Woods, aka the recovering “sex addict.” Not exactly the best media coverage, but some press is better than no press, I suppose.

Which is a great lead into what I’m proposing. And I believe this to be an honest and modest proposal meant to be taken with serious consideration. How does one make volleyball a mainstream stay in the American market? Yes, I have an answer for you: volleyball should be played in the bare. Buck naked; as nature intended; in a birthday suit…or however else you wanna call it.

Don’t think that’ll help? Well, let’s take a look at history, shall we?

The ancient Greeks used to compete in the nude when they had their Olympic games. These events were performed primarily as tributes to their gods, but the reason for the nakedness was to make it impossible conceal anything. Participation was mano-a-mano and unless the Greeks possessed some primitive form of steroids back then, it’d be rather hard to cheat when you’re stripped down to your flesh. But hey, all things considered, look where we are now. The Olympics are a constant every four years and could be considered one of the best ways to settle differences between nations (or just ignite new ones). I know what you’re thinking too – the competitors aren’t naked but the concept sure started out that way. And let’s not forget how Kim Kardashian first became popular. Granted I don’t really approve of her methods but would anyone have known her had it not been for the infamous sex tapes? Maybe, maybe not. However, I guarantee that if some celebrity suddenly “leaked” one of their own private videos on the internet, their collective stock would increase ten fold (sad enough as that is).

So why not let volleyball in on that action? Specifically outdoor volleyball. True, the sand could be a real issue for people but that’s all part of the game, right? You have to take the good with the bad. If it becomes too much, then play on the grass. That could be painful too, but think of the ratings here, people. And once we have a firm grasp on the major market, we’ll let our players wear bottoms if it becomes too much (sorry ladies, but I won’t give away the whole farm just yet).

My one disclaimer would be that the rule only apply to the professionals. Considering how I play in some leagues myself, I don’t exactly want to bear witness to some of my teammates jumping around in just their skin. Especially if it’s coed. That’s just not cool. Despite that, I’ll still stand by my original proposition. It’s an easy enough rule to implement; all that’s required is mutual cooperation on the part of the players. Sure, there would be no shoe deals or clothing lines, but volleyball players could become major spokespersons for issues like skin cancer awareness. And we all know that’s a growing epidemic in this great country, if not around the world.

So you want ratings, volleyball? You want to be recognized as a major player in the sports realm? Then you’re gonna have to let it all hang out.

Literally.