Colin Kaepernick, NFL millionaire, refuses to stand for national anthem because America isn’t perfect

Colin Kaepernick screenshot

Colin Kaepernick is an NFL millionaire who has been rooted on for years by stadiums filled with Americans of all colors. He was adopted by family that obviously instilled in him the kind of work ethic it takes to break into professional sports. Despite living in the freest nation the world has ever produced (while pulling in $19 million per year), he now says he cannot stand for the national anthem because America “oppresses black people and people of color.”

The NFL released his statement on Saturday after news of his decision spread:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Yes, that’s right, because America isn’t perfect Mr. Kaepernick says he cannot show pride in the American flag. Someone should ask the formerly productive quarterback if he can name one country on earth where everyone acts like angels and there are no skeletons in the closet. If he cannot name such a place, then he should be informed that he is an ignorant fool.

Yes, racial issues are “bigger than football,” but the universal principles the nation was founded upon are bigger than random incidents of racism in a nation of 350 million people.

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution states:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Can anyone deny that millions of Americans strive every single day to achieve the goal of “a more prefect Union”? Countless men and women have died to secure liberty for future generations, and yet the Colin Kaepernicks of the world think it is all diminished because some individuals fall short of our highest ideals.
Colin Kaepernick sits national anthem

Colin Kaepernick should be ashamed of himself for using the flag to exploit his own political activism — while simultaneously putting the organization he works for and his teammates in a horrible bind. What makes the situation worse is that if the team decides to let him go because of his poor performance on the field, then he will conveniently say it was done for racial reasons.

Look at the picture of the San Francisco 49er’s entire team — white, black, asian, and hispanic men and women from all across the U.S. — and then look at the one goof sitting down by himself — benched — in between two jugs of Gatorade. Their behavior should tell the quarterback that the national anthem transcends the contemporary obstacles we face, but for whatever reason the message does not sink in.

Mr. Kaepernick may be exercising his right to free speech, but he is not a leader. He is a selfish man who took attention away from his team’s primary mission — to win on the football field — and focused it all on his political frustrations. If I were a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, there is no way I would be rooting for the guy.

Stephen A. Smith pulls out intellectual machine gun, fires back at ‘Uncle Tom’ bomb throwers

Stephen A Smith

For his attempt to try have an adult conversation on race and the dangers of trying to police a man’s private thoughts, Mark Cuban found himself attacked by professional race-baiters and the perpetual victim crowd. That in turn brought out ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who tried to defend him by, interestingly enough, trying to act like an adult. The racial bomb throwers then happily turned their attention towards the First Take host.

What happened next was marvelous. If you haven’t seen Mr. Smith whip out an intellectual machine gun and mow down his would-be character assassins, please do. It’s worth every second. I’ve included the bulk of the text, but it’s really something that needs to be watched.

The ESPN host said May 23:

“’Stephen A. Smith is a sellout,’ ‘Stephen A. Smith is an Uncle Tom,’ ‘Stephen A. Smith ain’t black,’ ‘you ain’t one of us’ — these are the kinds of things that were said to me yesterday. When I say I don’t give a damn … that does it no justice. I stand by everything that I said yesterday tenfold, 100-fold. And I don’t care who in the black community disagrees with me — I’m not interested in their disagreement on this particular issue because they are not looking at the bigger picture here.

Mark Cuban in the same breadth that he talked about walking across the street from a black dude in a hoodie followed that up with talking about the white dead who is bald-headed. … Everybody wants to ignore that. … I don’t want to say everybody because I’m not speaking for everybody. … We want to pounce on him making this statement and alluding to black folks or talking about somebody in a hoodie that happens to be black. … He talked about the prejudices that exist in all spectrums by all of us. Are we going to sit here and literally act like we don’t have any prejudices? Like we don’t feel a certain way about certain people or certain people’s appearances and how it makes us raise our antenna and make you a bit suspicious? Of course it does.” …

So what Mark Cuban said was 100 percent right. It’s just that simple.

But the bigger issue that needs to be discussed — it’s the big elephant in the room and no one wants to touch on it because white folks are scared they’re going to be labeled racist, black folks are scared they’re going to be labeled sellouts. See, I tend to look at things a bit differently.

I look at our unemployment rate consistently being double that of folks in white America. I do understand that to some degree there’s a level of racism we all have to overcome — and I get all of that. But that doesn’t mean every single issue is race-related. Sometimes it is about how you represent yourself. It is how you present yourself. When I alluded to walking around with your pants hanging down your behind — that’s trifling. That’s just trifling! And it’s counterproductive. When I talked about how you’re sitting there and the first words out of your mouth are ‘NawhatImasayin’ … NawhatImean’ — no the hell we don’t! You haven’t said anything yet! That’s a reality.

When I talk about not having a command of the English language — and still you want a job, and you want to have a career — but you don’t want to get your education, you don’t want to go out there and pound that pavement. Everything is about the sprint. It’s not about the marathon. It’s not about you putting forth the necessary effort and due diligence over the long haul to get the things that you need — that’s a reality in our community. … I’m trying to educate you about the minefields that await. The stereotypes and the perceptions that you can’t feed into if you want to move forward in life. …

When we talk about the American dream, you know who I think about? Myself.

Hollis Queens, New York City, left back in the fourth grade, grew up poor, the level of education that I had was a public school system, I ultimately graduate from high school, I go to a historically black institution like Winston-Salem State University, I graduate with honors, there is no journalism program, I still graduate with honors, I still beat out thousands of people to get an internship that ultimately transitioned from a career at the New York Daily News to the Philadelphia Inquirer to CNN and then Fox Sports and ultimately ESPN. And I’m on national TV everyday getting paid pretty well, I might add. …

This is the road you gotta climb. Everybody can’t be Jay-Z. That’s one in a billion. Everybody can’t be Shaq and Kobe. That’s one in a billion. But you can be Stephen A. Smith. Educate yourself. Work hard. Do what you have to do. Pound that pavement. Be about the business and understanding what you have to do to work through the political mine fields that wait for you in every step of our lives. That’s what I’m talking about, and people don’t get that.

Do you see that? Look around and you will see the consciousness carcasses of a million race-baiters taken down in one sitting.

People do not like what Stephen A. Smith has to say on this issue because he speaks the truth, and those who do not wish to hear the truth will scream and yell and writhe in pain to avoid having it sink in.

What struck me most about Mr. Smith’s instructions for success was the importance he placed on viewing life as a marathon instead of a sprint. He couldn’t be more correct. But when a guy like Smith spells out his life history, critics then say things like, “Stephen A. Smith is just full of himself. He just wants an opportunity to brag about how great he is.” Why do I know that? Because when I’ve tried to have similar conversations with people and I pointed out all the things I’ve needed to do to get to where I am today, those are the types of comments I’ve received from the America’s woe-is-me foot soldiers.

When I was in the military, one of my favorite NCO’s was a guy named Sgt. Farrow. He’d say, “What, you think this is Burger King? You want things your way right away?” to certain soldiers. It reminds me of millions of Americans who want their professional life to be as easy as going through the drive-thru window at a burger joint. People have high-speed internet, “Instagram,” instant text messaging, constant Twitter streams and Facebook feeds that flow, flow, flow … and then they try and convince themselves that if their professional goals don’t manifest overnight it’s because some nefarious (probably white) force is out to get them.

One of my favorite recent examples from my own life came when I logged in to Twitter and found out that a guy added me to his list “fast-rising bloggers.” I laughed and thought: “Sure, if you consider four years fast…”

douglasernstblog Twitter lists
I’m a “fast-rising blogger” … if you consider four years fast.

The point is that success typically comes from the slow and steady accumulation of many small victories. At some moment there is a tipping point and all those hopes and dreams manifest — seemingly overnight to the outsider who hasn’t experienced the long hard slog.

I do not always agree with Stephen A. Smith, but on this issue he is on the mark. Some of his more intelligent critics would be wise to take a step back, reevaluate their personal attacks and then take a page out of his book. It’s a blueprint for success.

Kudos, Mr. Smith. You knocked this one out of the ballpark.

Chicago to cyclists: Your bikes aren’t fast enough escape a cycling tax forever

Cycling AP
Ronald Reagan once said of statists that their philosophy on life is: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Exhibit A: Chicago.

Think of an activity that you as a law-abiding free citizen enjoy. Chances are, Chicago’s bureaucrats have found a way to tax it directly or indirectly — and if they haven’t you can be sure they’re working on it.

Smoker? Chicago definitely wants to tax that behavior. Expect to pay roughly $7.50 a pack. Cyclist? Yes, you’re on the hook, too. You didn’t think that being a card-carrying member of the Green Team would exempt you from the compulsion to tax, tax, tax did you?

The Associated Press reports:

CHICAGO — A city councilwoman’s recent proposal to institute a $25 annual cycling tax set off a lively debate that eventually sputtered out after the city responded with a collective “Say what?” A number of gruff voices spoke in favor, feeding off motorists’ antagonism toward what they deride as stop sign-running freeloaders. Bike-friendly bloggers retorted that maybe pedestrians ought to be charged a shoe tax to use the sidewalks.

“There’d be special bike cops pulling people over? Or cameras? What do you do (to enforce this)?” asked Mike Salvatore, owner of Heritage Bicycles, a new Chicago hangout that neatly blends a lively cafe with a custom bike-building workshop in a 19th-century building.

Chicago is by no means the only place across the U.S. tempted to see bicyclists as a possible new source of revenue, only to run into questions of fairness and enforceability. That is testing the vision of city leaders who are transforming urban expanses with bike lanes and other amenities in a quest for relevance, vitality and livability — with never enough funds.

Two or three states consider legislation each year for some type of cycling registration and tax — complete with decals or mini-license plates, National Conference of State Legislatures policy specialist Douglas Shinkle said. This year, it was Georgia, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. The Oregon legislation, which failed, would even have applied to children.

“I really think that legislators are just trying to be as creative as possible and as open to any sort of possibilities to fill in any funding gaps. Everything is on the table,” he said.

Give yourself bonus points if the main takeaway you got from the AP story was that there is “never enough revenue.” No matter how much you are taxed, it will never satisfy the pathological do-gooder.

Growing up, did you ever think you would see the day when bureaucrats would devise mandatory mini-license plates for people who use bike trails? Shop owners like Mike Salvatore of Heritage Bicycles in Chicago is only partially joking when he asks about enforcement mechanisms like “special bike cops” and cameras that would be on the lookout for the guy who didn’t pay his “fair” share to the city’s power-brokers — but the people who come up with ridiculous rules and regulations are very serious.

Bike lanes? Get ready for bike tollways with little manned booths at random stops along your path around the city. Think of a crazy way for a city to raise revenue and then wait — in due time the tax or regulation that you deemed fit for admission into a psyche ward will be seriously debated among the masterminds in your neck of the woods.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to ponder how Chicago might tax runners. I’m thinking that the the environmental impact of ethylene-vinyl acetate or EVA alternatives used in running shoes might be a good angle. An no, you don’t get a tax reprieve if your name is Lenn Rockford Hann, the engineer from Chicago who made lighter faster running shoes.

Bob Costas takes all sides of Redskins controversy to hear himself talk, ultimately says nothing

Bob Costas Redskins controversy

What can be worse than watching the Dallas Cowboys win? Watching Bob Costas ramble during half-time of a football game, only to realize upon his concluding remarks that he has essentially said nothing. While it’s nice to see that Mr. Costas has graduated from haranguing viewers about gun control during a football game to actually covering a topic related to the sport, he still has a problem with talking in circles.

Bob Costas put his serious face on during halftime of the Redskin/Cowboys match-up on Sunday, took a deep breath, hoped no one noticed the bad dye job his hairstylist gave him, and said the following:

There is no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snider or any official or player from his team harbors animus towards Native Americans or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those that don’t think twice about the long-standing moniker.  And, in fact, as best can be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.

But, having stipulated that, there’s still a distinction to be made. Objections to names like Braves, Chiefs, Warriors and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok.  These names honor, rather than demean. They’re pretty much the same as Vikings, Patriots or even Cowboys. And names like Blackhawks, Seminoles and Chippewas — while potentially more problematic — can still be okay, provided the symbols are appropriately respectful, which is where the Cleveland Indians (with the combination of their name and Chief Wahoo logo) have sometimes run into trouble.

A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians. The Saint Johns ‘Redmen’ have become the Red Storm. And the Miami of Ohio ‘Redskins’ — that’s right, redskins — are now the Red Hawks. Still, the NFL franchise that represents the nation’s capital, has maintained its name.

But think for a moment about the term ‘Redskins’ and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if directed towards African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or members of any other ethnic group. When considered that way, Redskins can’t possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait. Nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intend. It’s fair to say for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended.   But if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?

For more on this topic, including Daniel Snyder’s take, you can go to

Does Bob Costas realize that history is filled with terms that were once insults that have been re-appropriated by the targets of disdain? “Yankees” comes to mind, although I suppose in certain parts of the country ‘Yankee’ is still a slur… Black people have done the same, most notably by turning ‘nigger’ into ‘nigga.’ Turn on MTV or BET and see how many times the word is used over the course of 24 hours. If you still count on your fingers and toes you’ll need to borrow a few relatives to keep track.

These sorts of things cause many headaches among politically correct guys like Mr. Costas, but the point remains: words are like vases that are always filled with the meaning we give them. Over time, the meaning of words change (e.g., ‘literally’ no long means literally, which is actually rather sad), and some words disappear all together. If the majority of Native Americans don’t have an issue with the Redskins name, and fans of the team are singing “Hail to the Redskins,” then why should the owner do away with it over the howls of (overwhelmingly) politically correct white people?

Regardless, Dan Snyder weighed in on the issue in a letter he wrote to the fans. Here’s an excerpt:

Our past isn’t just where we came from — it’s who we are.

As some of you may know, our began team 81 years ago — in 1932 — with the name “Boston Braves.” The following year, the franchise name was changed to the “Boston Redskins.” On our inaugural team, four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans. The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.

In 1971, or legendary head coach, the late George Allen, consulted with the Red Cloud Athletic Fund, located on the Pine Ridge Indians Reservation in South Dakota and designed our emblems on the Redskins helmets. Several years later, Coach Allen was honored by the Red Cloud Athletic Fund. On the wall of our Ashburn, Virginia, offices is the plaque given to Coach Allen — a source of pride for all of us. “Washington Redskins” is more than a name we have called ourselves for over eight decades. It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage pride and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.

Consider the facts concerning the “Washington Redskins” name:

The highly respected Annenberg Public Policy Center polled nearly 1,000 self-identified Native Americans from across the continental U.S. and found that 90% of Native Americans did not find the team name “Washington Redskins” to be offensive.

In April 2013, Associated Press survey, 70% of respondents stated the Washington Redskins should not change their name, while only 11% said the team name should change.

Read the entire letter. It’s worth it. And, unlike Bob Costas, Dan Snyder takes a firm position that can be held up to scrutiny. Particularly interesting is the response by a retired Chief of Virginia’s Patowomeck Tribe, who says:

“Frankly, the members of my tribe — the vast majority — don’t find it offensive. I’ve been a Redskins fan for years. And to be honest with you, I would be offended if they did change [the name, Redskins … This is] an attempt by somebody … to completely remove the Indian identity from anything and pretty soon … you have a wipe out in society of any reference to Indian people… You can’t rewrite history — yes, there were some awful bad things to our people over time, but naming the Washington football team the Redskins, we don’t consider to be one of those bad things,” (Robert Green).

The Redskins name controversy will continue to go on, and there is no easy answer. I have mixed feelings on the subject. However, hearing this commentary makes me more confident than ever that it’s a matter that should be settled between Redskins ownership and the fans — free from the halftime temper tantrums of men like Costas.

Andrew McCutchen: Pittsburgh star teaches the nation about success, loyalty and family

Andrew McCutchen E60

When I was a kid I always wondered who liked the Pittsburgh Pirates, besides my dad. True, I grew up in Chicago, but even there you could find people who would say, “You know, I always kind of liked…” followed by a random team. Not so with the Pirates. They seemed to exist to frustrate whatever poor soul put his faith in them. Today, with Andrew McCutchen on the team, it’s a different story. He’s not only a National League All-Star, but he seems to be a really good person who can teach us something about hard work, loyalty and family values.

For those not familiar with McCutchen, he grew up in a Florida trailer park. His parents had him at 17 years old. His dad worked in a phosphate mine and his mom worked at a grocery store. And when those two loving parents did the best they could to raise their son with good values, the seeds for success they planted in his head began to blossom:

“We used to get up 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., hit balls, and he just decided he wanted to do that. He wanted to be great,” (Lorenzo McCutchen).

Lorenzo McCutchen

And great he became. In fact, he’s so good at the sport that the Pirates signed him to a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension last season. But the thing is, the playoff-bound Pirates really couldn’t afford what the market could deliver “Cutch,” and yet he stayed in Pittsburgh. He turned down millions to stay with the team that offered him his first big break.

“This is the team that drafted me. I owe them signing this contract. Why would I waste it on going: ‘Maybe I can get $31 million if I had a good year.’ Then I would be contradicting myself and going: ‘Are you doing it for the money or are you doing it because you love the game?’ I want to do it because I love the game,” (Andrew McCutchen, E:60 interview).

“He feels like he was predestined to be there […] He wants to make a difference in Pittsburgh. I think that it’s important that you play where your heart is, and I think his heart is in Pittsburgh,” (Lorenzo McCutchen)

When I was a kid, I’d watch sports stars leave cities over contract disputes and wonder why anyone would uproot their family over a few million dollars when they’re already financially set for life. I never begrudged them for doing so, but I always told myself that if I was put in a similar situation I’d rather stay in the city I love than to exit on bad terms because of money. Andrew McCutchen is living proof that loyalty while living a good life will be rewarded — Pittsburgh fans love the guy.

Want a sure-fire recipe for success? Look at the McCutchens:

  • Be a good father.
  • Teach your kids that they can decide to be successful — and then instill in them the importance of hard work.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Know that money is nice, but that it doesn’t bring those who possess it true happiness.
  • Be loyal to those who love you and treat you right.
  • Give back to your community.

Did I forget to mention that Andrew McCutchen mentors inner-city youth baseball players and at-risk children? Well, he does. At this point in time, it’s really hard to find many faults with a guy who bats .318, gets his team in the playoffs, and works to leave a positive lasting mark on the city that brought him to the big leagues. Even his response to a question about the World Series is golden: “I never really followed the World Series very much. […] I’d much rather play in it … and make my own memories.”

When you dig deep down and focus on who you are and who you want to be, the distractions of the external world melt away. When you believe in yourself and then put in the hard work, the world becomes less stressful. When you surround yourself with positive people, “impossible” tasks suddenly become possible. These are not just lessons for Pittsburgh Pirates fans — they are lessons for us all — and for imparting those lessons I would like to thank Mr. McCutchen.

Hat Tip: Denver Pat

‘Linsanity’ looks like a documentary that will inspire more than just sports fans

Jeremy Lin Linsanity Trailer

Anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in 2012 heard about “Linsanity.” Jeremy Lin now plays for the Houston Rockets, but the winning streak he helped the New York Knicks put together in 2012 was one of the most inspiring sports stories in recent memory. In October, a documentary on Lin will be released, and the trailer to “Linsanity” looks like the tickets will be worth the price of admission.

There are two main quotes in the trailer to “Linsanity” that indicate this is much more than a documentary for basketball fans:

“You don’t get better if you win all the time. You look at yourself more when you lose,” (Jeremy Lin).

“That’s all I dream about: hitting a game winner, doing a pose, and walking off. … That’s like all I did growing up. I wanted to know what that felt like,” (Jeremy Lin).

First off, the world is about contrasts. We need contrast in order to appreciate different experiences. That’s why failure and setback can be an invaluable tool. Successful people view their failures as learning experiences that can help propel them to the next level. Competitors are not our enemies — they are our friends. They push us out of our comfort zone and into realms of excellence that would be unimaginable to our younger selves.

Jeremy Lin always wanted to know what it felt like to rise to the occasion on the world’s biggest stage — and he did. No matter where his career takes him, the 2012 season will never be able to be taken from him. Life is filled with special moments that are uniquely yours, and every day you have a choice focus on the blessings or unproductively dwell on the setbacks.

Linsanity Trailer review

“Some of those experiences out there when I was on the court — I felt like I was being controlled by something else. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience,” Lin says at the start of the trailer. Out of body experiences are a very real thing, but part of what was probably going on was that the experiences felt like a dream because — by his own admission — he had been dreaming of those very moments since he was a kid, and now they were manifesting into his physical reality.

The moral of the story is to dream big. Dream big and then live your life like you expect those dreams to become a reality. Believe that it’s not a matter of if your aspirations will be realized, but when. Then prepare. Work hard. Work as if your opportunity to turn a dream into reality could happen at any second, and failing to prepare will mean you’ve prepared for failure.

Then, when it all unfolds just as you knew it would, take time to pause and really experience the moment so that you will have it ready for recall for the rest of your days.

I’m not sure what the theater count will be for this documentary, but if it’s remotely near my house I’ll be seeing it in the theaters.

What if you attacked your problems like Diana Nyad attacked her historic swim?

Sharks? Jellyfish? Storms? That’s no big deal for 64-year-old Diana Nyad, who just swam 110 miles from Florida to Cuba. Imagine what the world would look like if individuals attacked their problems like she attacked her fifth attempt at the historic swim.

The Associated Press reports:

KEY WEST, Fla. — Looking dazed and sunburned, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad waded ashore Monday and became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage.

The 64-year-old Nyad swam up to the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after starting her journey from Havana on Saturday. As she approached, spectators waded into waist-high water and surrounded her, taking pictures and cheering her on.

“I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team,” she said on the beach.

Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, is escorted by kayakers as she swims towards the completion of her approximately 110-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

The New York Times provides an important addition to the commentary:

Ms. Nyad’s success was built on her failures — the first in 1978, when she was 28, and the most recent last year at age 62. After each attempt, she improvised, learning what to adjust, whom to consult and which new protective protocol to consider.

“Diana did her homework,” said Bonnie Stoll, Ms. Nyad’s friend and chief handler, shortly after Ms. Nyad completed her swim.

1. Never give up. 2. You’re never too old to accomplish amazing things. 3. You are never alone. 4. Success is often like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of failure.

When I was a kid, there was a time where I prided myself on not falling on my skis during winter vacation. My uncle told me that I shouldn’t be afraid of falling because a.) I would push myself harder and b.) I would learn from my mistakes. Whether you are long-distance swimming, skiing or just trying to map out your life, it’s sage advice to follow.

What if, instead of blaming others for our failures, we just looked at them as just a temporary delay to a future reality already determined? What if we didn’t spend so much time assigning blame for the obstacles in our path and instead spent more time figuring out how to turn them into stepping stones to our next big accomplishment?

Diana Nyad failed multiple times — at the peak of her physical ability. It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but she didn’t. Her victory over the seemingly insurmountable swimming distance between Florida to Cuba speaks volumes about what the human spirit is capable of.

Jellyfish sting because that’s what they do. Jerks are jerks because that’s who they’ve decided to be. Whether you’re trying to accomplish a task in the middle of the ocean or trying to navigate your way through professional life, the “Why me?” approach is simply a waste of time. “Why did I have to run into those stupid jellyfish and why did they have to sting me? … Why does my coworker not like me now matter how nice I am to him? … Why did that guy appear to give me a dirty look?” Answer: Who cares?

You have complete control over your will to succeed, and it can not be broken if you make it so. An indestructible will is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and once you realize that you are well on your way to securing the vast majority of your hopes and dreams. Diana Nyad deserves a round of applause for reminding us of this truth in her own special way.

The Runner King

Alone together on a Sunday morning, the track and the runner form a unique relationship, one where they are simultaneously king and subject. At that moment the track exists for him. As the sun rises and the dew glistens in the grass he determines what the workout will be. Will it be a long slow run that he’s done countless times before? Will he run sprints? Or, will he glide along at a brisk pace that leaves him pleasantly winded — the kind of breathing that really lets him know he’s alive without overly taxing his body.

Any king worth his salt will always find ways to humble himself. He needs to know that there are forces out there that can bring him to his knees. He needs to know that life is temporary, and that one day he will die. The humbled man allows respect to flow through his veins, which often carries with it things like kindness and discipline, foresight and a sense of purpose.

And so, knowing this, the Runner King will often submit himself to a workout that leaves every ounce of his body screaming for mercy. The lessons he learns by testing his limits are taught to him by the track, thereby establishing it as his master. It would be easier to “jog” around the course, smile with and pride think about how much “better” he is than those still sleeping in, tucked in all snug in their beds — dreaming of doing. But the Runner King knows the he is not better than anyone else, and he reminds himself of this by running faster and faster and faster, until the burn in his bones and his heart and his lungs melts his smug sense of superiority away. Then, when it’s gone, in its place is a little diamond of thought: You came from dust, and to dust you will return.

Upon leaving, the Runner King is thankful. He is thankful for the track. He is thankful for his health. He is thankful he is alive. He is tired, but he is invigorated. And most of all, he is inspired to share the lessons he’s learned with his friends, his enemies, and the ones he loves.

Related: Why we run

Tim Tebow vs. the atheists

Atheists flexed their muscles this weekend, with the ‘Reason Rally’ in Washington, D.C. (I guess only atheists use logic and reason). I was going to ignore the subject all together, since most Americans really don’t care what your personal belief or non-belief in God is, but then I ran across Ross Douthat’s piece in the New York Times, Tebow in Babylon. It’s an interesting take on the future of Tebow in the Big Apple. I think most sports fans can appreciate it, except many from Chicago and Boston, where there’s often a latent inferiority complex rooted in the fact that they’re not New Yorkers…

Douthat rolls until he starts talking about what a “sophisticated” atheist and a “sophisticated” Christian would believe about Tim Tebow. First, the “sophisticated” Christian:

The sophisticated Christian, meanwhile, may be a little embarrassed by the whole Tebow business. A sophisticate’s God doesn’t care about trivia like who wins football games. A sophisticate’s theology doesn’t depend on what some musclehead does with the pigskin.

Actually, Ross, if God gave all of us talents and wants us to realize those talents to our greatest potential, on many levels he does care. Life is a celebration, and all around us are things of beauty. In the middle of a vast empty cosmos (itself a thing of complex beauty) sits us, human beings with free will and imagination. It’s not the Christian’s fault that when Ross Douthat goes to a football game he can’t see the miracles taking place all around him. God most certainly has a vested interest in the hopes and desires not only of every person on the field, but of every person in the stadium, provided those hopes and desires are pure.

And that’s the rub. Deep down, we know when we are driven by the desire to be the best we can be, and when our motivations are poisoned by greed, vanity or vindictiveness. We know when the preparation we put into an endeavor is fueled by something inside us that screams, “Live life to its fullest, because it’s the only one you’ve got!” We put ourselves through pain and suffering that can only come from doing something others say is impossible, and we know when it’s done not for material gain but to quell the thing inside us that asks, “What have you done with your life?”

The Ross Douthat’s of the world are being disingenuous when they frame the debate as if God is sitting back with a bag of potato chips causing off sides penalties or creating touchdowns as he tallies the prayers of the players on the field. They do this because they know that when they’re paired up with a “sophisticated” man of faith, it is they who often look the fool.

And with that, we come to Douthat’s take on the sophisticated atheist, who highlights nicely the hopelessness that makes atheism so unappealing to the majority of earth’s population:

The sophisticated atheist will inform you that in a vast and complicated cosmos, there will inevitably be temporary patterns that give the appearance of some divine design. But it would be even more ridiculous for a secular-minded football fan to root against Tebow than for a religious fan to root for him: in a godless, random universe, failure is no more metaphysically significant than success. (Or as Grantland’s Brian Phillips put it: “If you’re against Tebow, you can’t read too much into Tebow’s failures, or else Tebow has already won.”)

Got that? There is no good or evil. There is no success or failure. Everything (I’m assuming also the laws of physics?) we experience is but a “temporary pattern” and random mish-mash of atoms and molecules that miraculously caused all the wonderful things around us. Consciousness? It’s an illusion, created by synapses firing in precisely the right way for you think you love your wife or son or daughter, when the truth is we’re all no different than robots. Those wily electrons do that sort of thing, you know.

I suggest reading Tebow in Babylon, just as long as you realize that the author isn’t as sophisticated as he thinks he is.