Let’s Get Physical!

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The Olympics. While our athletic representatives are busting their butts to stack up our gold, Sarabeth and I have been doing our patriotic duty keeping the economy going by ordering pizzas, calzones, Chipolte, and lots of ice cream to root on our favorite Olympians.

First off, let me just say that we were totally robbed last night! I mean, what the hell, it’s track and field, not diving!! It’s a foot race! Not a stretchy-hand exercise! I say, good job, Allyson, you’re a winner in our house!

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And why are people so upset with Gabby Douglas? What’s with this hashtag-CrabbyGabby crap? Folks, she’s an Olympian, not an actress. Her focus is on her performance as an Olympian. We and the media should not be enticing her to focus on her bloody facial expressions, too. If we want to be judgmental on anyone, I say release the four horsemen on Aly Raisman’s parents. I mean, they should be cheering and yelling and smiling for their little girl – she’s in the Olympics! If it were our little girl out there, we’d be screaming with foamy fingers and painted faces for little Kat.

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Okay, so I got that off my chest. As you can see, the Olympics bring on a lot of stress, which brings on a lot of binge-eating, which brings on some questions. My wife asked one the other night.

Why have the Olympics at all? She doesn’t mean it like, Why are you wearing that plaid skirt with pink spikes in your hair and Clogs on your feet? She means it like, I love the Olympics, but when you get down to its origins, what’s the point? Like, why did Greece, in 1800-something, decide to reinstate it? 

I’ve been pondering this question for a few nights now, and I have my ideas. But I decided I wanted to hear your thoughts. What is it that draws every country together every two years to compete in high vaulting, bobsledding, Karate, and even handball? Why spend millions of dollars to promote people to compete in sports that, in the end, don’t matter? Like, if the world went to hell, how would trampolining save anyone? Why are the Olympics such a big deal and why do we have them? As much as we love them, what’s the point?

Tweet your thoughts to @AToy1208 or comment below!

Disney Animation and Baseball

I think every parent wants their kids to show an interest in what they’re invested in. I’m no different.

With my kids being just 1 and 2 their minds are young enough to mold. Obviously, if they show an interest in licorice making or the study of different types of sand in Mid-eastern countries, then I will support them and show an interest in their passions. But until then, I want them to know what their father loves so maybe I can pass that love onto them.

5My first passion is Disney animation. In the next couple of years I will be watching a lot of Disney animated films from Snow White to Gigantic in order to study and analyze them. I’m even writing a book about the history and current success of the Disney Animation Studios, so my kids are going to be well-versed in Disney lore as I read aloud to them Walt Disney biographies and animation books.

Perhaps it will inspire one of them to be an animator. Or a screenwriter. Or a storyboard artist.

My other passion is baseball. I don’t watch it on TV or root for any particular team (if I had to pick, it’d be the Dodgers). In truth, I couldball never figure out the point or excitement in televised sports when you have the ability to actually play them or go to the stadium. Instead, I’m talking about playing baseball. I’m hoping to find a local baseball team to join this summer so my kids can watch their old man attempt to knock one out of the park. Or sprain his ankle trying to get past first base.

I’ve been taking the kids to the nearby park so they can chase the balls I hit and bring them back to me. I even bought them a T-ball stand, but they still think it’s fun to hit the stand and not the ball. I’m working with them.

But I hope to infuse the love of baseball in them because it’s one of America’s greatest pastimes and one of the elements that helped make America what it is today. The same goes for Disney animation.

They may not be interested in my passions, but really my goal is simple:

I want them to discover their passion while they’re young so that I can have time to encourage them to pursue it with all their might before they get out in the real world. Too many of us discover our passions too late and I don’t want that to be the case for my kids.

So for now, we’re starting with the basics: A few colorful movies and a baseball.

Don’t forget about our new writing contest that’s currently going on for a chance to win $200. The deadline for submissions is April 18th.

Why I Don’t Watch Football

girl-watching-footballI’m as man as a man can get, except in one glaringly obvious way.

I’m a man in the sense that

* I think better of my looks than I ought

* I have a desire to go hunting

* I can’t stand rom-coms unless they star Tom Hanks or Adam Sandler

* I have to shave on a daily basis to not look too much like George Clooney (refer to the first bullet point)puppy1

* I think what I have to say is the most important thing ever and I hardly listen to other people

* I’m still learning to master my table manners (or am I?)

* I drink milk out of the carton when no one’s looking

*I’m incredibly hot when I cuddle my puppies

 

So now that I’ve established my masculinity, I am free to admit something that not many of my co-gender can admit:

I hate football. (GASP!!)

Relax, people. I’m not part of a terrorist origination (though I’m sure that would be more acceptable to some people).

It’s not just because I wasn’t the most athletic growing up (I played a lot of street hockey and basketball, however). It’s not because I never scored a touchdown while the cheerleaders screamed my name from the sidelines.

Whenever I see a game on, I just keep thinking, “What’s the point?” I simply don’t get team spirit. The Patriots vs. the Raiders, whatever. People think that just because they’re from a certain state or town they’re football team is automatically the best in the country. I mean, if you’re from Detroit, are you really going to claim that the Lions are the best NFL team to root for?

I don’t know. I really just don’t get dedicating half my weekend to watching a bunch of overpaid baboons jumping all over each other fighting for a misshaped ball. I just don’t care about catching up on the scores while I’m at work, because honestly, that doesn’t make me any more money than my job does. And really, does nothing for me beneficial whatsoever.

rugbyfootballI mean, football players are the biggest wimps on the planet, if you think about it. They get paid billions of dollars to play a little boy’s game for a profession. And then they cry bloody foul over every little injury – I mean, they have pads and helmets, people. They’re protected from head to toe. They twist a knee – don’t feel too bad for them when they’re sobbing on the field to get attention. They’ve got the insurance to take care of it. And private nurses to nurse them to health.

You know who actually earns their pay? Rugby players. That’s a game I can get into because there’s real violence, lots of risk, and no body protection. Those guys are awesome. Definitely a stupid profession, but they earn my respect much much more than football players. (And yes, I know the picture to the right depicts a soccer player, but it’s the same idea.)

And I don’t get people that spend a lot of time watching football. Do they feel more manly, like they’re living up to a cultural expectation? Honestly, get me a group of guys who’d actually want to play football (without the mama helmets and baby pads, of course), and I’m all in. Let’s go. Bring it on! That’s where the real action is at.

Plus, when did football become America’s pastime?  Personally I think it’s only because of all the beer sponsorships and half-naked cheerleaders that propelled it to its current status.

I’m glad to say baseball is too classy for all that. So wake me up when it’s spring.

Debates and Racism Over Coca-Cola Super Bowl Ad

If you didn’t watch the Super Bowl last Sunday (or turned it off out of embarrassment), you missed an ad put out by Coca-Cola that has sparked much debate and criticism.

In my family, we prefer Coke over Pepsi, even though only one of us can taste the difference. A big reason is because of their ads. Commercials and expensive advertising must work; we drink Coke because of those cute polar bears and vintage Santa Clauses. Their ads are catchy and classy, as opposed to Pepsi whose ads tend to be trashy and inappropriate by comparison.

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On Sunday, February 3, 2002, during the Super Bowl, Pepsi-Cola North America unveils a new Britney S..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And let’s face it: if I drank, I’d choose Budweiser for the same reason.

But Coke’s newest ad, which you can watch on the video above, was anything but classy, according to a lot of people.

For a whole minute, Americans from all nationalities and languages joined in in singing “America the Beautiful.”

My wife and I made no comment about it, that I recall. Except I might have mentioned how pretty it was.

It’s touching to see Americans of all races come together and be united as one, though we may differ on subjects of religion, politics, and attire.

And it’s heartbreaking to read comments online like:

Not a fan of the CocaCola commercial. America The Beautiful should not be sang in any other language other than English. Sorry not sorry. 🇺🇸 -BudLightBro (@BudLightBro)

I will be drinking Pepsi after your Super Bowl commercial. We welcome all people but being American should be an honor. @CocaCola #tcot -M Mahathy (@mmahathy)

I am truly disappointed in @Coca Cola for the offensive#SpeakAmerican commercial last night. Speak English!— Janice Rounsaville (@janicehr55)

Read article here.

Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes once said “If you can’t speak English, then I say, shut up!”

He was six. I doubt he’d still say that today.

Some even went so far as to say that terrorists should not be singing our nation’s songs.

It’s too bad that we as a nation are weary to take up arms against our real enemies over seas, but will attack our own under the pretense of assumption and bigotry.

I don’t see people complaining about Disney’s “Let it Go” sung in 25 languages going ultra-viral. Why? Because it’s beautiful.

Like America.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

What are your thoughts on the whole Coca-Cola ad debate? Share your thoughts.

Disappointment

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“Did you know about this?” Sarabeth asked me yesterday as she held out the iPad to me.

I read the headline: “Philip Seymour Hoffman, Oscar-Winning Actor, Dead at 46.” 

“What?!” I said. I read that he had overdosed on heroine, then I cursed.

People aren’t calling him this generation’s greatest actor out of pity for his early death. My brother-in-law and I have loved every movie he’s in, because of him. He was probably the most well-known supporting actor of our time.

As one Fox News contributor rightly put it: “He brought his A-game to the table every single time.”

No better person could be chosen to play one of the key roles in The Hunger Games movies.

But now he’s dead, with the greatest achievements in his career ahead of him, and a rapidly growing fan base left stunned.

Yesterday was filled with all sorts of upsets, huh?

Like Peyton Manning.

The Broncos.

The subpar Super Bowl commercials (except this one.)

I was expecting a lot more from Mr. Hoffman, and I mourn his death selfishly.

We were all expecting much more from Peyton and his team.

And often, I feel like Jesus is a big disappointment too, but that’s where it’s not true.

Jesus isn’t going to overdose on heroine at the hight of his reign.

His throws aren’t going to be intercepted time after time after time.

The only reason He disappoints me is if He doesn’t go in the direction I want Him to go, or if He doesn’t work as fast enough as I’d like for Him to.

And I’ll likely be more prone to be disappointed in Him if I put too much faith and hope in the flawed people around me.

Why is that?

Because then I’m elevating them to God’s status.

In a way, Cars 2 was a blessing, because it showed me that the Pixar people aren’t perfect.

Broken promises from our presidents ought to be reminders to us that they’re not our saviors, and they, in fact, cannot fix everything.

And even the greatest actors in Hollywood have their weaknesses.

But not Jesus. We may have led ourselves into disappointing situations, or He may have allowed disappointing things to happen to us, but no disappointment will ever come directly from His hand.

And He Himself will never disappoint.

At least, that’s what I’m trying to learn for myself, anyway.

It just takes some trust and belief.

From the Big Leagues to the Big Screen: The Story of Jim Morris

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I had the privilege of interviewing legendary major league pitcher Jim Morris a few months ago. Here is how the conversation went:

Baseball fan or not, it is very likely you know something about former Devil Rays pitcher Jim “The Rookie” Morris. You will recall almost fourteen years ago when Walt Disney Pictures began launching real life sports dramas starting with Remember the Titans (2000). The next in line was The Rookie (2002), led by Dennis Quaid as big league hopeful, Jim Morris.

Not only did Morris’s life inspire a movie, but he also wrote a book, The Rookie, formerly titled The Oldest Rookie (coauthored by Joel Engel) which gives fans further insight into his life. In the preface Morris states, “It’s not me who touches people; it’s what I represent: the possibility that dreams from long ago may still come true, even if they look lost forever.”

“But what about people whose dreams really are lost forever?” I asked him over the phone. “People’s dreams aren’t lost forever,” he said adamantly. “You’ve got to dream a dream and make it come true.” This stubborn persistence does not stop at just words, as exemplified by his life story of achieving the big leagues at the age of thirty-five (twenty-eight is considered elderly in the modern world of professional baseball).

But he’s more than persistent. Somewhere beneath the taciturn exterior is a big-hearted man who finds value in people and seeks to connect. In one episode as described in his book, Morris and a group of guys are playing Poker while a storm rages outside. Morris draws back the curtains and jumps at the site of Andre the Giant peering in (no joke), probably looking for shelter. All of them were too stunned to do the polite thing and invite him in. “What would you have talked to him about if you had invited him to join you guys?” I asked. His answer didn’t miss a beat:

“I would have liked to get to know him. Get to know the man instead of the persona. You want to see what they’re like and see what their hearts are like.” He then quoted his grandfather, Ernest, “Don’t judge anybody by the outside.”

His relationship with his grandfather proved to be tantamount in Morris’s life. It was his grandfather who taught Morris, among other things, to follow his dreams, and how to treat a lady, be respectful, and be a God-fearing man. It was his grandparents that helped show him the way to God. From fifteen on, he knew that the way toward God was the path he wanted to take. “After my surgery I went from 88 mph throws to 98 mph throws.” He went on to say that that could only have been God, and that no one’s complained about him publicly attributing his success and talent to his Lord.

Even moving from town to town (his father was in the Navy), Morris has been playing baseball since he was three years old. Even from that age, his throw impressed the neighborhood kids enough to invite him to play in their games. Even before he made it to the minors, he was told that it could take more than a decade to make it to the major leagues – if he made it at all. I asked him if any part of him wanted to throw in the towel at that point. “No. I’m stubborn,” he answered.

Though he hadn’t yet hit seventy home runs in one major league season, Morris struck Mark McGwire out early in his career. One could only imagine what Morris thought years later in 1998 watching his former competitor rewrite baseball history. When I asked if he wished he could pitch to him again, he said that you “always want to pitch to someone again, especially when they’re at the top of their game.”

Morris would have had no regrets if his journey to the big leagues stopped at the triple-A’s or lower. “I did something to help a group of kids trust adults.” And that’s where the Disney movie picks up Morris’s life. As a high school biology teacher and baseball coach, his team made a wager with him that if they won the District Championship he would have to try out for the major leagues. He became a superstar literally overnight.

They won, he tried out, and he was drafted by the Tampa Devil Rays, thanks to his 12 consecutive 98-mph pitches – not his age. By his second day in the big leagues, he had to change his name to get a hotel room because everyone from everywhere wanted to hear and report his story, and why it took so long for this old rookie to finally find his place on the pitcher’s mound. When he and his agent pitched the movie idea to Disney that week, he told them, “I want [the movie] to be about the kids and second chances.” As soon as those words were out of his mouth in the producer’s office, he thought, That’s it. I’m done.

The movie was not only green-lit – it was everything Morris wanted, lacking only the relationship between him and his grandfather, and the impact he had on young Jim’s life. Aside from that, Morris was pleased with the final cut of director John Lee Hancock’s 2000 film. Since then, he’s directed The Alamo, The Blindside, and most recently the critically-acclaimed Saving Mr. Banks, which Morris expressed enthusiasm for. “[He’s] one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” said Morris about the director. He couldn’t emphasize enough how important it is for Hancock to get the facts right for his movies.

While filming, actor Dennis Quaid told Morris that if he sees anything wrong or out of character for him, stop him and correct him. Morris doesn’t keep in touch with his portrayer, although Quaid extended an invitation for him and his family to come out and stay at his ranch in Wyoming any time he’d like. “I feel like guys like him are on a different planet than guys like you and me,” said Morris when I asked if he plans on taking him up on that offer. “I just wouldn’t want to bother him.” I would love to hear someday that he took him up on it.

Jim Morris realized his childhood dream, with the help of a bunch of kids, at thirty-five. He pitched in twenty-one major league games from September 1999 to May 2000. Now, several years later, he’s travelling the world speaking to dreamers and baseball enthusiasts. He’s the official spokesman for Arms of Hope, a Texas-based non-profit Christian organization that assists children and single mothers in need of help. (You can check out their website at armsofhope.org.) He lives with his wife and children in Kerrville, Texas with their two dogs Max and Butter. Oh, and he’s still teaching baseball. I guess some dreams, even after they’ve come true, refuse to die.

For more information on Jim Morris, visit his website at Jimtherookiemorris.com.

My Top 10 Movies, No. 2

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Amongst the overgrown lineup of best picture nominations for the 83th annual Academy Awards (2011) was a movie only the closest movie-watchers would have known about.

It’s a true story about a California baseball manager, Billy Beane… hold on. This is a baseball movie that even the most adverse baseball critics will enjoy – my wife, for one. She doesn’t give two rats’ tails about baseball, but she’s watched this movie twice since we got it. In fact, Moneyball is hardly about baseball, but rather it’s about how a particular man chose a revolutionary path to running a failing professional baseball team. 

The book, by Michael Lewis (The Blindside) can be found in the business section of the bookstore – not the sports section.

Brad Pitt portrays the insecure, rags-to-riches Oakland A’s manager with convincing skill and such an easy-going manner that it’s hard to recall that he’s regarded as Hollywood’s pretty-boy.

And Jonah Hill, an R-rated comedy regular, pulls off his role as the timid numbers-happy assistant with much more talent and raw humor than I’ve ever seen from him, spotlighting his acting skill with a deeper layer you’ll hope he keeps displaying in future roles.

Like Frost/Nixon, Moneyball is about putting it all out on the line. Even though pride and a posh career are at risk, Beane holds nothing back in order to jump head-first into an unexplored experiment in baseball management, budgeting, and putting faith in those who’ve yet to earn it.

There aren’t any special effects or explosions in this film, but the acting far outweighs any of those trivialities. I’m in the middle of the book right now, and though it’s mildly interesting, it’s not nearly as compulsive as director Bennett Miller’s take on the underdog story. You might even call it a milder version of a modern Cinderella tale. 

Don’t wait to rent this movie, because you’ll want to watch it again and again in months to come. I nearly have withdrawals if I don’t watch it a couple of times during baseball season.

Another plus is that the great Philip Seymour Hoffman pops up every few scenes adding intensity and pressure to an already compelling story.

So, enjoy your weekend watching Moneyball. You’ll be thanking me when it’s over.