Please Keep Your Dogma From Eating My Karma

The argument about the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the “separation of church and state” sparked by the Coons-O’Donnell debate has stuck with me, and I had a few more thoughts on the matter that I wanted to articulate here.

As a Medievalist, I studied the complex and often disastrous interactions between secular government and the Catholic Church. The historical context of those conflicts makes quite clear the danger inherent in mixing religion and government. The Founding Fathers of the United States were clearly aware of the struggles that occurred throughout Europe on this particular issue, especially given that  the initial impetus for many of the settlers of the American Colonies was a desire to freely practice their religion away from governmental interference.

In an attempt to defend Christine O’Donnell and her interpretation of the First Amendment, the Religious Right and their Tea Party allies have demonstrated precisely why the “separation of church and state” is such an important principle. Keep in mind that I write these words as a political independent who has equal disdain for both parties, but on this issue, the Left is correct, and it is disheartening to me that there are actually people who believe that we should be teaching religion in place of science in public schools. I believe in freedom of religion, but my belief in freedom of religion dictates that I have no business evangelizing to others about what they should believe. This is precisely why the separation of church and state is so important in the first place. It is a protection for everyone, not just government.

Religion is about belief, and when people believe in that which is not tangible and accept it as right, they become dogmatic. Dogma is antithetical to reasoned discussion and debate, and I fear for the future of this country if people truly don’t understand the danger of inviting religion into the execution of governmental functions. One would think that the historical record and the existence of countries like Iran – or Afghanistan under the Taliban – would be enough to show these people the fundamental necessity of Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between church and state. They don’t get it because they chose to place their faith in a belief system and operate from the premise that they know the truth and can’t possibly be wrong. They assume that they can show everyone else the way, but that thought process is the path of tyranny and the long road to sectarian violence and demonizing of the other for daring to follow the “wrong path.” If it is appropriate to teach “Intelligent Design” (read Creationism) in public schools, then must we also teach the Hindu creation myth in order to demonstrate that we are not favoring the establishment of one religion over another as prescribed by the First Amendment of the Constitution? Would I be correct in insisting under these free-for-all rules that children learn about Odin and Yggdrasil as though Norse mythology offers the truth about how people ended up on this planet?

O’Donnell and her ilk know not what they ask because they can’t see beyond their own “truth.” Then again, they never bothered to question it to begin with, and that might be the saddest part of all. Did God give us the capacity for reason only so that we might abandon it in favor of dogma?

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson are probably rolling over in their graves right now.

James Madison Says Christine O’Donnell is Wrong About the First Amendment

In a debate at the Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday, October 19th, Republican Senate Candidate from Delaware Christine O’Donnell questioned whether the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in fact provides for the “separation of church and state.” In trying to be cute and score political points with the religious right, O’Donnell repeatedly asked her opponent, Chris Coons, “That’s in the First Amendment?”

The exact words “separation of church and state” do not in fact appear in the Constitution, but rather come from a letter Founding Father Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut in 1802, in which he wrote, that there should be a “wall of separation between church and state.”

What the Establishment Clause does say is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” The contention of Ms. O’Donnell and those that agree with her is that the Establishment Clause does not in fact provide for “separation of church and state.” I find this argument when coming from people who call themselves “Originalists” and claim to believe that we should only pay attention to the intention of the words written by the Founding Fathers to be horribly disingenuous at best. Of late, I have come to view it in an even less favorable light; the claims of these “Originalists” are outright hypocritical, which I will go into a bit later.

Providing a slightly clearer picture of why the “Originalists” feel as they do is important for the greater context of this particular debate. Most of their arguments hinge on their belief that the application of the Establishment Clause to state governments brought about by several U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century is overreaching on the part of the court. They argue that individual states should not be subject to the First Amendment’s charge to the federal government and should instead be allowed to make these decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, this conflicts with the idea of the “unalienable” rights provided to citizens by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (of which the 1st Amendment is a part). If individual states could institute “state” religions, the rights of citizens in those states to the free exercise of religion would by definition by infringed upon.

Perhaps worse than the obvious conflict with the Bill of Rights is that the very authority to which these “Originalists” appeal disagrees with them. James Madison, the primary framer of the Constitution, makes very clear what the intent of the 1st Amendment Establishment clause is in many of his writings. As Madison wrote in a July 10th, 1822 letter to Edward Livingston, “Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing (sic) that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

Further, in an 1832 to letter to the Reverend Jasper Adams, Madison wrote, “I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them will be best guarded against by entire abstinence of the government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order and protecting each sect against trespasses on its legal rights by others.”

Such quotes clear demonstrate how highly Madison valued the concept of separation between religious matters and secular government, and they are hardly unique quotes. It is a subject his correspondences touch on again and again.

The other problem with the desire to subvert the Establishment Clause that O’Donnell and those who feel as she does fail to realize is that the purpose of the idea of “separation of church and state” is as much to protect religion as it is to protect government. In a March 2, 1819 letter to Robert Walsh, Madison wrote “The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State.”

The idea of a distinction between temporal and ecclesiastical power is an ancient one, going back at least to the Medieval period in which secular lords struggled with the priesthood over where power should rest. Certainly Madison and the other founding fathers were conscious of this historical context. As Madison wrote in an 1820 memo, “Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and & Gov’t in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

O’Donnell’s smug attempt to catch her opponent in a mistake revealed her own ignorance of the historical context of the Establishment Clause, and she and those who think like her would do well to read some history and find out what the Founding Fathers actually thought. It is unnecessary to divine the intentions of Madison and the other framers when their own words so clearly reveal how they actually felt. No attempt to twist the semantics of the language in the Constitution will change that truth. I encourage everyone to track down some of Madison’s writings and investigate these issues for themselves.

You can watch the original exchange between Coons and O’Donnell at the Fame Appeal blog. Ken Paulson of the First Amendment Center also wrote an enlightening piece for Yahoo! News that can be read here.

If the Dead Rise Not

The below is an early (read: first), potential draft of the second chapter of a book that I’m currently working on. This is – as previously discussed – a chance for me to share some of my “other” writing projects. This follows the first chapter titled “Passing to Eternity.”

The cold metal sent shivers through my body as I awakened on a cadaver dissection table. My mind raced, trying to put together the fragmented pieces of what had happened. The events on the church stairs returned to me, the memories playing through my mind like a movie in slow motion. I could almost feel the impact of the bullets again, but the vision of Amanda’s lifeless eyes struck me with even greater force.

Opening my eyes, I looked around the room. I had seen autopsy rooms on television, but the possibility of awakening in one had never crossed my mind. Lying on the cold metal table and looking at the identification tag on my toe, it occurred to me that my own autopsy must have been imminent. I tried to gather myself as I sat up and examined my body, my eyes and hands searching for the bullet wounds. To my surprise, I could find no evidence of the wounds or the bullets that had inflicted them.

Just as I prepared to stand up, the door of the room opened, and an attractive young woman in a white lab coat entered the room. I stood up and hopped behind the table to cover my nakedness, but to my surprise, she simply looked up at my face as though nothing were amiss. She had the particular sort of striking features and perfect complexion that often seemed to grace people born of mixed Asian and Caucasian descent. Though thin and no taller that five and a half-feet, she carried herself with a presence more forceful than would normally be expected of a young woman her age. She wore small glasses that graced the end of her nose, and she looked at me not with any sense of surprise or apprehension, but rather a detached curiosity. I tried to speak, but she shook her head.

“I see that you’re finally awake,” she said calmly. “That’s good, because we don’t have a lot of time before the coroner shows up to begin your autopsy, and that just wouldn’t do.”

 I stared at her in shock for a moment before finally blurting out, “What’s going on? Is this hell? Purgatory, maybe?”

She shook her head and said, “Nope, just what passes for a morgue in Double Springs, Alabama.” She paused and then said, “Look, I know that you must have a lot of questions, but now really isn’t the time. We need to get out of here.”

Looking at the young woman incredulously, I sputtered, “I don’t even know who the hell you are. Why would I go anywhere with you?”

She sighed again and said, “I’m not good at this stuff. I don’t know why they always insist on sending me on these retrieval missions.” She paused for a moment, as though suddenly realizing that her approach might not persuade me. “Look, in a few minutes, the coroner is going to come through that door and have an awful lot of questions about why Gideon Wainwright isn’t dead, and I don’t think you want to deal with that.”

“Funny, because I’m pretty curious about why I’m not dead too,” I replied evenly. “So, if you want me to go anywhere with you, I’m afraid that you’re going to have to give me something more. Like, for starters, who you are, why you’re here, and oh yeah, why am I not dead?”

“Fine, but promise me that if I answer your questions, you will come with me regardless of whether or not you like my answers.” Her tone adamant, I acquiesced with a nod, as the thought of the coroner coming in to perform an autopsy on me unnerved me anyway.

“First, my name is Anabelle Martell, although you can feel free to just call me Ana,” she offered quickly. “Secondly – and I’m sure this is going to sound weird – I’m here because I was sent to guide you and make sure you transitioned safely.” She waited for me to absorb the words before adding, “And the reason you aren’t dead is because you’re not human. Well, not strictly anyway.”

I sat in stunned silence for a moment before I laughed. “What the hell is going on here? I mean really? Is this some sort of hidden camera show? You really can’t be serious.”

“See, this is why I made you promise,” she responded. “Now, let’s go.”

I waited for a moment and then said softly, “Amanda?”

Ana looked at me with what seemed to be genuine sadness. “She’s dead, Gideon. Normal people don’t survive being shot repeatedly by a high-powered assault rifle.”

“But I did, because I’m not human, right?” I asked caustically. “So what the hell am I?”

“We really don’t have time for this Gideon,” she sighed. “I know that this is all way too much to absorb right now, and believe me, if it had been up to me, this would not be getting sprung on you like this.”

Now I looked at her in anger. “Does that mean that someone knew this was going to happen? That someone could have prevented Amanda’s death?”

She shook her head. “It’s complicated, but it’s not like that. All I meant is that I think that you deserved to know the truth a long time ago. I’ve always known I was different, but you grew up believing you were normal. That makes this harder.”

“You still haven’t told me what I am, Ana.”

She closed her eyes and then said, “There are a lot of things that people don’t believe are real that exist. The veil between this world and others is thin at times. I can explain all of the background to you later, but to keep it simple, Gideon, you are half-angel, the offspring of a mortal woman and an angel of God.”

I snorted in disbelief and looked at her incredulously. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’m afraid I’m not. Your father is the angel Tabris, he who presides over free will and self determination.”

“Even if all this were true, how would you know? How would you know to come here? None of this makes any sense!” I nearly screamed.

“Please, Gideon, calm down,” she answered. “I know this is way too much to absorb right now, but we really don’t want to draw unwanted attention. It would bring trouble that neither of us needs. The mortal world has enough questions without having to worry about Gideon Wainwright rising from the dead. As for how I know these things, I work with a group called the Covenant. They can tell you a lot more than I can, but you need to come with me.”

“So these people, this Covenant, will have all the answers?” I asked finally after forcing myself to calm down.

“I can’t promise that you will get every answer you want,” she replied, “but I’m confident that they will be able to help you adjust.”

I thought about it for a moment and realized that I didn’t have a whole lot of choices at the moment. “I’ll go with you. There is so much I need to figure out, but I want you to understand that I don’t trust you yet.” It occurred to me even as I spoke that she was right, there would be a whole lot of questions I didn’t want to answer if I was found alive without so much as a scratch on me.

She smiled slightly. “Yeah, no kidding. The paramedics on scene tried to revive you, but normal people don’t come back from the wounds you endured. Of course, if your angelic regeneration had ever kicked in before today, you’re healing process would have been a whole lot faster, and those paramedics would have been in for a real shock.”

“So if I’m an angel, where are my wings?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Half-angel, and those will come in time. With practice,” she answered calmly as she walked over to the cadaver table and handed me a neatly folded and pressed Winston County Sheriff’s deputy uniform and a pair of shoes across it. “Now put this on and you and I are going to walk out of here like were headed off to grab some lunch together.”

“I want to see Amanda before I go,” I replied as I took the clothes.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Gideon,” she replied with a frown. “We’re pushing our luck as is. Besides, it’s possible the coroner already started to . . . You don’t want to see that.”

“She’s really gone, isn’t she?”

“I’m afraid so.” I could see empathy in Ana’s eyes, but she clearly had no idea what to say. What words could one offer?

“I’m going to find out who did this and I’m going to make sure that he pays.”

“I’d warn you about the potential consequences with interfering in a mortal investigation, but I don’t think I could do any different in your shoes.” She turned away before adding, “This has been awkward enough. I’m going to wait for you to get those clothes on.”

I pulled the uniform on quickly while Anabelle made a pointed effort to face away from me. As strange as the whole situation felt to me, I found myself wondering what she was going through as well. What would I do in her place? Certainly the task she had been given was a difficult one.

“I’m ready,” I said finally as I double checked to make sure that my shirt was properly tucked in and my badge and other accoutrements were properly in place. Slipping on the non-descript shoes, I asked, “Where did you get the uniform? It looks authentic.”

“I stole it,” she replied casually as she headed for the door. “Greater good and all that jazz.”

“Doesn’t seem quite right,” I answered as I slowly followed her.

She shrugged as she cautiously opened the door and peered out into the hall. Satisfied, she stepped out and motioned for me to follow. I closed the door behind me and moved to walk beside her down the hall.

“What about my personal effects? Like my wallet?” I asked.

“Quiet,” she replied evenly. “I’m a professional. I already stole your personal effects and hid them in my car, Gideon.”

“You’ve done this before then?” I asked in genuine curiosity.

“Once, but I’d rather not talk about it,” she answered as we reached the glass doors that would take us out into the parking lot.

I opened the door and held it for her, but my eyes shot back to the hallway. Despite Anabelle’s sensible warning, part of me still wanted to see Amanda one last time. I hesitated for a moment, standing in the door as though caught between the familiar past and a surreal future.

As though she sensed what was going through my mind, Anabelle said, “Don’t torture yourself, Gideon. Amanda’s gone, and you need to believe that she’s in a better place.”

I closed my eyes and tried to clear my head, but part of me wanted nothing more than to burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all. I hesitated a moment longer and then let the door close. Anabelle nodded and then walked toward the parking lot. I followed her because I realized suddenly that other than finding Amanda’s killer, I had no purpose. As I walked toward the parking lot, I wondered if my old life as a high school history teacher mattered anymore. I felt that strange apprehension that comes with uncertainty.

“So tell me about this Covenant thing,” I said finally as Anabelle and I reached a black Ford Taurus. “You would think they could give you a better ride if they’re going to make you sneak into morgues.”

“It’s low key,” she replied as she pressed a button on her key fob to unlock the car. “It attracts a lot more attention to ride around in a Corvette.”

I nodded along absently as I opened the passenger side door and climbed into the seat. Anabelle slid into the driver’s seat and fastened her seat belt before closing the door. As I shut my own door and made sure to secure my own seat belt, she fired up the car.

As we backed out, I said, “So where is this Covenant? Do we have a long drive to look forward too?”

“I understand that you have a lot of questions, Gideon, and I will do my best to answer them,” she replied as we pulled out of the parking lot. “The Covenant has multiple locations, but we’ll be going to an operations center in Baltimore. As to what exactly the Covenant is and what we do, I’m probably not the best person to explain.”

“Well, I’d like you to try anyway. I’ve been pretty cooperative given the circumstances, and I feel like I’ve got a right to know.”

“Fair enough.” She paused a moment, and I recognized the look on her face as she contemplated what to tell me versus what to leave out. “First John, chapter three, verse two; ‘Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.’

“That phrase is the foundation upon which the Covenant was founded, or as Saint Athanasius of Alexandria put it, ‘God became man so that man might become God.’ The Covenant was founded on the principle of theosis. The idea being that by embracing the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ, one can attain a union with God. A group of believers who understood the real threats that the world faced banded together under this doctrine to protect the world from threats beyond the understanding of most mortals. From this early and informal school arose the Covenant, an organization dedicated to channeling the power of the divine for the good of humanity, that one day we may regain what was lost when Adam and Eve sinned.”

“So the Covenant is some sort of group of Christian mystics?” I asked in genuine curiosity. The idea of secret Christian groups had long been an interest of mine, even if I had never conceived of quite such a clandestine agency.

“It’s more than that, but yes,” replied Ana. “There are many other schools of thought out there, but the Covenant takes it’s duties very seriously. If humanity is to achieve the ultimate goal of returning to God’s grace, then it must be protected from the elements of existence that seek to delay or destroy such progress.”

“What are some of these threats that you speak of?”

“You might think of them as the supernatural. Demons for instance. Just as your father was an angel and you are half-angel, demons too exist. There are also those who would bend the divine energies for a more sinister end. Not all mystical philosophies seek the same end.”

“So, like sorcerers?”

“Yes. Exactly like that. There are many different philosophies of magic.” She paused and smiled to herself before adding, “but don’t get the wrong idea, it isn’t like every fantastical thing ever dreamed up is real, or at least, not here.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, there are all sorts of theories about other dimensions and what they may or may not contain, but that’s all pretty unclear at the moment. No one has really managed to crack the mysteries of dimensional magic yet.”

I shook my head. “So I’m just supposed to accept that all of this is real and go on with my life? How come people don’t know about these things?”

“There are a lot of things your average everyday person doesn’t know,” she shot back. “Sometimes it’s because they’re simply unaware, sometimes it’s because of willful ignorance, and sometimes it’s because there are an awful lot of people working to keep the veil of secrecy in place. Even still, it’s not like the occasional story doesn’t make it through, but luckily it’s rare enough that people usually dismiss those events as having a rational explanation.”

“You mentioned something before about consequences for interfering in a mortal investigation when I talked about tracking down Amanda’s murderer?”

“Well, see, that’s part of the whole deal. The Covenant makes it a point not to get involved in strictly mundane matters because it brings extra risk of exposure.”

“And what about the bad guys? Why would they care about being revealed?”

“In some ways they have it worse than we do,” laughed Ana. “Their best bet is to slowly corrupt humanity and turn it toward their own ends. How do you think people would react if they knew demons were real? I think suddenly you would have a whole lot of people believing in God.”

“Well, if that’s the case, then why doesn’t the Covenant want everything to come out so that humanity can rise up and confront the demons?”

“See, humanity is the key here,” she replied without looking at me. “Your father has always vociferously guarded the human right to chose, and that makes humanity responsible for its own fate, in a way completely foreign to angels and demons. It’s one of the reasons Lucifer fell. Neither the Covenant nor angels can expose themselves to humanity en masse because humanity needs to return to God freely, not because they see physical proof of his existence.”

“So God doesn’t want his or her design known then?”

“That’s exactly it. No one knows the mind of God, not even the angels. I can tell you what I know, Gideon, but I don’t have the whole picture by any means. All I do know is that the angels and demons seem to play by an ancient set of rules that only they understand. Humanity is caught in the middle, and the Covenant does its best to make sure that people are shielded from games played by powers outside our understanding .”

I sat quietly for a moment and then said, “How did you know what I was? Where to find me?”

“I didn’t know anything about you until a couple days ago,” replied Anabelle. “My boss just told me that signs indicated a major event in Addison, Alabama. He told me a bit later that it involved the son of the angel Tabris and that I needed to make sure that we got to you before someone else did. So I raced down here, but your energy signature was too faint to track until after the shooting.”

“You can track energy signatures?”

“I have enough skill with manipulating divine energy that I can easily track down powerful supernatural entities, yes. You’re signature was faint until your angelic half kicked in to save you from certain death. Someone or something had placed a glamour on you to hide that part of you from prying eyes. It’s why you weren’t on our radar before. Luckily Father Eldred’s divinations picked up on what was coming.”

“So there may be people or demons after us right now?” I asked in concern.

“It’s possible,” she offered with a shrug. “We have no idea whether the shooting at the church was connected to you or not. It might have been random or it might have been part of something deliberate.” She turned and looked at me briefly as she added, “I will do everything in my power to help you find out what happened.”

“I appreciate that,” I answered after a moment of silence, “but why put yourself out on my account?”

She smiled but offered no answer, leaving me to my thoughts. Looking out the window, I watched the signs as we followed I-59 through Alabama and headed for Georgia. I tried to reconcile the life I had known with everything that Anabelle had told me, but I felt disconnected, as though I were living through some strange, waking dream. Amanda’s face returned to me every so often, smiling at me from the window, but she represented a life I could no longer reach. It had slipped from my grasp without my ever knowing how much I had to lose. Part of me wanted nothing more than to break down then and there, but I didn’t want to do it in front of Anabelle, so I closed me eyes and gathered myself as a couple of tears rolled down my cheeks.

 “You should get some sleep,” offered Ana without looking at me. “In time, you’re angelic abilities will make it so you really won’t need much, but until then, you’re still feeling the needs of your human half. Regenerating from those wounds probably took a lot out of you.”

“Yeah, I do feel pretty beat,” I replied with a nod as I wiped the tears away with my left hand before closing my eyes and drifting off to sleep.

The Big Shamrock?


Shaquille O'Neal

The Big "Shamrock"


This strange NBA offseason keeps getting more surreal, with Shaquille O’Neal joining the Boston Celtics for the veteran’s minimum on a two-year deal.

As a long-time Celtics fan, I’m not sure I had ever really given the idea of Shaq in a Celtics uniform much thought. I just assumed that it would never happen. Of course, if someone had tried to tell me in 2006 that the Boston Celtics 2010-2011 roster would include Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal, and Shaquille O’Neal, I’d have died from a laughing fit.

Shaq is certainly past his days of being a truly dominant game changer, and yet, I can’t help but feel that he still has something left to bring to the Celtics. Watching the Celtics get beaten up on the boards in Game 7 of the Finals back in June convinced me that without Kendrick Perkins – and possibly even with him – the Celtics simply lacked the size and bulk to deal with a front-line like the Lakers.

Obviously, Shaq isn’t going back to the days of being the focal point of a team, but on the Celtics, he doesn’t have to be. He simply needs to provide some rebounding, points, and lane clogging defense off the bench. He can still do that, and a team could do much worse than having Shaq as an available option to play center for them.

Will Shaq mean that the Celtics win the title next year? Obviously it would be foolish to make that assumption, and there are dangerous teams like Miami, the Lakers, and the Orlando Magic out there to get in the way. I do feel confident in suggesting that had the Celtics had Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal in June, they would likely have claimed the title rather than the Lakers, as a few rebounds would have made all the difference against a Lakers team that couldn’t seem to hit the broadside of a barn for most of game 7.

Should be an interesting season next year, and the Celtics new Big “Shamrock” should only add to that. Win or lose, I’m at least looking forward to the show. Shaq rarely fails to entertain.

Remembering Reggie Lewis

Reggie Lewis

Reggie Lewis, 1965-1993

For Celtics fans who were just discovering their love of basketball as Larry Bird’s career was winding down, our hopes came to rest on the slender shoulders of one Reggie Lewis. The lanky Lewis was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He played at legendary Dunbar High in Baltimore, but he played his college ball in Boston at Northeastern. So it only seemed fitting that the Boston Celtics made him their first round draft choice at 22nd overall in the 1987 draft, a mere year after the tragic death of Len Bias, the man who was supposed to serve as the bridge to future success as the careers of the original Big Three were winding down.

After an uneventful rookie year in which he saw little playing time, Reggie exploded as the Celtics 6th man in his second year. He became an all around great player very quickly. With a silky smooth shooting touch, fundamental passing skills, and the ability to both block shots and steal the ball as a swingman, Reggie had game. An Eastern Conference All Star in 1992, Reggie Lewis became the Captain of the Celtics after Bird’s retirement. Reggie Lewis was the future of the Celtics. Unfortunately, Reggie’s years in Celtic green proved too brief, as the Celtics were once again struck by tragedy.

On April 29, 1993 Reggie Lewis collapsed while running the court at the Boston Garden during the first game of a first round playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets. Reggie Lewis never played another NBA game. I have no desire to rehash the medical drama that played out after Lewis collapsed. I understood at the time why Lewis wanted a second opinion, and I understand why the first team of doctors wanted no part of clearing him to play. I can forgive Dr. Gilbert Mudge for being human and wrong in his second opinion that suggested Lewis would be able to play again. Unfortunately, some times tragedies happen, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

I was in my parent’s basement watching television on the night of Tuesday, July 27, 1993 when a news flash announced that an NBA All Star had passed away. I knew immediately that it was Reggie Lewis. I could feel it. My worst suspicions were confirmed when the News came on and announced that Reggie Lewis had collapsed on a basketball court at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Reggie Lewis was dead, and for the first time as a young teenager, I began to truly understand the nature of tragedy. It comes without warning and it can strike down the best of us.

All of the recriminations and speculation that followed both fascinated and pained me. Had Lewis used cocaine? Was there something that could have been done to prevent his tragic death? None of it matters really. We’ll never know how good Reggie Lewis could have been, and the Celtics suffered for years in the aftermath of his unexpected death. His wife and his two young children – one at the time still unborn – were the ones who really had to suffer the full force of his tragic death. My heart went out to them.

Reggie Lewis died 17 years ago today. His number 35 is retired and hanging in the rafters of the new Boston Garden, and he will always have a place within the Celtic family. Our time watching Reggie play may have been too short, but what a time it was. Rest in peace, Reggie.

Only in Baseball . . .

As a long-time Red Sox fan, I love the sport of baseball. Being in Boston in 2004 and celebrating in the streets when they came back to beat the Yankees and then again when they beat the Cardinals in the World Series ranks among my favorite moments. Still, I sometimes can not help but cringe at some of the stranger rules and regulations embraced by the sport.

Take last night’s Dodgers game, in which Don Mattingly, filling in as manager for the ejected Joe Torre, may have cost his team the game by stepping back on the dirt of the mound after speaking with closer Jonathan Broxton. An obscure baseball rule dictates that a manager’s visit to the mound ends when he steps of the mound, even though it begins when he crosses the foul line on to the field of play. So, by stepping back on the mound, Mattingly was visiting the mound for the “2nd” time, and as a result, Broxton had to be removed from the game. The Giants went on to win the game and Mattingly’s gaffe became fodder for this post.

Here is my problem with all of this; baseball is a sport, and it should be about competition between the players, not obscure, silly rulings. While there is no guarantee that the Dodgers would have held on and beaten the Giants if Broxton had not been removed, it seems silly that they were denied his further services over something seemingly so trivial. Major League Baseball would do well to eliminate these sorts of issues, because I’m going to bet that a lot of people want to see the games won by the players rather than influenced by rules arcana. Only in baseball . . .

Once and Future King?


NBA Star LeBron James

Good to be the "King."


Adrian Wojnarowski’s thought provoking article, State of LeBron: Live at 9, from his ego, illuminates exactly what’s gone wrong in the NBA under the watch of NBA Commissioner David Stern. The celebration of individual greatness has become an ode to the narcissistic young stars who are told how special they are from the moment their talent emerges, and lost in that sea of greed, ego, and excess is a sport that at its best can be an elegant celebration of the collective, a song to the power of the whole rather than the individual.

Credit David Stern for growing the league in the aftermath of the Magic-Bird era, but make no mistake that his calculated efforts to push the admiration of great individual performances has poisoned the NBA. Great as Michael Jordan was, and as much as he saved the league in an hour of need, his legacy has now been twisted into one that tells the young superstars of today it’s okay for them to make it all about themselves.

Cameras follow Chris Bosh around to record his free agency experience and LeBron James has the audacity to schedule an hour-long special on ESPN to announce his decision about where he will continue his basketball career. Perhaps the most amusing twist of all  is that LeBron now looks as though he may sign in Miami to join Dwayne Wade and Bosh so that the three of them might unite for a championship. Apparently it takes more than a self-inflated ego to win the NBA’s ultimate prize.

As a Celtics fan, I watch the circus that surrounds LeBron James and his cohorts, and I contrast it with the simple, quiet manner in which both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen resigned with the Boston Celtics. Maybe Pierce and Allen are over the hill. Maybe the Celtics window is closed. Whatever the truth of the matter, Pierce and Allen can finish their careers with dignity, knowing that their sacrifices for the greater good of the team brought them at least one championship and a chance at another.

Here’s to hoping that maybe one day LeBron James can learn that its not just about it him. Maybe then he can truly be the King that he proclaims to be.

I Spy, You Spy

Well, recent news of the arrest by the United States government of 12 people accused of spying for Russia has to be one of the more surreal news moments of recent memory. This is the sort of thing you expect to read about in fiction or see on a television show of the scripted variety.

Emerging reports indicate that the accused spies hid the information they were sending in digital pictures. Apparently this sort of thing has been a fear of counter-intelligence types for quite awhile. In a way, it really is quite brilliant. Hiding messages in the digital code of a picture without altering the image itself allows only those who know there is something more too look for to find the information. As the linked news article points out, file sizes limit how much information can be transmitted this way, but it just goes to show that even with the Cold War a thing of the past, a spy’s work is never done.

Now where’s James Bond when we need him?