Categories
Sports

Fixing College Football

Mark Cuban is admirable for trying to fix college football.

Let’s start with this: It’s broken.

2010 is case in point. In mid-January Oregon will play Auburn in a game labeled “the BCS championship game.” But, if TCU wins the Rose Bowl they deserve to be co-national champions, too. We’ll simply never know who is the best team in the college football in 2010.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s happened a lot in college football. And it’s always the big money conferences shutting out the Little Sisters of the Poor. (As Ohio State president & chairman of the board of the foot-in-mouth council calls them.)

It’s about the money

We all know it. No one believes that it is about the athletes academic calendar… as the NCAA so stupidly claims. They certainly allow a playoff in every other sport, regardless of academic issues.

It’s about TV rights, protecting lesser bowls, visitor bureau’s, guaranteed payouts, conference affiliations, and a whole litany of people who are getting paid on the side.

It’s not about championships

We will never know who the football national champion is until we have a playoff. Why? We are leaving it up to computers and polls and fluke plays to determine who the champion is. Are Auburn and Oregon the best teams right now? Ask Ohio State, Michigan State, and Stanford that question.

Imagine just putting Duke vs. Kansas every year in the finals and calling that a basketball championship? What makes March Madness so fun for the whole country is that we take the best teams and let them decide who the champion is by playing the game.

The solution– Keep all of the bowls; have a 16 team playoff

First, shorten the regular season to 10 games. Then have a conference championship game determine who gets the automatic bid. Allow 5 at-large bids, top 11 conferences get an automatic bid.

That would be: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 10, SEC, Sun Belt, and WAC.

Second, identify the top 8 bowls the week of Christmas. Play in a 2 day rotation of 4 games each day.

That would be: Independence Bowl, Little Caesar Bowl, (formerly Motor City Bowl) Las Vegas Bowl, Gator Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, and Holiday Bowl.

Third, the round of 8 would be played on January 1st. The Final 4 would be played the second Saturday of January. These would be the six big games we all love. They’d be competitive and they would mean something. This would make January 1st an incredible day of college football. A rotation of the top 6 bowls would cover these.

That would be: Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Gator Bowl.

Fourth, the championship game would be played the 3rd Saturday of January. (Or, maybe more ideally, the Saturday between the AFC/NFC Championship & Super Bowl game.) I would argue that the game should be played annually in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. Let’s face it, the Rose Bowl is the most amazing place in college football to play a big game. It’s perfect in every way.

Two ideas for fixing the money problem

  1. Each participating school would earn an equal share of tickets, television, and all other monies paid to the NCAA for the coverage of this, just like in basketball.
  2. The rest of the remaining teams & bowls would be invited to play in the exact same system we already have. That’s 20 bowls left untouched! A 16 team playoff only effects and enhances 15 bowl games. We all know everyone would make more money.

This shows this isn’t just about money. It’s about pride. The SEC, Big 10, Pac 10, Big East, and Big 12 are just plain scared to play teams from other conferences. I don’t know how fans of those conferences can be proud of teams who are afraid to play anyone on any day.

Categories
haiti

Apocalypse Now – Life and Theology in Haiti

24 hours into my second trip to Haiti and I started crafting this phrase:

Theology and culture always co-mingle. You just hope that theology and culture never conspire against the goals of the church.

In America: Theology and culture conspire to destroy the church through our belief in the American Dream and pursuit of happiness.

In Haiti: Theology and culture conspire to over-spiritualize everything.

At least that’s my opinion after my second visit. The first go-round, I was doing my best to look past all of that so I could focus on evaluating the needs of the people. But this time, it became clear to me that the desire to blame everything on the spiritual world was seriously hampering rebuilding.

God may have been in the earthquake. But there were certainly human factors at play as well.

Walking around Carrefour, the epicenter of the January 12th quake, is like a scene out of a movie. Not the beginning and fun parts. And not even after the credits roll. It’s like that sense of curiosity you have when you watch a movie like I Am Legend. What would happen if people re-inhabited the set? That’s the feeling you get walking around the effected areas. You are on the set of a movie about the end of the world.

The world has ended.These are the words of some church leaders. Most Christians in Haiti seem to believe that January 12th was the beginning of the tribulation. And who can blame them? On a single day half the cities people became homeless. Almost 10% of the cities population was killed. Countless homes, business, churches, and government buildings either collapsed or were severely damaged. If this isn’t tribulation than the real tribulation is truly something unimagineable.

Last week I documented some signs of hope in Haiti. This time I wanted to be fair and share some signs of despair. (And evidence that you need to be involved!)

  • Some rebuilding has begun. But with no building codes, horrible materials, and skilled labor lacking… people are just making the same mistakes that lead to so many deaths. It’s easy to blame God, but one major contributor was faulty construction practices.
  • Billions of dollars in foreign aid will be distributed mostly to wealthy oppressors. Joel spoke with a Spaniard on his way out of Haiti. He had been in the country for 3 years and is leaving because he can’t handle the corruption anymore. “Want to know where all the aid is going? The Haitians the NGOs are hiring are selling it out of the back door.” Enough money has been given to Haiti to completely level and rebuild Port-au-Prince. Unless people intervene all of that money will be squandered away bit by bit. Sorry if that’s shocking to you.
  • While there are thousands of NGOs on the ground, very few have camp managers like Sean Penn. Like it or lump it, each camp needs a foreigner who will go to the various NGOs and leverage social currency selflessly on behalf of people. Spiritual needs are great to meet. But there are still plenty of physical needs unmet too. A camp manager who checks in 1-2 times per week isn’t going to cut it. It takes people who make running the camp their life mission to make things happen.
  • The earthquake shook the people, but a culture of dependency is hard to loosen. Americans have a “fix-it” mentality. It’s in our cultural DNA and we exhibit it everywhere we go in the world. As the recipient of generations of this, Haiti (and other places in the world like Haiti) have a “foreigners fix-it” mentality. Our cab driver in Ft. Lauderdale was the perfect example. His wife is a doctor in Haiti and he sends home money to support her. When I asked him when he would move back to his country he told me, “I will move back when I find a white man willing to partner with me on my water and ice business.” When I told him that, in my opinion, the only hope from Haiti was if the Haitian people lead themselves and stopped depending on outsiders… he just laughed. “I wish that same thing, but the Haitian people just like to buy and be given things by white people. It means it is a better gift or business than a Haitian can create.”
  • The government of Haiti is dragging its feet. A major problem facing rebuilding efforts are the myriad of 18th century property laws that govern ownership. You need a permit to remove rubble. And if you are renting you need to get the owners permission. The owner might live in another country, and he may only have a share of the ownership with dozens of cousins. And, of course, to prove you own the land you need to go to a government building which collapsed. Round and round you go. Months go by and nothing gets done. Unless you pay a bribe, that is.

Is there hope for Haiti? Obviously. I believe to the core of my being that Jesus brings renewal of the soul and the land. While this is an incredible time of spiritual revival in Haiti it is also the greatest opportunity in our lifetime for Christians to get involved at the grassroots levels and help root out corruption and see the best interests of the people served.

If not you than who? Want to change the world? Think you are crazy enough?

Step one.

Categories
haiti

1.5 Million Still Homeless in Haiti

In a city of 3 million people roughly half are still homeless four months after the earthquake.

Why is a country, once rich in natural resources, a nation whose slave population rose up and defeated Napoleon’s army for independence, and given aid for generations by rich nations like the United States and France, still steeped in such poverty?

The answer is simple: Corruption.

There is corruption at every level of government. There are oppressors and the oppressed. And the people with social status to do something about it? Their idealism is often overcome by greed.

Even the relief aid workers who have gone— too many have succumbed to temptations. Too much talk, too much skimming, and not enough work getting done.

According to this New York Times editorial, only 7500 of the 1.5 million left homeless have been moved to a resettlement site. Not even a permanent home.

The cameras are gone. The news attention is now fixated somewhere else. (On the gulf oil spill.) The American publics attention, like that of a mosquito, is looking for the next story that bleeds.

$1.5 billion in aid was given. About $1000 per person displaced. [In a nation where the average family makes under $200 annually] And yet no one has a new place to live. Tents? Yes. Homes? No.

7500 people resettled. 1,492,500 still sleep on the ground tonight. Mothers will lay down their babies on dirt, under a tarp with your countries name on it in tent cities that would make your knees buckle when you see them.

I’ve heard snarky Americans say, “Why is Haiti our problem?” Or “Won’t our help just further the problem?

Haiti is our problem. We have funded the corruption. We have turned our attention away from the corruption there… we’d prefer to not think about it. We have stood by and gotten rich off of their natural resources. We have gleefully paid unfair wages to their workers for generations so that we can buy socks at $2.99 for six pairs.

And while we wear their socks their children sleep on a piece of cardboard under a tarp tent with “USAid” flapping 12 inches above their face.

Shame on us.

Why can’t Haiti fix its own problems? Why can’t people just move? Why can’t they just go get jobs? Why can’t they rebuild their own homes?

My reply to that is plain: Why don’t you go to Haiti and discover the answers to those questions for yourself. If the problem is so simple– why not go and fix it?

This much I know. This I can assure you. One day a poet will rise up from the squaller of a tent city and cry out:

How long, how long must we sing this song?

One day the shame of our inaction will get to us. We will pay $100 to watch this poet pronounce shame and guilt on us for our inaction to a stadium of people who nod their heads in agreement.

While your children sleep safely in their beds tonight I want you to think of this song…

Categories
haiti news item

Fear Makes You Stupid

Yesterday morning I woke up to the news of a massive earthquake in Chile. The world seemed to hold its breath and wonder how bad the damage would be. “If a 7.0 earthquake killed 200,000+ people and flattened Port-au-Prince, Haiti– what would an earthquake 500 times stronger do?

Those fears and concerns were legitimate.

Fortunately, as news reports flooded in, we later learned that while there is widespread damage and hundreds of thousands displaced– Chile was well prepared for such an emergency. In fact, it appears that Chile may be able to handle the relief efforts largely on their own. The New York Times is reporting, “Although the United States had offered aid, Chile‚Äôs government had not yet requested assistance. All international relief groups were on standby, and the International Federation of Red Crosses and Red Crescents said the Chilean Red Cross indicated that it did not need external assistance at this point.

Chile’s disaster was not equal to Haiti’s disaster– and as those fears began to ease and you could see the media looking for a story to scare people.

Later in the morning, the media attention shifted from the earthquake in Chile to a tsunami the earthquake spawned. This is when the full on fear mongering went nuts.

  • Fact: 750,000 people in greater Port-au-Prince are starving and homeless while billions of dollars of aid sits on tarmacs because NGOs and governments are paralyzed.
  • Fact: The president of Haiti has said it will take 1,000 trucks 1,000 days to clear the rubble from Port-au-Prince. The muscle part of recovery hasn’t even begun.
  • Fact: 46 days after the earthquake in Haiti, starvation and disease are happening just 2 hours south of Miami by plane. Thousands of orphans are undocumented and at risk of being trafficked. Widows and elderly have no protection.
  • Fact: 2 million people in Chile were displaced as their homes were destroyed.

And twelve hours after the Chile quake all of the news media’s attention shifted from actual news stories to a potential tsunami in Hawaii.

Fact: Tsunami warnings had gone out for more than 4 hours all over Hawaii. There was no danger to life.

Fact: A potential tsunami is not equal to an actual tsunami. A potential tsunami was used to cover up the real story in Haiti. (The real story is that the church is meeting people’s needs while the NGOs and governments have meetings at the airport.)

Fact: The news was reporting on lines at Costco/Wal*Mart/Safeway, showing live video of a camera pointed at a computer screen of a Ustream.tv feed, and anchors desperately trying to convince experts that although scientific instruments were saying the tsunami was only creating a 2-3 foot wave– the wave must really be 30-50 feet.

Fact: This was worse than Geraldo opening Al Capone’s secret vault.

And yet every news agency was showing live video from all over the state, showing sunshine and waves, interviewing tourists on vacation– all for a natural disaster that had not even happened yet! One reporter asked a tourist, “What is the situation like up at Diamond Head?” The tourist, confused, looked at the reporter and told the truth. “It’s a party up there.They couldn’t go to commercial fast enough.

Something is wrong with us. The fear of a natural disaster outweighs an actual natural disaster? The fear of damaged vacation property outweighs the reality of millions of people’s homes in Chile and Haiti? The fear that a tsunami might hit outweighs the reality that a significant disaster has actually happened.

Fear makes us stupid.

When will we recognize that fear is our god? When will we stop living in fear? When will we be motivated by compassion that overcomes fear?