Derrick Coleman and the Power that Goes Beyond Duracell

Derrick Coleman 1You can certainly understand why this video went viral. Derrick Coleman has a truly inspiring story that can motivate you to do many things. Duracell hopes to showcase Derrick Coleman and his story, so people buy more Duracell batteries. It’s a well done video, but Derrick Coleman is not a battery powered machine, is he? So, does the story of a human really convince you to by Duracell over another brand of batteries?

Doesn’t work for me…maybe it works for you.

Yet, through the video, Derrick Coleman reveals a power that goes beyond a Duracell battery. The video and his life shows us the power of perseverance. Derrick Coleman demonstrates a persistence and endurance that overcomes struggle. And that is a Christian virtue.

James 1:12 said, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

I couldn’t imagine the trials and tests Derrick Coleman had to endure on his way to the NFL. Yea, the ad goes into it a bit. But, how deep can you get in a minute?

HarbaughYet, the Duracell ad gives us enough to know it wasn’t easy. I mean, this is football. You know that tough, barbaric sport where bullying is seen as an acceptable workplace condition…where manliness is determined by how many concussions you endure…where coaches are known for foaming mouths and intense tirades.

Those of us who’ve played any sport at any level are familiar with the antics of some coaches. Could you imagine how Derrick Coleman must have been insulted by coaches and harassed by players? How hard it must have been for him to earn respect!

Yet, here he is…in the NFL…playing for the NFC Championship…a big piece to the Seahawks’ success.

Derrick Coleman reveals a power that goes beyond a Duracell battery. That power runs to the core of what it should mean to be human. He shows a faithfulness that endures despite those who throw insults. He shows a perseverance that stays strong in the face of the hurdles. No matter what life threw at him, Derrick Coleman had a belief that he too is created in the Image of God…and that image has value – even if he cannot hear.

In the end, the commercial might not make me buy Duracell batteries. But, the spirit of the commercial will. Just think: for Duracell to think of using Derrick Coleman for an advertisement says something interesting. Whether they knew it or not, they chose to celebrate qualities that the world tends to overlook. Yet, we shouldn’t overlook those qualities which truly make us great…for in our weakness (i.e. our own personal handicaps) we find strength.

Where do you find your strength?

Why I Cheered for Jameis Winston

It’s cool if you’re not part of the experience…my intellectual/theological musings. For those who might have to endure my thinking in person, it’s not so easy…I know; I’m sorry. I love you all!

Florida State v. AuburnFor some reason, things are always deeper than they need to be for me. But, maybe they are as deep as they really are? Hmmm…Yet, sitting here watching this BCS National Championship Game between the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles I can’t help but consider why I’m compelled to root for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

I mean, I always have to have a reason for why I’m doing something. Everything just has to have meaning. #MercyLord. Yet, I have no horse in this race. So, why indeed do I care?

I read friends postings saying they could never root for the Seminoles because the ‘Noles were a rival team to their school. And, in a sense I guess it should/could matter to me. I mean, I graduated from the University of Maryland and the Terrapins are in the ACC with the ‘Noles. Yet, I am not inspired to any allegiance to the University of Maryland. So, I’m not drawn to support Auburn. However, I’m not even moved to allegiance for the ACC. So, that doesn’t move me to support FSU.

I just ended a Vestry Meeting early because a member of my board attended Florida State! I can dig it…she was also an athlete there. So, I can understand and happily oblige. Then, some have considered rooting for Florida State because they’re from Florida. That too makes sense: support the home State. Yet, although I live in Florida I am from the Virgin Islands. We have no professional team. So….?

Jameis WinstonWhy do I root for Jameis Winston?

I used to loosely follow sports. I follow it even less now. I’m not a rabid fan. So, it’s not even my interest in Jameis Winston’s skill set. Frankly, I don’t know what his skill set is. This is the first time I’m seeing him play…and even still, I am writing this blog post as the game is playing. So, that tells you how much attention I’m paying to Jameis’ play. (I just had to stop to watch this FSU Kickoff TD return…sorry, I’m back.)

So, why do I cheer for Jameis Winston?

I’ll be honest: I thought I was cheering for him because I “always support the Black quarterback.” #TomJoyner Then, I realized both teams have Black quarterbacks. This is ¡no bueno!

Yet, I realize why: and it’s all connected…connected to Society and to Faith.

I remember when “the cloud” surrounded Jameis Winston after the false allegations of sexual assault. I watch ESPN daily…bout the only news, besides Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, that matters these days. And, one commentator (it was probably Ray Lewis) asked the question: when will it be enough? What will Jameis Winston have to do in order to shake the cloud of something for which he was never even charged?

And, that beloved is the cost of being a Black male. It seems there is nothing you can do to shake the stigma of Black male identity. Even when you’ve been wrongly accused, the stain of the crime continues to follow. How much must be done…how long must we endure in order to clear the stain of someone else’s false impressions of our character and worth?

Yet, despite the image some wanted to cast upon Jameis Winston’s character you couldn’t help but be drawn to his character. You couldn’t help but see a certain depth of spirit within him. People wondered: how does Jameis Winston remain upbeat?

Famous Jameis HeismanSo despite the drama that crossed over from ESPN and reached the national network evening news, Jameis Winston was vindicated and there was no basis to charge him with a crime. Yet, despite his astounding numbers, there was question as to whether even false allegations would prevent him from claiming NCAA Football’s highest individual honor. He went on and one the Heisman Trophy. Jameis Winston is the Heisman Trophy winner (“who had to face sexual assault allegations”). And that question remains: what more must he do to not have those false allegations brought up every time?

Even as he approached the BCS National Championship Game, people wanted to challenge his character and mettle. Yet, his spirits remained high.

We flash to the game – which is now over, and Jameis Winston faced an adversity many thought would break him. Yet as his coach, Jimbo Fisher said it best: “Jameis Winston struggled for three quarters…” But in the fourth quarter he played big.

And when he finished shining, he was still smiling. So they asked: who helps you stay in such high spirits? Jameis Winston’s response: no one but God Almighty.

Jameis Winston ChampionThere: it is…that’s why I rooted for Jameis Winston and I’m happy he won. Because despite all the turmoil and adversity, he still stayed strong. And it wasn’t that strength upon which America’s “rugged individualism” is built. It wasn’t the strength of that typical one who becomes callused in their very soul…those who’ve forgotten what it is to feel and to love.

So, I cheer for Jameis Winston. Because he had the strength to persevere not just in bodily achievement, but first in spirit. And by his perseverance in spirit he was able to conquer the giants (and Tigers) in his way.

What are the tigers in your way? There will always be haters. But, how will you respond to those haters? When the vampires come to suck your blood, will the cross you bear actually protect you? Or will it cause you to buckle under the pressure and fall in the face of those who plot against you?

Jameis Winston stood strong. He held his faith and kept his joy, knowing the realm of the spirit to be greater. So, stand strong young brother! Take courage and keep your joy. Your name is clear, where it matters. Who cares what the haters say?


Why Instant Replay in Baseball is a Bad Idea

“Of course I like it,” Maddon says. “I like flat-screen TVs with high definition. I like air conditioning in my 1956 Bel Air. I like computers. To just bury your head in the sand and just reference old-school all the time is really a poor argument.”

– Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon 

I couldn’t disagree more. And, while some who disagree with instant replay might appeal to slowing down an already slow game, or make “Tevye-esque” appeals to “tradition!,” my appeal is of a more spiritual nature.

Hubert "Dickey" Ballentine Baseball card You see, in 1960 my grandad, Hubert Habib “Dickey” Ballentine founded the Mathews-Dickey Boys Club with Martin Mathews in St. Louis, MO. An Amateur Baseball Hall of Famer, with a 30 year semi-pro career and lifetime batting average of .350, my grandad was passionate about baseball. He was also a theologian. As a Moslem Imam of the Fahamme Temple, my grandad was very knowledgeable on spirituality, life and culture. Those from St. Louis will attest to that.

Instant Replay vs. Life's Bad CallsWhile he was coaching youth baseball, he had an idea for using the sport to teach life lessons to help keep young boys off the street. And so, he remortgaged his house (a few times over the years) to put up the money for what became a St. Louis Institution: the Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan pinned the Civilian Medal of Freedom on my grandad (and Mr. Mathews) for his efforts. To this day, I meet men from St. Louis who a ever-grateful for what my grandad taught them – using the game of baseball.

In his mind, and in mine, baseball is the greatest game ever played because it is perfectly suited to provide life instruction. It is that rare game – that only game – that is 100% individual and 100% team.

While Satchel Paige is known to have cleared the field to face batters he knew he could get out (he still needed a catcher), in baseball it takes a team. Yet, unlike basketball, you cannot give the ball to LeBron James every time down the court when the game is on the line. Unlike football, you cannot simply put the game in Peyton Manning’s hands or hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson. In baseball, you are part of a team, but when it’s your turn, you and you alone must step to the plate – you must rise to the occasion.

And that’s part of growing up. That’s part of what America used to be about: rising to the occasion. And that’s baseball.  And that’s life.

So, when I cringe at the idea of instant replay being brought into Major League Baseball, it isn’t because I’m some dinosaur who wishes to return to the stone-age. Rather, I see it distorting the beauty of the game and the lessons it yields.

Instant Replay in Baseball is a bad idea because there is no instant replay in life.

Maybe I understand this better as one from the marginalized class. Society (i.e. our Umpire) gets calls wrong all the time. There’s no instant replay.

When a child’s murderer goes free, there’s no instant replay. When a woman’s rapist gets off, there’s no instant replay. Hell: when a Presidential election is miscounted, there is no instant replay.

And, as tragic as those life situations are – and they are tragic – we must continue on as best we can, understanding that sometimes Society misses the call.

As the other major sports moved to instant replay, we lost that sense. We are more apt to dwell on the unfairness of life and become victimized by the bad calls of society. Because we see (and because our children are conditioned to see) the instant replays of the life we idolize in the sports world, we subconsciously expect that life will be so kind to us: that we will be granted a “challenge flag” when someone “gets over on us.” We hope there will be a “booth review” that will give us a second chance to make that “winning score.”

Yet, Society is not so gracious. And, the reality of instant replay creates a false reality for life. That is why I believe instant replay in baseball is a bad idea.

Baseball is the last of the major sports, which can be used to teach young people the parameters of the game of life. The reality that sometimes there are “bad calls” helps us to continue on – understanding that the season is long and this one game doesn’t have to break our chances. We understand that a .300 hitter is one of the Greats, even though he failed seven times. Even if all seven of his failures were because of “bad calls,” he will still be considered one of the Greats.

Instant Replay in baseball is a bad idea because it gives us the false notion that perfection exists in Society. It doesn’t. And it won’t, until we leave this society for the Great Society with God. In the meantime, we must learn to respond…to endure…to overcome the “bad calls” of life. And since sports are our Society’s major instructor to our youth, baseball – without instant replay – remains the last hope for imparting the spirit to overcome life’s “bad calls.”