Haters Gonna Hate

Haters Gonna Hate

It’s with disgruntled reluctance that I say congratulations to Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots for their victory in Super Bowl XLIX. As a Miami Dolphins fan, it really irks me to see Brady hoist the Lombardi trophy for the fourth time; him standing there with his smug grin, super model wife, and UGG shoes.

I don’t think I’m alone in those feelings. I think outside the New England area, people are tired of seeing the Patriots succeed. I think many people were not so much pulling for Seattle as they were rooting against the Pats. It’s not unlike the Miami Heat with LeBron James. Even though they won only two championships, it seems fans nationally wanted them to lose all the time, and all other teams raised their game when going up against Miami.

That’s what happens when you elevate yourself to a level of greatness.

This dynamic is especially true in our spiritual lives. It’s been my experience there’s no greater hater than Satan himself. And when you start elevating your relationship with Jesus, the enemy works overtime to try and bring you down.

Hater

I am so fortunate to have a perspective of how far I’ve come in my faith journey, and I can’t fathom gong back to the life I was living just six short years ago. Although I had belief in God, I was not living in Him. I was not fostering a relationship with my Lord, surrendering my troubles to Him and acting out of faith. Instead, I was living like a blind man, unable to see what God was showing me and unwilling to listen to His calling. I was distracted by the worldly things Satan put in my life on a daily basis. I was the proverbial seed that fell on rocky ground.

But I was able to get right with God and turn my life around. And since that moment, I’ve grown in my faith, made more time for His Word, and have seen great things happen in my life. Through my church, I’ve been baptized as an adult, given back to our community, traveled on a mission trip, and even preached in front of our congregation. I’ve definitely elevated my faith and my life to heights I’d never previously experienced.

…and then the hater of all haters showed up.

I recently had an experienced that shook me to my core. It rattled me, enraged me, and made me want to lash out at the world. It was the result of the enemy’s tactics, manipulating someone to cause others great pain. Six years ago I would have lashed out. I would have overreacted, most likely with rage and violence. But this journey I am on, a walk I share with Jesus Christ, has been a training of sorts. Every sermon I’ve listened to, both at church and via podcast, prepared me for that moment. Every reading plan in my Bible app prepared me for that moment. Every moment of prayer, both alone and with others, prepared me for that moment. In that moment, grace and wisdom prevailed.

Satan hates its when I focus on God and surrender myself to Him. Satan hates it when I work to be a reflection of God’s love to others. Satan can’t stand the fact that I have what he used to have; God’s love and a place in Heaven. So he does whatever he can whenever he can and through whomever he can to get to me and pull me down. And the stronger I grow in God, the harder Satan works to hinder me. As a Christ follower, I am called to invite others through my words and actions into God’s light, and that’s bad for business for the supreme of all haters.

Fact

I never would have guessed it’s such a blessing to be hated.

“See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me!” – Psalm 25:19

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Don’t Cry In Your Beer

I love advertising. When I was a kid, I dreamed about making commercials. I majored in Marketing at Tulane University because there was no option for obtaining an Advertising degree (although Loyola University right next door did offer Advertising as a degree *chagrin*).

If I ever were to pursue a Master’s degree, I would write my thesis on the concept that value cannot exist without human emotion. The concept of value is wholly dependent on an individual’s feelings. In fact, I would argue advertising and marketing are better suited as sub-sets of psychology than of business. After all, as a marketer, you’re attempting to key in on what will trigger a positive response in the consumer.

As an example, to my mom, a piece of cardboard measuring 2.5 by 3.5 inches with the picture of an athlete on it is basically worthless. To me, that 1984 Topps Dan Marino rookie card is priceless. Not only does it hold a market value that’s somewhere between $75 – $125, for me, it holds fond memories of my childhood. It takes me back to being in elementary school, sitting in the last row of the top section of the Orange Bowl, watching my beloved Dolphins take on the hated Jets.

What you consider valuable may differ from what I consider valuable, and the driving factor to that value is how we feel about a particular product or service. Savvy advertisers know this, and they do an excellent job tugging on your heart strings in order to better connect you to their product. I remember a Super Bowl ad for McDonald’s featuring pee-wee football. I remember holding back the tears as I watched because I played pee-wee football, and after every game, my dad would take me to McDonald’s. I was one of those little tykes in that ad, and McDonald’s became my fast-food restaurant of choice as a result.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love beer. I love the crispness of an ice-cold bottle of brew on a hot summer day when I’m working in the yard. I love experiencing new beers, from home brews to micro-brews to new products from the giant beer makers. I love going to a beer bar with 40+ draft options and needing to take 15 minutes to place my order. Beer is good (except for Coors Lite …… *bleh*).

I am particularly a fan of dark beers. I learned to drink dark beers by drinking Guinness, and even though I meander through the choices available – Left Hand Milk Stout is wonderful, BTW – I tend to end up back with Guinness. And that brings the conversation full circle. Not since the aforementioned McDonald’s ad have I seen a TV spot that literally moved me to tears. That is until I saw the newest spot for Guinness Beer. I will let you view and judge it for yourself, but I remember being mesmerized by the commercial the first time I saw it. It played on my emotions of competition, love of family, and character. It touched something inside me that resonated in my soul, and it reminded me that sometimes, an ad does more than just sell a product.

And the next time I’m at the bar, I will have Guinness and smile.

Much Ado About Guillen

There’s been a big hullabaloo surrounding the comments made by Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen in a recent Time Magazine piece . The article begins with a direct quote from Guillen. “I love Fidel.” The maelstrom of reaction that followed was to be expected.

In a market where political passion and hatred of Castro rages greater than a category 5 hurricane, Ozzie’s comments were incredibly careless and irresponsible. Add to that the fact Ozzie is a public sports figure who works in an environment of 24-hour news cycles and public relations management, his quote was downright stupid. Never mind the fact the Time Magazine article went on to explain how Guillen pondered his comment and amended it to, “I respect Fidel” (in the context of him still being alive after all these years), it was, in the end, the mother of all brain farts.

There is one aspect of me that applauds Ozzie for being – as he always has been – brutally honest. There was no malice intended with his comment. There was no hidden agenda or point to prove. He was asked a question about a topic and he answered it. That being said, Ozzie’s honesty pales in comparison to the sheer stupidity he displayed. Whereas most people in Miami want to file this under “Ozzie is a communist sympathizer” and want him gone as Marlins Manager, I think it more properly belongs in the category of “Ozzie is a moron who knows better.”

Of all the things to say and of all the markets in which to say it, that you love – or respect or admire or ANY other positive comment – Castro is categorically and undeniably the wrong thing to say. And given Ozzie’s contrite and public apology, one that was visibly different from other sports apologies we’ve become accustomed to seeing, it’s clear he understands how stupid he was, too.

In 2009, Bob Griese, of ABC Sports and Miami Dolphins fame, got into trouble for making a tongue-in-cheek comment about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya. I said then as I say now; it was not a racist comment but rather a stupid comment. Ozzie Guillen’s faux pas falls under the same category. The difference, however, is that his verbal diarrhea has been amplified by a million because of his current role as Miami Marlins manager. The fan base of the Marlins is mostly Hispanic, and of those Hispanic fans, the largest percentage is Cuban or of Cuban decent. The stadium in which the Marlins play is situated in a part of Miami known as Little Havana, so the fact Ozzie didn’t catch himself as he was shedding praise to Fidel Castro is what I find truly shocking. To me, what makes me shake my head at all this is not the words he said, but the lack of filter he applied when saying them.

And that is what separates me from others, including family members of mine, who’ve been vocal during this fiasco. I respect their strong position against Ozzie and his comments. I don’t agree with some of their subsequent views as a result of this incident (Ozzie supports communist leaders, Ozzie’s apology was cowardly, Ozzie should be fired), but I understand why they feel that way. My uncle was incarcerated for non-violently protesting the Castro regime. My grandparents did not join the rest of their children in fleeing Cuba in the early 60’s so as to stay behind and wait for the release of my uncle. That pain and anger is still very real and very current to my family, and anything that even remotely smacks of support for the murderer that is Fidel Castro is unacceptable. I get that.

Yet at the end of the day, what made Ozzie Guillen qualified to be manager of the Marlins when he was hired last winter still makes him qualified to be their manager today. And at the end of the day, Ozzie Guillen being an employee of the Marlins – or not – will do nothing to change the fact Fidel and Rafael Castro are still in power in Cuba.

I am not of the mindset that public figures should lose their jobs for brain fart comments. People make mistakes and I think the punishment of public shame and ridicule should suffice when the idiot in all of us decides to make an appearance.

I like Ozzie. I think he’s a dynamic character that brings attention to both the Marlins and Major League Baseball in much the same way Earl Weaver did with the Orioles, Tommy Lasorda did with the Dodgers, and Lou Pinella did with the Yankees/Cubs/Devil Rays. He deserves the suspension he received from the Marlins as well as the pounding he’s taken (and will continue to take) from the media and fans. Still, I look forward to watching him manage this season, and as a fan, I am excited about having him as skipper of the new-look Marlins.

What he said was stupid, but when looked at through a prism of non-Miami cultural bias, what he said is really not that big of a deal.

001/365 The Start of Something New

Inspired by my awesome and wonderful wife, who on September 6 started a daily photoblog on her site, I will attempt to post a photo to my blog on a daily basis. To be honest, I resisted this idea for such a long time. For me, it was not what blogging is about. However, something happened recently that made me change my mind.

Lee recently lost her great uncle, and in his passing, Lee pondered about how a generation of story tellers had left us. To use her words:

It is for this reason that I want to foster my blog so that it becomes my own personal living, breathing history book. I want to do this for my nephew, Hunter, and for my step-children, Natalie and Daniel.  I want to fill it with stories of my childhood, of coming of age and of finding myself.

So, in the spirit of better documenting my life and my experiences, as well as Project 365, I present to you Day 1 of my photo journey. I hope you enjoy.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We rang in the first day of 2012 by taking in the Miami Dolphins’ final game of the season – which also happened to be Jason Taylor’s final game in the NFL – and then hopped on the Metrorail to downtown Miami to attend the Miami Heat game against the Bobcats. Both home teams won, and it was a fun, albeit exhausting, experience for Lee and me.

Such a Sell Out

As the NFL regular season draws to a close, the NBA season kicks off, and the NHL season is in full swing, I find my thoughts meandering ahead to the 2012 Major League Baseball season. Dolphins, Heat, and Panthers notwithstanding, as a Miami fan, I hold a continuous and giddy anticipation for the new ballpark of the new look Miami Marlins.

There’s been much talk – mostly negative – about the new stadium in Miami. An SEC investigation into the issuance of bonds for the stadium, controversy over property taxes for the parking garages built for the venue, and the ad nasueum discussion about Marlins fan apathy; it makes you wonder if any positive energy can be generated in South Florida next Spring. The answer, simply, is ‘yes’.

I’m calling it now. The Miami Marlins will sell out every home game of the 2012 season.

I know you think I’m crazy. I know you think the Marlins have an apathetic fan base, a notion that is only partially true. I know you’re going to fall back on the data and the games in the past where literally only hundreds of people attended.

Before you completely tune me out, however, here are five reasons why the Marlins will sell out every home game next season:

Location, Location, Location

The new Marlins ballpark sits on the hallowed grounds of the former Orange Bowl and in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. The empty seats of previous seasons were much more a function of geography and logistics than they were a function of fan apathy. Believe it or not, Miami fans care about their baseball team. They just didn’t care enough to spend ninety minutes in traffic to watch a team that often times didn’t contend.

What makes the location of the new ballpark so special is that it’s in the middle of a residential area. Fans can easily drive to a game, park at someone’s house, and walk to the stadium. Also, public transportation is now a much more readily available option that it ever was in the past, and pedestrian traffic is now possible. With the new ballpark, one can easily walk to the game. As a kid growing up in Miami, I remember walking from my aunt’s house off of Calle Ocho to the Orange Bowl. Thirteen city block and just under a mile and a half. The average fan who before didn’t have the means to get to North Miami-Dade County for a Marlins game now has a variety of transportation options available to him.

Miami Loves All Things New

Remember the buzz surrounding the Miami Heat last season? With perhaps the exception of Los Angeles, no other city succumbs to the irresistible attraction of glitz, glamour, and celebrity quite like Miami. It’s as if the city has collective A-D-D. If it’s new and hot and trendy, everyone in Miami wants to be there and be a part of it. The new ballpark in Miami will be exactly that. The water cooler conversations in mid-April will resemble this: “What do you mean you haven’t been to the new stadium? You definitely have to go, bro.” Add in the fact the new ballpark seats only 37,000 and the limited supply of tickets will only stoke the fires of the demand for access to the newest thing in town.

Weather You Like It or Not

Another contributing factor to poor attendance in the past was weather. In the middle of the summer, fans were reluctant to sit in the blazing South Florida sun in a stadium that provides little shelter from heat and humidity. If the forecast called for a threat of rain, chances are the average fan wouldn’t make the commute to the old stadium.

This is no longer the case. With a retractable roof, the new Miami ballpark will make the elements a non-issue for the fans. It’s nice to know there will be no rain-outs or rain delays for the Marlins. It’s also nice to know that even though it may be ninety five degrees outside, the ballpark will be a very comfortable and cool seventy degrees inside.

Local Sabor

It’s no secret Miami is the gateway to Latin America, and the city houses a vivacious, eclectic, and very large Hispanic community. All throughout Latin America, baseball is the national pastime, and for young, Hispanic males, it’s almost a rite of passage. With all due respect to Dominicans and Puerto Ricans everywhere, it’s been my experience the most fervent, opinionated, and, well informed Hispanic baseball fans are Cubans and Venezuelans. Now you have a new ballpark in the middle of Little Havana that is managed by a rambunctious and un-filtered Ozzie Guillén, who happens to be from Venezuela.

We Hispanics take pride in supporting our own, and with a roster that includes superstar Hanley Ramirez, newly acquired Jose Reyes, Anibal Sanchez, Mike Stanton (he’s ¼ Puerto Rican), and home grown Gaby Sanchez, the Hispanic baseball fan will be drawn to the new stadium in droves.

Even the name change from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins aligns with this new approach. Don’t be surprised if, while watching a Marlins game on TV, you see ads for such brands as Goya, Pilon, and Hatuey plastering the outfield walls. I would go as far to say the naming rights for the new stadium, which are in the works of being sold, will be for a company or brand that caters to the Hispanic market. According to the US Census, minorities are projected to be the majority by 2050. You can expect the new ballpark in Miami to provide an early sample of that future trend.

Show Me the Money

The Marlins have made a big splash this off season with a new name, new uniforms, a new manager, and the spending of lots and lots of money. This shows a commitment to winning not previously displayed by Marlins ownership. Part of that was due to a lease agreement in the old stadium that handcuffed the Marlins from being able to complete financially. With the revenues from the new stadium, that is no longer the case. This translates to increased fan interest that, in turn, translates to increased fan attendance.

Still, in the end, it all comes down to winning. Even with the great location, the new, flashy stadium, the high-priced free agents, and the roster with names that end in E-Z, if the Marlins find themselves ten games back by May 1, it will be hard to keep momentum going with regards to attendance.

I will admit Miami fans are fickle. We practically, and almost quite literally, invented the notion of fair-weather fans. And I’ve always maintained in a city with beaches, beautiful women, trendy clubs, and a plethora of other distractions, the fight for the entertainment dollar is a fierce one. If the Marlins aren’t winning, the typical Miami fan will want to spend his entertainment dollar elsewhere (especially if the Miami Heat are running away with the NBA regular season and playoffs).

Still, I believe every seat at every home game in 2012 will be filled, and I’m really looking forward to helping contribute to that prediction.

Coping

WARNING: This is a very silly post.

As I, the man who bleeds coral and aqua, continue to mire through this dreadful NFL season as a Dolfan, I must turn to humor to get me through the Sundays. Similar to other members of my pod, I decided to turn my pain into parody. So, without further adieu, I give you “All for Drew.” (sung to Sister Hazel’s “All For You”)

Well Stephen Ross figured out
It’s suck for lu-uck time
No winning or turnaround
Leaves the Dolfans cry’n

Now It’s time
To lose, lose, lose
Sixteen straight
And draft Andrew
Or Dolfans will walk away

It’s hard to say what the Dolphins team will do
Wonder if they’ll win a game or two
Words can’t change the losing blues
But in the end it’s all for Drew

I thought I saw a win
With minutes left to go
But then my head took a spin
And we lost to Tim Tebow

Quitting Time
I’m so confused
Sparano
Finds ways to lose
Makes me want to run away

It’s hard to say what the Dolphins team will do
Wonder if they’ll win a game or two
Words can’t change the losing blues
Just so long as we draft Andrew

The Rules of Engagement

I am a diehard sports fan. I love sports. Watching, coaching, partaking; I can’t get enough of sports (with the exception of Cricket. I just refuse to get into that at all.) Specifically, I get crazy about the teams from my hometown. So with the Miami Heat reaching the NBA Finals, instead of being 100% consumed with joy, I’m actually a little saddened.My good friend Matt is a diehard sports fan. He loves sports. Watching, critiquing, …..er, watching; he can’t get enough of sports. (I actually think he would get into Cricket). Specifically, Matt is crazy about the teams from Dallas. Rangers, Stars, Cowboys, and, of course, the Mavericks.

The Miami Heat will face the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.

You can see my dilemma.

My dilemma is fueled by the fact it’s very easy for me to slip into obnoxious fan mode. I wish I could control it. I wish I could promise you it wouldn’t happen. But that would be the equivalent of asking Bruce Banner to control the raging, green monster inside of him. It just happens. Throw in a case of beer and it happens a lot faster.

I need to emphasize Matt is not just a friend. He’s a very good friend. He’s in my inner circle. He’s one of the first numbers I’d call in the event of an emergency. My family celebrates the holidays with his family. He and his wife come over to our house just to hang out. We’re tight like that.

So in the interest of keeping a good thing solid, I’ve developed what I would like to call the 2011 NBA Finals Rules of Engagement:

  1. Under no circumstances are Matt and I allowed to watch any of the games together. I don’t care if he’s picking up the tab or providing all the beer. It ain’t happening.
  2. In-game commentary shall be limited to text messaging only. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, text messaging remains the last bastion of true private conversation.
  3. The ability of one person to be obnoxious following a win is directly proportional to how obnoxious the loser was during the game. Grace begets grace and douche begets douche.
  4. Both parties are reminded that opinion is NOT fact. All commentary must begin with “I think” or “I believe.” Caveat: Any commentary that is substantiated by documentable statistics is allowed (which means I will lose this part every time).
  5. No blaming the refs. Bad calls will be made that adversely impact both teams. It happens in all sports. Overall, it evens out. Both parties have to live with it.
  6. The first person to use the word ‘Wambulance’ agrees to let the other person slap him in the face.
  7. The first person to use the word ‘Meh’ agrees to let the other person punch him in the throat (I totally put that in there for my own benefit).
  8. Any wagering on the series is not to exceed $20 and cannot lead to the humiliation of the losing party (although I do love the idea of Matt wearing a LeBron James jersey to work).

In the end, it’s all just a game and we’ll both return to being best of friends. That is, of course, unless the Heat lose because the refs decided to baby Dirk Nowitzki all series, and the Mavs played dirty, and the Cowboys still suck, and Nolan Ryan was overrated, and the Stars should have stayed in Minnesota, and Jerry Jones is the reason for the lockout, and Debbie was a skank anyway, and…..

…meh!