January 29, 2010


One of the greatest fairytales in sports has reached its end. Most of us know the story at this point, but thinking about it today, it is still incredible to me. Shunned by the NFL after graduating from Northern Iowa, Kurt Warner was stocking shelves in a grocery store for $5.50 an hour. After stops in the Arena League and NFL Europe, he finally got his shot - as a third string quarterback. That's not exactly a real big chance. I would guess that 90% of the people that might read this can't name the Cardinals' third stringer right now. The rest is history, as they say. Injuries forced him into action, and four weeks into his NFL career he's on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the title "Who IS this guy?"

"This guy" is the man. He is what every athlete should be. God-fearing. Gracious. Humble. Giving. A family man above all else. He is a hero. He is a two-time MVP. And a Super Bowl Champion. One of the best ever. The following quote is a little questionable on metaphors and language, so some of you might just be better off skipping it, but sums up Kurt's quarterbacking ability about as well as anything I've ever read:

"No way in hell I pick against the Cardinals when there's always a chance that Kurt Warner will slaughter a calf for God's glory and be transformed, once more, into '99 Warner, setting the fucking Earth aflame for four weeks straight. I don't give a shit if Boldin or Rodgers-Cromartie aren't playing. If '99 Warner materializes on the field Sunday, Green Bay has no fucking chance. ‘99 Warner can get off atomically precise passes forty yards downfield with seven defenders hanging off of his dick. He can ejaculate through a Froot Loop and not hit the sides of it. He can also turn water into Booker's. There's nothing else like it. I swear, I've never seen a QB play better than when '99 Warner strikes. Ever. Not Brady. Not Manning. No one. He's unstoppable when he's feeling that shit."

He is that good. And he made football in Arizona fun. We're talking about the Arizona Cardinals. PLAYING IN THE SUPER BOWL. It still doesn't make sense. I remember telling a friend before the NFC Championship Game last year that if somehow Kurt led us to the Super Bowl, absolutely anything in this life is possible. And when it happened, I cried. At a sports bar. In public. And I believe it. Absolutely anything. No doubt it took a lot more than just Kurt to get there - Coach Whiz, Fitz, A Dub, Dansby, Dockett, and DRC. It took everyone. But there's no way we get even close without Kurt. No way in hell. Last January was the most incredible month of my life. Call it ridiculous, I don't really care. It's true. And anyone who has grown up on Cardinal football will tell you the exact same thing. There was nothing like that ride last January. I will never forget it.

And as amazing as he was on the field, he was even better off it. There is not a single athlete out there I would rather have a kid looking up to. He is something else. So, so different than 98% of the guys out there. He gets it. This life isn't about us. This life is about grace, and each of us using whatever God has given us, big and small, and honoring Him in it. One of my favorite quotes ever is from my pastor John Lynch, who said:

"This life isn't about arriving any place, it's about returning time and again to the One who brought us here."

That's something that Kurt has always driven home for me, as a Cardinal and otherwise. He went from nothing to the top of the world. And yet, it was never about him. I hope that regardless of what I have in front of me, I can be half of what Kurt was, and is. He'll be missed. Him and his giant sleeves.

Thank you, Kurt. For all of it. You're the man.

January 10, 2010


It was a hell of a way to start, but here's to hoping we just began another amazing ride.

Let's go Cards.

January 7, 2010


"But in friendship, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years difference in the dates of our birth, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university over another, the accident of one topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting - any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, 'You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.'"
- C.S. Lewis


From Mike Wise at The Washington Post. I have never been particularly impressed with his writing, but this is something completely different.

"Nike will never shoot a commercial to show my impact on my sport and the world; multiethnic children will never look into a camera lens and say they resemble me.

But I am Tiger Woods.

And weeks after the personal life of the world's most recognizable athlete crumbled, I still cringe every time I hear a voice mail of a desperate man trying to hide the truth from his significant other. The reason I have yet to write about the biggest sports story of the year in these pages is because Woods's plea to one of his many mistresses brought up old, awful feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation.

I won't revisit my own crash site in any detail here, but I can say the painful first step of the journey -- of seeing myself for who I really was -- also began in the worst imaginable way.

I am Tiger Woods, and just as Charles Barkley stood up for him during his weakest moments, I had friends lend support, telling others not to judge.

And while their efforts were appreciated, most of these people turned out to be enablers from the fraternity of arrested development, where boys must be boys because authentic men aren't allowed to join. I knew I couldn't change until my circle of "friends" changed.

I am Tiger Woods, and though I have never been an elite athlete, I work in the culture of the elite athlete, where infidelity isn't merely condoned, it's strongly encouraged.

It's a culture where Kurt Thomas's New York Knicks teammates once told him not to bring his wife for a three-day trip to Miami, "because that's like bringin' sand to the beach."

Joe DiMaggio, pushing 60, once tucked a phone number of a 20ish flight attendant in his pocket, smiling at the sportswriter seated next to him in first class.

"Joe, she's somebody's daughter," protested Ron Bergman, then covering the Oakland A's. Replied DiMaggio, matter-of-factly: "They're all somebody's daughter."

Joltin' Joe was also Tiger Woods, who may have to suffer the indignity of losing his family to understand this goes deeper than the culture of blow-dried nothings in beer commercials, deeper than bored, rich alpha males on the road for 270 days a year.

I am Tiger Woods, and saying the greatest golfer on the planet got married too young is a cheap cop-out that misses an essential point: that this is really about a man who has everything and nothing at the same time, a guy medicating with women to fill emotional gaps -- the way some people use food, alcohol, drugs, work and golf on television

The absolute meltdown of a global brand is only extraordinary because of the once cool, calm and oh-so-calculating persona of Tiger. If Rick Pitino, Alex Rodriguez, David Letterman, Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton and Mark Sanford are also Tiger Woods, so are many anonymous people who never played sports, hosted a TV show or ran for office.

And like the potentates and poseurs, they too probably cringe when they hear the voice mail begin, "Hey, it's Tiger," and wince when they read the explicit text messages between a panicked guy and one of his other women. Most of all, they thank the heavens they were only found out by the people they hurt -- rather than by all seven continents.

I am Tiger Woods, and I understand why the scent of a woman is unbeaten in 2009 and beyond. It is an equal-opportunity addiction, costing manicured, polished stars such as Pitino their coiffed reputations and unknown, dumpy software salesmen their families and jobs.

The truth is, I need help not to be Tiger Woods, a support system helpful to this day. That hearing words such as "dog" or terms such as "commitment issues" only serves to mask real issues. We use them so people such as Tiger Woods never take the time to Google "Attachment Disorder" or "Love Addiction" or look at how their old man treated their mom and what kind of message that sent to a gifted child who would grow up to respect a game more than his wife.

When I hear people say, "Look, it's not like he's an alcoholic or a drug addict; sleeping around is not going to kill Tiger," I cringe again. And think of the most extreme case of infidelity imaginable in sports, in which a beloved, church-going man winds up with a bullet in his head, lying next to the woman who shot him before she took her own life last summer.

Yes, that deranged woman could have been anyone, a warped fan, even his wife. Still, the terrifying truth is Steve McNair was also Tiger Woods.

Three stories piquing prurient interest the past year involved a born-again former Pro Bowl quarterback, a college basketball coach who wore his Catholicism on his lapel, and Tiger, the heir apparent to Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan in the sports world, an icon marketed to be the most wholesome of them all. When all three fell from pedestals -- and one of them paid the ultimate price for it -- that's not a dangerous trend of infidelity; that's disease.

When married billionaires bring breakfast waitresses to the family home in the middle of the day after they've already hooked up in a parking lot, that's not sex; that's real affliction.

When the world's most recognizable athlete uses his Blackberry to text a relative kid in Las Vegas about how much he misses her -- and she's but one of a dozen -- that's not sex; that's sickness.

I am Tiger Woods, and I have poked fun at his travails because I use humor as camouflage, because if I were to deal with the truth, if the world were to know the details of my sad, pathetic electronic communication with other women at one time in my life, the horrific embarrassment would not just send me into seclusion; it would send me off the ledge.

It's easy -- maybe even natural -- to judge his actions and ignore what led to them:

Tiger Woods has an emotional void in his life. This void must be huge. For him to be where he is today, this deep emptiness must have consumed him, must be something he has been living with for a long time. Moreover, he has to live with his emptiness while being fully aware that everyone in the world knows just what a manufactured lie his image has been.

Having stared into this void, having known this hollowness, I can neither excoriate the guy nor exonerate him.

I am Tiger Woods, and because of that, I can only hope that he realizes he's sick and takes steps to get better."