Perfect Imperfection

by Rich on March 19, 2018

Two and a half weeks. That’s how long March Madness lasts. That’s 13 work days (if you include Friday as a work day, which personally I do not). Two and a half weeks. Sixty-four teams, four regions. One Champion. It’s insane. It’s clinical. It’s controversial. It’s traditional. It’s beautiful. It’s ugly.

It’s perfect.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that we know as March Madness is truly amazing. It’s amazing because it is all of those seemingly incompatible things intricately woven into one gorgeous masterpiece. Even the non-basketball fan can appreciate the symmetry, the logic of it. Even non-sports people acknowledge the excitement of the tournament. Is it really perfect? Well… there we are in a gray area. How gray? To quote one of my favorite movies, “Fletch”…charcoal?

March Madness is perfect in its imperfection. Every year there are questions about who gets in and who doesn’t. Who has a better resume? Who deserves to be there despite the resume? That’s the controversy. But that’s also part of what makes it perfect.

The NCAA tournament is not a computer program. It’s not a video game. It’s real life. It’s the minutia and randomness that we all deal with every day played out on the hardwood for 40 minutes (granted, it’s more like two and a half hours, and the last 2 minutes move slower than the line at the DMV). It’s stories. It’s David versus Goliath. It’s chess and checkers and horseshoes and hand grenades all rolled into one. That’s why it’s perfect. Because it’s amazing and different every year.

Of course, the downside is that the best, most deserving teams don’t always get in, much less win the whole kit and Kaboodle (sidebar: I know what a kit is, but what in the name of Pete is a Kaboodle??). That’s painful for the teams that believe they deserve a chance to play. It’s torture for their fans. But again, that very imperfection, that sense of question and unknown is what makes March Madness so exciting. Imagine watching a movie where you knew going in exactly how it would end? Even if you liked it. Even if you thought it was the best movie in the world with your favorite stars, if you watched it every day, it would lose its luster. So yes…there are years when deserving teams don’t get in. There are years when the best team doesn’t win it all.

But that is sports. That is life. That is what makes everything so interesting. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen. And while I complain every year when my bracket gets busted after the first twenty minutes of game play, I would want it any other way. It’s very much like being on a roller coaster. You get on and know that there will be ups and downs and loops and a scare or two along the way, but you also know that it ends. It doesn’t last forever. It takes you for a ride and then deposits you back at the platform, safe and sound.  Sometimes the ride is exhilarating, sometimes you get sick on the first loop-de-loop. But when it’s over, you get back in line. Why?

Because it’s two and a half weeks of roller coaster and you don’t get to go to the amusement park every day. It is, in a word, perfect.


For Benjamin, On Your 13th Birthday

by Rich on March 14, 2018

(The following is a letter I wrote for my nephew Benjamin. My sister, Benjamin’s mother, said I should post it here. This was not intended for my blog, but with her blessing, I am posting it. Along with this letter, I gave Benjamin the knife and picture of my grandfather pictured below.)


This is a KA-BAR knife, the military issued knife for generations of service men and women who laid their lives on the line to serve a greater good.

If you look closely at the base of the blade, you will see on one side it says “KABAR”. On the other it says “USMC”.

This knife belonged to your great grandfather on your mother’s side, Mimi’s father, Larry Voigt. I knew him as “Granddaddy Larry”.

There are a lot of things I want to say about this knife and what it represents, and what lessons we can learn from it.

I’ll start with Granddaddy Larry…

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, pulling the US into WWII, Granddaddy Larry (GL) was well past draft age, and as a married man with 2 children, was under no obligation to serve. But he did. He enlisted in the Navy and served on the aircraft carrier USS Hancock. The Hancock was deployed in the Pacific and was a part of the “island hopping” campaign that US forces engaged in, pushing the Japanese back, one island at a time. It was dirty, horrific, terrible work that had to be done to win the war. This is part of your family heritage.

“But Uncle Rich, this is a USMC knife. A Marine was issued this knife. Why did GL have it if he was in the Navy?”

Great question.

GL was a pharmacist mate. His job was to work in the ship’s hospital, helping medics and doctors care for the wounded. The war in the Pacific was fought primarily by Marines. And when those Marines were wounded, they would be sent to the nearest ship to receive emergency care. Your great grandfather saved a lot of Marines. One of them gave him this knife, I assume as a way to say thanks.

I have one just like it that was issued to GL. It says US NAVY on it and he had his name engraved on it as well, along with his ship’s name.

So that is the history of this knife. So why did I give it to you? Another great question.

This knife is a tool. The Marine used it to defeat an enemy. GL used his to save lives. Lesson #1: the tools that God gives us in life can be used to hurt or heal. Be aware of how you use those gifts. And also know that there will be times when God calls on you to use those tools in ways that may seem painful and uncomfortable to you. His plan is bigger. The Marine didn’t know why he was on that island. GL wanted to be at home with his family. Both used their tool to further a greater good beyond their understanding. Staying close to God through prayer and his Church will help you discern how to use your tool.

This knife is old and rusted, but be careful… it can still hurt you. Lesson #2: the tools that God gives us must be cared for, maintained. A dull and rusty knife will neither effectively defeat an enemy, nor cut cleanly to help save the life of a patient. What a dull, rusty knife most likely will do is hurt the one who wields it. Keep your knife sharp and clean, ready to use as God calls you to use it, whether that is to defend or to heal… or both. Do that by reading His word and having an open heart to hear the wisdom of His priests and the people He puts in your life.

While over 70 years old and in disrepair, this knife still has value and worth. With skilled cleaning and sharpening, this knife can still be a useful and powerful tool. Lesson #3: in life, we often disregard the tools that God gives us. There will be times when you feel you have failed to follow His call, to use the tools that He has given you. But know this, Benjamin… there is never a point when God discards you because you are no longer clean and sharp. No matter how rusty and dull your blade becomes, He never tosses you away. You are too valuable to Him. There will never be a point where hard and skillful work, along with loving care, won’t bring the tools He has given you back into perfect condition. Don’t give up on yourself, because God never does.

The Marine who wielded this knife in battle has long passed. He may not have lived to see victory in battle. He didn’t live long enough to know me, or you. But his actions, his skillful use of this tool helped save mankind from years of war and death. Lesson #4: you may never see the results of what God calls you to do with the tools He has given you. Don’t let that stop you. Even when you don’t see the end, know that what you do and who you interact with on a daily basis has a real and tangible affect on those around you. YOU MATTER! The most inconsequential interaction could change a life.

This knife was issued to a Marine, but he gave it to GL. Lesson #5: the gifts and tools that God gives us do not belong to us, they belong to Him. Our job is to use them and pass them on to those in our lives. Even if we think we haven’t used them to their full potential or in the way God intended, sharing His gifts with others is what He calls us to do.

You have many tools, Benjamin. All of them are gifts from God. Your tools are individual to you. Your knife is like no other knife on earth, and it is intended for His specific purpose. Keep your knife sharp. Use it wisely. Never discard it. Believe in its purpose. Share it with others.

Life is more than your school, your job, or where you live. Those things are important, but if you only focus on them and not on honing the blade, on using the tools He has given you, then you will always feel lost and powerless.

I am so proud of whom you are and the young man you are becoming. God has created you because the very idea of YOU pleases Him.

And for what it’s worth, I think you’re pretty cool too.

I love you, bud

Uncle Rich


Bracket Underdogs

March 12, 2018

College basketball post season is here and as much as it pains me to admit it, I’m hooked. I know I have mentioned this before, but the whole basketball thing is pretty foreign to me. Just haven’t been a fan. But now I am. And I fully admit that my fandom is due to one […]

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Boys And Baseball

March 5, 2018

College baseball is kicking off around the country, and, as I mentioned last week, my son is quickly turning into a man. And oddly enough, I can’t think of one without the other. When my son turned 11, I took him and two of his friends to a college baseball game for his birthday. Eleven. […]

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Just One of the Guys

February 26, 2018

  Like many of us born before 1980, I am often dumbfounded by what I observe, behavior-wise, in many of the youth of today (GET OFF MY LAWN!). I mean, do these kids not know that their hats are on crooked? Is it not obvious that their slouching demeanors make them look shifty, or that […]

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Pearl Of Wisdom

February 19, 2018

It has been well documented, here and basically everywhere, that I’m not really a basketball fan. I’ve tried. Many times. But frankly, the game today bears little resemblance to the game I used to play. To be fair, I was in 3rd grade , so the mere fact that players can dribble between their legs […]

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All That Glitters Is Gold

February 12, 2018

Gold, baby, GOLD! Sweet, American Olympic gold! I don’t care that the winter Olympics are in PyeongChang, South Korea (“Come for the Bibimbap, stay for the curling!”), you can still smell the fragrant aroma from the games all across the globe. And do you know what that smell is? FREEDOM! Just kidding. It’s the bibimbap. […]

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The XFL Is Back, Baby!

February 5, 2018

The XFL is back and I couldn’t be happier! For those who don’t remember, the Original XFL (OXFL) had only one season, back in 2001. It was all hype and very little substance. All hat, no cattle, as my Uncle George would say. Conceived in the back corners of Vince McMahon’s steroid addled brain, this […]

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An Unwanted Story

January 29, 2018

This wasn’t the column I wanted to write today. I had a nice little list going of possible topics: college basketball, attending sporting events with your kids, what it’s like to see your son grow from little league soccer to an adult, the return of the XFL. All of those, and many more, were possibilities. […]

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Greene With Envy

January 22, 2018

I don’t usually get very specific about certain programs in this column, especially my Alma Mater, Auburn University. I am aware that there is a hefty percentage of my readers who could not care less about my Auburn Tigers. So generally, I steer clear and speak in generalities. But not today. Because this week, Auburn […]

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