Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sports: YOUTube.com and Bruin Fans

Re-live the memories ...

One week ago ...

From the CBS coverage with announcers Gus Johnson and Len Elmore ...



From the UCLA band section through a personal video camera ...



Undoubtedly, these Gonzaga-UCLA video links and others like it are circling the globe among Bruin fans!!

I WANT TO BELIEVE!!!

Go Bruins!!!!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sports: Bruins going to Indy for the FINAL FOUR!

Amazing!

Here is the complete play-by-play on ESPN.com.

Memphis loves to run and UCLA put the brakes on. It wasn't a pretty game. It was hard-nosed defense by both sides but UCLA managed to squeeze out enough offense to get the lead and hang onto it.

UCLA got their first lead, 4-3, at the 16:24 mark.

They kept it between 4 and 10 throughout most of the game.

On paper, you look at the individuals on this team and you wonder ... how can they win?

The individuals are good players but nobody on this team is a lottery pick.

Afflalo might be a late first round pick. Farmar perhaps late first round or early second round. Hollins, with his increasing presence, might now be on some NBA GM's list for a second or third pick in the draft.

Basketball though is a team game and clearly, right now, the Bruin team is more than the sum of its parts.

Mighty Bruins
lyric by Barbara Lamb and Don Holley
music by Bill Conte
We are the Mighty Bruins,
The best team in the West.
We’re marching on to victory,
To conquer all the rest.

We are the Mighty Bruins,
Triumphant evermore.
You can hear from far and near,
The Mighty Bruin roar!

U! - C! - LLLLLLLLLLLLL! A!

U - C - L - A! Fight! Fight! Fight!

Sports: UCLA vs. Memphis

Am nervous again!

UCLA maybe drained from the tough fight against the Bulldogs.

Memphis is well rested from their easy win.

In my following of UCLA, the regional finals have been ugly affairs in 2 of 3 cases.

In 1992, UCLA went to regional finals sporting a 28-4 record. They had beaten Indiana in the pre-conference schedule. But on that Saturday in the regional, the Bruins got beaten like a drum. They were down 20 or so and I was hoping for a 2nd half comeback. It didn't happen. I don't recall they ever made much of a dent in the deficit.

In 1995, UCLA won an exciting end-to-end high scoring contest with Connecticut. I saw the game on videotape. I had planned several weeks earlier on visiting a friend who was a student at William and Mary College. Thus, I set the VCR to tape the game while I was away. As I drove home, I heard on the radio that UCLA had won. I watched the tape of the victory well past midnight!

In 1997, UCLA had a brawl for the regional semi-finals against Iowa State. I went to a sports bar to watch and soon fled the bar because the Bruins were down big time and the bar crowd was getting too rowdy for my tastes. I got home and somehow the Bruins came back to force overtime where they final got the narrow victory.

The regional final game was against Minnesota and the Bruins were behind. Not down in blowout proportions but behind and they just couldn't catch them. Minnesota was just too big and strong.

Memphis has top level NBA type players in their line-up.

As of right now, I think UCLA's top two (Farmar and Afflalo) would at best be late first round draft picks.

From this Bruin fan point of view, if Memphis wins in a blowout, it would be no surprise. If UCLA wins it, it will be a close game where somehow, like against Gonzaga, the synergy of the UCLA parts proves to be enough to overcome the more athletic and talented Tiger team from Memphis.

As before, my head says Memphis wins. But my heart is for the Bruins!

Bruins Basketball Blogs:
Bruin Basketball Report
Bruin Hoop Scoop
Bruins Nation

See the highlights from the Gonzaga vs. UCLA game. HT: Nestor16 at Bruins Nation.

Devotional Thoughts: Should Christians pay taxes?

Am looking at Matthew 22:15-22.

This is the famous story where questioners try to get Jesus to answer about paying tax to Rome.

The Pharisees were there. These were Jewish religious leaders of the day. Modern day Judaism is from this brach of Jewish thought. During Jesus time, there were other branches of Jewish belief: Essenes (mystics and they separated themselves to communes), the Sadduces (ran the Temple) and the Zealots (wanted to overthrow Rome).

The supporters of Herod were there too. Herod was the Jewish political leader. Pilate was the Roman political leader.

Some in the audience would want to hear Jesus say, don't pay taxes, overthrow Rome!

If he said that, they could try to arrest him for trying to start a revolution.

Jesus answered the famous answer, give me a coin, whose face is on it?

The people said, Caesar's.

Jesus then says, give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God's.

Bottom line: pay your taxes.

Today, as we approach April 15, tax due date here in the USA, we may have objections to some of the things our government is doing but we should pay our taxes.

Also, I think the US government is nothing like the Roman Empire despite what some critics might say about the USA.

Take a coin out and see what is on it... I just fished out a quarter. Washington's face is on it. We honor our leaders but nothing more.

The coin also has three "sayings" on it that embody what we aspire to as a nation: "liberty," "in God we trust," and "e pluribus unum."

So give to Uncle Sam what is Uncle Sam's!

But also, give to God what is God's!!

Lord, guide this nation to be a force for good in the world. Help us as Christians in this nation to love our neighbors whom we can see and give to others who help our neighbors in the global village whom we can't see. Amen.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Its about honoring the King

Am looking at Matthew 22:1-14 this morning.

Jesus tells many stories in the Gospels to illustrate the Kingdom of God.

Since we live in a representative democracy the notions of a King and a kingdom seem a bit foreign to us.

In the USA, about 1/3 of the people might like the President at any given time. 1/3 don't like him (and someday her) and 1/3 don't even know who is President!

I have seen the White House a few times in my life and I always thought of it as a pretty big house. Then in 1999, I visited Vienna and saw some Palaces. I think the White House could fit in some of the gardens of these places!

From 1993-1997, I lived in the metro Washington DC area. In 1996, I voted for the guy who lost. Thus, when 1997 rolled around for the Inauguration, I had to decide if I wanted to go to Pennsylvania avenue to see the parade. These events only occur every four years and I felt as an American citizen who lived close enough to go, to go and celebrate American democracy. I didn't vote for President Clinton but it was about honoring the President and this nation's institution.

Now, imagine, being invited to a royal wedding!

I'd go!

In the story Jesus tells in Matthew 22, some of the guests decide to ignore the invitation (verse 5), some mistreat and kill the King's messengers (verse 6) and finally, one guest who does show up isn't dressed properly (verse 12).

Jesus is using this to illustrate God's working in the world and how the people are not responding.

Thus there are four possible responses:
(1) ignore God - many people are oblivious to God
(2) actively oppose God - a quick search of the internet easily yields web sites devoted to atheism
(3) "believe" God but on your own terms - the guest who shows up but dressed improperly
(4) believe God and honor Him - taking God at his word as true, recognizing my sin and trusting in God's provision
for me in forgiving my sin and restoring my relationship to him.

Dennis Prager is fond of saying, "Happiness is a serious problem."

People sometimes have a picture of God as some cosmic kill joy.

But in this scenario, which of the four responses is the right one?

Which response leads to happiness?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sports: The gutty little Bruins onto the Elite Eight!

UCLA 73 Gonzaga 71.

Did you see that?

Unbelievable!

I've seen my share of basketball games and this has got to be one of the wildest finishes I've ever seen.

9 times out of 10, the comeback comes up short and you say, they had heart to fight their way back.

Tonight, the gutty little Bruins were left for dead and somehow found a way to get back into the game and then, incredibly, to win it.

Next up: Memphis. Saturday. 4 PM PST.

Go Bruins!

Sports: Basketball Verbal Brawl

Tonight. Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. UCLA Bruins.

In this LA Times story we get these lovely quotes:
Asked at a Wednesday news conference why Gonzaga and UCLA don't play each other more often — Gonzaga won their only previous meeting, 59-43, at Pauley Pavilion in 1999 — Bulldog Coach Mark Few placed the blame on his UCLA counterpart, Ben Howland.

"One just needs to look at his schedules at Pittsburgh and Northern Arizona," Howland's previous head coaching jobs, Few said, "and you'll find he's the greatest scheduler in the history of mankind. Thank goodness for Dan [Guerrero, UCLA's athletic director] or else they'd be playing Alabama AT&T and four non-Division I schools. If Ben ever gets the schedule away from Dan, look out."
In this other LA Times story we get these tidbits:
Asked what he expects the Bruins to throw at him, Morrison said there are all sorts of possibilities.

"I've seen triangle two, box and one, face guard, beat the … out of me. I've seen everything," he said. "Nothing really surprises me anymore.

"When teams do that stuff, it opens it up for everybody else. That's the way I look at it. It's not just about me. I don't care how many points I score in this tournament. I just want to win."

Howland showed little sympathy when told Morrison talked about being beaten up by opposing defenses.

"He gets away with a lot himself," the UCLA coach said. "He'll grab onto a guy, then act like he's being fouled. He's a smart player. That's what smart players do."
Plaschke had these opinions:
Describing the Zags as this sweet little mid-major basketball team is like describing Aspen as a dusty little western city.

It's outdated, short-sighted and just plain wrong.

The Gonzaga basketball program is not a boutique, it's a bulldozer. Its players are more cocky than cute, its style is more Showtime than Spokane...
[snip]
Compared to Gonzaga's Goliath, UCLA is a bunch of ill-kempt kids with stones in their pockets.

Gonzaga is making its eight consecutive tourney appearance, UCLA is making its second.

Gonzaga was never ranked below the top 10 this season, UCLA was never in the top 10 during the regular season.

With three juniors and a senior in its starting lineup, Gonzaga needs to win now, while freshman and sophomore dominated UCLA is pointed toward next year.
[snip]
As expected, Gonzaga made the first move Wednesday by slapping UCLA in the belly.

"We got to attack them … on the inside first," guard Erroll Knight said. "I think they're vulnerable going into the inside."
[snip]
Of all the volumes written about the Zags as a preamble to this game, the only words necessary were two.

"Cinderella?" said Howland. "Ha!"
6:57 PM PST.

Are you ready to rumble?

U - C - LLLLLLLL - A, UCLA, fight, fight, fight!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sports: Bruins versus Gonzaga Thursday Night

A bit of bad news for the Bruins. Farmar who has had ankle problems
for much of the season injured his left wrist and right thumb in the Alabama game. Excerpt:
An MRI exam and two X-rays on the left wrist of UCLA point guard Jordan Farmar, who was injured in Saturday's victory over Alabama in the second round of the NCAA tournament, were negative.

Still, Bruin Coach Ben Howland isn't happy seeing Farmar wearing a brace on the wrist, which is slightly swollen, or the sight of minor swelling on Farmar's right thumb.

"I'll be fine," said Farmar, who insists his ability to control the ball or shoot it will not be affected by the injury.

Farmar was hurt breaking his fall with both arms after colliding with several Alabama players as he drove down the lane with a little over six minutes to play Saturday.
Hopefully, Farmar will be closer to 100% than to 50%.

The key to UCLA's chances in the Gonzaga game may rest with Collison. Darren Collison is the freshman backup point. He has been getting more and more minutes as the season went along. Howland has been using Collison to give Farmar a break on the bench or allowing Jordan to move over to the 2-guard spot with less ball handling duties.

I'll be really curious who Howland puts on Adam Morrison. Will he use Bozeman the senior who is a little smaller but quicker? Or will he put a Moute who is a freshman but a bit bigger?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sports: Let the madness begin!

Irish Trojan Brendan Loy is on a roll posting about the NCAA brackets!

The inconsistency of some of the seeding seems to be the complaint I'm hearing on TV and radio.

I can see their point.

Then there are complaints about who got in and who didn't.

I dunno... when you get to picking the last 4 teams for at-large bids seeded around the 13-seed level, I am not going to express a lot of confidence that team A is that much more deserving than team B.

Is the sixth team in a power conference really more deserving than the second team in a mid-major?

Is the ninth team in a power conference really more deserving than some of the other bubble teams out there?

Anyway, as for UCLA, I am a fan and am hoping they can pull together a good run.

Some have gone as far as to say, National Championship!

Some other fans are saying, Final Four!

Realistically, they were probably a #3 seed and thus "expected" to get to the Sweet Sixteen but no further.

As I see it, the media buzz around the Pac10 tournament run might be a bit overdone.

Beating Oregon State - they were supposed to beat them up. They were also without Sasa Cuic their star play.

Beating Arizona - they were supposed to win. Hassan Adams was suspended for a DUI so Arizona was not up to full strength.

Beating California - they were supposed to win. How much of the relative ease of victory was that fact that the Bears played a 2OT game the night before.

Then there is that fact that the "non-conference wins and losses" factor doesn't look good for UCLA. The losses were to Memphis and West Virginia. The win over Nevada remains a nice one as they are an NCAA team. The win over Michigan looked good at the time but has lost its luster as Michigan has collapsed and are an NIT team this year.

Howland has done a terrific job but his success has now created the monster of unrealistic expectations among Bruin fans.

A Final Four appearance would be an extremely pleasant surprise and probably a year ahead of a realistic schedule for this team.

An Elite Eight finish would be a happy outcome for most fans.

A Sweet Sixteen appearance will be met with mixed feelings among fans. Some will say, yeah, that was about right and will look forward to next year. But others will start calling into radio shows and say the Howland can't win the big game!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sports: UCLA Bruin Basketball, Return to Glory?



The Bruins took the regular season Pacific-10 title. On Saturday, they added the title of Pacific-10 tournament champions.

When the year started, I figured they were likely to come in third behind Arizona and Washington. Instead, Arizona has had a rough year (finished 4th) and Washington had one bad patch in their conference play that allowed UCLA to take the title despite being beaten by Washington twice this season.

On Saturday afternoon, I attended my fifth basketball game in 48 hours.

I blogged about the Big West tournament including my two days of watching games on Thursday and Friday evenings. The posts can be found in the links below:

Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1
Preview, part II
Preview, part I



In the Pacific-10 post-season tournament, I rooted for UCLA (Biochemistry, 1986) and followed their fate. They had easily defeated Oregon State and Arizona setting up the final game with the California Golden Bears.



The seats were a little more expensive than seats at the Big West Tournament and the distance from the floor was considerable!



The crowd was not surprisingly quite partisan for UCLA. Listen to the fans cheer along with the band. Apparently, the University of California has a song for their bands to play. In this clip UC Irvine's band plays the same tune. The California Berkeley band apparently does not play this tune as their fight song. The UC Santa Barbara band did not either. I suppose it is up to the band director and the school athletic departments to decide if they want to use the song.



AP recap.

How far can this team go?

The NCAA has put the Bruins as a #2 seed in the Western Region. If the selection committee gets what they are hoping for, UCLA would face Memphis in a rematch for entry into the Final Four.

ONE GAME AT A TIME! They don't call it March Madness for nothing.

UCLA faces Belmont on Thursday!

U - C - LLLLLLLLL - A - UCLA - FIGHT - FIGHT - FIGHT!!!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: Justified Judgement

Am looking at Matthew 21:33-46 this morning.

Jesus is continuing his running commentary on the state of religious affairs with the religious leaders of the day.

As I was reading, I was thinking, if Jesus showed up at the Temple say at 10AM and engaged in a running dialog with them until 4PM, how many pages would the transcript be?

What we have in the Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) isn't a exhaustive word-for-word recounting of these conversations. In those days, they couldn't replay an audio tape or review the videotape.

If one were to take a purely "naturalistic" (no divine intervention) view, what we have would be highlights of what stood out in the mind of the writer.

We see this in the newspapers today. Suppose Prime Minister Tony Blair visits President George W. Bush and they hold a joint news conference. The only place you will find the whole thing would probably be CSPAN. But if you read the newspaper, a hard copy or an internet site, what we get are snippets. If you ask someone who was there, they might give a report from memory and notes they jotted down.

Thus, in the times of Jesus, we can't roll the videotape and what we get are the most memorable episodes in what could have been 6 hours of argumentation between Jesus and the religious leaders.

If we take a view that God inspired the writers, the question then becomes, does that mean dictation? Does that mean, God speaks to the writer and tells Matthew, these are the specific stories I want you to write down.

Or might inspiration be more subtle: God helped Mark remember certain specific stories. Did God guide Luke to interview certain people who met Jesus? How did the Spirit direct John to highlight episodes in Jesus life that were not recounted by Matthew, Mark or Luke?

There is no way for us nearly 2000 years later to know which way it happened.

However, we do know that there is remarkable levels of consistency between the various Gospel accounts.

But back to Matthew 21:33-46.

What we have here is a very potent story!

Jesus using story telling to make a point. Landowner with a vineyard leaves and allows the tenant farmers to run the place but he sends people back periodically to check on things and collect a share of the earnings. The farmers kill and beat up his emissaries. Finally, the landowner sends his son and he too is murdered.

Jesus asks, what should the landowner do?

The religious leaders, like anyone else, said, he should punish those people and give the land to someone else to farm.

Jesus then delivers the knock out punch: the Kingdom of God will be taken away from YOU and given to others.

This is justified judgment.

Fair is fair.

Lord, help me to recognize my sin and confess it to you and do what I can to make it right. Help me to stop whining about this or that and see the tremendous gift of the Kingdom you have given to me and to share it with others. Amen.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: you decide - whose authority ... will you follow?

Looking at Matthew 21:23-32. A series of dialogs with the religious leaders of the day. It continues on in verse 33-46 but will only take a look at the 2 shorter episodes this morning.

Previously, Jesus had chased out the merchants from the Temple.

The religious leaders wanted to know, on whose authority did Jesus upset the apple cart?

Jesus could have answered them but sometimes it is better to answer a question by asking a question!

So Jesus asked them, "Did John's baptism come from heaven or was it merely human?"

The religious leaders were stuck. If they said human, the crowds would object because John was viewed as a prophet which would be of god and heaven. If they said heaven then they should have accepted John which they didn't. So they said, we dunno!

Jesus said then, I won't answer your question.

But they knew the answer. They had a "problem" with authority because they didn't want to follow John nor Jesus.

Jesus then sticks it to them with the story in verse 28-32.

Jesus says what do you think about this? A son is asked to work in the vineyard and he said he wouldn't but later on decided to work in the vineyard; the other son is asked to work in the vineyard and he said he would but didn't. Jesus asks, who was obedient?

They reply, the first son, of course.

Jesus tells them tax collectors (probably the most reviled males in society) and prostitutes (probably the most disreputable females in society) will get to the Kingdom of God before the religious leaders because when John the Baptist preached turn from your sins and these people did and the religious leaders didn't.

Jesus continues to take it to them in verse 33-46. We'll look at that next time.

Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. Help me to cast aside any pride of place and position and follow you. Guide me to see the people you place in my life as people in need of you. Give me wisdom to know how to answer people's questions when they ask about Jesus by direct answer or asking them a question to get them to think things through. Amen.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Culture: Southern California Curling Club!



At the moment, it is a Yahoo! Groups with the plan being to have an Open House to introduce people to the game and gauge the level of interest.

When: April 23rd, 2006
Where: Ontario Ice Rink in Ontario, California.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sports: Pac10 showdowns

The regular season is about to come to an end and UCLA, California, Washington and Arizona are all in position to take the Pac10 title. UCLA faces California tonight. Washington faces Arizona on Saturday.

The following week is the Pac10 post-season tournament where these four teams are expected to face off in the semi-finals and finals.

UCLA beat Arizona twice and Washington beat UCLA twice but Arizona beat Washington! California split with Arizona and Washington. As you can see, all very evenly matched.

Will any of these four teams run the table and go 5-0 and claim a higher spot in the NCAA?

Or will the teams continue to beat each other senseless?

California has a huge frontline. Washington has a tough senior point guard. Arizona has athletic players with an eye for offense. UCLA relies on their 2 guards and good team defense.

GO BRUINS!

UPDATE: Whew! Down 11 at the half, the Bruins came back and it was bearfight to a tie in regulation. But the Bruins took over in OT for the win! GO BRUINS! Next on the schedule is Stanford. Can't afford a let down. Maples Pavilion is like Haas, a place with rabid noisy fans.

Culture: New Web page about the Da Vinci Code

The movie is coming out soon. I read the book and reviewed it back in 2004.

Here is a web page for those who want to dialog about the film.

In one of the articles, Hugh Hewitt says:
The release of The Da Vinci Code provides a unique opportunity to discuss the person of Jesus Christ with many people who would otherwise never welcome the opportunity. Which is why savvy Christians welcome the hoopla around both the book and the film: It will launch a million conversations, and if you are prepared, those conversations will have a vital and long-lasting -- even eternal -- impact on their lives.

Unprepared, you can confirm the worst stereotypes about Christians as intolerant and ignorant.
I'll be checking back in as more materials are posted.

I certainly hope there will be lots of dialog about the movie.

Christians believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of all humanity.

The Da Vinci Code says that Jesus was just another human being and had children with Mary Magdalen and that the church fabricated a fanciful story of Jesus as the Lord and Savior afterward.

Using an example from daily life, a fruit is on the table, you can call it an orange or you can call it an apple. Both can't be true. Somebody is right and somebody isn't. Though I suppose *both* could be wrong if it is a peach!

Anyway, let the discussion (hopefully vigorous but friendly and honest) begin!

Here are some additional thoughts I have about the whole Da Vinci Code phenomena.