Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Real Consequences for Boorish Fans

I've written in the past about terrible fan behavior at ballgames, but a recent story about an 8-year old kid who got roughed up by a disgruntled (and drunk) Cleveland Browns fan really underscores how bad the situation has become. Apparently, after the Browns lost a heartbreaker in overtime to the New York Jets in Cleveland, a kid wearing a Jets jersey (his father was born in New York) was physically tackled by a drunk fan in the parking lot, after fleeing the stadium when food and profanity rained down after the Jets winning touchdown.

I'm not picking on Cleveland, because I know that boorish fans exist all over the place. What I find stupid are comments along the lines of: "Well, if people wear opposing jerseys to a sporting event, they're asking for trouble."

No they're not. Have we really become a society where people are conceding their physical safety by going to an sporting event wearing the opposing team's paraphernalia? I'm not talking about Red Sox fans chanting "2004!" to Yankee fans or Giants fans chanting "18-1!" to Patriots fans. I'll even grudgingly accept some harsh language (although I think people need to use discretion especially with children) - though "Romo is a homo" and "Suck my d*ck Tom Brady" aren't just unnecessary - they aren't at all creative or funny. But is physical harm ever acceptable in these cases? If my legal understanding of "assault" and/or "battery" are correct, I don't think they should be.

And for crying out loud, we really need to revisit the alcohol service at these sporting events. Yes, I know that they're big moneymakers for the stadiums and teams, but isn't it painfully obvious that we need more meaningful policing of excessive drinking leading to unacceptable behavior of fans? I'm not saying that we should eliminate alcohol sales, but it doesn't take a mass breathalyzer to realize that sitting in stadium full of people, there are a whole lots of people who are drinking who shouldn't have had that last drink... or the one before that.

Sports teams need to put real teeth into penalizing bad behavior, such as canceling the PSL's or season tickets of fans of bad behaviors, regardless of whether the season-ticket holder was involved. Do you think you'd be careful about who you sold your tickets to if you're PSL was at stake? How about banning people to local sporting events for a period of 12 to 24 months?

Perhaps the greatest consequence that will resonate with fans is losing player and free agents who are completely turned off by their boorish behavior. That's why part of me, despite my Yankee fan leanings, wants to see Cliff Lee accept less money and stay with Texas while spurning the Yankees, and say during his press conference, "To be honest, I was pretty excited about the prospect of being a Yankee until a couple of fans harassed and spit on my wife." Maybe that would lead to some self-policing and better behavior.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Only $45M? Derek Jeter's Got Minka Kelly to Feed

As a Yankees fan, I need to weigh in on the Derek Jeter free agency controversy. How much should the Yankees offer to the iconic shortstop and captain, who has been nothing but professional in his actions on and off the field, and has been a clutch performer in the regular seasons since coming up in 1996, winning five World Series championships in the3 process.

I like Jeter. I like him a lot. I'm grateful for his contributions in turning a franchise which had lost his way into perennial contenders. But I cannot and will not respect him squeezing the Yankees front office for every last penny given (1) he's clearly not the same player he was in his prime, (2) he's coming off his worst season and (3) it's fair to say that he's underperformed his just expired $21 million / year contract the last couple of years.

According to a number of sports news sources, the Yankees are willing to pay a generous premium for "intangibles" and for past goodwill to the tune of $21 millions dollars a year for three years, which I think is at least twice as much as he's worth as a ballplayer. What slightly irritates me is word that Jeter is unhappy about the thought of a pay-cut and wants at least a four year deal for around the same per season money. That's ludicrous.

Are you kidding me? From a baseball perspective, $21 million per for three years is a gift. Does Jeter really have the nerve to be insulted or unhappy with this offer? In an sputtering job economy, is he really going to be so stupid as to turn this down? I'd be careful about how he positioned this if I were him, lest this become only slightly easier to swallow when former NBA malcontent (and coach choker) Latrell Sprewell infamously said upon receiving an "insulting" contract extension offer of 3 years / $30 million dollars, "I got my family to feed."

I resonate with the "hardliner" in the Yankees front office who said, "Tell him the deal is three years at $15 million a year, take it or leave it. Wait him out and he'll wind up taking it. Where's he gonna go, Cincinnati?" That's a fair deal, and the $21 million per year is a ridiculously generous deal.

And for Yankees fans who say, "The Yankees have plenty of money, just pay the man!" It's just not that simple. Yes, the Yankees are loaded, but the reality is that even that organization has a budget, especially when a luxury tax forces them to pay double for any payroll dollar over a certain threshold. Paying Jeter that additional $5 million means less flexibility to get, let's say, Chris Carpenter, Grady Sizemore or Mark Buehrle in a midseason trade. That additional year in 2014 might mean that you can't go out and get David Price or Tim Lincecum as a free agent.

The Yankees have all the leverage here. If they message this well and make it clear that they've made reasonable attempts to keep Jeter in New York, and he still thumbs his nose at $15 million a year, I can't see this ending up good for him if he ends his career in another uniform - especially if the Yankees win another World Series while his contract becomes an albatross on another team.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Your Fault I Lost My Temper

In a bizarre report from the Star-Ledger, a New Jersey woman has been accused ot purposely antagonizing drivers to tailgate her. What exactly is the crime? Being criminally annoying? Does that mean if I succumb to road rage and tailgate someone, I can file a report against the driver who drove ten miles below the speed limit in the fast line, citing that their bad driving caused me to succumb to criminal road rage? I find this somewhat disconcerting in how we assess blame when conflicts boil over into acts of anger.

I'm not necessarily saying that the accused is without fault. According to the article, Karen Born had filed 22 police reports and it's possible that she was a little nuts. What does concern me is that at face value, charging the lady with the crime is tantamount to my son Daniel hitting my preschool daughter Sophia and saying, "She made me mad," and then me punishing my daughter for antagonizing my son, while letting Daniel off scot-free.

Heck, it's not confined to kids. When adults fight (not that my wife and I ever fight, of course), don't we pull out the same lame excuse? "Why do you have so nasty about it?" "Because you're not listening to me!" And of course the more horrible version of it can be seen in domestic abuse or child abuse, when a husband beats a wife or child because "she was nagging me" or "the kid was driving me crazy". The whole phenomena is based upon the false premise that you are not responsible for your own actions. Or put another way, you can hold others accountable for "making you" do the wrong thing.

So in any conflict, I try to eliminate that construct from any argument or conflict that I'm either arbitrating or in the middle of. Take away all notions of, "You made me lose my temper" or "You made me do it." Nobody has the power to compel retribution, revenge or anger provided that there's due self-control. And certainly nobody compels physical violence. You also see this in the inner-city notion of "respect". When someone doesn't feel that they've been "disrespected", the seemingly acceptable way to deal with it is through violence instead of simply walking away. This has to change.

As difficult as it is to honor the biblical mandate to turn the other cheek, it's clear to me that the accountability around acting in anger lies in ourselves. The shifting of that accountability isn't just bad for the soul, it's potentially bad for society.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Legalized Most Dangerous Drug

A recent study from a British medical journal suggests that alcohol - not heroin, crack, speed, marijuana or cocaine - has the greatest potential harm to the individual and others. To me, the study cuts both ways - it shows the potential implications of legalizing other "harmless" drugs such as marijuana, but it also opens the good question of, "Gee, we seem awfully tolerant of a highly addictive drug that kills a heck of a lot of people physically, emotionally and financially." Yes, you can absolutely lump tobacco into this as well (more on this later).

On the first point, there's a vocal segment that argues for the legalization of marijuana, arguing that it's relatively non-addictive. Nobody will try to convince you that it has no impact upon someone's cognitive, motor and judgment skills - so the argument is "it's not any worse than alcohol, so legalize it." That leads to the question of, do you want to deal with the repercussions of many more innocent people being killed by drivers who are impaired by marijuana? If we all agree of the damage that alcohol does to people and families, do we want to replicate for yet another drug under the cop-out of, "People should it use this legally and responsibly, and it's just a shame when abuse ruins the lives of others."

On the second point, I do also agree that the tobacco and alcohol exception from the controlled substance designation can seem arbitrary. I'll share some words from comedian Chris Rock, from an excerpt from his book, Rock This!:
People say we should just legalize drugs and deal with it.

Let me clue you in.

The only reason drugs aren't legal is because white guys didn't think of making cocaine first. If drugs were made in America by white guys, they would have been legal twnety years ago-when we could have enjoyed them.

Should we legalize drugs? I don't know. Imagine America a year after drugs are cool. There'd be drug sales everywhere. You could buy them at Macy's or Price Club or Pathmark-just like alcohol, tobacco and gum. The Macy's TV ad would be "This week Macy's got crack! You think JC Penney's got crack? We got crack! And with every $35 purchase of Estee Lauder products, a dime bag of crack in its own designer vial, suitable for reuse again and again."
The opinions expressed in these paragraphs above are solely those of Chris Rock and not necessarily shared by the Suburban Family Guy - though he does find them really funny.

In one of his stand up routines, Chris Rock expounds upon the first paragraph around the "white-owned" alcohol and tobacco industries, pointing out it's inexplicably placed on a different category as the other drugs despite the fact that it's likely that "one of us will drive home from this concert and get killed by someone impaired by alcohol." I have to admit, his words are not only hilarious, but it sort of makes you think. The question is, why is the answer to default to the least common denominator of legalizing all drugs?

I'm not arguing for a return to early 20th century prohibition per se, but I'm seeing some blurry lines behind the things we tolerate in society and the things that we apparently don't. And I think we all agree that there's clearly a negative impact which is bad for many and deadly for some.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Trails to the Walkman

After thirty years of distinguished service, Sony is retiring the Walkman personal cassette player which a staple of teens and young adults of recent generations. As a lover of electronics, the Walkman has always held a special part in my heart, and I can reflect fondly of the past Walkmen that I've had, as well as the non-Sony imitations which have come and gone.

I still remember my other brother and I were hoping to get one of these things in the early 80's. At that time, we were relegated to listening to cassettes of taped-off-the-radio music in a boom box, and we hoped to bring something a little less bulky to listen in the back seat during long car rides. Besides, my parents were probably not particularly fond of having to hear Air Supply, Men at Work, Kenny Rogers, the Go-Go's and Michael Jackson blaring from the back of the car.

The first portable device was a Taiwanese knockoff device that our cousin and aunt gave to us. It was white with blue trim, and broke within a month. We then proceeded to buy a bulky (about the size of a VHS cassette), but still somewhat portable model from General Electric, which you could only fast-forward but not reverse. That device had some staying power, but still obviously stunk. I think it was only until I was in sixth grade (in the mid-80's) before I went to CTY that I was finally permitted to splurge and get the real thing, and while my heart was set on getting the gold standard metal cased "cassette-box"-sized Walkman which cost about $100, I settled for a $60 version which was a little bulky which had two groundbreaking features: (1) MegaBass and (2) the ability to manually configure three preset radio stations which could be changed with three mini-radial tuners in the inside cover.

While this was one of only two "authentic" (Sony-branded) Walkmen that I owned, the portable radio/cassette player has been something that has played a big part of my life, being something that I would constantly carry with me during walks and as I fell asleep. The device, for better or worse, had an impact on our culture as it eschewed "community listening" in favor of "listen to whatever you want as an individual". I can recall certain songs played on my Walkman in solitude during different seasons (good and bad) in my life. And even today, the Walkman still comes in handy for late night sports games, when I really should get some sleep, but I can't resist knowing how my team is doing.

It's likely that someday we might be making the same eulogy for the iPod, and people will similarly reflect upon how that device was that odd companion which made music accessible and personal at random times in one's life.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Raising Kids to Be Good Spouses

A recent article on CNN.com caught my eye, addressing the impact that mothers having on their sons growing up to become good husbands. Naturally, I think that there's a profound impact that both parents have upon both genders of children; I'd even argue that the "same gender" parent has a more direct impact, because of the likelihood that the child will mimic behavior that the parent sees, or more specifically, a daughter can't help but imitate mom's actions and behaviors towards dad, and a son can't help but imitate dad's actions and behaviors towards mom.

Dad: Tell me! Who taught you to do this stuff?
Kid: You, all right? I learned it from watching you.
Serious-sounding off-screen narrator: Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs.
The truth of the matter is that if I need to consciously think about the example I'm setting for my son, I'm already in trouble. Ideally, I should model good husband character and behavior first and foremost because it's the right and honorable thing to do. The fact that it provides a good example is a inevitable side benefit. I hope that my relationship with my wife is overwhelmingly loving, selfless, giving, compassionate, supportive, sympathetic, humble, patient and my wife sees that in spade. That my son notices and may imitate in the future would be great.

Of course, the negative is a double-whammy. My failures as a husband will get noticed, and I can only hope that for those failures my son will acknowledge his father's failures, forgive him for them, and not emulate those traits in his own marriage.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Pilgrimage Down Amnesia Lane Redux

A few Sundays ago, our family went back to Emmanuel Presbyterian Church to celebrate the church's tenth anniversary. As a former launch team member and Ruling Elder at Emmanuel, I was given the honor of sharing about my nine-years worth of experience at the church, going back to 2000 when we started visioning for a church plant in the Morningside Heights neighborhood in New York City.

It was a great celebration and a great time to catch up, albeit briefly, with a lot of old church friends. In addition to talks given at the service, a number of talks were given after the service by other former members while we feasted on lunch and cake. Music, which had been commissioned for the occasion, was performed, and we watched in reflection as videos commemorated the many events, people and milestones which marked Emmanuel's evolution and growth as a church.

We were predictably greeted with a lot a warmth, as well as many "Look how big Daniel and Sophia are!"-type comments towards our kids. Given the number of people who we saw (and still know) and limited time, there wasn't much time beyond more than "life is good but busy, kids are exhausting but wonderful" sound bites. Sarah was bawling for much of the service, getting caught in the emotion of returning to a church, pastors and friends which meant so much to her and her family.

I was a little more even-keeled about it. It's not as if I love EPC any less or didn't relish the long time we spent there. Maybe I've (hopefully not coldly) come to grips that our faith journey often involves moving from different communities which love us and shape us. But God has always been faithful in terms of bringing great friends and brothers and sisters - even if those relationships look different. This dawned upon me while I was at a fundraising banquet for First Choice, an unplanned pregnancy ministry. The table that Sarah and I "hosted" was filled with our friends from Montclair Redeemer, our current church home. I'm grateful that I don't have to choose between or compare friends - all are special, and all will be particularly prominent during a particular season of life.

In any case, here's what I shared that Sunday. I reprint not because this has the inspiration of a Winston Churchill or spiritual power of a Jonathan Edwards speech, but because given the themes which I believe are common with many great church experiences, it'll be a nice reminder to me (or anyone) else of how God is faithful to His church - and how He is the foundation of "great church experiences". Here it is:
More than ten years ago, about a dozen people gathered in Cynthia Lyman’s apartment just down the street and thought, what are the possibilities? The vision at the time was to plant a church in Morningside Heights that would strategically position us to reach out to the university population a stone’s throw away, the yuppie population to the south, and the under-represented minority population to the north.
We would have high-energy worship, we would be community and neighborhood focused, we would have gospel-centered biblical preaching which would be relevant to a post-modern culture and satisfy both the soul and the mind. We’d be a congregation small enough where people could know each other on a first name basis and we’d have deep enough relationships where we could “do life” together and go below the surface in encouraging, admonishing and loving one another.
The handful of people who were on that Launch Team all believed in this vision. And when I wasn’t distracted checking out the cute Korean chick who would eventually become my wife, I would relish in the anticipation and excitement of serving in a ministry which was passionate about Scripture, reaching those who needed to hear the Good News, and bringing Jesus’ lordship over all things in people’s lives.
What I didn’t expect is just how much I would be blessed being a congregant at this same church, having the opportunity to be sharpened by those same sermons, living in community with those same people, and being challenged by the words and examples of my pastors and fellow congregants.
During my time at Emmanuel, I got married and I had kids, two of the most wonderful but sometimes traumatizing times of transition times in someone’s life. I only exaggerate a little when I say that Emmanuel was instrumental in keeping both my sanity and my wife’s sanity intact. If you were here at Emmanuel while I was here, believe me when I tell you that even if we never had a sit-down serious conversation about marriage, kids, work or life, you have influenced my perspective in these areas. Most of those are in the arena of “that’s something I really should do” as opposed to “Wow, that’s just awful”
But in seriousness, I learned a great deal because we talked openly about these things and our pastors and elders made the effort to teach us what the Word had to say about these things. We talked about body image, we talked about homosexuality, we talked about fear of failure, we talked about politics in the Church, we talked about uncontrollable kids, we talked the insatiable hunger for status and money, we talked about pornography, we talked about being lonely in a city of 8 million people.
Here at Emmanuel, I learned that God’s grace really is sufficient and that God’s grace is amazing. At Emmanuel, there is no glory and no honor in false facades that “everything is fine” when they’re really not. I’ve never known a church which has lived out 2 Corinthians 12:9 as earnestly as Emmanuel, when the apostle Paul speaks of the Lord telling him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." And therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Here at Emmanuel, I deepened my understanding of servant leadership as modeled by our pastors, learning that people responded less to titles of authority but more to authentic and genuine sacrificial love. I renewed my love of service and shepherding others, not out of obligation or duty, but as an extension and joyful response of God’s love for me. I remembered that there are few things that bring greater joy than to make disciples and grow disciples of Christ.
As I stand here this morning, I know that I’m just one of the many stories at Emmanuel which can attest to God’s faithfulness to His people and to His church. There are three or four hundred other stories which could be shared about how this church was a place of healing, how this church a place for growth, how this church was a place where someone fell in love with Jesus for the first time, and how this church was a place where they rekindled their faith. As a congregation we have celebrated together: people coming to Christ, friends getting married, friends finding jobs after long layoffs, children being born, reconciled relationships. We have also mourned together in the midst of tragedy and loss: Brett Tabak, Yilo Cheng and Mark Ellis are just three of the people who I wish were sitting with us in these seats this morning..
I hope we all, especially those who are currently in this congregation, realize how blessed we are to have Charlie Drew and Scott Strickman as our pastors, men who love the Word and love their flock, who deftly combine wisdom, grace, humor and compassion. We should acknowledge the service of the Ruling Elders in the past ten years, notably Jim Ziglar who generously devotes so much of his time as the lone ruling elder currently on the Session. We should recognize the amazing work of the EMT members, past and present, who have injected mercy and justice into the DNA of the congregation. We are grateful for the patience and love of those who care for and teach our children each Sunday. We applaud those musicians who draw us and lead us regularly into praise and worship. As you can see by those who quietly arrive early and stay late to set up and break down the A/V equipment, chairs and communion materials, this church is filled with faithful servants. I am humbled by your example.
Recognizing all of what I just said, this church has not endured and thrived because the people inside its walls are perfect. Our church’s journey has not been without its bumps and missteps. The hard reality is that despite the abundant testimony of those here today who will speak of how sweet their Emmanuel experience was, I’m not so na├»ve as to not realize that there are people who left this church under some clouds, with even angry or bitter feelings that they were not loved or cared for as they needed to be. As a church, we have sometimes fallen short. I know that as a former member and a leader in this church, there are things that I wish I had done that I didn’t do, and there were things that I wish I did differently.
No, this church has not endured because of the perfection and good intentions of its leaders and members. This church has endured because Christ, the head of the church is faithful and has been faithful to His bride. Jesus our Emmanuel is the reason that Emmanuel Presbyterian Church has made such a difference in the lives of so many. We are all simply broken vessels along for the ride, and it’s been a great one for so many of us. As someone who had been here for nine years, we all have great seats in the house to see God at work.
As I close, I want to say to those of you who today are members at Emmanuel, thank you for your faithfulness in continuing the legacy that was started ten years ago.
If you’re sitting in the congregation as a current member and struggle at times, feeling discouraged about investing in relationships which seem to come and go as people migrate in and out of this great city, please know that your labor is not in vain – the movement just means that you’ve either touched a lot of lives coming from and going to all over the world; or that you have an opportunity to touch a lot of lives coming from and going to all over the world.
We are all sojourners here, and all of us, by the grace of God, have been both vessels and recipients of God’s transforming power in our lives at Emmanuel. We will always be connected by a common vision: To know Emmanuel and to advance his peace in our community. And the work that God has done here is worth celebrating and giving thanks for, and that is true today – and it will still be true many years from now when you, like me, have long since left this church.
I then proceeded to (multiple choice):

A) Hurl myself from the pulpit onto the cheering congregation and crowd surf.
B) Make a quick exit away from a furious congregation which gnashed their teeth as they ripped off their clothes and started to pick up stones.
C) Walk away to cheers, returning for an encore as people in the congregation held up cigarette lighters and cell phones and screamed "Stairway to Heaven! Stairway to Heaven!"
D) Meekly creep away as the crowd shouted, "You (stink)! Bring on Jinna Chung!"
E) Close in prayer.

It was E, though any of the other options would've made for a more interesting day. Even without that, I'd say it was a pretty special day nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Suburban Family Guy's Fantasy Football 2010-2011 Midseason Update

As we're about midway through the Fantasy Football regular season, it's time for the midseason update for the teams in leagues which I oversee as commissioner. I do, however, want to give a shout out to my team in my buddy-from-B-school's-brother's league, which knowing I wouldn't be able to manage actively, chose to turn into a novelty team:

Offensive Players
QB Alex Smith (SF - QB)
WR Roy Williams (Dal - WR)
WR Steve Smith (Car - WR)
WR Brad Smith (NYJ - WR)
RB Steven Jackson (StL - RB)
RB DeAngelo Williams (Car - RB)
TE Alex Smith (Cle - TE)
BN Troy Smith (SF - QB)
BN Steve Smith (NYG - WR)
BN Ricky Williams (Mia - RB)
K Mason Crosby (GB - K)
Defensive Players
D Derrick Johnson (KC - LB)
D Daryl Smith (Jac - LB)
DB Tramon Williams (GB - CB)
DB Alphonso Smith (Det - CB)
DL Justin Smith (SF - DE)
DL Mario Williams (Hou - DE)
BN Madieu Williams (Min - S)
BN Kyle Williams (Buf - DT)
BN Corey Williams (Det - DT)

I present to you Smith Williams LLP, a team full of players with common names, mostly Smith and Williams, though I had to throw in some Jacksons and Johnsons to fill out the roster - and there's no placekicker with a generic last name. What's amazing is my team is actually competitive and beat three teams which are being actively managed. Can you imagine how irritated those owners were to lose to a novelty team? In the alternate reality of this team, I'd love to see the head coach yell, "Hey Smith, get over here!" and have ten people turn around and ask, "Who me?"

Now to the league updates (not including this past weekend's action):

The Emmanuel Classic
The parity in this league is amazing, and there's clearly evidence that after a year under many of these team owners' belts, they are wiser and smarter. For one, people aren't making bonehead moves like trading away (cough) Tom Brady and Antonio Gates for nowhere close to value, ignoring the axiom to never deal a great player for two good ones, etc. Sure we have some guys that obviously don't care and aren't managing their teams, but as I told one manager irritated at their inactivity, "What do you want me to do? Nag them for not being a loser and wasting their time like the rest of us?" Here's where we stand:

1 Gigantor (Cummings) 6-1
Alan's put together a strong team this year, and has rattled off an important wins against the Rabid Hamsters, ANSKY, and Pablo only falling to Beginner's Luck? when key performers Matt Schaub, Miles Austin and Ricky Williams fell flat. He's since made some nice pickups, including Danny Woodhead He does have a big game coming up against yours truly, which will similarly be a "see how good we really are" game for the Sharks.

2 Wyld Stallyns (Fehringer) 6-1
Will, whose team motto is "BONVM LINGUAE PROPINQVVM LATINAE DICTVM", has only fell to the Beginner's Luck (hmm... do you see a pattern here?), while also scoring quality wins against ... almost everyone else except Gigantor. I'd have to say that Wyld Stallyns is in a good place, and his team might have steamrolled everyone else if Tom Brady was having a Tom Brady-type season, for which all hope disappeared when the Pats traded away Randy Moss. Without a superhuman Brady, WyldStallyns might be ripe to get picked off.

3 Beginner's Luck? (Kwon) 5-2
I need to again point out that Rich Kwon is a man who knew pretty much nothing about football a year ago, yet rallied to make playoffs and ended up as the runner up in our league. I'm very impressed with his squad, and with a stud QB (Drew Brees) and the best TE in the league (Antonio Gates), Rich is my midseason pick to go all the way. Strangely, even though he dealt the only loss to the only two 1-loss teams in our league, he had dropped to straight decisions (Not gonna give out free marketing).com and MoonWater at the start of the season, before realizing that there's more important things than his new teaching job and cultivating his relationship with his then new girlfriend. Since that epiphany, he's been unstoppable. Look out league.

4 (Not gonna give out free marketing).com (Yeoh) 5-2
Chris is the first person to admit that he doesn't belong in this slot, given that he's hardly touched his team, apparently too busy with his kid. To be fair, three of his wins are against people who also aren't managing their teams. The other win was against Beginner's Luck (see above comment) and MoonWater (which I can't explain). Unless Chris decided to jump back in, his team is going to get exposed soon.

5 The Rabid Hamsters (Cheng) 4-3
I love how when Chin approaches you to make a deal, he'll point out how awful your team is and how you shouldn't just take him up on his gracious offer, but you should send him a check for his generosity. This is the intense competitor that you drives the animal within. If you're going to commit a crime in Brooklyn, just don't do it on his watch. Crime never sleeps, and neither than Chin. Anyway, back to Fantasy Football... good team, mediocre receivers, but given his obsession with making moves (60 thusfar) and attention to detail, he'll likely go deep into the playoffs.

6 Short Hills Sharks (Kuo) 4-3
Not going to spend a lot of time here. I like my team - on any given day I can beat anyone else in this league. I said "can", not "will".

7 ANSKY (Lee) 3-4
I gotta say that I think Phenom Phil has backslid a little from his impressive performance last year. I know like many other Yankees fans, he's a little down, but I haven't seen the masterful waiver wire pickups and shrewd trades that I saw more of last year. Don't get me wrong, ANSKY is still a dangerous team, I just thought he'd be scoring in Gigantor or Beginner's Luck? territory. Plus he needs to step up his YouTube clip highlighting.

8 Pablo (Huang) 3-4
Now that last year's champ Steve Lee isn't around to fleece our friend Paul, Pablo has positioned himself well to break his one year playoff drought. What's going to help is that while he's 3-4, he's had a heckuva lot of points scored against him by other good teams. In other words, the law of averages should help him. Plus, he has two games left to play against the Mosquitos and (Not going to give out free marketing).com

9 MoonWater (Lien) 3-4
Rob started off so strong, including a convincing win over Beginners Luck? scoring 174 points, but has since tailed off. He hasn't been helped by crippling injuries to Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and Dallas Clark.

10 Dennis (Lee) 2-5
I hear that Dennis is very good softball player. Apparently that didn't transfer to his non-existent and unmotivated Fantasy Football skills

11 Mosquitos (Dombrowski) 1-6
I caught a tweet from Justin conceding that "He has no idea how to play Fantasy Football". I concede that he's correct.

12 Team Singletary (Lin) 0-7
We all congratulate Luke and Branda on their beautiful new place in Summit! How about those 49ers... oops, never mind.

The Redeemer Montclair Classic
The parity in this league isn't quite there, which is to be expected in a league's first year. People are learning how to play and the growing pains of "Oh crap, I probably shouldn't have dropped Tom Brady just because he had a 'bye'" or "Wait, you mean that you don' t get points credit for players that are sitting in the bench?" or "Hey, is it a problem that my defensive players are no longer in the NFL?" must come and go. That being said, I'm glad that people in my new home church are learning how to be awful stewards of their time.

1 Shark Fin Soup (Houng) 6-1
Abe's been wicked good, the only blemish so far being an opening week loss to yours truly. He's rebounded nicely from the season-ending injury to Jessica Simpson's ex-boyfriend by trading DE James Hall or Joe Flacco? Lopsided trade, you say? Yes, you and the rest of the universe agree - with the exception of the rest of the owners of this league, apparently. In any case, look for Abe to be in the hunt to the very end - especially if he next manages to convince Randy Lovelace to trade Reggie Wayne for "an excellent kicker".

2 Chatham Coasters 6-1
Ming's continues to burn up the waiver wire, with 50 moves so far this season. This isn't a backhanded compliment, but it's impressive that he's been able to make the most with a roster which isn't all the impressive. He has a very good QB in Philip Rivers who's the league leading point getter. Beyond that, Miles Austin just isn't that impressive without Jessica Simpson's ex-boyfriend, Pierre Thomas is banged up, and Joseph Addai splits carries. C'mon, Ming, in one of those 50 moves you couldn't find a hidden gem like Arian Foster or Hakeem Nicks?

3 Short Hills Sharks 5-1-1
With my slightly underachieving squad, I've got 'em right where I want 'em.

4 BLITZkrieg 4-3
This is impressive. Pastor Erik Swanson was in the running for most neglected team for while, and then suddenly made a slew of shrewd moves. He has a stinky, but high-point getting QB in Carson Palmer, two great RB's in Chris Johnson and Arian Foster, a great WR in Roddy White. However, he has suspect individual defensive players, which might be his Achilles' heel. Most importantly, my kids are learning about Jesus in Sunday School, and for that I am very grateful for Erik's efforts towards that end.

5 Haste The Day 3-4
Len has a deceptively dangerous team. Yes he's a game under .500, but this team is explosive, with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Turner and a surprising Brandon Lloyd. Tom Brady is steady, even if he's not putting up the Tecmo Bowl numbers he was putting up a few years ago. My bet is that he ends up on top... at least amongst the non-Asians in the league. By the way, as a tip of my cap to Len, "Haste the Day" is a Christian metal group. Don't laugh, I'm actually a fan of the Cross Movement (Christian rap).

6 Naked Mole Rats 3-4
Len's boy David is the active son in the league, and occasionally will surprise us with a burst of victories or good natured trash talk. Unfortunately, he's sort of checked out of late organizing a big paintball event. Just remember, David - paintball leaves welts and glory is fleeting - fantasy football is glory that lasts forever. Not really, but it sure sounded good.

7 Los Cranford Finest 3-5
Carlos, where are you? I'm not even talking about your fantasy team - I'm talking about Devin showing up without her better half at church recently. In any case, Carlos is doing a bang-up job with his team and making Cranford proud, leaving Sal Perednia as the Mets to Carlos' Yankees or the Nets to Carlos' Knicks.

8 Pretentious Preacher 3-5
Peter, are you playing? It's funny, Peter drops by on the league every now and then to drop people who are injured, but doesn't replace them. He played this past week with eight active players. It would be taunting if he was trying to win with just eight people, but he's not. Is this further commentary on Pastor Randy Lovelace which is going over my head?

9 No Punt Intended 2-4-1
I've gotta hand it to Andy - he's been a spoiler for my team, having pulled off an "upset" tie with my team last week after Hakeem Nicks and Lawrence Tynes both exploded last Monday night against the Cowboys. I was thrilled with the outcome for the Giants, less thrilled with the effect on my fantasy team.

10 Team Vlaanderen 2-5
Pastor Randy's doesn't have a bad team, which makes his 10th place ranking surprising. Sure, he's had his pocket picked in a terrible trade (the aforementioned Joe Flacco for James Hall trade), but all in all, this isn't a bad squad. His latest sermon series is on forgiveness, not "configuring a killer fantasy football roster", so perhaps he's not as sharp as he could be. I'm personally glad he has his priorities in order.

11 STRIKEforce 2-5
Dennis tells me that he's enjoying playing fantasy football, and I love his attitude. I think he's going to love playing it even more when he starts winning, which will lead to increasingly obsessive behavior as he scrapes to get to the playoffs, then winning in the playoffs, and then winning a championship. Maybe for his sake his team will remain mediocre.

12 Sal's Saints 2-5
We love Sal, but perhaps we can chalk his underachieving team to his cast of shady characters: Braylon Edwards (DWI), Kenny Britt (bar fight), Kellen Winslow (reckless motorcycle riding) and Ahmad Bradshaw (jail sentence for underage crimes, petty larceny) aren't exactly choir boys. Even his placekicker was charged with possession of the date-rape drug. Character counts - which is why my quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger.