My brother Keith and his family came through Amarillo last night on their way home to Austin from a vacation in Yellowstone and we took them to their first Sod Poodles game at our new downtown ballpark. We had planned to introduce them to all the really great things about Sod Poodles games: free parking on Fillmore Street, Texas Tea, Dickie’s Frito Pie, six-dollar nachos, wondering why Ruckus wears a belt but no pants, cheering the local players by their first names, loving the evening weather in Amarillo, running into more than three-dozen people from church, explaining “HodgeVision,” expecting at least two or three homeruns, singing that awful song during the seventh-inning stretch, and throwing tennis balls at the target in left field.
What we didn’t expect was for my two nephews to be selected to provide the in-between entertainment during the second inning. Almost as soon as we found our seats (not our seats; Dale Cooper’s awesome seats), Paul and Isaac were asked to participate in the on-field Caviness Beef promotion. And before the young lady in the “Sod Squad” jersey could explain the details, they were both signing the waiver forms.
Paul and Isaac had to put on cow costumes that serve to remind the crowd more about Chick-fil-A than Caviness Beef, put on blindfolds, submit to being spun around about seven hundred times, and then find the staffer standing in left field ringing a cow bell. The winner received ten pounds of frozen beef.
They’re brothers. So Keith and Amanda won either way.
After Paul and Isaac both simultaneously and blindly assaulted the lady in left field, the P.A. announcer declared it a tie and we walked out of there at the end of the night with a 7-0 Sod Poodles win and a box of fresh regional ground beef. Only in Amarillo!
Church historian and theologian John Mark Hicks has published his recent review of my brother Keith’s latest book, The Letter and Spirit of Biblical Interpretation. Hicks presented the review during a 90-minute session at last week’s annual Christian Scholars’ Conference at Lubbock Christian University. In fact, three scholars presented their reviews and then Keith formally responded. I’m not sure how familiar you are with these kinds of things, but biblical scholars and academics frequently come together to exchange really long words and very dry humor.
Being that Lubbock is less than two hours south of Amarillo, Keith and I decided to make it a day. We took in the Buddy Holly museum together that morning and posed for the typical pictures. We enjoyed a great lunch together at Chuy’s — also very typical and expected. And then I was pleased to attend the session that honored Keith’s book in particular and his great work for the Church overall.
(There were just the two of us and no other visitors at the museum to take our pictures.)
Keith’s book explores the shift over the centuries from a “both/and” reading and interpreting of the Scriptures in which the scholar or exegete considers both the literal meaning of words and passages and the spiritual or metaphorical or allegorical meaning to an exclusively critical historical method in which the verses and passages can only mean today what they meant when they were written. Now, that’s an oversimplification — you have to read his book to get all the nuance of that. But Keith appeals to the Rule of Faith, the ancient creeds, as a guideline for biblical interpretation and application and he pushes for the recovery of the “both/and” methods that the Church employed for the first 1,500 years of Church history. It’s a good book. I recommend it. Although universities are using it as a text book, it’s not nearly as technical as his other works. It contains references to classic rock and movies and a very helpful illustration borrowed from The Simpsons. You can read this thing.
Hicks just posted the entire review on his blog here.
Carley and I took in the Sod Poodles game last night with Greg and Bruce in Dale’s suite seats. And I shamed Carley into taking a picture with the team’s mascot, Ruckus. (There were other people there to help us take the pic.) Come on! How great is that?!
If the Lord was looking for us last night at the church building, we’re going to have to get on the next boat. All of Central assembled at the new downtown Amarillo ballpark last night for dollar hot dogs and the Sod Poodles game. It was the second event of our “Together@Central” summer Wednesday night series, in which our whole church is celebrating the relationships we have with each other in several unique worship and entertainment settings. (As always, click on the image for the full size.)
The weather was perfect, the food was good, and the atmosphere was fun and relaxed as more than 250 of us hung out in the right field seats and concourse. The Poodles beat the Northwest Arkansas Naturals 4-1 to pull to within a half game of first place in the Texas League South. But I didn’t realize until this morning that Amarillo’s manager had been ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes and that the Poodles’ starting pitcher threw seven innings of shutout ball. Baseball wasn’t really the focus last night; I didn’t see a whole lot of the actual game. Baseball was just the setting. Enjoying each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, getting caught up with my church family — that was the point. And it worked.
Somehow we pulled it off: skipping church to go to a baseball game. It worked. I haven’t heard a single complaint. Instead, I’ve heard dozens of “thank yous” and received lots of gratitude. We saw people at the game last night who haven’t attended a Wednesday night event at Central in decades! We saw several visitors to our church who’ve just started coming to Central and are wanting to learn more and make some connections. So we got caught up with each other and most of us made some new friends, too.
We’re coming through the end of a stressful time at Central. The Ignite campaign and the disruptive construction that came with it, the youth minister vacancy, search process, and hire, and our teaching and transition to an expansion of the public service roles for women during our Sunday morning assemblies — all of that has fatigued various pockets of people in our church family. I think our whole congregation probably feels the cumulative effect of so much “work” in such a concentrated period of time. We might be a tad drained. So just chilling together on Wednesday nights feels like the right thing to do. Reminding ourselves of the great value of the relationships we have together in Christ. Just worshiping God — singing familiar songs and praying together — in different environments that re-awaken us to the blessings we enjoy in Christ. And eating nachos together, talking about the kids, cheering on the local baseball team, hearing stories from the folks who’ve seen it all in this town, and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame!” That’s good, too.
God wasn’t looking for us last night. He knew exactly where we were. Because he was with us.
I spent Saturday through Wednesday in Chicago on another of these nine quarterly retreats with Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Community. And while Mary and Hannah and I did some really great things up there, I’m struggling to get caught up with all the really cool things we missed here at home.
We always try to work in a fun event or two in Chicago as a needed balance to the oftentimes difficult self-reflection and introspection that happens on these retreats. We’ve been to a White Sox game, we’ve taken in the architectural boat tour (a lot more fun than it sounds), we’ve been to Harry Carey’s restaurant, and we’ve done the Bean downtown, Grant Park, and a comedy club. This time around we scheduled two things: the Chicago art museum and Hamilton.
You know we had to get a picture with the Ferris Bueller painting and Hannah had to get reprimanded more than once for getting too close to the art. And then Tuesday we hooked up with Grace, who lives in California, and Phil, who lives in another part of Texas — they’ve both become great friends — and saw “Hamilton” together at the historic downtown Chicago CIBC Theatre. The words came way too fast for me, but what a show! I wish I could see it again because I know I missed a bunch of funny, clever lines. The moving stage, the creative writing, the over-the-top performances, the comedy, the history — very impressive!
So, while we were away, Virginia topped Texas Tech in overtime to win the national championship. That’s fine. Nobody wanted Texas Tech to win. Except Tiffani and George. And they finished first and second in our annual Central staff bracket contest. Bragging rights and a free lunch. And, yes, Tiffani’s guns are up all year around. Heading into the Elite Eight, I was in first place and still had all four of my Final Four teams alive. I just needed Duke or Purdue or Kentucky or Gonzaga to win. Just one of those four teams. Just one more win, it didn’t matter who it was. But they all four lost and I’m watching it from a tiny TV at Lou Malnati’s Pizza in Chicago. Good thing I had that deep dish supreme to console me. Final numbers: Tiffani-75, George-72, Kevin-71, Allan-70.
The Amarillo Sod Poodles opened up their inaugural home season in our brand new downtown ballpark on Monday. And I missed it! So we got there as fast as we could — last night — and watched our AA San Diego Padres affiliate beat the Corpus Christi Hooks in an entertaining slug fest. It was cold, too cold for baseball. But that’s always going to be Amarillo in April. It was 88-degrees on Wednesday and then 53-degrees yesterday. I’m going again Sunday when it’s supposed to be in the lower 70s. This is Whitney, Carrie-Anne, Karen, Mean Jean, Greg, and me trying to stay warm in Dale and Karen’s great seats behind home plate. What a beautiful ball park! I’m hoping to make about 30 of these games this summer.
I also missed Dirk Nowitski’s last game as a Dallas Maverick and I’ve had to go on-line to watch the stirring tribute the Spurs gave him in their arena in San Antonio. If you haven’t seen it, you must watch this video. I’ve always admired the Spurs as a classy organization with a lot of pride and professionalism. We’ve all come to expect that from the Spurs. But they cranked it up a few notches for Dirk’s last game. During the introductions, they showed a video of Dirk highlights, mostly of Dirk dunking on Tim Duncan and shooting over Tony Parker and faking out Manu Ginobelli — it was a highlight reel of Dirk beating the Spurs! How really cool and unexpected! The Mavericks and Spurs are bitter Midwest Division rivals and they have played some significant games against each other over the years. There was about a ten year period there where the stakes were incredibly high every time these two teams faced off. And the highlight reel brought Nowitski to tears. And if you have a heart at all, it’ll probably choke you up, too.
Lastly — man, this is sports-heavy today — the NHL playoff season has begun and the Dallas Stars are in. Wednesday night they came from behind to beat Nashville 3-2 in the best-of-seven opener and I watched every exciting minute of it. It’s been a while for the Stars and I forgot just how intense and crazy the NHL’s second season really is. Breath-taking. Edge of your seat. So much fun. It’s border-line blasphemous to say, but NHL playoff hockey is better than football. Game two is tomorrow. Go Stars.
They did it. They named our AA baseball team the Amarillo Sod Poodles. It’s official, it’s despicable, and it’s not going to change.
I was in attendance yesterday in the Yellow Rose Ballroom at the brand new Embassy Suites Hotel downtown when the San Diego Padres AA affiliate unveiled the disturbingly absurd moniker. I thought it was a joke right up to the very end. I thought they were telling us Sod Poodles and showing us all the logos, giving us this moment that was anti-climactic at best and humiliating at worst, in order to switch gears and unveil the real name. I kept hoping they would give us a name we would all be surprised by and proud of, a name we’d all hang around and talk about, a name we’d be excited to share with our friends and plaster on the backs of our pickup trucks.
No. It’s Sod Poodles.
To make things worse, they also encouraged us to refer to our new team as the “Soddies” and revealed another logo to go with it. As a writer at CBS Sports noted, “The Sod Poodles can also go by ‘Soddies,’ which is miraculously worse than Sod Poodles.”
When the black curtain came down and the Sod Poodles name was announced to the packed ballroom, the disappointed man standing next to me said, “It’ll have to grow on me.”
One of the many disturbing aspects of this whole thing is the way the national media is blindly parroting the team’s insistence that Sod Poodles is a pioneer-era Texas slang expression for prairie dog. I’ve yet to see any proof. The 70-80 year residents of our city I’ve spoken to have never heard the term. I’m also bothered by General Manager Tony Ensor’s spinning of the city’s response to the name. He’s being quoted everywhere today as saying “the community created the buzz” around Sod Poodles and “this is the direction everyone wanted to go.” He’s using derisive Chick-fil-A signs and tongue-in-cheek lawyer ads and goofy sermon titles from Terry Tamplen at Polk Street United Methodist Church as evidence that Amarillo citizens have endorsed and embraced this move from the start. Like somehow we’re responsible for this!
The defense for Sod Poodles has always been that all minor league teams have goofy names. My argument is that you know what all those other names mean. In New Orleans, you know what a Baby Cake is. A Chihuahua is a real dog. You know what a Lugnut is. And a Biscuit. And Sand Gnats. Just like a joke is not funny if you have to explain it, the team name doesn’t work if you have to explain what it means.
I’m not a PR guy. I’m not a marketer. Maybe they’re onto something huge. Maybe this is genius. Maybe it won’t matter on a sunny afternoon in April at that beautiful gem of a downtown ballpark.