Dec 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008...

Well, it's New Year's Eve. Time to say "Goodbye" to 2008 and "Welcome" to 2009. Time for dads to become fireworks aficionados and spend way too much money on overpriced fireworks and talk about lighting the "Grand Finale." Time for kids to get extreme joy from running around with lit sparklers.

It's also time to think about all that has happened in this year. 2008 saw a historic race for president and a historic and politically charged election. It saw a tremendous economic downturn and massive fluctuations in gas prices. At one point this year gas was almost $5 a gallon. At another point, it was going for $1.39 a gallon. It saw an unknown governor from Alaska become the most intriguing figure of the year.

Being a sports fan, 2008 also was an interesting year. LSU started the year as the runaway winner of the national championship in college football. The NY Giants pulled off a huge upset in probably the best Super Bowl in the last 15-20 years. Kansas beat out Memphis for college basketball's championship. Tiger won the U.S. Open on one knee and then had surgery the next week. The Boston Celtics went from worst to champions in one year. And the Tampa Bay Rays dropped the "Devil" and became the feel-good story of the year in baseball.

Sports also saw huge moments in the Olympics. Michael Phelps ignited the United States with his performance winning 8 gold medals, including a heart pounding dramatic come from behind by Jason Lezak in the 400M relay that anyone watching could not believe. Usain Bolt was the world's fastest man in the 100m relay. Nastia Lukin won the all around gold in women's gymnastics.

On a personal note, 2008 saw another year of my sons growing up way too fast. 9 years ago I held my firstborn son Nathan and now he's driving me around the golf course in the cart. Nathan played his second year of machine pitch ball and had a great season. He played outfield and spent most of the year batting clean-up. He started the year with great success at the plate and finished the season with a .720 batting avg, 3 hr's, and 7 doubles. He also made the All-Stars for the second year. Nathan tried football for the first time this year and did pretty well. He played offensive line and his team made the first round of the playoffs. Nathan has also done real well in school and was selected to participate in the gifted program at Creekview. My middle son Drew turned 7 this year. He started the year trying out soccer again. He had a great time and played real good defense. Drew also signed up for Upward Basketball for the first time. He started off rough, but has made great improvements. John David turned 4 this year. He is no longer the baby and is becoming more of a little boy everyday.

Our family took our first trip to Disney World this year and had a great time. It was awesome seeing the excitement on the kids faces as they experienced the the rides and Disney characters for the first time. They loved the roller coasters and dining with Goofy, Pluto, Tigger, and Pooh.

2008 saw Alison and I celebrate 11 years of marriage. It also saw me complete my 12th year on staff at Westwood. The church continues to grow and have one of the best staffs I have ever seen.

No Longer Here
One of the reflections I always do at this time of year is look back at the people who died over the past year. More than any other year in recent memory, 2008 had some huge losses. Maybe I am just getting older and the more I see people I have watched pass away, the more it brings to light my own mortality. Here are some of the people that are no longer here:

1. Paul Newman - I remember how sad I was to hear this one. One of the greatest actors ever and the star of classics like "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Sting" left us at age 83 from complications of lung cancer.

2. Charlton Heston - Another legendary actor who played Ben Hur, Moses, and the astronaut Taylor in Planet of the Apes died at age 84 from pneumonia.

3. Heath Ledger - I remember the shock when I heard this one on the Today show. Ledger died way too soon from a drug overdose. Although he hadn't made a lot of movies, he was great in "The Patriot". His most memorable performance though came months after his death as The Joker in "The Dark Knight". He gave a mesmerizing performance and deserves the Oscar.

4. George Carlin - Although I don't agree at all with his political or religious views, I always enjoyed Carlin's satirical outlook on life. He had a comedic talent that spanned generations. He died at age 71 of heart failure.

5. Bernie Mac - one of the funniest comedic actors around. His sarcasm and wit in movies like Oceans Eleven and Transformers and his own TV show were great. Mac died of pneumonia at age 50.

6. Roy Schieder - legendary actor best known as Sheriff Broody in the Jaws movies. Died at age 75 from complications of a staph infection.

Other notable deaths from 2008:
Sir Edmund Hillary - Climbed Mt. Everest
Bobby fisher - legendary chess player
Susan Pleshette - wife on the Bob Newhart Show
Bill Buckley - leader of the conservative political movement
Sidney Pollack - actor and director
Bo Diddley - legendary guitarist
Jim McKay - sports TV anchor known as the voice of the Wide World of Sports
Tim Russert - host of Meet the Press
Jesse Helms - long time US Senator
Tony Snow - White House press secretary and TV anchor
Alexander Solzhenitsyn - Russian writer Estelle Getty - actress best know from "The Golden Girls" Harvey Korman - comedian from The Carol Burnett Show Bettie Page - 50's pin-up girl Michael Crichton - author of Jurassic Park and creator of TV show ER Leroi Moore - founding member of the Dave Matthew Band Levi Stubbs - lead singer of the Four Tops Isaac Hayes - actor and musician

All in all, 2008 was a year of extreme ups and downs, highs and lows. Is the world a better place now than 12 months ago? Have we progressed as a society? Are we closer to seeing the Kingdom of God come to fruition? What will 2009 hold? Time will tell...

Dec 24, 2008


Welcome Lord Jesus and Happy Birthday.

Dec 23, 2008

What's Wrong with Baseball

Alright. About the worst news a Red Sox fan can get occurred today. After spending weeks courting free agent Mark Teixeira and offering one of the highest contracts in baseball history, at the last minute today the Yankees swept in with 12 million dollars more and landed the big fish. Nevermind that I am a Red Sox fan and am feeling quite a bit of jealousy right now. I can acknowledge that. Never mind that the Red Sox had just as much of an opportunity to meet Teixeira's demands and fell short because they wouldn't give 1.5 million more to an already overpriced contract.

The Yankees have once again proved what is wrong with the current state of baseball operations. They have shown once again that they are the best team money can buy. They have shown that they are more concerned with flaunting their enormous revenue stream than they are with fair and balanced competition. After all, aren't greed, indulgence, buying your way to power the new American way? Isn't it just sound economics to build your own empire without regard to how your decisions affect your competitors. It's the Wal-Mart way!

So far this off-season, the Yankees have signed three high price free agents and have committed $400 million dollars over the next 8 years. They have pulled out of their deep pockets and snagged the big ones. Some will say that fans shouldn't be upset because the Yankees are just taking their profits and putting it back into the product for their fans. They say that the Yankees actually cleared $88 million off their payroll this year and have only spent $65 million. They say that the Yankees are just trying to reward their fans with the best baseball team they can. To that I say "Bull Butter!"

Let's first remember that the $88 million that the Yankees cleared off their payroll is twice as much as the payrolls of teams like the Rays, Royals, and other small market teams. Those teams can't clear that much off. Let's also remember that the Yankees have more income than any other team. With their YES Network, their large (and increasing) ticket prices, and their other business means that they have more revenue to spend than any other team. Their payroll last year was over $200 million dollars and they just paid a $26 million luxury tax (Something that Bud Selig seems to enjoy). They just finished a $1 billion stadium and in the process received millions of dollars from New York city residents through taxes.

Let's remember that the Yankees now currently own the 4 highest paid contracts in professional baseball (ARod, Jeter, Sabathia, and Teixeira). 4! The Yankees have 7 of the highest 10 contracts in the history of professional baseball. That just sounds wrong. It's not about fairness, it's about balance and making sure that every team that suits up in March will have an equal opportunity to compete. It's about fans in Kansas City, and Cincinnati, and Oakland actually having a something to root for other than a .500 record. There are fans in some cities that have grown up without knowing what a playoff team looks like for most of the last 20+ years. No team has taken advantage of the Free Agent system than the Yankees.

I heard it said today that George Steinbrenner "showed the world that you have to spend money to make money." I understand that principle. Big Daddy George did a good job of helping all teams to evaluate the product they put on the field. He also made the game more about greed than competition. He made it possible for snakes like Scott Boras to make millions of dollars giving small-market teams the shaft. Boras and the Steinbrenners represent all the worst of sports.

Some will say, "Matt, your team has one of the largest payrolls too." I know. I realize that the Red Sox spent $130 million (far short of the Yankees $200 mill). I know that their free agent spending enabled them to compete and win 2 World Series in four years. I know that they are sometimes exploiting the system too. But not this time. This time John Henry and Theo Epstein refused to play Boras' game. And they paid for it too. However, I feel they escaped with a little class. They showed that they were willing to bet on the 2007 World Series MVP and the third best player in the American League (Youk) last year rather than be held hostage to big contracts.

What will be the result? The Yankees will probably be a better team and could (definitely should) have a great record with their monster lineup. The Yanks might even make the playoffs. (You should with the best team money can buy) They may even buy their way to a championship. However, they will not gain respect. They will gain little admiration.

Again, some will say, "You're just jealous Matt. The Yankees gave the Red Sox the shaft again. They did the same thing they did with ARod." I cannot plead innocence. Whenever the Yankees pull one over on the Sox, my jealousy does rise. But so does my hatred for everything the Yankees stand for. I have not always been a Red Sox fan. I have always been a Yankee hater. In the 70's, I was a Reds fan because Pete Rose, George Foster, and Joe Morgan played baseball hard and with class. In the 80's, I was mostly a Tigers fan because I loved the way Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker played the middle and Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris played with heart and talent. However through all my baseball fandom, I have always had a vitriol for the Yankees. Not because they win, but because of the way they do it. Now, I think I have enough fuel to advance my hatred for many years to come.

Boo Scott Boras. Boo Hank Steinbrenner. Boo the spineless baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Boo the MLB Players Association.

Dec 21, 2008

Family Disney Vacation Report - Part 2

Here's some more info on the recent Haines' vacation. On our third day we went to Hollywood Studios. Our first stop was a jump on the Tower of Terror for Alison, Nathan and Drew then a jump on the Rock n Roller Coaster. Later on I got to ride both of these with the boys. The Tower of Terror takes you up about 10 stories and then drops you suddenly, picks you back up, drops you again, and so on and so on. The Rock n Roller Coaster takes you on a ride from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds, then it takes you in a loop and on a fast ride through twist and turns. Drew and I rode it twice!

One of the highlights of Hollywood Studios was the animation studio. Nathan, Drew and Alison got to take a drawing class with one of the Disney animators. Another great ride was the Toy Story Mania 3D ride where you go through a fun shooting gallery throwing pies, balls, darts, etc. We also got to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Show which Nathan liked a lot.

The trip to Hollywood Studios ended early so that we could prepare for the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party that night. We staked out our spot right in front of Cinderella's Castle about 5. Alison did some shopping and the boys and I rode a few rides and waited on the Christmas show. It was full of singing and Christmas magic. The parade was awesome and colorful. They even had "snow" coming off the roofs on Main Street. We didn't get back to the room till late and slept in a little the next morning.

The fourth day we made our trip to the Animal Kingdom. Highlights of it included "It's Tough to Be a Bug" - a 3D show about being a bug that encompases the audience. Lots of fun. We also went through an animal exhibit and a bird sanctuary. Alison and Nathan rode Everest - the big roller coaster. It had an 80-foot drop. We rode a couple of other ride, but we left Animal Kingdom early. That night we went to a Polynesian Luau. Awesome food. Ribs, Chicken, Pineapple, rice, and cool dancing.

More cool pics:

Dec 15, 2008

Family Disney Vacation Report, Part 1

Alright, it's been a long time coming, but here is some pictures and reports from our trip to Disney. We arrived at the Disney complex about 10:00 on Sunday, November 30 to find our room was already ready (very pleasant surprise!). We dropped our stuff off at the room, got our tickets, and headed off for Day 1 at EPCOT. EPCOT was first because said it would be a low crowd day there. The kids had no idea what to look for. When we passed by a hotel, John David said "Is that DisneyWorld?"

We entered through the gates wide-eyed and staring at the giant Spaceship Earth that symbolizes EPCOT. We moved quickly thoughout the day to the space simulator, Mission: Space, to the Test Track that sends you around curves at 60 mph, and to Soarin' that sends you up to an IMAX screen giving you the sensation of hang gliding. We also saw the 3D show "Honey I shrunk the audience" which scared John David. Loud noises and his first experience of things jumping at you in 3D.

The only downer the first day is that it rained most of the day and soaked us and our shoes. We left for a couple of hours to go back to the room and change clothes. When we got back to EPCOT, the Christmas lights were turned on. WOW! We went to the Mexico pavilion and then a couple of other world showcase exhibits. We had an awesome dinner at the San Angel Inn and then watched the fireworks show. It was probably the best fireworks show I had ever seen. All in all, great first day to the week despite the rain.

Day 2 brought our first trip to the Magic Kingdom. We hit the Pirates of the Caribbean and Magic Carpets of Aladdin early. Crowds were really low and the wait was seldom more than 10-15 minutes. We also hit the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. Those two rides were probably the kids' favorites all week. We did some rides in Tomorrowland and then had a character dinner at Crystal Palace with Pooh, Tigger, Eyore, and Piglet. That afternoon we hit the rest of the rides we missed including Space Mountain and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. We truly had a magical first couple of days. We were tired when we left that night though.

Here are some pictures of the first couple of days:

John David got called up on stage to participate in a game.

Drew was amazed at how small the food was and said "Honey I Shrunk the Flauta"

Mom and Nathan on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Dinner with Tigger

Hanging in front of the castle decorated for Christmas

Dec 14, 2008

Update coming soon

Sorry for the lack of updates about the Disney trip and life in general lately. I had planned on providing daily updates and pictures from Disney, but the internet was $10 a day and since we had already paid enough for the trip to finance the gross national product of many third world countries, I decided to wait. Then when I got home, I had lost the cord to download the pictures from the camera to the computer (auggh!). I found it Thursday but I had to leave my computer at the church this weekend because we are updating servers and IT companies.

Long and short, I have been very disconnected from the blogosphere for about three weeks now. Updates and opinions coming soon.