In Defense of Kirk Herbstreit

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I’ve been critical of Kirk Herbstreit, the analyst for ESPN’s College GameDay. My problem wasn’t personal. It was petty. I always thought that Kirk was biased toward the team he once played for, the Ohio State Buckeyes. I hate the Ohio State Buckeyes. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that we’re all biased. If I had Kirk’s job, 15 minutes of every episode of College GameDay would be devoted to the Georgia Bulldogs. And ESPN’s ratings would tank.

Something else has happened with age. And I’m not just referring to my age.

I’ve realized that Kirk Herbstreit is an example of what it means to be a man.

Herbstreit and Coach Lee Corso have been analysts for College GameDay since the show’s beginning. Herbstreit has always come to the table with the expertise that comes with having played quarterback for a major college football program. Corso always brought a level of goofiness to the show. But it wasn’t too much. Even when the old coach picked against our team, we all still loved him. Not everyone would admit it, but Corso has always been a big reason why we keep tuning back in every Saturday in the fall.

In 2009, Corso, who is now 81, had a stroke. He spent a significant amount of time in the hospital and rehab. He made it back to his spot in front of the camera by the next football season. And he’s still there, putting on mascot headgear and firing up fanbases all across the country.

But he’s not the same.

Coach Corso’s timing is a little off. He gets confused. He stumbles over words. He looks, well, like a guy in his 80s who had a stroke a few years ago. Our culture frowns upon that sort of thing. We prefer the young and unblemished over the old and wrinkled. The old and wrinkled have a way of reminding us of where we’re all headed.

A few weeks ago, I watched College GameDay with my kids. Coach Corso was having a hard time saying what he wanted to say. It was like his mind and his mouth weren’t in tune with each other. That week’s celebrity guests even gave him a little grief for his frequent verbal fumbles.

It was hard to watch.

But as I paid closer attention, I saw the beauty in what was happening.

While I was listening to what Corso was trying to say, I couldn’t help but notice what he was doing. He and Kirk Herbstreit, the former college football quarterback and current ambassador of the game, were holding hands with each other. If you’ve ever had to talk on TV, you know that losing your train of thought for a split second feels like three hours. It’s brutal.

Kirk was lending his hand to the aging coach to remind him that it was okay. He wasn’t alone. And when the words just wouldn’t come out, Herbstreit was there to fill in the blanks. Or offer a gentle correction.

There are plenty of men who can run fast and lift a lot of weight but who don’t know what it really means to be a man. Kirk Herbstreit seems to know. God didn’t design men to be strong as an end in itself. The strength he gave to men is meant to serve those whose strength is fading.

Christians talk a lot about respecting life. Usually, we’re referring to the unborn when we talk that way. That’s a good thing. But it’s not the whole story. Respecting life also involves caring for the young adult who has to dodge bullets on his way to work. And it refers to serving those who have been around for the better part of a century and who aren’t what they used to be. Sort of like Kirk Herbstriet has been doing every Saturday since Lee Corso’s stroke.

Kirk Herbstreit likes Ohio State. It’s obvious.

But Kirk Herbstreit loves and respects Lee Corso. That’s even more obvious.

And for that, I’ll always be a fan of the former Ohio State quarterback.

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Happy Monday: Birthdays and Manhood

Before I met her, I didn’t know what it meant to be a man. After I met her, I figured out that I’d better start learning what it means to be a man. Now that I’m married to her, she helps me to become a better man every day.

Happy birthday, Marsha.

Thank you for all that you have done for me.

I love you.

Ten Manly Man Truths That Every Man Should Man Up And Follow

Being a man can be difficult. For some people, the simple fact that you were born as a male automatically makes you a predator. Many men try to fight back against this stereotype by wearing capri pants, drinking everything through a straw and listening to Wilson Philips.

Gentlemen, this is no way for you to live. There is a better way. Behold, I give you Ten Manly Man Truths That Every Man Should Man Up And Follow.

1. When you go someplace to get your haircut it should never take you more than 4.7 seconds to tell the person how you would like your hair to be cut.

Not Manly: “Well, I was looking at the book of hairstyles on your front table and I saw one that looked a little like a fusion between Kenny Loggins and Keith Urban. I’d like something sort of like that but my friends at work say that my face is too long. What do you think? I just don’t want to get something that I’ll regret by the time I go to the Rascal Flats concert tomorrow.”

Manly: “Number two up top, number one on the sides and if you touch the ponytail I’ll kill you.”

2. A gentleman’s club is never frequented by gentlemen.

3. When given the option between watching professional wrestling or the State of the Union Address, a real man will always go with professional wrestling. Either way, you’re watching a show where people are pretending to hate each other only to go out to dinner together with your money when the cameras are off. But, in professional wrestling, at least it’s easier to spot the good guys.

4. Never get your taxes done in a building that was selling Halloween costumes four months earlier.

5. Any man who feels the need to prove that he is a man by attaching something that looks like male genitalia to the back of his truck is, in fact, not a man.

6. A vacuum cleaner is never an acceptable Christmas present for the special lady in your life. Professional wrestling tickets are a much safer bet.

7. Never, under any circumstances, open another man’s grill. There are 40 states in this great country of ours where killing a man for opening your grill while you’re cooking something on it is considered justifiable homicide.

8. When a woman tells you that she is having surgery, never ask her why. Just trust me on this one.

9. Never ask a woman when her baby is due. Never. Even if she’s already in labor.

10. Always open the door for a lady. But you’ll have to be careful on this one. There are some places in our country where a lady will take offense to a man opening the door for her. That’s okay. If you happen to encounter one of these women, as soon as she’s done yelling at you, ask her when her baby is due.

So there you have it, gentlemen. Now you don’t have to navigate your way through the dangerous waters of manhood all alone. Put your straws and Wilson Philips records away. Man up and embrace who you are. Get outside, kill something, throw it on your grill and eat it.

But while you’re grilling, just keep your eye on the fellow in the capri pants.

He’s getting a little too close for comfort to your grill.

Questions My Grandfather Never Had To Answer

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The guy on TV looked like a man.

But he talked like a woman.

Why?

I’m pretty sure that my grandfather never got that question from one of his sons.

I did.

Our culture is currently falling all over itself to convince us that it is perfectly normal for a man to act like a woman, a man to marry another man, two women to raise a child together, so on and so forth. A lot of the dirty work in the battle to normalize gender confusion is done through the entertainment industry. That’s why ESPN makes a big deal about a late round pick in the NFL Draft. It’s why many shows feature gay characters. And it’s why the man in one of the commercials that comes on during your kid’s favorite television show likes to act like a woman.

If you grow up seeing something every day while being told that it’s normal you’ll eventually believe that it is. That seems to be the strategy these days at least. And it seems to be working. Sometimes it can even be intimidating when a parent considers the world kids are growing up in and being influenced by. Can we really expect Romans 1 to compete with the media and the government?

Yes.

But it can’t just be a passage that we reference in a political conversation. It, along with the rest of Scripture, has to be something that parents live out before their children. It’s not enough for our kids to hear us talk about what manhood is not. We have to show them what it is.

When a man works hard to provide for and serve his wife and kids, the ridiculous examples of manhood we see demonstrated in television and film will seem foolish.

A church where men boldly serve, pray and sing in public will be the training center in which our children learn to discern what true manhood really is.

Something just won’t seem right about gay marriage in our kid’s eyes when they’ve grown up with a mom and a dad who take the gospel seriously and apply it to their own marriage.

And when a dad is actively engaged first in the pursuit of his God, then in the pursuit of his wife and finally in the training up of his kids, his words will carry much more weight in the household that he leads. If all we ever do is simply point out what is wrong in our culture, our voice will be just one among many that our kids hear. But if we actually make the effort to live out what we preach, showing consistent examples of true manhood and womanhood, our message just might stick.

I still remember the first time that I saw two men holding hands. One of them had a ribbon in his hair. I had no idea what to think. My mom could see my confusion but she didn’t say much. Just don’t stare. Keep moving.

Those days are gone.

We can no longer get away with avoiding tough topics like this one with our kids. It’s been said that nature abhors a vacuum. The hearts and minds of our children are no exception. If we aren’t busy speaking truth to them, we can be sure that someone else with plenty of lies to sell will quickly take our place.

At some point, every parent will have to answer a question similar to the one that my kid asked me. We must be ready, at all times, to give them the answers they are looking for.

But our words can only go so far. Simply hearing what we are against is never enough.

Our kids need to actually see our pursuit of Truth.

And as they grow older, we pray that the pursuit of truth will just seem normal to them.

Even in a world where normal is no longer tolerated.

Is Your Wife Raising Another Kid?

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Living in a house full of little boys is a lot of fun. Unless you happen to be married to one of them.

The childhood years keep getting extended. In some cultures, 12 was the age when boys became men. In today’s world, we are told that it’s somewhere around 32. That’s great if you’re in the business of selling video games and superhero bed sheets that fit king sized mattresses. But, like I said, it’s not so great if you’re a woman who happens to be married to one of those 32-year-old bundles of joy.

The man who really cares about his family will occasionally ask himself, and his wife, if he is being the man that his job calls for or if the only difference between him and his own kids is that he’s more advanced in potty training.

When you get home from work, does your wife feel a sense of relief that help has arrived or does she feel like the daycare just got one kid busier? Little boys expect to be waited on. A real man offers whatever services he can to his wife.

Does your family take a backseat to your dreams? Has your family basically become the single-parent variety while you pursue whatever other passion gets your heart beating faster? Little boys tend to think that the whole world revolves around whatever passion is driving them at the moment. A real man puts his family ahead of his hobbies.

When the dishes pile up and dinner is a little late, are you quick to criticize or do you jump in to serve? Little boys ask, “When is dinner going to be done?” Real men ask, “How can I help?”

Does your work end when you get home? Do you have a date every afternoon at 5 with your couch, your man cave or the outdoors? Have you convinced yourself that you’ve worked hard all day to earn some me time? Little boys shut it down for the day when one job is done. Real men know that no matter how hard their day was, when they get home their most important job is just beginning.

Have you bought into the lie that says, “If momma’s not happy, nobody’s happy?” Are you willing to be a leader and make tough decisions, even if those decisions are unpopular? Little boys usually shy away from conflict when it gets too thick. A real man makes the decision that’s best for his family, not his popularity or comfort level.

Does your wife exist only to meet your needs? Do you ever consider what you can do for her and how you can help her to grow? Every kid’s favorite word is mine. A real man knows that his wife really belongs to God and manages his relationship accordingly.

Is affection a way of life in your marriage or is it just something that you do when you want a little more from your wife in return? Is your wife losing the comparison game in your mind? The one that she may not even know that she is playing? The one that has her going against some Hollywood starlet, the new girl at work and the thousands of images downloaded on your computer? Have your kids ever seen you kiss or even hug your wife? Little boys never have much to do with real girls, preferring instead the fake ones in cartoons. A real man knows that there is no woman on earth better than the real woman he is married to.

At some point in our history, it became very uncool to be a real man. So men started going to salons for facials and therapists for better contact with their feminine side. It left us all confused. So in response, some overemphasized only certain aspects of manhood while completely ignoring the others. That left us with little boys who drive really big trucks and are great at making babies but who have no idea how to treat a woman or raise a family.

Being a real man doesn’t have a lot to do with your automobile preferences or hobbies. The real question of your manhood is answered in the day to day routine. Do you respect women? Do you love and lead your wife in a sacrificial way? Do you raise your kids or are you just one of them?

Gentlemen, it’s a tough job that we have.

It’s not a job for little boys.

It’s a job that calls for a real man.

What will be your answer?

Little Boys And Their Big Trucks

It was probably the biggest truck I’ve seen in my life, if you don’t count the ones that come to town once a year to crush cars. It was a nice truck too. The paint looked like candy. The wheels looked like robots and the tires like giant muscles. This was no mere truck. It was a statement. It was obvious that the truck’s owner had invested a lot of time and money in this work of moving art.

When the truck drove past me it became clear what kind of statement the owner was trying to make. It was a statement about his manhood.

There was a piece of metal hanging down below the back bumper. I guess you could call it an idol. An strategically placed idol. The idol was shaped like male genitalia.

The crude idol spoke to all who noticed it.

There’s a real man driving this truck.

Our culture has perverted manhood. That’s what usually happens in societies that are spiraling downward like ours is. On television the picture of manhood is one of spineless men who couldn’t find their way to their favorite bar without someone else’s help. In the context I’m living in, it’s quite the opposite. Too often, manhood is defined by sexual conquests, large automobiles and male sex organs hanging from those automobiles.

In reality, true manhood is on display in the things they don’t show in truck commercials. If you pay attention, you can see it in the little things.

Like the guy who misses a game so he can take his little girl to her school’s father daughter dance because he knows that if she doesn’t see real manhood from him she’ll look for it in all the wrong places.

Or the man who drives a car older than he is and works a few extra shifts every now and then so that one day his family can stop giving money to creditors and start giving it to people in need.

Don’t forget the man who’s voice sounds something like a cross between Axl Rose and a sick dog. But he doesn’t care about that. When it’s time to sing songs in church, he doesn’t hold back. And for the people around him, the vision of a man singing about his Savior overshadows the sound coming from his mouth.

And then there’s the man who hasn’t had sex in five years. Not because he can’t or doesn’t want to. It’s because his wife is sick. Very sick. And he knows that caring for her and keeping his promise to her is more important than any temporary pleasure.

Real men are pastors. Not just the pastors that preach sermons to congregations every Sunday. These men are pastors in their home. They take the spiritual growth of their wife and children personally. So they make sure that the family sings songs and reads the Bible together on a random Tuesday night when it would be a lot easier to just sit down together and watch a show about a spineless man who can’t manage to find his way to his favorite bar without someone else’s help.

There are real men with no wife or kids too. They respect women and find ways to serve women without viewing them as sexual objects. They know that all women, even the ones on computer screens who always seem available and ready, are created in God’s image.

Real men have hands covered with scars or permanent grease stains from a lifetime of providing through hard work. But they also smell like potpourri from time to time because they serve their wives by doing the laundry for them.

Real men drive huge trucks with barbed wire and random car parts thrown in the back. But some of them also drive station wagons and mini-vans. Both know that manhood isn’t defined by automobiles.

And it certainly isn’t defined by large sexual idols hanging from those large automobiles.

They know that true manhood is on display in the little things.

Here I Go Again

“How was school?”

“Good.”

“What about lunch?”

“Good.”

“Recess? Was recess good?”

There was a delay. I always ask my son these questions when I pick him up from school. He always says the same thing.

“Good.”

I have to interrogate for more details. But whenever there is a delay, I know that it’s not good.  On this day, apparently recess wasn’t good.

“It was just okay.”

The interrogation began. Answers came slowly. There was a girl involved.

My son was playing with his friend when the alleged female perpetrator walked up and gave her demand to my son.

“You can’t play with us. Leave.”

I asked him what he did.

“I just left and played something by myself.”

“Did you cry?”

“No.”

“Were you sad?”

“Yes.”

My heart broke. I know that there are lessons to be learned from this but it’s still no fun seeing your son with a crushed spirit. So I tried to lift him up. I told him how this kind of thing will happen to him from time to time. I reminded him that Jesus loves him and that his mom and dad do too. I told him that growing up and being a leader means that there will always be people who criticize you or are mean to you.

He waited politely for me to finish my speech.

“Can you turn it up?”

He wasn’t telling me to talk louder.

“Huh?”

“Can you turn it up?”

He was talking about the radio.

It was playing Whitesnake.

Here I Go Again.

Sometimes a boy just needs some Whitesnake to help him deal with the pain of a broken heart.

But that’s never enough.

Most of the time he’s going to need a dad. An annoying dad. A dad that keeps asking questions.

It is those questions and the conversations that they lead to that help to shape him. Without those talks, boys are likely to grow up with bitter, hard hearts towards all girls, always afraid of getting hurt. Even worse, there is the chance of a boy growing up to treat girls as objects. Objects that exist for nothing more than his personal satisfaction. No matter the cost.

Here I Go Again was an appropriate song for my son to hear that day. He’s going to face that kind of rejection again. But it’s my job to guide him through it. It’s my job to remind him that nothing can separate him from the love of Christ. And it’s my job to teach him how to treat girls. Even the ones that reject him.

Eleven years ago, long before I had that conversation with my son, I had another conversation. A conversation with the girl who would one day be his mother. On a Halloween night on the banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, I pulled a ring from my pocket and asked her to marry me. There was no rejection. She said yes.

Two months before, I didn’t even know her. A day after I met her I knew that God sent a good thing my way. I pray that he does the same thing for my boys. And I pray that when he does, my boys are ready.

But right now, as young as they are, they are in the preparation phase. They are being shaped. Developed.

Shaped and developed on the way home from school and in a host of other scenarios.

By their father.

With just a little help from Whitesnake.

The Lawnmower Man

The best laughs are the ones that you have when you’re not supposed to be laughing. You know, like the funeral where someone does an interpretive dance involving a hula hoop.

And the best time to play is when there’s something else you need to be doing. So you tell yourself that the thing that needs to be done, as important as it may be, can wait. Sometimes this backfires. Like back in college when you skipped class every day to hang out at Fast Willie’s Billiards and Brews.

But then there are those times when delaying the important for a few laughs can really pay off.

To say that my yard was out of control would be an understatement. Hollywood producers who were working on a remake of Apocalypse Now had already asked for my permission to use my front yard for a few jungle scenes. We’re still in negotiations.

Friday was my day to cut the grass. All week long I told myself that if I could just make it to the end of the week without my neighbors picketing or a pink slip on my door from the county code enforcers, I would be okay. Friday came and there were no pink slips from the county. And no protestors.

Well, there was one protestor.

My son sat quietly and patiently outside. He wanted me to play with him. I told him something about Apocalypse Now and needing to cut the grass. He just stared at me. I cut the grass.

But he didn’t go anywhere. He stayed outside. Quietly. Waiting.

His question was the same every time I walked by or turned the lawnmower off.

“Are you done? Will you play with me now?”

I thought about all of the time I spent waiting for someone to play with when I was a kid. I thought about when I eventually quit waiting and just started playing alone. I was probably the best kid in the world at throwing a football to myself. My kids need to learn how to entertain themselves and they certainly don’t need helicopter parents but I don’t want them to be as good as I was at one man football.

I turned the lawnmower off again. But this time it stayed off for a little longer. The job was only halfway done but it could wait. My son had waited long enough.

It was time for him to play with his dad.

Eventually my grass got cut that day. And pretty soon it will need to be cut again. It’s the job that never ends. Sort of like shaping boys into men. It’s a job that requires walking away from the important things that can wait so that you can do the really important things that have waited long enough.

That was the most fun I’ve had playing in a long time. I guess because I was supposed to be working. But looking back, I never really quit working. I just changed jobs. I like to think of it as a promotion.

I’m sure that when he is grown, my son will have memories of watching his dad cut the grass. But I hope that he also remembers the times when I didn’t finish the job. The times when I turned the lawnmower off halfway through because I had something more important to do.

Disregard Warning Label, Jump Anyway

My son could have broken his arm. Or maybe one of the tiny bones in his foot. But that was sort of the point. It’s why I told him to jump.

He was about three-years-old and we were playing on a swing set. He had grown bored with the slide and swings and wanted to move on to something else. Something more dangerous. The kind of thing that they write warning labels telling you not to do.

He wanted to jump off of a platform on the swing set. It was only about four feet up in the air. For him, I’m sure that it seemed like skydiving. When he worked his way over to the edge and looked down he started to have second thoughts. The warning label in his mind was telling him to go inside and lay on the couch.

“Dad, can I get hurt doing this?”

“Yes. But jump anyway.”

When his feet finally hit the ground, he looked back at me with a smile. Even though he was only three, I knew that he had just taken one small step towards manhood.

Monday morning was his first day of school. Not his first day this year. His first day ever. My wife and I looked like members of the paparazzi. We both had cameras and took pictures of his every move. Thankfully, he was a much more willing subject than Sean Penn.

We had all been looking forward to his first day of school for a while but as the day drew closer, he started to get nervous.

Over the weekend he and I were riding around in my truck, listening to one of his favorite guitar players. Maybe it was all the blues riffs but things started to turn confessional.

“Dad, I’m a little nervous about starting school.”

He was jumping off of the swing set all over again. I wanted to tell him that there was nothing to worry about. That there would never be any bullies, twice his age and size, who would try to scare him. That there would never be a girl who breaks his heart. That it would never seem like school was more than he could handle.

But I couldn’t.

So instead, I just told him to jump anyway.

It’s not my job to protect my sons from every potential harm or heartache that could come their way. Some, yes. But not all. In fact, sometimes, it’s my job to put them in situations that seem a little scary. Situations where they would rather believe the warning label.

Those are the golden opportunities.

They are the times where they can become more reliant on Immanuel, God With Us, as fear looks them in the eye. They are the moments where they learn not to allow what could happen to keep them from what needs to happen.

Before my son went into his classroom, he stood with his brother, his mother and me and we prayed. I prayed for God’s blessing and protection to be on him. When I finished praying and opened my eyes, I expected to see him crying. He wasn’t. He was smiling. And then he turned around and walked into his classroom. With no tears and smiling in the face of fear, he jumped anyway. And took one small step towards manhood.

It was a different story for the rest of us as we walked back to our car. There were plenty of tears. On the way home, flipping through the stations, I heard a familiar guitar riff. I turned up the volume and started to sing along with my oldest son, like always. But then I realized that he wasn’t in the car. He was busy being brave and taking the next jump.

For just a second I hesitated, wondering if I had made the right decision.

And it was then that I remembered that sometimes the kids aren’t the only ones in the family that have to disregard the warning labels and jump anyway.