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Zealots and Trolls

DT at CWS tunner

Sports fans are an interesting breed.

On one hand you have, of course, the “fanatic” or “zealot”, whom The Free Dictionary defines as “a person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm.” The opposite of a fanatic, according to Yahoo! Answers, is the “troll.” A troll or “hater” as they are often referred, is someone who opposes what you think.

Things can get real interesting when a zealot and troll sit next to each other in the stands.

I’ve just returned from Omaha, Nebraska, where I had the thrill of watching my son compete in the 2015 College World Series. David was six-years-old when he first told me he dreamed of playing in Omaha. Seeing his dream (and mine) come true was a beautiful, amazing experience.

As our team took the field, I was talking with another dad who was also experiencing dreams coming true. “There are over 300 Division 1 baseball teams,” he explained quite excited, “which means with 35-man rosters, there are roughly 10,500 student athletes playing baseball.” I nodded my head in agreement giving him the impression I was able to multiply large numbers in my head.

“Eight teams get to Omaha,” he continued, “meaning out of 10,500, less than 300 kids get to experience this.” Once again I nodded confidently in agreement. But then he asked, “Do you know what percentage that is?” He then just looked at me and waited as if my brain was somehow capable of figuring out his complex mathematical equation.

He must have noticed the blood rushing out of my head as I was trying to do math and mercifully volunteered the answer: “Roughly 2.6 percent.” “Yes, that sounds about right,” I said, stomping my foot trying to get the blood flowing back to my brain. “Think about it,” he insisted, less than 3% of all college baseball players ever get here. This is amazingly special.”

Despite my horrible math skills, I’ve thought a lot about that brief conversation. It was indeed “amazingly special” to get to Omaha. And when you consider the winner of the College World Series represents fewer than half of one percent (0.33%) of all division one baseball players (I figured that out all by myself), you realize how truly incredible it is to win this, or any other championship.

Which brings me back to the fanatics and trolls. You see, most are so focused on the win or the loss, they never take into consideration the incredible journey the athlete must take just to get into a position to win or lose. All that matters is for “their” team to finish in that very elusive half of one percent.

My wife and kids have urged me to not look at social media – the playground for zealots and trolls. For the most part, I have complied. But sometimes, I just have to look. And so it was after our team lost I ignored the warning bells and viewed a few social media posts.

And there they were. The zealots and trolls filling page after page with their unbridled vitriol. The fanatics chimed in on all the mistakes made which lost “us” the championship and the trolls basically suggested blind lame dogs would have beaten “our” team.

“It’s okay,” as my son has said to me more than once. “It doesn’t matter what they say or think.” In fact, like most athletes, he seems to have a basic understanding of the zealots and trolls. “They’re just fans,” he says a bit matter-of-fact. “They cheer and they boo. But they don’t understand.”

Then he looked at me and said, “But you understand, Dad.”

Indeed I do. I know all about the countless hours he spends to hone his skills when no one is looking. I know about his terrible disappointment after a poor performance and his heartbreak with a loss. I understand how hard he has worked to fight back from injuries and overcome way too many surgeries and hospital stays. And I certainly know all the sacrifices we have made as a family to help him get where he is today. Yes, I do understand.

So go ahead with your cheers and boos all you zealots and trolls. We understand.

A Father’s Restraint: An Easter Message

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hospital room in Miami looking over my son. He’s trying to sleep but the pain keeps waking him up. Parents absolutely hate seeing our children suffer. We would willingly take their place in an instant if possible. Of course, we are often helpless to do anything but pray.

Some TLC from Grandma

Some TLC from Grandma

A blood clot was discovered in his upper right arm after it swelled twice its size. The skilled doctors moved quickly to remove the clot but with obvious concern. Most healthy 20-year-olds do not develop blood clots. “Venous Thoracic Outlet Syndrome” was found to be the culprit and surgery to remove his first rib was the solution. It was a shock to all of us and the reality hit hard. Dave was playing well for the University of Miami baseball team. He was leading his team with an amazing .579 batting average in ACC conference play (.328 overall) and was just starting to hit his stride. The last place he wanted to be was in the hospital…again.

Now, before I go any further, let me quickly say that David is expected to have a full recovery and return to baseball in due time. While scary and disheartening, there are countless others facing far more devastating issues. We thank the Lord this did not result in a far greater tragedy.

A few days before David’s six-hour surgery, I had finished reading Bill O’Reilly’s book, “Killing Jesus: A History.” It is not a religious book, but was helpful in better understanding the political and religious climate amidst the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. As I sat watching David struggle through pain, my thoughts wandered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Biblical accounts explain Jesus went with his disciples to the Garden to pray. As O’Reilly explains, Jesus knew full well the terrifying suffering he would endure at the hands of a professional Roman crucifixion death squad. The account in Matthew 26:36-46 (NLT) says Jesus was anguished and distressed. Verse 38 reads, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” Three times he prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

As a father, I would do anything to protect my son. If I had the power, I would have cured his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome before a scalpel ever pierced his skin. If I had the power and my son was in anguish and asked me to take away the cup of suffering he was facing, I would not have hesitated.

The Bible says God the Father had that power — but did not use it. That blows me away.

Several days have now passed since I started this article. David was in the hospital for eleven long days and is now on the road to recovery. He can hardly wait to once again pick up a baseball bat and start swinging for the fences. We pray he has many days ahead to enjoy the game he loves and I will gratefully resume my place in the stands to cheer him on.

It’s Easter, and I’ve thought a lot about God the Father’s restraint as He watched His one and only Son being crucified. Of course, He knew that death could not hold his Son. And He knew His Son, the perfect lamb, had come to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

As I discussed these things with Al Valdes, LOGOI’s professor of biblical studies, he simply smiled and quoted John 3:16:

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Thank God for Easter!

Life of an Athlete’s Parent

DT on 2nd

The late George Carlin had a wonderful routine about the differences between football and baseball. “The objectives of the two games are totally different,” he explained. “In football,” Carlin said in a tough military voice, “the object is for the quarterback, otherwise known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz even if he has to use the shotgun.” Carlin then switched to a much softer, kinder voice and said, “In baseball, the object is to go home and to be safe. I hope I’ll be safe at home.”

At a recent University of Miami game, I was talking to a few other parents of athletes about what it’s like to watch our kids perform “on the public collegiate stage.” We sit in the stands amongst emotional fans and can’t help but overhear both praise and disparagement spewing from strangers’ lips. At any particular moment, your child is either great or terrible. “There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground” was an agreed upon statement. Sometimes, we wish we could just grab up our kids and like Carlin said, “go home and be safe.”

Of course, our young athletes would have nothing to do with that. They are competitors and something deep inside them drives them. They are always their own biggest critic; demanding more of themselves than any unreasonable fan. No one is more disappointed with a poor performance than the competitor his or her self. And while we parents sometimes wish we could whisk our children home to safety, the truth is, we’ll stand in the fire with them. We fully understand that all too often, the only encouragement they hear, is from mom and dad.

As I watched the Olympics this year, I felt a new kinship with the parents of those amazing athletes. I could appreciate the tremendous sacrifice both in time and money that was invested to help their child get to this incredible pinnacle. I could better understand their sleepless nights as they worried, consoled, and encouraged. And when one of the olympians would falter after all those years of training and sacrifice and their dreams slipped away in an instant, I could imagine the tearful meeting with a mom and dad whose hearts were equally broken. I wondered how many said the same words I have repeated more than once knowing full well their answer, “You only have two choices: quit or persevere.”

The other side of that coin is equally emotional. I truly understand the expression of being so proud “your buttons might pop off.” Few things are more exhilarating or fill us with more pride than the achievements of our kids. In those moments we know it’s been worth every sacrifice and every struggle and we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Lou Holtz added some excellent insight when he said, “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say you are when you lose.”

So we parents sit in the stands running the gamut of emotions right along with our children. We disregard critics who callously offer opinions with little understanding of what is really taking place, how hard they are working, and how badly they want to succeed. Rather, we welcome the caring eyes and embraces from those who truly understand the struggle. We watch the body language of our kids, read their faces, and pray for wisdom as to how best to respond whether they succeed or fail. Then we pray some more.

It’s not easy being the parent of an athlete. But we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thompson Family Christmas Letter 2013

Jenn and I will be spending this Christmas somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I’ll admit that as a hobby, I like to study quantum physics because like you, I think discrete, indivisible units of energy are just fun. But I still can’t figure out how we leave from Los Angeles on December 24th and arrive in Fiji on the 26th…since the flight is only 12 hours long. While I try to figure it out, here’s a quick family update:

ABBY: The reason we’re missing Christmas this year is because of Abby. She graduated from FSU, moved back home, looked around…and quickly signed up as an au pair and moved to Australia. She is the nanny for two cute little Aussies and appears to be having the time of her life. Unfortunately, she has completely disregarded my orders: “Do not speak to or even look at any Australian men.” Which reminds me, if you have any good mafia connections Down Under, please let me know. I may need to make a phone call.

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Fortunately, her work visa mandates she return to her daddy before a full year has passed. I have already heard rumors, however, that she may want to return to the land of cricket and rugby matches, which reminds me; if you have any good mafia connections here in the U.S., let me know. I may need to make a phone call.

Abby has always wanted to see the world and she is certainly doing just that. We will be expanding her world a bit more with a quick trip to the Great Barrier Reef while there. I have always hoped, you see, to come face-to-face with a hungry Great White Shark while snorkeling.

We can’t help but wonder what the Lord has in store for Abby. And while the A&E Network may not like it, we really do want God’s clear guidance and to Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5,6).

DAVID: If I had to do college over again, I’d be a Division 1 athlete like David. The nice people at the University of Miami sign him up for classes, get him his books, and even pay for his education. It’s really nice. All he has to do is get good grades and hit a few home runs. How easy is that?

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Of course, Dave has complicated a few things. His first day of college as a freshman was spent in the hospital getting labrum surgery on his throwing shoulder. He enjoyed that experience so much that as soon as baseball season ended, he had a second surgery to “clean things up.” So, for the second straight year, he was not able to play football. The jury is still out regarding his future as a Hurricane quarterback.

On the baseball field, however, he managed to lead his team in RBI, home runs, and a few other categories. His hard work resulted in being named a 2013 Freshman All-American, Louisville Regional All-Tournament Team, and UM’s Rookie of the Year. The new baseball season starts in mid-February and our third baseman tells us his shoulder (finally) feels, “fantastico.” We’re praying for a healthy season.

A 2013 highlight for David was traveling to Cuba on a LOGOI mission trip in December. He loves sharing his testimony, providing much needed gifts of baseball equipment, and seeing the hope and joy only Jesus can bring. He’s been invited to travel back in July and possibly play in a baseball tournament with a Cuban team. Now that would be fun!

MATT & LAURA: Life in Silicon Valley is amazingly scenic, active, and much better looking since Matt and Laura are making their home in San Jose. The only issue is, they are not living next door to me in Miami which I thought was part of the dowry. While I know they miss family and friends in their hometown, they have made close friends, are part of a great church, and seem to have a constant flow of out-of-town visitors.

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They also get offered new job opportunities every other week. As I write this letter, Matt is a very creative marketing executive with a well respected marketing firm working with some big name-brands and clients. Laura is with a large corporate travel agency. By the time you receive this, however, all that may have changed. It must be nice to be young, talented, and good looking. And despite living on the left-coast, they are somehow surviving both global-warming and Obamacare. They have good Republican roots.

We were able to spend a wonderful Thanksgiving week with them, meet some of their good friends, and check out their new rental house. We also were able to experience life with their large German Short-Hair Pointer who likes to eat rocks and thinks he’s a lap dog.

Business meetings, weddings, holidays, and hopefully a few UM baseball games will keep bringing us together for short visits. They always remind us of how much we love being together. We’re very proud of how they are making their own way in this big world and how much they want their lives to honor Christ. Big things are always just around the corner for them making life exciting and keeping them (and us) on our knees.

ED & JENN: To help us avoid the quiet empty-nester feeling most couples experience when their children move out, Abby left her dog Bentley with us as she galavants around Australia. So, Bentley, who happens to be the world’s largest miniature Dachshund, barks at anything that moves, breathes, or stands still. We have to attend a Miami Marlin’s baseball game to get some peace and quiet.

ImageJenn completed an unheard of re-building project at Westminster Christian: demolishing and then erecting a brand new, state-of-the-art elementary school in one-year. The new facility is beautiful and we all marvel at Jenn’s talent and ability. A few UM football and baseball players have also been able to experience some of her culinary skills. And while we wonder if cookies and cakes violate some NCAA rule, we love getting to know these Hurricanes. It gives us great encouragement about the next generation.

With the exception of game days, you’ll find me busy at LOGOI. In 2014 we’ll be talking a lot about our Five Dollar National Missionaries scattered all over the Spanish world. We have some 7,500 of them at this point but, Lord willing, have room for many thousands more. And yes, it really does cost just $5 per month to support one of our national missionaries. I just may ask you to help spread the word, so…cuidado. And by the way, a fun way to stay connected is right here on BlogEd, so come on, just click that little “follow” button.

There is a short video on the homepage of our LOGOI website called, “The Christmas Scale.” I’ve heard it’s been around for a while, but it was new to me. The caption reads, “It’s hard to believe that the greatest message the world will ever hear is contained in one simple scale.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth taking a couple minutes and checking it out. It beautifully says exactly what all us Thompson’s want to say: Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

Merry Christmas,

The Thompsons

Home Field Advantage

I have watched with a great deal of curiosity as the latest group of high school area athletes contemplate their college futures. Most say the only thing they have decided on so far is that they are undecided.

Miami_Hurricanes_logo.svgBarely 16 months ago, my son was tossing his high school graduation cap high in the air while eagerly looking forward to fulfilling a life-long dream to become a Miami Hurricane.  His recruiting trail was less than 15 miles and the Coral Gables campus was his only official visit.  “Why would I go on any other visits?” he questioned, when out of state invitations were offered. “I’d just be wasting their time and mine.”

I understand that just because you grow up in a certain area doesn’t mean that the local college is the right fit.  For some, going away for school is absolutely the best decision for a myriad of reasons.  Academic standards, financial requirements, and other expectations are always factors affecting decisions.  And of course, there are many who would love to play for their home team but for one reason or another, are simply not given the opportunity.

But now, with a full year of being a family with a student-athlete under our belts, I have discovered that it’s the “other things” that make playing at home so special.

When my son committed early to the University of Miami, I’m not sure who was more excited: my son, or me.  Half my wardrobe has a “U” on it and the stickers on my truck would be difficult to remove. I am very comfortable flashing “the U” sign and my email salutation to friends who egregiously attended other universities often states, “It’s all about the U.”  I’m even friends with a former Ibis.

But things, as we all know, rarely go exactly as planned.  And so it was that before my son even stepped foot on the field his freshman year, he found himself as a medical redshirt recovering from an unexpected and certainly unplanned surgery.  One of the “other things” quickly kicked in as a mother’s care and concern meant sleeping in the uncomfortable chair in the hospital room just to make sure her boy was okay.

The list of “other things” started adding up quickly, like the fun of meeting his new friends and having them over for dinner. “Other things” include catching a last minute movie knowing Dad will gladly pay–even for Milkduds, or periodically delivering a fresh batch of mom-made-cookies for the team to enjoy. “Other things” even included sneaking into a practice and hiding behind trash cans and bleachers so your son (or a coach) won’t see you but being very worried that a security guard will–and taser you from behind.

The “other things” are also late night talks to encourage and advise when things aren’t working out quite right or when the struggle is greater than expected. “Other things” is simply being there to comfort when he finds finds out he needs yet another surgery.   Of course, “other things” is the absolute thrill of seeing your son on the field proudly wearing the uniform and living his dream.

While going away for college has its list of “other things,” too, there is a definite reason for the phrase, “home field advantage.”  It’s more than being familiar and comfortable with your surroundings.  It’s about an entire network of family and friends who support you, come to watch you play, and cheer you on in athletics as well as life.  Home field advantage is all about the “other things” that mean so much, but can’t be found in brochures, locker rooms, or play-books.

So I wonder, as I listen to the banter from some of these local high school athletes, if they have taken the time to consider the “other things.” I suspect not.  But as we have discovered, there is a powerful home field advantage.  Sometimes, it’s even hiding behind a trash can.

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