Bad Interviews: A Guide For Aspiring Lawyers

For many years, I worked at a large law firm in Kentucky.  For 10 years, I was on the hiring committee, which was known by the much haughtier “Professional Personnel Committee.”  It was a thankless position which drew criticism from people who wanted to hire their relatives and children of their friends.  I don’t know how many people I interviewed, but it has to be several hundred.

Most of the folks I interviewed were law students, some looking for summer work and others for full-time employment.  I saw a little bit of everything over those years.  I learned that you can’t really learn much about someone in a twenty or thirty minute interview.  We hired people who seemed perfectly okay, only to find out they were social misfits or wholly unpleasant people.  Fortunately, many such people had risen to important positions in our firm over the years, so there was always a place for them.

The truth is that it’s hard to wow people during an interview.  This is especially true if that person is interviewing numerous people on the same day.  Hopefully, your resume’ is impressive and you have at least rudimentary social skills.  After that, it’s a crap shoot.

While wowing the interviewer may be difficult, repulsing the your prospective employer is not.  That’s what this post is about.  Below, I offer you several basic ways to ensure that your interview goes well–or not.  One caveat:  This is just from my perspective.  Some things that annoy me might be downright charming to someone else.  Hopefully, you can find some freak like that who is hiring.


This is directed primarily to men, because they are the ones who don’t know how to dress themselves.  Young men, in particular, struggle.  I don’t know why, but it’s true.

Dressing for a professional interview is pretty simple.  A nice suit, tie, shirt and shoes.  How can you go wrong?

Well, how about getting clothes that fit?  I interviewed a very nice and impressive young man whose shirt sleeves were too long.  They almost covered his hands.  It was probably his dad’s shirt.  We hired him anyway.  He worked for us all summer with his damn hands half-covered by his shirt.  By the way, he did a good job, but the shirts just wrecked it.

Years ago, silks ties weren’t that easy to find.  Now, you can buy them at Walmart.  Just get a silk tie.  Oh, and learn to tie it.  Maybe your dad can help you.  If not, give a vagrant a couple of bucks and see if he can help.  Just don’t screw it up.  Interviewers will never tell you this, but if the knot in your tie is a disaster, they won’t stop staring at it.  It’s like having a face tattoo.  Here’s a bad one:

ESPN football analyst Merril Hoge is well-known for his outrageous knots.

ESPN football analyst Merril Hoge is well-known for his outrageous knots.

Hoge is an excellent analyst, but I wouldn’t hire him.  By the way, I met him one time in an airport.  Nice fellow.  Fortunately, he wasn’t wearing a tie.

Ronald Reagan is best known as the patron saint of all things conservative.  I, on the other hand, admired his neckwear:

Reagan tied a hell of a knot.

President Reagan tied a hell of a knot.

It’s simple:  Reagan “Yes.”  Hoge “No.”

What about shoes?  Wingtips and cap toes never fail you.  Loafers can work, too, as long as they’re not too weird.  Fancy tassels and weird two-toned colors are off-putting.  It goes without saying that you should wear socks. Actually, it doesn’t go without saying.  I interviewed a guy who didn’t have on socks.  NEXT!

Here are some shoes that will do you in before the interview starts:

I don't know what you call these, but I don't like them.

I don’t know what you call these, but I don’t like them.

A guy wore these to an interview with me.  I couldn’t quit looking at them, thinking “What the hell is wrong with this guy?  You can’t wear those with a suit!”  Later, when our committee met to discuss the interviews, everyone LOVED this guy.  I just said, “Hey, did you see his shoes?  There’s a problem here.”  Oh, how they scoffed at me!  So, I was out-voted, and we hired him for the summer.  It was a disaster, of course.  The guy couldn’t follow rules and was just generally annoying.  The shoes told the story.

One final thought on clothes:  Just wear something normal.  If you have the urge to make a statement with your attire, resist it.  You may fancy bolo ties and cravats in your personal life.  Good for you, but I don’t want to see that.  Don’t be, as a colleague of mine once said, a “glitzy bastard.”

Here’s how I deal with this in my life.  My wife picks out my clothes.  Try that, except use your own wife or girlfriend.


This is a tough one, because you may be weird.  If you’re in law school, the chances are pretty good that your are.  You have to tamp that down for your interview.

I interviewed a young man who had quite the impressive resume’.  He was an outstanding student with an impressive work history.  After we exchanged pleasantries, here is how the interview started:

HIM I was just in the bathroom and noticed that I have this big zit on my face.

He was correct.  He then explained that his face breaks out when he’s nervous.  I couldn’t focus on anything else.  I was checking his face to see if there would further eruptions.

Then, there was the guy who held his tie between his index and middle fingers and flipped it up and down when he talked.  Finally, he looked down at his tie and said:  “I keep doing that, don’t I?”

A young lady had to take a break during our interview for a snack.  It was okay with me, but it did make the interview drag a bit.  She answered my questions between handfuls of chips.

I could list a dozen more similar tales, but I won’t.  The bottom line is that you may have to hide your true self during the interview.  I used to tell interviewees:  “If you spend a lot of time wearing Spock ears and playing Dungeons & Dragons, just keep that to yourself.”


Although being a pompous ass may well go hand in hand with being a lawyer, most people don’t like pompous asses.  Here are just a few things NOT to say in your interview:

  • I’m a perfectionist. [Oh, good.  We all want some over-achieving jackass around us all day].
  • Your firm has a great reputation. [This means nothing to me.  My firm had a reputation at one point of being a miserable sweat shop.  We knew that.]
  • I’m interested in International Law. [Good for you.  Go find an International Law Firm].
  • I enjoy working hard.  [No one enjoys that.  If you do, I don’t want to be around you.]
  • I’m a self-starter [Really?  As opposed to a sloth who has to be kicked to get moving?]

The simple truth is that you aren’t that impressive.  Yes, a work ethic and baseline intelligence are necessary, but if you’ve made good grades you likely meet those requirements.  Remember:  Your goal is to come across as reasonably normal.  You can’t really impress a pompous ass like me anyway.

Oh, don’t carry a brief case.  That just makes me want to beat you over the head with it.


Again, this applies to men only (usually).  Take it easy on the odd facial hair.  Here is a photo of one of my sons:

My son's facial hair is a non-starter for an interview.

My son’s facial hair is a non-starter for an interview.

I love my son, but if I were interviewing for a new son, he wouldn’t get a call back.

The basic beard or mustache is fine.  Mutton chops are not.  The same goes for the classic Fu Manchu.  The soul patch is definitely out, too.

Here’s my advice:  Just shave before your interview.  That way, you take out any possibility of your taste in facial hair being a problem.  For women, it’s even more important.


Closely related to facial hair is head hair.  GROOM YOURSELF APPROPRIATELY.

Back in the 1990’s slicked back hair was all the rage for the aspiring young professional male.  Thank God that was short-lived or we’d be kowtowing to an army of Jerry Lewises now.  If you think you should be the one to bring back that look, think again. Then wash your hair.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is unkempt hair.  Hey, you might be a hipster or gadfly of some sort.  Your hair may be your calling card.  That’s your choice, of course, but  I won’t overlook it.  Check your hair in a mirror.  Is there a part in it?  If not, start comb it until a part develops.  That’s a good start.

It’s also good time to check out your hair care products:  gels, sprays and the like.  While I don’t like unruly hair, don’t go too far.  If your hair looks like it could deflect a hockey puck or is in danger dripping on your impressive resume’, back off a tad.

Hair color is important.  I’m not suggesting for a moment that you change your natural hair color, but, if you do, go with a natural color.  I don’t mean just any color found in nature, such as violet, orange or bright red.  I mean a color of human hair.  I grew up in a small town where women had an affinity for blonde hair–really blonde.  I know that it is easy go way over the line with it.  Like any healthy man, I appreciate a nice blonde look, but don’t over do it.  Ric Flair is not the look we want.

Ric Flair has nice, but the hair needs work.

Ric Flair has a nice suit, but the hair needs work.

If you do go blonde, steer clear of Stripper Curls:

This isn't the image you want to impress upon your prospective employer--or IS IT?

This isn’t the image you want to impress upon your prospective employer–or IS IT?

If this is all too overwhelming for you, just shave your head.  A word of caution to women:  That’s usually not a good look for you.  Use your judgment.


In closing, here are few more deal-killers, all based upon my real life experiences:

  • The only men who wear white dress shoes are pimps.  If you are interviewing for a pimping position, that’s fine.  Otherwise, it’s a no go.
  • Asking questions is fine.  Asking a hundred isn’t.  You’ll know you’ve overdone it when the interviewer says “SHUT THE HELL UP!”
  • Eye contact is good.  Staring isn’t.  I don’t need you to look into my soul.  I won’t hesitate to ask “What the [expletive deleted] are you looking at?”
  • Your controversial political or religious views are probably fascinating to some people.  I’m not one of them.
  • Pinky rings on men and dozens of bracelets on women:  These are distracting, and I don’t like them.
  • If you sweat profusely, just stop it for the interview.  It’s only decent.
  • Talking is a plus.  Mutes struggle to make an impression.
  • Zip up your pants.
  • And your skirt.
  • I have an Eastern Kentucky accent.  Unless you have one, too, don’t make mine a point of emphasis.

Good luck out there.  The good news is that most people don’t like doing interviews and barely pay attention anyway.  Of course, I’m not one of those people.  The better news is that I’ve retired from interviewing.  Aren’t you glad?

© 2013

How to Be a Prophet

The Amazing Criswell has nothing on me in the prophesizing game.

The Amazing Criswell has nothing on me in the prophesizing game.

I drive quite a bit for my job, often in Eastern Kentucky where the radio choices are limited.  As a result I listen to radio preachers.  Some are quite good and inspiring.  Most aren’t and are downright terrifying.  On a recent road trip, I heard a preacher talking about prophecy and he humbly said:  “Brothers and sisters, some say I have the gift of prophecy! I would never claim to have that gift, but if I do, it’s because the Lord has blessed me to speak  the truth of His word!”  In other words, “Of course, I am a prophet.” He then went on the explain the End of Days in terms only slightly more complex than the Unabomber Manifesto.  Frankly, I couldn’t follow it.

It did, however, get me thinking:  What if this guy is a prophet?  More importantly, what if I am?  If I am, I’ve never really tried to use my skills.  Maybe I should.

All your major religions have prophets.  The Abrahamic faiths have Moses, Isaiah and many others.  Islam throws in Mohammed, too.  Mormons have Joseph Smith.  Scientology gives us Tom Cruise.

I can’t claim to be a theologian or even particularly religious.  I have, however, read the Bible–the entire thing.  In fact, I’ve probably read it all several times.  I don’t think of the Bible as a book.  It’s really a collection of short stories, memoirs and musings by a variety of authors.  These writings are chock full of sex and violence, good news and bad news, rules, laws and, of course, prophecy.

Isaiah is the Babe Ruth of the Biblical prophets, the big hitter of the bunch. Others, like Nahum, are more Dal Maxvill.  They all foretell the future with varying degrees of accuracy.  The wildest, though, is John, and he is saved for the very end.  His book–Revelation–is like something Hunter Thompson might have written after a peyote bender.  This book is the one that almost everyone knows something about, regardless of religious faith or lack thereof.

A good prophet can interpret this mess and make his own predictions.  Those are my aims.

Let’s clarify up front that the book is Revelation, not Revelations.  Technically, it is the Revelation of John.  Who was John?  No one knows for sure.  Some think he was John the Apostle, while others think he was an entirely different cat.  We know he lived on the island of Patmos; thus, we can call him John of Patmos.  Even though my name is John, it damn sure isn’t me.  The wild imagery of his book seems completely out-of-place with the rest of the New Testament, but it made the cut when the books of the Bible were canonized way back when, so it’s part of the playbook.

I offer the preceding paragraph only to make it appear that I am an erudite Biblical scholar.  I am not.  Regardless, I know quite a bit about it and am willing to speculate as to its meaning.  This puts me on par with the vast majority of folks who think they are, in fact, erudite Biblical scholars.  Thus, I can be a prophet, a false one mind you, but a prophet nonetheless.

I won’t debate the literal versus figurative meaning of the Bible.  I know that a lot of folks say that the Bible is to be taken literally.  For example, Adam and Eve is a true story right down to the last detail.  Hey, how do I know? As a prophet, I would only predict the future, not try to interpret the past.

One thing, though, that has to be subject to some consensus is that Revelation cannot be taken literally.  If is literal, the signs of the last days are going to be very easy to identify.  A seven-headed, crown-wearing monster will be hard to miss.  There will be beings that look like animals with eye balls all over them; angels blowing trumpets; an archangel; a whore; and a bunch bad doings.  I’m not the quickest on the uptake, but if this all literal, I’ll catch on fairly quickly.  I’m into symbolism, and I like to think John was, too.

Most of us are concerned about the Beast.  Actually, there are two beasts:  One from the sea and one from the Earth.  The Sea Beast has a seven heads, crowns, etc.  The Earth Beast has a couple of horns and is basically charged with making everyone do the bidding of Sea Beast.  Got it?

If I were a prophet–a real one–I could and would interpret this symbolism.  I think I can do that.  Revelation is the best source for prophecy because you can make into whatever you want with just a little imagination.  For example, Charles Manson made it all about the Beatles.  Read and learn.

Everyone will have to get the mark of the Beast, which we all know is the number 666.  Without that, we can’t buy or sell stuff. To make a long story short, the Beast (or Beasts–I get a little confused here) do battle with the Lord of Lords and, predictably, lose.  They are thrown into the Lake of Fire to be tormented for all eternity.  It goes without saying–even though I now say (or “prophesy”) it–the Lake of Fire is a bad beat.

Here’s what you don’t want to do:  DON’T JOIN UP WITH THE BEAST.  If you encounter a seven-headed anything or a dude with horns, steer clear.  But, what if it IS symbolic?  Then, we’ve got a problem. That’s where a prophet has real value.

I once worked with a Seventh Day Adventist who passed out literature in our office saying that the Papacy is the Beast.  Honestly, it was very hard to follow.  I wasn’t convinced.  A lot of brainy folks think old John was talking about Emperor Nero Caesar, because through some convoluted numerology his name corresponds with 666.  I talked to a lady once who said that the Social Security Administration is the Beast.  While those are enticing theories, take a look at this:

BARACK:  6 letters

HUSSEIN:  7 letters

OBAMA:      5 Letters

Note how his full name totals 18 letters.  What numbers divides into 18 three times?  6, of course.  THREE sixes or 6-6-6.  It couldn’t be any clearer.  That’s my prophetic take on it.

(As an aside, some ancient texts show the number as 616, but we’re not going down that road.  Such reckless speculation would render meaningless Iron Maiden’s classic song The Number of the Beast.)

But, what of the seven heads and whatnot?  Well, first the Beast of the Sea is obviously the United Nations which covers all seven continents.  The ten crowns could well be the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for all I know.   Maybe Obama is the Beast of the Earth.  His ears are kind of like horns.  Plus, he’s a smoker.  That would explain speaking like a dragon.

It makes perfect sense.  The first beast (the UN) and the second beast (Obama) will gather together to make war against the Lord of Lords.  We can all see that coming, can’t we?  I do.

How about the Whore of Babylon?  Centuries ago, lots of folks said it was the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church said it would be a fake Catholic Church.  No one, apparently, ever thought it would be a real whore, so don’t try to burn Miley Cyrus at the stake.

We know that ancient Babylon is in Iraq, so I say we call Iraq Babylon.  When John spoke of this whore reigning “over the kings of the earth,” could he have been speaking of the United States?  Hmmm.  Starting to make some sense now, huh? No?  Who’s the prophet here–me or you?  Ignore me at your own peril.

There are tons of details in Revelation, but I have neither the time nor interest to become familiar with them. I’ve made my point, whatever it may be.

Through a cursory reading of the Bible and libelous logic, I’ve just turned the President of the United States of America into the Beast (or Beasts).  Someone reading this agrees with me.  (By the way, don’t tell me if you do).  So, I’m now a prophet, false of otherwise.

In truth, I’m not a prophet (at least as far as I know).  I used to bet on football games and displayed no gift for prescience.  The last great prophet was probably The Amazing Criswell, star of several of Ed Wood’s films, including as the narrator of Plan Nine From Outer Space.  While he was wrong about Mae West becoming President and the outbreak of cannibalism in Pennsylvania, he wasn’t far off on predicting all-homosexual cities.  He predicted the end of the world to occur on August 18, 1999.  He was certainly no less of a prophet than the clown who predicted the end for May 21, 2011.

On the off-chance that I’m wrong, and I am a prophet, I need to make some predictions, so I conclude now with ten simple predictions or prophetic musings, if you will:

  1. In 2014, Tim Tebow will get a try out with an NFL team, and it will receive news coverage similar to the Super Bowl.
  2. In late 2013, a minor celebrity will be arrested.  His or her mug shot will be quite embarrassing.
  3. Any day now, a politician will become embroiled in a sex scandal, which he will blame on a troubled childhood or substance abuse.  Or both.
  4. The 2016 Presidential race will be littered with an appalling array of unqualified candidates.
  5. In 2018, the United States Constitution will be amended to replace the Electoral College with an American Idol-style reality show hosted by Eminem and Brent Musberger.
  6. By 2020, the U.S. will return to its conservative values, outlawing all forms of sexual activity, unless it involves use of a firearm.
  7. In 2022, Scientology will cease to exist, as the last member states:  “No one ever believed this nutty shit anyway.”
  8. At 80 years old, O.J. Simpson will die when someone just stabs the living hell out of him.
  9. In 2031, a cure for cancer will be perfected.  Unfortunately, it will so expensive that no one can afford it.
  10. In 2036, Jesus will return to Earth.  He will quickly be branded a dangerous socialist and denied a work visa in the United States.

If none of that happens, then I’ll second John on predicting a multi-headed sea beast.  That should cover all my bases.

© 2013

The Middle East: A Simple Guide from a Simple Man

As always, the Middle East in the news. The government of Egypt has been overthrown (again) and the USA is threatening something against Syria. Apparently, the Syrian government gassed some of its citizens. At first, it sounded like we were going to wipe them out.  Then, it sounded like we might just block them on Facebook.  Now, it sounds like we’re doing nothing.

If you’re like me, you probably don’t know nearly as much about the Middle East as you should. After all, other than occasional lunacy from North Korea, the Middle East is pretty much where all the world’s trouble originates these days. I’ve penned this short primer to help others gain my limited knowledge of this troubling region.


What is the Middle East? Well, first off, it’s not continent or a country. It’s actually a bunch of countries, mostly in Western Asia and a tiny part of North Africa. So, the Middle East is actually Western Asia and small speck of North Africa. Understand?

Below are all the countries that comprise the Middle East, along with my brief comments on what I know about each of them:

  • Bahrain: Didn’t know this was a country. I thought it was a city in Iraq.
  • Cyprus: Never heard of it. I don’t think we’ve ever attacked it or attacked anyone on its behalf. Thus, it’s safe to assume that 1) It has no oil; 2) It hasn’t attacked Israel; and 3) It isn’t another name for Israel.
  • Egypt: Egypt is actually in Africa. Did you know that? It was ruled by ruthless dictator Hosni Mubarek who was ousted from power by people who were then ousted from power. Most of what I know about Egypt is from The Ten Commandments. Looks like a bad place. They once had someone win the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated.
  • Iran: The biggest of the troublemakers. Iran used to be called Persia and was known for its fabulous rugs and house cats. Now, it’s known for political and religious fanaticism and occasional wild threats against countries which could wipe it out in about a day and a half.  It’s only modern contribution to society was former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s embrace of business casual attire.

Iran’s former president may have been nutty, but he made every day Casual Friday.

  • Iraq: Also known as the 51st state of the United States. Of course, it was once ruled by evil ruthless dictator Saddam Hussein. Now it is ruled by God knows what.  Hussein was the kind of well-balanced leader who tried to repel an America military attack by firing rockets at Israel.
  • Israel: Sort of like the United States’ little brother. It gets picked on a lot but always knows big brother has its back. Like a little brother, it also talks tough and doesn’t hesitate to threaten others. Beloved by evangelical Christians who somehow don’t care that a vast majority of its citizens reject the most basic tenets of Christianity. It has never been ruled by a ruthless dictator, but it has been governed by ruthless democratically elected leaders. Americans aren’t allowed to publicly criticize the Israeli government. Oddly enough, Israelis criticize it openly and often.
  • Jordan: I don’t know much about it, other than they seem like they’re friendly enough. I just found out the King Hussein died in 1999. He seemed alright to me. I was excited to learn that Abdullah is now the king–until I found out it wasn’t Abdullah the Butcher.

King Abdullah The Butcher of Jordan (I wish!)

  • Kuwait: They have a lot of oil and a king or emir or something like that. They were invaded by Iraq 20 or so years ago, causing us to kick some Iraqi ass back to Baghdad. Since then, they don’t cause trouble for the U.S.
  • Lebanon: Beirut was once considered the Paris of the Arab World. During most of my life, it’s been a hotbed for troublemakers. Apparently, it still is, as it is the home base of Hezbollah, a disagreeable group whose sole purpose is the destruction of Israel.  Then again, no country is perfect.  We have the Westboro Baptist Church.  Oddly, though, Lebanon is a democracy–probably because it doesn’t have any oil.  Their constitution requires that the highest government officials belong to varied religions.  This keeps any one group of loons from taking over.
  • Oman: Hmmm. They’re too small to cause much trouble, I guess.  It sounds a lot like Onan, which makes me giggle.
  • Palestine: Not really a country, but it used be. That’s one of the big problems over there. They want to be a country again, but there isn’t enough land. So, they fight with the Israelis.  A lot of it has to do with the Gaza Strip, which sounds like an exotic dance, but it isn’t.
  • Qatar: Here’s what I know. The name is pronounced “Gutter.” Sometimes. It has a lot of oil (surprise!), but it’s a tiny little piss ant of a country. They seem to keep to themselves.
  • Saudi Arabia:  It’s a kingdom and also lousy with oil.  People wear robes and fabulous head wear.  They have a royal family.  May be best known as the home country of Osama Bin Laden, the lanky terrorist mastermind who had his sorry ass blown away by Navy Seals.  They’re heavy-duty Muslims, allowing religious leaders an official role in the their government.  Supposedly friendly to the U.S., but I have my doubts.  They remind me of friend who would sleep with your girl friend, and then blame her (not that I ever knew anyone like that or anything).
  • Syria: Doesn’t seem to get along with anyone, except Russia.  It is said that if Turkey and Syria ever go to war, they will fight until the last drop of Iraqi blood.  They’ve had a civil war going on for a couple of years now, but no one seems to know who is fighting whom.  There may not be any good guys.
  • Turkey:  Turkey is a democracy and has been for some time. It’s almost all Muslim but not Arab. They’re Turks, of course. They’re very sensitive about Armenians, so don’t bring that up around them. They’re best known for their wonderful baths and horrific prisons.  A friend of mine went to Turkey and ate a big bucket of cherries causing some sort of severe gastrointestinal reaction.
  • United Arab Emirates: This isn’t a country but a group of country-like states. They might just be cities. They’re all ruled by emirs and sheiks. One of the sheiks has a horse farm not too far from where I live. I’ve seen him at the race track. Dashing fellow that sheik. The best thing about the UAE is that it’s where former Iraqi Information Minister Baghdad Bob lives.
  • Yemen: It is the Unemployed Brother-in-Law of the Middle East. It’s real close to running out of oil which would pretty much turn it into the set for the next Mad Max film. They seem fairly friendly with the U.S., as do most impoverished nations. On the other hand, Yemen is a hot bed for terrorists resulting in the occasional lethal drone strike.  They don’t seem to mind.

Were you as surprised as I was to find out that Libya isn’t part of the Middle East, at least according to Wikipedia?  It sure seems like it should be with all its threats and saber-rattling over the years.  The late Muammar Gaddafi (Khadafi?  Qaddafi?) certainly qualified as a ruthless dictator.  I don’t get it.  Let’s just throw Libya in there anyway.

Libya's late strong man was certainly a bad guy, but the world misses his style.

Libya’s late strong man was certainly a bad guy, but the world misses his style.

Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan are in the Middle East, and we can’t stretch the definition to include them.  Remember this rule of thumb:  None of the “Stan” countries are in the Middle East.


Middle Eastern countries have a vast array of governments from democracies to theocracies to monarchies to dictatorships.  They all seem to have one thing in common:  They like to threaten and fight with each or, at the very least, Israel.  Generally speaking, they also seem to despise the United States–and we ain’t too fond of them, either.

All Middle Eastern nations brag about their armies who typically provide little resistance to invaders (Israel excepted, of course).  They quickly surrender and often join forces with the invaders.

Strong men and ruthless dictators have always been popular.  They’re usually fairly despicable, although the United States has been friendly with some of them.  The Shah of Iran, for example, was a fast friend of ours.  One good thing about these folks is that they are able to keep the religious nuts out of their governments, which is more than we can say for our own form of government.  Of course, if you’re like the Shah, you may be unfortunate enough to thrown from power by the religious nuts.  That also happens sometimes in our country, but it’s through elections.

Some of the countries follow Sharia law, which is a form of theocracy incorporating Islamic law into the secular laws of the country–or something like that.  You may have heard Glenn Beck and others of his ilk decrying the possibility that Sharia law will become the law of the land in the United States.  Some states have even passed laws to prevent that.  If you voted for anyone based upon that, please consider not voting anymore.  Thanks.


If Middle Eastern governments are varied, their religion is not.  The countries are predominantly Islamic, with exception of Israel, which is mostly Jewish.  I don’t know about Cyprus.  Lebanon used to have more Christians than anyone else.  I assume that’s still the case.

As we all know, we’re not to discuss religion in polite company, but religion is a big deal in the Middle East.  Most of the countries don’t want any religion but Islam.  Of course, many Americans don’t want any religion but Christianity, but we are certainly more tolerant, if not any less hateful about it.

Some Americans think all Muslims are terrorists. It’s like people who say all conservatives are racists. Although there may be quite a few who are, the overwhelming majority are not.  Facts don’t matter.  People believe what they want to believe.  It’s sort of like religion.

My son has a close friend who is Muslim, and he seems harmless enough.  We have millions of Muslims in the U.S., and I’m reasonably certain they aren’t all terrorists.

We in America talk about radical Islam or Muslim extremists.  I’m not sure how you define those terms, but read the Old Testament and take every single rule and law literally.  You’ll probably be an extremist.

A lot of the fighting in the Middle East is between Muslim groups.  There are Shiites and Sunnis.  I don’t know the difference and don’t intend to find out.  I have a hard enough time with all the different Christian denominations.  Here’s a good guide for you.  If your church suggests that you blow yourself up or blow up other people, consider checking out another group.


I don’t know much of their culture.  They like soccer, so much so that Iraq once executed its national soccer coach.  They also play buzkashi, a game where you throw around a goat carcass (maybe that’s Afghanistan).  They probably play cricket.

I’ve never heard any of their music, but I imagine sitars.  If they make movies, they’re probably anti-American.

They don’t treat women very well or at least most of the countries don’t.  There is a lot of capital punishment (very American, too) and hand chopping (not American).  When excited, they randomly fire weapons.  Lots of Americans do the same thing.

American flag burning remains popular, too.  Throwing shoes is their idea of a cutting edge insult.


Oil.  Tourism for Israel and Turkey. Oh, and don’t forget American foreign aid.


That sums up all my knowledge about this fascinating and controversial region.  I have never visited the Middle East and don’t intend to do so.  You may visited there or even be a native. If so, you are likely appalled by my ignorance and outright fabrications.  Well, too bad.  I’m an American, and I don’t have an obligation to learn about every foreign country on Earth.  I know a little, and so does everyone else who read this. Just don’t throw a shoe at me.

© 2013

Whither the Cult of Tebow?

Not surprisingly, the Patriots released Tim Tebow. I doubt this diminishes his popularity among his die-hard fans. If anything, it will give them a brief respite until he resurfaces in the Canadian Football League or among the army of TV talking heads.  His release is likely, however, to end the NFL chapter of one of the more bizarre sports stories of my life time.

Tebow’s popularity in the NFL far exceeded his collegiate fame, which was substantial.  At the University of Florida, Tebow played on two national championship teams and won the Heisman Trophy.  He threw and ran for touchdowns like no one before him.  As we have seen in the few years since he left Florida, this may have had more to do with the changing nature of the quarterback position than his unique skills. He was nevertheless an exciting and dynamic presence at Florida.

His Christianity was on full display at Florida, too.  He wore Bible citations instead of eye black, prayed on the field and spoke openly of his faith.  This, of course, caught the attention of Christians (especially those of an evangelical stripe).  Others found this overbearing–even obnoxious.  Regardless, we all wanted someone who played like him at our alma maters.  As a result, he was a polarizing figure, as is usually the case with popular athletes.  Many love them, and many love to hate them.

Despite his college success, Tebow was never viewed as anymore than a borderline NFL prospect.  Prior to the 2010 Draft opinions varied.  Draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. didn’t think Tebow could play quarterback in the NFL.  Former NFL Coach Jon Gruden disagreed.  His best shot, according to many, would be to change positions.  His future was brighter as a tight end or H-back.  After all, many college quarterbacks have made similar transitions in the NFL.  Tebow’s size, strength and athleticism would allow him to do the same.

Tebow had different plans.  So did the Denver Broncos who surprised the NFL by using a 1st round draft pick on Tebow in the 2010 draft.  Denver’s young head coach, Josh McDaniels, planned to play Tebow at quarterback, and Tebow had no intention of changing positions.  He and the Broncos were the perfect match.

I was one of the misguided few who believed Tebow would be an effective, if not star, NFL player. This only proves my inability to assess quarterback play. Several years ago, my alma mater–the University of Kentucky–had an outstanding QB named Andre Woodson. He was big, strong armed and smart. He also had poor footwork and a slow release. I thought some NFL guru would fix that. It didn’t happen. I don’t think he ever took a snap in a regular season game.  Even though Woodson and Tebow had many of the same throwing issues, I thought the Broncos got a steal.  For awhile, it looked like I might be right.

After a rookie season where he played sparingly, Tebow got his shot as a starter in 2011 under new coach John Fox.  With Tebow at the helm the last ten games, the Broncos went 7 and 3.  Tebow was hailed as a hero–perhaps a savior, if that is not too insensitive.  I felt vindicated until I watched him play.  Yes, the Broncos won, but Tebow’s play was wildly up and down.  Big plays were followed by inexplicably bad ones–overthrows, misread defenses and just plain bad throws.  “He just wins” was the defense.  The Broncos opted to sign Peyton Manning, another quarterback who wins, plus makes every throw a quarterback can make.

Tebow then spent one forgettable season with New York Jets where he couldn’t get on the field.  When he did play, he was ineffective.  His fans blamed Coach Rex Ryan.  After his release by the Jets, his old coach Josh McDaniels, now the Patriots’ offensive coordinator gave him another shot.  If anyone could make it work, McDaniels and the Patriots could.  They couldn’t.

There are 5 QB attributes : size; vision; arm strength; accuracy; and footwork. Of these, arm strength is the least important. Joe Montana didn’t have a cannon arm. Jeff George did. An arm needs to be strong enough. That’s it.  The other four attributes can be honed in the NFL but rarely are they ever discovered at that level of play.

Of these qualities, Tebow has one–size. His arm strength is below average as is his accuracy–too many off target throws floated to covered receivers. He also doesn’t see the field well. He holds the ball too long or runs when he should wait for a play to develop. He often throws off the wrong foot and his release is slow and mechanical. By the time he loads up a throw, his receivers are covered.


See how the ball is upside down? That little hitch can be what separates a college and pro quarterback.

Too harsh? No. Professional sports are perhaps the last meritocracy. If you can help a team win, there is a place for you. The need to win is immediate and construction projects are rarely taken on. Even when they are, the time line is short.

I should note that  I like Tebow or, more accurately, I like what he appears to be. He seems to be a nice, sincere young man. I don’t doubt that he is a devout Christian. None of that matters in the context of the NFL.

I grew up in the 1970’s. With maybe the exception of Muhammad Ali, the most popular American athlete was a running back for the Buffalo Bills. There were action figures of him sold to kids–my brother had one. He made movies. His games were broadcast on national TV. He made commercials. His name was–and is–Orenthal James Simpson. If you said “O.J.” or “the Juice” everyone knew the player to whom you referred. His name still resonates, albeit for entirely different reasons.  NFL teams would line up for the next O.J.  They would certainly hope he was a better human being than the original, but most teams would take their chances.  As a hard-core fan, I can tell you that I would rather have a team full of O.J.s than good people who can’t play.

(It is possible to so rotten a person that no NFL will want you, but it takes some doing.  Just ask Tebow’s former Florida teammate, Aaron Hernandez.)

On the same day Tebow was cut loose,  Vince Young and Matt Leinart were also released the same day.   They were also college stars and “winners.”  NFL quarterbacks? No. They just aren’t good enough.  They faced the same fate as Tebow.  This is where some Tebow fans will disagree with me.

Tebow fans fall into two categories.  One is the run of the mill football fan, those who like players who wear the correct uniform.  If you’re a Jet fan, and he’s a Jet, you like him.  The other group is those who liked, even loved, him because of his religion.  To this latter group, Tebow was more than a football and to be judged on something other than his skills.  This mushroomed Tebow’s popularity above that of the typical NFL player.

Tebow is hardly the first devoutly religious professional athlete.  For example, Sandy Koufax refused to pitch on Yom Kippur.  Since this predated evangelical Christianity’s current embrace of Judaism, he was hardly lauded for this stance.  Akeem Olajuwon drew questions about his observance of Ramadan while starring in the NBA.  Muhammad Ali drew much flak for his conversion to Islam.   Make no mistake, it is Christianity, not religion, which helped elevate Tebow above his peers.  This is where Tebow is different.

There is a strong feeling among many that Tebow should be a good quarterback.  Good people should do well.  One need look no further than another Florida quarterback to see that it doesn’t work like that.  Danny Wuerffel was Tebow before Tebow.  He played at Florida.  He is a devout Christian.  He won the Heisiman Trophy.  He also tried for years to succeed as an NFL quarterback.  Wuerffel was never more than a journeyman back up.  That doesn’t make him a bad person, of course, just a bad quarterback (at least by the exacting standards of the NFL).

Christians, like most religions, embrace persecution.  To be persecuted means that you are sacrificing of yourself for God.  We like that.  It makes us feel better.  It was easy for Christians to view Tebow as being a victim of persecution when he was criticized.  If a TV analyst said Tebow’s release was too slow, that analyst was wrong.  People even suggested that the Broncos won under Tebow because of God’s intervention.  When Vince Young, a star college QB with similar limitations, had the same success early in his NFL career, no one attributed it to God or even Young, for the most part.  Good defense and good luck were Young’s allies.  If anything, Young may have been persecuted.  Why wasn’t God on his side?

Tebow’s Christian fan base is perhaps unique in sports.  This is a group otherwise unconcerned with sports who cheer for him as though he was the first Christian to play pro sports.  Social media exploded with posts about Tebow’s greatness.  “He just wins” was the excuse for any of his poor play, as though the Broncos’ smothering defense drew its strength from Tebow’s mere presence.  I knew folks who didn’t know who John Elway is who became rabid fans of Tebow.  His jersey became the NFL’s best seller.

All of this was unfair to Tebow who has never seemed all that impressed with himself.  He just wants to be a quarterback in a league with no patience.  His best–and probably only–chance of making it in the NFL now is at a different position.  At this point, he is unwilling to do that.  That’s fine, and I can’t say that I blame him.  Football is a hard way to make a living.  One might as well have lofty goals.

So, what now for Tebow?  As football fans know, he faces a tough road.  Once a player is released, he joins the vast sea of players looking for a team.  Young, Leinart and dozens of other borderline players are his competitors but without the media circus that comes to town with Tebow.

Even Tebow’s most zealous fans must accept this:  He wasn’t cut because he’s too good a person or a Christian.  The NFL is chock full of Christians.  In fact, I’ve never heard of a team releasing a star player because he was too nice.  It didn’t happen here, either.

That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that some take great pleasure in Tebow’s struggles, some because they just don’t like the teams he played on.  Others, in truth, dislike his religion and his display of it.  Even a cursory trip through social media will show people taunting like Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments (“Where’s your God, now, Moses!?!?!?”).  Those are the likely the same folks who take pleasure in the failure of others as though it were actually a success for them.

If you are true Tebower, I suggest you take heart.   If Tebow’s calling is truly a higher one, he will find a better stage.  One can easily envision him on television pontificating about college or NFL football.  I suspect he’ll be fine.  I’m not so sure about his fans, though..

© 2013