Yesterday was the first day of school for the boys. Each one goes to a different institution. Each one has a different schedule. Two of the schools were new to us. One of them is in the town next door. Not surprisingly, they all survived and returned home with much to share. Church is starting up, too. Also, the first grader and I noticed the change in the air and the falling of some small leaves on our walk to school. For many of us it is time to get to work in earnest, to put away the thoughts of vacation (OK...after the long weekend) and figure out what our year will bring.
For me the fall brings quite a bit along with it. Much of it is good. Still, I found myself looking up articles on stress amongst middle-aged suburbanites today. There is at least one sermon on the subject, I think. I have no idea when I will be able to get to it though...
What I want to talk about now, however, is one of the great distractions for us this time of year. On September 9 we at Eliot Church will celebrate "Kickoff Sunday" and so will the NFL. For us it means a return to Sunday School and the "regular" worship format. More folks will be around reconnecting and making new friends. It will be great to see everybody. For the NFL it means that they will resume beating on each other in pursuit of points.
We have a tradition around this event here at Burbania Posts. Each year I make predictions for four divisions of the NFL. For fans and scholars of the sport, they are meant for mild entertainment. For others it is a ministry. I mean it. Here is why. Every year at about this time people start to get invited to social gatherings with people they don't know so well. Neighbors often fall into this category. So, too, do your spouse/partner's co-workers. When this happens you need a "go to" topic that everyone will agree is relatively safe. Politics is out among strangers or anywhere alcohol is served. Religion is also out (colleagues). So we have the weather ("Hot today".... "Yes it is") or sports. At this point, if you don't know what is going on with baseball there is little hope for you. Skip to football.
Now, attempting light conversation about the NFL is tricky these days. It would be foolish not to recognize the landmines of 1) player health, 2) the referee's stike, and 3) Tim Tebow. The first two are political hot potatoes. The last is a theological one.
Briefly my opinion: 1) the NFL is an OSHA violation and they need to shape up. 2) Pay the refs for God's sake. They do good work and deserve it. Pre-season judging (with replacements) was largely impressionistic. 3) The problem with Tim Tebow the icon (rather than the person, who seems like a nice sort of guy) is that he is used by some folks as proof that somehow Christians are oppressed in an overwhelmingly Christian country. I find this annoying. He isn't being oppressed. Tebow doesn't play Quarterback because he isn't a very good passer. In fact, he probably ranks fourth in the New York Metropolitan Area. The #2 QB of the Giants (David Carr) is probably better than both Tim and Jets starter Mark Sanchez (who is also better than Tim). People should calm down and let him be an H-back, which I predict he will do brilliantly.
OK, I have gone very long so...without further ado...
The AFC East
Last year I predicted that the Pats would win, followed by the Jets, the Bills, and the Dolphins. I actually was almost right. The Dolphins beat out the Bills in the end. This was a technicality, though. In reality they had the same sad record of 6-10.
Once again I am picking the Patriots of New England to win it. They should be better this year. Yes, they went to the Super Bowl but--honestly--no one who seriously watched the AFC Championship game can realistically believe that they didn't just get lucky. In fact, their biggest stroke of luck wasn't sneaking past the Ravens but getting to play the absolutely horrible Tebow-led Broncos the game before.
I am going with the Bills of Buffalo for the second spot. They have come along nicely this off season, acquiring Mario Williams to shore up the defense and finding other key elements on all sides of the ball (yes, there are three sides). As long as they can pound away (or even pick away) on offense, their defense will win them games.
The Jets of New Jersey will be third. This is not because of Tim Tebow. He will help them win a couple of games against really bad teams and maybe surprise a contender. Actual QB Mark Sanchez will do the same. The problem is the rest of the team really isn't much more than loud.
Then (sigh) the Dolphins of Miami. They will get better as they break in some young players. This year, though, it just isn't happening for them.
Catch phrase if you get stuck: "Don't forget about Special Teams!" No one pays attention to this part of the game but they suspect that students of the game do. This is good for sage nodding. You can then follow up with anything. Remember that in the AFC East it "comes down to Special Teams"...which means kicking and punting, by the way...
Now my advice is to memorize what I have written and pretend these
brilliant insights are your own. You will thank me later when your
spouse's co-worker's husband runs out of things to say about