This section allows me to go and express my thoughts on certain things that may be happening in the world. And, no, I won't comment on everything that happens. There are things in this world that I could care less about (like politics). But if I get asked enough about a certain issue, I may feel the need to just put my opinion in writing here. If you'd like to offer your opinion on an issue, or if you feel the need to praise me for enlightening you in some way, feel free to email me.
I'm sure that most of you that are viewing this page know how much I've idolized Ricky Williams since his days as a member of the Texas Longhorns. I had an opportunity to meet him while I was in high school and was working at a local movie theater here in San Antonio. I got to chat with him for a bit about, among other things, the decision he had yet to make about whether or not he'd be returning for his senior year at UT. Never once in that conversation, although brief, did I ever get the vibe that I was annoying him at all by asking. He was a very nice person and even offered me an autograph. Unfortunately, neither one of us had a pen handy. Instead, a handshake and a smile was all that was exchanged and a week later, he announced he'd be coming back for his senior year.
That season, I followed every Longhorn game closely and just counted down the number of yards he needed to break Tony Dorsett's NCAA career rushing record. And that year, I was so much more excited about the Texas A&M game knowing that Ricky only needed 60 more yards to guarantee himself a Heisman. I still haven't forgotten Brent Musberger's call late in the first quarter.11 yards shy of the record.
We all know the rest of the story from there. Ricky finished with 259 yards that game to end his NCAA career with 6279. He won the Heisman trophy in a landslide, ran all over Mississippi State with 203 yards in the Cotton Bowl, and was picked fifth in the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. His pro career didn't take off until he joined Miami three years later and after two great seasons with the Dolphins, he suddenly called it quits. So what do I think about his sudden departure? I get asked this question a lot. This is my response to that question.
When I first heard of his retirement, I was shocked. I woke up that morning to hear the news on ESPN's SportsCenter. I couldn't understand why he would. I found out about failed drug tests and heard so many opinions from sportscasters and sportswriters, but I wanted to hear from Ricky first to find out what it was. And I listened when an ESPN reporter caught up with him in Nevada and when he was interviewed on 60 Minutes.
He has no phone, no TV, no radio. His only link to the outside world is the internet. He pays child support to the mothers of his children. He's gotten to travel the world. He's going to school to study something he's intrigued in. And he smokes marijuana. But most importantly, he's happy. He can do an interview without a helmet over his head. And he smiles more now...something I hadn't seen since I met him back in high school.To a lot of people, I look very foolish in what I'm doing and I understand that. (It doesn't bother me) because the only thing that matters is how I feel, and if I let what they feel affect me, then it changes how I feel.
Do I agree with his retirement decision? Yes, I do. Do I agree with his timing? No, I don't. Do I understand his reasons for wanted to retire? Yes, I do. One thing that irked Ricky when he was in Austin was seeing Earl Campbell. The Tyler Rose is only 49 years old, but he has trouble walking. Like so many NFL running backs, Campbell was a work horse. He spent his entire career taking carry after carry and crashing head on into an opposing defensive lineman or linebacker. He took a beating. And seeing the Hall of Famer struggle just to stand up scared Ricky. So rather than waiting for the Dolphins to use and lose him, he beat them to the punch. He cut the Dolphins before they could cut him. I applaud him for that.
Do I agree with his lifestyle? Yes and No. He is being a responsible father by supporting his children. I don't smoke marijuana and while I've never understood why people do it, I've always understood that there are people out there in this world that do that. There's nothing I can say that will change that or change what these people do. And with so many people in this country that do it, why are we focusing on just one? He gave up millions of dollars just so he could live his own life. He gave up money to be happy.
Throughout his life, Ricky played football because people told him he should played football. No one, not even himself, ever listened to what he wanted to do. Now, he's finally listening to himself. And he's happy. Like many other fans out there, I hope to see him running through defenses again someday. And if he ever does return to the NFL, I know it'll be on his terms and it'll be because he wants to play. Either way, I know he'll be happy.
I am proud to be a Ricky Williams fan.
It's no secret that Electronic Arts has a huge grip on the video game world. As the largest publisher in the world, EA has games in just about every genre that the industry offers. But their biggest and most profitable division is EA Sports which has developed most of its prestige through the Madden NFL series. One of my good friends even told me that I was an EA fan boy. And in some respects I would agree, but EA's actions as of late have angered me. Late last year, EA rocked the video game industry when they signed an exclusive rights deal with the National Football League that will stay in effect for the next five years. The deal gives EA, and only EA, the right to use the league's teams, logos, stadiums, players, etc. This also makes the NFL the fourth sports league/association to sign such a deal with EA (NASCAR, FIFA, and PGA). I can understand the business end of it. That isn't what bothers me.
Last year, EA Sports' main franchise faced its biggest challenge yet when SEGA released ESPN NFL 2K5. The game hit store shelves a full month before Madden and was priced at $19.99 as opposed to the standard $49.99. SEGA's game brought so much more to the table from its previous versions and let the world know what SEGA Dreamcast owners had known for years before: this game was amazing. Madden 2005 hit store shelves at $49.99 and many lifetime Madden players admitted that ESPN NFL 2K5 was a better game. SEGA's game was far superior graphically and the game play was so much deeper. The presentation was amazing as well. Gamers felt like they were on the field rather than sitting in an announcer's booth. Madden 2005 simply took the 2004 version, updated the rosters, added the playmaker system to the defense, and put Ray Lewis on the cover. Lame. Regardless, EA's product outsold SEGA's but by a far less margin. In previous years, sales were 10-to-1 in favor of EA. For the 2005 editions, EA barely edged out SEGA 1.5-to-1 and lost a 40% market share. If anything, the only reason EA outsold SEGA was because the name Madden appeared on the cover.
When SEGA continued to grab a huge market share with the releases of ESPN NBA 2K5 and ESPN NHL 2K5, EA went into a panic. Both games were far better games than their EA counterparts. Only the battle between EA's NCAA March Madness 2005 and SEGA's ESPN College Hoops 2K5 was a matchup of two amazingly good games from both sides. Gamers already began to speculate about what they would see in Madden 2006, calling it "EA's answer to 2K5." More importantly, they also knew SEGA would continue to work hard to once again out-do EA. But EA took the easy way out and signed the exclusive contract with the NFL, which means Madden 2006 will be nothing more than a subpar football game that could be priced well over $50. Let's face it: the last good Madden game was Madden '97 for the Super Nintendo.
EA tried to follow up this deal by attempting to sign a deal with the National Basketball Association, who immediately said "no". In January, they signed a 15-year licensing deal with ESPN which allows them to use the ESPN logo and camera angles in future games. EA then set their sights on baseball, but Take-Two Interactive, SEGA's partner with the 2K games and publisher of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto games, jumped in and signed an exclusive deal with Major League Baseball.
Sports game developers work tirelessly year after year trying to make each game better than the previous year's edition and to out-do their competition. Madden's developers have done little to improve their product over the years, and now the competition element of their motivation is gone. Gamers now have little to look forward to. Many sports gamers were in full support of competing products, but are now looking for alternatives to the pro football game market. Madden 2006 is already being considering the least anticipated release in the history of the franchise. All these exclusive deals do nothing but hurt the video game industry. And I've gotten tired of hearing all the news about this over the last few months.
The way EA attained their exclusive rights to NASCAR, FIFA, and the PGA doesn't bother me. The developers of those three games release a game year after year that simply blows away the previous year's version. Competing publishers dropped out of those races knowing that they could not compete. EA simply signed those exclusive contracts as a matter of formality. EA's NCAA Football series has also gotten so amazingly good that the competition has disappeared. That's the way you should obtain an exclusive contract. You need to work for it. Eliminate the competition by making a product that blows it away, not by being the company that bids the most money for the rights.
2004 had some of the biggest releases as the major consoles hit their mid-lives. While most would attribute the industry's success to the release of Halo 2, the sports game genre played a major role as well. But the signing of these exclusive deals has left little, if any, hope for 2005. The only sports game I'm looking forward to is NCAA Football 2006, the best sports game every year. And who knows, maybe EA will get some decent competition this year from SEGA or 989. If they do, I hope the competition isn't that good. The last thing we want to see is yet another exclusive deal signed that will further hurt the industry.Return to the top
I wrote the following as an assignment for a writing class I took during the Fall 2007 semester at The University of Texas at San Antonio. The assignment was to write a persuasive paper and we were free to choose a topic of our own. I chose to look at whether or not we truly do have Freedom of Religion in the United States. I don't know what grade I got for this particular paper (never got it back), but I did get an A for the course.Assignment Begins Here
Religion has been a part of the human race since long before recorded history began. People have used their religion to shape their lives and/or used their life experiences to shape their beliefs. Thanks to the concept of Freedom of Religion, the United States has become the most religiously diverse country in the world. But as diverse as this country is, some people fear the speaking up on what they believe in for fear that society will ridicule them for it.
Long before the Declaration of Independence was signed, so many people in Europe looked the New World as a place to start a new life. For over a thousand years, the Roman Catholic Church had a major influence in many of the European country's governments. The Catholic Church permitted little religious freedom and often punished people who disagreed with the church's teachings. Groups such as a Pilgrims and Puritans saw the New World as a place to escape the religious persecution they faced on their home continent. They made their way to the New World in the 1600s and established settlements where they would be free to practice their own faith without fear or being persecuted for it.
After the United States won its independence from Britain and the Articles of Confederation failed to unite the states, delegates from each state met to establish a new constitution. They worked to unite the country while protecting individuals and states from the same type of unfair treatment they had received while under British rule. Drafting a document that would accomplish this task was a challenge, especially when the founding fathers themselves came from so many different backgrounds. They successfully drafted a Constitution that could be interpreted differently as the country progressed. The first ten amendments to the Constitution guaranteed certain freedoms to individuals and the states.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution established Freedom of Religion. The opening of the Amendment reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In conjunction with the Tenth Amendment, the understanding was that the national government could not make religious laws, but individual states could. At first, many states did establish their own religious laws. States such as New Hampshire passed laws that prohibited non-Protestants from holding public office. Over time, the disestablishment of religion from state governments gradually increased, but the initial interpretation of the Constitution held true for over 150 years.
By the time the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education made it to the Supreme Court, more amendments had been added to the United States Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution was interpreted by the Supreme Court to impose the Bill of Rights on to state governments. The Court also quoted Thomas Jefferson, who stated in an 1802 letter that the First Amendment built "a wall of separation between church and state." The Everson v. Board of Education decision set a precedent that has been upheld in so many cases that followed it. Other laws that are religious in nature have been found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which cited the Fourteenth Amendment in its decisions.
Under the Principles of Democracy, the United States Department of State defines Freedom of Religion as "the right to worship alone or with others, in public or private, and to participate in religious observance, practice, and teaching without fear of persecution from government or other groups in society." Regardless, religious groups have long been trying to establish their influence in local, state, and national governments. Some of the more outspoken people in society send messages that are religious in nature and fail to appeal to the people of this country as a whole. Opponents of the legality of abortion and gay rights often cite their religious beliefs as the reason for their opposition. They fail to recognize that not every person in the United States holds the same beliefs they do.
Televangelist Pat Robertson once said that church-state separation is a concept propagated by "non-Christian people and atheistic people who conspired to destroy the very foundation of our society." Throughout history, a country's favor for one religion over the other alienates the people within the country who do not share that belief. Such favor does nothing more that tear a country apart. To proclaim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, or any other type of religious nation, ignores the persecution that so many people settled in this country to escape from. Our founding fathers set up the religion freedom guaranteed to all United States citizens as a means of uniting a country that is full of people from all walks of life.Assignment Ends Here
My motivation in writing this assignment has been the way people have reacted to me upon finding out that I'm not Catholic or Christian or hold any steady belief in a "supreme being." I was baptized into the Roman Catholic church, but during my junior year in high school, I realized that I didn't hold the same ideals and morals that the church did...or any church for that matter. From that point on, I heard criticism from family, friends, and even co-workers because I didn't believe in a god.
I didn't ever see a hint of the concept of "freedom of religion" until I moved to Austin for a few years. The ATX is a very liberal city with so much to do. There was a even a television program on local public television that discussed athiest issues. The phrase "Keep Austin Weird" holds very true. Simply put, you can be who you are in Austin. I thought I would completely lose that freedom moving back to San Antonio, but either the city has grown, or the people around me have. It was nice to have an intelligent conversation about religious differences with someone who wouldn't even listen to me before. It didn't feel like Austin, but it was still good.
Then, I returned to college. Only this time, it was UTSA instead of UT-Austin. And there is one student group that was constantly under fire during my first semester there. So many students were quick to judge them because of their name: The Athiest Agenda. And why? Because they put fliers around campus inviting people to discuss their reiligious beliefs with them. Listening to all the criticism made me wonder if freedom of religion really does exist in this country.
For the record, I am an agnostic. I feel that people have the right to believe whatever they want to believe, but they don't have the right to impose that belief on someone else, especially when that other person didn't ask to be preached to. As long as people continue to criticize someone because they don't have the same beliefs he/she does, then we will never truly have freedom of religion in this country.Return to the top