His eye on sparrow, not the scoreboard

March 1, 2014 

The issue of prayer in the schools, on the football field or the basketball court never seems to go away.

In January, the Mooresville, N.C., football coach was ordered to stop baptizing team members and leading them in prayer because the practice violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Years ago, when UNC basketball coach Frank McGuire was coaching the Tar Heels, he recruited heavily above the Mason-Dixon line and added several Catholic players to his very successful teams.

Back then, the Catholic players routinely crossed themselves before shooting free throws.

One year the Heels’ record at the free-throw line was horrendous. Once, after Carolina lost a squeaker, university comptroller Billy Carmichael, a Catholic and an avid fan, approached Coach McGuire with a message:

“The Pope has sent word to the players to do one of two things: either quit crossing themselves or make those foul shots!”

In my salad days, I prayed for sports victories. But after so many unanswered prayers on behalf of the Tar Heels, I decided that God had more important things on his agenda.

One wonders if poet Emily Dickinson’s basketball team had just lost a big one in the last seconds when she penned these lines:

Of course I prayed –

and did God Care

He cared as much as on the Air

A bird had stamped her foot –

And cried “Give me!”

A case of SAD

With the recent improving weather, I am recuperating from a severe case of SAD. Yes, this psychological low I’ve been suffering this winter has a name.

One day when Mother Nature’s bad hair day seemed interminable, I was exchanging e-mails with local philanthropist and psychiatrist Dr. Assad Meymandi. On impulse, I asked him why some of us are so emotionally vulnerable to weather.

His response:

“We have over 400 seminal papers published on the subject of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the role of pineal gland, and the seven structures of the limbic system of the brain, including thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, mammary bodies, corpus colosum and fornix, each sensitive to temperature change and collectively affecting our mood.

“I have written fairly extensively on the subject and will be happy to forward the information to you. However, I believe you are saying, ‘Sorry I asked …’”

I think I get my friend’s message. There is something like climate change going on in my brain and it keeps telling me to contact my friend Noah about construction plans for an Ark or perhaps an igloo heated by gas logs.

The insensitive male

Time and a snowstorm caught me without a valentine for my love. She, being a forgiving soul, did not brand me as an insensitive clod or worse. I sat down with scissors, paste and imagination, and I fashioned my own card, the first homemade valentine since the ones I sent to Mary Kate Woodhouse in grade school.

One of the most frequent criticisms of the male is that he is “insensitive.”

I’ve actually known a man who gave his wife a chainsaw on their first wedding anniversary. Another presented his spouse with a new washing machine on her birthday.

Reader DeLyle Evans of Ayden recently reminded me of the insensitive husband I mentioned in a column some 10 years ago.

David was so thoughtless that his wife finally talked him into attending a sensitivity training class at a marriage counseling retreat.

“It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other,” the discussion leader insisted. “Now David,” he asked, “can you describe your wife’s favorite flower?”

David touched his wife’s arm gently and whispered, “Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn’t it, dear?”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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