Archive for July, 2010

How Ironic!

Last year, while away on a summer missionary project, the word “ironic” popped up in a conversation with our Thai friends. As we drove around the streets outside Bangkok, several Americans attempted to explain this rather unique word, and its meaning, to our hosts. We took turns offering definitions or examples. Some tended toward mere coincidence. Others were simply odd circumstances. Nothing seemed to click, and eventually the van grew quiet as we gave up.

A moment later Joanna, our Thai friend, shared her talented voice with us, singing well-known American songs. After the first verse of a Simon and Garfunkel tune, she broke into the familiar chorus, “Like a bridge over troubled waters” just as our van crossed a lengthy bridge. Our group began to share a knowing look and chuckle at what was happening at that moment. We tried to explain the coincidence that bordered on irony that was occurring. I’m still not sure it fully translated completely to the Thai-speakers on the van.

Let’s face it. Irony is a tough concept to explain, whether by definition or illustration. That is, until USA Today reprinted the following account from the Mount Airy News a few months ago.

In April, 83 year-old Betty Lou Lynn was mugged and had her wallet stolen in her new hometown. The former actress had lived in Los Angeles until she became alarmed at the city’s crime rate. So she retreated to peaceful Mount Airy, N.C., the birthplace of Andy Griffith. Perhaps you don’t recognize her by name, but it’s possible you know Ms. Lynn. That’s right. The actress who played Barney Fife’s best girl, Thelma Lou, was mugged on the quiet streets that served as the model for the idyllic TV town of Mayberry. Only after moving from California, where the show was actually filmed.

For me, that may be the best example of irony I will ever hear.

What about you? Have a good illustration of the concept that you’d like to share?

Copa Mundial

The following is a repost of the original which was posted on June 11, 2010 and temporarily lost after my site was hacked.

Today begins the greatest month in the world of sports.  People across the globe gather around their radios and televisions for World Cup matches.  While most Americans only care about soccer as long as the US team is still involved in this event, the rest of the world is consumed by football (or fútbol).  There’s nothing wrong with baseball, but should it really be called the “World Series” when the only international flavor is the Toronto Blue Jays?  Meanwhile 32 national teams from six continents compete for a golden trophy and global bragging rights.

While I have never attended a match, I have some very fond memories of previous tournaments.  In 1994 we spent a few weeks in Mexico as the competition was going on back in the USA.  Huge screens were set up in public parks throughout Mexico City so that anyone could watch as they passed.  We were amazed as life basically shut down while matches were being played.  Maribeth and I marveled as the entire city of Acapulco spilled out into the streets after the Mexican team tied Italy.

In 2002 we were with missionary friends at a camp outside Guadalajara, Spain.  Regular breaks from the work were included as we huddled around a radio to listen to matches.  Again that year, we heard the universal language of honking car horns that celebrated a Spanish goal or victory.  When we returned home to the states, I would wake up at 2:00 a.m. to watch the US team play in South Korea.

At this point, I should admit that I remain a fan of La Furia Roja (the Spanish national team).  If the USA does not advance into July, I hope to wear my red jersey all the way to the final.

It is fascinating to watch nations that are plagued by corrupt politics and poor economies find their identity and hope in a football team.  The zeal of fans is unparalleled, moving them to extremes unheard of in other settings.  I think of the Colombian defender who was shot to death two weeks after scoring an own goal in the 1994 tournament.  On a milder note, people will awaken early, call in sick to work, and forget their families for four weeks just to watch football.  What dedication!

I will likely make some minor adjustments to my life for this year’s tourney.  However, I wonder what would be the result of our service for Christ if believers demonstrated a fraction of the devotion known to true football fans.