The guys have been singing Born Again for years. It’s been in the show so long that I’ve heard Jim, Greg, and Dominic all have a turn on the lead part. I’ve enjoyed the song from the very beginning, tapping my feet, singing along quietly at the board, feeling a rush of endorphins as it came to a close. But after the song–somewhere between packing up the gear and getting home from the gig or being at work the next day–the song gnawed at me a bit. And if I’m honest, it’s a gnawing that started back in college. It all comes down to the line where they are talking about Jesus and sing,

If you hadn’t died, my soul wouldn’t be saved. That’s the reason, I been born again.

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The thing that baffles me is why doesn’t the NFL set the PSI requirements to maximize offensive performance? The NBA wanted higher scoring games so they introduced a three point shot. Eventually the NCAA followed suit. The NBA wanted power forwards to easily slash through the paint and slamdunk and therefore they made zone defense an “illegal defense.” Want more shots, faster shots? How about a 24 second shot clock? And miracle of miracles, the Major League Baseball is testing a pitch clock this year in triple A. Hey NFL, if 11 psi results in more completions, more touchdowns, then for Lombardi’s sake, make that the rule. Geesh!

But I digress, I love football! Always have. But at the Indiana University School of Music in the 80s, I hung out with a hippie crowd that was way too serious to be swayed by pop culture, pop music or Mozart forbid, sports. Actually Mozart was too Milquetoast for my crowd. We grooved on all things avant garde. My Neanderthal proclivities revealed themselves at Super Bowl XX.

I remember unsuccessfully trying to containing my excitement for the 1985 Chicago Bears. Ditka, Payton, Singletary, The Fridge, even McMahon. Dang! What a magic 15-1 season with a pit stop at the Super Bowl Shuffle and ending with the majestic ceremony in which the Patriots got pantsed at the Superdome, 46–10. Final score should have been 44–10 but the Patriots’ back up quarterback, Steve Grogan got sacked in the end zone for a two-point safety in the closing minutes. Oh the humanity! I remember Monday morning in a lecture hall chattering excitedly about the game, unable to shut up. Disdainful, yet sad eyes glaring at me from all quarters and then the chilling realization that I’m the only redneck doofus in the room who watched the Super Bowl. Musicians. So to rectify my diminished station, I kept my head down for a while, donned a crucifix earring in place of the gold stud, wore an even rattier vintage sport coat and worked on my ponytail.

But flash forward 30 friggin’ years and nothing sparks my football withdraw like Pro Bowl Weekend. What a sad Sunday! It’s too disappointing a game to watch and it means only one game left for the season. Oy. But while I’m here jabbering, I’ll hit the football highlights of my youth.

I grew up without a team in Indiana back when the Colts were still in Baltimore. My earliest football memories are filled with O.J. Simpson, yep, currently incarcerated Orenthal James Simpson. My dad loved watching OJ on Sundays. Our giant 13″ black-and-white Philco TV was tuned to the local ABC affiliate from Fort Wayne, Channel 21. If the game was boring, I would hop up and spin the UHF dial from 21 to 33 and see what Little Joe and Hoss were up to on Bonanza. That Hoss!

Although I was only four in 1969, I vividly remember two things, Walter Cronkite weeping as Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and the woeful Buffalo Bills taking OJ with their number one draft pick. Over the years, I remember my dad complaining that if the Juice had played for any other team he’d have a Super Bowl ring on every finger instead of six Pro bowl appearances, or in reality an orange jumpsuit.

I remember getting on the school bus after 4th grade Christmas vacation in 1974 and every single boy was wearing a Miami Dolphin sockhat with a big blue and orange fluffy ball on top. When you win back-to-back Super Bowls you even get props in rural Indiana, plus Kmart had a sale bin. I wore that hat until junior high when we all switched to Dallas Cowboy sockhats when they won back-to-back in 77 and 78. “America’s Team” indeed.

Now at 49 1/2 years old I think I’ve honestly identified my roles in life. I’m family guy, not the way you’re thinking, sales guy, gospel singer guy, and rabid football fan, specifically, and Lord help me, Vikings fan.

I have a long, checkered musical past. I performed on stage well over 500 times before I was 23. Then, thoroughly burned out, I quit all things musical for several years. When my wife Vera and I stumbled into Bryn Mawr in 1992, I didn’t tell anyone I was a singer. Eventually, I was ready to start music again. I knew I would eventually start singing in this little church, but the choir only rehearsed on Sunday mornings 30 minutes before church, and not regularly. I struggled with that for 2 years.

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Tonight we sang at the Union Gospel Mission in St Paul. We’ve been there may be as many as 6 times now, and each time it is a different experience. This night we were invited to eat with the residents – otherwise homeless people, almost exclusively men. We don’t do that often, and it was a nice opportunity to meet with the folks we’d be singing for in a new way. We split ourselves up and found seats at the cafeteria tables randomly – some of the guys we sat with were very open and talkative, others reserved, but it was a nice way to start the event. And the food was really good! Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, green beans, salad, and donuts!

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