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Who wins? NFL Draft vs. William & Kate vs. Endeavour vs. Pope John Paul II

April 29, 2011

It’s a battle royale for my scattershot attention this weekend.

For my regular readers, you may recall that I’m an anglophile, a sports nut, a science geek and a Catholic – nearly all to the same level. So this weekend is going to be TV filled. Isn’t my wife lucky?

The NFL Draft
This used to be a weekend marathon that started on a Saturday and finished in the evening on Sunday, with 7 rounds of drafting, by 32 teams culminating in about 220+ college players being welcomed to new teams, various teams trading up and down the draft board, and fans getting really annoyed with their teams not picking the right players (Philly sports fans will remember this as the footage broadcasters always show of QB Donovan McNabb being booed lustily as he appeared on stage the first time as an Eagle at the draft, most fans wanted RB Rickey Williams).

The draft is now spread out over three days, starting on a Thursday. The first round of the Draft is great for drama, but after that, only the true draft nerds have any idea of who the rest of these players are. There’s really no way to tell if a mid-third round pick is going to be any better than a fifth round pick. Let’s put it this way, the most successful quarterback of the last 10 years was taken with the 199th draft pick – Tom Brady, something he regularly likes to remind people. I’m also convinced that there have been more first round busts than Hall of Famers.

In reality, it’s all a crap shoot. Teams do their best to workout and study who they’re going to draft, but when it comes right down to it, there’s no real science to it, you just have to hope for the best. And since I don’t care much for televised gambling, I don’t think the Draft is going to see much air time on my TV this weekend. But you better believe, my draft tracker Android app will be informing me of every Eagles draft pick. Like their first one, a Canadian firefighter who didn’t play football till college. That should be interesting.

The Royal Wedding
I love pomp & circumstance and no one does it better or on a grander scale that the Brits.

When I was a kid, my Mom woke up my sister and me in the early morning to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana. I’ve been hooked ever since.

I don’t really have any particular affection for any of the royals, but I do enjoy the show. The ridiculous hats the women wear (the new world champ is Princess Beatrice), the celebrities, the throngs of Brits in the streets, the expensive cars that the royals arrive in and the fancy horse-drawn carriages they leave in, the military brigades accompanying the royals, the ceremony held in ornate cathedrals, the ostentatious uniforms of the British military… It’s all great. All of it. I didn’t mind for a second getting up at 5 AM to start watching it.

Perhaps part of the draw is because it’s so rare. The last coronation was more than 59 years ago, after that you have the wedding of Charles and Diana, followed several years later by Diana’s death. Other than that, we haven’t had an opportunity to see the British monarchy in full display. I think it’s nice to be reminded every so often that royalty exists, that there’s something other than the mundane in this world.

Someone mentioned on one of the broadcasts this morning that the monarchy costs Britons about 67 pence per person. I don’t know how valid that stat is, but if it’s true (or in the ballpark) I think that makes for great value. I also think, for all the occasional complaining about the relevance of the British monarchy, the institution is a benefit to the country (and all its commonwealth members, yeah, I’m talking about you Canada). I think this wedding will prove that the Monarchy has value. How many people will have tweeted or Facebooked about the wedding? How many folks now want to go to London to see Buckingham Palace and Winsor Castle? If anything, I think this wedding re-energizes the monarchy. The new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are coming to Canada in July and then on to Los Angeles. Don’t think I wouldn’t be interested in a second if one of my business contacts told me they could get me close for a glimpse of Brit royalty.

Space Shuttle Endeavour
Four months before the wedding of Charles and Diana, my parents made sure there was another fascination for me, the space shuttle.  We all watched on April 12, 1981 as Columbia, gleaming with its painted white thrusters and fuel tank, rocketed into space. It was awesome. It was important for the psyche of the country, too. We had just gone through the Iran hostage crisis, the recession was beginning and President Reagan had just been shot a few weeks earlier, the U.S. needed a shot of pride. Columbia was that pride.

Ever since then, I have loved space shuttle launches, and the missions in general, even when the unthinkable happened. I was home watching when the Challenger tragedy occurred, I remember being shaken by it all afterwards. I happened to be watching when Columbia disintegrated over Texas. I had watched almost as many landings as I have lift-offs and I remember thinking, “that’s not right” as CNN broadcast the landing but what we saw were the distant remnants of Columbia hurtling over Texas.

These tragic events never made me, nor NASA, want to give up on the space program. If anything, I’ve always wanted to do more. Let’s go back to the moon. Let’s go to Mars. Let’s see what’s out there, simply because that’s the next place to go.

Americans have traditionally been explorers, unafraid to see what’s out there. How about we bring back some Manifest Destiny? We conquered shore-to-shore, let’s see what we can land on in space and then populate.

Hmmm… I think the space shuttle program made me an imperialist. Maybe it’s just all the royalty I saw earlier. Either way, I’m watching the final Endeavour launch on Friday afternoon, and I’m going to be just as locked in as I was in 1981.
(Updated 12:15 4/29 – Endeavour launch scrubbed to Monday)

Pope John Paul II beatified
For most Gen-X Catholics like myself, Pope John Paul II is the only pope we knew until the current pope, Benedict XVI. He was “John Paul, Superstar,” as TIME Magazine called him on their cover when he came to the U.S. for the first time. He was a gregarious and beloved pontiff. He was the personification of the tenants of the Second Vatican Council, that the Catholic church must be brought to the people so that they understand and can know God. He was the most travelled pope ever and one of the most prolific writers. He was the embodiment of his role as a messenger of God.

Because he lived so long, most people remember him as the frail pontiff of his later years, but during the first few decades of his papacy he was a vibrant force of enthusiasm. He was God’s cheerleader, a departure from the typical view of his predecessors, dour magistrates of the office of Saint Peter. Even as his body decayed, his writings and speeches were always uplifting. He believed in the power of God to overcome. His own history, as a Polish priest ministering in Nazi-occupied Poland, was probably where that perspective was solidified.

On Sunday morning, this holy and humble man of God will be given the title of “Blessed.” It’s the third of four steps that eventually lead to canonization or “saint hood.” As how the throngs of Britons felt when they saw their monarchy on display, I will have the same feeling as I watch Pope John Paul II’s beatification at 5 AM EDT Sunday morning.

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