The Day The Lockdown Should’ve Ended

April 16. That’s the day every lockdown order in America should have ended. Not because the virus was eradicated that day (it obviously was not), and not because of economic concerns. No, the lockdowns should have ended because every quarantine talking point got overturned by the top coronavirus authority in the land.

In an interview on a Snapchat show, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the doctor who has served as our national COVID-19 spokesman was asked about how people should navigate their use of dating apps during quarantine. Here was his answer:

You know, that’s tough. Because it’s what’s called relative risk. If you really feel that you don’t want to have any part of this virus, will you maintain six feet away, wear a mask, do all the things that we talk about in the guidelines? If you’re willing to take a risk—and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks—you could figure out if you want to meet somebody. And it depends on the level of the interaction that you want to have. If you’re looking for a friend, sit in a room and put a mask on, and you know, chat a bit. If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that’s your choice regarding a risk.

“If you’re willing to take a risk…”

“Everybody has their own tolerance for risks…”

“That’s your choice regarding a risk…”

By saying these things, Dr. Fauci revealed two principles that undermine the entire narrative the actions of the last 2 months have been built on. First, he believes people should be free to choose their own risk. Essentially, the advice above boils down to this: calculate your own risk and make your own decisions based on what you’re comfortable with. If you’re willing to risk catching the virus and the other person is too, you’re free to make that choice. You may think that’s a great idea, and you may think that’s a terrible idea. Regardless of our feelings, it’s the officially endorsed position by the face of our national coronavirus task force.

The question, then, is obvious – Why hasn’t that been the official recommendation across the board? Why haven’t we been allowed that kind of self-governance with regard to supporting mom and pop shops? Eating at restaurants? Going to the library? Opening businesses? Assembling in a church building? Playing basketball in a park?

Dr. Fauci endorsed the idea of choosing your activity level based on your own comfort and sense of risk with regard to only one thing – meeting up and having sex with strangers. Every guideline goes out the window in that situation. It’s the quickest, most efficient way to violate every social distancing, germ-free recommendation. But, “if you want to take the risk, go for it.” He even made sure to add that people shouldn’t do so under illusion that they’re healthy, because in his view the virus can be spread even if both parties are totally asymptomatic. That means he made this proclamation knowing full well it could further the transmission of the virus, and that the choice is yours as to whether possibly getting coronavirus is a worthwhile tradeoff for having a date.

Flattening the curve, #StayHomeSaveLives, all those slogans we’ve been trained to recite… Fauci brushed them aside as irrelevant in this case. In his view, the entire premise of government dictating our actions to stop the spread of the virus –  the premise this whole thing was built on – goes out the window the minute a person decides they need some casual sex. You can’t choose to sit 10′ from someone in a church pew in some states, but you can find somebody on the internet, go to their apartment, get physically intimate, and share their bed. You’re not allowed to choose the former because it’s too risky, but the latter is left up to you at your own discretion.

The second principle Dr. Fauci endorsed is this: there are some things in life more important and necessary than avoiding all risks. The doctor thinks Tinder dates fall into that category, and though I disagree on that specific point, many of us agree that some activities are worth it. There are things we don’t want to give up indefinitely in the name of personal safety, and we should be able to associate with people who have come to the same conclusion. Other concerns have to be weighed, too, like paying bills, preserving mental health, seeing family members, etc. Doing some of those things might involve a health risk. But why can’t we calculate it for ourselves? Apparently that’s a luxury only afforded to people who need a date.

Yes, protect the vulnerable. Yes, take precautions. Yes, allow people the choice to stay in should they so choose or should they need to for health reasons. Yes, encourage hospitals and nursing homes to take extra precautions. But the minute dating app hookups got the thumbs up as a matter of personal choice should have been the minute mandatory lockdowns ended as a matter of principle.

 

Top 7 NBA Players

While we’re all locked in our houses, I decided to take the opportunity to spend some time doing two things I love: Writing and arbitrarily ranking things. Why top 7? Because 1) 7 is more interesting than 5 but less open-ended than 10 and 2) Subtle tribute to the greatest, John Elway (but that’s another list for another day).

As an NBA expert* I decided to sit down and write out the definitive** ranking of the seven best players in the league’s history. If you think I’m wrong, the rules of the internet dictate we have to walk away thinking of each other as terrible people who don’t know anything about basketball.***

*guy who watches a decent amount of NBA
**totally arbitrary
***rules are rules, man

So, without further ado…

7. Wilt Chamberlain

It’s tough to accurately rank any of the legends before 1970 (or even 1980 for that matter), so let’s pretend I’ve seen a ton of ancient NBA games to justify this ranking. The league was smaller back in the day, the competition was clearly weaker, and the game sure seemed a lot easier for imposing figures like Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Still, the numbers are what they are and they’re pretty mindblowing, regardless of era. And, with what limited footage we do have, it’s plain to see that Wilt was a complete player who could score, pass, defend, and rebound – not to mention his spectacular athleticism.

6. Kobe Bryant

This post is already going to be ridiculously long, so I’m going to sum this one up by saying that in a time with historical greats like Shaq, Dirk, Duncan, and Nash, Kobe was consistently the best player and became the defining figure of the era.

5. Larry Bird
4. Magic Johnson

The MVPS and championships are there. The highlight reels and legendary games are there. The influence is there – their long-running rivalry is widely credited with exponentially growing the league’s popularity leading into the Jordan era, so their influence can’t be denied. They represented the ultimate clash of styles – flash vs. fundamentals, LA vs. Boston, the guy with the Hollywood smile and charisma vs. the guy who looked like your neighbor’s dad who coached the city t-ball team. Magic’s versatility and team success give him the slight advantage.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The case is simple: NBA’s all-time leading scorer, 6x MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 5x All-NBA Defensive team, 6x champion between two franchises, one unstoppable, iconic shot. In a sense, he got to enjoy a decade of individual success followed by a decade of team success. Not a bad career path. And he did it all while dragging Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.

2. Michael Jordan
1. LeBron James

I know, it’s considered heresy to have anyone but MJ as #1. We’ll get to why I did that, but first I need to establish that this isn’t me trashing His Airness. You don’t need me to tell you that Michael Jordan was a great basketball player. 5x MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Olympic gold medalist, best player on 6 title-winning teams. Career scoring average over 30 points per game. Saved the Looney Tunes from interplanetary kidnapping. Aside from all of that, he was simply the coolest guy on the planet. The black Air Jordans, the tongue hanging out, the shoulder shrug, the #23, even the cheesy earring – all iconic to an entire generation. He might be the most famous athlete in history. There’s no denying his greatness, and that’s not what I’m here to do.

However, I do think there’s a case to be made that LeBron deserves #1. I made that case in-depth here, but for the purposes of this article I’ll limit myself to these three points.

  • The arguments for Jordan are often made based on memories, not facts. Michael Jordan the myth was better than Jordan the player because no human being could ever be as good as Michael Jordan the myth. He never missed a big shot. He didn’t need any help. He played against defenses that were far better than those in any other era. For goodness’ sake – fans ranked him as the greatest NCAA player of all time when no legitimate analyst would have him in the top five of college players.
    Thanks to YouTube and Basketball-Reference, the mythologizing can be fact checked and it does bring him down a notch from the flawless player everyone remembers.
  • The championship rings and finals record aren’t viable arguments. A number of LeBron’s finals performances were statistically better than MJ’s last three finals performances. In his three series losses to the Warriors LeBron averaged more points, rebounds, and assists and had a better shooting percentage than Jordan did in his three finals wins from 96-98. Lebron lost all three because his team was hopelessly outgunned against a team with potentially 5 Hall of Famers. I suppose if LeBron really had the winning gene he would’ve thought to be born at a better time, or kept the 2nd best player in the world from joining the only 73-win team ever. Alas, he just didn’t want it bad enough.
  • LeBron checks off all the boxes. He can score as well as anyone, he rebounds, he’s been one of the best passers in the league for much of his career, he can and does defend all five positions (typically at an elite level), and his blend of power and agility means his athleticism rivals the best athletes the league has seen. On top of all of that, he goes about his business efficiently. His routinely high shooting percentages and assist totals show he’s a master of making the right decision. And, he’s the best we’ve ever seen at coming through when it matters most. His career elimination game averages are 34-12-8. If you had to build a perfect basketball player robot, he’d look a lot like LeBron. And if Dwyane Wade’s knees fail and Kevin Durant joins a 73 win team to prevent your roboplayer from winning championships, you shrug your shoulders and move on. Doesn’t mean he’s any less of a player.

Obviously it’s a debate that can go on for days, but that’s my 7. Tell me why I’m wrong.


[1] stats via twitter.com/megatoughscene

Top 7 Fast Food Items

While we’re all locked in our houses, I decided to take the opportunity to spend some time doing two things I love: Writing and arbitrarily ranking things. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Why top 7? Because 1) It’s my website and I get to do what I want 2) 7 is more interesting than 5 but less open-ended than 10 and 3) Subtle tribute to the greatest, John Elway (but that’s another list for another day).
I’ve got a few ideas for topics lined up, but if you have one you’d like to debate be sure to drop me a message.

Rules:
– Nothing that can only be found in a small region. For example, the large majority of the country has no idea what a Bojangles is, so they don’t count.
– I have to have tried it. Yes, it makes the list incredibly subjective. But I can’t rank it if I haven’t eaten it.
– It has to have a drive-thru in a typical location. Places like Five Guys, Chipotle, and Shake Shack get bumped up to “fast casual” and therefore don’t count here.

And now, for the list…

7. Dairy Queen Blizzard
You can get this kind of thing plenty of places. Soft serve whipped up with some sundae toppings is a pretty basic idea. Dairy Queen just does it way better than everybody else.

6. Chick-fil-a Peach Shake
If summer had an official taste, it may very well be this shake.

5. Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch
Taco Bell is a magical place with a wonderfully inexpensive array of options. The only problem is, almost all of those options are just a rearranging of 3 ingredients. Of those, the Cheesy Gordita Crunch is by far the best permutation of the tortilla, meat, and cheese. The spicy ranch sauce puts it over the top.

4. Chick-fil-a Nuggets
Perfectly juicy chicken. Perfectly breaded. Perfect for dipping in their delicious sauces. Simple as that.

3. Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Was it worth the kind of hype that created lines 20 cars deep at 9:55 at night and drove it out of stock for 3 months? Well, no. But it was pretty close. It has the crispiness that Chick-fil-a has always lacked, plus a fantastic spicy sauce and the best pickles in the business. The bun is pretty great too.

2. In-N-Out Double-Double burger (Animal Style)
Plenty of people think In-N-Out is overrated, but that’s almost certainly because of the hype surrounding it. After years of hearing people talk it up, you expect some extravagant burger. I know I did. What you find instead is a very simple burger. It’s as basic as it gets, just juicier and fresher than the burgers you get everywhere else. Since the cheeseburger is the very best fast food entree of all time, and since they do the most important parts of the cheeseburger better than everybody else, they’ve earned their ranking.
Throw in the extra thousand island-esque spread and the mustard-fried patties of the Animal Style (on the “secret menu”) and you’ve got the best fast food burger in the business.

1. McDonalds French Fries
Like it was ever going to be anything else. It’s exactly what you want out of fast food – salty (but not too salty) and greasy (but not too greasy) with a perfect texture. They will forever reign supreme.

Now, tell me why I’m wrong.

Want to help clean up social media?

We all bemoan the outrage cycle of social media. It’s become a constant drone in the background of our daily lives. Every day we’re mad about something. Conservatives and liberals take their turns, atheists and Christians, and people of every other belief and demographic.

What can we do about it? I think we can start by being a lot more selective about the fights we take up.

Just last week, a Twitter user shared a video of Maya Angelou correcting a young person for addressing her simply as “Maya.” In response, a few people tweeted about how disrespectful Angelou had been. Once those tweets got found, the floodgates opened. Countless people jumped on Twitter to off

But that’s not how the story got reported. Most people think it went down like Yashar Ali described:

Please know that Maya Angelou is trending nationally because there are some young folks who are offended that she directed a young woman to call her Ms. Angelou instead of Maya in a 20-year-old clip. We are doomed.

The problem is, that just isn’t true. She wasn’t trending nationally because people were offended that she demanded respect. She was trending nationally because people were offended that a tiny group of people were offended that she demanded respect.

With characterizations like Ali’s (and his “We are doomed” commentary), one would be led to believe that this is a widespread issue. It feeds into the outrage culture, the divisiveness, and the fearmongering by adding yet another thing that people think divides them from their fellow humans. “Can you believe this???” “People are so awful these days!” “I’m on team ______”

And we fall for it over and over and over.

A preemptive version of it even happened with the recent mosque shooting, with dozens of prominent Christian accounts tweeting and Facebook posting to make the point that Christians shouldn’t rejoice but rather mourn for the fallen muslim people, leaving the implication that there are countless vocal Christians who need to be told not to celebrate.

Remember the Starbucks Christmas cups fiasco of 2015? One or two loud “Christian voices” expressed outrage that Starbucks had released cups without the words “Merry Christmas” on them. Outsiders still derisively refer to the over-sensitivity of Christians by claiming that we got offended by Starbucks cups… and nobody would’ve ever known about it if we didn’t feel the need to respond.

The same thing happened with the supposed boycott of Star Wars: The Force Awakens because it included a black character, a boycott so large that it held the release to a paltry $2 billion gross.

And the same thing happened with the Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez “dancing scandal.” I never saw a single tweet, FB post, or article criticizing her (though I’m sure there were a few), yet the occurrence will now enter the internet lexicon as an example for the conservative right’s “snowflake-ishness.”

The opposing viewpoints people are posting in these cases are often true and right and good… and totally unnecessary. Almost every time something like this goes viral and becomes a trending topic, it trends because all of the people criticizing it, not because of the people promoting it. 500 people making it an issue can’t make something a worldwide trending topic… but a million people snapping back at them can. These social media virtue signaling campaigns take small, fringe groups that don’t deserve any kind of platform and give them headline status.

So, you want to quell the outrage machine that is social media? Don’t join in the outrage mob.

Unplug the outrage culture. Take a few minutes to research and see if there are actually any advocates for the thing you’re wanting to speak out against. Don’t help make problems bigger, more outrageous, and more scandalous than they really are. Let ignorant, obnoxious people on the fringes of society be ignorant, obnoxious people on the fringes of society. Don’t feed the trolls.

Be Better: A New Year’s Note to Myself

I’ve found that the best way to decide how to use a new year is to look back at the previous year and consider what I would have done differently if I could do it over. As I look back in order to look forward, it hits me just how much time I wasted over the last year, and really over almost the entirety of my adult life. I actually accomplished as much or more than I ever have in a year, but there’s still plenty of room for growth in the way I spend my time.

These memes all highlight the problem I (and many in my generation) struggle with pretty well:

 

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They’re true, and they’re relatable, and the point is kinda funny when you meme it that way. I get it, but… rather than joking about all the time I waste, shouldn’t I be embarrassed about it? Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and we throw more of it away than perhaps any people group in history. Isn’t that more sad than funny? Rather than chuckling and saying “That’s so me,” shouldn’t images like this serve as motivation?

Why not just be great? Why not strive to do as much with our potential as possible? With such little time, why am I throwing so much of it away on the internet on so many nights? Why not use that time to grow? The people we all admire and read about and watch movies about aren’t the ones who let their lives slide by. It’s not only a God-given duty we have to be good stewards of the time, abilities, and opportunities we’ve been given (see Matthew 25), but it should be a joy to realize what we can be. Why revel in mediocrity when the power to be something more is in our hands? Isn’t that cool? Isn’t it exciting?

I’ve got some weight to lose. I’ve got a massive stack of books to read, and I’m hoping to get through at least 40 of them this year. For years I’ve been needing to re-start my learning in New Testament Greek. I’ve gotta stop chewing my fingernails. I want to fix my sleep habits to I go to bed on time and wake up early to have time to spend with God and work out. I need to do a lot better job of keeping up with friends and responding to emails, tweets, and Facebook messages. I have a number of ways I want to improve my ministry and my personal walk with God.

When I write out the whole list of things I want to get done, it starts to look daunting. Yours probably does, too. But when I realize how much I time I unknowingly throw away on Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc., it’s pretty clear I have all the time I need to do the things I want to accomplish.

The key, of course, is making the decision (and regularly reminding myself) that I want to grow more than I want to throw away the time by sleeping in in the morning or browsing the internet all night. If I don’t regularly, actively make that decision, I’ll involuntarily slide into a pattern of aimlessly spending my 24 hour allotments again, and another year will be wasted. So, I have to decide what I want more. And as an added benefit, when I take control of my time, even the time I do set aside for Netflix, Xbox, Facebook, or whatever else is more enjoyable.

But once that decision is made, the next step is to go about finding ways to motivate ourselves. Some people post their weight loss goals on Facebook and share regular updates so they can stay accountable to their group of friends. You could download a browser extension that limits your time on certain sites. My brother and I had a challenge that whoever hit the snooze button the most mornings would have to buy the other a movie ticket when we saw each other. (To my great shame, I lost – but my morning routine has been almost completely transformed in the process.) Whatever it takes, the important thing is to find a way to remind ourselves of what we really want – to grow rather than to stagnate.

I can look back on 2018 and be proud of a number of things, and I can look back with plenty of regrets. The things I’m proud of give me building blocks, the good habits formed that I can continue using into the future. The regrets give me plenty of room for growth. Lord willing, if I’m still around on January 1, 2020, I’ll have turned 2018’s regrets into 2019’s building blocks. If I stick with those changes day by day, and keep growing year after year, the person I’ll be 30 years from now will be someone who has something to show for all the time, opportunities, and abilities God gave me. Rather than reveling in mediocrity, let’s find ways to grow and be better this year.