My one page or less Kevin Durant…rant.


Lost all respect for Kevin Durant this morning when he announced he is taking his talents to Golden State. The ultimate sell out. Understand something, it’s not that he changed teams that bothers me. It’s really not. Even if I think he should have stayed in OKC, he is free to make a move for both his career and his family. But to choose to sign with the team that just broke the record for all time wins in a season WITHOUT HIM? To choose to sign with a core of players who already won a title and were minutes from going back to back? To choose to team up with the back to back MVP and his two teammates who many would argue are better players? Unforgivable.

It’s a lose lose situation for KD. If he gets his wish and wins a championship in Golden State, he will get labeled as a “sellout” or “bandwaggoner” at best. A championship is expected to happen. There is no real value in it. It will be as expected as Warren Buffett making a wise financial investment. Not even exciting.

But if for some unforseen reason he doesn’t get a ring… he could go down as one of the biggest flop superstars in NBA history. All of his stats will decrease. The media will be like sharks in the water. And he will be the guy who couldn’t even win a title with the most talented team in NBA history. And he will deserve every bit of the hate.

I’m sad for the game of basketball. This whole “ring chasing” mentality is ruining the competitive nature and purity of the game. Kevin Durant has said this decision is all based on winning…but at what cost? Winning one title in OKC would mean more to his legacy than 5 titles with a superteam in Oakland. Can you imagine if Larry Bird called up Magic Johnson back in the 80s and said, “Hey Magic, you wanna team up? I’ll come to you I want some sunshine. We can be unbeatable.” Or what if Michael Jordan called up Isaiah Thomas and the Pistons after the second time they knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs. “Uh, Isaiah, I was wondering if I could come be a bad boy with you in Detroit?”

The idea of Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder for the Warriors is ludicrous. The Thunder were up 3-1 in the Western Conference finals but couldn’t close out the series. I wonder if any of their failure stemmed from KD wishing in the back of his mind that he was on the team that he was trying to beat? The Thunder got better through free agency, and were poised to give Golden State another run for their money in the playoffs. But nah, KD would rather jump ship and join the team already favored by Vegas to win the title in 2017 before he joins the roster. So lame.

Last thing. An important detail has surfaced after all this KD drama. We own Lebron James a HUGE apology Durant’s choice makes “The Decision” pale in comparison. But I’m sure KD will get a pass for this somehow, but he wont get one from me. And when Lebron pulls off another miracle and beats the Warriors in next years finals, maybe Kevin will opt out and sign with the Cavs for 2018.

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Education Gap

Alfie Kohn, an American author and lecturer who explores the topics of education and human behavior, uses the College Board’s own statistics to prove that there is a positive linear correlation to family income and SAT scores.

This is my second year teaching math at one of the two public high schools in the city of Henderson in Vance County North Carolina. The average per-capita income of Vance county ranks in the bottom 10 counties in North Carolina at a whopping $17,600. To put this in perspective a bit, my wife and I hail from the #1 and #2 ranked counties in Tennessee at $28,000 and $41,000 respectively. I can’t begin to say that I know what it is like to grow up in poverty. For the longest time last year I was just the “new white teacher”, and the students didn’t give me the time of day. Because see, I wasn’t used to hearing or living the stories of crime, abuse, and abandonment that build their nests in the poorest corners of our nation. I didn’t know what it was like to grow up in Henderson, and my students let me know it.

“You didn’t grow up on these streets Mr. Smith, so you will never know.”
“You just don’t get it Mr. Smith, that’s not the way it is out there.”

They were right. I didn’t understand, and I still do not fully. I still have to mask my shock when more than a few students answer my Day 1 question “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” with “I just hope to be alive.” It was hard for me to justify the “vitality” of finding the vertex of a parabola when I know a few of them don’t know where they are going to sleep at night.

A positive linear relationship in the top section, means that there is a direct correlation between the amount of money your family makes, and your score on the SAT. As income gets higher, so do the SAT scores. And since the SAT score is the primary indication of a “college – ready” student, the poor students get rejected and adds one more impossible barrier to their list of obstacles they have to cross to succeed. There is major injustice here. As teachers we face the dilemma of teaching our students what they need to know for the test (which they will soon forget), or teaching what they should know to be a successful contributor to society. The whole system seems to be based on getting students ready for a life of tests, rather than the tests of life.

Knowing the reality of the educational world my students live in gets me fired up to start another year of teaching. God knows they need someone on their side. The odds are against them, but I am still able to witness amazing things happen in Room 216 at Northern Vance High School. All these kids need to show you their true potential is a place where they feel safe; safe from the racial and economic injustices that occur on the daily. And a place where they feel love; love that they seldom find in the world they live in. And a place that gives them hope; a hope that brings light to penetrate the darkness.

Here’s to trying my best to give them those three things as often as I can.

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“Communion Nazi”


If you watched much TV in the 90s you have definitely seen your fair share of Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine on the hit show Seinfeld. In one of my favorite episodes, a new soup restaurant opens up a few blocks down from the apartment. Everyone raves about it, and the line is continually out the door with people flocking to get a taste of this soup. The catch however, is the grouchy yet epically mustached restaurant owner. Depending on his mood or feelings toward you, he will deny you access to his food with an exclamatory “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” He particularly does not like Elaine, and to Jerry’s amusement, always greets Elaine with a loud “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” and a point out the door. He becomes labeled as the “soup Nazi”.

Now switch gears with me for a moment, different situation with a common theme. I have occupied a pew, chair, bench, or blanket in all sorts of Christian churches throughout my life: Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Nazarene, Non-denominational, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, etc, etc. A common piece of worship is the Lord’s Supper, also known as the Eucharist or Holy Communion. The following is a scenario that I have heard in multiple churches on a variety of occasions that I find extremely disturbing.

{pastor takes stage holding bread and juice}
“The Lord’s Supper is symbolic of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ when he died for our sins. We invite you to join us as we participate in that truth today. (Now the disturbing part) You may NOT take communion with us today if you are not a believer, if you heart is not right with God, or if you are not in good standing with your local church. However, we encourage you to seek the truth of Jesus in your own life.”

So hold on a minute… the local pastor has the right to deny someone participation in the worshipful act that symbolizes the saving grace of Jesus Christ? I feel like im standing in line at the soup restaurant about to experience what I have heard is the greatest soup of all time, but instead I hear a resounding “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” “NO COMMUNION FOR YOU YOUNG MAN!” “YOU ARE NOT IN GOOD STANDING WITH THE LOCAL CHURCH!”

Hmm what if Jesus made the same exclusion when he ate with the disciples at the first communion? “I’m sorry Judas, but you are not in good standing with your local temple, you cannot eat with us today.” Jesus instead offered his body and blood to the very man who he knew would betray him, so who are we to be the judge of who can and cannot partake of the Lord’s Supper? Communion is a time when the church embodies the heart of the Gospel and it means to truly be Christian. John Wesley liked to say that the Lord’s Supper is a “converting ordinance”, and is a grace that should be experienced often and by all to remind us of how much we need Jesus.

Don’t be a communion Nazi. Don’t pick people out of the line who do not fall under your criteria and deny them the meal. Because unlike other meals, this meal promise us to never hunger or thirst again.

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Graduation Suicide

How does one kill time while proctoring an End of Course exam for 4 hours? You write a song in your head. This was what i came up with this morning when i had extra time to reflect on my students and my community. This song does not reflect all of my students lives, but the more i get to know many of them, the more real stories like this become. – Daniel


Chorus 1:

Monday mornin’
Here to take a test,
35 minds and we’re all in distress.
Wonderin’ why
we should even try our best,
Dear God I got my pencil, can you do the rest?

Verse 1:
Wake up to babies cryin’
look outside and its pouring.
baby bottles empty but of course I hear mom snoring
probly wont get up til tomorrow with all the drugs I seen her doin’
but who can blame here now that pop is serving time in New Orleans.

My teacher said on friday,
“Make sure you eat a good breakfast”
too bad mom spent all our food money on a fancy necklace
today is no different
kush will be my only meal
All these people judging me if they only knew how I feel.
Cant focus on school with all these problems inside
4 years to go, no hope… graduation suicide.

Chorus 2:
Monday mornin’
Here to take a test,
35 minds and we’re all in distress.
wonderin’ why
we should even try our best,
Dear God I got my pencil, can you do the rest?

Verse 2:
“You may now begin your final exam”
BAM, the test hits the desk like WHAM.
My cousin just got shot but rather than lament,
you got me here taking a test worth 25 percent?

Bump that.
I don’t need algebra to strap on a gat
My new crew is all I need,
Ill protect them and they’ll protect me
From the unforgiving world and all the animosity,
a world that doesn’t care about A’s B’s and C’s
Cant focus on school with all these problems inside
Four years to go, no hope… graduation suicide.

Chorus 3:
Monday mornin’
Here to take a test,
35 minds and we’re all in distress.
wonderin’ why
we should even try our best,
Dear God I got my pencil,  can you do the rest?

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Ever want to be a part of a rebellion?


My friends and I talk so often of the epicness unique to rebellion. We talk of how hard it is to replicate the passion and emotion that can only be found in being a part of a rebellion. District 13 in the Hunger Games. The young French men in Les Miserable. William Wallace’s march against Longshanks. Maximus Aurelius taking on all of Rome. These stories pull at our heart, our mind, and our gut. If only we could be a part of a rebellion such as this! A rebellion that is fighting tyranny, toppling evil empires, and battling corrupt powers. 

As Christians, we need look no further. The primary identity of the Church is a colony of exile in active rebellion against the corrupt and the tyrannous of this world. The Church is a people whose calling is to end the reign of sin in a community. Whose calling is to reject the comforts and spoils of a greedy nation, and to live a life that embraces solidarity. A calling to turn our back on a culture of self fulfillment, to hold up a middle finger to selfish living, and to do all that is in our power to put an end to the oppression in the world and an end to those leading the way. 

The Church is not something that we go to, the church is not something that we do, the church is who we are. When we invite others into the churches grand story, the story of rebellion, we do not however invite them to anarchy. We invite them to a place whose qualities are the antithesis of the power of this world. The Church combats hatred, with love. The Church combats violence, with peace. The Church combats hopeless lethargy with joyful energy. The church combats death, with life. 


We are called to these things until we ourselves are called home for good. You ever want to be a part of a rebellion? Don’t miss the one right under your nose. 

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White House Denial



So let me get this straight… Our government spends billions of dollars annually to collect moon rocks on lunar exploration missions, but they choose to cut all White House tours to “save money”? I mean honestly, how much money is the government really spending for people to take a half hour walk-through of the oval office? Is the resolute desk suffering damage from too many people looking at it? We know it’s definitely not flash damage because cameras are not allowed. Unbelievable. 

 I just want to take my wife to our nation’s capitol and let her experience the most renowned building in the world. Apparently that costs to much. In other news another billion dollar satellite was launched that is expected to take 5 pictures of Jupiter. Ridiculous.

Does this mean that the White House Visiting Office is now obsolete? Maybe their salaries helped take pennies off of our government spending?

Sure some will say who really cares, and that I am over reacting. I’m not even mad, just blown away and wondering… really? really? Cut White House tours to save money. Who was sitting there in the conference room or think tank brainstorming ideas to cut government spending, and they thought to themselves – “What if we cancel all White House tours!? That would do the trick.” 



Oh well. At least the Smithsonian museums are all still free. One thing is for sure though…



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My Bracket 2013

My Bracket 2013

It always looks so good before the tournament starts….

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Bracketology 2013

The gavel has been dropped. Gonzaga makes history out West. Tears are falling in Big Blue nation (who cares). For weeks this field of teams has been labeled as the biggest toss up for tourny champ we have seen in decades. Here is my breakdown of the bracket – initial thoughts, potential matchups, and sleepers  –  that is guaranteed to be absolutely ripped to shreds come this time next Sunday.



(my reaction as a Duke fan) “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? To make it to Atlanta we have to go through Izzo AND Pitino? Not to mention I hear the McDermott kid from Creighton has the ability to score the basketball on occasion. Duke is the #1 team in the RPI yet they landed the #2 seed that lined them up with the top seed in the tournament in Louisville. I know I’ll get accused of being a homebody, but GIMME A BREAK! Tough draw for my Blue Devils.

All that aside, the Midwest is the toughest region by far. Loaded with experience, scoring, and defense; hardly any game is a lock. Oregon is an extremely talented and surging basketball team looking to make a statement after being given a 12 seed, so look for them to advance. The athletic boys from Memphis notched another 30 win season, and can run with anyone. Cincinnati and their Big East bully attitude is always a tough out come tournament time. Lastly, Saint Louis flew under the radar almost all season, but was shown respect tonight receiving a solid 4 seed.

All that being said, I have the two Generals (K and Izzo) meeting in the sweet sixteen for a battle of epic proportions. Louisville coasts to elite 8 to face the winner of Duke and Michigan State. Final Four pick = Louisville. 



Here we have a traditional powerhouse conference loaded region, and my second toughest region thus far. Big names round out the top – Kansas, Georgetown, Florida, Michigan. Championship hounds North Carolina and UCLA are lurking in the shadows. This bracket has a large potential with an even larger fan base. The South region promises a lot of excitement.

Shaka Smart is no stranger to surprising tournament runs with his savvy VCU squad. Look for them to make noise as a 5 seed. Minnesota looked prime to make a deep run around February, but they dropped off the map to end the season winning only three of their final 10 contests. I see Florida being the lone SEC team to make the sweet sixteen. Georgetown has one of the best players in the country in Otto Porter, and the Hoyas always seem to come out on top in low scoring trench style games.

Kansas is my pick for the final four. Four returning starters from last years tournament run, then toss in  the dynamic diaper dandy in McLemore who can go for 30 any given night and you have a dangerous combination. Withey is Mutumbo esk in the paint. Kansas commandingly advances to Atlanta. Look for Georgetown or Florida to meet them from the bottom half.



No matter what direction this bracket ends up going, the outcome will be magical. Can Indiana make the leap back to the heralded Hoosiers of old? Will the Butler Bulldogs make another improbable run to the final four behind genius coach Brad Stevens? Can preseason snub Miami continue to impress as they represent the ACC as champs for the first time ever behind electric point guard Shane Larkin? Will N.C. State repeat last years story and get hot again at just the right time? A variety of plot lines, only one conclusion.

Where will the big upset occur in this bracket? Will #13 Montana upset the Orange? Will #11 Bucknell out “Butler” Butler? Or maybe it will be the standard #10 over #7 Colorado defeating Illinois. My vote is the latter. Butler losing in the first round would be like Gonzaga getting a number one seed. Wait a minute….

This region was the hardest for my to choose my team for the final four. Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim have played really well down the stretch. Indiana is 3-0 against top 10 teams this season, and with MJ comparisons made to Victor Oladipo, they don’t have much downside. Miami is loaded with seniors, however, they lack tournament experience which could come back to haunt them. Marquette is one of the forgotten great teams in Division one, and they know how to handle themselves in big games. But in the end, I sent Miami to the final four due to pure grit and something to prove.



There always has to be an “easy” region, and I believe the award this year goes to the West. Sure I can give homage to history being made – congrats to Gonzaga for their first ever #1 seed. But I also want to say congrats to Ohio State who now finds themselves among the ranks of New Mexico, Kansas State, and Gonzaga as the top four teams in the West. It’s tough to even name 5 players from those three teams combined.

An easy bracket comes hand in hand with some upsets. I see the first number one seed going down when Gonzaga faces a physical Pittsburgh team in their second game. Ole Miss is coming off an improbably SEC tournament championship. As a Nashville guy, I would do an injustice to not mention Rick Byrd’s Belmont Bruins who know have to navigate the tournament and have given many top teams a scare in game 1. My personal favorite from this bracket is Wisconsin. So good against top tiered teams, and when your Hall of Fame coach looks exactly like your mascot (Bo Ryan is a badger straight up), you know you have final four potential.

I project Ohio State to make the final four for a second straight season. Scoring, rebounding, and a shut down defender and leader in point guard Aaron Craft – the Buckeyes have all the tools to make it to Atlanta.


Elite Eight: Louisville, Duke, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Kansas, Georgetown, Indiana, Miami

Final Four: Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas, Miami


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Silver Linings Playbook

Why can’t I get this movie out of my head? Lauren and I decided to catch a 3:50 pm matinee showing in the discount theater down the road this afternoon, walking in with no expectations and walking out curious and extremely fascinated. If you haven’t seen Silver Linings Playbook, you need to make it a priority.

Something about Bradley Cooper movies just entertain me. He may never get credit for being an elite actor, but he rarely disappoints. And besides, I am a sucker for romance. Even if it is bi-polar and psychotic.

The reason the movie keeps nagging me – I mean just will not leave me alone –  is that I see myself in that movie. And if you’ve seen it, I would be willing to bet that you can see yourself in that movie too. Because who are we kidding, we are all messed up in one way or another. We all have our scars, our oddities, our imperfections. We all have that secret part of our inner conscious that no one else can truly enter; that part of our mind that scares the hell out of us.

Two things I took from the movie:

1) Family has the ability to be one’s anchor to solid ground, or the final push off the edge of a cliff. Our family or lack there of sets the stage for how we embrace or reject different aspects of life. Security and a sense of belonging are necessities before any other sort of progress can be made.

2) Judgment is futile when we are all the same. Yeah the bi-polar guy at the psychiatric hospital has serious problems. The child molester in prison has serious problems. But don’t forget about the lucrative business owner who has a fear of failure. Or the young mother who worries her children don’t love her. Or the aspiring math teacher with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.

If you stop to think about it, we are all more than a little crazy. One moment away from a breakdown. So what do we do about it?

We can choose to mentally curl up in the fetal position and bolt all the locks inside our brain so that no one else can enter… OR we can open up the curtains and allow a little light to find its way in. Who knows, maybe after a while our friends and neighbors will do the same thing. Then maybe, just maybe, we wont be forced to live in such a “normal” world after all.

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Live …

Live “One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast…a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

–Edward Abbey

70 degree weather just exudes life. The call to adventure is deafening in my ears. I am sitting at my desk at Northern Vance High School, tapping my chewed No. 2 pencil on my desk counting the seconds until the 3 o’clock bell rings. Funny thing is I’m not a student but the teacher, a cruel teacher at that (the kind of teacher who gives unit tests on a Friday…yuck).

My brain has long since left my computer where I was attempting to create the perfectly scaffolded group assignment on linear regression and interpreting linear data. (#TFA)       It’s days like today that make me ask myself over and over why education even matters and why I shouldn’t just go home, pack my bags, and hop on the next plane, train, bus to the nearest beach.

The Edward Abbey quote above has been my life mantra as of late. A bit selfish, a bit reckless, but full of truth. So often we get caught up in “helping” ourselves that before we know it we are wrinkled and crippled and on our way out, when in our minds we are just getting started. We work hard in high school to get a college scholarship. We work hard in college to get a good job. We work hard at our jobs to save money for our kids. We strategically raise our kids so they will become successful contributing citizens like ourselves. We save save save for tuition payments, retirement, and a luxury car.

Everything we do is tied to something in our future that will benefit our life, and those ties ultimately become the chains that prevent us from truly living.

“It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.”  If everything we do is to reach a specific purpose, we put up blinders and miss all the small novelties and joys that life presents us.

As spring dawns, and the mercury climbs higher up on the thermometer, take not one, not two, not three, but as many minutes as you would like to truly enjoy life.

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