Monday, July 6, 2015

A Servant of God

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  We began a new series on the Letter of James, and the text was James 1:1-11:

Today we begin a new sermon series looking at the Book or Letter of James, which is found nearly at the end of the New Testament.  But for most Protestants it is not a book that we spend a lot of time in or talking about.  I have never preached from James before, and I have never heard anyone preach on James either.  Just wondering if anyone here has heard sermons from James?  I think it’s a shame that James has been ignored because James has a lot to say to us, and important things.  So for example, some good advice for any time, but especially for the past few weeks, James says, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”  But there is one line that has sort of cursed James within the Protestant tradition, and that is when James says that faith without works is dead.
At the time of the Protestant reformation, Martin Luther began to proclaim, using the letters of Paul found in the New Testament, that we are saved by faith alone, a tenant that we still hold.  So if we are saved by faith alone, and if James is saying that we need works, then Luther needed to reject James.  In fact, Luther wanted to remove James from the cannon of scripture entirely, and while he was obviously not successful in that, in Luther’s own writings, which never included a commentary on James, he moved the book of James to a section of lesser, disputed writings.  He also called James a book of straw, in comparison to the true gold found in the gospels and the works of Paul.  Now I don’t believe that Paul and James were actually saying different things, and we’ll get to that much later, and even though the other reformers did not agree with Luther’s distaste for this letter, which is why it remained in the Bible, Luther did have a huge impact on James’ place within the Protestant tradition, mainly being that it was ignored for large periods of time.  But in recent decades James has seen a revision in how it has been viewed and interpreted and its place in the tradition, and so we’re going to build on that a little bit over the next six weeks.

While James is a letter, it is also different then most of the other letters we find in the New Testament.  I would invite you to look at James versus some of the other letters, but there is no full greeting, no opening prayer, no commendations, nor does James mention anyone else.  It is known as one of the general or catholic epistles, catholic in this sense meaning universal.  James addresses it to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, meaning those who are living outside of Palestine, and in particular Jerusalem.  It’s not clear who James means by this, but the tradition has tended to believe that he is specifically addressing Jews who have become followers of Christ.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Try The Other Side

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was John 21:1-11 and it represented my State of the Church Address:

Today marks the end of my second year, or the beginning of my third year, here at Mesa View, depending on how you want to look at it.  I would like to begin today by thanking all of our volunteers and people who give of themselves in some many ways to this church and in service to the community.  But in particular I would like to thank the members of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, some other key members, and for the prayer partners who were lifting me up in prayer this past year, because it was by far my hardest year in the ministry.  Every organization has cycles of ups and downs, and I firmly believe that this past year we hit the bottom of our trough and are now on an upward climb.  Our attendance has seen continued increases each month this year, until last month, but we always see a drop off when school lets out, and let me remind you that your presence here is really important.  Not because of numbers, but because it’s a lot better, and to be honest it’s more fun, when the sanctuary is filled then when it’s less full.

I was appointed by the Bishop to Mesa View for many reasons, but one of the biggest was to get our finances in order.  Many churches approach their finances by using the mushroom communication model.  Do you know what the mushroom communication model is?  Keep them in the dark and shovel in lots of manure.  Hopefully you know that’s not the way I want to operate.  The truth is we are doing better.  I would like to say that we no longer have financial worries, and that everything is great.  I’d like to say that, but it’s not true.  We are better, but we are not out of the woods yet.  We didn’t get here in a few years, and we won’t get out of it in a few years.  If you have been reading the newsletter, then you should have seen that our last financial report was a little bleak.  The last number I got from Don Coates this week was that we were projecting to be somewhere around $2000 in the hole at the end of June.  So don’t stop giving just because you might go away for the summer, because our work doesn’t end.

But here is the good news.  Our electronic giving options are helping us to create a stable, reliable income stream, and thank you to everyone who has signed up for electronic giving, and I would strongly encourage others to do the same.  The good news is that for maybe the first time, but definitely the first time in a long time, we created a savings account, in which we had $5000 when we entered the summer.  The good news is that last month we paid off our debt to John Deere for the purchase of our lawn mower and this month we paid off the conference loan we took out to help pay for the roof repairs.  The good news is that when we started here two years ago we owed more than $10,000 to the conference for back pension obligations and we will have that paid off in October.  The good news is that we refinanced our mortgage, which freed up resources that we have needed.  We ended up having to put in a new HVAC unit in the annex, a $7000 charge, but we covered the entire thing in cash, and that allowed us to bring in the YMCA and turn that building into a revenue source for us again, while also serving the community.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Battling Giants: Racism and Violence

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was the familiar story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:4-11, 19-23 and 32-49, but the message was changed because of the shooting at Emmanuel AME in Charleston:

I dislike weeks like this past one.  First there was the strange story of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington, and who knew Spokane needed an NAACP chapter?  Then there was the announcement by Pizza Hut that they were releasing a pizza that had 21 mini hotdogs baked into the crust, because that’s exactly what we all need.  And finally Donald Trump declared that he was going to be running for president, and every comedian rejoiced.  For a normal week that would be enough and unfortunately, these stories sort of typify certain aspects of American culture.  But then there was the news that we all woke up to on Thursday morning of the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, which sadly is also a part of American culture.  As a pastor I know that such tragedies need to be addressed, but as a preacher I’m never quite sure what to do.  Do I stay with what I was originally going to say, or do I change it all up in order to address these issues?

I had a good sermon about David and Goliath all planned out that I was going to try and somehow connect to Fathers’ Day.  And while I wasn’t really struggling with that message, it wasn’t exactly coming together either, and so Linda asked if perhaps I needed to stop working on that message and instead talk about what happened in Charleston.  And yet the story of David and Goliath I think also has a lot to say to us about this very issue because of two things that are easily overlooked.

But let me start by saying what might be the most important thing and that is that God did not cause this event to happen, or allow it to happen, as some part of God’s master plan.  Because if that is true, then God is not on the side of the victims, but instead on the side of the perpetrators.  But what we see time and time again is that God sides with the victims and with the least, the last and the lost, and that takes part in the story of David and Goliath as well.

This passage can be seen as a story of violence and yet it’s also a story against violence.  Goliath calls to the Israelites and asks for one person to come forward and fight him.  This is known as single combat, and the purpose was to try and eliminate the largescale death and destruction of war, by having only two people fight.  Sometimes the people doing battle would be the best soldiers, and other times it would be the respective leaders who fought each other.  Perhaps this should be something we should think about as it would certainly greatly limit the saber rattling of our politicians if they knew that instead of sending others off to fight for them that they themselves would be fighting.

Golf Needs Tiger

This weekend was the US Open, one of the 4 major golf tournaments, and I didn't watch it.  I used to. And I would watch the Masters and the British Open, but I haven't watched a golf tournament in a while, and don't see myself doing so anytime in the near future.  And, I suspect I am not alone in this.

I grew up watching golf with my dad, and following the biggies, Palmer, Nicklaus, Norman, etc. There were several were major stars that everyone who was even a casual fan knew.  It didn't matter that the didn't win every time, but there were several who were clearly at the top of the game and some of them were at least in contention each tournament.

Then when Tiger was at his best, I watched it all the time because it was clear that we were watching a once in a life-time talent and seeing the game played at its highest level.  It was like watching Michael Jordan play, you knew this was special.  But Tiger is not Tiger anymore, and who is there to really take his place?  That's golf's problem.

They want to boost up the young players and say "he's the next Tiger", but they're not.  They boost up Rory McIlroy, who is great, but then he'll go on stretches where he doesn't compete, and everyone turns it off again because it's clear he is not who golf said he was.  Then they promote the next player who will replace Tiger.  Now it's Jordan Spieth, who won yesterday and also won the Masters, but does he have the staying power?  That is yet to be seen.(Although he only won yesterday because another player let him win, and I won't use the "c" word for it.)

Golf either needs to find the next Tiger, the player who is going to dominate, so that golf tournaments will become must see viewing, or and ever better scenario would be to starting promoting a number of golfers (4-6) so that there are multiple faces and they are no longer dependent on just one player. Or, they can keep following the same path, which is downhill, and become an even more niche sport.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

To Whom Is The Church Speaking?

Yesterday I went and talked with the city counselor who represents our district.  What I wanted to know was what he thought the most pressing issues were in the community and how we as a church might respond.  We had a good conversation about what was going on, but as one of my last questions I asked him his perception of how well churches have been in responding to the needs of the community or working with the city and other groups to address them.  His response floored me.

He said that in his 10 years on city council I was the first clergy person who had ever made an appointment to come and speak with him.  The first in ten years.  He said that he had spoken with the pastors at some of the very large churches in the district, but that was because he sought them out.

Churches do some amazing things, and I hope they are talking with other groups about pressing issues, but how do we address the issues of our neighborhoods if we aren't talking with the community leaders whose jobs are to try and address those issues?

I apologized to him on behalf of the other clergy and we then talked about how we can work together to get the churches more engaged with community leaders to address the issues that are facing the people in the communities where we live, work and worship.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What's The Purpose?

In a few hours I will be leaving to attend Annual Conference.  For the non-Methodists, this is the annual gathering of clergy and laity (equal representation of each) from each of the churches in the conference, which in this case is New Mexico and southern west Texas.

In the past, annual conference had several main reasons for its existence.  The first was that this was when appointments were announced.  United Methodist clergy serve on perpetual one-year appointments, and so you would find out at annual conference if you were moving or not, and where you would be going.  The second reason was to conduct the business of the annual conference, such as passing budgets, and voting on legislation, ordaining new clergy, etc.  The third reason was that it was the only time of the year that most clergy ever got together, and so it was a time of fellowship and catching up and remembering those who had left the ministry in the past year either by leaving or dying.

The problem with annual conference now is that none of those reasons really exist anymore. Appointments are announced well in advance of annual conference.  Except for ordination, all of the legislative work is either done differently than in the past, or could honestly be done online or in other forums.  And because of social media and other technology, those clergy who want to be in touch with each other outside of annual conference can be.  It's still nice to get together, but it does not serve the same purpose as it did in the past.

So that really leaves us going to gathering whose purpose has been eliminated with no new purpose having been put into place.  We keep doing things the same because "it's how we have always done it" and the result is it's just a three-to-four-day committee meeting.  I know of few people who actually look forward to attending Annual Conference, and the biggest reason is because it doesn't serve a purpose.  It's rare that people actually take something home, or learn something, which they can use or apply in the local church.

It's time for the UMC to totally rethink annual conference (and general conference and jurisdictional conference for that matter) and to begin that conversation we have to start with answering the question, "what is the purpose of annual conference"?  Once we answer that, then we can restructure everything and make it be something that is not only useful for churches, but that people would actually look forward to attending.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What I Miss About Libraries

Once upon a time, when you checked out library books they would stamp the due date on a little sheet of paper glued to the front cover.  This was not only a reminder when it had to be back (although that meant no online renewal), but it also showed you how popular or not a book might be.

I once checked a book out of the library at Harvard, and the last time it was checked out, at least according to the due date form, was in the 20's and before that it was last checked out in 1909.  That was pretty cool.  But the only way I knew that was because of that sheet of paper at the front.  Books no longer have that.

I am reading a book right now that I found in the new books section, and I thought "Hey, I could be the first person to be reading this book since it was purchased by the library."  And I might still have that idea, except that someone else wrote in the book, (and really unimportant statements as well) and so my image was shattered.  But, if there was a due date sheet at the front I would have already known that someone one, or several people, had already read it.

I miss that due back paper.

Monday, May 25, 2015

By the Power of the Holy Spirit

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Acts 2:1-21:

On May 24, 1738, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had a remarkable experience.  John had been struggling with his faith, and in particular with the claim made by some that after accepting Christ into his life, he should have been filled with continual joy, never experiencing any doubts about his faith, which is not what was happening in his life.  And so listening to those same people he believed that he had not actually been saved.  And so on May 24, , and let me remind you that today is May 24, John wrote in his journal, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”  This event, known as the Aldersgate experience, was preceded three days earlier by a similar experience of his brother Charles, who on the one year anniversary wrote a poem, the 7th verse of which begins “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemer’s praise,” which became a hymn of the same name and has been traditionally the first hymn found in any Methodist hymnal, from the first to the present day.

Although John and Charles had already really put into place many of the pieces that would lead to the formation of the Methodist movement, many people consider John Wesley’s heart being strangely warmed to be the date when the Methodist church was really begun, that without that event, we would not be sitting here today.  John himself in writing a letter to his much older brother Samuel said that before this event he was never a Christian.  To give some perspective, Wesley was already an ordained minister, spent more than two hours in prayer every day, plus private devotion, he fasted a minimum of two times a week, received communion 4-5 times a week, and engaged in service to those in need, so if Wesley wasn’t a Christian prior to this, then I would say none of us are Christian, and Wesley himself would later back off that claim.  He came to believe that people could have instantaneous conversion experiences, but for many, if not most, it was an experience that happened over time, and our faith continued to deepen and grow throughout our lives.  Now personally, as a church historian who studies Methodism, I think the Aldersgate experience is a little overdone in importance.  Not to say it’s not important, but I’m not sure we can claim that today, or this moment, are really the birthday of the Methodist movement.  Why Aldersgate is important, however, was because the transformative effect it had in John’s life and because of the power of the Holy Spirit which became present for him in that moment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mary of Magdala

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was John 20:1-18:

As many of you know, it is said that the best-selling book of all time is the Bible.  The 13th best-selling book in any language is the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, which is also the tenth best-selling book in English.  So, it is perhaps not surprising that when I began asking people what women in the Bible I should preach on, nearly without exception, the first name that came up was Mary Magdalene.  Although people have had a fascination with Mary Magdalene for a long time, and within recent memory, she has played a significant role in Jesus Christ Superstar and in the novel and movie The Last Temptation of Christ and Mel Gibson’s The Passion it is The Da Vinci Code which has driven resurgence in interest and thinking about Mary.  But most of this has been more speculation and fiction, than reality.

Now I don’t have a very high opinion of Dan Brown.  I think he is a great suspense writer, and I have, in fact, read most of his books, but the problem is he includes facts that could be disproved with just two minutes on Wikipedia or ten minutes in the library, and then passes those off facts as the absolute truth, and this is especially true in The Da Vinci Code.  So for example, he says that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1950s and contained the earliest Christian writings, when in fact they were found in 1947 and do not contain any Christian writings at all.  But the claims he makes about Mary, and what we can claim about her are even worse, and I strongly suspect have influenced what many of you think about Mary Magdalene.  And so to begin we are going to spend some time deconstructing some beliefs of Mary, looking at what we know about her from the Bible, and then because Dan Brown focuses a lot of his material on non-canonical texts, that is books that were not included in the Bible, we will look briefly at those as well, and then we will discuss what she means for us and why she is important.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The MLB Is Doing The NFL's Job

This week Major League Baseball announced that although the umpires are already the ones who prepare all the game balls, and mark them as such, before every game.  Now the umpires will have control of the balls until the game begins, rather than having the ball boys taking them to the dugouts. In addition, if more balls are needed during the game, an official will go to the umpire's locker room, which is otherwise locked, to retrieve new balls.  They announced these changes in the wake of what is happening in the NFL.

Of course I am glad MLB is making such moves, but why is no one asking the NFL why they aren't doing similar things?  Why are they going to continue to allow different teams to play with different balls?  Why are they not taking steps to make sure the officials have control of the balls until play begins?  Or even more, why they don't hire their own staff to control the balls during the games, rather than leaving it up to the teams?  Why does it seem like their pressure gauges don't work the same, since they got two very different readings at different times using different gauges?  Why, for all the broohaha about this, does the NFL not seem to be taking the "integrity of the game" seriously when they have been shown to have a significant problem?

Well, at least the MLB is doing the NFL's job, now if only the NFL would act similarly.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mary, Blessed Among Women

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Luke 1:26-45:

There was an event that happened this week here in Albuquerque, that I thought was sort of appropriate as we celebrate Mother’s Day.  Some of you may have seen it on the news, and maybe some of you were even impacted by it, but somehow a dog made her way onto I-40, and decided, well maybe decided is the wrong word, but was forced to deliver her puppies on the side of the road, and so people were slowing down and causing a back-up and then someone called the city and animal control and the police showed up to make sure she and the puppies were safe, and everything worked out well, except for the fact that the police felt the need to issue a ticket to the dog for littering.

Today we continue in our series looking at the story of some of the women in the Bible, and if you missed any of those I encourage you to pick up a CD as you leave today, or listen to them on our Facebook or YouTube pages.  But as I was putting this series together I was asking my wife Linda, and the wonderful mother to my own children, about the order I should do things and to help me narrow down some of the stories.  As I listed off some of the women I thought we might cover today, I didn’t have Mary, the mother of Jesus on the list.  And Linda’s response was “It’s mother’s day, don’t you think you should do something about Mary?”  To which I foolishly responded something along the lines of “well I could, but I don’t have to.  I think there are other women I could discuss and give a message that also applied.”  And she said, “Its mother’s day, you should talk about Mary.”  And quickly realizing that I was not going to win this argument, and since I had already dismissed the idea that women should listen to their husbands, I did the prudent and smart thing and said “yes dear,” and so today we look at Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Now in the Protestant tradition, we haven’t really done a lot with Mary as a figure.  For those who grew up Roman Catholic or Orthodox, you heard a lot more about Mary and did a lot more with her than we Protestants do.  The primary reason for that is because at the time of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther sought to return to a scriptural basis for everything the church did.  By scripture alone became one of the rallying cries, and much of what the tradition holds about Mary is not found in scripture, and so her story was predominantly removed.  Now there were some other reasons as well, but that was one them, because in Mary is simply not talked about all that much in scripture.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

At Least The NFL Is Investigating Something

Yesterday the NFL released its much anticipated report on "inflategate."  After more than 100 days, and who knows how many millions, a lawyer, and that is a key piece of information, found that it is "more probable than not" that the New England Patriots tampered with the air pressure in the balls before a game.  More probable than not.  Are you kidding me?  What law school did this guy go to?

Lawyers have to do a better job than that. There is no standard of justice that can be placed on "more probable than not," and while Goodell will certainly try and enforce some "justice" on Tom Brady and other employees, I don't know how he can when the information is only circumstantial at best, and thus is only "more probable."

One other key piece of information that was glaringly missing is that they did not evaluate all the footballs that the Colts were using, but of those that they did, 3 out of 4 were also underinflated.  So by the standard the NFL itself has set up, isn't it "more probable than not" that the Colts were also "tampering" with the balls?  Besides for the fact that after this came out plenty of quarterbacks came out and said they did nearly the same thing, and we won't get into the fact that Brady shredded the Colts defense after the balls were back to regulation.

And finally, why is the NFL letting teams control the balls at all?  Does this happen in any other sport?  In basketball, the officials, or representatives there of, control the balls.  In MLB, while the ball boys have them during the game, it's the umps who prep all of the balls before play begins, not the home team.  And none of the sports allow the teams to use different balls/pucks, etc.  They all come out of the same pool.  So why does the NFL allow teams to do anything with the balls?  There is some explaining that still needs to be done.

But, at least the NFL spent some time and money conducting an investigation into something.  It certainly seems like more than what they did in the Ray Rice case, or about Jameis Winston and certainly much more than the Seattle Seahawks did to investigate Frank Clark, who was their second round draft choice.

Clark was kicked off the University of Michigan football team last November following an arrest for domestic violence against his girlfriend.  There had been prior incidents of criminal behavior that also led to the dismissal.  In this case, there were several witnesses who testified that they either saw the victim attacked and hit, or saw her laying unconscious on the ground, and the police took pictures of some of the wounds.

But the Seattle Seahawks, in doing their "due diligence," only talked to Clark himself about this incident.  They did not talk to any of the arresting officers nor to the victim or any of the witnesses.  Now I can understand why they might not talk to the victim, but not to any of the witnesses?  And then for the GM to have the temerity to come out and say he did not believe that Clark had actually ever struck the victim, that takes some nerve.  To me it means either the GM is lying or they didn't actually care because they needed a pass rusher, and so only conducted a cursory look so they could say they did an investigation.  I'm going with more of the second because as I said in an earlier post, plausible deniability is easier and better than due diligence, although I'd also believe the first.

So congratulations NFL.  You did a terrible investigation that found nothing, and proved nothing, against a problem that you yourself caused and should fix, but you did a much better job than any of your teams are doing to investigate violence against women.  At least you have some standards.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

One Of These Riot Pictures Is Different From The Others

One of these pictures is of the police in Baltimore. Which one?

If you guessed the first picture, you were correct. And where are the others from? Ferguson? New York? Cleveland? Oakland? No, no, no and no.

Instead they are from the University of Arizona, the University of Kentucky, the University of Maryland, Ohio State University, Penn State University, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of West Virginia during riots following sports victories, losses and the firing of a coach.

These riots are explained away, if they are covered nationally at all, as being done by "drunk" students who got a little out of control, a little rowdy, but it's okay.  But the riots in Baltimore, that was thugs who need to be dealt with accordingly.  What is the defining difference?

Surely race and class have nothing to do with it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Canaanite Woman and Baltimore

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Matthew 15:21-28:

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly. (NRSV)

The theologian Karl Barth once said that preachers should work with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  Now whether than still holds or not is up for debate, the biggest problem being that the number of people who actually read a newspaper is greatly reduced, and I am not one of them.  But as we were watched the events unfold in Baltimore this week, I couldn’t help but think of everything that I was seeing and hearing through the lens of the story of the Canaanite woman.

One of the commentators who lives in Baltimore said that what made him most sad was that the scars and destruction of the race riots from 1968 had not yet been overcome, and his fear was that in nearly 50 years this destruction would also still be present.  And my initial response was that the reasons for those riots in 1968 had not yet been overcome either, the wounds were still there, but I pray that will not be the case 50 years from now.  That we will begin to do something as a nation to change how we live together, but that requires us to look at ourselves, our culture and our country in profoundly different ways.  The Rev. Dr. George Hermanson says “social conventions develop over centuries and, by definition, are never explicitly discussed or agreed upon.  A crucial aspect of ‘convention’ is that it is unspoken and taken for granted.  Indeed, so taken for granted that we are by and large completely unaware of how much these codes are embedded in our most deeply held sense of what is true, right and just.”  It is that level of social convention that not only drives what we witnessed in Baltimore, but also drives the interaction between Jesus and the Canaanite woman.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Due Diligence Versus Plausible Deniability

Last night in the NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston with the number one pick.  This was not really a surprise since it's what everyone expected from the time it was said that Tampa Bay would have the first pick.  There is no question (or little question) that Winston can play and can be a franchise quarterback.  The issue has always been his off the field behavior.

Lots of scouts and other retired executives have said they wouldn't take him number one because of the off the field issues, and since he would be the face of the franchise that risk is even greater.  They weighed the risks as being greater than the reward.  And I think you could easily say that had he not been a quarterback that his draft stock, because of those issues, would have been a lot lower (although Florida State and others probably would not have tolerated as much either, or enabled him the way they did).  But the Bucs considered the risk to be smaller than the reward, and everyone kept saying, including the team, that they "did their due diligence" in checking out his background.

Except, it doesn't appear that they did.  Outside the Lines reported on several occasions that NO team from the NFL, or the NFL league office itself ever contacted the district attorney in Tallahassee to talk with him about the rape investigation.  Someone from Tampa did briefly talk to an assistant DA, but that incident was never brought up.  I never heard anyone ask if they talked with the Tallahassee or Florida State Police departments, although I'm guessing that if they did it was only cursory. Winston's former high school coach, who said that Winston needs a tight, strict environment, said that he had meetings in person with several NFL teams lasting as long as 4 hours, but only had a phone conversation with the Bucs and it was less than an hour.

Lovie Smith, the coach of Tampa Bay, said they choose him because they didn't see a "pattern" of negative behavior.  Smith and the Bucs might be the only people who haven't seen a pattern of behavior.  And it really makes me think, contrary to what they said, and what the media repeats, that they didn't do their due diligence, because they didn't want to.  They wanted Jameis Winston and they didn't want anything to derail that, and so what they did was enough to make it look like they did their work, but not enough so that if something comes out later they can say "we didn't know, he fooled us" and have plausible deniability.

I truly hope that Jameis Winston is the quarterback that everyone thinks he can be on and off the field, most importantly for his own sake.  But with what the NFL just went through last year you would also expect that the team and the league would do a better job in their investigations. But it doesn't appear that's happening, because plausible deniability is always easier and simpler than doing the job the right way in the first place.