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Sirius Satellite Radio is staking its future on the potty mouth of Howard Stern, paying him a budget-breaking $500 million over the next five years to attract subscription listeners at $12.95 per month. Run the numbers on this and you’ll see what a huge financial risk is involved for Sirius’ investors. I’m hoping at least Stern’s program goes belly-up.

Stern rose to fame on radio by outrageously pushing the envelope—periodically fighting with the FCC, claiming censorship, and attracting an audience who both wanted to hear sexually-charged conversations and who wondered just how far Howard would go. The question now becomes: Will an audience of sufficient size to make Sterns’ program financially profitable be attracted to a mouth that no longer is limited by anything?

In other words—if no one and no agency puts up a fence beyond which you cannot go, who cares how far you go? Where’s the sizzle? Given human nature, if by definition “forbidden fruit” is no longer “forbidden,” who will still want the fruit?

Stern is up against it. The very nature of Stern’s medium and his schtick demands that he keep pushing the boundaries. Otherwise, to his audience he becomes clichéd, boring, and worse from his point of view—no longer listened to.

The only way he’s going to succeed is if he identifies or invents new boundaries and then jumps over them. What might those boundaries be? If there are no legal impediments to his vocal adventures than the only impediments left are moral ones.

Sooner or later, Stern is going to attack the remaining moral conventions in an otherwise morally relativistic culture. What’s left? Sex talk? No, done that. Homosexuality? No, done that. Kinky sex? No, done that a long time ago. Naked people? No, done that, and besides, how does “naked” translate on radio?

So what’s left? Incest for one. Bestiality for two. Pedophilia for three. Maybe even necrophilia (an abnormal, frequently erotic attraction to corpses) for four, and probably some other perversions I have not identified. I don’t like this, but I have little doubt Stern will push these envelopes. Why? Because most normal people, no matter how liberal their sexual views, would still regard these activities as “out of bounds”—which is to say, Stern has found a boundary over which he can jump in order to attract and titillate listeners.

I’m not happy about any of this, and clearly I don’t recommend or support it. Stern is everything a good, decent, and moral person is not and should not be. I’m just predicting where he is going. I won’t be listening no matter what he does.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

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United States Representative Mike Rogers (R,MI), recently called for comprehensive reform of Indian gaming laws, as well as a two-year moratorium on casino expansion. In addition, he plans to introduce legislation establishing a moratorium on creation of new Indian casinos, pending a full investigation of how the existing process was exploited in scandals reported in recent media coverage.

Given America’s current fascination with all things gambling Congressman Rogers’ efforts will probably attract more protest than praise. But his appeal for financial and moral sanity ought to be saluted by citizens everywhere. This is especially true in the wake of lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s reported unethical efforts on behalf of tribal casino interests resulting in the latest Washington, D.C.-scandal du jour.

Congressman Rogers is not against Native Americans enjoying all the economic opportunities, progress, and well-being available to any other American citizens—nor am I. He is talking about fairness, accountability, and considered public judgment of something that negatively affects more and more communities. I am talking about legalized commercial gambling, for while I do not oppose Native American interests, I do oppose more gambling.

Gambling operations are financial vampires that suck the money and the general welfare out of any community in which they are located. Gambling operations never produce anything. They only take and redistribute inequitably. Even compulsive gamblers know that the only ones who ultimately “win” are those who own the gambling operations.

Congressman Rogers joins an all-too-limited number of national political figures who have taken a stand or at least spoken out about the negative impact of gambling. Among these leaders are Senator Richard Lugar (R,IN), Senator John Kyl (R,AZ), Senator John McCain (R,MI), and Congressman Frank R. Wolf (R,VA). Lugar worried about gambling during his unsuccessful bid for the presidency a few years ago. Kyl continues to work toward regulating Internet gambling in the United States and his colleague McCain has made banning sports wagering one of his concerns. Wolf has been a longtime, outspoken opponent of more legalized commercial gambling. So Congressman Rogers is in good company.

Current processes rooted in the 1988 Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act make it too easy for Native American tribes to suddenly rediscover their long lost identity, gain Federal recognition, use loopholes in the law, and go “reservation shopping” to acquire land not contiguous to existing reservation lands on which they can now operate casinos. This process is as unfair as it is ludicrous, and it puts neighboring landowners in jeopardy without due process or any real ability to influence or stop the “reservation” assignment. Again—this is not about making negative comments, unwarranted ethnic slurs, or any other racist oriented commentary about Native American people. Such tactics are themselves reprehensible. This is about saying gambling operations should be properly and fairly initiated and regulated.

Some 223 Indian tribes currently operate about 411 casinos in 23 states, bringing in more than $18 billion. This is no longer a fly-by-night operation. It’s big business and it should rightly attract the attention of the United States Congress to assure that processes are not only legal but fair and accountable. So three cheers for Congressman Mike Rogers.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

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Sports wagering is a major threat to the integrity of sports. It’s what one experienced gambler called “seasonal losing.” Sports wagering is a more than $200 billion business in the United States with the NFL Super Bowl the biggest betting day of the year. Some 25% of Americans say they bet on at least one sports event each year, and Nevada’s 142 sports books, source of the famous “point spread” or “Las Vegas line,” take in over $2 billion per year.

Sports gambling is still a key entry point to more gambling by adolescents and college students. “Texas Hold ‘em” and other forms of Poker are now presented as legitimate sports events via ESPN’s “World Series of Poker” and Fox Sports Network’s “Superstars of Poker.” Nationally, middle school to college age youth are playing the game—online, at home, and in their residence halls—a computer-adept generation growing up with no experience of cultural condemnation of gambling.

The NCAA’s “March Madness,” a month long intercollegiate basketball tournament, is now in the running to displace the Super Bowl as America’s number one sports wagering venue. Betting interest of fans, coaches, assistants, referees, and players change the dynamic of the game, introducing the very real potential for greed and corruption. The NCAA and now the NAIA are positioning themselves against sports wagering because it threatens the well-being of student athletes and the fair play of intercollegiate athletic competition.

Sports wagering not only threatens the social health of those who participate in it, sports wagering can also be a direct hit on the very idea of competitive athletics and fair play. If athletes, coaches, or referees are influenced by their gambling interests or the pressures of others involved in betting large sums on the outcome of athletic events, they may be induced to throw the game. Point shaving, “taking a fall” in a boxing ring, swinging wildly or dropping the ball in baseball games, intentionally shooting offline on the basketball court, the opportunities to cheat for a dishonest athlete are endless. If this happens, competitive sports based on talented athletes, skilled execution, and “heart”—all the things that make people love sports—disappear. All that’s left is some form of schlock entertainment like televised professional wrestling.

No demographic group is immune to the social pathologies associated with gambling. According to Gamblers Anonymous, compulsive gambling is increasing rapidly in all population groups, even among teens. Estimates suggest that up to 90 percent of teenagers have gambled in some form by age eighteen.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the fastest growing addiction among high school and college age young people is problem gambling with as much as 7 percent or 1.3 million teens addicted to gambling. Dr. Durand Jacobs, a pioneer in treating problem gambling, believes the rate of problem gambling among teens is at least 15 percent. Teens are nearly two and one-half times as likely to become compulsive gamblers as adults. Suicide rates are twice as high among teenagers with gambling problems.

• Valerie Lorenz of the Center for Compulsive Gambling - Teen gambling is the “least reported, least scrutinized, and least confronted problem of adolescence.”

• Howard Schaffer of the Harvard Medical School Center for Addiction Studies - “We will face in the next decade or so more problems with youth gambling than we’ll face with drug use.”

• Durand Jacobs, nationally known expert on problem gambling - “There’s not a high school in the country where kids are not making book on sports events.”

• Edward Looney of the Council on Compulsive Gambling - about parent views of gambling: “The attitude is that gambling isn’t that big a deal. Let me tell you, it’s a bigger deal.”

• Arne Wexler, a New Jersey anti-gambling expert - “For every college kid who derives nothing but entertainment from his betting, there is another who cons his parents to get money to cover his gambling losses, another who becomes so consumed with betting that he tosses away an education and another who plunges into gambling addiction. It is far from harmless recreation.”

• Jeff Pash, executive vice president of the NFL - “Sports gambling breeds corruption and undermines the values our games represent. We do not want our games or our players used as gambling bait…College students…have for a decade been the fastest growing segment of the gambling population even without the help of the Internet.”

• Benjamin Franklin - “Keep flax from fire and youth from gaming.”

Gambling is not a sport, but youth often think that it is. It’s a “game” that turns into a moral and financial vampire. Youth don’t always know that you can’t serve God and money, and adults are not doing much to teach them.

Gambling demands that the gambler abandon reason. It’s a venue of superstition, religion-free religion. Gambling is a celebration of irrationality. In a time when valuelessness is valued, gambling fits.

Gambling turns tried and true values upside down. Gambling undermines a positive work ethic and the productivity that comes from it. Gambling also undercuts a person’s ability and desire to defer gratification in order to accomplish a goal. Individual enterprise, thrift, effort, and self-denial are set aside for chance gain, immediate satisfaction, and self-indulgence.

Gambling has entered mainstream culture today because of a collapse of taboos. Gambling is correlated with social pessimism. Gambling flourishes in a culture where people no longer believe they can influence their present, much less their future. Gambling blossoms from a mood of despair, powerlessness, and hopelessness. Life is luck, uncertainty, chance, a crap shoot.

American culture has lost confidence in hard work, ingenuity, and a better tomorrow. Consequently, we put our hope in fantasy.

Sports wagering is a growing youth problem and therefore a growing national problem. If adults don’t curtail this phenomenon we will literally be gambling with our children’s future. It’s up to us to take the first steps by banning point spreads in newspapers, making all sports wagering in any form illegal, and promoting understanding among youth of the dangers of sports wagering and gambling in general.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

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I just finished reading John Grisham’s eighteenth book, The Broker (Dell, 2005). Like all of Grisham’s best-selling legal fiction, this book is well-written, interesting, and contains a plot taken from recent front pages. And most surprisingly of all, it’s clean! That’s right. Grisham has made a very good living as a contemporary author who has not found it necessary to resort to four-letter vulgarity and sex-laden chapters to sell books. His kind is increasingly rare.

You’d think that finding a good novelist who writes books for the annual $24 billion publishing business which are largely free of gratuitous language and sex wouldn’t be all that difficult. But it is. Promiscuous protagonists rule the day. Sure, there are a few good authors left. Mary Higgins Clark comes to mind. She, Grisham, and a handful of others make a rather small book club.

I’m not prudishly arguing that my sensibilities are too tender to survive here and there what we used to call a “bad word,” or even a descriptive of expression of human sexuality. I am saying that I am weary of trying to find television programs, movies, or books that are not thoroughly immersed in our culture’s preoccupation with sex and shock-value language.

I’m currently reading, for example, Billy Crystal’s book called 700 Sundays:  A Memoir (Warner Books, 2005). This is an at times heart-warming, frequently funny account of Billy’s childhood memories of a rather remarkable Russian Jewish family in New York City who made an early mark on the Jazz industry. More specifically, it’s Billy’s memories of his father who died too young. Billy figures he only got to spend “700 Sundays” with his father.

My own son read this book and gave it to me. It’s something we can talk about as father and son. It’s got some good things to recommend it. But for some reason Billy Crystal apparently couldn’t write the book without a considerable measure of everyday profanity, what I’ve always called low level “bathroom humor,” and even frequent use of the “F word.” Now Billy’s family likely used this language, so he’s probably remembering them accurately. But I find it curious that he so easily mixes references to his Jewish religious consciousness with language rejected by Judeo-Christian teaching.

The “F word” quit being funny for me, Billy, in the eighth grade. Why do I need to read it now? How does this kind of language help me understand or respect your father? Or you?

John Grisham’s The Broker is currently fourth on the USA Today Best-Selling Books list (Crystal’s 700 Sundays is 108). It deserves this ranking. It’s a good book about a “broker,” a lobbyist—not unlike Jack Abramoff, whose bribery and fraud scandal is lighting up Washington, D.C.—who makes a gazillion dollars bilking people of their money and buying influence on Capitol Hill. He and the excesses of the lobbying system do not make a pretty picture. John Grisham’s trademark slightly cynical look at our legal system is also on display.

And you will find a few, a very few, “bad words,” so not even Grisham writes a fully sanitized book. But he writes good fiction that does not depend upon titillating words or sexual scenarios to keep you interested. This from a man who once told an interviewer that he avoided such material because he wanted “to write a book my Mother could read.” I appreciate his efforts.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

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This week’s Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl, and for that matter the Sugar Bowl, all show-cased some of the very best drama in top level intercollegiate football. Pageantry, competitiveness, excellence, achievement, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It was all there for anyone who cared to tune in.

Unless you’re from West Virginia, you probably don’t know much about the state or even where it is. My wife is from West Virginia, so over the years we’ve actually heard otherwise well-educated people ask if she knows this or that person “in Richmond.” We’ve also endured people who seriously seem to think that all West Virginians walk around barefoot, drink moonshine, and don’t know what a library is. So, yes, we rooted for West Virginia University in the Nokia Sugar Bowl, and yes, we were happy when WVU beat Georgia 38-35. This is a big win for WVU—for the football program, for the conference, for the school, and probably for the state.

It’s genuinely too bad the people of WV could not celebrate the victory for long, for it was understandably replaced on the front pages by the tragic loss of 12 out of 13 miners at the Sago Mine near Tallmansville, West Virginia. That sad story, compounded by confusing misinformation in the midst of rescue attempts, has placed West Virginia squarely in the nation’s focus for the past several days. Mining is still the lifeblood of the state’s economy, so this accident and loss of life strikes home for nearly everyone in this state that Governor Joe Manchin called, “a tough little state with good and tough people.”

Back to football, watching 79 year old Coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State University Nittany Lions defeat 76 year old Coach Bobby Bowden of the Florida State University Seminoles in three overtimes, 26-23, in the Fedex Orange Bowl was priceless. If that wasn’t enough, the next night the University of Texas Longhorns upset the two time national champion, 34 game-win-streak, University of Southern California Trojans, 41-38, in the Rose Bowl. Celebrities, Heisman trophy winners, pageantry, Keith Jackson probably doing his last bowl game, great weather, fans and fanatics, you name it, this game had it.

I’m waxing eloquent, or at least waxing, on all this because I think it is an incredible example of the beauty and sheer enjoyment afforded competitive athletics—free of steroids and other substances, point shaving and gambling, and other forms of cheating. Athletics at its best is an opportunity for men and women to perfect and demonstrate exceptional talent, skills, and execution. At its best, athletics is as much about “heart,” goals, striving, and achievement, as it is about physical talents. Athletics at its best is part of the best in the human story.

I was never a great or even a very good athlete. But I am at times a good maybe even a great fan. Three cheers for all that’s compelling about athletics at its pinnacle.

By the way, we did not go to the game, but we were in Pasadena for the Rose Parade—the first parade in the rain since 1955—not just rain, pouring rain. It was wet, cool, still beautiful and amazing, and fun.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

The transition in focus and tone from Christmas to New Years never fails to startle and bother me. For at least a month, maybe two months, leading to Christmas, people’s thoughts focus on gifts for friends and loved ones, re-connecting with people we haven’t seen for awhile, and the warmth, joy, and sheer wonder of Christmas time. This is true even for non-religious people. For those of us who believe the babe in the manger became our risen Savior, it is an even more joyous time. It’s the spirit of Christmas that Charles Dickens’ immortal character, Ebenezer Scrooge, learned about in time to make a difference in his life and the lives of others.

Then it happens. Christmas is over. Boom. Just like that the spirit of Christmas is set aside in a mad rush to see how many spirits one can drink and still stand up. Don’t get me wrong. I like New Years. I like resolutions, football games, parades, and more family, friends, food, and fellowship. I don’t like the New Year’s Day television focus on current celebrities, canned conversation, and cheap cognac. After the eternal verities and moving traditions of Christmas, New Years all seems so shallow. Because for the most part, it is—at least “as portrayed on TV” or at your local New Years Eve party.

I have found a few antidotes. I watch the news, old movies, parades, and football games and otherwise, I leave the television off. Reading the books I got for Christmas, visiting with house guests or being a guest at someone else’s house, writing, or catching up on some project around the house is far more rewarding.

On Christmas Eve in our home we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and Matthew 2, in that order. On New Years Eve or New Years Day, we sometimes share “New Years Resolutions.” I like the idea of resolutions. It’s an opportunity to set new goals, establish new directions, or reinforce old but important values in our lives. It’s a chance to commune with the Lord and discern what his Spirit might want us to do differently so that we may better serve him.

Resolutions are a healthy exercise, especially if one of your resolutions is to commit yourself to more healthy exercise. Establishing New Years Resolutions is healthy because it’s forward-looking, it’s an act of hope and promise, it’s an expressed desire to achieve more, contribute more, be a better person, or be what your potential suggests you can be. Setting resolutions is a creative act that I think mirrors our divine creation and our Creator. Establishing New Years Resolutions can be, or at least should be, about becoming more of what God intended us to be.

So I suggest to you that you join me this New Years in focusing upon the Spirit rather than spirits and in extending the Christmas spirit into 2006. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at