I heard someone say awhile back that mutts are the healthiest dogs. It may have been on TV or it may have been a conversation I overheard or it may have been something I was in the middle of, not sure. But it stuck in my brain and then something I heard today brought it back to mind.

I was listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio. Yes, it’s one of my favorite (maybe my top favorite) radio shows, and I especially love to have it on in the background when I find myself doing paperwork (detest it) or reading (love it) at my desk on some mornings I am fortunate to not have other duties (today is one of those mornings). No, sorry to disappoint, I don’t listen to NPR (don’t even know where to find it), can’t stand Sean Hannity (voice is too whiny), quit listening to Christian talk radio 3 or so years ago (don’t want the fundamentalist indoctrination any longer), and haven’t really gotten into podcasts yet. I get plenty of news from the reports at the top and bottom of the hour and would do fine if the only station available to me forever was ESPN radio and TV. Maybe that makes me shallow, but I just don’t get much from the talking heads on either side of the fence.

Colin Cowherd brings a bit of a different style to the typical sports talk show. He has a good radio voice that is pleasant to hear, but the thing I like most about his show is the fact that he has a ton of common sense that applies to various sports stories and extends that out to life application much of the time. He has some very good insight.

Today he was discussing where good NFL quarterbacks come from. And you know what, they don’t come from Texas, Oklahoma, USC, Florida, the perrenial powerhouses. I was very curious about this so I actually did a bit of research. Take a look at the following list. Every one of these 40 quarterbacks can be found on most “Top 100” lists. Most of the top 25 are included in this 40 with a few others who I like or are notable names thrown in for good measure:

  1. Troy Aikmen – UCLA
  2. Ken Anderson – Augustana College
  3. Sammy Baugh – TCU
  4. George Blanda – Kentucky
  5. Tom Brady – Michigan
  6. Terry Bradshaw – Louisiana Tech
  7. Daunte Culpepper – Central Florida
  8. Len Dawson – Purdue
  9. Lynn Dickey – Kansas State
  10. John Elway – Stanford
  11. Boomer Esiason – Maryland
  12. Brett Favre – Southern Mississippi
  13. Dan Fouts – Oregon
  14. Bob Griese – Purdue
  15. Otto Graham – Northwestern
  16. Doug Flutie – Boston College
  17. Jeff Hostetler – West Virginia
  18. Sonny Jurgensen – Duke
  19. Jim Kelly – Miami
  20. Bobby Layne – Texas
  21. Donovan McNabb – Syracuse
  22. Steve McNair – Mississippi
  23. Jim McMahon – BYU
  24. Peyton Manning – Tennessee
  25. Dan Marino – Pittsburgh
  26. Joe Montana – Notre Dame
  27. Warren Moon – Washington
  28. Joe Namath – Alabama
  29. Jim Plunkett – Stanford
  30. Phil Simms – Morehead State
  31. Ken Stabler – Alabama
  32. Bart Starr – Alabama
  33. Roger Staubach – Navy
  34. Fran Tarkenton – Georgia
  35. Joe Theisman – Notre Dame
  36. Y.A. Tittle –  Louisiana State
  37. Johnny Unitas – Louisville  
  38. Michael Vick – Virginia Tech
  39. Kurt Warner – Northern Iowa
  40. Steve Young – BYU

Even if you add to the list of Texas, Oklahoma, USC, and Florida a few other traditionally “powerhouse” football schools such as Alabama, Notre Dame, and Michigan, this still means that 34 of these 40 great NFL quaterbacks went to underdog football schools. The point Cowherd was making is that these guys, most of the greats, went to schools where they were in the trenches, where they had to suffer, where they had to work for greatness, where they had to grind through the muck to come out on top. They didn’t go to schools with five star recruits at wide receiver and running back and offensive lineman like the quarterbacks from the big schools usually have. His feeling was that life as a quarterback at those powerhouse schools was a softer life. From Cowherd, “Kurt Warner was bagging groceries while Matt Lienhert was bagging Co-eds.” The mutts who have to fight through the toughest challenges are the strongest in the end.

I have had a theory about sickness. It’s just an observation of mine, not proven scientific fact although I have read some medical literature which supports my theory. The theory is this: the more obssessed an individual is with killing germs in their environment, the sicker they are. It is with regular frequency that I see germ obssessed individuals frequently harboring infectious illness of all sorts. I know people who carry hand sanitzer with them everywhere and use it frequently, flush their sinuses with water nightly, only use “antibacterial soap,” get their kids on antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle. And they are just more sick more often. I think that being too clean puts you at a disadvantage. Our immune systems are evolved to be tested and through the testing gain strength to protect us down the road. If your immune system goes untested it ends up just like a muscle that goes unused, weak and with little endurance. The mutts who are out in the wildnerness tromping through the dirt and scaveging for food at times are the strongest.

So all this kind of came together this morning while listening to ESPN (and I love that fact by itself, that things came together while filling my brain with more sports). It’s not a brand new epiphany but kind of a repeat epiphany. We only get stronger when we are challenged, when we grind through the muck, when we rise above the suffering, when we find ourselves outside of our comfort zone, when we stretch. The thing that is a bit new about this though for me is that I think this can be expanded to include faith and spirituality too. It’s true for everywhere else in life. It’s true for faith too. If your faith is never challenged, if you never find yourself in the middle of the muck, if you never get outside of institutional and denominational culture and doctrine, if you never find yourself with doubt, your faith will be weak. It will not grow with you. It will be stunted. If you never challenge it, even if you don’t feel you need to challenge it, it will not get stronger. I seriously doubt that faith gets stronger by praying more, by reading the bible more, by trusting more, by singing more songs, by memorizing more verses, by doing more work at church, by following more rules better. It only gets stronger when you or someone else takes out a hammer and starts beating away at it. It only gets stronger when you really challenge it, really doubt it, really wrestle with God like Jacob. And I think that’s what versus like “Work out your own salvation” (Phil 2:12 (one of my personal favorites)), or “Run the race as if to gain the prize” (1 Cor 9:24), or “Don’t build your house on the sand” (Matt 7:26) at least partly are meant to convey. Get out the hammer, get out of the comfort zone, get out a good dose of  doubt, and then go at it. Because in the end, the mutts are the ones who come out stronger and healthier. I want to be a mutt. And sometimes that’s a scary place because it’s dangerous and sometimes the mutts die. But so do the thoroughbreds, and sometimes all it takes for them to die is to step on their foot wrong. I’ll bet in the end that the mutts do better.


12 responses to “Mutts

  1. Ruff…..RUFF…………Great freaking post Doug.

  2. I have found that over time, life will test your faith. There will be issues, failures, disappointments, reverses, injustices, etc. that will be like a refining fire for faith. You just have to keep getting up and going on. And though you can’t always tell it at the time, you eventually find that your faith is stronger, more personal, and more real. It’s when you hold on to your faith with ruthless trust in the face of the unexplainable that faith becomes your own precious, personal experience.

  3. Thanks, John. Ruff, ruff back at ya.

  4. Dad. Sure, life will test you faith. But I’m talking about not only that, but about testing it on purpose and letting the test change what you believe if it doesn’t hold up. I can hold to a faith that little green men live on the moon. And I can go through trial and tribulation because of my faith in the little green men. But if I cling to a flawed faith at all costs without allowing the muck to speak to me, if I don’t intentionally pound on my faith in the little greenies, if all I do is cling tighter to my flawed faith in order to not let anything change it, then I’m really lost. I talking about more than just letting life beat on you. I’m talking about beating on yourself to try and find the false belief, the false faith, and then getting rid of it.

  5. What I was thinking is that the tests of life sort out what is true and what is misguided in our faith. In depression, in tragedy, or in loss we discover that some of what we believed doesn’t work; doesn’t help. We have to think it through again, letting go of what has proven not to hold up. That’s the refining process. That refining demolishes formulas and cliches that so many people mindlessly repeat. A couple of my favorites are: “Well, I believe everything happens for a reason.” And, “God allowed this to accomplish that.” And I think, “Are you sure?” When I sat in the hospital with a couple whose baby was stillborn, I couldn’t think of any reason or why God would “allow” such a thing. That, and other times like it are faith-refining experiences.

  6. I love the post Doug and I couldn’t agree more. I think that struggle, doubt, suffering, etc. are some of God’s favorite grists for our mills.

    BTW, Aikman did start out at OU. (Just being a smart alec)

  7. Paul. Yes, I know that about Aikman and OU. Didn’t want to tarnish your beloved Cowboys by pointing that out. Although they tainted themselves by hiring Switzer.

    Sent from my iPhone

  8. Doug, I love your post, and I agree that we ought to test our faith before trouble does it for us. However, I am done with questioning every answer and even every question, so that nothing is allowed to be true. At some point, that just has to stop or a person will make himself crazy. We all believe some things that can’t be proved. We must, or we couldn’t enjoy life at all.

  9. i’m a mutt! a spiritual and literal mutt! love it! great stuff dawg!

  10. 2Reasons. I see what you mean about questioning everything, and I don’t mean to covey that. Questioning everything is as useless as questioning nothing. As always, somewhere in the middle of that continuum is best.

  11. Questioning everything is as useless as questioning nothing. (Doug)

    Who says. Bring on the questions. Without the questions where for are the answers. ;)

  12. I was having breakfast with a good friend this past Wednesday. He’s about my age, 67. We both remarked that at this stage of the journey we have fewer answers rather than more. And faith is larger than ever in our reality. I remember when I thought there would come a day when I would have most of it all figured out.

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