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This morning, the first installment of Mel Gibson’s two-part interview on Good Morning America aired, hyped as the first time we would hear the Hollywood star’s own account of the events of July 28, 2006. On that night, an intoxicated Gibson, who has battled alcoholism for decades, was arrested for drunk driving, unleashing a barrage of anti-Semitic remarks in the process.

Gibson will address the anti-Semitism (including his remark that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world”) in more detail tomorrow. But this morning’s installment did not bode well for anyone who hopes to see genuine contrition and humility from the actor.

For one thing, practically all of Gibson’s comments were “you” statements, not “I” statements: “You lose all humility;” “Your judgment is impaired enough to do insane things like try and drive at high speeds;” “You go, what did I do that for?”

The “you” context may have been intended to show some wisdom Gibson feels he had gained from his experience, wisdom he was ready to share with the world. But delivered as they were–in a highly twitchy, manic style–the comments instead took on an air of defensive denial, like these are somebody else’s problems. Even his nod to religion–Gibson is a theologically conservative Roman Catholic–was distancing: “It’s God. You’ve got to go there.”

The other troubling aspect of Gibson’s interview was the cavalier tone he took, physically and verbally. Several times, he unleashed a big grin, perhaps going for the “aren’t I just a boyish rogue?” image. Gibson even wore an impish smirk when he admitted he had “a few cold ones” the morning after his arrest, while he was explaining the incident to his children. His choice of words in the interview was equally unsatisfying–he repeatedly said he was “loaded,” not drunk. When Diane Sawyer asked him what he might have said had he been pulled over by an African American police officer, instead of a Jewish one, Gibson quipped, “I’d have to get loaded and tell you. And then be in those conditions again. Because it’s unpredictable what’s gonna come flying out.”

It’s possible that Gibson’s mannerisms are the reactions of someone so deeply embarrassed by his behavior, he doesn’t know how to act. But wait–at the very least, isn’t Gibson an actor? Not to mention a person of faith who should be a little more comfortable with seeking forgiveness? Today’s interview raises serious doubts that Gibson can re-connect with the show of humility and contrition that followed his arrest.

As he himself put it in the interview, “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.”

Could it be that Alex Rodriguez has let go of the superstitions that most athletes would have you believe decide their fate and instead hopes to achieve inner peace and self-love through self-help books?

One of the more over-analyzed athletes in the business (outside steroid-embroiled Barry Bonds), the $252 million man seemed to drop (and miss) the ball, literally, more than any one New York Yankee should in a season. This all lead to a media firestorm of reporters and sports analysts trying to determine what went so totally off-kilter with Mr. A-Rod, who recently has become a symbol of all that is wrong with the Yankees.

A New York Times writer, giving Alex Rodriguez a piece of friendly advice as the Yankees slip hopelessly into another off-season, offered readers some brief spiritual insight to A-Rod’s troubled state of mind these days in a story published in Tuesday’s sports section. Staring inside A-Rod’s dressing stall, writer Harvey Araton noticed some curious displays of self-help reading: Beside an autographed baseball from Detroit Tigers legend Al Kaline sat “Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World,” a book by noted Buddhist scholar Lama Surya Das. But that’s not all. Best-selling author Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, who the article quotes as advising his followers, “Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing,” has apparently struck an emotional chord with A-Rod, with his book “10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace.”

This small but telling discovery, Araton says, may be further proof that A-Rod was just not made for these Bronx Bombers.

“[Yankee owner George Steinbrenner]–more a slogan-spouting disciple of Churchill and Patton– is no Buddha,” he wrote. “And he probably wouldn’t respond with great enlightenment to the revelation that A-Rod was in possession of an autograph from an old Tiger while Detroit was beating the Yankees’ brains in and A-Rod was, once again, flunking October.”

One might be inclined to applaud A-Rod for taking the time to read a few self-improvement books, as he continues to battle the demons that contributed at least in part to the Yankees unraveling this season. Certainly any of today’s scandal-ridden athletes can stand to gain a modicum of self-awareness from inspirational authors such as Surya Das and Wayne Dyer.

And if you try not to believe everything you hear about the ego-ridden enigma that is A-Rod, it may make just as much sense to conclude that his display of reading materials is a sign that at least this Yankee has decided there may be more to being a great athlete than statistics can reveal.

— Posted by Matt Melucci

Harry Potter and friends are certainly not strangers to banishment by all sorts of religious groups, including the Vatican. But one Georgia mom, Laura Mallory, is trying to protect her kids by having Harry Potter banned across the board from all county libraries and schools. The Associated Press reports:

“A suburban county that sparked a public outcry when its libraries temporarily eliminated funding for Spanish-language fiction is now being asked to ban Harry Potter books from its schools.

Mallory, a mother of four, told a hearing officer for the Gwinnett County Board of Education that the popular fiction series is an “evil” attempt to indoctrinate children in the Wicca religion.

Board of Education attorney Victoria Sweeny said that if schools were to remove all books containing reference to witches, they would have to ban “Macbeth” and “Cinderella.””

Mallory used brochures for Harry Potter-themed summer camps as ammunition in her presentation to support her arguments that the real design behind J. K. Rowling’s beloved series is to indoctrinate kids into the Wicca religion.

My response: “There’s Harry Potter summer camps? Do they have them for adults?”

From a late-1960s Woody Allen talk show: