Live or Die With Your Team

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I’m going to Seattle. That’s right; I’m headed right for the great Northwest and the Emerald City and one of my stops is Safeco Field for a Mariners game.

The Mariners are picked to finish a respectable ninth in Major League Baseball this year.  Ninth. Of course and as you all know, I’m a Philly guy. That’s right, baby — Philly all the way! And that means Phillies all the way. But the Phils’ are picked to finish dead last in the standings this season. DEAD LAST. Not in their Division — in the League. How’s that for a downer before we even get out of the gate good! Ninth sounds a lot  better.

So, here’s what I was thinking. I need another team. I need a stand by, stand-in, back up, spare tire, in reserve, relief pitcher kind of surrogate-substitute team. It’s not like I’m defecting from the Phillies on anything. Au contraire. I’m a baseball fan and I like to watch a winning team. So, while my Phillies are getting themselves together, I’ll watch someone else. It’s not like I’m cheating or anything like that, right? I mean, I’ll keep my eye on the standings and the scoreboard, and if they decide to get on a hot streak, I’ll be right there.

Red Sox Logo

And I bet you’ve got a fill-in, fallback, temporary team too, right? You might not admit it, but you do. And I think I’ve got one in the wings. The Boston Red Sox. How ‘bout that? Sox Nation Baby! And that’s not because I hate the Yankees; perish the thought. My son went to school in Boston, I mean BAAASTIN, and I was glad for them when they finally won in 2004.

But wait a minute. Wait one cotton-pickin’ minute. Seriously, no tried and true fan has a backup team. I mean, we live or die, rise and fall, like it or lump it with our home town team. We win with ‘em and we lose with ‘em. None of this girlfriend for every day of the week stuff. Right? Right! So, my Phils stink. And I’m just going to have to live with it. Bummer? No. It’s called faithfulness and fidelity; Christian principles, no less, right out of God’s Playbook. And it’s based on love. We love, and therefore live and die with our teams. 

So, back to the Mariners and Safeco Field. I look forward to going to this field as I’ve heard that their ballpark is very nice. In fact, I’d love to take off one summer and visit each and every ballpark in the US. Wouldn’t that be great? If you or someone you know has done that, let me know. I’d love to hear their story.

So, take me out to the ball game. In Seattle.

Baseball is Like Life: A.K.A, Why the World Series Isn’t Played in April

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October and April have several similarities: both can be hot and cold, both are at the beginning of the change of seasons, and both are big baseball months. But one is the beginning, and the other is the end. One is the commencement for all, and the other is the coronation for one.

So, if your home town team isn’t doing very well right now (Philly and Nationals fans, take note) relax. That’s right, RELAX! Baseball is like life and life is like baseball. In life and in baseball, the end is vaguely in view, and there’re a lot of games to play and a lot of days to live between the start and the finish.

Baseball is like life and life is like baseball. Between the first pitch and the final out there’s lots of time to make mistakes, emit errors and generate gaffes. It’s cold now and it will be cold then and all along the way and there’s a lot of time to straighten out slips and triumph over trips. It’s a long season so there’s plenty of time to tidy up tumbles and straighten up stumbles. It’s still early so there’s plenty of time to blot out blunders and blotches and faults and foibles.

But don’t try to do all of that on your won. You will need help. You will need Divine assistance. Kinda like “Angels in the Outfield,” but with more of a Heavenly twist. 

Thank God. Aren’t you glad baseball is like life?

The Goofy Game of Golf

Jordan Spieth Swing
Some say that golf is silly and senseless and trivial and trifling and seductive and instructive and a tease and a taunt all rolled up into one, small, white, rubber band of a ball. And such is life.

Golf has some goofy stuff.  Golf has birdies and bogeys, eagles and playing even, irons and Tiger Woods, back greens and Bermuda Grasses. Golf has drivers and putters, the Back Nine and backspin, hooks and holes, strokes and sand traps. In Golf you have Tee shots and short games, bunkers and bad bounces, keeping pace and making par. And it’s all up and down and through and through from the first Tee to the final put.

In golf, you start near the end; the 18th green is nigh near the 1st Tee. In golf, you hope for the best but have to brace for the worst. In golf, you aim for the green but could end up all wet in the water. In golf, you have to push past bad breaks and be moderate after great makes. And if it sounds like I’m describing my life and not the game of golf, I am. I love golf, but most times I’m not real good at it; and I certainly love life, but sometimes I’m not quite good at it.

Golf is like life. It never ceases to amaze and yet is forever afire and ablaze. Golf is like life because it startles and surprises, delights and dismays, disappoints and displays the wonders of God’s love and grace. Golf can astonish and astound, stun and stagger, and shock and shudder you to your very core. Or is that what we say about life? Golf is full of joy and gladness, sunniness and sadness, amazement and fulfillment and everything else in between.

In golf and in life, you have to have hope and fight the good fight of faith and love in spite of loss in order to lay hold on the prize.  In golf and in life, prolific players have missed chip shots, and unsung and unheard of players have hit a hole in one. And there’s no rhyme or reason between the two.

The Masters - Final Round

So here’s to the 2015 Masters Golf Tournament Champion, Jordan Spieth, a 21 year old who tied Tiger’s Record and finished at -18, and at one point set the all-time course record of -19. And he’s only a kid. That’s right; he’s young enough to know how good he is but not quite old enough to know how good he’s got it. He was only three years old when Tiger won at 21 in 1997. And so we have another “Jordan” who could be another prodigy.

Golf is like life and life is like golf. It can be goofy and gaffy, rational and reasonable, predictable and implausible all at once at the same time. When placed next to life, it’s amazing how playing the secular game of golf can be a sacred thing. And some, a small, slight some, realize how similar playing golf and living life really are.

The Master’s Golf Tournament 2015: Just who is Jordan Spieth?

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For starters, he’s a twenty-one year old “kid” who is mastering the masters. Yes folks, the millennials have come of age and they’re come around and they’ve come to stay. I recently wrote about “kids” — not baby goats, but young professionals http://godandsports.net/2015/04/06/kids-these-days/ – and it seems that every time I turn around, the kids have something to say and something to prove. It seems that in any profession and in every sport, from college basketball to professional golf, the kids have not just come, but they’ve “come to.”

Jordan Spieth is making the 2015 Masters look easy. The 21-year-old budding superstar, who finished tied for second at Augusta last year, is on a historic pace after two rounds. He shot a six-under 66 on Friday to move his overall score to 14 under par. Fourteen under par! That’s ridiculous! That’s like leading by fifty,  five minutes into the game. A football game.

But’s it’s not over. It’s only halftime, and we’ve got a lot of golf to go. By comparison, On April 13, 1997, Tiger Woods, was also 21 when he won his first major tournament, not coincidentally the Masters at Augusta National in Georgia. Woods’ 72-hole score, an amazing 18-under-par 270, was the lowest in the tournament history and shattered a record of 271 shared by Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd.

By comparison, in this years tournament, Phil Michelson is at -6 and Tiger, who is certainly thankful he even made the cut, is at -2. But Spieth is at -14?! Wait! What!?  . . . Whew!

Let’s hang on till Sunday to see if the “kid” can come to close out the deal.

Lauren Hill: “Never Give Up”

Lauren Hill

If you’re discouraged or despondent or downtrodden or demoralized or just plain feel like giving up, hold on just a second or two. Before you thrown in the towel and throw up your hands and throw away your future, before you concede the win and declare defeat, read this:

Lauren Hill died of brain cancer Friday morning at age 19, but left her mark wanting to “bring a change in the world.” Lauren, the Mount St. Joseph University basketball player spent her final year polishing a lay-up and inspiring others to live fully. While battling an inoperable brain tumor, Lauren created a foundation to raise money for cancer research. Lauren inspired the world by living her dream.

Lauren Hill’s teammates and coaches are remembering the 19-year-old college basketball player with her own inspiring words: ”Never give up.” An example she lived by as she fought a brain tumor and rallied those around her to help her achieve her dream of playing in a game. Several hundred students gathered on the grassy quad at Mount St. Joseph on Friday, spelling out Hill’s No. 22 with blue.

Her life and spirit inspired a nation, judging from the widespread reactions to her death on Friday from the basketball community, the wider world of sports and beyond.

The Mount St. Joseph student gained international attention when she decided to play on the freshman basketball team even as her inoperable brain tumor was sapping her of coordination and energy. She played the team’s opener against Franklin College and scored two points before being replaced in the first quarter.

Lauren, a freshman and native of Greendale, Indiana, was diagnosed during her senior year of high school but decided to play for the NCAA Division III College, which is located near Cincinnati. She played in four games this season and made five lay-ups, including two in her final game, a 66-65 victory over the College of Wooster on Dec. 16. She ended her playing career soon after and became an honorary coach for the team.

http://espn.go.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/12419539/lauren-hill-named-first-team-heartland-collegiate-athletic-conference

Lauren is gone but not forgotten. Fans of Hill can order her Upper Deck rookie card for $10 or an authentic signed version for $50 through the foundation’s online store.

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Oh to have the courage and the composure and the bravery and the bravado and the muster and the mettle to do what Lauren Hill did. Lauren said to “find something to fight for.” She did not give up. She did not give in. Her body simply gave out.

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Farewell, dear Lauren.

A.B.D. — Anybody But Duke?

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I went to the University of Maryland so I have to hate Duke. I mean, I HAVE to. Even though Maryland abandoned the ACC for the Big Ten Conference, I still have to hate Duke. Right?

But Why? Why do I have to hate a team that is so great? Why do I deem to dislike and despise and deride and disparage a team that is good ALL of the time, and seems to be great most of a great deal of the time? Just because my team isn’t as good, or can’t beat them, or got beat down by them? Sounds good to me.

Nope. That can’t be right. Seriously, sometimes we don’t even know why we do certain deeds or think certain ways or say certain words.

So why DO people hate certain teams? Why do people yell at the Yankees and the cuss at the Cowboys and loathe the LA Lakers, and detest “le team du jour” . . . DUKE! I mean, they just won another — their fifth — national Men’s Basketball Championship. They came back from nine points down late in the game, and won going away. They have Coach K, the all-time winningest coach coaching today. They have Tyus Jones and they attract the best talent from near and far, and, of course, they’re Duke.

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Why do people hate certain winners and love other losers? Why do we root for the ugly team and rile on the pretty team? And why do we hate Duke? So much?

We must be wired wrong, because Duke just did it again. Duke just beat the team that beat undefeated Kentucky. Duke just showed that you can win with four freshmen in the lineup. Duke just proved that all kids today aren’t all that bad. Duke just did it.

And here’s the tie in:

Why do people doubt and question and suspect and disbelieve God? Because He seems unreachable and unapproachable and unfathomable and undiscernible? Because we don’t like the way things are and somebody’s got to take the blame? Because we don’t have what we want and somebody else finds what we fancy and we are jealous and envious and desirous of what the Dukes of the world have that we don’t? Like hating Duke, these are no reasons to hate and hold out on God.

Duke just proved that you can succeed when you have haters and doubters and cynics and skeptics and everything else in between. So have hope. Don’t sweat it. Don’t hate. Don’t be jealous. Be thankful for what you have and grateful for what you don’t have; and that’s the burdens and the bundles and the baggage that so many other’s do have.

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Duke did it. And nobody I know picked Duke. And there might not be anybody that’s picking you. But don’t let that stop you. Duke did it. And you can too.

Kids These Days

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 I know that a kid is a baby goat, but the Urban Dictionary also says that a kid is what teenagers claim they are not. And the same uncertain source says that kids are any offspring of any age. When I say kids I’m talking about teenagers and twenty somethings and millennials and college coeds that, by-in-large, haven’t grown up or shown up or come up with what to say or how to contribute in a meaningful way. Without objection, we will go with this definition which is what you and I know a kid to be.

So, kids these days . . .

Kids these days aren’t like the kids of yesteryear. Kids these days aren’t like the kids I played with when I was growing up. Kids these days are self-centered and self-interested; they’re all about “me” and “my” and what happens to them without regard to history or antiquity or much anything else outside of their personal space.

Yes Kentucky lost. They lost because they lost it. And they lost it down the stretch. The kids on Kentucky didn’t have the stamina or the resilience or the fortitude to hold on and hold up and and hold down the fort when it counted. Kentucky, chock full of “kids” — a.k.a, freshman phenoms — couldn’t hold it together or hold out to the end against Wisconsin. Yes they beat Notre Dame, but Wisconsin was different. It appeared to me that in the Wisconsin game, Kentucky expected the opposition to just lay down and give them the game just because they were Kentucky. The Kentucky kids expected to win because they were undefeated and because they were destined to go 40-0 and because things were supposed to go their way . . . just because.

And so the question of the season has been asked and answered. Kentucky’s undefeated, unblemished and untarnished season is no more. It’s OVER. They finished 38-1, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Wisconsin in the Final Four. And it was a game that Kentucky could have won. Tied at 60 with about 3 minutes to go, the wannabe, would-be Wildcats wilted under waves of Wisconsin wear and tear. For their part, Wisconsin weathered and withstood the wall of seven foot tall ballers that really didn’t try hard enough to score in the paint.

Kentucky crumbled during crunch time and stumbled down the stretch. They flubbed and faltered, froze and fumbled away a game that was theirs to win. They looked lost and leery, appeared baffled and bleary, and played no way near like they were the top team of the Tournament.

And so the answer and the reason we don’t want freshman to jump to the NBA after one year is played out yet again. I submit that “One and Dones” aren’t mature enough or secure enough or for sure enough to win tough tight games when the stakes are high and the margin for error is low.  To say that the Kentucky kids were poor sports and sore losers would be an understatement.

Kids these days think they’re entitled to win and to succeed and to go undefeated, just because. Kids these days think they should have a high paying job and the key to a corner office, “just because.” Kids these days think that they are supposed to be indomitable and invincible and unconquerable all at the same time. Not so. There’s such a thing as “paying dues” before you cash in.

My Dad’s generation believed in work. Hard work. And they had a work ethic. They worked hard for everything they got and fought for everything they had and I believe they appreciated it more. I believe that’s a part of God’s Playbook. Kids these days want everything handed to them on a silver platter. Am I right? Of course I’m right. Now if you’re one of those millennials that I’m writing about, you probably disagree, (if you’re still reading) but if you take a minute to measure your standards and your values and your ethics and your morals against, say, Depression Era Die Hards or Bursting Baby Boomers, you will agree that there are distinct differences and clear-cut contrasts between the generations.

But that’s a bigger discussion for another day. I just hope that I passed on some of my Dad’s work ethic on to my two millennial sons, and by the looks of what and who they are, I think I did. For now, if the Kentucky kids represent kids these days, then we’re all in for a rude awakening if we symbolically and figuratively hope to win big games or have unbeaten streaks or even have undefeated or unblemished “seasons” in the next generation.