Playing With A Chip On Your Shoulder

SI Bryce Harper Guess who’s in first place in the National League East? The Washington Nationals. That’s right, the Washington Nationals. The team with the curly double “u” for a logo. The last time we checked in with these same Nats they were tied for last place and looking bad doing it. (http://godandsports.net/2015/04/27/sports-in-washington-dc-up-and-down-and-all-around/) Right now they’re red hot; they’re clearly the hottest team in baseball, having won eight of their last ten, and they have the hottest player in baseball, Bryce Harper, who’s hitting home runs just for something to do. So what about this Bryce Harper dude? He’s been billed as “Baseball’s LeBron.” He’s been on the cover of  Sports Illustrated TWICE. He’s just 22 years old, he’s getting it done at the plate and in the field, and he’s the toast of the league and the talk of the town. He’s brash and brazen, chucky and cheeky, sassy and brassy, and he’s just what the Dr. ordered in order to get these Nats to where they want to go. And he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. SI Bryce Harper2 The Washington Nationals have built themselves into a bona fide, legitimate veritable and unquestionable contender. And it’s because they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder — and it’s working. Since moving from Montreal 10 years ago, the Nats have had to prove that they belong. For ten years, the Nats have been trying to prove that they’re not a step-child, black sheep, wannabe, not quite ready for prime time team (http://godandsports.net/2014/10/08/not-quite-ready-for-prime-time/).

Someone who has a chip on their shoulder is angry all the time. They feel that they have been wronged by the world, so they are always ready for a fight or a feud or a scuffle or a tussle. They are easily offended because they feel that they have been treated unfairly by others, or perhaps they feel inferior. The Nats fit this bill to a tee. Bryce+Harper+New+York+Mets+v+Washington+Nationals+elEfXksh7sDl Playing with a chip on your shoulder can also mean that a person has a grievance about something. Something bad has happened and they believe it was someone else’s fault. This kind of person is constantly angry about it so that it affects their behavior. In their mind, a person who is “chippy” is showing how tough they are. Sounds like Bryce Harper and the Nats to me.

The phrase dates back to 1830 when two churlish Long Island boys were determined to fight. A chip was placed on the shoulder of one, and he demanded the other to knock it off at his peril. In this case a chip was a small piece of wood. Ever since, a young boy who is angry about something and determined to fight would place a small chip of wood on his shoulder and challenge another person to knock it off. When the chip was knocked off, it meant the opponent was ready and the fight would begin.

The Nats have something to prove. And so do you. You are fairer than they say you are, you are finer than they sense you are, and you are fiercer than they suppose you are. So go ahead. Prove it. Put the chip on your shoulder. Play “Mad Enough To Win” (http://godandsports.net/?s=Mad+enough+to+win) and make sure you “determine to disappoint the devil” (http://godandsports.net/2013/10/03/determined-to-dissapoint-the-devil/)

The phrase “Playing with a chip on your shoulder” has a negative connotation, but it need not be entirely negative. When your friends forsake you and your enemies underestimate you, there’s nothing wrong with playing with attitude and arrogance, with aggressiveness and assertiveness, and with determination and this declaration: that nothing and no one, and I mean NO ONE can or will beat or best you or strip you or stress you. Why? Because you are more than a conqueror. God always causes you to triumph in Christ. God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. And your victory lies in your faith. 

So always remember and never forget that you were designed and you have been destined to win.

Why Aren’t You Watching The NBA Playoffs?

Stephen-Curry-10If you haven’t been watching the NBA playoffs this year, then shame on you. This year we are witnessing history in the making. This year is not like many or any of the recent past, previous years. This year the playoffs are actually worth the watch. And to be sure, we’re talkin’ the Conference Finals.

Two teams and two men. The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Two who seem totally determined to define their destiny. Steth Curry is the newly crowned League MVP and LeBron “King” James is proving that he’s still the defacto MVP. And they’re both headed for a head-to-head showdown in this year’s NBA Finals.

We are watching and witnessing in awestruck wonder the best in recent memory. In the Western Conference Finals, the No. 1 Warriors are playing the No. 2. Rockets. And in the Eastern Conference Finals, the No. 1 Hawks are playing the No. 2 Cavaliers. And “playing” is certainly in quotes, because both the Cavs and the Warriors are up 3-0 against their inferior foes, and both teams are redefining basketball as we know it.

Last night, May 24th, on paper, the Cavs beat the Hawks 114-111 in overtime. It was a thriller. LeBron and the Cav’s started slow, as LeBron went zero for his first ten shots. Yet the Cav’s forced OT, and then gutted out a gutsy win in the end. In reality, LeBron beat the Hawks, all by himself. His stat line was 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. A triple double. When his team needed him the most, he proved that he could be counted on to be the best. And not only is LeBron playing without the Cav’s starting center, Kevin Love, but their point guard, Kyrie Irving is out with injuries too. So how are the Cav’s winning? One guess: LeBron James.

On Saturday night, May 23rd, the Warriors wiped and walloped the Hawks, IN ATLANTA, 115 to 80. That’s a 35 point win. Curry had 40 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. He led his team against a team that HAD to win in order to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole. And yet Curry proved yet again that he is a true warrior. He proved that he’s the new kid on the block that’s here to stay and he’s not going away.

“To be the best you gotta’ beat the best.” And it looks like that’s what we’re going to have in this year’s finals. The best meets the best. Everybody that understands the spirituality of sports understands that this is no ordinary occasion or routine ride. Anyone and everyone who understands anything about any sport at all knows that the best team doesn’t always win. But we say it anyway. In reality it’s like this: may the best man win. And this year, it’s coming down and shaping up to just that.

Two teams who have two men who are the best at their position. These two men who are answering the bell round after round and winning the fight. These two men are hitting the go ahead shot and making the game winning catch and sinking the tournament winning put like only superstars can. So long live the King. All Hail King James. And here’s to the new kid on the block.

Who’s going to win? Who’s going to prove to be the best? Let’s just watch in wonder and witness as each super star tries to knuckle the other under.

So let’s take it from LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Let’s do our best and give our best and be our best every round, every day and in every way because the world is watching the witness of Christians. If we do or give or say anything less, we won’t be worth watching. We will be like salt that has lost its savor. And remember, our best is not our perfection. It’s trusting that God will perfect us.

How To Get Thrown Out Of A Game

Jun 12, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) before their game against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Bryce Harper, right fielder for the Washington Nationals, is a good player on his way to being a great player. He was the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year, he’s playing the best ball of his career, and he has ALREADY been twice named the National League Player of The Week by MLB.  And it’s May. Wow.

That being said, Harper is also known to be somewhat of a hellion. In addition to being on a hitting hot streak, Harper’s also earned a reputation at times for being a hot head, which has now in some way contributed to two ejections during that same stretch.

Since launching three home runs against the New York Mets on May 6th, Harper has been baseball’s hottest hitter. Over a 12-game stretch that began that afternoon leading up until Wednesday’s game against the New York Yankees, Harper hit .535/.630/1.349 with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs over 54 plate appearances. Not too shabby.

But for the second time in a week, Bryce Harper and Manager Matt Williams were ejected from a game for an exchange with an umpire. The first came on May 13th, when Harper’s temper clearly got the best of him following a strikeout in Arizona. Following the ejection, Harper launched into a heated tirade against home-plate umpire Rob Drake.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals argues with home plate umpire Marvin Hudson #51 after being thrown out of the game in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park on May 20, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

And I witnessed a similar scene play out last night at the ‘ole Ball Game. Harper was mad at strike call and mad when Home Plate Umpire Marvin Hudson told him to get back in the batter’s box. Harper, being the head case that he sometimes can be, stuck just his BIG TOE in the box, which irked Hudson to no end and caused the ejection. The funny thing is, Harper was in the box until Hudson turned his attention to the Washington dugout. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough here to warrant an ejection, but Hudson clearly took Harper’s maneuvering as a dismissal of his authority.

In this case, Hudson could have easily squashed the problem without letting it escalate. By the same token, Harper may have baited a bit by not just getting back in the box. You can find fault in how both men handled the confrontation, but here’s hoping both will be wiser the next time they’re in this position.

But here’s why Harper REALLY got ejected. He said this after the game:

I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump tonight,” Harper said after his fifth career ejection. “Plain and simple. Especially when we’re playing the Yankees. The Yankees are a good team, we’re a good team and we’re rolling. I don’t want to get tossed. There’s no reason for me to get tossed in that situation. I don’t think I did anything bad to get tossed. Maybe he just had a bad morning or he didn’t get his coffee.

So there. It’s as plain as day and as the nose on your face. If you’re a logical and reasonable and sensible person, you don’t have to be an old-fashioned fart to understand that Harper’s hubbub and hullabaloo helmed from his line of thinking, and his lack of logic is EXACTLY why he got tossed. Harper has an attitude problem. His taunting of the ump by sticking just his big toe into the batter’s box was a clear dismissal and disdain of authority. And, being the Millennial that he is, Harper didn’t see anything wrong with the taunt and the tease.

So let’s learn the lesson. Use wisdom. Don’t make matters worse. Don’t make an ugly situation uglier, a dumb situation dumber, or a sticky situation stickier. Don’t make a dim situation darker. Don’t make a harsh situation harder. And don’t make a difficult situation utterly intractable. Don’t do it. You may want to, but in the end, you’ll wish you hadn’t.

Did They Win or Did You Lose?

Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, left, and Chris Paul, right, walk off the court during a timeout in the first half in Game 5 of the NBA basketball Western Conference semifinals Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

I feel bad for Chris Paul. I do. But I don’t feel bad for the Clippers. I don’t. I don’t feel for the Los Angeles Clippers, the team, but I do feel for Chris Paul, the point guard dream.

The Houston Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Clippers today in a Game 7 that didn’t have to be. The Clippers, coming off of that dramatic Game 7 win over the defending Champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round, hammered and humiliated Houston and had a three games to one LEAD in the series. Three to ONE!

And so the question is this: did Houston win or did the Clippers lose? Did I mention that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had a three games to one advantage in the series? Yet and still they lost three straight as the lead slipped through their fingers, slid through their hands and slithered through their arms.

The good news is that Chris Paul did his part. Paul played his heart out in Game 7. The bad news is that he had little to no help. The lead was cut to three late in the third quarter but somehow it ballooned to 20 early in the forth as the players purportedly and supposedly positioned to support Paul failed, flopped and fizzled. Truth is, the Clippers got clipped and zipped and stripped of a series win en route to a huge let down loss. Too bad. Truth be told be told, they choked. They croaked. They got smoked. They lost more than the Rockets won.

And it was a team loss. Other than Paul, with an honorable mention to DeAndre Jordan, no other player on the Clippers had the zip or the zeal needed and necessary to win a Game 7 on the road. And the Clippers coach, Doc Rivers, who is a good coach, got out done by his counterpart Kevin McHale. For all of you youngins out there, McHale made his mark with Larry Bird and Robert Parish and the Boston Celtics back in the ‘80s when I was growing up. McHale has the heart and the mind and the soul of not only a winner, but a champion.

So lest we’re too hard on Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin and the rest of the “Trippers,” I mean the Clippers, let’s take a long look in the mirror. How many games have you and I lost when the other team didn’t win? McHale and Houston had the heartiness and the headiness to come back from an almost insurmountable deficit. The Rockets won as a team; they had rich players and role players all doing their part to overcome overwhelming odds to win while the Clippers withered and waned their way to an offseason of whining and wondering.

So let’s learn the lesson. Yes its hats off to James Harden and the Rockets. They put together a classic comeback win that was well deserved. But sometimes the other team doesn’t win; sometimes you just lose. So when you’ve got your enemy down, you best bet you better knock them out.

Fifty-Fifty Balls

Pablo Prigioni

A fifty-fifty ball is a loose ball that either team has a half chance at getting and grabbing and having and holding.  And the Houston Rockets won Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers because they won most of the fifty-fifty balls. Most of the bobbles went their way and most of the bobbles didn’t go astray because the Rockets are rising. Why? Because they won the fight for the fifty-fifty balls when the game was in doubt and the chips were down and the jig was up.  

Fifty-fifty balls may bounce and bound and carry and carom and rip and ricochet in a thousand different directions.  Every ball may not bounce your way and in every game it may not be your day and that is why you have to will and want and win the fifty-fifty balls. You have to want it. You need to will it. Otherwise, you won’t win it and it will be just up for grabs.

In Game 7 against the Clippers, the fifty-fifty balls rimed and rolled to the Rockets. Houston Rockets reserve Pablo Prigioni, a 38 year-old Argentinian reserve may well have won the game and the series by running and reaching and straining and stretching for the fifty-fifty balls. He won the fifty-fifty balls when his team needed them most. A well-traveled third year point guard who won an Olympic Bronze Medal may well head up and anchor down the best bench in these playoffs. And when you come in the game off of the bench you need to provide and produce and generate and invigorate your team —  and Prigioni did just that.

So let’s take it from my man Pablo Prigioni, a proven and productive, tried and true role player who I never heard of before today’s game.  Let’s go after all of those loose balls and let’s keep playing even after all of those missed calls because there is awesome advantage and great gain in going for what others consider a lost cause and a futile fantasy. That loose ball could go out-of-bounds or you could get it and stay in bounds and turn leftovers and near turnovers into game changers and game breakers.  But first you have to make up in your mind that the loose, fifty-fifty ball is yours.

Because the old saints used to say, “It could have gone the other way.”

LeBron James and the Cavaliers Will Win The NBA Championship

James from rear

Ok, Ok, Ok. Fine. I get it. LeBron is the greatest basketball player playing today. But you’ll have to excuse me because I’m from the MJ era, and in my book, Michael Jordan is still The One. Mike won 6 NBA Championships in six tries. That’s six for six, with two three-peats. That’s a stat that will (or may?) never be repeated. LeBron is two for four, with four straight finals appearances. Not too shabby, but not quite like Mike.

LeBron James is single-handedly carrying his Cavaliers to victory. The team should be renamed the “LeBron Cavaliers” as King James is carrying the team on his proverbial back and willing them to beat anyone and everyone that stands between them and the first NBA Championship for Cleveland. The Cavs moved one win away from the Eastern Conference finals after beating Chicago 106-101 in Game Five of their semi-final series on Tuesday.

LeBron finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Another double-double. Not too shabby. And the stats are a mere pat on his back and feather is his hat. The stats don’t count the willpower and the staying power and the grit and the grind and the force and the fervor that Sir James has and plays with. It’s a wonder to behold. Right after Derrick Rose won game 3 on a buzzer beater, James, not and never to be outdone, won game 4 with a buzzer beater of his own.

I watched Game 5 and was mesmerized. LeBron played like a man-child. With the series between Cleveland and Chicago – correction, between LEBRON and Chicago – tied at 2-2, the all-important Game 5 was on the line. Donning the signature headband he ditched in March, James played like a man possessed. Remember, he won game 2 by powering to the basket, leaving Bulls defenders in his wake and keeping the Cavs, missing two starters, from falling into a 2-0 hole. Likewise, James won Game 5 the same way.

Now DA Bulls will have to win two games to defeat the Cavalier Cavs, including a Game 7 on the road in Cleveland. And that just aint gonna’ happen. So here we go. The Cavs are on the verge of an NBA Championship. Yes an NBA Championship. They are eager and energized, moved and motivated and stirred and stimulated.

And yes I said that LeBron couldn’t win without love, Kevin Love, but James has taken it upon himself to prove me wrong. In fact, James has made it his mission in life to prove EVERYBODY who doesn’t wish or want him to win in Cleveland wrong. Dead wrong. And that is as close to a spiritual spectacle as you can get.

LeBron James may not be loveable or even likeable, but he certainly is capable of winning and succeeding and prevailing and triumphing over his enemies. And the same should apply to me and you. Let someone say you can’t do something or you don’t have what it takes or you don’t stand a chance. That should be fuel for your fire and wind beneath your wings.

So take it from LeBron. You can do what everyone else says you can’t do. You can do all things through Christ that strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). The Message Bible says it this way:

Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Believe it.

Brady Is Busted

tom-brady

OK. Let’s take a poll. Guilty or not guilty? It’s a simple, straight-forward question. What did Tom Brady know, and when did he know it? Sound familiar? For all of you youngins out there, that’s the famous question asked by Republican Senator Howard Baker about President “Tricky Dick” Nixon during the Watergate hearings.  And it continues to be applicable 50 years later. Here’s what The NFL said about Tom Brady’s involvement in “Deflategate:”

With respect to your particular involvement, the report established that there is substantial and credible evidence to conclude you were at least generally aware of the actions of the Patriots’ employees involved in the deflation of the footballs and that it was unlikely that their actions were done without your knowledge.

Moreover, the report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation, including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information, and by providing testimony that the report concludes was not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.

It’s hard to argue that someone is innocent when they refuse to come clean. It’s hard to believe that someone is blameless when they hide and conceal and fail to disclose facts. It’s hard to conclude that a person is unsullied and unknowing and untouched by unethical conduct when there’s plenty of smoke in the in the air. And you know what they say; where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

I don’t like Tom Brady. I don’t. And I like him less and dislike him even more now that he’s determined to try and prove his innocence when it’s been proven that he’s at least partially guilty. Come clean. Admit the deed and diminish the damage. If he’s not an accomplice he was at least complicit. Case closed.

Tom Vincent, the NFL’s investigator and Roger Goodell—who got this decision right, as harsh as it is—basically believe that Brady lied and obstructed. They view Brady as someone who thought he was above it all – the law and the League. The NFL viewed Brady’s actions as arrogance. Brady scorned and spurned and disregarded and disrespected not just the rules but the entire sport. Nuff said.

Brady will appeal the suspension, but the suspension should stand. The only thing worse than being wrong is being arrogantly wrong. Yes Brady’s pride is hurt, but humbling himself will help him heal, and heal his public image, if he’s at all concerned about that.