Note From Gonzaga: “You Can Win More With Few”

Coach Mark Few

Coach Mark Few said this: Gonzaga “making The Final Four means Everything!” I’m happy for coach Few and the gang from Gonzaga. They’ve won the right to play in a Final Four for the first time in school history.  Coach Few, who many think should be the national coach of the year, has built Gonzaga up from nothing and they’ve come from nowhere and now they stand on the brink of the biggest stage poised to win the biggest prize in Men’s college basketball. 

So why not route for Gonzaga?

It’s Not Who You Come To See, Its Who You Leave Talkin’ About

De'Aaron Fox

 Kenny Smith said “It’s Not Who You Come To See, Its Who You Leave Talkin’ About.”  Truth.

Going into last night’s marquee matchup between UCLA and Kentucky,  all the attention and media concentration was on  the consensus No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft,  UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. But another lesser known freshman sensation changed all of that by playing the game of his life.

 Lonzo Ball and the UCLA Bruins may be a great team, but last night they played a better team.  I turned on the TV expecting a basketball game and a track meet broke out. It was a fast paced, up and down, back and forth affair, and that’s how life is sometimes. And last night, a better player, in De’Aaron Fox, at least last night, broke out too.

Fox, a lesser known Kentucky freshman guard outplayed fellow freshman phenom Lonzo Ball with one of the best scoring nights in Kentucky’s vaunted NCAA Tournament history.

Fox scored a career-high 39 points as Kentucky beat UCLA 86-75 Friday night in a Sweet Sixteen showdown between two of college basketball’s goliaths for a spot in the South Regional final. Fox not only turned in the best NCAA scoring performance since Tayshaun Prince had 41 against Tulsa in 2002, it was the best by a freshman in tournament history.

Fox fought and scratched and clawed his way to a 39 point night because the matchup was personal. Fox took the game right to Ball, and last night, Lonzo wasn’t the baller that he’s been billed to be. And the Kentucky Wildcat played like a fox and took full advantage of the fact that he wasn’t expected to have a great, spectacular, sensational game while on the court with the fan favorite from UCLA.

It just goes to show ya, it’s not how you start, its how you finish. And now De’Aaron and his Wildcat wonder boy buddies will play North Carolina for the right to go to the 2017 Final Four in Phoenix. So don’t put all your money on the favorite or the front runner. Because they may not be as good as you when no one gives you a chance to be the best you can be.

 

LaVar Ball: Father Knows Best? 

LaVar-Ball_HS-Sons-

Fathers are our bedrock and our backbone. They are our rudder and our tether; our guide and our guard. Fathers give direction and prod us to perfection; fathers give support and supervision and provide protection and loving affection. Just like our Heavenly Father, our earthly fathers are supposed to be there for us; they’re supposed to love us and school us in the ways of this life, and the life to come hereafter.

Sports fathers are a special breed. A father with a child athlete that is not over the top and operates under the radar is unique and exclusive. And LaVar ball, in his own inimitable, incomparable and incorrigible way, has demonstrated to all other sports dads in the sports world how NOT to be a sports dad.

LaVar Ball, father of Lonzo Ball of UCLA fame, has two other sons coming up behind Lonzo. Dads’claim to fame is that all three of his “Baller” Boys will be multi-million dollar dandies in the NBA. At least that’s the plan. But sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray (from Robert Burns’ poem, “To a Mouse”).

LaVar Ball has been criticized and analyzed and pulverized in the popular press for his outlandish and outrageous comments; and rightfully so. His dramatic and bombastic and fantastic and sarcastic sayings have surely affected his sons, and especially his eldest son, and may affect his status and standing in the upcoming NBA Draft. An NBA team may want to jump on and snatch up the son, but do they want to fool with the father? Because the one certainly and assuredly comes with the other; i.e., the son absolutely does not come without the dad.

Just think about it: is LaVar Ball bettering his sons, or is he badgering their chances? A father is supposed to better, not badger. And so the jury is still out on this one.

Here’s just a sampling of some of the things LaVar Ball has said:

1. “Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.” — March 2017

Have you stopped laughing yet? OK, good.

LaVar Ball averaged 2 points per game with Washington State before transferring to Division II Cal State Los Angeles. At that same time, Michael Jordan was averaging 35 points per game with the Bulls. He’s a six-time NBA champion and the greatest to ever play.

Plus, LaVar already admitted that he “wasn’t all that.” LaVar says a lot of crazy things, but this tops them all. Michael Jordan was beating NBA players at age 49. He’d destroy LaVar Ball.

2. “A billion dollars, it has to be there. That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 mil over 10 years.” — March 2017

This statement could make its case for the top spot because there is absolutely no way he should expect a billion-dollar endorsement contract for his sons. LeBron James’ lifetime deal with Nike is rumored to be worth in the billions, but he’s LeBron James — a future Hall of Famer and basketball icon.

This will never happen. How does he even expect that to happen?

3. “I’ll tell you right now, he’s better than Steph Curry to me.” — February 2017

“To me ‘Zo is the best player in the world. … I don’t know if he can beat (LeBron James and Russell Westbrook) one on one, but I know he can beat them 5 on 5.” — March 2017 By: Andrew Joseph , For The Win, March 17, 2017

God help the sons of LaVar Ball.

Duke Dismantles Its Own Destiny 

South Carolina Coach

This just in: Duke is done and Villanova is gone. And UVA, Florida State and and Louisville are all gone too. Oregon and North Carolina came back and held on and eeked out tough wins as they survived to sustain their stay at the Big Dance. And Michigan has now survived an aborted airplane takeoff and two fierce opponents as they continue to survive in March; they won, again, and now they’re on their way to the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin beat Villanova, and South Carolina dumped Duke, and they both won because they played one way: hard. Yes you need to play smart, but you still need to play hard. Duke’s  topsy, turvy, up and down, in and out season came to an abrubt halt and a premature end when every thing they’ve done and been through finally caught up with them.

Carolina wasn’t soft or spongy or squishy or squashy. They were firm and fierce and dogged and determined. Likewise, in life we should play and live with heart and smarts and grit and mettle.  And if your opponent plays hard, you just play harder.

That goes for players and coaches alike. While the players need to play hard, coaches need to work just as hard, and that’s what Frank Martin, coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, did. He cried tears of joy after they defeated Duke, not because he’s soft, but because his players played hard, and I loved every tear.

So be strong. Be stout. Be sturdy. Play and live life one way: hard-nosed and thick skinned. The Urban Dictionary says that hard-nosed is “a tough, straightforward, take-no-prisoners way of carrying oneself. Hard-nosed people may not be sensitive or tactful, but they are gritty and tackle problems head-on.” Amen to that.

And when you’re thick skinned you’re not easily bothered by things and you don’t let your emotions drive the train. That’s my definition. When you’re down, you don’t get down. And when you’re up, you’re still temperate and tolerant. When you have thick skin, you may be passionate, but you’re not really all that emotionally moved or overly sensitive when things don’t go your way.

So don’t take things personally, i.e., “from a personal standpoint or according to your own particular nature or in a subjective rather than an objective way” (Urban Dictionary). Look at the big picture and have eternity in view, because in the end we know we win.

So let’s learn to live every day and every play with the end in mind. Because only the strong know how to play hard and play smart and survive and advance in the Big Dance of life.

Survive The Madness and Advance In March

George-Mason-Sports-Illustrated-Cover

Survive and advance. That’s the name of the game. That’s the goal and the general idea. To survive and advance is everyone’s aim and aspiration. That’s what it’s all about, right? So if you snooze, you lose. Because it’s win or go home, baby.

So who ya got? Kansas? UCLA? Arizona? Gonzaga? Kentucky? North Carolina? Last year’s Champion,Villanova? Or God forbid – Duke? It’s the Big Dance and it appears that one of the big dogs will win it all again, unless a Cinderella crashes the party.

Vince Lombardi, the immortal coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Naturally speaking, this phrase has been overblown and misunderstood.  But spiritually speaking, Lombardi was spot on. When it comes to surviving and advancing, Lombardi was right.  Who remembers who came in second place?  Who remembers who was the runner up? Who even remembers the entire final four year in and year out? And is being the second runner-up as rewarding as finishing first?  Is an honorable mention as gratifying as the championship trophy?

Winning is everything. And not just winning, but winning big. I’m not talking about the margin of victory, but the quality of victory. The fiercer the battle, the sweeter the victory. Hard fought wins are more memorable, more satisfying, and more gratifying than all others. And so it is with life. 

The life God wants us to live is about quality, not necessary quantity. Coming back from way back, getting to the ball and not only dancing with the Prince, but falling in love with the prince, and having the Prince hunt her down to see if she fit the glass slipper she inadvertently left behind, is what we all love about Cinderella. That’s why we all love Cinderella stories.  Those improbable victories that no one, I mean no one – not even Hollywood – can script, are what we live and die for.

God loves the long-shot.  God loves the underdog.  God loves Cinderella.  She had undergone mistreatment and maladjustment before she met the Prince at the ball.  But she first believed that she would indeed meet the prince; and along the way she had unlikely help, too.

The Bible says this about victory: “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”  Cinderella believed.  I come back to this because if you can believe, you can achieve. If you can survive, you can advance. Believing is the first step.

Many of us have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, beaten bigger, better, more talented teams, and won when no one gave us a chance.  Many of us have undergone major surgery, endured unforeseen layoffs, weathered 100-year storms, and yet overcame big setbacks and huge letdowns.  We bounced-back, with the help of God and some God-sent friends and fans, and overcame the worst of circumstances.  Cinderella had mice, sparrows, a pumpkin and a Fairy Godmother.  We have those who are Heaven-sent into our lives, who, just when we need them most, come to our rescue and stretch the basketball rim just enough to let the winning shot go in.

Is It Time To Worry About The Warriors?

stephen-curry

The Warriors are everybody’s favorite NBA team, right? They have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Steve Kerr, not to mention Kevin Durant. They’re blowing their opponents out left and right, and they have the chutzpah and charisma we all love.

But wait – this just in: the golden goose, Golden State Warriors are in trouble.

They’ve lost 4 of their last 5. They’re losing the close games they used to win. There is no timetable for Durant’s return, and KD doesn’t know when he’s going to come back. And last night, Coach Kerr rested Curry, Klay, Green and Iggy. It was an impulsive reaction to the challenge of playing the Spurs on the road in prime time because they look worn and weary, forlorn and leery.  And their locker room ranting sounds as bad as they look.

The Warriors are (or were?) the favorite to win the title this year, but that was when Durant was healthy. Now they’re fighting to win home court in the West, so their cake walk to a championship just turned into a challenge of running across burning glass. So is it time to press the panic button if you’re a fan of the Dubs?

If it’s not time to pound on the panic button, it’s at least time to tap it. The season is winding down, and the Warriors are going to have to gear up and figure out a way to win until Durant gets back. If not, the Spurs and the Cavaliers are waiting in the wings to snatch a title from the presumptive favorites.

But we’re not supposed to worry, right? We’re not supposed to fear or fret or sweat or swoon. Instead, we need to exercise faith and fortitude. When things aren’t going our way, we need to hunker down and buckle up. We need to endure the hard times with just as much courage and composure as we display during the good times. Right? And, hopefully, that’s what the Warriors will do.

When the chips are down and our friends are few and the clouds hang low and our pace is slow; when the vultures are circling and the predators are prowling, digging deep and standing strong and holding on and looking up is what we need to do too.

Divine Madness: Sports For People Who Don’t Like Sports

Sports_Illustrated March Madness 2048

There is a connection between God and sports, especially during the maddening month of March. Some call it Divine Madness. The month of March is a time when everyone can be a sports fan. And that’s why I write for any and as many that will read. While I’m not a sports writer, per se, I am a sports fan. And I’m a blogger that writes about the nexus and the node and the link and the liaison between God and sports.

I get it that some are not “in” to sports. Many women don’t like sports. Some men don’t like sports, but we won’t go into that, at least not now. Anyway, for those who say they don’t like sports, I can see football being too fluctuated and baseball being too boring and hockey being too horrid. But basketball, and specifically college basketball, and college basketball in MARCH, indeed is rated “E” for everyone.

And that brings us to the subject of our session (wait, is this therapy? Yes, it is, but more on that later). Anyway, the subject of our session is The Big Dance. The Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments are sports for people who do and DON’T like sports.

The obsession termed March Madness is a microcosm of life itself. It’s a single elimination tournament with entirely all sorts of every type, from the cream to the crap, and everything else in between. You have the haves and the have nots; you have the big dogs and the little dudes. You have the powerhouse teams and the rag tag, just happy to make it to the Dance dames who didn’t even dare to dream of dancing with the prince of the prom. There are middle of the roadies who aren’t that bad but they’re not that good either. All are on equal footing and have an equal opportunity to win at least one game, and stand an outside chance at winning the whole dag gum thing.

And that’s just like life. We all have hopes and dreams and ambitions and aspirations and we all collide with each other on the way to dance with the prince at the Ball. Unfortunately and invariably, some dreams will die hard. When a favorite loses to an also ran, and when an unlikely-to-succeed beats the belle of the ball, we all can identify and personify the notions and the emotions and the feelings and foundations that form and frame the structure of our core.
At our very core, we long to be successful and to succeed. We long to be acknowledged and to be accepted. In essence, everyone wants to win and we all yearn to be celebrated. And each and every team in the tournament wants to win, and they have to believe that they have a chance to win it all. And that’s why we love the upsets and the comebacks and the turnarounds that the tournament will give us almost every night for the next three weeks.

And that’s why everyone can be a sports fan, especially during the maddening month of March. God will accept us and receive us; yes all of us – red and yellow and black and white – just as we are and just where we are.

Because we’ve all been dinged and damaged by life in some way; we all need therapy, in some form or another. And so we end this needed and necessary session with this: sports is therapy. Yes it can be misused and abused, but sports in general and March Madness in particular is a window and a glimpse of how we all have a chance and a shot to be elevated to Heaven and to be celebrated by Heaven.

And so the bottom line is this: the God of Heaven is the only hope we have for health and healing in this life. March madness, it its wired, wacky way, teaches us this truth. That’s why everyone can be a sports fan.

To some it’s not rational and it doesn’t make sense, and that’s why some others call it Divine Madness.