Stop The Madness! — 2020 Edition

“So he changed his behavior before them; he pretended to be mad when in their presence. He scratched marks on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle run down his beard.”

1 Samuel 21:13

It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s senseless and nonsensical, ludicrous and illogical that a top 10 team like the University of Maryland Terrapins would suddenly play their worst basketball of the season at a crucial and critical time when everything matters the most.

The Terps are now 23-7.  They’ve lost three of their last four games, and they looked bad doing it every time.  They lost to Ohio State 79 -72 on Sunday, February 23rd. Then they barely beat Minnesota 74 -73 on a buzzer, beater prayer of a shot by Darryl Morsell after being down by 16 at the half. And if that wasn’t enough, Maryland hosted the ESPN show “Game Day” – GAME DAY!  — for the first time in decades at the Xfinity Center in College Part on Saturday, February 29th and STILL  lost 78 – 66 to Michigan State.

Most recently, as in Tuesday night in Piscataway, NJ, the Terps played Rutgers University. This was, or should have been, a “gimmie’ game, i.e., a win with little or no or not so much effort expended against a lesser opponent.  Rutgers is unranked and has not beaten Maryland in years. But it is the month of March, and here’s where the madness begins.

With the Big Ten regular season championship on the line, and the Big Ten Tournament looming, the Terps fell behind early, continuing another troubling trend, and trailed by as many as 11 points just past the midpoint of the first half. But by halftime, Maryland trailed by only six points, 35-29. The Terps could have stayed in the game with a few solid possessions. Instead, Smith missed a shot on the team’s first possession of the second half, and Cowan couldn’t hit an open three-pointer on the next. Maryland let Rutgers’s lead swell to 13 points less than three minutes into the half and never truly threatened again.

It’s March, and it’s time for madness. As part of the Wednesday morning melancholy mop up, the Washington Post posted this headline: “Maryland Is Left Searching For Answers After Another Dud Against Rutgers.”  Head coach Mark Turgeon said this about his team’s maddening performance: “It’s really frustrating that we did not match Rutgers’s intensity. I think it’s just the weight of everything. There’s been great weight on us all year. … But we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to go get it.”

And that’s just it. Feeling sorry for yourself never works. So, get over your last loss, and get back up and get back going. Because repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result, is just  . . . March Madness.

A Victory for Vanessa Bryant

 

vanessa-kobe-bryant-memorial
Vanessa Bryant Eulogizing her husband Kobe Bryant at the Memorial Service, Staples Center, Los Angeles, Monday, February 24, 2020

Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late, great NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant, just won a great victory, and triumphed gloriously in the face a clear and crushing loss. Vanessa Bryant, someway and somehow, summoned strength to stand and state her love for her loving husband and her little lady.  It was a moving, emotive message of triumph amidst unspeakable tragedy. God bless her!  She stood flat footed, and through tears and talking back to herself — “Ok, you can do it” — she motivated the mass of mourners when she herself just wanted to weep and wail and question and query God about why this all happened, and what she’s supposed to do now.

Vanessa Bryant is by all standards a trooper and a champion.  Her husband won five NBA Championships, but her performance at her husband’s memorial service at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 was a testament to her greatness and her superior solemnity far beyond what her husband achieved on the basketball court. Vanessa’s strength and courage under fire was phenomenal, and was also absolutely supernatural. Why?  Because only Heaven and all things holy could help her handle the stress and the strain of the moment with power and poise.  

Vanessa Bryant would have made Kobe proud. She honored her husband and daughter with grit and grace and dignity and distinction. She spoke and stood when she did not want to, but she had to. And it was amazing. What was so amazing was that we all knew that this was an impossible position to be in, and yet in the midst of understandable and allowable grief, she pressed through her own misery and misfortune and sorrow and sadness in order to help the rest of us, hopefully and eventually, overcome ours.

That’s why Heaven had to help. Because she had to do it. And in so doing she carried the burden of her bereavement, even if for a moment, above and beyond the heavy pall of defeat that tried to weigh her down and wipe her out.

 God bless you, Vanessa Bryant.    

Brett Brown Is Goin’ Down

Eastern Conference Semifinals - Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown is wearing a frown, because his team is going down. Winning in the playoffs may be the least of his concerns, as his team can’t seem to figure out how to win with the roster they’ve got in the regular season.

Brett Brown has got ta’ go. Period. That’s NBA speak for this dude is running the Philadelphia 76ers into the ground. Philly has two of the best young talents in the game in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and yet these same Sixers are stinking up the house. And who is to blame? Leadership, a.k.a., the head coach.

Brett Brown has overstayed his welcome in Philly. Period. He can’t seem to motivate or stimulate or activate this team’s talent so that they can win on the road and against rival teams that are now ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. And that’s the coach’s job, right? To lead his team to victories and to plead for his stars to give their all and to read the emotions and psyche of all of his players so that he gets the most out of them. But none of that is happening.

Brett Brown is not getting the job done. Period. Some say that the combination of Embiid and Simmons and Horford is a failed experiment. But I contend that it’s the coach’s job to merge the mix and not make a mess. The Sixers are playing carelessly and like they just don’t care. And that’s sad, because Philly fans and all true sports fans the world over, want a winner. And more importantly, they want to see effort and energy and a consistent work ethic. None of those are even remotely evident in Philly when it comes to the 76ers. Not even.

Oh well. I said it here first. Before you even think of trading Simmons or somebody else, consider benching Brett Brown. He’s the one that should be sent packing. Years ago, I told my two sons this: either lead, follow, or get out of the way. Since the Sixer’s head coach is not leading, there is only one other viable option.

The Philadelphia Inquirer may have said it best:

“Since their 121-109 win over the Bucks on Christmas, the Sixers are 8-10 overall and 1-6 against the Pacers, Heat, Raptors and Celtics. For the season, they are 1-2 against the Pacers, 1-3 against the Heat, and 1-2 against the Raptors.

So, yes, things are well past the point of dire, and you get the sense that the locker room feels it, too. You can see it in the Sixers’ body language on the court, and you can hear it in the words they speak off it. After a blowout loss to the Celtics in Boston in Saturday night, somebody asked Tobias Harris when it would be time for the Sixers to get concerned about their place in the standings.

‘About 10 games ago,’ the forward said.

And the most disconcerting loss of the season had yet to come. It would arrive two days later, on a Monday night in Miami, against a team whose home crowd still seemed to be sleeping off its Super Bowl hangover. By the end of a 137-106 loss, the solution to fixing the Sixers seemed startlingly clear: Go back in time and don’t change them in the first place.” https://www.inquirer.com/sixers/sixers-trade-targets-nba-deadline-al-horford-josh-richardson-ben-simmons-20200204.html

Unfortunately, Jimmy Butler aint’ coming through that door. That ship has sailed. The moral of the story is this: the Sixers need to man up and play with heart and spirit and figure out a way to win with the team they’ve got now. Otherwise, somebody’s gotta go.

Andy Reid Wins The Big One! Kansas City Wins Super Bowl LIV, 31 -20

Mahomes Super Bowl Champins
Patrick Mahomes wins Super Bowl LIV and is named MVP

Patrick Mahomes was named Super Bowl MVP, the youngest player in NFL history to be named MVP of a Super Bowl. This comes the year after he was the youngest player in NFL history to earn the leagues overall MVP. But the real story is Andy Reid, becasue Andy Reid is worth cheering for.

Andy Reid is worth cheering for because he was given another chance. Another chance to coach a championship caliber team; another chance to play in the Super Bowl, and another chance to win the big one. And Andy and his maverick, miracle man QB, Patrick Mahomes, came up big in this one. And that’s why I’m so happy for Andy and the Kansas City Chiefs.

For the first time in 50 years, the Kansas City Chiefs have won the Super Bowl! Andy Reid has finally won one for himself, his team, and his new city, Kansas City (his “old” city being Philly, of course). The Chiefs came from behind in all three playoff games, and they were ten down to San Francisco late in the big game. Final score: Kansas City 31, San Francisco 20.

Andy Reid and the Chiefs are worth cheering for because they scored an absurd 117 points in the playoffs. Seriously? One hundred seventeen points! No way. Yes way! Patrick Mahommes deservedly won the MVP Award because he’s the best QB in football. Period.

All of Philly (or most) still like Andy Reid. He did good in Philly. He did. He had multiple winning seasons and he went to multiple NFC Championship games. He just couldn’t get the Eagles (pronounced Iggles) over the incline as the team could never get over the hump. Andy ran out of gas and needed a change. And that’s what happens to many of us. Sometimes you just run out of gas and need a change.

So hats off to Andy Reid. The winningest head coach never to win a Super Bowl, before today. It just goes to show ya; good things do indeed come to those who wait for Heaven to help and for those who walk through life without giving up.

But those who wait for God’s grace

will experience divine strength.

They will rise up on soaring wings and fly like eagles,

run their race without growing weary,

and walk through life without giving up.

Isaiah 40:31, The Passion Version

Kobe Bryant: Too Soon To Die, Too Late To Say Goodbye  

kobe-bryant-and Gianna
Kobe Bryant and His Daughter, Gianna Maria Onore, 13, were both Killed in a Helicopter Crash on Sunday,January 26, 2020.

Not many people demand attention. Kobe Bryant did.  And now he’s gone. Today, President Trump tweeted about Kobe’s death … saying, “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news! “

 Yes it is.

Kobe Bryant’s untimely death hurts just as much if not more than Whitney’s in February of 2012 or Michael’s in June of 2009. Of all the unexpected and sudden, unforeseen deaths in recent memory, this one really hurts.

Tragic accidents are brutal.  Tragic accidents are unforgiving. And tragic accidents like Kobe’s are humanly impossible to deal with. They rip your guts out, punch you in the throat, put you in a choke hold and then stand over you and demand that you sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs with a smile on your face.  After a loss like this, there is no earthly way to recover or salvage our sense of sensibility other than to look to heaven for repose.

Kobe was LA, and Kobe was the Lakers. He was admired and loved or just respected or downright hated by everybody. Everybody had an opinion about him, because his life on and off of the court demanded attention.

Kobe was one of the great, greats, not only in the NBA, but in sports history. He is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and will go down as one the NBA’s most revered scorers and defenders. Kobe’s resume is full of an embarrassment of riches. He made 18 All-Star teams during his 20 year career with the Lakers. He was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft, winning 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs and he was the league MVP in 2008. He was on 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and led the league in scoring for two seasons. He ranks fourth in the NBA for all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring. Kobe also repped USA in a number of Olympic appearances.

Within the storied Lakers franchise, he is listed with a long list of the greatest that ever played the game. The Lakers have won so many games and so many championships. From Jerry West to Wilt Chamberlain, to Kareem Abdul-Jabar to Earvin “ Magic” Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal and now LeBron “King” James. Over the years, the Lakers organization learned how to do one thing, and that is make it to the NBA Finals, and then win championships. And Kobe was a champion who won and lived like one.

And so we weep with them that weep and mourn with them that mourn and pray for Kobe’s wife Vanessa and the entire Bryant family. 

Unfortunately, this sad story got even sadder when it was learned that Kobe’s daughter Gianna Maria Onore — aka GiGi — was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash … She was only 13. We’re told they were on their way to the Mamba Academy for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. The Academy is in nearby Thousand Oaks.

Kobe is survived by his wife Vanessa. Together, they had four daughters — Gianna, Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri. Kobe and Vanessa got married in 2001 after meeting in 1999.  He was only 41,  and he played 20 of those years with one team, one basketball family, the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe is also “survived” by many Lakers who already miss his presence on court, and now will miss him in their lives.

In Kobe’s 41 years, he was much more than a legendary basketball player. He was a husband, father, friend and mentor to so many who still play in the “Association,” aka, the NBA. His iconic impact on the sport and his indelible imprint on the lives of athletes worldwide may never be fully known.

Kobe Bryant; too soon to die, too late to say goodbye.

 Farewell, Kobe.

How Do You Spell Redemption? “Andy Reid!”

Andy Reid AFC Championship Game 2020
Andy Reid hoists the Lamar Hunt Trophy after his Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans 35 -24 in the 2020 AFC Championship Game.

The Bible says to “rejoice with them that rejoice.” But the truth is, some people are easier to root for than others. And Andy Reid would be in the category of “some people” rather than the “others.” Andy has taken a licken and yet he keeps on ticken. I love it. Sounds a lot like a lot of us. Many of us have been through some tough times here lately. We’ve been through the fire and the flood. We’ve had some high highs and some low lows. Yet through it all, we’ve learned to trust in God. My, my.

Learning to trust God is redemption. Sports redemption is a little different from spiritual redemption, but the premise is just the same. After a loss, you are “found” and you find your way back from the brink of defeat, destruction and despair. It’s enough to drive one to tears of joy.

Here’s how Frank Schwab from Yahoo Sports describes Andy’s story, a story that we hope will have a story book ending:

“On January 4, 2013, Andy Reid was limping away from the Philadelphia Eagles, coming off a 4-12 season and being fired. The Kansas City Chiefs were in even worse shape. They went 2-14 in 2012. On that day, the Chiefs hired Reid. The words “Super Bowl” were not mentioned during his introductory news conference a few days later. Both sides were just looking for some way out of the darkness.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now, the Chiefs are going back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. They overcame another slow start and beat the Tennessee Titans 35-24 in the AFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl LIV.

‘We were blessed to be there and sometimes change is good,’ Reid said when announced as Chiefs coach, ‘change will be tremendous for the Philadelphia Eagles and on the other hand, it will be terrific for the Kansas City Chiefs.’

On Sunday, seven years after coming to Kansas City, Reid had his redemption and the Chiefs had snapped one of the most miserable droughts in the NFL.

The most compelling figure of this season’s Super Bowl could be Reid, who is still looking for a ring to validate a great career, and made some tough decisions that led to this trip to the NFL’s title game. As Reid stood on the podium after lifting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, Chiefs fans chanted ‘Andy! Andy!’ ”

I concur. Go Andy!