Michigan State Has Hope!

 NCAA Michigan St Louisville Basketball

Hope. It’s a great four letter word. With it we win; without it we lose. With hope we can succeed; without hope we will fail. With hope, we’re destined; without hope we’re doomed. With hope we just might make it; without hope, we don’t stand a chance. Just ask Job of the Bible. At one point, he wondered where his hope was.

Hope is a powerful thing. Its power and its potency and its potential are positively peculiar indeed. The power of hope lies in its ability to keep a drowning man afloat. The potency of hope lies in its capacity to keep a dying man alive. The potential of hope lies in its capability to keep a despondent man’s mind properly aligned. In essence, hope keeps you alive and alert and watchful and wistful. Hope keeps you on board and on key and in tune with what God has intended for you now and down the road.

Hope in sports keeps players playing and coaches coaching. Hope gets you through a long, grueling practice and through a tough, tight game. When you’re weary and when you’re worn, the hope of a win gets you through. The hope of an expected end keeps us all moving and marching and going forward and gaining ground onward. Hope springs eternal, and that is why we always must have hope.

Hope is the earnest expectation of things to come. Hope is the engagement ring. Hope is the down payment on the unbuilt house. Hope is the leave request for the summer vacation. Without hope, we’re done; kaput; finished; D.O.A. – a.k.a., dead on arrival. But with hope, we have a chance. Albeit, it may be a slim, outside, longshot of a chance, but it’s still a chance.

Michigan State is in the Final Four, along with Wisconsin, Duke, and the presumptive champion, Kentucky. And nobody, and I mean nobody, had Michigan State in the Final Four, at least not this year’s Final Four. A month ago they weren’t that good or this good. But that’s what hope does. It gives us a spark and a spur and a surge and a splurge of adrenaline that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Only a faithful few Tom Izzo fans had Michigan State going this far in the Tournament. And fewer who picked them would admit that they had any faith, or dare I say any hope, that they would be on the verge of something big. But don’t you think for one minute that the Spartans don’t think and hope and expect to win.

Michigan State has hope. After all, they have Tom Izzo, and Tom Izzo is a great coach. And they have Travis Trice, who is a believer, and in his post game interview, he gave credit to God for the victory. I love it. And it’s still March, and in March there is methodical madness. And the Madness of March, strange as it may seem, gives hope to each and every gamer and dreamer out there. That includes Michigan State, and me and you too.

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So don’t lose hope. Don’t lose your hope. Make sure you keep her close by. And if you lose your hope, have someone look for her for you, because if you can’t see her, someone else who cares about you can.

 

Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?

Job 17:15, NIV

Luck Runs Out On the Irish

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Kentucky 68: Notre Dame 66.

That was the best college basketball game of the year. The Notre Dame Irishmen gave Kentucky all they had. They gave Kentucky fits and fists and battled and baffled the presumptive champions until the final buzzer. They left nothing in the tank and put everything on the court, and that’s the way the game should be played. Wow.

What a lesson in how both to preserve and give 100% and how to hang in there and give it all you’ve got. You’ve got to give it to Notre Dame, and you’ve got to take your hats off to Kentucky too. It was both an awful win and an unlucky loss at the same time. Both teams played their hearts out, played their guts out, and played the lights out; unfortunately only one team can walk out a winner.

So let’s learn another lesson; let’s not be intimidated by the Kentucky’s in our life. Let’s not be afraid or alarmed or overawed or overwhelmed by unbeaten seven footers or undefeated three-point shooters. Learn the lesson. You can. You can beat King Kentucky. And Kentucky can, and did, abolish the Irish.

Survive and Advance: Getting To The Next Level

Benda Frese

My Maryland Terrapin Ladies defeated Duke today and are now a part of the Elite Eight. GO TERPS! Brenda Frese is the real deal. She’s a great coach and she’s got a great team. But how did they do it? And how can they continue to carry on and keep on and go on to win another title?

Brenda Frese Clapping

How do you advance and ascend and progress and proceed to the next level? Simply put, how do you get from being one of many to being the one ahead of any? How do you beat all comers and best every contender? How do you recapture the flag and retake the lead? How do you win JUST wanting to?

How do you overcome your fears and fight back your tears? How do you mend mental mistakes? How do you modify muddles and mollify messes? How do you play under pressure? How do you rebound and regroup and regain control after falling and flailing and floundering? How do you go from being a “wannabe” to receiving Atta boys?

How do you leave the lower level and rise to the rarefied realm of the upper echelon? How do  you climb the mountain and scale the heights? How do you back out of the bottom and trudge towards the top? How do you surge forward and keep from sagging backward? How do you march through the madness and not lose your mind? How do you stop being a wannabe?

A Wannabe is a poser, a follower, and a fake. A Wannabe is one who copies or imitates all or most of the aspects dealing with their idol. They may wish to have certain clothing, skills, vocabulary, etc., of their idols instead of their own. Most likely a wannabe is lacking in self-confidence and is looking for guidance. Most likely a wannabe wants to be just where they are; an also ran and an almost made it. Because they aren’t willing to put in the time or fork over the dime that it costs to make it to the top of their game. But not you.

You and I want to go and want to get to the next level. You and I want to play in the next round. You and I want to survive and advance. The question is, “How?” The way and the key is to hunger and to thirst, to fight and to fume and to scrap and to scrape. The way is to survive and subsist; to come through and pull through; to outlive and outlast any and all comers and contenders that try to knock you off and knock you out.

So again I ask, “How do you go to the next level?” How do you win JUST wanting to? You don’t.

You don’t settle for second and you don’t concede the lead. Don’t do it. Don’t be satisfied with the way things are. Don’t succumb to the way people say things have to be. You are made for more than “would be” and wannabe status. You were made for more. You weren’t made to flounder, you were made to fly.

Decisions, TKO’s and Knockouts

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Everybody loves a mixed metaphor, right? Right. Well here’s one for the ages. Boxing terms for how to win in the ring are: 1) By Decision; 2) by Technical Knock-Out; and 3) By Knockout. Last night, in the Sweet 16, No. 1 and undefeated Kentucky KO’ed, decisioned and TKO’ed, i.e., they utterly destroyed West Virginia. The score after about 8 minutes was 18-2; the score at half-time was 44-18, and the final score was 78 – 39. That’s a margin of 39 points, and it wasn’t that close. One sports writer said that it was a “public reprimand.” That, sports fans, is a win by decision, technical knock out AND by a knockdown knockout.

Most everybody had Kentucky winning, but not by 39 points! We all thought that West Virginia would give Kentucky a game; but after  their brash and boastful freshman point guard boldly made a moronic miscue with his mouth, it was more than over before the game even began.

So here’s what happened. Freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. declared that his team would beat Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. OK. So if that wasn’t dumb enough, the WAY he said it was even dumber. Dumb and dumber, right? The poor, misguided kid from West Virginia said this, and I quote:

[I] salute them to getting to 36-0. But tomorrow they’re gonna be 36-1.

Talk about being a false prophet. Chris Chase from www.USA.com writes “For The Win.” In his blog, Chris said that there are three rules for making sports predictions as an athlete:

  1. Don’t make predictions.
  2. If you’re going to make a prediction, be the best player on your team about to play in a game against an evenly matched opponent.
  3. Ignore No. 2 and only pay attention to No. 1.

Daxter Miles Jr., (did I say he was a FRESHMAN, meaning he’s got more in his heart than he has between the ears in his head), disobeyed all three of these rules during a talk with the media on Wednesday, making a guarantee that the undefeated Kentucky team, to whom he gave “props” and a “salute” to, would be 36-1 after his Mountaineers were done with them on Thursday night. Wrong answer. And the sad part is that Miles didn’t ever score! Not ‘nare a point! Pitiful.

You can play hard and play smart and just plain play, and still lose. But West Virginia neither played hard nor smart, and got obliterated in the process. I mean! West Virginia got beat up and beat down and beat all around from the jump. Miles’ mouth got his team beat badly, and it didn’t’ have to go down that way. Oh yes, West Virginia probably would have lost to Kentucky, but not like that! It was a good ‘ole fashioned whuppin, and all West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins could do was watch.

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Kentucky is not just a good team, they’re a VERY good team, and some would even say they’re a great team; maybe and possibly the best college team ever? That’s fairly debatable. And for West Virginia to act arrogant and virulent was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It was like an angry alley cat playing with a rag doll. I mean, the game, and I stayed up to watch this one, was like watching a senior beat up on a sixth grader. It was like the Varsity playing the middle school intramural team. It was like the jocks verses the nerds — with no pads — in the back parking lot littered with broken bottles, bashed in bear cans and busted bricks. And to return to our mixed metaphor, it was like a heavy weight going 15 rounds with a fly weight, minus the mercy rule. In other words, it was pretty ugly.

And so the moral of the story is that “discretion is the better part of valor,” which is usually taken to mean that caution is better than rash courage or that discretion is the best kind of courage. We take this from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I when Prince Hal finds the cowardly Falstaff pretending to be dead on the battlefield, the prince assumes he has been killed. After the prince leaves the stage, Falstaff rationalizes “The better part of Valour, is Discretion; in the which better part, I have saved my life.”

So let’s all learn the lesson from Daxter Miles, Jr.; being bold doesn’t mean you have to be stupid. Do your talking on the court.

I’m just sayin’.

A Sweetie of A Sweet 16

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Wow. We’ve got a really sweet-smelling and sweet-scented Sweet 16!

And if you like sweets, this is sugar nirvana for basketball lovers, everywhere. Tonight we’ve got NC/Wisconsin, Wichita State v. Notre Dame, Xavier taking on Arizona and West Virginia trying to KO Kentucky. Friday, March 27, 2015 we’ve got UCLA /Gonzaga, NC St. and Louisville, Utah battling Duke and Michigan St. trying to oust Oklahoma. Whew! What a line up.  And it’s no small feat to reach the Round of 16. There’s not an unsightly dame or an ugly game in the bunch.

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And let’s not forget the ladies; my girls, the University of Maryland Terrapins, have made it to their Sweet 16 and play Duke on Saturday.

It’s curious and almost comical that the NCAA chose to name this round of the NCAA Basketball tournament the “Sweet 16.” It’s taken from the traditional “arrival” of a young lady onto the scene. At 16, tradition teaches that little girls become young ladies and are given a big coming out party. A Sweet 16 Party is a coming out ceremony. It’s a celebration of a coming of age for young girls.

According to http://www.Favorcreations.com, these days, most young girls look forward to their 16th birthday, as they will be given an extravagant party that is much more opulent than previous birthday celebrations.

The Sweet 16 celebration derived from English traditions in the 17th century. When a girl turned 16, she was presented in the royal court, considered a young lady, and could possibly be a suitor for a wealthy man. The idea of having a fancy party for a girl who is turning 16 is believed to have originated in France in the form of debutant balls. These galas served as a way to present the guest of honor as a woman to society, and debutant balls are still held in many parts of the southern United States like Alabama and Louisiana, due to the French cultural influence there.

During a Sweet 16 party, it is common to light 16 candles, not only to represent the young woman’s years of life, but to signify important family and friends that have been a positive influence to her throughout the years. It is customary to add a 17th candle to the teenager’s birthday cake to wish her good luck.

And so, since we don’t believe in luck, we wish all of the teams that reached the Sweet 16 well.

And so what about you?  Are you smelling like a rose or stinking up the house? Have you defeated an old enemy or are you failing the same old tests? Have you driven past that bad habit or are you driving around in circles? How sweet it is to get that “tough out” or to stop that “hot hand.”  How sweet it is to reach a significant milestone or milepost in your life.

Have you come of age and commandeered or conquered anything significant or sizable of late? Achieving a high watermark is no small feat. And so, thank God for all that you are, and for where you are, for it is by the grace of God that we have and hold and handle the heaviness of life. In spite and despite the stink and the stench of the sin and shame that overshadows this celestial sphere, we are to be a sweet-smelling savor to God and to the world as we advance and progress and mature in God.

Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.  Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16, New Living Translation

Pretty Ugly: We Didn’t Have A Prayer

West Virginia v Maryland
Sports is full of oxymorons. An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory. Team names like the “Fighting Quakers” comes immediately to mind. And for those that don’t know, Quakers are pacifists, meaning they don’t believe in fighting but instead take “turn the other cheek” quite literally. I went to a Quaker school in Philly (so ask me how I know). And saying we “didn’t have a prayer” is certainly an oxymoron, because there is always hope; but you’re gotta have hope in order for there to be hope. 

Other examples of oxymorons in sports include “boxing ring,” “warming down,” and “forward lateral.” Everyone knows that a boxing “ring” is square, that you warm up when you’re cold, not down, (after a work-out you cool off, but surely I digress) and you can’t go forward and move laterally at the same time. And here’s another one you can add to the list: the Maryland/West Virginia game in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament last night was pretty ugly.

The Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball Team had a great season with an awful ending. By most standards and all accounts, the Terps over-achieved and over-reached and over-performed and had a record-setting season; they won a ton of games, but just came up short at the end. Unfortunately, their season did not match their play last night.

Last night, oxymorons were everywhere and allusions abounded. The Terps played with sharp dullness and tired energy and sloppy efficiency. They turned the ball over 21 TIMES! Twenty-One times! Seriously? And Melo Trimble got hurt, so any hope of winning went out the door when he went down on the floor. Oh well. But even with Melo the Terps were amazingly unexceptional and happily horrible. Last night was painful and stressful and awful and woeful; on the other hand, the entire length of this all of a sudden short season, a.k.a., the season as a whole, was exciting and exhilarating and thrilling and bone chilling. Go figure. And such is life.

In life you learn to take the good with the bad and the ups with the downs and the wins with the losses. You learn to accept the incongruities and the ambiguities of a good team going cold or a bad team getting hot. It’s called living and dying with your team and loving and hating them simultaneously all at the same time. You have to learn to run slow and walk fast and to be nasty with a smile, all at once.

So keep your heads up, Terp Fans. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble are the ones that got us to the Big Dance, and you’re supposed to dance with the girl that you got, not the one you’re trying to get. And she’s still our “girl” even though the dance last night was pretty ugly. But with Mello and the rest of the freshman coming back, we’re actually sitting pretty.

In sports, there are oodles of oxymorons. There’s crying and amidst and alongside the celebration, because only one team can win the last game of the season. Only one team can walk off of the court and say that they went out on top. And only one team can cut down the nets. So far, Kentucky is still the front-runner, with Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona and Gonzaga all close seconds, nipping at their heels.

And so may the Best Team (Kentucky?) win. But that too, can be an oxymoron. And I borrow this clip from Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post:

The thing to remember about Maryland’s season-ending, 69-59 loss to West Virginia on Sunday night wasn’t the final score. It wasn’t the aesthetics, either; West Virginia’s manic style could make the Harlem Globetrotters look sloppy. And it certainly wasn’t the ending — after Melo Trimble was sidelined by two blows to the head, things fell apart, fans in yellow roaring as the typically composed Terps unraveled.

No, the moment to remember came in the first half, when the Terps were still streaking up and down the court with a lineup featuring Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens and Michal Cekovsky. That’s four freshmen, for those without a lineup card, and it speaks to the lasting emotion of this Maryland season: renewed hope.

A Few of My Favorite Things

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Underdogs that win and teams that turn it around and competitors that comeback from the dead. These are a few of my favorite things.

Yes these are a few of my favorite things. The classic song from the classic, 1966 Academy Award winning film “The Sound of Music” cannot be improved upon, but someone should tell Julie Andrews that she can add the NCAA Tournament to the list!

The NC State Wolfpack just defeated the No. 1 Seed Villanova Wildcats to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Talk about sweet surprises. It’s not like the Wolfpack hasn’t been to the Big Dance almost uninvited before. In 1983, Jimmy Valvano and his mass of miracle makers defeated TWO, count ‘em, TWO No. 1 Seeds, Virginia and then Houston, en route to winning the National Championship in the upset win of the ages.

Upsets, comebacks and turnarounds. These are few of my favorite things. Upsets, because everyone loves an underdog. Comebacks, because we’ve all fallen behind and fallen off and fallen down with no hope of getting back up again. And turnarounds are only illegal if they’re committed in defeat. But U-turns and reversal of fortunes are welcome by all those whose feet are going downhill fast and are facing a dead-end.

But some way, somehow, a miracle emerges. Right before our very eyes, the impossible and the improbable incredibly occurs. Our wildest dreams come true and the world is watching in wonder as the Maker of marvels and the Winnower of wonders surprises us with yet another superlative that only He is capable of conjuring up.

NC State Believes

It’s so spiritual. Paul told the church at Ephesus that “you lived in this world without God and without hope.” And that goes for me and you too. We have all had hopeless situations and deflated expectations. But God stepped in just in the nick of time to save the day, and save us too.

A caring coach and passionate players are just a few of my favorite things. NC State’s Mark Gottfried is a good coach. And a good coach is one of my very favorite things. Coach Gottfried hugged and held and embraced and encouraged his players to the point that I would play for him right here and right now. A coach that truly cares and even loves his players and players that respond in kind by winning a tight ball game and triumphing over a tough team is food for the soul. Yes, these are a few of my favorite things.

NC State v Villanova

So add to the list, because “when the dog bites and when the bee stings, and when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things,” . . .  including an NC State upset win over a No. 1 Villanova, and then I don’t feel so bad!

And the rest of the song goes:

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eye lashes
Silver white winters that melt into spring
These are a few of my favorite things!

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
my favorite things
and then I don’t feel so bad!