Sports and The Big “C”

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You’re never tired when you have purpose.

 My father died of cancer at age 59. Mathias Giordano died of cancer at the tender age of 13. And at last report, Leah Still, age 4, is still battling the Big ”C.”  My dad loved sports.  Mathias loved golf.  And Leah’s dad plays for the Cincinnati Bengals.  Both my dad and Mathias fought like the dickens. Both lost their courageous fight with this dreaded disease.  Leah is still fighting.

Cancer is a cold-blooded killer. Cancer is a calculated, cut-throat contrarian that doesn’t take kindly to losing. And Cancer may not be contagious but it is comparable to a contagion that must be conquered. 

And it seems that everybody loves somebody that is living with or is dying of cancer. Cancer is an enemy and an evil, an opponent and the opposite of health and wholeness and happiness and all that life has to offer.  Cancer destroys and therefore it must be destroyed. 

Meet Devon Still – Defensive Tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals with a promising career ahead of him. His daughter Leah – an adorable 4-year old, recently diagnosed with stage 4 pediatric cancer… and a 50% chance of survival. When Still discovered the news of his daughter’s health last June, his focus shifted – from football to his daughter. He missed minicamp and team activities so he could be with Leah. Without his complete dedication to the team, the Cincinnati Bengals had to cut him at the beginning of the 2014 Season. Devon understood the sacrifice that had to made.

Devon commented, “I completely understand where the Bengals were coming from when they cut me because I couldn’t give football 100 percent,” he mentioned in an ABC news interview. As a dedicated parent, halting his career was a no brainer to Devon, but the results of quitting football, dealt another blow. He was without health insurance. Medical expenses, he was told, would easily total approximately $1 million dollars. It was the ultimate “Catch 22”, quit football to tend to his daughter, but quitting football also meant relinquishing the health insurance she very much needed.

Devon’s sacrifice was not unnoticed. Later, in an unprecedented move, the Cincinnati Bengals came up with a touchdown of a heartfelt idea. The Bengals re-hired Devon for the practice squad. This would enable him to be closer to his daughter, support her during her hospital stays and continue to keep his health insurance so that she could adequately be treated.

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Mathias Giordano-photo

Meet Mathias Giordano. Mathias’s single personal battle has led to a total team effort. His family recently announced a big win in the local fight against childhood cancer. They gained enough signatures to produce a bill that will provide “Cure Childhood Cancer” license plates in the state of Virginia.

Mathias’ mom, Roya Giordano, wanted to change her license plate to support her son, who was battling osteosarcoma. WUSA9 first reported about 13-year-old Mathias Giordano and his family’s fight to bring about childhood cancer awareness back in October of 2014. The Giordano family started petitioning in August. The goal was to get the 450 license plate applications needed by early November in order to send a bill to the Virginia State Assembly.

With support, Roya Giordano told WUSA on Monday, they received around 700 license plate applications by the November deadline and the number kept growing. Virginia Delegate Tag Greason also got involved and drafted the bill, which he presented to the Virginia State Assembly in January 2015. It’s called, “Mathias’ Law.”

There was a time when the family still held onto hope, but Roya told WUSA9 that the doctors said there is no cure for her son’s cancer.

“We believe that the gold ribbon will be out there and it will be seen. It will allow people to talk about it and it will allow people to talk about childhood cancer, which is a subject that no one wants to talk about… with the ribbon, the awareness will come and we’ll get more funding and with the funding we can get better treatments,” said Roya.

And so with these two examples and many more, sports is sparring back at the canker of cancer because there are many lives, and many young lives at stake. It’s worth the fight, because you’re never tired when you have purpose.

Sports in Washington, DC: Up and Down and All Around

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The Wizards just won a First Round playoff series by sweeping the Toronto Raptors.

The Nationals are tied for last place.

The Capitals play Game 7 tonight against their arch rivals, the New York Islanders, and;

The Redskins just picked up the option on RGIII’s contract, but I’m not even going there.

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Sports in Washington, D.C. Oh boy. Hold on tight to your dreams.   If there ever was a city that was up and down and all around, when it comes to sports, it’s the Nation’s Capital.  So much promise. So little delivery.  If it weren’t for the little matter of three Super Bowl wins for the defunct Redskins, now otherwise known as the “Deadskins” and those Vince Lombardi trophies that came along with ‘em, the city would be on a sports suicide watch. But let’s not paint such a pitiful picture.

First, the good news: The Wizards proved that they are a legitimate playoff contender.  Not only did they win a first round series, they whupped and walloped the Atlantic Division winners. It was a matchup of the 5 Seed defeating a Four Seed, but what the hey; a win, is a win, is a win. Now it’s on to the Atlanta Hawks, if and when they beat the Milwaukee Bucks.  It should be an entertaining series and one the Wizards should win.  But we’ll wait and see.

Now for the not-so-good news: The Nationals. They just lost five straight. Not good.  They were picked to not only go to the World Series, but to WIN the World Series. That’s great, except this early season slump has got a lot of the locals a little leery and loopy.  Yes it’s a long season. No this was not expected. Yes they are somewhat shorthanded. No the pundits shouldn’t panic yet. At least not yet.

As for the Capitals, where do we begin?  Scott Allen of the Washington Post says this:

You’re right to be nervous. You’re forgiven if you’re full of dread. Even if you weren’t around for the first Game 7 in Washington Capitals franchise history 28 years ago, you were around for the most recent, and probably several other of the 10 Game 7s — most of them heartbreaking — in between. Nine losses in 12 games, all scarring in their own ways.

The Capitals play their lucky 13th Game 7 on Monday against the New York Islanders, the same franchise that ended Washington’s first Game 7 at 1:58 a.m. on April 19, 1987. That history doesn’t matter to the players on the ice, of course.

But as all tried and true sports fans know, history DOES matter. And history is not on the Capitals side.  So we’re all waiting with baited breath so see what happens tonight. I’m too scared to watch!

And so it is with most of us. Sometimes we’re up and sometimes we’re down and most times we’re all around. We want to be on top and in first and at our best all of the time. But life doesn’t work that way. We are oft times frail and fragile and not always fleet and agile.  We can be flimsy and whimsy and rocky and rickety and we need help. And lots of it. Humans in general and sports fans in specific need all the help we can get.

Since we’re all up and down and all around, some depend on luck.  If it weren’t for bad sports luck, some of us wouldn’t have any sports luck at all. What’s that? We don’t believe in luck? I thought we believed in Andrew Luck? https://godandsports.net/2015/01/11/i-believe-in-luck-2-0/ OK, he’s AFC and he’s a time zone away. I get it.

I choose to depend on God.  He always comes through. Maybe not for our teams, but for us and our dreams, He does, when we trust Him.  

So take heart, Washington D .C. sports fans. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming trail.  I don’t think.

Why You Should Watch The NFL Draft

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I never watch much of the NFL Draft. Maybe the first few picks of the Frist Round, but that’s it and that’s all. Why people watch much beyond that is way beyond me. Until this year.

This year I will watch the NFL Draft (OK, I’m just talking the First Round here, but you gotta’ start somewhere, right?) Anyway, like I said, I’m going to watch the NFL Draft. And you should too. I’m going to watch more than before because of history. This year will be a history making draft. Just watch.

Some NFL Drafts are more sizeable and more significant and more substantial than others. Take 1965 and 1985. Gayle Sayers and Dick Buctkus were both drafted, Third and Forth, by Chicago in 1965. Twenty years later, Bruce Smith, Jerry Rice and Hershel Walker were all drafted in 1985. The difference? Smith was the overall No. 1 pick, Rice was No. 16, and Herschel fell to the 114th pick. Go figure. These were spectacular Drafts. Yes there were other sensational draft years as well, but this year’s figures to be one of the best yet.

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The significance of the Draft is that you never know who’s going to pan out or who’s going to flame out. You never know who’s going to win a glut of games or how long it’s going to take them to win a Super Bowl, if they win one at all. The number ones’ could end up duds, and the passed over could emerge as superstars. Just ask Kurt Warner, among others. You never know.

So what’s the spiritual tie in? What does the NFL Draft have to do with your life? Growing up playing street football and pick-up basketball, I was never picked first. And even if you were the first pick in the street ball draft, in the end, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish that counts.

We all desire to be “drafted” and to be chosen and to be selected. And God has done just that. We are a “chosen generation” (1 Peter 2:9). Since we have been chosen, we should desire to live up to expectations. Since God chose us, he has certain expectations of us. We should be faithful and graceful, noble and honorable, honest and upright, and a bunch of other things too.

We will have obstacles and obstructions and hitches and hurdles. But these are just stepping-stones to stand on. Any and all of the 2015 NFL Draft class will begin as rookies and for each of them, some of the same obstacles may apply. But for each of them, the sky is the limit. And that’s goes for you and me too.

Rewarding Mediocrity: A.K.A., Why the NBA is Wrong and I’m Right

Washington Wizards Media Day

I have a confession to make: I watched an NBA 1st Round Playoff game. Yes, I did. I crossed the picket line that I proposed, but for good reason. I watched the Washington Wizards defeat the Toronto Raptors last night. Now before you treat me like a traitor and scold me a scab for not supporting the strike, here this – for all those of us NOT watching the NBA Playoffs, here’s what we’re missing:

The Wizards are now up 3-0 on the Toronto Raptors, the same Raptors that won the Atlantic Division. The Wizards are up 3-0 in a best-of-seven series for the first time in franchise history, against a Toronto Raptors team that swept them three times in the regular season. AND they’re up 3-0 after winning the first two games ON THE ROAD. They’re doing it in dramatic fashion. They’re doing it with young studs and old heads, and a coach – Randy Wittman – that seems to know what he’s doing.

And now to my point.

The NBA is wrong to mandate that every team play a best-of-seven first round series. Dead wrong. Seven of the eight playoff series’ are laughingly lopsided. In only one series has the weaker team even won a single game: the San Antonio Spurs are up 2-1 on The Los Angeles Clippers. All of the other First Round Series’ are all but over. Five of the eight series are 3-0 and another two are 2-0. That leaves the lone competitive series between the defending champion Spurs and the wanna’ be Clippers.

No NBA team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series. And the Raptors don’t look like the team that would be the first. Neither do some of these other sub par, substandard and substitute for sufferable teams that “made” the playoffs. One of the sixteen teams in these playoffs had a losing record, and another three were 0.500 or barely above 0.500. And the NBA rewards this mediocrity with a playoff berth? Please. So why are we punishing ourselves by watching First Round games? (Oops, that’s right, we’re supposed to be boycotting!)

So now back to the Wiz.

Paul Pierce, once the face and the foundation of the Boston Celtics, instead of hanging it up when the “C’s” – nickname for the Celtics – were done with him and hung him out to dry, decided he still had something left in the tank. So he hung out in Brooklyn with the Nets last season. This year, he’s pitched his tent with the Wizards, and without his veteran leadership and old-timer expertise, the Wizards may not be up 3-0, on their way to a sweep.

Yes it was a true team effort, as six players were in double figures, but Wall and Pierce were the heart and soul of this team. Pierce had 18, and Wall, who had 19 points and 15 assists, became the first player since Nash in 2010 to have back-to-back playoff games with at least 15 assists. How far will they go? There’s no tellin’. Perhaps only or just as far as Pierce pushes them or Wall wills them.

But this much is as plain as the nose on your face; these Playoffs are too long and too laborious and the first Round is too lopsided. And that’s why I’m right and the NBA is wrong.

How To Get Out Of A Slump: Meet The Right People In The Right Place At the Right Time

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I just got out a slump. And so did the Mets; Yes the Mets; the Amazin’ Miracle Mets. But first me. Sometimes you limp and lag and teeter and totter and flip and flop along and you don’t even know that you’re not moving in a logical procession or making any meaningful progression. That was me. But that’s over. Thank God.

Sometimes you just don’t know what to do or when to do or how to do what you know you need to do to get out of a rut. Sometimes you’re in a rift or a ravine or a gully or a gorge or a ditch or a drain that’s leading to nowhere. You know you need to reboot and recharge and re-image and rethink everything. And you know it but you can’t quite seem to do anything about it.   That is unless and until you happen upon or meet by chance or run into the right people in the right place at the right time. Well, all of that happened for me in Seattle.

Seattle got me out of my slump. And more specifically, I’m out of my slump because I met a great guy and his wife, Chris and Cindy. They were hidden away in an out –of- the way restaurant on Bainbridge Island and they gave me the gumption I need to go on just a little further. Yes I go to church and pray and read my Bible, but there’s something about meeting someone “out of the blue” that charges your battery and revs your engine like nothing else can. There’s something about a coming together at just the right time that is almost indescribable and indiscernible but is real and palpable nonetheless.

So here’s another reason to believe in Providence. It all went down like this:

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I really wanted to take a ferry ride across Puget Sound and I wanted to go on a nice, sunny day. Well, Monday, April 20th was my day. It was a beautiful, balmy 72 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And for all that know Seattle, weather like that doesn’t come around every day. So I caught the 4:40 Ferry and had a therapeutic trip and a resuscitating ride with views of Downtown Seattle and the Olympus and Cascades Mountains to die for.

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I got to Bainbridge Island and determined to eat dinner at a local diner, so I asked around. I was told there were plenty of nice places to choose from. Then I “happened” run into an older lady who told me to “hurry up!” She thought I was going to the museum, but I told her I was looking for a nice, homey restaurant. She gave me a few suggestions, but then said if I wanted to go to an out-of-the way place on the water I should walk a little further and go to Harbor Public House (http://harbourpub.com/ ). I’m so glad I did. I believe God put the right people in the right place at the right time just for me.

Enter my new friends. They were sitting and waiting for a table outside overlooking the water. I chatted it up a little with them and the next thing you know, because they had been waiting awhile, and I wanted to eat outside too, they invited me to dine with them. Wow! It was great. The ferry ride was “Da Bomb,” the food was better and the company of my new friends was the best.  Wow.  Sounds like teamwork played a part in this, huh? 

Talk about a Providential turn of events. And so it is in life and in sports for those who go a little further wait a little longer and reach a little higher than they were reaching just a day or two ago. When you have everything fall into the just the right place at just the right time it is no accident.  It’s Divine. Coincidentally, Deborah Fike in “The Change Blog,” suggests that one of the ways you get out of a slump is to reconnect with old friends or, — find new ones! And that’s what I did! And in writing this blog I found these blogs which were helpful: http://www.thechangeblog.com/get-out-of-a-slump/ http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Out-of-a-Slump

And speaking of Divine, how ‘bout ‘Dem Miracle Mets! (Previous Blog Please 🙂 )

The Mets Are In First Place?

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The New York Mets are in 1st place?  Yes, the New York Mets are in 1st place! That’s right, the New York Mets are in FIRST, with the best record in Baseball (it needs to be repeated repeatedly to sink in). Not just in their Division, the National League East, with the Atlanta Braves and ‘Da Nationals, but in all of Major League Baseball. Go figure. Certainly all Yankee Fans everywhere are scratching their heads and shaking their heads right about now. On the other hand, Mets Fans, where are you? Come out, come out wherever you are!

After 15 games, not many people — correction: NOT ANYBODY — had the New York Mets pegged as the team to beat and to have baseball’s best record, but that’s exactly where they stand. The Mets are riding a 10-game winning streak and are now 12-3 on the season. The Last time they had that record through 15 games, they ended the season on a high note and won the World Series.

In 1986, the last time the Mets were this hot to start a season, they won the Fall Classic in the infamous Buckner series. That team was loaded with veteran talent and was actually in stark contrast to this current squad.  This streak may not last long. Or maybe it will? Baseball’s a funny game. But one thing’s for certain — the generally underachieving ‘Amazin’s’ have emerged as one of the best stories of the first month of this season.

Now, over the course of this early April season, the Mets have completely altered the conversation.  They’re doing it with pitching and with defense and with teamwork and with timing, and well, dare I say, with Providence? They’ve dramatically changed the sense of what they are capable of — probably in most fans’ minds and certainly in their own. In church we call it faith; so why should we use another word in sports when we mean the same thing? 

The Mets have gone from bottom feeders to World Series contenders. In the blink of an eye. Wow. I know how it feels. For now, the Mets are out of their year-in, year-out lingering in last place slump. And thank God I’m out of mine, so that means you can get out of yours too.

Boycott The 1st Round of the NBA Playoffs

SI Lebron in Cleveland

Reasons why I’m Going to Boycott The 1st Round of The NBA Playoffs:

I’m going to boycott and bypass, shew and shun, elude and evade, duck, dodge and decline watching  the First Round of the NBA Playoffs.  Period.  Why? For starters, they don’t  matter. They don’t mean much and they don’t measure up. No lower seeded team is going to beat a higher seeded team.  It jus’ ain’t gonna’ happen.  

And so let’s sit in and sit out, object and send up an outcry in protest against the First Round of the NBA Playoffs.  Somebody needs to say SOMETHING!

And so the only real drama in the 2015 NBA Playoffs is this: can Lebron win a title in Cleveland? Or will Golden State prove to be the golden goose? But surely I digress.  Back to the futile and frivolous First Round.

On the other hand,  winning games is still important. The easy lesson here is that you don’t win big, important games unless and until you win small and insignificant games. PERIOD.

That being said, wake me when the NBA starts playing significant games in the playoffs.  And that’s NOT in the first round.  So join me. march with me, picket and protest with me.  The Playoffs are too long and there’s too much time between games and there’re too many teams . . . and so on and so on and so on.

So please pass me the bottle because I think need some  Guida cheese with my whinning. Most of us don’t like the menial and the mundane, the humdrum and the ho-hum, the regular and the ritual, because it’s not exciting or interesting or compelling.

What we don’t want to hear is that it’s an attitude that turns the mundane into something more meaningful. It’s our attitude that turns the booring into the beautiful and the churlish into the charming and the vile into the vibrant. And that is a spiritual thing.

But this rule DOES NOT apply to the First Round of the NBA Playoffs.  It just doesn’t. So there.