Nowhere To Go But Up

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Ever felt like you’d hit rock bottom, and then the bottom fell out? Ever felt like you were flat on your back staring up at the ceiling? Ever felt like it was over, you were finished, and the fight was finaled out? Well, if that’s where you are or where you’ve been lately, there’s hope. You have nowhere to go but up.

And for the subject, verb and predicate of today’s lesson we have the Philadelphia Phillies. They have the worst record in baseball, ergo they are the worst team in baseball, and they just traded two of their best pitchers, Cole Hamels, who just threw a NO-HITTER mind you, and a viable relief pitcher.

But I get it. I absolutely get it. The Phils are “rebuilding.” So dump all of the overpaid, overpriced, under-achieving, under-performing old farts while you can still get something for them, and move on.

Here’s what one tweeter said of the Hamel (and possible Howard) trade: “I think if they trade Howard and Hamels to the Braves for a 46th round draft pick they will eliminate two H names from their roster and be in a better balanced position in the universe.” HA! LOL!

And here’s what another tweeted: “In order to win you need a Killer Instinct.” Amen. You need to go for the jugular every time. And in order to win, you take no prisoners. Period.

So there are 3 kinds of teams,
Level 1 ” It’d be nice if we could win.”
Level 2 “Maybe we can win.”
Level 3 ” What do you mean, “Maybe?”

The Phils are on Level 1. In order to rise, they need a gung ho player who will get in the face of someone who does not produce. And so do you. When you aren’t producing, you need someone to recognize where you are and help you get to where you need to go.

I’d rather be a level 3 team. How about you? So rise up and stop wallowing in the past. Stop wallowing in defeat and dejection and depression. Rise up.

After all, you have nowhere to go but up.

You Don’t Cheat. You Just Don’t — a.k.a. Deflate-Gate: Is Brady “Tom Terrific” or “Tom the Terrible?”

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I don’t like the New England Patriots. I don’t. But there are a lot of people, especially in New England, that do. Patriot’s fans are crying foul over their beloved Tom Brady’s four game suspension, now upheld by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The crux of the matter is that Brady is accused of destroying his cell phone just when League officials were investigating “Deflate-gate.” This appears to be why the League was so hard on Brady, as it appears that he had something to hide.  

For those that don’t know, a report commissioned by the NFL concluded that Tom Terrific, as Brady is called, “was at least generally aware” of plans by Patriots personnel to underinflate footballs to Brady’s liking, below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch before or during the 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. Ok. I get it. But does the punishment fit the crime?

I don’t like the New England Patriots because they defeated my Eagles in 2005 en-route to their third Super Bowl victory in four years. Brady, the most valuable player of this year’s Super Bowl and the league’s golden boy, is a sure future Hall of Famer — and yet he is associated with cheating to gain a competitive edge – which is a major No-No. You don’t cheat. You just don’t.

And the Patriots organization has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar before: (in 2007, the Patriots were fined $250,000 — and Belichick $500,000 — for videotaping Jets coaches’ defensive signals during a game at Giants Stadium.) This time they were fined $1 million and lost a couple of draft picks, including next year’s first-rounder.

The Bible says that we should shun the very appearance of evil. Doing evil is bad, And the appearance of evil is bad too.  shunning the very appearance of wrongdoing is something that the Patriots have not done in at least two instances. Or so it seems. 

On the one hand, some agree with this statement: “They don’t deserve to be the Super Bowl champion.” But Super Bowl Champions they are. Again. On the other hand, last week, during an appearance by Brady at Salem State in Massachusetts, fans were rabid in their support of him and his team. They chanted and cheered and defended their hero.

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William C. Rhoden of the New York Times said that “we can expect more of the same. In fact, I expect Monday’s penalty will ignite a rallying cry from Patriots fans, who will be hoping to cheer their team on to yet another Super Bowl appearance. I can see it now: ‘Free Tom Brady’ hoodies everywhere. From where I sit, Monday’s penalty was a hard love tap: A billionaire owner loses a million bucks; a 37-year-old quarterback gets to take the first four games of the season off.” Go figure.

On the other hand, the Colts, who were cheated, get to stew over their 45-7 title game drubbing. The Patriots get to keep their trophy.

Where’s the justice?

Give It All You Got

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 25: Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning on July 25, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – JULY 25: Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches  “No Hitter” against the Chicago Cubs on July 25, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

First, I must apologize to all of the English teachers of the world, including Mr. Elly from Friends’ Central School in Philly and my Jr. Year professor I nick named “Grandma” (I forget her name) from the University of Maryland. I know that this phrase is grammatically incorrect. Give it all YOU got is informal and improper, casual and colloquial – but it’s real.

Give it all YOU’VE got implies that you have something that you can brag about and boast of. The contraction “you’ve” is short for “you have” and saying “you have” implies that you have something significant that will get you gain, and welcome in the win.

On the other hand, give it all “YOU” got indicates that you may not have much of anything left in the tank, but yet and still you give it because it’s your all and because “it” is all you got. It may be next to nothing or just a lot of a little. It might not be anything much to most, but it’s more than enough to muscle in the manifestation and materialization of your maturation.

Cole Hamel’s just pitched a “No-hitter.” And pitching a no-hitter is pretty much  a baseball miracle. Unfortunately for Philly fans, the ace pitcher who was the 2008 World Series MVP for the Philadelphia Phillies is about to be traded. His team is about to kick him to the curb and put him out to pasture; yet and still Cole gave his all and he gave his heart and he gave his soul. Cole gave all he had. Cole gave it all he got.

If this indeed proves to be Cole Hamels’ final start in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform, the left-hander made it count. The 31-year-old threw a no-hitter in a 5-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday evening at Wrigley Field. After the game, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, Hamels said, “Nothing will top winning a World Series… but this is right under it.”

And so Cole gives us a lesson to live by. Cole gives us an example to extol and a mockup to model. Cole, despite a dismal season and a declining fan base and a disappointing end to an otherwise delightful career in Philly, went out and pitched the game of his life. He threw a multitude pitches yet did not allow a single hit. He did not allow a single base runner or a single run. What a gutsy performance in the face of possibly much frustration and potentially minimal infuriation.

So give it all you got. It may not be much to most, but what you give is meaningful and motivating and moving enough for you to have a magnificent and glorious manifested miracle.

Of Bats and Balls and Bases

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What’s so big about baseball? Whats the big deal about bats and balls and bases and strikes and steals and walks and walk-offs and fly-outs and ground-outs and foul balls and relief pitching and wild pitches and double plays? Why do some like baseball so much? Then again, why do others like baseball so little? Why do some love baseball and others loathe it?

For the lovers, it’s all about the hot bats and the long balls and running the bases. And don’t forget about the lights-out pitching. Great hitters are fun to watch. They get on a hot streak and it seems like every time they’re up to bat, the ball is going to get hit and the bases are going to be run. There’s something about the talent it takes and the mental toughness that makes a good ball player.

Baseball is timing and technique and torque all rolled up into one. It’s velocity and veracity and pace and power and patience and speed and spunk and spirit that make baseball great. And all of these and a thousand other things besides are why we love baseball. And that’s why others don’t watch until there’s a pennant race.

Baseball, for some, is like watching paint dry. For most, a boring game between a bad bunch of bumpkins is worse than going to the dentist when you have a tooth ache. For all, enduring an ugly game between undisciplined teams is tantamount watching grass grow. It’s torture. But that’s true in any sport, and it’s especially magnified when you have awful, appalling teams battling for nothing.

And the same is true in life.  We all long for meaning. We sense the need for significance and substance. We all loathe meaningless and nothingness living.  Our gut tells us that our lives must mean something, or they aren’t worth anything. A meaningless game is, in my opinion, a waste of time. Yes games must be played because they’re on the schedule, but even the players know that a game that doesn’t MEAN something won’t be worth playing, or watching.  

And same is true with your life. Jesus Christ gives your life meaning. Jesus died because our lives have worth and value.  And life is worth living just because He lives. The bottom line is this: Jesus is the reason that life is worth living.

And so back to baseball. Since its mid-July and August is right around the corner, it’s time to check the standings to see where your team stands (this directive DOES NOT, of course, apply to Philly fans). It’s time to root, root, root for your home team. It’s time to follow those hot bats, gaze at those high, fly balls, and cheer the boys of summer on as they round the bases for home.

Are You Watching Baseball? Of Course You Are – There’s Nothing Else On!

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More people are watching baseball. The numbers are up and interest is high and teams are winning (except mine) and, well, its summertime, right?  And baseball is supposed to be American’s pastime. And besides, there’s no other sports on. But that shouldn’t be the reason people are watching baseball, right?

Prime time television ratings for each of the Major League Baseball teams are up a week before the All-Star break and show an increase over the same period last year, according to data from Nielsen. Using data for each of the 29 domestic U.S. clubs (Nielsen does not track ratings in Canada so the Toronto Blue Jays are excluded), 13 clubs are seeing gains, compared to 12 seeing losses (I wonder who the biggest loser was – Philly?) But surely I digress.   Anyway, the 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants see an average household rating the same as a year ago (4.86).

On top of this, MLB at the local level is dominating summer programming. Each RSN televises an average of 148 MLB game per season, most in prime time (7p-11p), when the television audience is the greatest.

Ten teams are the highest-rated, most-viewed programming in prime time beating the competition in both broadcast and cable. These teams include the Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Arizona Diamondbacks.

People watch and pay attention and follow and tune in because something is worthwhile and worth watching.  People don’t watch and don’t pay attention and don’t follow and tune out because there’s nothing to attract them and appeal to them. People are lured in and hooked on because of  bait that is appealing and attractive and likable and laudable. And so the question is, how attractive is your life? If you are a Christian, are you appealing and attention-getting and approachable or even agreeable to those who would want to watch your life?  If not, you should be.

So let’s take a page out of the Major League Baseball playbook. Let’s attract some more viewers. Let’s put out a product that people can and want to see.

And while you’re doing that, go ahead, turn on the tube and watch a good baseball game. Because before you know it, it will be football weather and time to play and pay attention to America’s REAL favorite sport: FOOTBALL!

God Made Bruce Jenner, Not Caitlyn Jenner

bruce-jenner-olympics-720 “Man made” is not good for you.  Artificial sweeteners and additives are not as good as what is all natural and native and unsullied and unsoiled. What is from the earth is better than what is manufactured and manipulated and fabricated and factory-made. So why is the world whimsically welcoming a wanna-be woman who is not real?

ESPN and the ESPY’s got it wrong. All wrong. God made Bruce, not Caitlyn.  Bruce Jenner now wants to be recognized as Caitlyn Jenner. This manufactured, man-woman made her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair and was granted the Arthur Ashe Award at this year’s ESPY’s. The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is granted to the athlete who shows courage and determination on and off the playing field.  Bruce “Caitlin” Jenner is being awarded for his “athletic prowess and determination” at the Olympics as well as the strength that it took to announce and discuss her transgender transition in April.

The Arthur Ashe Award goes to individuals who reflect the spirit of its namesake tennis player, “possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.” The problem here is that beliefs can be error and heresy, and the cost is not worth the price.

So it should not surprise us that ESPN is following the wrong path.  It should be no surprise that the sports world is endorsing and embracing what is an abominable and an abrogation from what God has made. God made Adan and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Wining cannot be inverted into losing and then be made out to be OK.

So there is no congratulating Jenner. Awarding and rewarding wrong is way worse than ignoring right. 

Come Back from Way Back: You Gotta Bounce Back, a.k.a., Bouncebackability

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What do track and field and baseball have in common? In fact, what commonality do all of sports share? Comebacks.

If it was a movie, most people would have scoffed and said it was impossible. But it happened. Just ask anyone from Boston, they’ll tell you they were at the games. The hated rival New York Yankees were embarrassing the Boston Red Sox on their way to a 3-0 lead in the 2004 best-of-seven ALCS, including a 19-8 shellacking in Game 3.

Most Red Sox fans now will say they always believed it could happen. They would be lying.

Game 4 went into extra innings but ended with David “Big Papi” Ortiz hitting walk-off home run in the 12th inning to avoid the sweep. Papi then hit a game-winning single in the 14th to win Game 5. From there came Curt Schilling’s bloody sock game and lots of home runs in Game 7… Leading to the Red Sox’ first World Series win in 86 years and the greatest comeback in team sports.  It was so good that ESPN did a 30 for 30 documentary on it, “Four Days in October.” And my story is almost as dramatic.

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I ran track in high school.

Because I was the only high hurdler on the team, I ran the 110-meter hurdles out of necessity. The last track meet of senior year was the Penn Jersey Conference Championships. My father, who had never witnessed any of my meets, was able to attend this one. The race was called the start was clean. But at the eighth or ninth hurdle, I banged elbows with the runner next to me. The collision set off a chain reaction. I crashed into the next hurdle and down I went, taking a few other runners with me.

Looking back, an onlooker who wanted to mix sports metaphors could have screamed, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” (The immortal words of Howard Cosell.) Anyway, the picture was as unsightly as a train wreck. Disappointed, mad and embarrassed, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and went to sulk on the other side of the track. Soon, after a huddling of coaches and officials, the decision was made to run the race over, with no penalties to any runner. I was relieved when my coach came jogging over to relay the news.

The storybook ending is this: I won the race, and was honored to be First Team – All Conference. Finishing first, my last race was my best one, and the only one my father saw me run. I was glad to make my Dad proud.

Looking back, I often use this race as inspiration for life. How many times have I stumbled and inadvertently caused others to fall, but yet I was given a second chance? (Too many to tell here!) After each fall, each miss-step and each mistake, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start over again. I call it “bounce-back-ability:” It’s the ability to get back up and keep it moving.

We should live with the knowledge that as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, we make “Dad” proud by enduring trials, temptations and utter collapses. Our Heavenly Father is not looking down with anger or disdain; He loves us and wants the best for us. He is there cheering us on and encouraging us to get back up and try again.