The Nationals Are All Choked Up

Papelbon Choking Harper

To be “choked up” means to become too nervous or tense in a critical situation to perform, as in “He’s fine during practice but in a game he tends to choke up.” This usage, also put as to choke alone, is especially common in sports.

Well, if “all choked up” doesn’t describe the 2015 Washington Nationals Baseball, team, I don’t know what does. The Nats were the pre-season favorites to not only go to the World Series, but to win the whole dag gum thing and bring the Fall Classic and a championship to Washington DC for the first time in a long time. That long time just got one season longer.

Officially out of the playoffs, the Nationals seemingly needed an encore, and yesterday at their last home stand of the season, they got it. Jonathan Papelbon, the mouthy reliever who has worn out his welcome in Boston and Philadelphia, appears to have punched his ticket out of DC – by attacking superstar Bryce Harper.

One day after the Nats were eliminated from the NL East race, Jonathan Papelbon and Harper brawled in the Nationals dugout. It was more than a brawl, it was one player going after another and going at his throat. His throat! Talk about choking.

After a flyout in the eighth inning of what became a 12-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Harper headed to the dugout, where he and Papelbon, the team’s closer, exchanged words. The argument escalated, and Papelbon reached out with his left hand and grabbed Harper by the throat. And if that wasn’t enough, Papelbon stayed in the game and allowed five runs in the ninth after the brawl.

Papelbon, who was suspended last week for drilling Manny Machado, has one year and $11 million left on his current deal. He was traded from the Phillies to the Nats on July 28th. On that day, the Nats held a one-game lead over the Mets, but have gone 27-30 since the deal. A coincidence? Maybe. But the Nats bet the farm on this journeyman closer, and all they got was national attention to this dugout brawl that’s become symbolic of their season.

So what did the Nats learn from this incident and from this season? Anything? Ya think? Winning cures everything. And losing exposes everything. Following this maxim, this year’s team is ill and exposed. Attacking your teammate and dueling in the dugout is NEVER a good thing. And it’s a damaging and dangerous way to end a disappointing season.  

Sports and spirituality are conterminous in this respect — unity is absolutely essential.  Harmony, not cacophony, is what’s needed in sports as it’s the main ingredient which is mandatory on every team.

My guess is that next year’s Nats team will look drastically different than this year’s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Harper, the local golden boy, asks to be traded. Far fetched? Maybe. But we do know that Harper can’t be happy. As for Papelbon, he is already gone, because he’s got to go.

Pope Francis: Fulfilling His Assignment

Pope Francis on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Pope Francis made the Cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. ROLLING STONE! Rolling Stone Magazine was founded in San Francisco in 1967 and initially identified with and reported on the hippie counterculture of the era. The magazine now focuses on popular culture and has shifted its aim to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music.

Pope Francis is on the cover of Rolling Stone because he is fulfilling his assignment. An assignment is an appointment, a post and a position, a duty and a designation, an onus and an obligation. And this magnate of a spiritual man is fulfilling every aspect of his assignment. So for this popular, pop culture magazine to take note and have the head of the largest church in the world on its cover is a really big deal. Really big. Big, Big. Big, big, big.

Pope Francis is on his first visit to North America and the US is the center of his assigned destination. His visit is turning heads and making headlines all over the world. On this trip, the Pope first visited Cuba, where not too long ago this island country was considered a crucial communist outpost in the Western Hemisphere.

The Pope then traveled to Washington, DC where he met with President Obama and then addressed a joint session of Congress. This appointment with the legislative leadership of the US marked the first time the head of the world’s Roman Catholics addressed Congress.

pope carrying his own bag

Pope Francis then hopped to New York where he painted the town red. He addressed the annual United Nations General Assembly of world leaders, as well as being a one man parade down 5th Avenue. Francis was treated like an All Pro rock star as he conducted mass at Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks and the Rangers, and numerous rock concerts. He also held mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where he paused to bless a young girl in a wheelchair and then got a standing ovation when he reached out to a group that has at times felt marginalized — the nuns who serve the church.

To the religious women of the United States,” Francis said in his native Spanish. “What would the church be without you. 


The Papal visit is now in Philly where he is addressing the World Meeting of Families. What a whirlwind tour.

Pope Francis is 78 years old. He’s been called the “People’s Pope.” He’s down to earth, friendly, and downright fatherly. He is truly a holy, humble man. When he can, he carries his own bag, for Pete’s sake.


The Pope is called the Holy Father because he is recognized by many to be the Father of church, and the church is a family of families. A father’s mandate, mission and motive centers on and circles around the care and comfort of his children. The children of a father are his utmost concern. And you don’t have to be catholic or even religions to see and understand that this Pope, this father, is fulfilling this assignment.

In football, a blocking guard is assigned to block. In basketball, a shooting guard is assigned to shoot. And in life, a spiritual guard is assigned to protect and defend. That’s the assignment of a father. So fathers, protestant and catholic alike, are you fulfilling your assignment? Teaching your kids how to catch and teaching your little girl how to be a lady and teaching “Jr” how to be a man is all a part of your assignment.

Jesus fulfilled his assignment.  He gave His life for us. He died for us.  He shed His blood for us. Likewise, Pope Francis is fulfilling his assignment.

How about you?

It’s That Simple

Lose to Win

Is your team a good team, a bad team, a glad team, or a sad team?

Just where does your team fit in?  As for me, my Eagles are not a good team. And neither are the Washington Redskins, but I’m not going to blog about them. Right now, the Eagles and the Redskins are bad teams.  There’s no gladness to be had, and so they are nothing more, nothing less than a sad team, which makes for a mad team.

Dallas is 2-0, but they’ve lost their quarterback, Tony Romo (thanks to the Eagles); the New York “Football” Giants beat the Redskins, but that’s not saying much; and the Eagles and the Redskins, well, they’re fighting for last place in the NFC East — and if this were college and they were to play in a “Bowl” at the end of the season, they would have to flip for the right to play in the “Toilet Bowl.” 

How do you go from bad and sad and mad to glad?  How do you turn things around and pull an upset and stage a comeback? 

Make necessary changes. It’s that simple. Because you have to lose to win. I’m not so good at some things. So if I want to improve myself and better myself and advance in those weak areas, I need to get mad enough to win ( I need to get mad enough and realize I’m bad enough to necessitate the need make the move from bad and sad to glad. Easy, peasy, right?  Almost.

In order to be good you have to want to be good and then you have to work to be good. It’s that simple. The problem with most of us is that we don’t want to put the work in; we’re not willing to put the work in so that God can get to work out all of our kinks and our quirks and our faults and our foibles. And I do mean all.

In other words, in order to win you have to lose yourself. Because the way up is always down. Losing your ego and your pride and sometimes your hide is necessary in order to find your way. Hillsong sings that we touch the sky when our knees hit the ground. It’s that simple.

So take if from the bad teams in the NFC East.  Do you want to improve? Do you want to get better and climb higher and run further?  It’s simple. Don’t be lazy. Don’t be lethargic. And for Pete’s sake, don’t blame your losses and misses and miscues and mistakes on anyone but yourself. YOU and only you are responsible for your actions. It’s that simple.

So don’t be a punk. Punk means a lot of things, including being of very poor quality, cheap and cheesy.  So don’t punk out and give up or give out.  Fix you. And stop trying to fix everybody else. Stop looking at others weaknesses and shortcomings and stare your own self down for a change.   

It’s that simple.

My Team Almost Made Me Cuss, a.k.a., Can Chip Right The Ship?

Eagles Cowboys

“Swear not at all.”
Matthew 5:34, KJV

Chip Kelly needs to look for another job. Because today, he and Sam Bradford and that awful, offensive “Offensive” Line almost made me cuss. 

That’s right. Cuss. As in use bad, four letter words. And not under my breath either. My team got beat up and beat down, banged and bumped, thumped and trumped by the Cowboys AT HOME. And I nearly used the few bad words I know to vent my anger.

I know all of you sanctimonious saints out there are judging me right now, and all of you hell raising heathens are saying, “almost cuss?” – what’s wrong with a few four letter words every now and then? But we shouldn’t use curse words at all. Not at all. The Bible says to “swear not at all.” And I believe that includes using regular words like cuss words.  Growing up in Philly, I had a saintly aunt who would get frustrated in her kitchen and say, “Oh Fudge!” And as a little boy I would think, “Wow, that’s awfully close to . . .”   

But today, my team, my Philadelphia Eagles, sure did push me to the limit.


We, and I do mean we, use bad words because it’s “cool” and politically correct to use a bad word or drop an “F” bomb every now and then to show people that we mean business. A lot of coaches use emotional, expressive epithets at half time and in post-game press conferences to show how upset they are, but is it really necessary? “Studies by psychologist Timothy Jay, of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, have found that swearing can provide both emotional release and relief from pain.” Really?

But that’s the way of the world. “People have a sense of catharsis and they feel better after using this kind of language,” Jay told Discovery News. “Most people look at swearing as a bad thing that you shouldn’t do, without asking what the positive aspects of it are.” Positive aspects? Really?

Cursing is a sign of frustration and a lack of faith. While the psychologists may say cursing is natural and good for your health and all of that jazz, when we are dejected and despondent and dismal and disappointed, we as Christians must have a better way of dealing and handling and responding to living than the world does. I mean, if people of faith react to the vagaries and variations and vicissitudes of life the same way that unbelievers do, then what is the point of having faith?

So, for my part, while it’s not lookin’ good for my Eagles, and while it looks like the season is over and it’s only just begun, we shouldn’t respond the same way that everyone else does. Ok, ok, ok, so I was really upset last week after the Falcons loss. But now, honestly, my hope is that Chip Kelly, some way, somehow, can right the ship.

Because if he doesn’t . . . (need I finish the sentence?)


Learn From Your Mistakes: Losing Is A Part Of Living


OK, so now that I’ve calmed down after fussing and fuming about the Eagles loss to Atlanta on Monday Night Football, I can write objectively. Ok, somewhat objectively. Chip is not a chump. He just had a bad night coaching. Chip has a plan and we hope that the plan includes a balanced running and passing attack. So that’s the word for the day: BALANCE.

Don’t get to high, and don’t sink so low. Ask God to help you maintain balance in everything you do.

This Eagles team is good, and they can be very good. In fact, they have the capacity and the capability of doing very well and going very far this season. But don’t we all say that about our teams at the beginning of every campaign?

This Eagles team can go 12-4. Easy.  I mean, last season we went 10-6, and we were two stupid losses away from — you got it — 12-4.  But with that numbing loss to the Falcons, we only have three more losses to burn.  So let’s learn that losing is a part of living. Let’s learn this lesson and plan to ultimately win even though we may initially or sporadically lose.

So we all have to learn that losing is a part of living. You can’t will ‘em all. And you won’t. We all have to learn the lesson, or lessons. We have to learn to fail; if we don’t, we will have failed to learn.

The Eagles need to learn from their mistakes. The Eagles need to learn that coming from behind is nice, but they need not make a habit of it. And the Eagles need to learn that they aren’t going to win the Super Bowl just because they went 3-1 in the preseason. The real games still must be played and won. 

Yes, if the Eagles just learn from their mistakes in one measly game, they’ll be fine. And so will we all.  

Moses Malone: A Man Among Men


Moses Malone had the right name. He was a mover and a shaker. Literally. He moved lesser men out-of-the-way to get his points and rebounds just like the Biblical Moses moved Pharaoh and the Egyptians out-of-the-way to get his people out of the muck and mire of making bricks without being given straw. Both men moved Heaven and earth to lead their people out of bondage. And for sports fans, losing is bondage.

Just like his namesake, Malone was a front-runner and forerunner and a groundbreaker and an earth shaker. And he certainly was a great basketball player. The first to jump from high school to the pros, Moses did it so that Kobe and LeBron and Kevin Garnett and countless others could follow.

Moses was a man among men. He was an All-Star and a League MVP and a Hall of Famer to boot. He averaged a double-double in points and rebounds his entire career. Moses played on a few great teams, and played a lot of great games. And of course Moses led the Sixers to the Promised Land of an NBA Title in 1983. He single-handedly handed Julius “Dr. J” Erving his one and only Championship Ring —  and for that, all of Philly is eternally grateful.


Moses did his job and did it well. He brought his lunch pail to work every day and didn’t ask for any favors or cut any corners. He scored in the paint and rebounded on the block without fail. When you needed a bucket and needed one “bad,” you went to Moses. The phrase “Malone Alone” became a catchall, as Moses would get points and grab rebounds just for something to do. Because that was what he was meant to do.

So, so long Moses. It is too ironic that you pass away on the heels of the passing of our other beloved Sixers’ Center, “Chocolate Thunder,” Darryl Dawkins. Both of you will forever live in the hearts and homes of the Philly Faithful, everywhere.