Trump Is The Goliath Of Our Day

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Trump is the Goliath of present politics. And just like in sports, when the bad guy looks mean and mad and menacing, and the underdog looks lean and lanky and listless, it may seem like all hope is lost. And Trump is just like Goliath. He’s big, he’s loud, he’s brash, and he’s brazen, and it looks like he’s going to win. And if he does, God help us.

Yes we’ve all hated the “Goliaths” of sports: the New York Yankees or the Boston Celtics or the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons or the dastardly Duke Blue Devils. We’ve hated the favored first place team anywhere all the time. But you have to admit that when they whipped and walloped and worn down and beat up the opposition (including our hometown team, for that matter) they most certainly had energy. The question is, was it positive energy or negative energy? Either way, it was energy.

So the question is no longer “Can Trump win?” The Question is “WILL Trump win?” And for all those of you out there that say it can’t happen and it won’t happen and it better not happen and there’s no way it could or should happen, I urge you to think again. I urge you to reach out and run out and race out right now and require every relative and resident you know to register to vote and ensure that he does NOT. Does not win the 2016 general election, that is. Because he’s all but got the GOP nomination locked up. It’s that serious.

Like him or lump him, Trump is an attraction. Like him or not — like it or not, Trump has traction. And he has energy. It might be negative energy, but it’s still energy. Hoping and wishing and wanting him to lose is not going to cut it. It works the same way with you and me, too. Wanting to win and wishing that we win does not ensure that we will win. It’s a good start, but it’s not enough. David is needed to cancel and counter and contradict Goliath.

So, to continue the Biblical analogy, if Trump is Goliath, who’s David? More importantly, where’s David? Maybe we don’t know who he is or where she is because he or she hasn’t been released and revealed to the battle field just yet. If that’s the case, I sure hope that  he or she’s on the way. You will remember that David came off the sideline and out of the shade and out of the shadows and burst into the light and onto center stage after God providentially arranged for the soon to be shepherd king to be sent to save the day.

So . . . ? Where does that leave us? What does that leave us? Who does that leave us? Instead of believing God, Saul and his army were fumbling and mumbling and crumbling away in dens and caves. They did this for forty days. And they would have done it longer had not David arrived on the scene.

So let’s not bemoan and bewail our political situation. Let’s not belittle and bad mouth Trump or any other candidate either. Let’s put our trust in God. In all of our situations, let’s pray that God will send us a deliverer. When our team is down and our winters’ are brown and our face wears a frown, let’s continue to hope and to pray that God will turn it around, and send David, or send US to be the David. Because He did it before, and He can do it again!

The Daytona 500’s Photo Finish!

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I’m not a race car fan, but there are plenty of you out there who are. So here’s to the grandaddy of ’em all, the biggest and baddest and bestest of all  auto races: the Indianapolis 500 (oops, I mean the Daytona 500 – my bad!) Today was the race.  Well,  if you didn’t see it live, the finish lived up to the pace of the chase with great grace.  

Deny Hamlin won by a nose. By all accounts, it was a thrilling race and an even more chilling finish. So the spiritual lesson is that you can win by almost nothing. But it’s still a win. Because, a win, is a win, is a win. And the difference and the distance between winning and losing is as close as a hair and as far apart as a galaxy’s night and a distant star’s day.

Are You Ready For March Madness? You Should Be!

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Yeah, yeah yeah. I know. It’s still February. But March is right around the corner. And this college basketball season coincides with a presidential election year and as we all know, anything can happen.

Let’s check the political “standings,” shall we? Hilary is holding on and Bernie Sanders is holding out and Trump is winning and Bush is losing – er, what’s that? Wait, what? Bush pulled out of the race? Ohmygosh. The presidential election “preseason” pick to win it all just went down in flames. Apparently, America is in no mood for Bush III. There goes the far right republican response to the hot headed hooligan who’s running away with the popular vote; if you think what he says is “popular.” This, my friends, is politics’ version of March Madness.

Donald Trump is such a polarizing symbol. He’s become the non, negative extreme example and the pious, poster boy picture of what March Madness has come to mean to the political machine. In basketball, we’d call Trump an underdog. But he’s an apt allusion for a country that’s used to their front-runners winning and their favorites grinning and their unwanted waning and the forlorned fading into the background. But not anymore. The age of upsets has come to politics. So watch out.

All right already — enough of that politics stuff. Let’s get back to basketball. College basketball.

This college basketball season, the top seeds are falling and the bottom feeders are rising and there’s no clear cut favorite to win it all. It’s just about anybody’s race. You could argue that anyone of the top ten teams in the country can win the championship. Villanova is No. 1. Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia (Virginia?), Xavier, Michigan State and West Virginia all are in the Associated Press Top 10 Poll this week, (emphasis on THIS week) and anyone of them could win it all. OK, maybe not Virginia (Sorry Cavalier fans). And then there’s my Maryland Terrapins! That’s right, MY team! Let’s Go Terps!

So, who ya got? Who’s going to go all the way and go to the Final Four in Houston and cut down the nets? It could be my underachieving Maryland Men’s Basketball Team coached by Mark Turgeon. And if 23-5 is underachieving, then what does overachieving look like? What will the Terps look like when (not if) they put it all together and they REALLY start playing?

And that’s the lesson for the rest of us. We are doing OK most of the time, but then there comes the slip up and the hiccup and the hitch and the glitch that delays our destiny. So we have to do just like my Terrapins did against Michigan today: continue to battle through missteps and mistakes and stop doubting and keep believing. In other words, just hold on. It’s not over yet. Maryland can will it all. And spiritually speaking, you and I can too.

And I believe Maryland will. So there. I said it. And I mean it. And I’m ready for March Madness. Are you?

Slip Out Of The Slump

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Maryland Terrapins Basketball: How Can Melo Trimble Get Out Of His Slump?

Melo Trimble is in trouble. Big trouble. Deep trouble. Trouble trouble. He’s in danger with a dilemma and a difficulty that he doesn’t seem to know how to fix. He can’t hit the side of a barn and his team needs him. The Terps desperately need their superman, super star, All American point guard to break out of his slump and put on that superman suit and start acting like a super, Super Man and quit acting like a marshmallow Clarke Kent.

Maryland needs Melo to make big shots and hit clutch shots in big games (and small games too, for that matter). The Terps need Melo to lead them and guide them and steer them in the right direction if they are to be anywhere near the great team we know they can be. There’s plenty of basketball left this season, and from here on out and down the stretch, no game is too small and no team is too insignificant. The fact that the Minnesota Golden Gophers were 0-13 in conference play before last night meant nothing. It’s that simple.

Melo is turning the ball over and making bad decisions and just not looking like the Melo Trimble we’ve all come to know and love. It’s sad to watch. It makes me mad to watch. But I’ll be glad to watch Melo march right out of this slump just in time for the Big Ten Tournament and March Madness.

It’s been a while since Melo has played to his potential. In the last two games, first against Wisconsin (AT HOME!) and then last night against Minnesota, Trimble was abysmal.  As I sat and watched in horror, with the game on the line, Trimble turned the ball over three possessions in a row.  First he had the ball stolen from him, then he threw up an anemic looking air ball, and THEN he dribbled the baseline and tried to tightrope the end line but instead went out of bounds.  My, my, my. Game, set match Minnesota.

What’s worst is that he’s lost his touch. Melo can’t hit a shot and can’t knock down a three and can’t stroke a jumper. It’s awful. And he looks awful. Something MUST wrong. Is it physical? Mental? Emotional? What is it? The coaches and the fans and the Maryland faithful are all stumped about the cause of the slump.

If you’ve ever slouched into a slump or been stuck in a rut or pitched into a ditch, you may know a little something about how to get in a funk. But it’s not getting in that we need help with; it’s getting out. Getting in is much easier than getting out, and that’s when we need a helping hand.

Spiritually speaking, we’ve all been in a slump. Long ones and short ones and dry ones and wry ones and dreary ones and weary ones. No two slumps are ever alike, but we’ve all been there. But the good news is that a slump is never eternal. Remember, setbacks are only setups for a comeback. Weeping only endures for a night. Joy is promised to come in the morning. Hallelujah!

During a slump, the key is to recognize that you are where you are. Don’t waste time blaming and complaining. You’re in a slump. Acknowledge it. But is that where you want to be? Of course not! So then you must take the proper and necessary steps to stop the bleeding and start the healing.

So, if you’ve got a good suggestion, please beep him or buzz him or text him or tweet him. Call or contact or page or petition, but by all means, if you’ve got an antidote for what ails my Terps and Mr. Melo, pray tell, please do speak up.

Stone Is A Diamond In The Rough

 

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Maryland center Diamond Stone stands on the court in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland Eastern Shore, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

How do you explain away a boneheaded, blockheaded, blunder of a blooper? Temporary insanity? Out of body experience? Or do you just use Flip Wilson’s famous line: “the devil made me do it!” Diamond Stone needs all of these and some to explain his actions in this past Saturday’s BiG 10 Conference game against Wisconsin.

Diamond Stone is a McDonald’s All American. Diamond Stone won four straight High School State Championships back in Wisconsin. (Yes he’s from Wisconsin, so how ironic is it that this gaff came against Wisconsin?) Diamond Stone was one of the most sought after basketball recruits in the Country, and he chose to come to the University of Maryland because he wanted to win a national Championship. And yet with slip ups and hiccups like the one he pulled against the Badgers, his home state team, the only thing he’ll win is an asterisk in annals of college also-rans and could-have-beens.

Maryland center Diamond Stone has been suspended for Thursday’s game against Minnesota after the freshman big man shoved Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown’s head to the floor late in the first half of his team’s 70-57 loss on Saturday. Let me put it another way: Stone, the diamond that his name says he is, slammed another player’s head into the floor. INTO THE FLOOR!  And he wasn’t kicked out of the game. He was lucky to be suspended for just one game. The school made the decision, and it was supported by the Big Ten.

Stone, who scored 10 points and grabbed one rebound in the loss, was issued a contact dead ball technical foul but was not tossed from the game. But he should have been called for a Flagrant II, and kicked out of the contest.

“Diamond’s conduct during Saturday’s game was a poor representation of the standards that we have established as a program at the University of Maryland,” Coach Turgeon said.” I have talked with Diamond and he realizes he made a mistake. He felt very badly about what happened and will learn from this experience. I want to sincerely apologize to Vitto Brown and Greg Gard for what transpired Saturday.”

For his part, Stone did issue an apology, although it was a generic, cliché, cookie cutter, uninspired and unmoving canned and carefully scripted, almost sardonic statement. 

Unfortunately, there’s no excuse for Stone’s faux pas. None. There’s absolutely no excusing what he did. He slipped up and messed up and now he’s got to fess up and face up to the fact that you can’t keep dancing when the music stops playing. You can’t march to the beat of your own drum and get away with garbage like that. We all get emotional from time to time. If we didn’t, especially during the heat of a moment, someone might need to check our pulse. But the life lesson here is that you should NEVER let your emotions get the best of you. Never.

So back to Stone, who is a Diamond in the rough. Diamond needs some polishing. And quickly. He’s a kid with a bright future but he could have a dark past if he pulls another stunt like this again. He did something that we all agree was reprehensible and unacceptable. The kid made a mistake. Now hopefully he’ll “learn from this” and grow.

But before we throw Stone under the proverbial bus, we all have committed dumb fouls and made stupid mistakes and wished we hadn’t lost our heads when we blew our cool. I get it. So let’s just hope that Diamond chalks this one up as a “rookie” mistake that should never happen again so he can go ahead and move ahead and look ahead to what should be a positive and promising  career.

Faith In God Is A Slam Dunk 2.0

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Aaron Gordon should have won the 2016 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Period. He threw down the best dunk of the night. End quote. In virtually any other year in dunk contest history, Gordon would have been an obvious, unanimous winner. He brought innovation to go with his athleticism, pulling off dunks without NBA precedent using the Orlando Magic’s mascot “Stuff.”

The dunk that dazzled the denizens in Toronto and around the NBA world was and will be an instinct and forever classic. Gordon took the ball from the grizzly, green mascot Stuff as he circled on a hoverboard; this required tremendous precision. Gordon also managed to soar over the mascot while finishing with a windmill and a dunk in which he went under his legs and seemed to hover in midair (with his eyes at rim level) to finish. The dunk was surely the night’s best single effort, bringing down the house. Many thought that this scintillating, fascinating, slick, slam would surely give Gordon the 2016 NBA Slam Dunk contest crown. It did not.

Gordon’s signature dunk was great but his best wasn’t good enough as last year’s slam dunk champion, Zach LaVine, won over the judges and took home the title. How ironic. How sardonic. Even Zack LaVine said that the two dunkers should have shared the trophy. In life and in sports, some things should be unquestioned, undisputed and unchallenged.

A field goal that splits the uprights, a homerun that lands in the upper deck, and a sprinter that breaks the tape far ahead of the pack are all slam dunks. You don’t have to review the video tape over and over to make sure. It just goes without saying. And another of those things is our God. Yes, such is the case with our God and such should be the case with our faith in God.

Faith in God is a slam dunk. Faith in God is an air tight, fait accompli, open and shut, no questions asked, done deal proposition. At least it should be. The existence of God has been discussed and debated, considered and contemplated since time immoral. And the answer is still the same. God is. God always has been and God always will be. That, my friends, is a slam dunk.

The problem is that the world and our flesh and devil combine and conspire to block and rock and sock our faith so that we don’t believe. Unfortunately, we often don’t believe despite the preponderance of evidence that should lead us to believe rather than doubt and distrust the power and promise of God. Instead of holding on to God’s unchanging hand we wander with the world and flounder in our flesh and dance with the devil and make believing and trusting and relying on God harder that it needs to be.

Our faith is based on what God says, not on what the devil says. Our faith is based on what God has promised and provided, not on what our friends have renounced and reneged on. Our faith should redirect our fear. As the hymn writer Charles Albert Tindley said, we must trust and never doubt and He will surely bring us out. So take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.

So this is my way of encouraging myself in the Lord and building myself up in my holy faith and standing on the promises of God. This is my way of telling myself to “stop relying on yourself” and learn to lean and rely only and solely on God. Because the only slam dunk there is, the only hope and help we have, is in the God of our salvation and the Father of all creation. The only slam dunk we have is in God and his son, Christ Jesus.

Tribute To Kobe Bryant: A Liked and Loathed Treasured Trove

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Kobe has more than his fair share of fans and foes. More than many or any other player, Kobe has a long list of likers and lumpers and lauders and defrauders. He’s won big and he’s lost bad, and yet he’s still as enduring a player as there ever was in all of sports. He’s won five NBA championships, two early and three later; first the three -peat from 2000 to 2002 and then the back to back in 2009 and 2010, with two distinctly different teams. The first three came with Shaq and the later two with Paul Gasol. And now he’s riding off into the sunset.

Kobe entered the NBA directly from high school, and he has played for the Lakers his entire career. He came in young and he’s going out old (for an athlete) and in between his bush and his bald head, he’s weathered many a storm and has tethered plenty of lukewarm admiration from us all.  

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Kobe’s done it all. In addition to 5 Larry O’Brien Trophies, he’s an 18-time All-Star, and he has won the All-Star MVP Award four times (2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011), tying him for the most All Star MVP Awards in NBA history. He’s a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. He has led the league in scoring twice, and he ranks third on both the league’s all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring lists. And at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won gold medals as a member of the U.S. national team.

But the current Kobe isn’t the Kobe that we once knew. By his own admission, the retiring 20-year veteran is “old as hell,” he said, laughing. Kobe continued to be among the top players in the league through 2013, when the 34-year-old Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon. His body, now an old 37, has aggressively waved the white flag, making this the only time that any part of Kobe has given up. Therefore, what you’ll see on Sunday is a museum piece, and a somewhat fragile one.

All-Star moments are rarely crystallized and preserved in our memory banks, mainly because the game itself is a simple exhibition. You’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Some are exceptions: Magic Johnson in 1992 after his HIV announcement being the most pronounced.

Kobe’s first All-Star Game might be No. 2 on the unforgettable list. It was the Passing the Torch game, meaningful for that and other reasons. Kobe was just 19, the youngest All-Star ever. The setting was New York and the arena was the Garden. It was 1998 and Jordan was making his final appearance as a Bull (though no one knew for sure at the time). With Jordan on the East (coached by Larry Bird no less) and Kobe on the West, the square-off was just too irresistible to ignore, and the pair fed everyone’s appetite by trading baskets.

In a sense, that scene will be repeated Sunday because Kobe will have so many torches in his hands, he might burn his fingers. There is Steph Curry and LeBron James, Paul George and Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and others who were raised on basketball by Kobe.

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Like him or lump him, you can’t ignore him and his long legacy of winning, even if it came with plenty of cheese and a lot of “wine.” It seems as if Kobe’s complained about just about everything along the way. Most infamously, he complained about Shaq. But he made a comeback. And that’s what really matters. He’s endured teams and teammates and highs and lows and ups and downs and ins and outs. And for the rest of us, he’s shown how one can take a likin’ and keep on tickin’.