The Pain Of Loss

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I just lost my mom. “Loss” is the conventional, politically correct term you use when a loved one or friend passes away. My mom was sick and she died on March 8th, right in the middle of March Madness. So this March, the madness of March was more maddening for me for so many days in so many ways and on so many levels. So that’s why I haven’t been writing or posting for a while.

A loss hurts. A loss burns and bruises and even barks and bites. A loss can break and bend and twist and curve and swerve and nerve your emotions and affections like nothing else can.

For Christians, when someone we know dies, our loved one is not “lost” per se; it’s just that their presence is lost; they’re physically dead and gone to us. And there’s nothing we can do to bring them back. But they’re not lost as if we can’t find them, because we know where they are. However, it’s still a loss of their face and their embrace and their voice and their visits and their laugh and their love.  

While it does not compare — not hardly – the University of Maryland Basketball Team lost. Actually, my team won and lost. They won 27 games, but they lost 9. They began the season 15-1 and finished 14-8, but in March they were 5-3 and they finished the season a woeful 5-6, dating back to that mind bending, nerve numbing, unexplainable, inexplicable loss at lowly Minnesota on February 18th and the home loss to Wisconsin on February 13th.

According to Joshua Needleman of the Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s student run newspaper, “The sentiment for much of the season was when — not if — the Terps started clicking, they’d be unstoppable. They stormed to a 15-1 start even while working through some kinks.”

“Yet in an odd twist, the Terps didn’t get better or wiser over time — like my mom — or like that bottle of Chardonnay residing untouched in the cellar for years. They slowly fell apart, each loss sapping more and more of the fan base’s confidence. There always seemed to be something going awry, a new question that needed an answer.”

In another excellent article written by Alex Kirshner of the TestudoTimes, Kirshner writes “Maryland’s basketball team existed in a weird space this year. The Terps entered the season as a popular national title pick, and they remained so well into February. Even this March, plenty of people thought they had it in them. In the days leading up to the Terps’ season-ending loss to Kansas in the Sweet 16, I’d come around to expecting Maryland to beat the NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed. The Terps had a tantalizing glow about them, even when they weren’t their best.

The Terps wound up winning three times as many games as they lost, finishing 27-9. That’s really good for most programs, and it’s really good for Maryland. The Terps made their first Sweet 16 since 2003, which is quite an achievement. But in the end, why did the season seem so unsuccessful?”

 That’s a question that begs an answer. As with all of the other teams that lost in the NCAA Tournament, we have the hope of next season, and the high expectations of seeing Maryland players go on to the NBA and doing well (but if the underclassmen just came back for one more run!)

With all loses, we must look back, reminisce and recall to mind the mercies of the Lord. We must savor the good and sift through and sift out the bad. My mom was sick — I mean really sick — for the last six months of her life. I watched as she withered away, and the loss of her health and her strength was as hurtful as the loss of her presence.

But the grandkids and my sisters and I have the legacy of her love, many, many, meaningful memories and the wonderful well wishes and the sweet scented sentiments of our family and friends that will carry us till we see her again one day.

RGIII Is Traded to Cleveland: a.k.a., Do You Believe In Resurrections?

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Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III kneels on the sideline during an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Cleveland. (How Ironic is this pic?)

Here’s where sports and spirituality collide. Here’s where we split hairs between what’s carnal and what’s sacred. And here’s where I can defend the combination of God and sports all day. Not only do I believe in The Resurrection, but I believe in resurrections, in sports and in life, and I hope you do too. RGIII needs a rousing, riveting, reviving resurrection right about now. And I hope he gets one.

Robert Griffin, III, a.k.a. RGIII, just got traded from the Washington Redskins to the Cleveland Browns. That’s right – the Cleveland Browns. And lest you lament that he could languish and loaf and loiter in football La La Land, a.k.a. Cleveland, he could be trade bait for the upcoming NFL Draft, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First things first. RGIII is headed to another team and that means he has another chance at another dream.

Despite the Browns’ well-documented history of subpar play under center, there is a sense of optimism in Ohio this spring with the arrival of new head coach Hue Jackson, who is widely known as a quarterback savant. He has extensive experience developing quarterbacks, most notably with the recent work he’s done with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. And now there’s hope he can resurrect RGIII’s career as well.

I’ve blogged about my man RGIII a few times here before because I like him. I do. (https://godandsports.net/2015/09/02/another-one-bites-the-dust-a-k-a-the-rise-and-fall-of-rgiii-in-dc/https://godandsports.net/2013/11/09/dont-beat-yourself/ –  https://godandsports.net/2013/08/24/rgiii-a-life-changing-story/)  But I don’t like how he’s been treated or how he’s been cheated or how he looks defeated. So I hope that he bounces back and comes back and even storms back from way back to fare well in the dungeon and dunghill of the NFL.  

And I hope that he proves all of the doubters wrong. We all have detractors and dissenters and disparagers and disbelievers. What else is new? What we all need to do is to Diss them and decide to disappoint them. Yes he needs to be stronger in the pocket and yes he needs to learn how to get rid of the football faster and yes he needs to learn how not take a hit and yes he needs to work on a whole lot of things, but who doesn’t? Don’t we all need a resurrection?

So here’s to RGIII and to the Cleveland Browns. Because in sports, anything is possible if you just believe.

Sweet And Sour Sixteen

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My University of Maryland Terrapins are good enough to go all the way. And, at times, they’re bad enough to go nowhere.  That’s the sweetness and sourness of my team. And Jake Layman has been as sweet and sour as they come. No offense to Melo Tribble, but Layman is the lynchpin. As goes Layman, so go the Terps. When he’s hot, they’re hot, and when he’s not, they’re not. So let’s hope that Layman lays it all down and leaves nothing on the court tonight. That would be sweet. They’ve made it to the Sweet 16 and they’re facing the Top Seeded Kansas Jayhawks tonight. At 9:40 pm. So I’m grateful that I’m not going to work tomorrow.

So how ‘bout it? Do you think my Terps stand a chance? Do the pundits and the experts and the sages and the sports scholars think they stand a chance? But does that even matter? For that matter, does what others think about you matter? Of course not! What matters is, do the TERPS themselves think they stand a chance?

And that’s where most of us miss it. We turn sour and we lose our sweetness and freshness and pureness when we crave the praise of men. When we crave adoration and confirmation and affirmation to the point where we wilt and wane and wither and waste away if we don’t get a pat on the back or a smack on the butt, we’re finished before we even begin. Don’t get me wrong; we all need encouragement, but if we don’t get it we should not give up the fight. What matters most is what God says and what we believe about what HE says. I’ll say my own amen on that one. AMEN!

If I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet the house on my Terps. It’s all or nothing. Do or die. Win or go home.  The sweet part of the Sweet 16 is that 16 teams have advanced this far. The sour part is that there are 52 other teams that did not make it this far and wish they could have. That’s a lot of teams. Michigan State is one of them, but let’s not go there, right? And so a lot of other teams went down to the wire but lost at the buzzer. That’s the sour side of sports in general and the Sweet 16 in specific. Someone has to lose. Just don’t let it be you.

The sweet side is that Maryland is one of a few teams that can boast and brag that they’re played good enough at the right time to be on the national stage under the national spotlight and have an outside chance at winning it all. Most importantly, they believe.

And herein lies the lesson. YOU have got to believe for others to believe.  If you don’t think you’ve got what it takes to take what life’s got, then go home now. Go straight home. Do not pass “GO”. Do not collect $200 (a Monopoly Game analogy, for those that remember and love that great game). Facing Kansas could be taken as a sour taste and an offensive smell. But it’s all a part of the package of life. Kansas is the opponent and they must be beat. To sulk at the prospect of facing Kansas is to doubt and to pout when instead the Terps should believe.

That’s it. That’s it right there. First and foremost, you’ve gotta believe. Because faith without works is dead. So, while you’ll have some days that are dark and some hours that are dour and sour, focus and fixate and zero in and put all the money on the sweet taste of victory. Then you’ve got to give it all you’ve got. So play like there’s no tomorrow. And if my Terps don’t there won’t be a tomorrow. At least not for them.  

The Madness Of March

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Michigan State is gone. West Virginia is gone. Cal is gone too. All were favorites to go deep into the tournament. All were expected to play and win and advance. Oh well. At least they played.  But this is March, and batting one out of three just ain’t gonna cut it.

Yes this is the madness of the month of March.  It’s a balmy 70 degrees one day and then you have to brace yourself against wintry winds the next.

And such is life.  You’re enjoying life to the fullest one minute, and then you’re fighting back tears the next. And God gives us the grace to enjoy and endure it all. Thank God for His amazing grace.

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Don’t Stop The Madness!

God and Sports

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That’s right; don’t stop the madness.

For all tried and true, red, white and blue sports fans, this is the most wonderful time of the year. And we love it. The Super Bowl is only one game, the World Series doesn’t generate the gusto, and the NBA and NHL Finals pale in comparison to the madness of March. So don’t stop it.

The madness of it all is that no-one, and I mean no-one, can predict the outcome and the ending and the final score or the margin of victory or the magnitude of misery that will be produced  over the next three weekends.  And there are so many unanswered questions, like these: Can Kansas go all the way? If they don’t who will be the team to stop them. Maryland?   Will there be another Cinderella? And the amusement of the madness is that we don’t know, but we’ll watch as many…

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The Republican Party: United They Stand, Divided They Fall

Chris Christie

This is a sports blog.  A God and sports blog, that is. This is not a political blog or a partisan politics blog or party policy blog. It’s a sports blog. That being said, politics is a sport. It’s a blood sport. And the principles and practices that apply to all sports in general apply to any sport in specific. And the sport in question today is Republican politics.

Blue or red, liberal or conservative, right wing or left flank, when you talk victory, you must talk unity and harmony. Any and all teams must come together and gel in order to make a serious late season surge and a powerful playoff push to the title. No sports team in the history of sports has ever won with discord and disagreement and conflict and controversy on the team all the time. It just doesn’t happen. Dysfunction and malfunction and compunction have no place on a winning team, but are always found in the loser’s locker room. Negativity and insensitivity don’t t make for a winner or a champion or a victor or an overcomer at any level. Not at all.

The Republican’s are fighting amongst themselves. To say that the Republican Party — or at least the Republican elite, that is — are divided, is an understatement. There’s infighting and finger pointing and lambasting and backstabbing like you wouldn’t believe. While Chris Christie has endorsed Trump (Really?), most of the other establishment elite can’t agree on anything other than to say that Donald Trump is “unfit to be president.” This coming from Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney?  It would appear that the Grand Ole Party is so split and so torn that the prospect of unity is bleak at best.

The Republican Party has fractures and fissures and cracks and creaks that they just can’t seem to fix. The main problem is this: The Republican establishment’s got a front runner that they all hate and they’ve got wanna be presidential hopefuls that not all of them love. The Old Republican guard has a presumptive nominee that they don’t like and also rans that are riding a one wheel bike. Trump has taken off the gloves and the three other hopefuls still in the race don’t seem like they can collect all of the delegates necessary to be nominated. At least not before the convention and not without a fight.

According to one political strategist, “if there is a contested convention the chances of chaos are high.” And so the lesson is this: without unity, we have nothing.  No Super Bowl rings and no NBA Championship banners and no World Series victory parades. Nada. We have nothing without unity. And according to one party insider, J.M. Stipanovich, ”the Republican Party is not going to come out of this in one piece., and I think whoever the Republican Nominee would be isn’t going to win in November.” Ouch.

So what’s the Republican Party to do? They need to take a page from the playbook for all teams: United we stand and divided we fall. It’s that simple. We don’t have to be uniform but we do have to be unified. And the “we” here is every team and faction and party and couple and church and congregation, everywhere. We must come together and we must stick together. Or else we won’t make it.

And so this is a cry to Christians everywhere. Let’s stop fighting each other and fight our common enemy – Satan. The devil wins when we war within. It’s that simple.