What’s Your “Differential?”


The Chicago Cubs are in 1st place!  Yes, the Chi Town, Wrigley Field playin’ Cubbies are in 1st place, with the best record in Baseball (it needs to be repeated repeatedly to sink in). The Cubs lead their Division, the National League Central, with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, perennial powerhouses, far behind.  Go figure. Certainly all baseball fans everywhere are scratching their heads and shaking their heads right about now.

The question is, “can they hang on?” They’re 62-40, 6.5 games ahead of the Cardinals in their Division and 0.016 percentage points ahead the Washington Nationals for first place overall. We’re heading into August, the dog days of summer, and it remains to be seen if the front runners can outrun and outlast and out outlive the likes of Baltimore and Texas and San Francisco and Cleveland. Yes Cleveland. And did someone say the Nationals? Nah, I didn’t think so.

Baseball’s a funny game. And since there’s a lot of baseball left to be played, anything can happen. But one thing’s for certain — the generally underachieving Cubs have emerged and continue to be one of the best stories in all of baseball.

The Cubs are winning and winning big. 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 Cubs have gone from bottom feeders to World Series contenders. In the blink of an eye. Wow.  And so the lesson is this: “the race is not given to the swift nor the battle to the strong. . . .  but time and chance happen to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:1, NKJV

The Cubs have completely altered the conversation.  For example, the Cubs “Differential,” the difference between “RS” (runs scored), and “RA” (runs scored against them), is +166. PLUS One hundred and sixty six! The closest team to then is the Nationals, with a Differential of +116. And most teams don’t even have a huge positive differential, much less a positive one at all. My Phillies have a differential of NEGATIVE 107. Seriously? I’m not a big sports analytics guy, but +166 is a number that just can’t be ignored.

So what’s your differential? What’s the difference between your good decisions and your bad decision? What’s the difference between how much money you have saved and how much you owe?  What’s the difference between how much you forgive and the amount God has forgiven you? How about it?


So this year, I’m rooting for the Cubs. They deserve to win. They’re desperate to win. And some would say, they’re destined to win. So here’s to a World Series featuring the Chicago team not to win one in it. And here’s that they win it. 

Thank God For Sports: a.k.a., Why Did God Invent Sports?

Kids Celebrating

God likes Baseball. And I think that He’s rooting for the Cubs this year (they’re in first place, right?) God likes football (American) and soccer (football) and basketball. God actually loves sports – ALL sports. And so it follows that God especially likes the Olympics. But more on that later.

So where were we? Oh yeah. God loves sports. God loves badminton and bocce ball and beach ball and bowling and lacrosse and laser tag. God loves gymnastics and aerobics and swimming and diving and crewing and sailing and skydiving and rock climbing and track and field and field hockey and everything else in between.

There are reasons why we need to actively participate in sports (and the key word is ACTIVELY, not passively, all you couch potatoes out there!) Here are three: 

“We need regular exercise. Kids on a sports team will be able to run, jump, and play with friends. Exercising in a group environment will teach kids to appreciate physical activity at a young age, likely reinforcing the habit for life. Keeping a child active is one key to preventing a sedentary lifestyle that could lead to serious health conditions like type II diabetes, stemming from childhood obesity.

 We need to learn sportsmanship. When children play an organized sport, they’ll learn to work together as a team to better understand respect and sportsmanship. Even though a soccer team may win a game, kids will be taught to congratulate the losing team and vice versa when the tables are turned.

 We need to relieve stress. Children that have difficulty coping with day-to-day stress at school or at home can use group sports for much-needed stress relief (And adults too). Even more importantly, children with a bad home environment can use team sports as an outlet instead of turning to drugs or crime as a result of peer pressure.” https://geckosportsblog.com/2014/12/22/what-you-should-know-about-the-benefits-of-kids-playing-sports/ 

So since I’m not alone, I found this article in Christianity Today by Mark Moring that pretty much sums up what I’d like to say on the subject:

So, if you play any sport in general, or if you play or played high-school sports in particular, you’re hardly alone. “More than 6 million students played sports at the high-school level last year. Wow!

But why do you play? According to a recent survey, you’ve apparently got some great reasons. Here are the top ten reasons high-school students play sports:

10. To win
9.   To learn new skills
8.   For the challenge of competition
7.   To be a part of a team
6.   To get exercise
5.   For the excitement of competition
4.   To do something I’m good at
3.   To stay in shape

2.   To improve skill

1. To have fun

The No. 1  answer was “To have fun.” I like that. I also like the fact that “to win” was buried at the bottom of the list.

Sure, winning is great. My team won the state basketball title my senior year, and that was one of the all-time highs of my life. But it wasn’t just the winning. That’s fleeting. Victories alone don’t make great memories. People do.

My teammates were my best friends in high school, and we had a blast. Sure, we worked hard in practice. But we had fun too. And man, those road trips on the bus—we really knew how to have a good time. Still, as I look at this list of good reasons to play sports, there’s one very good reason missing: To glorify God.

Actually, I think glorifying God and having fun kind of go together, at least when it comes to sports. If God gave you the ability to play sports, it pleases Him to see you having fun while using that ability:

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

So, when you play, play for him. That’s about as good—and as fun—as it gets.  If God gave you the ability to play sports, it pleases Him to see you having fun while using that ability.” 


Sports, Politics and the Heat of Battle

trump hillary

Politics, to some, is sport. And what some do in the heat of battle is beneath most and beyond many. That’s why some say that politics is a “blood sport.” But that’s nothing new and that’s no new news.  So since we’re right in between the Republican National Convention (which I did not watch) and the upcoming Democratic National Convention (which I will not watch), it’s fitting that we give this rejoinder and get this reminder.

Regardless of who wins the 2016 Presidential election and regardless of who wins the White House and regardless of which political party has the majority, God is still in charge. Case closed. End of discussion. So that’s why I can’t and won’t get all wound up about who wins. Especially this year. Because in the end, God wins. And because God wins, we win.

Sports is a give-it-all-you’ve got, last man standing, winner take all endeavor that we love and enjoy.  But when it becomes gory and gruesome, brutal and bloody, we shake our heads and turn our heads, and scratch our heads in wonder of how far and how low one will go just to get a “W.”

Politics to some is “sport.” It’s the hunt they enjoy.  It’s the kill that is the thrill. The modern idiom we use to describe this blood sport is to “play politics.”  To play politics means “to engage in political intrigue, take advantage of a political situation or issue, resort to partisan politics, and to exploit a political system or political relationships.” 

To play politics means “to deal with people in an opportunistic, manipulative, or devious way, as for job advancement.”  After Watergate and Iran Contra-Gate and all of the other political scandals we’ve seen over the years, this sounds all too familiar.  Surely, Machiavelli was right: “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Playing politics is not like playing patty-cake or shooting marbles.  When you are dealing with people’s lives, and the life of those closest to you, that’s something else altogether. Biblical David was, among many things, a politician.  Yet he got in over his head and his family suffered for it. He sank to deep and went too far and stopped too short by not acknowledging his sin, and the rest is, well, history. 

So let’s learn some lessons here. Sports are supposed to be clean and fun and pure and natural. And it’s only “natural” because we are all born in sin and shaped in iniquity. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. And His name is Jesus.

And one more lesson needs to be learned: let’s not judge; let’s forgive, but let’s not forget the high price and the soaring cost of playing dirty and living loosely and the ill effect it has on us and on the “game.”

Is This The Year For The Cubs?

Here’s Why I’m Pulling For The Cubs, And You Should Too.

To date the Cubbies are 57-37 and are tied with the San Francisco Giants for the best record in all of baseball. But the question is not “how are they doing now?”  The question is, “How will they fare this fall?”  We’ll see. For now, let’s just pull and push and cheer and tear for them as they try and make history.

This is reblogged from Fall 2015, and it’s worth repeating, because the question really is, “Is the year for the Cubs?”

God and Sports


The Chicago Cubs finished the 2014 season 73-89, eight games under .500 and 17 games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.  But that was then. This is now. Now, the Cubbies have Joe Maddon as their manager, and in just one year, Maddon has motivated his men to make a massive and mammoth march toward the goal of winning a World Series, the first since 1908.

The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, becoming the first Major League team to play in three consecutive Fall Classics, and the first to win it twice. The team has appeared in seven World Series following their 1908 title, most recently in 1945. The Cubs have not won the World Series in 107 years, the longest championship drought of any major North American professional sports team.

But somebody say “Turnaround!”

The Cubs finished this season with the third best…

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In The End, The Beginning Finally Makes Sense: “The Fundamentals of Caring”

Fundamentals of Caring 2

Netflix subscribers, I’ve got a “trending” one that you just have to watch.
If you don’t mind dark comedy and foul language and crass humor, then “The Fundamentals of Caring” is a movie just for you. So if you don’t detest a flippant, untidy, witty and wonderful tale of restoration and renewal, this movie is really just for you. And it’s actually a really good film, full of drama and comedy and emotion and objectivity and crisis and intervention and recovery and redemption. And that’s just the beginning.

Caring is fundamental. That’s one of the lessons the film teaches. In my humble opinion, too many people just don’t care. And to insert a movie quote, some people “quite frankly,” just “don’t give a damn.” And that’s the chronic crisis of our generation. If more people would shed their apathy and put on some empathy, or at least smidge of sympathy, the world would be a much better place.

“So if apathy describes the absence of pathos, then pathos is the opposite of apathy. Alas, pathos, and certainly the adjective pathetic, have acquired quite a negative connotation, and are not generally understood any more as feeling, passionate. So for words that do somehow, in a general way, describe that somebody is actively feeling about things around them, I would suggest passionate as an option. And passionate is defined as having, showing, or expressing strong emotions or beliefs.

It seems interesting, when we look at the origin of passion, that pathos has moved from general (if sometimes suffering) emotional engagement towards a negative, mainly suffering meaning in English, whereas passion, originally mainly meaning suffering, has moved towards a more general, and certainly nowadays positive meaning. I don’t think that most speakers of English will associate someone’s passion for human rights with the passion in the passion of Christ.” http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/187649/antonym-of-apathy
But that is exactly where “Fundamentals of Caring” is leading us.

“Fundamentals of Caring” has all the makings of a Sunday sermon (minus the language) tied in a nice, neat, trim and slim movie picture package that’s worth more than its weight in gold. The night of darkness must, as with all redemptive stories, yield to the light of day and the delight of deliverance. And such is the case with “Fundamentals.” In the end, the beginning finally makes sense. And that is where faith comes in. We have to believe that all the incidents and instances and encounters and endeavors in our lives have meaning. They must.

Fundamentally and not incidentally, when your heart is pure and your hands are clean, life’s twists and turns tend to veer and curve and even swerve in ways we would never have dreamed of. And that’s the beauty of following a God that knows the end from the beginning. Again, in the end, the beginning finally makes sense.
And so here’s a critic’s view of “Fundamentals:”

“Attempting to find work and dealing with divorce papers he’s avoided signing for over 2 years, Ben (Paul Rudd) decides to become a certified caregiver. His first job is helping out Trevor (Craig Roberts), a young man with duchenne muscular dystrophy. Trevor lives with his overprotective mother and hasn’t been very far from his house his entire life. Trevor is fascinated with roadside attractions and Ben begins asking him why he doesn’t just go and see them. Trevor claims he doesn’t want to, but suddenly has a change of heart after an argument with Ben. Now the two men are heading out onto the road for one week. Along the way they meet up with an attractive hitchhiker (Selena Gomez) that Trevor becomes infatuated with, and a pregnant woman (Megan Ferguson) trying to get to her mother’s house before her due date.

The Fundamentals of Caring is an odd mixture of dramatic clichés and refreshing originality. It’s not hard to see where things will end up just by reading that synopsis, but while things may lead to where you think, they at least take a unique trip to get there.

Trevor and Ben are exactly the kind of characters you would expect. Ben is dealing with a terrible accident in his past, having difficulty sleeping and simply dealing with the things in his life. Trevor deals with his disability through humor. He’s sarcastic, occasionally rude, and doesn’t mind a few self-deprecating jokes here and there. While these characters are pretty much the definition of road trip buddies in a film like this, their motivations and actions are anything but. This is what makes The Fundamentals of Caring so entertaining.”

Not to mention it’s heartwarming too.

In Basketball, “TD” Stands for Timmy Duncan


I know it’s time to blog about baseball and the boys of summer and the Olympic Trials and Tom Brady losing his latest appeal regarding “Deflate Gate,” but we must pause because due applause is fitting and proper for one of the all-time great basketball players of our time: Tim Duncan.

Timmy Duncan was solid and steady, sturdy and stable, dependable and reliable, night in and night out. He just came to play and got the job done. Game after game and season after season and championship after championship, Tim scored points and grabbed rebounds and blocked shots. He wasn’t flashy nor was he flamboyant. And thank God for that.

The New York Times reported that “Duncan’s retirement was as quiet as Kobe Bryant’s was colorful and protracted. The Spurs released a statement highlighting his achievements, but without a quotation from the player.” It speaks volumes to how unassuming and unpretentious this humble and yet heroic player was. And what a lesson for all the sports world to follow.

Thanks for 19 great seasons, Timmy. You were one of the best. And boy will we miss seeing you together with these guys. 


Here’s the full New York Times article:


“After 19 years and five championships with the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan announced Monday morning that he would retire at age 40.

Duncan was an elite player on an excellent Spurs team for his entire career. The Spurs made the playoffs every year in his tenure, never with a winning percentage lower than .610, and won five titles, with Duncan the finals’ most valuable player in three of them. He also won the league M.V.P. Award twice.

A relative latecomer to basketball growing up in the Virgin Islands, the 6-foot-11 Duncan was initially a swimmer. He was the No. 1 pick in the N.B.A. draft after four years at Wake Forest. (The Spurs had the top pick as a result of a rare down season largely caused by an injury to David Robinson.) The player selected just after Duncan, Keith Van Horn, has been out of the league for a decade.

Duncan initially starred in a “twin towers” lineup with Robinson, winning two titles. After Robinson’s retirement in 2004, Duncan carried on as the team’s star, winning three more N.B.A. crowns, most recently in 2013-14 over the Miami Heat in LeBron James’s last year there.

Duncan’s low-key nature often kept him out of the spotlight, but the sheer force of his accomplishments pushes him onto just about every list of the greats.

Duncan ranks fifth in career blocked shots (3,020), sixth in rebounds (15,091), seventh in games played (1,392) and 14th in points (26,496).

Duncan’s playing time had gradually been reduced in recent years, and he had ceded his starring role on the Spurs to Kawhi Leonard. Though he started 60 of the 61 games he played this season, he hit career lows in just about every category. But he was an All-Star as recently as 2015.

Duncan’s retirement was as quiet as Kobe Bryant’s was colorful and protracted. The Spurs released a statement highlighting his achievements, but without a quotation from the player.”




How To Hit a Home Run

Reggie Jackson Sports_Illustrated

Everyone wants to hit a home run. Everyone wants to hit it out of the park and over the fence and further and higher than everyone else. And everyone wants to have everyone cheer for them. It’s part of our DNA. No one wants to strike out and leave runners stranded on base. No one. But the question is, “how do you hit a home run?” or more importantly, “how do you consistently hit home runs?” A simple web search produced this answer:

“I would say the main factors that go into hitting distance are:

A) Batter’s Strength

When the ball hits the bat, the force is applied the opposite direction of the swing, trying to push the bat backwards. A stronger batter can apply more forward force and resist the ball’s force.

B) Pitch Velocity

The faster the pitch, the farther it will soar. This is because the ball picks up kinetic energy, which is then used when sending it over the fence. You will sometimes see contests where fans are chosen to try to hit a homerun off a tee for a car or some big prize- in reality, almost all of the players wouldn’t be able to because there is no kinetic energy to add to the hit that the pitch provides.

C) Bat Speed

Kind of takes a back seat to the batter’s strength, because obviously if you’re stronger you’ll be able to swing faster- however certain technique can help improve bat speed

D) Connection (hitting the ball at the right angle and on the optimal spot “sweet spot” on the bat).”

So, what is the spiritual tie in?  How to you translate this sports analogy to life?

Batter’s strength is number one.  You first have to be strong enough.  And strength comes through endurance and perseverance and patience and tolerance. It doesn’t come overnight but time is not the answer either.

Strength comes through training and practice and preparation and correct application. It’s not that simple, but then again, it’s really a factor of willpower and backbone and drive and determination.  It’s about overcoming and obstacles and sticking to it and hanging in there and going the distance.

“Dealing with and overcoming setbacks and stumbling blocks is what builds your character and ability to grow. Remember, don’t take things personally. People do things to other people because it makes them feel better. They try to get you to feel as bad as they do about themselves. You need to be careful with emotions. They can be a very negative force in your life that can direct you on paths better not travelled. We all experience bad things from other people. It’s how and what we do with those experiences that define who we ultimately become.”

Pitch Velocity is number 2. In other words, the harder and faster the ball or “the situation” comes at you, the higher the chance of you hitting it farther. In other words, if we want to hit home runs, we should get excited when it’s hard and it’s difficult and it’s challenging. Because the darker the night, and the fiercer the fight, the sweeter the victory.

Bat speed and Connection are factors of practice, practice, practice. “Practice? We talkin’ bout practice?”  (Where is Allen Iverson when you need him?)

So, as you watch this year’s Home Run Derby (note that you’re watching, not me, because it’s just not my cup of tea), let’s remember one of the greatest home run hitters of all time, Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October.” In the 1977 World Series, Reggie hit three home runs in Game Six against the Dodgers on three consecutive at bats. Not too shabby.

Reggie Jackson Card

So, here’s to the home runs in life that you and I will hit.