When You Get Down, You Don’t Have To Go Out

Curry Victorious

Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors were down by 22 points to the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. Twenty Two Points! And yet they won by twelve, 110 to 98. That’s a 34 point swing. Talk about a turnaround! When they were down, they were mentally tough and physically smart and they didn’t let their circumstances dictate their destiny.

What could have been an ego bruising, pride damaging loss turned into a late season, message sending, thriller of a win ON THE ROAD for the Warriors. The Spurs were trying to send the first place Warriors a message. Instead, the golden boys from Golden State sent a gold leaf message of their own by erasing a disappointing deficit and turning it into a surprising surplus. 

The message to the rest of us and even to the best of us is loud and clear: if the Warriors can do it in sports, we can do it in life, too.

So always, always, always remember this: if you get way down, you don’t have to wither out. To mix sports metaphors, being down in the count doesn’t have to mean you can’t or won’t hit a homerun. Quite the contrary; being down is not the end. Staying down can mean the end, but we all know that down is not out.

We are destined to win. Even though disappointment and discouragement and setbacks and letdowns are a part of life, they are not the lot of life. The keyword here is “part.” They don’t make up the whole of living. Time is filled with swift transition. Peace like a river can attend your way one minute, and then sorrows like sea billows roll can rush in the next. But the key is our faith and our focus.

Just like Steph Curry and the Warriors have shown us, when you get down, don’t stay down. Keep your chin up and your hopes high. Watch your body language and check your facial expressions.  And when you have a down moment or a down day or a down season, just do like Mo Farah did last summer in the Olympics: get back up and get back going! https://godandsports.net/2016/08/13/note-from-mo-farah-get-back-up-and-get-back-going/ 

A good reminder is the poem from the unknown poet, who once gave us these encouraging words:

Don’t Quit

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Note From Oregon and South Carolina: “We’re The Little Engines That Could!”

Oregon vs. Kansas

I am so happy for the Oregon Ducks. I am. They KO’ed Kansas, and now they’re on their way to the Final Four. They have players like Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell. Go Ducks! The Oregon motto was “Don’t sleep on us.” And Kansas did just that, to their peril. The Associated Press said this: “With swagger and verve and downright prolific shooting, the plucky team that everybody wanted to count out rolled to a 74-60 victory over the Jayhawks on Saturday night, earning the Ducks their first trip to the national semifinals in nearly 80 years.

‘You feel so good for so many people,’ said Ducks coach Dana Altman, who is headed to his first Final Four after 13 trips to the NCAA Tournament. ‘It’s a team effort. You feel good for a lot of people.’ Indeed, a whole lot of people had a hand in it.

Tyler Dorsey hit six 3s and poured in 27 points, and Dillon Brooks added 17 points; and what about the defense of Jordan Bell? Bell finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a virtuoso performance for the Ducks (33-5). Bell was a man among men as he single-handedly shut down the Kansas offense. Oregon seized the lead with 16 minutes left in the first half and never trailed the rest of the way.”

South Carolina Coach and Players

And what about the South Carolina Gamecocks? They took on and took out Duke and Baylor and Florida, and now they’re on their way to their first Final Four, ever. In the Elite Eight, South Carolina was seeded as a No. 7, and Florida, seeded as a No. 4, with its portfolio of postseason pedigree, couldn’t stop a determined South Carolina squad.  Their victory “T” Shirts read: “Cut the Nets.”  To the victor goes the spoils.  And I love their coach.  Just look as his facial expression. Frank Martin coaches with the intensity and the  propensity to push and pull and poke and prod his team on to victory.  Love it. 

So the correlation is clear. You must believe that you can! Just like the children’s book entitled, “The Little Engine That Could,” first and foremost we all need to dig deep and double down and stop listening to the naysayers who say that we don’t have the right stuff and we don’t do the right things and we’re too awkward and too backward and we’re too this and too that, and blah, blah, blah.  Phooey!

So here’s a homework assignment. Let’s all go and find and get and read “The Little Engine That Could,” again, or the first time. It’s an illustrated children’s book that became widely known in the United States after publication in 1930 by Platt & Munk. The story is used to teach children (and dare I say adults?) the value of optimism and hard work, something we all need a little more of. Amen

Note From Gonzaga: “You Can Win More With Few”

Coach Mark Few

Coach Mark Few said this: Gonzaga “making The Final Four means Everything!” I’m happy for coach Few and the gang from Gonzaga. They’ve won the right to play in a Final Four for the first time in school history.  Coach Few, who many think should be the national coach of the year, has built Gonzaga up from nothing and they’ve come from nowhere and now they stand on the brink of the biggest stage poised to win the biggest prize in Men’s college basketball. 

So why not route for Gonzaga?

It’s Not Who You Come To See, Its Who You Leave Talkin’ About

De'Aaron Fox

 Kenny Smith said “It’s Not Who You Come To See, Its Who You Leave Talkin’ About.”  Truth.

Going into last night’s marquee matchup between UCLA and Kentucky,  all the attention and media concentration was on  the consensus No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft,  UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. But another lesser known freshman sensation changed all of that by playing the game of his life.

 Lonzo Ball and the UCLA Bruins may be a great team, but last night they played a better team.  I turned on the TV expecting a basketball game and a track meet broke out. It was a fast paced, up and down, back and forth affair, and that’s how life is sometimes. And last night, a better player, in De’Aaron Fox, at least last night, broke out too.

Fox, a lesser known Kentucky freshman guard outplayed fellow freshman phenom Lonzo Ball with one of the best scoring nights in Kentucky’s vaunted NCAA Tournament history.

Fox scored a career-high 39 points as Kentucky beat UCLA 86-75 Friday night in a Sweet Sixteen showdown between two of college basketball’s goliaths for a spot in the South Regional final. Fox not only turned in the best NCAA scoring performance since Tayshaun Prince had 41 against Tulsa in 2002, it was the best by a freshman in tournament history.

Fox fought and scratched and clawed his way to a 39 point night because the matchup was personal. Fox took the game right to Ball, and last night, Lonzo wasn’t the baller that he’s been billed to be. And the Kentucky Wildcat played like a fox and took full advantage of the fact that he wasn’t expected to have a great, spectacular, sensational game while on the court with the fan favorite from UCLA.

It just goes to show ya, it’s not how you start, its how you finish. And now De’Aaron and his Wildcat wonder boy buddies will play North Carolina for the right to go to the 2017 Final Four in Phoenix. So don’t put all your money on the favorite or the front runner. Because they may not be as good as you when no one gives you a chance to be the best you can be.

 

LaVar Ball: Father Knows Best? 

LaVar-Ball_HS-Sons-

Fathers are our bedrock and our backbone. They are our rudder and our tether; our guide and our guard. Fathers give direction and prod us to perfection; fathers give support and supervision and provide protection and loving affection. Just like our Heavenly Father, our earthly fathers are supposed to be there for us; they’re supposed to love us and school us in the ways of this life, and the life to come hereafter.

Sports fathers are a special breed. A father with a child athlete that is not over the top and operates under the radar is unique and exclusive. And LaVar ball, in his own inimitable, incomparable and incorrigible way, has demonstrated to all other sports dads in the sports world how NOT to be a sports dad.

LaVar Ball, father of Lonzo Ball of UCLA fame, has two other sons coming up behind Lonzo. Dads’claim to fame is that all three of his “Baller” Boys will be multi-million dollar dandies in the NBA. At least that’s the plan. But sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray (from Robert Burns’ poem, “To a Mouse”).

LaVar Ball has been criticized and analyzed and pulverized in the popular press for his outlandish and outrageous comments; and rightfully so. His dramatic and bombastic and fantastic and sarcastic sayings have surely affected his sons, and especially his eldest son, and may affect his status and standing in the upcoming NBA Draft. An NBA team may want to jump on and snatch up the son, but do they want to fool with the father? Because the one certainly and assuredly comes with the other; i.e., the son absolutely does not come without the dad.

Just think about it: is LaVar Ball bettering his sons, or is he badgering their chances? A father is supposed to better, not badger. And so the jury is still out on this one.

Here’s just a sampling of some of the things LaVar Ball has said:

1. “Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.” — March 2017

Have you stopped laughing yet? OK, good.

LaVar Ball averaged 2 points per game with Washington State before transferring to Division II Cal State Los Angeles. At that same time, Michael Jordan was averaging 35 points per game with the Bulls. He’s a six-time NBA champion and the greatest to ever play.

Plus, LaVar already admitted that he “wasn’t all that.” LaVar says a lot of crazy things, but this tops them all. Michael Jordan was beating NBA players at age 49. He’d destroy LaVar Ball.

2. “A billion dollars, it has to be there. That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 mil over 10 years.” — March 2017

This statement could make its case for the top spot because there is absolutely no way he should expect a billion-dollar endorsement contract for his sons. LeBron James’ lifetime deal with Nike is rumored to be worth in the billions, but he’s LeBron James — a future Hall of Famer and basketball icon.

This will never happen. How does he even expect that to happen?

3. “I’ll tell you right now, he’s better than Steph Curry to me.” — February 2017

“To me ‘Zo is the best player in the world. … I don’t know if he can beat (LeBron James and Russell Westbrook) one on one, but I know he can beat them 5 on 5.” — March 2017 By: Andrew Joseph , For The Win, March 17, 2017

God help the sons of LaVar Ball.

Duke Dismantles Its Own Destiny 

South Carolina Coach

This just in: Duke is done and Villanova is gone. And UVA, Florida State and and Louisville are all gone too. Oregon and North Carolina came back and held on and eeked out tough wins as they survived to sustain their stay at the Big Dance. And Michigan has now survived an aborted airplane takeoff and two fierce opponents as they continue to survive in March; they won, again, and now they’re on their way to the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin beat Villanova, and South Carolina dumped Duke, and they both won because they played one way: hard. Yes you need to play smart, but you still need to play hard. Duke’s  topsy, turvy, up and down, in and out season came to an abrubt halt and a premature end when every thing they’ve done and been through finally caught up with them.

Carolina wasn’t soft or spongy or squishy or squashy. They were firm and fierce and dogged and determined. Likewise, in life we should play and live with heart and smarts and grit and mettle.  And if your opponent plays hard, you just play harder.

That goes for players and coaches alike. While the players need to play hard, coaches need to work just as hard, and that’s what Frank Martin, coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, did. He cried tears of joy after they defeated Duke, not because he’s soft, but because his players played hard, and I loved every tear.

So be strong. Be stout. Be sturdy. Play and live life one way: hard-nosed and thick skinned. The Urban Dictionary says that hard-nosed is “a tough, straightforward, take-no-prisoners way of carrying oneself. Hard-nosed people may not be sensitive or tactful, but they are gritty and tackle problems head-on.” Amen to that.

And when you’re thick skinned you’re not easily bothered by things and you don’t let your emotions drive the train. That’s my definition. When you’re down, you don’t get down. And when you’re up, you’re still temperate and tolerant. When you have thick skin, you may be passionate, but you’re not really all that emotionally moved or overly sensitive when things don’t go your way.

So don’t take things personally, i.e., “from a personal standpoint or according to your own particular nature or in a subjective rather than an objective way” (Urban Dictionary). Look at the big picture and have eternity in view, because in the end we know we win.

So let’s learn to live every day and every play with the end in mind. Because only the strong know how to play hard and play smart and survive and advance in the Big Dance of life.

Survive The Madness and Advance In March

George-Mason-Sports-Illustrated-Cover

Survive and advance. That’s the name of the game. That’s the goal and the general idea. To survive and advance is everyone’s aim and aspiration. That’s what it’s all about, right? So if you snooze, you lose. Because it’s win or go home, baby.

So who ya got? Kansas? UCLA? Arizona? Gonzaga? Kentucky? North Carolina? Last year’s Champion,Villanova? Or God forbid – Duke? It’s the Big Dance and it appears that one of the big dogs will win it all again, unless a Cinderella crashes the party.

Vince Lombardi, the immortal coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Naturally speaking, this phrase has been overblown and misunderstood.  But spiritually speaking, Lombardi was spot on. When it comes to surviving and advancing, Lombardi was right.  Who remembers who came in second place?  Who remembers who was the runner up? Who even remembers the entire final four year in and year out? And is being the second runner-up as rewarding as finishing first?  Is an honorable mention as gratifying as the championship trophy?

Winning is everything. And not just winning, but winning big. I’m not talking about the margin of victory, but the quality of victory. The fiercer the battle, the sweeter the victory. Hard fought wins are more memorable, more satisfying, and more gratifying than all others. And so it is with life. 

The life God wants us to live is about quality, not necessary quantity. Coming back from way back, getting to the ball and not only dancing with the Prince, but falling in love with the prince, and having the Prince hunt her down to see if she fit the glass slipper she inadvertently left behind, is what we all love about Cinderella. That’s why we all love Cinderella stories.  Those improbable victories that no one, I mean no one – not even Hollywood – can script, are what we live and die for.

God loves the long-shot.  God loves the underdog.  God loves Cinderella.  She had undergone mistreatment and maladjustment before she met the Prince at the ball.  But she first believed that she would indeed meet the prince; and along the way she had unlikely help, too.

The Bible says this about victory: “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”  Cinderella believed.  I come back to this because if you can believe, you can achieve. If you can survive, you can advance. Believing is the first step.

Many of us have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, beaten bigger, better, more talented teams, and won when no one gave us a chance.  Many of us have undergone major surgery, endured unforeseen layoffs, weathered 100-year storms, and yet overcame big setbacks and huge letdowns.  We bounced-back, with the help of God and some God-sent friends and fans, and overcame the worst of circumstances.  Cinderella had mice, sparrows, a pumpkin and a Fairy Godmother.  We have those who are Heaven-sent into our lives, who, just when we need them most, come to our rescue and stretch the basketball rim just enough to let the winning shot go in.