Thank You, Dr. King

MLK, Jr.2

January 15th is forever a day that minorities, especially African Americans, can be thankful for. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had vision and foresight, wisdom and prudence, and yes he dreamed. He urged and encouraged this great Nation to live out the content of its creed. In his eternally unforgettable March on Washington speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, Dr. King gave the Nation this challenge:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

In sports, since Dr. King’s death, we’ve seen many more minorities playing games, and a few more minorities managing teams, and yet fewer minorities owning franchises.  We haven’t overcome all racial and social discrimination yet, but thanks to Dr. King, we’ve come a long way, baby.

 

Happy birthday, Dr. King.

The Minnesota Miracle

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

Sometimes, you just need a miracle. You only have 25 seconds left to win the game? No problem. The game was gone; done and won (and lost), just like that.

Gone In 25 Seconds! That’s how fast the lead left the hands of the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees had just led his team to a potential game winning field goal to make the score 24-23 with just 25 ticks remaining on the clock. And what can you do with 25 seconds? Just ask Minnesota’s NFC Championship Game bound quarterback Case Keenum.

Talk about a stunner. The glory of this victory was nearly overshadowed by the agony and misery of the defeat. Keenum and Minnesota won, then lost and then won this game all over again. And Drew Brees lost, won, and then lost it for good.  It was one for the ages. How could this have happened? Why did it happen? And when it happened, all watching, victors and vanquished alike, were asking “What just happened?”

If you didn’t see it, you missed an overwhelming and awe-inspiring, crushing and humiliating, fantastic finish.  It was delightful and demoralizing, delirious and deleterious, depending on which color jersey you were wearing. The Vikings won on the final play of the game. With the clock winding down and the Vikings out of timeouts, Case Keenum found wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock struck zeros.

It’s being called the Miracle In Minnesota. Keenum had the ball in his hands in the final moments and orchestrated a major miracle. Keenum threw a pin-point pass to Diggs, who came down with it behind the New Orleans secondary, stayed on his feet and stayed in bounds, then streaked into the end zone as the Vikes stayed in the hunt for that elusive Super Bowl title. Diggs finished the game with six receptions for 137 yards, with his late snag on Sunday launching him into Vikings lore.

Minnesota jumped out to a 17-0 lead early in the game on a pair of rushing touchdowns by their running back tandem of Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. The two combined for 84 yards on 27 carries, outrushing the dynamic Saints duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Drew Brees was a maestro for New Orleans, orchestrating a second half comeback with three touchdown passes. New Orleans had taken a 24-23 lead with less than a minute to play as Wil Lutz drilled a 43-yard field goal to put the team ahead, erasing a 17-0 deficit. There were four lead changes in the final four minutes alone, with the Vikings having the ball.

The Vikings move on to play the Philadelphia Eagles next weekend in the NFC Championship Game. The winner will move on the Super Bowl to face either the New England Patriots or Jacksonville Jaguars.

But you all know who you should be rooting for, right?

Go Eagles!

Winning In January

 Ben Roethlisberger

In January, the days are short and the nights are long. The howling, northwest winds are chilly and the wind chill makes it even chillier. The ground is hard and the air is dry. In sum, there is nothing inviting about January. Most want to remain inside but they still play football outside. At least some do.  And some go on to win in January.  Only some.

The comfort January brings to football teams who win is in cold contrast to the weather, as the poem by Helen Hunt Jackson unfolds:

O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire,

What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn

Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn

Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire

The streams than under ice. June could not hire.

 

Her roses to forego the strength they learn

In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn

The bridges thou dost lay where men desire

In vain to build.

 

O Heart, when Love’s sun goes

To northward, and the sounds of singing cease,

Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace.

Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose.

Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows,

The winter is the winter’s own release.

 

January by Helen Hunt Jackson

 

Football in January is akin to basketball in June; only a few teams are privileged enough to make it to the postseason, and fewer still advance in the playoffs.  And this year, that would be my Eagles.  Philly played a gritty, gutsy game and eked out a win when no one game them a chance. To win in January is to summon every ounce of effort and every drop of determination because wins in January don’t come easy.

So here’s to Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles on their first playoff win since 2008. Hopefully, there’s more to come.

Keith Jackson

Kieth Jackson

Legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson, the Godfather of college football, just passed away. He was 89.

Keith Jackson coined such phrases as “Whoa Nellie!” and “the Big Ugly” and “The Weekend With Whiskers” and called Michigan’s football stadium “The Big House.”  Keith Jackson was a former American sportscaster, known for his long career with ABC Sports television, his coverage of college football as well as his style of folksy, down-to-earth commentary and deep voice.

“For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “When you heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Keith was a true gentleman and a memorable presence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Turi Ann, and his family.”

Jackson got his start on the radio in 1952, broadcasting Washington State games, but went on to provide the national television soundtrack for the biggest games in the most storied stadiums. His colorful expressions — “Whoa, Nellie” and “Big Uglies” among the many — became part of the college football lexicon.”

So long, Keith Jackson. Thanks for the memories.

Here are some of his Keith’s quotes: 

“Great teams have great character. These are teams that are not distraught that they’re down at halftime.” 

 

“The question came up the other day: Has there ever been another game that had more on it or more hype? The answer is no. … I think this one goes down as an all-time all-timer.” 

 

“He had never seen a corn dog, much less tasted one. It took him three quarters to eat one, and then he ate three.” 

 

“It’s just the aura, the ambience, particularly when it’s full. And then you’ve got the broad-shouldered San Gabriel’s sitting there, looking down on all of this.” — Keith Jackson

Advice To Philly and Foles and All Underdogs Everywhere:  “Prove the Doubters Wrong!”

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Foles needs to prove the dubters wrong. There are more people who doubt him than there are people who believe in him.  And that hurts. But it also helps, if you let it.

Nick Foles is up against it. Today, as the Eagles play the Falcons in the playoffs, Philly fans are hoping for a minor miracle. Maybe snow would help. Foles seems to play really good in the snow.  Or perhaps singing the words to this James Fortune song may help: 

Let Your power fall when your name is called

Prove the doubters wrong

Lord You are still mighty and strong

(so this is what l need you to do for me)

Fight this battle for me

So i can tell all my friends

That You have won again

You have won again

 

James Fortune

 

No one, and I mean no one, is giving Nick Foles a snowball’s chance in you know where to win today. No one. At least no one outside of Philly.  So Foles has nothing to lose if he is all in and goes all out at home at the Link in South Philly today.  The Eagles are not favored or the favorite. They have their backs up against the wall and there seems to be no way out. Everyone’s picking the Falcons to beat my Eagles in Philly. THE FALCONS?!

Now, without Wentz, Nick needs to knuckle down and muster up some energy to prove that he isn’t a wimp or a wuss of a quarterback. He needs to be all in and go all out.  That’s it.  That’s the recipe. The motto above the New England Patriots’ locker room is “Block Out The Noise!”

And that’s what the Eagles and Foles need to do. And the same goes for me and you too. You have doubters and haters and cynics and critics that say that you can’t and won’t make it. You have those who have dumbed you overboard and kicked you to the curb and left you on the side of the road for dead. Prove them wrong. Rise from the dust and from the depths and even from the dead.  Make a comeback. Win in an upset. Start trending up and not down and turn the ship around. You can do it!

Prove the doubters wrong.

 

 

Note From Tua Tagovailoa: “Wait Your Turn”

Tua

Did you see the game? Don’t tell me you went to bed at halftime!  What? You didn’t know the College Football Playoff National Championship game went to overtime?  Seriously?  Yes — I know the game went to well past midnight (East coast time) and I know that Georgia looked like they had Alabama whooped, leading 13-0 at intermission, and I know you get up at zero dark thirty to get to work. I do too. Trust me, I paid for staying up way past my bedtime; but believe you me, it was worth it.

I’ll almost forgive you if you tuned out and turned the TV off at halftime. I’ll try to forgive you if you didn’t want to watch Alabama and Saban win AGAIN. And I’ll definitely forgive you if you didn’t know about the Alabama second string backup quarterback from Hawaii. All he did was start the second half and end up winning the whole dag gum game in OT in dramatic, unforgettable, and for Georgia fans, unforgivable fashion. I’ll give you that one, because before 10 pm on Monday night, there probably were more than a few Alabama players that couldn’t even pronounce this kid’s name.

Just who is Tua Tagovailoa?  Good question.  In 2015, Sports Illustrated told the story of Tagovailoa, who was considered to be the best high school football player in Hawaii. At the time, the junior quarterback at Honolulu’s Saint Louis High School was drawing comparisons to the school’s most famous alum, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.  And not coincidently enough, Tua has this in common with his hero, Marcus Mariota: they are Christians whose goal is “to go out and show the world that Christ lives.” http://christiannewsjournal.com/throwin-prayin-samoans/

Tagovailoa is now the true freshman from Hawaii who everyone is talking about. Talk about a David coming off of the bench to slay a Goliath. One sports writer said that “sometimes, it pays to wait and watch, biding your time until you can show the world just what you can do” Amen. And the hymn writer gave us this gem:

 Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in his love.

“For Tua Tagovailoa, his chance came on college football’s biggest stage, when Alabama Coach Nick Saban decided at halftime to replace quarterback Jalen Hurts with his freshman from Hawaii, a guy who had been offered a scholarship only after Jake Fromm flipped his commitment to Georgia.

“It was a wild ride from there, with Tagovailoa completing one of the best game-winning passes in college football since Doug Flutie in 1984 as the Crimson Tide won in overtime. But the glory of that 41-yard touchdown pass came after an ugly moment in which he took a sack. “Tua probably couldn’t have thrown that pass if I could have gotten ahold of him after the sack,” Saban said afterward, “but I couldn’t get out there fast enough.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/01/09/who-is-alabamas-tua-tagovailoa-and-why-wasnt-he-playing-all-season/?utm_term=.278650168bee

Yes, let’s not forget about Nick Saban, probably the best college football coach, ever. EVER!  Nick Saban most certainly deserves credit for changing quarterbacks, and he also deserves credit for how both players handled themselves.  Sometimes things work out better than our wildest dreams, just because we went with our gut (Saban), waited our turn (Tua) and maybe even handled adversity with grace (Hurts).

Tagovailoa had played only sparingly as a freshman, but Saban turned to him with the Tide down 13-0 at halftime and he threw two touchdown passes, along with an interception. He completed 14-of-26 passes for 166 yards and left everyone wondering why Saban hadn’t turned to him before. I’ll tell you why. Because his time had not yet come.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia

So the lesson from the Polynesian lad from Hawaii is this: be patient. Wait your turn. Don’t get a big head and don’t get down on yourself.  Things will work out, just you wait and see.

Running The Human RACE  

RACE

I just saw the 2016 film, RACE, “a sports movie that once again shows the triumph of the human spirit and how everyone is equal when the gun goes off.” 

Jesse Owens’ quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. It’s a solid sports biopic that teaches and entertains and leaves you longing for more. The history lesson gives nuances that you definitely want to explore on your own, such as, what did Owens do after the Olympics?

The racial challenges that Jesse Owens wrestles with in the film are palpable. Jim Crow rules on the American frontier while Hitler and the Third Riech are rising in Germany.  While both are sinful, it’s hard to split hairs or point fingers; the tension between the races presents the viewer with a moral dilemma: when it comes to race, is there a blacker black or a whiter white? The question is asked but not answered. Racism and antisemitism are on full display, and who’s to say which is the more sinister evil?

Sports gives the human race the opportunity to run the race of life with zest and zeal, blocking out all distractions and evil intentions in order to obtain gold.  And now, in this the 21st Century, when it comes to race, it seems that the blending and the melding of interracial relationships present us an even tone instead of the juxtaposition of black vs. white, which are values, not colors.

As for the film, I enjoyed it emensily, but also agree with this film critic: “Perhaps the strongest argument against Race is that a film this important deserves more than a standard, by-the-numbers treatment. Although there’s nothing terribly wrong about the movie, there’s nothing special about the way in which it presents a remarkable 20th century chapter. The bare necessities are there, the performances are competent, and there are some strong moments but Race suffers from a lack of ambition. It’s too safe and that quality mutes its impact and limits its ability to be more than a history lesson.”   (A movie review by James Berardinelli)