God And No Sports

No baseball. No basketball. No hockey. No NCAA tournament. No college games of any kind. No high school competition anywhere. No sports. No sports at all.

But while we don’t have sports, we do have God and our faith in Him.

There are some things we just can’t do without.  Food, water, shelter, smartphones, Netflix, toilet paper — you know, all the basics. But with the onset of the horrid and heinous, worldwide COVID-19, Corona Virus Pandemic, we’ve learned that we’ve been obsessed with sports, and we took the presence of sports for granted — both at the same time. Sports is part and parcel of our daily lives. But what we thought we just had to have, we’re now forced to make do without. 

Sports provide community, unity, and the opportunity for social interaction on multiple levels. Sports and athletics, in their purest form, teach so many valuable life lessons. Most importantly, for the masses who participate in them, sports provide an acquired immunity from individual dysfunction and societal unrest.

At the micro level, exercising and keeping fit are now known necessities. Individual workouts and team sports are societal norms and are accepted as par for the course. And at the macro level, when a team wins a championship, the entire community comes together to celebrate. Two cases in point near and dear to my heart are Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs winning Super Bowl LIV and backup quarterback Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles winning Super Bowl LII.  These victories galvanized thousands if not millions around a sporting event, and the thrill of victory.

But there is a dark downside to sports. And this season, or this non-season of no sports, has borne this out like never before.

It’s been a hard lesson to learn. For one, I’ve learned how sports dependent I really was, and how sports dependent America sorely is. And we are all learning how emotionally unhealthy and psychologically unbalanced this dependency has made us. The stay at home order has revealed how unstable we have become with and without sports. Sports were our fix and our fancy, but without all those games we’re all going through a long and painful withdrawal.  

The next point is, for those who worship the true and living God, we believe that He is God and God alone, and beside Him there is none other. And with this supreme sovereignty and supremacy comes this warning of woe from the Lord: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

When you add it all up, the sum and conclusion is this: whether the sports world in general or Christians in specific want to admit it or not, sports have become a god. Actually, sports are more like an idol, something which is adored blindly and excessively. And throughout the Bible, God repeatedly reproved His people for worshiping idols. And now, for this generation, God is saying that this addiction to sports must stop. And it must stop now.

The 2020 Olympics have been moved to 2021.  Wimbledon has been canceled. Major League Baseball is wrestling with when (and if) to start the 2020 season. The National Basketball Association is deliberating over when or if to resume the current season. And the National Football League, the heavyweight and haymaker of U.S. sports, is grappling with the very real possibility that the 2020 season may be briefly shortened or severely curtained.  

The almighty dollar should not be the reason for resuming professional sports, but it seems that money is always the bottom line. Certainly everything associated with the games we watch contribute billions if not untold trillions of dollars to our economy worldwide. We know how the virus is adversely affecting life in general and the global bottom line. Thousands of lives have been lost. And at this writing, many more are still being infected. But at what point do we resume mass gatherings when we don’t have an antidote for this deadly disease?

My takeaway from the virus holding us at bay is this: I love God, and I must love Him and maintain my faith in more than I love and depend on sports. That’s it.  Sports cannot be a god or an idol or an infatuation over and above the Lord God Himself. It can’t, but I fear that sports has competed with my Lord and contented for my faith far and away more that it should.

For me, and dare I say for America, sports had become the walk off homer and the buzzer beater and the winning ace of our affection.  On many days and in many ways, sports succeeded in intercepting my thoughts and illegally holding my time and flagrantly fouling my spirit my when my heart belongs to heaven.

Only God in Heaven can do for us what we try to get sports to do, and that is to thrill and to chill and to fill our hearts with Him. Only God – God and God alone — can fill the void in us that needs to be filled. This virus has revealed our emptiness, and the only cure for our need to be filled is time with Him.

Stephen Strasburg Just Got A $245 Million Payday: Miracle or Madness?

 

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Stephen Strasburg signs record $245 Million contract with 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals.

It’s a miracle that the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series. The madness is that they had to pay their ace, MVP pitcher Stephen Strasburg, $245 Million dollars to stay with the team. I say they “had to,” because if they didn’t, another team would. That much mula is mad money, no matter how you slice it.

Stephen Strasburg just cashed in. But I’m not hattin’.  He had a great year and won his team the World Series, so he deserves to be rewarded. But MAN!  Salaries in professional sports continue spiral up and out of control, with no ceiling in sight. That’s madness. Why on God’s green earth does free agency cost so much?

The miracle could be how these exorbitant salaries will be used by those who are blessed with them. The moral of the story is this: those who are rich are charged not to trust in wealth, but in God.  Paul instructed Timothy to “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Tim 6:17, NIV

So, since we can’t stop the ever increasing rise of riches in this world, especially in the world of sports, let’s collectively use it to our advantage. Let’s turn a possible negative into a positive. No we can’t spend Strasburg’s money, but we can encourage him to give back. Money is not bad, but loving money above God and all else is.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, Stephen Strasburg and the $245 Million his Washington Nationals just gave him, as the defending champions brought back their World Series MVP.  Here’s how one sports writer put it:

“Well, the hot stove is officially lit. An eye-popping $245 million deal for ace Stephen Strasburg to return to the Nationals got the fun started on the first day of baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego.”

“Stephen Stasburg just signed the largest ever contract for a pitcher in both total and average annual value ($35 million). Former Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole is expected to surpass both of those numbers this offseason, but Strasburg still projects as the highest-earning pitcher in major league history. His career earnings will come out to just over $361 million when this contract ends.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/12/09/stephen-strasburg-contract-nationals/

And here’s ESPN’s David Schoenfield’s gut reaction to the question, “Do you like this deal for the Nationals?

“Hey, it’s not my money! This guy just carried your team to a World Series title, but that’s also a very large chunk of change for a pitcher who just topped 176 innings for the first time since 2014. There’s nothing wrong with bringing him back and continuing to construct your team around the big three of Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin.”

I’m happy for Strasburg. I am. And I hope he goes on to have many more productive seasons. With that, even though I’m a Phillies fan, go NATS!

Stephen Strasburg: Give Your Team Another Chance At Victory

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I TOLD you! I told you the Washington Nationals would win! And wow, what a way to win.

The Washington Nationals won the World Series because Stephen Strasburg, the Series MVP, gave his team another chance at victory.

In April, no one, and I mean no one picked them to go this far, much less win the title the way they did. Going into the playoffs, nobody gave them any respect. And against the astronomical pitching staff of the Houston Astros, there was no way that these plucky, happy go lucky, baseball diamond darlings could pull out and pull off an upset victory. And yet they did it. They actually did it! They made it all the way to a come from behind win in Game 7 of the Fall Classic. And now here they stand as the champions of the world.

It took chemistry and comrade and faith and fight, and conviction and compulsion. Yes it took all that, and some. This Nationals team is the underdog of underdogs, the Cinderella of Cinderella’s and the David of David’s. They upset the favorites; they came back from way back and they turned their 19-31 season all the way around. And they turned a 3-2 World Series deficit around. AND they won all four games ON THE ROAD.

It was almost like a dream that has never come true. Because it’s never been done before — ever. This is the stuff that legends are made of.

The Nats improbable playoff journey was a beauty to behold. This team won the wild card game by coming from behind, then they beat the Dodgers, the best team in the National League, by coming from behind, and then, they beat the best team in baseball, the Houston Astros, by . . . wait for it . . . coming from behind and winning the last two games of the World Series on the road. What they’ve done deserves all of the credit in the world.

Most importantly, Stephen Strasburg went 5-0 with a ridiculous ERA of 1.98 in the post season. And if that wasn’t enough, in Game 6, Stras gave it all he had and turned in the performance of a lifetime. He pitched the game of his life in hostile Houston when his team needed him most. Down three games to two, Strasburg stood in and stood tall and kept the Astros from winning and gave the Nats another chance at victory. And that’s what we all need: we all need another chance at victory.

Here’s what Sam Fortier of the Washington Post had to say about the World Series MVP:

“They might not have been here without him. Strasburg shoved all postseason, shedding the fragile label he once bore and showcasing a reinvented approach that reflected his passage into becoming a veteran. He carried this team through three elimination games and delivered one of the best elimination-game starts in recent World Series history. In Game 6, he was the first pitcher to allow two or fewer runs while going 8⅓ innings since Curt Schilling in 1993.” An incredible performance from someone with high hopes hanging all over his career, and he delivered in the clutch.

So congratulations to Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals, the 2019 World Series Champions.

The Washington Nationals Will Win the 2019 World Series!

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WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 1: Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after hitting a single to right field to score 3 runs off of an error by Trent Grisham #2 of the Milwaukee Brewers during the eighth inning in the National League Wild Card game at Nationals Park on October 1, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

That’s right folks, you heard it here first on Godandsports.net. The Washington Nationals, the wildcard, come from behind, long-shot, underdog of underdogs team of the century are about to pull off one of the most absurd and illogical upsets of all time.

These Washington Nationals beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Playoff game. They then beat the juggernaut LA Dodgers in Game 5 in LA in extra innings to win the NLDS, THEN they swept the St. Louis Cardinals right of the NLCS in dramatic fashion. Are you out of breath yet?

Now the Washington Nationals are up 2 -0 against the highly favored and favorite Houston Astros.  They won Games One and Two on the ROAD! They beat two of the best pitchers in baseball, Gerrit Cole 5-4 in the opener and then blasted Justin Verlander 12-3 the very next night, to take a commanding two games to none lead into Game 3 at home at National’s Park.

This will be one for the ages if they can pull it off. Their ace pitchers, Max Sherzer and  Stephen Strasburg, did what they had to do and held the Astros hitters to seven runs in two games. Not bad, especially when your young guns such as Juan Soto are playing lights out, hitting the ball out the park at will.

The Washington Nationals have will and grit and guts and nothing to lose.  Nothing. They’re playing with house money, and they’ve proven that they can beat the best of them. Now what’s left to do but win it all?

Over the next several blogs we will examine the storied playoff road that these 2019 Washington Nationals have traveled, and analyze how to apply what they’ve done and hopefully repeat the same. What lessons can we learn from these 2019 Nationals for our everyday lives? Faith to believe, hope to archive, and love to hold it all together.  That’s what the Nationals have, and that’s what we need too.

Stay tuned . . .

Go NATS!

Back In Philly, “Cholly” Is A Hit

Charlie Manuel

“Cholly” Manuel is back home in Philly and he’s making a big and immediate difference.

Charlie, aka “Cholly”  Manuel, will be beloved in Philly forever because he won us a World Series as manager of the Phillies in 2008 and led the team to five consecutive postseason appearances from 2007-11. In nine seasons as Phils’ skipper, he went 780-636, a .551 winning percentage, accumulating move victories than any manager in team history. And before he left town Cholly said “I’ll be Back!” Well not quite, but it makes for a good story.

Now Cholly is baaaaaack! He’s back as the Phillies hitting coach, replacing  John Mallee. Here’s what Ethan Witte and John Stolnis from SB Nation, a Philadelphia Phillies community, had to say about it all:

“That John Mallee has been replaced isn’t too much of a shock. Something had to be done as there was such a malaise surrounding the team, especially the hitters. The fact that Charlie Manuel is tasked with taking the reigns is the shocker. We’ve all known how much Cholly loves hitting. That the team knows this and recognizes not only his expertise, but realizes that something had to be done is absolutely huge. However, the questions this decision raises are fascinating.

Manuel is the most successful manager in franchise history and is a beloved figure in the city. How will he work with the current embattled manager, Gabe Kapler? Will Kapler feel threatened? Will Manuel get credit for turning the season around if the offense improves and the team starts winning? Is it smart for the Phils to turn to a more old-school baseball figure in an era when most teams are hiring young baseball minds?”

These are all good questions. The jury still might be out but the early election returns are in: in the Phillies last 4 games they’ve scored 30 runs, and they scored 11 against they’re old teammate, Cole Hammels. Not too shabby.

Yes, Cholly is back, and what a comeback. And talk about a turnaround! 

So, even at the tender old age of 75, Cholly is making a difference. And that means that you and I, at whatever younger age we are than Cholly, can make a difference too.

18 Innings?  Dodgers Win Instant Classic In A World Series Seminar On Perseverance

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Max Muncy Celebrates His 18th Inning Walk Off Homer in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series

Some wins don’t come easy. And some loses come after you’ve given it all you’ve got. So is the story of Game 3 of the 2018 World Series played at storied Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles between the Boston Red Sox and the LA Dodgers. It has become an instant classic for its longevity and its lesson on durability.

Late into the Pacific time zone night and early into the East Coast morning, neither team was willing to yield an inch in this pivotal, potentially Series deciding game between these two baseball superpowers. It was a vintage Ali-Frazier, 15 Round heavyweight fight which left both boxers bloody and bludgeoned. After 18 innings of jitters and nerves, the Dodgers emerged, or rather survived, this bought with the hope and confidence that they can yet pull another rabbit of their hat and actually win this Series. Lose the game and they would be down 0-3; win and they cut the deficit to 2-1; it’s a difference and differential that’s as wide and wanton as you can get. No team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in the World Series.

This game had enough ups and downs and gripping drama and nail-bighting tension to fill half a season, all wrapped up in a 7 hour and 20 minute baseball battle. Ironically enough, I wrote about the last longest game in postseason history too. That one was “only” six and one half hours long. See https://godandsports.net/2014/10/05/unforgettable-wins-and-unspeakable-loses/

We all like quick and easy. We all like instant and immediate. We all like it and want it now, and when we’re in a hurry, “right now.” But life is not always so obliging. Life does not always cooperate with our desires and demands. The hard but necessary lesson is this: Heaven uses the vicissitudes of life to teach us that what we want does not always come when we want it. Sometimes we are required to wait it out and tough it out. Sometimes we have to persist and preserve through an 18 inning type of trial and suck it up and stick it out until victory is won.

It’s a part of our spiritual training and is a page out of God’s playbook. To endure and to stand and to stomach and hold on and hold out will teach us how much God loves us and how much He has already endured for us, especially on the Cross. Ours is to trust that He still knows what’s best for us.

I don’t know where you are, but that’s where I’m at, because “life can be queer with its twists and turns, as everyone of us sometimes learns . . . but just don’t quit.”

Here’s how ESPN Staff Writer Bradford Doolittle put it:

“With a Cody Bellinger throw and a Max Muncy blow, the Los Angeles Dodgers have crawled back into the World Series. It only took the longest game in the history of the Fall Classic to do it.

Muncy’s dramatic opposite-field home run in the 18th inning off Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi lifted the Dodgers to a will-testing 3-2 win in Game 3 of the World Series, which started late Friday afternoon but ended early Saturday morning, cutting the Red Sox’s lead in the World Series to 2-1.

It was L.A.’s first walk-off Series win since Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 homer off Dennis Eckersley in 1988, which sparked the Dodgers to their last title. Muncy became the first player to hit a game-ending homer in a World Series game since former Cardinal and current Dodger David Freese in 2011. Not bad for a player who was released by the Oakland A’s before last season.

“It’s been a dream,” Muncy said. “This whole year has been a surreal experience that it’s hard to put into words. Just getting a chance to play in the World Series has kind of capped it off. Getting a chance to hit a walk-off home run, obviously there’s not many words I can use to describe that. The feeling was just pure joy and incredible excitement.”

It also was an act of mercy for everyone on hand at Dodger Stadium and watching on TV. The homer ended a game that lasted 7 hours, 20 minutes and ended at 3:30 a.m. Boston time. The time of game would have been long for a doubleheader. It also was the longest World Series contest by innings.” http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/25094012/mlb-max-muncy-gives-los-angeles-dodgers-epic-world-series-win

Who’s Rooting For the Red Sox?

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The Boston Red Sox won 108 games this year, the most in franchise history and just the fourth time a Red Sox team won 100 or more games in their 117-year history.  The New York Yankees won 100 games. They are playing each other in the playoffs, specifically the American League Divisional Series, for what seems like the umpteenth time.  And so for the first time in history, both the Red Sox and Yankees have 100 wins in the same season, but it is Boston who came out on top in the American League East. Seemingly never slowing down, the Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row, and only did that twice in the course of a long season. With two MVP candidates in outfielders Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez and a strong starting rotation, the Red Sox are set up to make a long playoff run.

Boston’s bitter rival didn’t have too shabby a year either and they too expect to go deep into the playoffs.  Looking at history, when the Yankees had the most wins in a season, they won the World Series. The 1998 Yankees won 114 games in the regular season and then steamrolled to an 11-2 playoff record, including a World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres. With a 125-50 overall record, the best ever, it’s hard to ignore this team when you talk about the all-time greats. That 1998 Yankees teem had the all-star bats of Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and a young Derek Jeter as well as the arms of Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez, David Cone and David Wells, which enabled the Bronx Bombers to finish the year 22 games ahead of the Red Sox to win the AL East. Jeter led the league in runs and hits while Williams won the batting title. Cone compiled his fist 20-win season in a decade, and Wells pitched a perfect game.

Since 1969, only 12 teams have recorded baseball’s best record and gone on to win the World Series that season. So, once again, we learn that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. 

When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, the year of the miracle in October, they finished with a 98–64 record, three games behind the Yankees in the American League East. But they came back from 0 – 3 to defeat their arch rival in a dramatic seven game American League Championship Series, and went on to sweep St. Louis to win their first World Series since trading Babe Ruth.  

Yes it’s time for baseball in October, and so anything is possible.