Cinderella vs. Cinderella!

I called it! I’m not bragging or anything but I absolutely called it. The Washington Capitals just defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Game 7 ON THE ROAD, and for the first time in franchise history, mind you, they’ve reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

Now it’s the Las Vegas Golden Knights versus the Washington Capitals for the championship – Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s a unique matchup. It’s unprecedented and almost unheard of.

These two teams were not picked to go this far or to fair this well. But they have overcome the odds and come over the obstacles laid out against them. The Caps and Golden Knights have recovered their own fumbles and debunked the doubters and jeared the court jesters to reach the threshold of the summit of their sport. These two teams now make it almost impossible for the casual observer to choose a fair-haired favorite or pick the one most popular.

Sports fans now have a “Sophia’s Choice.” In other words, the NHL now has a peculiar problem. We now have two Cinderella teams going head – to – head, playing for all the marbles. But only one team can win. Because no participation trophies will be given out here. The lone winner takes home the Stanley Cup Trophy!

So who ya got?

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The Las Vegas Golden Knights!

Who would have thunk it? Few would have thought it. And fewer still would have dreamed it. The expansion team in Vegas, the Golden Knights, the dark horse in the race to win the Stanley Cup, are one step away from winning it all. What a story.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights became the second expansion team in the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB history since 1960 to reach a championship series in their first season. The other team was the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues. It’s an incredible success for a team that had no expectations. The Golden Knights’ management publicly declared a goal of making the playoffs in three years and competing for a Stanley Cup in six.

But in their maiden voyage year, this upstart is about to pull off the unthinkable; an unprecedented triumph of epic proportions. The odds makers had Vegas at 500-1 to win the Stanley Cup Finals! Not 10-1, or even 100-1; 500 -1! Incredible! In theological language, that translates to “they didn’t have a prayer.”

But they must have prayed, because the Hockey gods or the God of Heaven has heard and headed their humble cry.

Who said miracles are a thing of the past?  I’ll be rooting for Vegas!

The Boston Celtics: “Control the Controllable”

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics

Is this the end of an era? It just well may be.

LeBron James had a 21 point first quarter and a 42 point, 10 rebound, 12 assist virtuoso, triple double performance in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics; but it wasn’t enough.  LeBron made an incredible, instant classic, step-back three-pointer in that same, ridiculous first quarter, but it wasn’t enough.  The miracle, circus shot was absurd, even by LeBron James’ standards, but it wasn’t enough.

Here’s how Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer put it:

“A step-back, fadeaway, late-clock 3-pointer with one of the league’s best defenders draped all over him. And video of the first-quarter spread like wild-fire on social media as sort of a “Look at what LeBron is doing!” snapshot of his 21-point first-quarter barrage in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Here’s the thing: The Boston Celtics liked that possession an awful lot, too. They liked how Marcus Morris made James work just to navigate from the blocks to the 3-point arc in order to set an initial screen. Or how Marcus Smart, who switched onto James, prevented the Cleveland Cavaliers star first from rolling to the basket, then denied James’ initial attempt to back Smart down.

Yes, James eventually got the ball back and made a ridiculous shot, but the Celtics made him work hard for a low-percentage look. And therein lies one of the secrets to Boston’s success through the first two games of the series: making everything hard for James.

‘If you can, watch every possession. We have a bunch of guys coming out that give everything we got every possession,’ Morris told ESPN. ‘LeBron is great, we all know that. That’s something that everyone knows. So, at the end of the day, we can’t hang our heads on shots that he makes. We know he’s going to take those shots, we know he’s going to make some shots. ‘t the end of the day, we control the controllable.’”

We control the controllable.

That’s the quote, and that’s the lesson. We must control the controllable. There’s so much in this life that we can’t and don’t control. We can’t control what others say or do. We can’t control other’s actions or emotions or responses, but we can control what comes out of our mouths and what goes on in our hearts and heads. And we can absolutely control how we treat people. You may not feel like being kind or caring or forgiving or forbearing, but you can control how you act and you react.

So control the controllable. Control what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t.

Now, back to the presumptive Eastern Conference Champions, the Boston Celtics:

“What the Celtics have controlled is their turnovers, which has eliminated easy transition opportunities. They’ve controlled access to the paint, limiting the chances for James to drive and create for either himself or his teammates. And the Celtics have controlled the intensity, dispatching a never-ending stream of versatile defenders, essentially tasking every player in their rotation with defending James at some point.

The other thing the Celtics control: the series (2-0). Yes, Boston knows it cannot relent in its defensive tenacity as the series shifts to Cleveland for Saturday’s Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But an already irrationally confident group took a James haymaker in Game 2 (42 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) and still won by technical knockout”.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23541621/boston-celtics-defending-lebron-james-east-finals

And so the moral of the story is this: Exit, LeBron, enter Boston.

One Point

Ben Simmons After Loss
Ben Simmons Scores One Point in Loss to Boston in 2018 Playoffs

Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers rookie sensation point guard, the same point guard who is the consensus Rookie of the year in the NBA this year, scored one point in Game 2 of their much anticipated series with their hated and heated rivals, the Boston Celtics. One whole point.

But it was a good loss, and I’ll tell you why.

 The Sixers lost by five.  It was a close game down the stretch, and the team from South Philly was even up by five late in the fourth quarter. But they lost every lead they managed to build. Little leads. Big leads.  All kinds of leads. They lost the leads and the game.  By just five points. 

So they (and we) need to learn how to play (and live) when losing and when leading. And that’s a life lesson.

Big Ben only scorned one.  One point. So just think, a few made baskets, even just two, and a few more made free throws would have made a difference. But nooooooooooooo. Ben picked a bad time to have an unbelievably bad game. And it hurt his team. Not that the rest of the team is not culpable.   The Sixers blew a 21 point lead in the second quarter, and that is where the game was lost.

So what’s next for the Sixers?  They play the next two games at home. But if they  lose this series, and they may well may get blown right out of the gym the next two games, it will be a short time loss but, hopefully a long-term gain.  Teams general, and these Sixers in specific, need to learn how to play with a lead. And the Sixers haven’t figured that part out yet. Oh well. It was a great season. It’s not over yet, but it sure feels like it’s over.

One point. One lousy point. It will count if they learn from this, and this will be a good loss, if, that is IF, they learn. Maybe this series, and maybe not. But certainly this lesson must be learned down the road.

My Book Is Out! “Upsets, Comebacks & Turnarounds” Coming Soon

UCT Cover

Hey Everybody! I birthed a book!

After years of writing and editing and kneading and massaging this baby of an idea inside of me, voila, my book is here!  It will be available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com soon so stay tuned! I hope you read and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s a pick me upper and a shot in the arm for all who love the little guy and the also-rans in sports and in life. 

Here a few excerpts from the back cover:

In the World of Sports, there’s nothing like an upset win, a comeback from way back, and a complete turnaround. The same is true in life. In sports, we celebrate the underdogs, both the teams and the players who are at a distinct disadvantage and are expected to lose. Yet some way, somehow, these teams and players  find a way to triumph in spite of adversity.

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds looks back to those who have alreadly overcome and looks forward to those facing overwhelming obstacles yet to be overcome.

This book examines the intersection of God and sports . . . and is a tribute to all of the biblical long-shots; to all of those who, in sports and in life, “didn’t stand a chance.”

Is Baker Mayfield The Answer to the Cleveland Browns’ Question?

Baker Mayfield is the embodiment of faith and hope and love for the game that Cleveland Browns fans have everywhere. At least some think he is. He’s a risk and a gamble and a wild card and a wild one as the Browns are going out on a limb and betting the farm on a hothead who’s got a hot arm who hopefully can get on a hot streak. We’ll all have to just wait and see how it turns out because right now he’s just numbers on paper. Here’s what an ESPN staff writer had to say about Mayfield being the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft:

Pat McManamon

ESPN Staff Writer

 

“The Cleveland Browns surprised the NFL world by making quarterback Baker Mayfield the first overall pick in the draft Thursday night.

The Browns has been expected to take a quarterback and had insisted Mayfield was under consideration through the pre-draft process. Most speculation still centered on USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, but momentum started to build in the last few days that the Browns favored Mayfield.

Cleveland also had the fourth pick Thursday and used it to select Denzel Ward, a cornerback back from Ohio State.

Mayfield, who had a stellar college career at Oklahoma but also made headlines with his behavior on and off the field, will be tasked with turning around a Browns team that went 0-16 last season.

Mayfield joins a roster that has Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback and Drew Stanton as the backup. The Browns hope to play Taylor this season, allowing Mayfield time to learn and grow. Mayfield, though, said at the scouting combine he would never “settle” for a backup role.

The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2002, which is the longest active drought in the NFL. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have had 28 different starting quarterbacks — the most in the league during that span.

Baker Mayfield will be tasked with turning around a Browns franchise coming off an 0-16 season in 2017. Harry How/Getty Images

Mayfield led FBS with a 70.5 completion percentage in 2017, and he set a single-season record by averaging 11.5 yards per attempt. He threw for 4,627 yards with 43 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

But Mayfield also garnered negative attention in recent years for his on-field antics, which included making an inappropriate gesture toward Kansas’ sideline and for planting Oklahoma’s flag on Ohio State’s logo at the 50-yard line after the Sooners’ victory over the Buckeyes. And if that wasn’t enough, on top of all that, Mayfield also was arrested last year in Arkansas on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest. He reached a plea deal last June and paid fines for several of the charges.

Throughout the draft process, the Browns said they felt Mayfield had admitted to mistakes and they were behind him. Browns general manager John Dorsey even joked with Mayfield at the team’s combine interview, asking how he liked food trucks, a reference to the February 2017 arrest that took place near food trucks.

Mayfield, who is from Austin, Texas, transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma after his freshman season. During his college career, he threw for 14,607 yards and had 131 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. He also rushed for 21 TDs and caught another during his college career.”

LeBron James: Still The King

LeBron James just hit a buzzer beater to beat the Indiana Pacers 98–95 in Game Five of a 2018 First Round playoff series. It was vintage LeBron.  The king delivered a certified instant classic with an epic performance at home to give his team a 3-2 series lead. He almost had a triple double:  44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He had an attack dog mentality as he dominated his opponent and carried his team on his back, again,

LeBron had a huge block when Indiana could have taken the lead. And the block came right after he turned the ball over under his own basket with under a minute to play. Instead of an embarrassing defeat, with only three seconds left on the clock, king James hit a three pointer from the top of the key. Instead of overtime and a possible loss at home, the king of the NBA led his team to yet another thrilling victory with yet another buzzer beater and yet another demoralizing defeat for an opponent that could’ve stolen a game from the James. But not so.

Cleveland is not a great team but they still have the game’s greatest player. The argument for the greatest of all time still rages as the jury is still out because the verdict is not in. Is James better than Michael? Kobe? Magic? Wilt Chamberlain? Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Bill Russell? The debate rages on. For now, once again, the great one proved that he is still the reigning undisputed heavyweight champion of the basketball world.

The great ones always find a way. Always. And once again this great player found another way to win.

The corollary is clear. You might not be that good or that great. None of us are. But with the great God we serve, you’re still great. And every day and in every “game” you have the chance to win even though you’re down and it looks like you may be out. But not so. Not with the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on your side.

Jesus is the ultimate greatest One, and He will always find a way for you to win. Always.