The 76’ers Are Now The New “Beast in the East” — a.k.a., Who Wants To Bet That The Sixer’s Win The East?

Butler Game Winning Three Pointer
Jimmy Butler hits the game winner on the road in OT against the Charlotte Hornets, November 17, 2018

Here’s a note for Philadelphia 76er’s fans everywhere:  “Have no fear, Jimmy Butler is here!”  Not the question is this: with Butler, will the Sixers win the East? After what I saw last night, there’s no reason not to believe they can.  But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves;  let’s just start with Jimmy Butler and last night.

Did you see last night’s game? No? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. But I saw the highlights, and Jimmy “Bucket” Butler is as good as advertised.  Last night, in just his third game with his new team, Butler and the Philadelphia 76er’s defeated the Charlotte Hornets 122-119, in OT. hopefully, it is a healthy harbinger of what is to come with Butler and Embiid and Simmons playing together, who now make up the new “Beast in the East.”

Butler didn’t sink the potentially game winning basket at the end of regulation, but he did block Kemba Walker’s shot near the end of overtime. He also saved the ball from landing out-of-bounds, and THEN managed to sink the game winner from beyond the arc for a thrilling, last second, game winning three-point basket to the chagrin of everyone at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, but to the glee of every 76er’s fan anywhere.   

Despite a ridiculous game from Kemba Walker, Butler and the Sixers managed to pull another rabbit out of the hat.  Walker scorched the Sixers for a season high 60 points in one game, but he couldn’t seal the deal when it mattered most. Butler, on the other hand, had a mediocre game – he finished with 15 points — but he had the heroics when it mattered most and hammered the nail down on the coffin so that the Sixers put the Charlotte Hornets to bed for the third time this year. 

Once again, we see that a team can be impacted by just one player, for good or for ill.  Indeed, when it matters most, one man, or one woman, can make a difference.  And that’s the message:  you can make a difference. So stop saying that you’re only one person and that what you do doesn’t matter and that you’re small part doesn’t amount to much. Just stop it!  You can make a difference.

And what a difference Jimmy Butler is making. He’s glad to be in Philly, he genuinely enjoys playing with Embiid, Simmons, JJ and the gang, and he’s excited about what the future holds.  You just can’t put a dollar value on effort and hustle and guts. You just can’t.  And Butler brings all of that to the table, and some.

And so there you have it: after just three games, Jimmy Butler has proven that he’s worth his weight in gold as he has seamlessly sewn himself into the Philly fabric. Butler has made himself useful in more ways than one. Amen to that. 

And here’s to more to come.

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Note to Eagles Fans: “There’s Always Last Year”

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Carson Wentz dejected after loss to Dallas at home drops Eagles to 4-5

 

The phrase is actually meant to read like this: “there’s always NEXT year.”  That’s what sports fans say when their team is lousy and lazy and dismal and dreadful. When the season is lost, the hope is that the team will be better and the future brighter next year. And so we say “there’s always next year.” And for the Philadelphia Eagles, technically, that’s still true.

But we’re still in THIS year. And after taking a good hard look at this year, it’s hard not to be tempted to look at last year. This year, the most recent Sunday Night loss to Dallas at home, leaving the Birds with a record of 4-5, leaves every Eagle fan in a lurch. In our heart of hearts, we still have and hold onto last year’s Super Bowl victory. Someway, somehow that colossal win was supposed to convert into a repeat Super Bowl victory this year. But not so. 

LAST year, the Eagles had a great team. In fact, we weren’t just great, we were awesome.  Last year, the Eagles had great chemistry. The coaching staff, the offensive line, the running backs, and the defensive line, all were top notch.  Not so much this year. The Eagles lost their Offensive Coordinator and their Quarterbacks Coaches to other teams.  The running backs we had for all or most of last year are mostly gone: LeGarrette Blount was allowed to walk in free agency, and Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproules are injured. Corey Clement has not panned out like everyone hoped he would, and so that leaves the team with Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams.  Needless to say, the chemistry we have this year is not the  same as last year.

And so the bottom line is this: they call it the Super Bowl Slump.  Teams that win the Super Bowl hardly repeat as champions and win another the next year (it hasn’t happened since the Patriots did it in 2005), and a good number of Super Bowl Champions don’t even MAKE IT to the playoffs after the big win.

Generraly speakintg, we’re not supposed to look backwards; we’re supposed to look forward.  God put two eyes in the front of our heads for a reason.  Biblically speaking, the only time we are encouraged to look back is to be grateful for yesterday’s victory’s and yesteryear’s triumphs.  

And at this point in this season, that’s pretty much all we’ve got.

“The Eagles’ Super Bowl championship was viewed as the greatest moment in Philadelphia sports history. That team will be beloved forever, and the players and coaches spent all offseason hearing how they fulfilled every Philly fan’s lifelong dream.”

 https://sports.yahoo.com/super-bowl-hung-eagles-danger-missing-playoffs-loss-cowboys-042711745.html

After 50 Points, This One-Time MVP Is Smellin’ Like A Rose

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Derrick Rose scores 50-points for the first time in his career

You can’t help but be happy for DRose. He turned it around. He absolutely came back from way back when no one thought or dreamt or even bet he could. Yes, we’re talking about Derrick Rose, the onetime League MVP and Rookie of the Year. And in 2011, Rose, with Jimmy Butler at his side, lead a Chicago Bulls team that was 62 -20, and the No. 1 Seed in the playoffs. But that was then, and this is now.

At one point, many argued that Rose was the best point guard in the NBA. Yet those high career highs have been replaced with some very low and lonely lows. Of late, Rose has been through heartache and heart break; injury and rehabilitation and trades and new teams have been the hallmark of his rickety, rockety career.

Now, Rose continues to rebuild his career and has found a home in Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, again. Now, Rose is working to rebuild his commitment to his craft and his confidence in himself and his faith in his future ability to be the player he knows he can be.

After scoring 50 points, including the game winning basket in the 128-125 win over the Utah Jazz, Rose was in tears. Tears. He actually was sobbing as the emotions bubbled up and boiled over in an open show of gratitude and thankfulness.

Good for you DRose. Good for you. All of basketball is happy and is rejoicing with you.

Here’s how ESPN reported on the revival of Derrick Rose:

“To say Derrick Rose has had a rough few years would be an understatement. The former league MVP saw his run with the Chicago Bulls come to an unceremonious end, played one disappointing season with the New York Knicks, then signed on to join the Cleveland Cavaliers’ star-studded lineup last season, only to end up taking a leave of absence from the team before eventually being traded.

When he signed on with the Minnesota Timberwolves late last season, it was seen as a coach doing a favor for his former star player. But Rose never lost faith in himself, telling The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, ‘Anything that comes my way I am going to grab it.’

He did that in a big way Wednesday night, scoring a career-high 50 points to lead the Wolves to a three-point win. He made the go-ahead basket with 30 seconds left, then gave Minnesota a three-point cushion with a pair of free throws with 13.8 seconds left to reach the 50-point mark.” http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/25139327/derrick-rose-scored-50-points-nba-players-loved-it

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

The Mystery of Momentum

Carson Wentz After Loss
Carson Wentz after the Eagles blew a 17 point Fourth Quarter lead at home to the Carolina Panthers on October 21, 2018

What’s wrong with Wentz? (And the rest of the Eagles, for that matter)  The Eagles lost momentum, and they lost the game because of it. Wentz played adequately and respectively for three-quarters, and then the bottom fell out.  With less than a minute left in regulation AT HOME, on the potentially game willing drive, Wentz forced a pass into double coverage to Alshon Jeffrey, a pass that should have been intercepted in the end zone, when a WIDE OPEN Wendell Smallwood was clearly within reach.  If you could see me right now, as I write this blog, I’m just shaking my head. I spoke to a dear friend Sunday night after the game, and he was still heated; we were HOLLERLING at each other about how bad the Eagles played compared to how good we were last year. 

The sportsman’s Bible says this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for wins, for they shall be rewarded with victories.”

Ok, ok, ok, no that’s not exactly what the actual Bible says, but it’s close.  Hunger and thirst are perquisites for accomplishing and achieving our goals.  Last year, my Eagles were flying high; they had all of the right ingredients to win, and they won big. They had coaching, running, receiving and a defense that could actually stop the other team when necessary. And they had momentum, right up through the Super Bowl; through injuries and replacement players and a backup QB leading us to front and center in the football world. But that was then. And this is now.

Now, my Eagles couldn’t stop granny from robbing a bank with a Beebe gun. They can’t seem to stop the bleeding because they can’t even afford to pay attention. This Eagles team couldn’t stop payment on a check for $0 if their life depended on it. The Eagles had a 17 point lead over the Carolina Panthers in the FOURTH QUARTER and still lost! They allowed Cam Newton to drive downfield for touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, AND allowed a two point conversion. They allowed the Panthers to come back. When it mattered most, the Birds couldn’t hold onto the ball to sustain a drive to save their lives.  Yeash. 

So, here’s the question: will Wentz wither away or will he WILL himself and his teammates back to respectability and out of this abysmal mess?  It’s like my parents used to tell me when my sisters and I wanted something that we probably weren’t going to get; we’ll see. The Eagles were celebrating prematurely, and the Panthers saw it and seized “it” right from under their noses. 

So . . . , let’s learn the lesson. Don’t lose momentum. DON’T give your opponent the ball when they have the momentum. Don’t do it. Do whatever it takes to hold onto the ball and maintain possession, especially when they have the hot hand. Note to file, NEVER EVER give the ball back to the other team when they have the hot hand.

Momentum is energy and force and motion. It means to push and to drive forward no matter what. But momentum is a funny, tricky thing. Momentum is electric and elusive.  Momentum will spark your battery and spur your inner horses. You can’t really quantify it, but it’s tangible nonetheless.  Either you have it or you don’t. And when you have it, you protect it with your soul and you hang onto it for dear life; because you never want to lose it, or worse yet, give it away.  The irony is, you know when you have it, and you can barely fathom when you lose it. Because momentum is “it”, and you’ve got to have “it” to win.

Spiritually speaking, momentum lies in your heart.  The Bible says to “keep your heart with all diligence, for out it flow the issues of life.”

The Carolina Panthers couldn’t spell touchdown for three-quarters of football, and yet all of a sudden they seized the momentum from the Eagles. All of a sudden, they flipped the script. All of a sudden, they could drive down the field like it’s a walk in the park and punch it in. Seriously?  C’mon Man!  How’d they do it? They realized the mystery of momentum.

Should We Pity Poor, Winless Nebraska?

Nebraska Coach Scott Frost
Despite the Historic 0-6 Start, Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost Should Keep Looking Up

The  University of Nebraska was once a college football power.  Under Tom Osborne from 1973 to 1997, the Cornhuskers went an astounding 255 – 49–3,  for a winning percentage of 0.836. Osborne subsequently became Nebraska’s longest-tenured coach, ending with the fourth-highest winning percentage in major college football history. Osborne never won fewer than nine games and secured 13 conference titles in his 25 seasons. And for those interested in ancient college football history, before Osborne, there was head coach Bob Devaney.

Bob Devaney lead Nebraska to a 101–20–2 record, with a 0.829 winning percentage from 1962 to 1972.  Delaney brought about an immediate turnaround in the fortunes of Nebraska football. He led Nebraska to a 9–2 record in his first season, which was capped by the school’s first bowl win, against Miami in the 1962 Gotham Bowl.  Wow. Talk about winners. Nebraska could surely use Osborne or Devaney right about now.

Now, the once mighty and proud Nebraska football program has fallen on hard times. Most recently, The Cornhuskers blew a ten point margin and fell to Northwestern, 34 -21, after having a 31-21 fourth quarter lead. A Northwestern field goal cut the lead to 31-24 with about two minutes left in the game. Northwestern would then get the ball back and marched 99 yards with zero time-outs for a game tying touchdown that sent it to overtime. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable, especially for a team that was 0 -5 and searching desperately for its first win.

In that oh so painful loss to Northwestern, Nebraska had the ball first in the extra period. The drive came to a fourth and one, and then a nightmare for Huskers fans. A botched snap and QB Martinez was forced to scramble; he launched one for the endzone and it was intercepted. Northwestern got the ball and got into position to allow kicker Drew Lauckenbaugh to make a 37 yard field goal to give Northwestern the stunning 34-31 win.

Last week, after Nebraska lost to Michigan, Head coach Scott Frost told his players in the locker room at Michigan Stadium that “things can’t get any worse”, and their 56-10 loss to No. 19 Michigan could serve as a “watershed moment” for the program in its first year with a new coaching staff. When they were 0 -5, the Nebraska coach believed that the Cornhuskers had reached the bottom.

But then the bottom fell out, and they lost this heartbreaker to Northwestern to fall fo 0 – 6 for the first time in school history. It’s the worst start EVER for this storied football program.

Incredible. Just incredible. So, are we to feel sorry and compassionate for the Cornhuskers? Some say yes, but most, I surmise, would say no. They had their heyday, and now the mantle for winning big in college football has moved on the Southeastern Conference. The SEC touts such powerhouse schools such as Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia, just to name a few.  Ohio State and Michigan, two bragadocious, Big Ten schools, are still powers, so why not Nebraska? It’s a thousand things, none of which can be fixed in an instant. 

So let’s encourage Nebraska.  And let’s encourage all of our friends who are going through a tough time. Things will get better. Things HAVE to get better, right? They have to; they just have to.  Becasue life is like sports and sports are like life.  Trouble don’t last always. 

And always remenber; “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

 

The Eagles Are Baaaaaaaaack!

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Philadelphia Eagles Star Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles, for the first time this season, looked like their 2017 selves Thursday night. They weren’t nearly perfect, but they led comfortably throughout what would eventually become a 34-13 pasting of the New York Giants at Giants Stadium, err, I mean MetLife Stadium. With the big win, the Eagles may well have saved the NFC East from becoming the NFC Least!

With the big win, Carson Wentz and the Eagles are baaaaaaaack! They’ve climbed back to .500, so now at 3-3, they can legitimately say that the are again the class of the NFC East. Things were looking kind of dicey there for a while, but the Super Bowl Champs are back; they’ve turned things around and straightened some things out, so let’s just hope they’re back to stay.

OK, so yes they beat the hapless, helpless New York Football Giants, so let’s not get carried away or get too ahead ourselves. No, they did NOT play perfect, championship level football. Yes, they looked better than they have since the Super Bowl, and no they can’t punch their ticket to Super Bowl LIII just yet. One win doesn’t erase the previous five weeks. The Eagles still have issues and still have an increasing number of injuries. But it had to feel good to get ahead early, expand the lead, and put an opponent away with rather ease.

It took until Week 6, but the Eagles finally played to expectations. The Eagles offense finally caught up to Carson Wentz in the road win, and with Fletcher Cox leading the way, the Eagles pass rush turned up the heat on Eli Manning. No, Eli is not the Eli of old, because this Eli is now old man Eli. He struggled all game, and that’s putting it kindly.

The only bright spot for the Giants and the only blemish for the Eagles is how the Birds let rookie sensation Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Barkley made like Red Grange out there, “The Galloping Ghost” who played for the Chicago Bears way back. Barkley ran the ball 13 times for 130 yards, catching it nine times for 99 yards, and zigging every time the Eagles zagged as he made Manning’s numbers look better than they truly were.

But enough about Eli Manning and the Giants already. Let’s get back to my Eagles, the defending Super Bowl Champs!

The win wasn’t exactly pretty or simple. The Eagles were playing on three days’ rest, they had to travel up the Jersey Turnpike, and the Giants have enough firepower to have produced the opposite result. But they caught a squad that’s reeling with an aging, ineffective quarterback. Jim Schwartz’s defense deserves credit for getting after Eli Manning, but the 37-year-old quarterback is all but done. The Giants will win some more games, and Manning might have some decent outings on paper, but he’s no longer capable of willing his team to victory. He doesn’t trust his arm to throw downfield and doesn’t have the necessary athleticism to extend plays in the pocket behind a leaky offensive line.

The 3-3 Eagles don’t have to worry about the Giants in the division. The Redskins (2-2) and Cowboys (2-3) are still clearly in the NFC East picture, but when the Eagles play as they did Thursday, with an elite quarterback firing on all cylinders, a suffocating defense with a ferocious pass rush and special teams that are mistake-free, there are few teams that can keep up.” http://www2.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/eagles-giants-carson-wentz-fletcher-cox-alshon-jeffery-what-we-learned-thursday-night-football-20181012.html

So let’s celebrate the win, but let’s not celebrate too long or too much. There’s still much work to do; there’s still too much at stake, as defending our title and defending our honor is still on the line.

And this is the same lesson all of the rest of us need to learn too.