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, for the first time in franchise history, mind you, to reach the StanleyCup 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?

Advertisements

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.

Heartbreak Sixers Leave Fans at the Playoff Altar

joel-embiid-out-of-gas
Joel Embiid Runs Out Of Gas Against the Celtics

Philly fans love their Sixers. Truth is, we love our sports. We just won the Super Bowl, the Flyers made the playoffs and are relevant, and the Phillies are doing their part by winning too.

But it’s the Sixers that just broke our hearts because we had our hopes up, but maybe too high; and that’s the fans fault. They told us to “Trust The Process” and we did. They promised us the playoffs and they delivered. They teased and tantalized us into thinking they were better than just making the playoffs. And truth be told they are and they’re not.

The Sixers just lost ANOTHER heartbreaker, this time AT HOME in OT to the Boston Celtics. With 1.7 seconds left on the clock in regulation, they forced overtime on Marco Belinelli’s answered prayer-two pointer that looked like a three at the buzzer to force an extra session, but it wasn’t enough.  Embiid wasn’t enough. And Simmons (better than one point) wasn’t enough.  And the coaching wasn’t enough. And the Sixers didn’t have enough. It’s thar simple.

They just didn’t have enough. They showed more promise than poise and their mistakes — correction — they’re costly mistakes with the game on the line, cost them dearly. And I almost forgot to mention the confetti coming down on the court because after regulation the Wells Fargo Center crew thought the game was over and the home team had won with the Belinelli shot, but his foot was on the three-point line. What a tease. Oh well.

So what’s the verdict? We still Trust The Process because it took us further than we thought we could go. But we still have a long way to go. The coaching was suspect and the lack of ball control and discipline from a young team was glaring. But they ARE young, right?

So let’s end on a good note. We made the playoffs. We won a playoff series. WE have Embiid. We have two of the best rookies in the game (we just need to get Fultz on the court). And we may have the Rookie of the Year (ROY).

We will get better. Things will get better. Things have already gotten better. Just think; just two years ago we just won 10 games. I’d say we’ve made significant progress, right? It’s just that we thought that we were better than we really are.

Spiritually speaking, that’s just like most of us. The Bible says that all of righteousness is no better than filthy rags. We must be dressed in His righteousness alone. Only then will we stand faultless before His throne.

Go Sixers!

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.”

Hockey Fans Unite!

alexander-ovechkin-art

Are you watching the 2018 NHL Playoffs? No? Ok, well, neither am I, but that’s not the point. I’m a sports fan, and I live in the Washington D.C. market, so I am paying attention to the Washington Capitals/Pittsburgh Penguins Second Round Series.  Real sports fans at least check the scoreboard in all of the four major food groups, er, sports, right?

The Caps are up 2-1 on the Pens because Alexander Ovechkin scored the game winner in Game 3 with about one minute remaining in the third period. Game 4’s coming up in Pittsburgh, and the Caps seem to have the momentum. And they’ll need it. Because if you don’t know, the Caps have never, no never, beaten the Penguins in a playoff series. EVER. And some say they can’t and won’t, but there’s a lot of hockey left to be played, so here’s to hope.

The Capitals looked like they were dead in the water in the First Round, down 0-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they lost those first two games AT HOME! But the Caps came all the way back and won four straight to take the series, 4-2. So there’s hope for the Caps, right?

And a buddy of mine at work told me that 5 of the 8 remaining teams in the 2018 NHL Playoffs have never won the Stanley Cup Trophey. Wow (but don’t ask me to name them). So the odds are that one of these also ran, always-a-brides-maid-but-never-a-bride teams could win it all this year. Including everyone’s darling, the expansion Las Vegas Knights.

So here’s to hope.  As Jessie Jackson taught us way back in the ‘70’s, “Keep Hope Alive!” Because if you ain’t got hope, you ain’t got nothin’.

Sixers vs. Celtics: Just Like Old Times

Here we go! The Sixers and the Celtics are getting ready to go at it in the playoffs one more time. And it will be just like old times, right? For those that can remember, Dr. J. played against Larry Bird all season long and almost every year in the playoffs. They went toe to toe, duking it out, sometimes literally, each leading their team, each vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. It was great theater and better basketball.

And here we go again. Now we have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid versus a new band of Bostonians including Al Horford, Terry Rozier and rookie sensational Jason Tatum. It should be an instant classic series. All of Philly and all of Boston are sitting on the edge of their seats already in gleeful anticipation — and the opening tip off hasn’t even come yet.

And that’s the anticipation that Christians have living in these toxic and turbulent times. We don’t fear what’s going to happen next. We anticipate the lively hope we actually already have, and now enjoy the promise of the soon coming of Christ. The gloom and doom of yesterday and today will fade in God’s tomorrow as Christ will usher in a truly golden age of bountiful blessings for all who trust and believe in Him.

We have the promise now, and will inherit a retirement package second to none. The theologians call it “the already and not yet.”

And that’s the lesson that this new, highly anticipated Philly/Boston NBA Basketball Playoff series teaches us. Anticipation and expectation are spiritual things. And they belong in church and in sports too.