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?

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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.

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.

Flip The Script, aka, Change Your Ending

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons Flipped the Script and They’re Having Fun Doing It

You can’t change your beginning, but you sure can change your ending.  You can’t go back and change what happened, but you can, spiritually speaking, reach forward and change what you want to happen.  That’s what Philly teams are doing, and that’s what I’m doing too. The Urban Dictionary says that Flip the Script means “to gain control in a dialogue that is being dominated by another person so that you are now in charge.”

Spiritually speaking, we all need to gain control of the dialogue of our lives and flip the script, just like Philly sports teams have done and are doing.

In the dialogue of the 2018 NFL season, no one, and I mean NO ONE, picked Nick Foles to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a win in Super Bowl LII. Except me, right?  But they did it. They flipped the script. They won the big one.  When Carson Wentz went down, Nick Foles got up and led the Eagles to an unforgettable Super Bowl victory. 

And now, another Philadelphia team, the Sixers, is flipping the script.  The Sixers won a whopping ten games just two short seasons ago. This season, in their wildest dreams, they hoped to break even and be a .500 team, and maybe, just maybe, if they were lucky, possibly make the playoffs. Instead, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid led their young teammates to 52 wins. They are the No. 3 Seed in the Eastern Conference and they ended the season on a 16-game winning streak. That’s a winning streak six games longer than the win total just two years ago. Are you kidding me? AND . . .  this was the longest winning streak in FRANCHISE HISTORY.  And now they’re on the verge of advancing to the second round of the playoffs in convincing fashion. WHAT?

It just goes to show ya — you can’t change when you were born or where you were born or how you were raised, but you sure can change where you live and where you work and where you worship.  You can’t change where you’ve been, but you absolutely can change where you’re going. You can’t change your past, but you can change the trajectory of your future.

I don’t like where I am, what I do or how things are going at work. Since I don’t like it, I’m changing it. I’m changing where I’m headed and where I’m going and what my situation is so I’m sure to change my ending. I’m going to flip the script.  For some, living in the suburbs in a picturesque subdivision in a house with a two car garage on a cul-de-sac backing to woods sounds nice, but it’s not working for me.  Working a hoity-toity job in a destination location where there is a long line of applicants trying to get a foot in the door may sound like the cat’s meow, but it’s not working for me. It may fit the mold and the make and the makeup of where one would kill to be, but it’s not for me.

Spiritually, we need to know what works and what doesn’t. We need to know what’s working, and what’s not working.  The Eagles and the Sixers flipped the script. They turned negatives into positives. They used all of the adversity and hardship and hindrance’s they faced and turned them into fuel for the turnaround. They used all of the bad to help them go from worst to first. They went from the bottom of the pile to the top of the heap.  The Eagles were underdogs in every playoff game.  Underdogs! So many people had written their ending, but they flipped the script, proved the doubters wrong, destroyed the odds, and came out on top.

 And I’m going to do the same. How ‘bout you?

Can Jake Arrieta Get It Done in Philly?

Arietta in Philies Uniform

The Phillies are doing their part. Just two months after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, the Sixers and Flyers are in the playoffs and the Phillies are off to a great start, so all of the Philly franchises have jumped on the winning wagon and are contenders in their sport. The Phillies have won five straight behind their new ace pitcher Jake Arrieta. The Phils stand at 8-5 and are currently in second place behind the surprising 11-2 Miracle Mets. Go figure. On the other hand The Washington Nationals, picked to win it all (again), are 7-8 and sit in fourth place in the National League East.

The Phillies are doing their part because they signed Jake Arrieta to a multi-year deal, gaining a proven, star free-agent pitcher just prior to the beginning of the season. 

And while Arietta’s stats are inching in the wrong directions, there’s still hope that the veteran will add value to a team full of rookies and unproven players. Over the past few years with the Cubs (thanks Chi-Town!), the velocity of his payoff pitch as inched down while his ERA has inched up. But let’s focus on the positives, shall we?

We all need to do our part. Yes we all have negative traits and tendencies and bad habits and hiccups. Yes we need to work on them, but we really need to bolster and boost up the positive, attractive and affirmative side of our character. Since no one is perfect, we will never fully eradicate all of our bad habits. So men will still fart in public and teenagers will still do things their parents will never know about in private.

It’s called life. So do what you do well, and focus on the good outweighing the bad. And if you do more good than what you do bad (it’s supposed to be badly, but you know what  I mean), at the end of the day, you should come out on top.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=Jake+Arietta#id=4&vid=feab3ff31b6ce36499a130f1b2d477d2&action=click

Why Dallas Dumped Dez

dez-bryant-getty-4

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why the Cowboys dumped their ALL TIME leading receiver, Dez Bryant. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. Since he came into the League and made a home in Dallas, Dez has been a brew of venomousness that is frighteningly viral. His actions, on and off of the field, have been radical (to say the least) and ultimately lethal to his team and fatal to his career.  In other words, Dez is a hot mess.

Dez may be talented, but he’s also toxic. What Dez did not realize is that no stand out statistics or ridiculous records can take the place of a player who is reliable and dependable and stalwart and not unpredictable. In other words, character still counts.

Bryant was the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2010. He amassed more than 1,000 yards receiving, with double-digit touchdowns, for three straight seasons from 2012 to 2014. He finishes his time with the Cowboys with a team-record 73 touchdown receptions to go with 531 catches for 7,459 yards in 113 games. And yet, the Cowboys were all too eager to say “Bye Felicia” to their golden boy of a receiver. In other words, see ya, don’t want ta’ be ya.

Dez is done in Dallas because he did not think he was a distraction to the team. It just goes to show; you can’t do what you want or say what you want and still get what you want. It just doesn’t work that way. Dues must be paid.  And in order to play in the NFL, or on any other reputable sports team, you need to do as mom taught us all, and that is to mind your manners. Here’s what the Dallas Cowboys had to say about cutting Dez:

“The other thing that we all see, and it is certainly visible to anyone who watches our games, watches our sideline, is Dez is certainly a fiery guy who plays with a lot of emotion both on and off the field,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on the team’s podcast. “Sometimes that can be a distraction. It can be a distraction for Dez, it can be a distraction for other teammates. And we just have to really get our hands around when you put all the full body of work together where that’s headed.” http://www.espn.com/blog/dallas-cowboys/post/_/id/4766019/cowboys-cut-dez-bryant-due-to-lack-of-production-attitude

Once again, the lesson is crystal clear; your central core is more important than all of your shiny outer trimmings combined.   People might say that they like the attitude and all of the antics, but at the end of the day, we want to cheer for someone we want our daughters to marry. And Dez just doesn’t deliver. He may be able to catch a football, but lately, he can’t catch a hint. Owners and managers and coaches are only willing to put up with so much. So let this be another lesson for every and all other “characters” out there. Character still counts.

You can’t have it both ways. At the end of the day, careless, callous and reckless, abandoned living gets you nowhere fast.  The end of the line for loud mouth, undisciplined, show-boat behemoth players (and people) who can think no farther than their last antic or antagonistic tweet is a life of regret.  The sad part of the story is that Dez will land with some team somewhere but will go no farther than he’s gone before, unless he decides to mend his ways. 

It was said that the only person that can stop Dez Bryant, is Dez Bryant.  Because people, like owners and coaches, are only willing to put up with so much.

The DiVincenzo Factor

DiVincenzoVillanova-superJumboDonte DiVincenzo winking after a shot against Michigan on Monday. He had 31 points, five rebounds and three assists and was voted Most Outstanding Player in Villanova’s 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Title win.

Credit Ronald Martinez/Getty Images        

Donte DiVincenzo’s name is just like his game: unique and intimidating. I mean, don’t you wish you could have a championship game like Donte DiVincenzo? You know, Villanova’s killer sixth man off the bench who just killed it against upstart Michigan? I mean he KILLED IT! He doesn’t start, and yet he scored thirty-one points, had block after block and timely three pointers to carry his team to victory. It was an impressive performance to say the least. 

One sports writer put it like this: “Had DiVincenzo been in a video game, flames would have been coming off his ball.”

The statistics — 31 points on 15 shots, five rebounds and three assists — still undersell the extent to which DiVincenzo was his team’s fulcrum Monday night. The team’s sixth man, he was the one who stopped the bleeding after the underdog Michigan surprised the 67,831 spectators in the Alamodome and millions more watching on television who had expected a fairly easy victory by Villanova, the top seed.

Before DiVincenzo scored his first basket, Michigan led 14-8. Villanova’s next 8 points were DiVincenzo’s: a 3-pointer, a 3-point play, a jump shot. DiVincenzo responded to ball screens by hitting long 3s from where he was standing or, once, finding Omari Spellman down low on a brilliant bounce pass.

On defense, during one stretch he forced a driving Zavier Simpson into a miss and then, on the next possession, the 6-foot-5 DiVincenzo straight-up blocked an attempted dunk by Charles Matthews. At one point, after back-to-back 3-pointers, DiVincenzo winked at the crowd. He later said he was aiming for Hart.

The moral of the story is this: every team needs a DiVincenzo on their bench because the DiVicenzo factor is so awe-inspiring it sends goose bumps up and down your spine. I’m so happy for him. He could have been a starter on any other team. Instead, he sacrificed playing time and came off of the bench and put the team first. And the end result was another National Championship for Villanova. AND he was rewarded and voted Most Outstanding Player for the Final Four. Wow. March Madness surely went out with a bang.

Sounds like we all could learn a lesson or two from Vilanova and Mr. DiVincenzo. Can you pronounce his name right yet?