The Part of Life That Hurts The Most

 gordon-hayward injury

On the first night of the season, in the first game of the season, Celtics forward Gordon Hayward was carried off of the floor in Cleveland after suffering a horrific-looking left ankle injury a little less than six minutes into his Boston debut Tuesday night.

Hayward’s left leg bent awkwardly as he landed under the Celtics basket with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first quarter. Teammates and Cavaliers players including LeBron James rushed to check on Hayward as he was stretchered from the court.

Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade knelt with his hand on his head nearby as team doctors attended to Hayward. Shell-shocked Celtics players huddled, with Kyrie Irving burying his head in the chests of teammates Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum.

Cleveland fans gave Hayward a standing ovation as he was taken from the court with his entire left leg immobilized in an air cast. He was immediately taken to the Cavaliers locker room for more evaluation. James and former Celtics teammate Isaiah Thomas, who recruited Hayward to Boston over the summer, went into the Cavaliers locker room where he was receiving medical attention.

Unsuspected, unpredicted, unwanted and unwarranted injuries to the best and brightest players hurt the most. And that’s just like life. Like Hayward, Aaron Rodgers was carted off of the field Sunday after the young season held so much promise and the rest of the season held so much potential. 

The possibities in Boston were endless, as Hayward teamed up with Kyrie Irving to challenge Irving’s old team and teammate, LeBron and the Cavs. But all that’s gone, at least for now.

So how do we deal with the hurt side and the down side of life? How do we deal with the wounds and injuries and bruises? How do we deal with the pain — and pain will come —especially when we were expecting to celebrate being physically healthy and emotionally wealthy and whole?

We need to take time to heal; we need to make time to mend, and we need to have time to allow God to restore our souls. Oh, and one more thing; don’t rush the healing process.  Time does not heal all wounds; God does.

The part of life that hurts the most is when we have to convalesce when we want to compete. It hurts when we have to sit when we want to run. It’s painful to see someone go through pain without the power to aid and assist in a tangible way. Someone said that sometimes we can’t do anything to help but pray.

Even when it seems like we can’t do anything, praying is everything. Because at all times, the best thing to do is pray.

Big Ben Says “Don’t Count Me Out!”

Ben Pointing

Ben Roethlisberger had the game from hell last week. He had the worst game of his illustrious, all-pro career.  He had a career-high five – count ‘em – FIVE INTs. That’s five interceptions in one game. And that’s not good.

But Ben Ben’s not done yet.  Today Ben bounced back and beat the previously undefeated Kansas Chiefs on the road at Arrowhead Stadium in KC. 

Last week, Ben threw too many interceptions and was ready to throw in the towel. Two of those INTs Jacksonville returned for touchdowns in a 30-9 loss to the Jaguars. The bitter, biting, baneful loss left the Steelers frustrated and the most prolific passer in franchise history struggling to put a finger on how things went so wrong, so quickly for a group that was expected to be among the league’s best.

Last week, just five weeks in, Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers were (3-2) and decidedly average. And then there came this from Big Ben himself:

 “Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” Roethlisberger said.

The 35-year-old was kidding. Mostly. While he tried to chalk it up as simply a bad day at the office, in reality this one was different than most. No Steelers quarterback had thrown it to the other team five times in a game since Mark Malone did it against Cleveland 30 years ago. 

https://apnews.com/79913b5d9488456bb21494f36aa1b17c/Roethlisberger%27s-rough-day-paves-way-for-Steelers%27-loss

 That was last week.  And as they say, that was then, and this is now.

Now is a 19-13 win over previously undefeated Kansas City. And this week Ben had help; big help. Pittsburg’s Steel Curtain defense regained its former, famed glory and held Alex Smith and the high powered, league leading offense to six first half yards. That would be six, as in comes after five and right before seven. And KC had one first down in the first half. Just one.  It was total domination by the Pittsburg “D” for 3 ½ quarters.

Now the Steelers are 4-2 and looking one hundred and eighty degrees better than they did in last week’s loss. That’s quite the bounce back. That’s quite the turnaround. That’s quite the statement game. And this is why we love sports. And this is why sports and faith are not foreign; nay, sports and faith are famously familiar BFFs and bosom buddies. 

Everything we do is spiritual.  Everything. Including what happens on the field, on the court, on the ice, on the track, in the pool and in the gym.   And once again, Big Ben gives us a reason to believe, a reason to hope, and another reason to get back up and get back going, again.

So take it from Big Ben. Don’t count yourself out.  Say it over and over and over again.  You can make it. And tell your enemies and your foes the same thing. Tell the naysayers and the bogus soothsayers to take a hike too. Tell them emphatically, “Don’t count me out!”

Your Dreams Are Your Ticket Out

Kotter_Gabe Kaplan

TV Shows in the ‘70s were the best. And they had great theme songs. One of my favorites was the opening song for “Welcome Back Kotter.” This was a great, family friendly sit-com (they don’t make ‘em like they used to, right?) starring Gabe Kaplan as a wisecracking high school teacher in charge of a racially and ethnically diverse remedial class called the “Sweathogs.” The show also featured John Travolta in his television debut.

Welcome Back Kotter Group Pic

The show is all about redemption. Redemption for Kotter, redemption for his students, and redemption for the viewers as well. Kotter came back to his high school and gave back to the same kids and same place that he somehow succeeded from.

His comeback was a dream come true.

Your dreams are you ticket out. It’s a great song with great truth.  Dreams, for the most part, point to the future and forewarn or foretell of impending tragedy or imminent triumph.  Biblically, while most dreams are relegated to the OT, the prophet Joel does say that in the last days “old men shall dream dreams.”

Joseph, the son of Jacob, dreamed that his brothers and even his mother and father would bow down to him. And his brothers hated him for it. Because of his dreams, his brothers sold him down the river, and he ended up in Egypt. After being falsey accused he landed in jail. But as Providence would have it, he eventually interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. As a reward for predicting the future, Joseph became second in command in Egypt and was in charge of storing up grain during the good times and distributing grain during the bad times.  Meanwhile, back home in Israel, Joseph sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain, from, who else — Joseph, and thus Joseph’s dreams became his ticket out.

And your dreams can become your ticket out. So what are you dreaming? What are you believing God for? What do you desire? What do you long for that seems like its light years away?

My Philadelphia Eagles are dreaming of a Super Bowl Win.  For the Philly faithful, winning the Super Bowl is more than a dream — it’s like heaven; it’s a real place, somewhere out there, over the rainbow. We know it exists but we just can’t get there right now.

But that can all change this year. With a little Wentz and with a lot of hard work, this can be the Eagles’ year.  And it can be your year too. So keep hope alive.  And keep hoping. Keep trusting. Keep believing.

And may all of your dreams come true.

Which Way Are You Trending?

Wentz_1200_si

We have heard this and we have seen this sit-com before; “The Eagles are for real!” The Eagles are for real.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. But this time we mean it, right?

My Eagles have a penchant for “being for real” at the begging of the season. In fact, last year this time, we were all screaming, “the Eagles are for real” when they began the season 3-0. But they ended the season 7-9, Doug Pederson’s first year in Philly as head coach. And the year before that, we began the season with high hopes, but also finished a disappointing 7-9. And thankfully, that was Chip Kelly’s last season in Philly (I MEANT that thankfully thing).

The Eagles tend to start hot and end cold. They tend to fly high and then land hard. They tend to raise expectations to heaven and then dash hopes to smithereens. But this year is different, right?

All of Philly is hyped, amped, excited, and overjoyed. Why? Because the Eagles are 5-1 and looking good doing it.  Yes, you gotta believe that my Eagles Are For Real! This time.

Carson Wentz and the Eagle “D” stood up to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers 28-23 in Carolina, and they looked good doing it (for the most part). Except for too many penalties (do I hear the conspiracy theorists crying foul) and a few missed reads by Wentz, the Eagles looked great on both sides of the ball.

So all of Philly is hoping and praying that this year is different. Because you tend to follow your tendencies, right?

What about you? What are your trends and tendencies? What are your propensities and predispositions? Are they good or not so good? Either way, let’s all work or how we trend. Let’s work on which way we lean. You want to trend up, not down. You want to trend the right way, not the wrong way. You want to continue to progress, and not regress.

So, we all have work do. Let’s all work on finishing, and not just starting.

Stop Dancing With Your Demons: Aaron Rodgers Shows Us The Way

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Aaron Rodgers doesn’t think he can win, he knows he can win. And I dare say he knows he WILL WIN, especially late in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line against the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas.

Aaron Rodgers is 6-2 lifetime against the Dallas Cowboys.  But more importantly, he’s undefeated in late game heroics against the Boys in Big “D”. For the second time in nine months, the Cowboys scored 31 points against the Packers … and lost. And for the second time in less than a year, Aaron led a last-minute, last gasp, last chance, game winning drive, and led the Green Bay Packers to victory in fantastic fashion.

Rodgers ruined what could have been one of Dak Prescott’s best moments — a 17-play drive that covered 79 yards and lasted 8:43. Dallas led 31-28 with 1:13 left in the game after the last Dallas score. And Dallas was in complete control of the game at the start when Prescott threw three touchdown passes on the Cowboys’ first three drives.

But once again, Aaron Rodgers has buoyed us and begged us to turn our bogeys into birdies (How’s that for a mixed sports metaphor?) Once again, Aaron Rodgers has shown us that we can bounce back from our blunders and come back and perform wonders.

Yes Rodgers did it again.  And the lesson is clear: you can win with little or next to no time left on the clock. You can beat back the bastions you’re battling and the strongholds you’re struggling to defeat. You can.

So stop it; just stop it.

Stop dancing with your demons. Stop saying what you can’t do. Stop whining and start worshiping. Stop pouting and start praising. Stop complaining and start clapping your hands and leaping for joy.  Stop the mindless madness of missing miserably and start the anticipatory gladness that leads to triumphing gloriously. Just say it and believe and achieve it. Just do it. 

You can make, if you just believe.

UNO! a.k.a., Claim Victory, Because Victory is Now

 

I pick the Dodgers vs. Yankees in the 2017 World Series.

 That’s right. Let’s renew and revive an East Coast, West Coast, “Left” Coast, “Right” Coast rivalry one more time for ole time’s sake. Could it be Boston vs. Chicago or Colorado vs. Houston, or the Nationals vs. Cleveland? Nope. It could be, but it won’t.  

How do I know you ask? Sometimes you just know. Sometimes you just have to go ahead and say what you see even before it’s actually audible or visible. Don’t wait until others see it, especially when you saw it first. Why? Because the Victory Is Now. Now is the time to decree and declare what you desire and determine to be your destiny.

And how about Super Bowl 51? Who ya got? I know only a fourth fraction of the season has been played, and this is only the quarter pole, but remember, the victory is now. That’s why I’m picking my Eagles (pronounced Iggles).

 My Eagles can win Super Bowl 51 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 4th. That’s right, you “heard” it and read it first right here at http://www.Godandsports.net. My Eagles “can” win, because they’re just that good, and they’ve got room to get a whole lot better. Braggadocios, you say? An arrogant overreach? An overconfident overstep? Not if you understand the power of your words.

 The winners of the 2017 World Series and Super Bowl 51 played in February (I miss January Super Bowls – remember them?) must declare victory now. Before the first pitch of the playoffs and prior to reaching the pinnacle of America’s pastime and before they play football in December when it really counts, victory must be decreed and declared.

 In order to win in sports and in life, we need to decree and declare victory now. Because you can have what you say. In fact, you will have what you say, because you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). In fact, you will reap more that you sow, because of the principle of seed time and harvest. Seeds multiply. And multiplication always get’s you back more than you put in. So be careful what you put out, because just like in the card game UNO, it is most certainly coming back. The prophet said that if you “sow to the wind, you’ll reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7).

 Don’t get cynical on me. Some say that you don’t get everything you say. That may be true, but you won’t get anything you don’t say. Right?

 If you want to win, talk about it. Dream about it. Sing about it. Shout about it. Because your words will carry the crib or the coffin of your dreams. And you can kill a baby before it blooms and you can also revive a corpse even after its doom.

 So stop speaking doubt and downfall, because if you speak it, you’ll reap it. When you speak health and life, those words are the seeds that will eventually produce your harvest. Speaking in generalities never works. Saying maybe and perhaps and if and I wish I woulda coulda will get you exactly that. Somewhere between first place and dead last, which is nowhere with nothings to show for it. If you don’t get definite and decisive with what you want, that’s EXACTLY what you’re going to get. So watch what you say and be careful with what you speak.

 Just remember faith without works is dead, so you need to put your aim into action and match your desire with determination.

The Politics of Sports, a.k.a., Who Wants To Be Uninvited To The White House?

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“You could see the end to this awkward dance between the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors and President Donald Trump coming from 140 characters away.

Less than a day after so many prominent members of the Warriors reiterated their stance that they didn’t want to visit to White House to celebrate their title, and just hours after Trump’s inciteful rally in Alabama where he took aim at NFL players who protest the national anthem, he wasted no time in taking to Twitter – again.

‘Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!’ Trump tweeted.”  https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2017/09/23/donald-trump-rescinds-white-house-invitation-stephen-curry-warriors/696136001/

Wow.  

Much could be said, but here I yield to another writer, Michel Wilbon.

The following article is from “Wilbon,” (as Tony Kornheiser calls him), co-host of ESPN’s PTI, Pardon the Interruption, sports show.  Michael Wilbon hit the nail on the head.  In light of the ongoing media feud between the President of the United States, who rules from the White House, and athletes in the NBA and the NFL, I could write my own thesis or treatise on the subject, but Wilbon beat me to the punch.  Thanks Mike. 

“It was just before 3 a.m. Saturday, and I could hear the phone buzz from the incoming text. It was from Rex Chapman, a friend of many years now after I’d covered a lot of his college and NBA basketball career. For those who don’t remember Chapman, he was the sweet-shooting guard from Kentucky — white kid who could jump out of the gym — about to turn 50 this October. The despair he was feeling was coming right through the cellphone screen.

The text, in part, read, ‘I’m sorry about Trump. I’ve never been more ashamed. I hope you knew this before, but in case you didn’t I need to say it now. Love you Brother. Rex.’

This was an American man — white — feeling compelled to reach out to another — black — to make perfectly clear he didn’t support any of the garbage coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth. Not in the president’s Friday night Alabama speech, not in any rantings on Twitter. That Chapman didn’t think taking a knee during the national anthem meant a black football player was a “son of a bitch,” that he didn’t want any part of the hideous racial divisiveness that Trump was instigating.

I texted Chapman back to tell him I’ve known him well enough and long enough to know the only thing he has in common with Trump is race, and I already knew what side of any divide he was on … and that I loved him for composing and sending that text.

Chapman’s 3 a.m. communication was also a forecast of the storm coming right back at the president. Trump was either clueless about the blowback he’d get from the brotherhood of pro athletes, particularly African-Americans, or he’d seriously miscalculated the willingness of an industry of powerful people, most of them white, to stand with those “sons of bitches” who Trump demanded be fired for expressing the most fundamental American right.

Whether Trump was oblivious or misguided, I doubt he expected LeBron James to stand up for rival Steph Curry on Twitter. Could he have had any idea that white teammates would rally around black ones in locker rooms and on sidelines Sunday? Or that the team owners he wanted to fire those black protesters would link arms Sunday with those very players during the anthem? And the last thing he could’ve expected was New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, his friend, saying in a statement, “I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner they feel is most impactful.”

The beginning of Kraft’s statement, that there is “no greater unifier in this country than sports and nothing more divisive than politics,” might as well have been the NFL’s official position going into the day’s games. It even one-upped the statement from the measured NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who also called Trump’s comments “divisive.”

Those who thought Trump would fire back at Kraft and Goodell personally were left waiting. The president doesn’t waste his nastiest insults on white men, even those who disagree with him, when he has black men such as Curry and Colin Kaepernick to attack. And few, if any, African-Americans were surprised that the man who led the Obama birther movement and called Mexicans rapists said during an Alabama speech that a football player taking a knee during the anthem is a “son of a bitch.”

For a great many of us who find Trump and his actions somewhere between objectionable and loathsome, this latest episode illustrates once again that he is what we think he is. Black men taking a knee during the anthem enraged Trump, but a Charlottesville, Virginia, rally of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members carrying torches also included, in his words, “very fine people” who were just there to protest the removal of Confederate statues.

This isn’t lost on anybody paying even scant attention. As Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “These are … probably the most divisive times in my life, I guess since Vietnam … our differences, I’m speaking in terms of values, are so dramatically different. I’m talking in terms of inclusion and civil discourse and dignity. I thought his comments about NFL players are as bad as anything he’s said to this point. You’re talking about young men who are peacefully protesting, hallmarks of our country.

‘How about the irony of, ‘Free speech is fine if you’re a neo-Nazi chanting hate slogans’ but ‘Free speech is not allowed to kneel in protest’? No matter how many times a football player says, ‘I honor our military but I’m protesting police brutality and racial inequality,’ it doesn’t matter. Nationalists are saying, ‘You’re disrespecting our flag.’ Well, you know what else is disrespectful to our flag? Racism. And one’s way worse than the other.’

There’s an old adage in sports that conveys: You are what your record says you are. We know what Trump’s record is regarding race. And in taking on two leagues, one (the NBA) with some of the most famous people on the planet and another (the NFL) that features the most popular form of sports entertainment in America, Trump emboldened a population that is often reluctant to rally or take risk. Suddenly, with public backing from owners and leagues, players aren’t feeling their careers are at risk to the same degree as before.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wondered aloud during a television interview Sunday whether Trump is ready for the blowback from a community of people with so much national and global influence. And now those people, even the anthem-kneelers, find themselves being patted on the shoulder by sympathizers if not allies.

I texted Rex Chapman later in the afternoon to ask permission to share his thoughts publicly. Like millions of us, he was watching and listening, hoping to see definitive signs that we had progressed as a nation in our lifetimes, hoping that a choir of voices could overwhelm Trump’s.

I’m going to forward to Chapman the Facebook post of Dan Rather, a man who knows the sweep of American history. Toward the end of an eloquent and stunning rebuke of Trump, Rather sounded a note of cautious optimism that I’m certain Chapman was also getting at with his Saturday morning text.

‘We are not a nation of majority bigots,’ the former CBS newsman wrote. ‘The strident ranks of the intolerant can be overwhelmed by enough people agreeing that this is not who we are or who we want to be. Mr. Trump’s cheers can be drowned out by a chorus of justice.’ Even if that chorus is built one voice — or one text — at a time.

——-

Michael Wilbon is one of the nation’s most respected sports journalists and an industry pioneer as one of the first sportswriters to broaden his career beyond newspapers to include television, radio and new media. He is a co-host of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption.

https://theundefeated.com/features/donald-trumps-nfl-comments-inspired-a-response-he-didnt-see-coming/