The Toronto Raptors: Oh Canada!

Raptors Logo. 2

Ok. So the Raptors ripped the reigning NBA royals a new one. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can hear you all the way over here. 

Yes the Raptors won Game One. No, the Warriors did not look like the Warriors. Yes, it was the first NBA Finals game outside of the good ‘ole USofA.  No, Durant did not play. And yes, the fans were pumped and primed and the energy in the building was crazy. And no, the Warriors did not match the Raptors’ intensity. So there; a Game One win for the home team.

But just who were those guys in the home whites? Kawhi turned in a pedestrian performance as he ONLY scored 23 points. But the rest of the Raptors? Who were they? And where did that come from?  I mean a guy named Pascal Siakam scored 32 Points!  Thirty-Two points! On 14 for 17 shooting! Seriously?  That guy shot 82.3% from the floor?!  Are you serious? In other words, that guy, that guy who has a 10 point career scoring average, took 17 shots and missed three.  That only happens once in a never. Is this a dream or what?

Ok — let me try this explanation another way, as I try to lower my blood pressure – breath, breath . . . . Pascal Siakam just played in his first NBA Finals game.  His FIRST. Siakam is averaging 18 points per game in the playoffs and he averaged a very respectable 16.7 for the season.  But his unexpected 32 points in Game One was the most points in an NBA Finals debut since Kevin Durant had 36 for Oklahoma City in 2012, and it made Siakam the first player to score 30 or more on at least 80 percent shooting in a finals game since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2004.

Those two players, Durant and Shaq, were top-two draft picks, as were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan, the other players since 1970 with 30 points in an NBA Finals Game 1 within their first three pro seasons.

So, do you believe in miracles?  This guy from Cameroon, who was going to be a priest, turned to basketball and now turns in the performance of his life when his team needed it most. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. As I watched Game One in disbelief, I realized that it appears that we may, just may, have an upset in the making?

While I’m pulling hard for “my” Warriors, it appears that the team from up North has all of the farm animals lined up to make a dress for the ball.  The newest entry on the long list of sports Cinderella’s thinks she can dance her way into the prince’s heart, and the pumpkin is ready and waiting outside. That’s the pumpkin that just got turned into a riding carriage. We’ll see.

Here’s how Jackie MacMullan from ESPN saw it:

“TORONTO — When you are champions, you stick with what got you here. For the Golden State Warriors, the formula in these 2019 playoffs had been fairly transparent: identify the best player on the opposing team — see James Harden and Damian Lillard — and harangue him into a night of frustration and disappointment.

Thus, the blueprint against the Toronto Raptors was to reduce Kawhi Leonard’s basketball life to misery, or at the very least considerable discomfort. Blitz him, double him, triple him if necessary, force him to give up the ball and dare the others to beat you.

It was a sound strategy on paper — except the “others” were not only expecting it, they were aiming to exploit it. So, it was a collection of “complementary” Raptors who vaulted Toronto to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-109 in a raucous Scotiabank Arena, delivering a roundhouse right to a team that so often has seemed invincible.

On a night when Leonard, who had been the most transcendent player in the playoffs, was a mere mortal, players such as Pascal Siakam happily filled the void. Siakam, the 24-year old forward who once was on a path to the priesthood — until a visit, on a lark, to a summer basketball camp in his native Cameroon detoured him on an improbable basketball journey — scored 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting. It was a prolific performance that would have been unthinkable two short years ago, when he was a raw, unpolished player who couldn’t shoot.

At all.

‘I was joking with him the other day,” teammate Fred VanVleet told ESPN. ‘We used to shoot together in my rookie year, and me and the guy rebounding used to duck sometimes because his shots would come off the rim so hard.

‘He had some bad misses. But what you are seeing now is the result of a lot of hard work. You can just see his confidence soaring.”

And the confidence of the Raptors is soaring as well. Not only do they think they can win, they believe they will win. And that’s how we should be: full of faith, void of fear and brimming with confidence that the Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory. shall fight for us. Regardless of the opposition, notwithstanding the competition, we must trust and believe that we are victors, not victims. We must cling to the Old Rugged Cross and to the truth that we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us.

As for the Warriors, they have their work cut out for them, with or without Durant.

For Those In Need of A “Breakthrough”

Breakthrough Poster

Does your prayer life need new life? Does your faith need a fix? Does your belief in the miraculous need some motivation? Then the film “Breakthrough” is for you. It’s especially for you. I believe in miracles, and this film just wrecked me. “Breakthrough” gave me reason to hope all over again. It’s a hard hitting, warm and fuzzy, cerebral yet practical primer on why we all should believe in God.

“Breakthrough” is the ultlimate upset win. It’s a classic comeback, and a total turnaround. John Smith, a 14 -year old star basketball player, is a typical teen. He doesn’t listen to his mom, he doesn’t do his homework, and he doesn’t think he’s living on thin ice. But he is. And yet God gives him a new lease on life with a second chance to make a difference.

In “Breaktkhorugh” it took the faith of a mother and the prayers of the saints to bring John back from the dead. It has intertwined layers of ethos and multiple levels of pathos, all mixed in to a solid, yet sordid story about life and love and how to live a victorious Christian life. Take it from me and do yourself a favor; read this blog and then go out and watch this film. It’s that good. It will do wonders for your soul.

Here’s the New York Times film review by Bilge Ebiri:

“In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell through the frozen surface of a lake in St. Charles, Mo., and remained submerged for 15 minutes. He had no pulse when emergency workers pulled him from the freezing water, or for nearly 45 minutes after; it was reportedly only after audible prayers by his mother, Joyce, that his heart finally started up again. And over the next several days, as his community vigorously prayed for him, the young man made a full, seemingly impossible recovery.

Roxann Dawson’s faith-based film, “Breakthrough,” tells the story of John’s miraculous ordeal with an unassuming simplicity, focusing on the harrowing details of the case without an overreliance on proselytization. Though faith is ever-present — particularly through the devotion of Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and the town’s struggling young pastor (Topher Grace), who remain with John (Marcel Ruiz) every step of the way — the film also wisely dedicates plenty of screen time to the emergency workers and doctors struggling to bring the boy back to life. Here, religion is not in contention with medicine, but seems to work in tandem with it.

The filmmaking may at times be direct and inelegant, but “Breakthrough” isn’t without nuance. Dawson (a TV veteran directing her first feature film) doesn’t sidestep the thorny issue of selective miracles — after returning to school, John wrestles with the fact that he was spared from death while many others aren’t. “Breakthrough” is more suggestive than evangelical, and its willingness to let the mystery of the young man’s survival linger enhances the film’s power. You don’t have to believe in divine intervention to be moved by this story.”

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady

brady ea sports

Guest Blog from Wesley T. Cherry, Jr.

“We have to really marvel and appreciate what we are witnessing. It has been an absolute honor to be able to watch Thomas Edward Patrick Brady. We have to really marvel and appreciate what we are witnessing. 

It has been an absolute honor to be able to watch Thomas Edward Patrick Brady play the Quarterback position. Converting not one, but three straight 3rd and 10’s in overtime!!! 13/19 on third downs for the game in that building?! It’s impossible! Not for “Tommy” though. I will never put Aaron Rodgers in the same breath with him again. I can see a team getting to 9 Super Bowls in 19 seasons, but not one player….It’s unheard of.

When greatness is needed, Brady summons it and gets the job done every single time. Did I mention he is 41! I’m done…Tom Brady you stand alone.rd and 10’s in overtime!!! 13/19 on third downs for the game in that building?! It’s impossible! Not for “Tommy” though. I will never put Aaron Rodgers in the same breath with him again. I can see a team getting to 9 Super Bowls in 19 seasons, but not one player….It’s unheard of. When greatness is needed, he summons it and gets the job done every single time. Did I mention he is 41! I’m done…Tom Brady you stand  alone . . . ” in the world of sports.

But lest we get too carried away with Brady, the spiritual corrolation is this; there is only one God, the great I AM, and beside HIm there is none other.  Amen.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

Psalm 48:1-2, KJV

 

Note to Jason Garret: Go For It!

Jason Garrett Jason Garret, the current (emphasis on “current”) coach of the Dallas Cowboys, decided to punt the ball back to the Texans in OT instead of going for it on 4th and 1. Seriously.  And it cost his team the game.  The lesson is crystal clear: there are times to play it safe and there are times to take a chance, or a risk, or more pointedly, a leap of faith.   The only problem is, you need to know in your knower which time is the right time, and which time is the wrong time, to go for it. But you absolutely have to know.

Winning is all about faith. It’s about believing in yourself and in your teammates and having the courage to move forward when the odds are against you.  To get touchdowns you first need to get first downs, and Dallas failed on both counts last night against the Texans. And it was a bad decision by the coach that lead to the latest Dallas debacle.  

Here’s how one sports writer put it:

“I’m going to say something that folks who cover the NFL haven’t have reason to say in a long time — Jerry Jones was right.

In overtime of Sunday night’s loss to the Texans, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett opted to punt on fourth-and-1 from Houston’s 42-yard line on the first possession of the extra frame. That needlessly cautious decision gave Houston the ball back, and they drove 72 yards down the field to kick the game-winning goal.

After the game, Jones called out his coach. ‘We were being outplayed. It’s time for risks at that particular time.’

He’s right.” Jerry Jones, for once, was absolutely right. This time. https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2018/10/8/17950526/cowboys-texans-fourth-down-punt-overtime-jerry-jones-criticism-jason-garrett-hot-seat

So let’s learn the lesson; when everything is on the line, don’t play it safe . . . GO FOR IT!

Tiger Woods Comes Back From The Dead

Tiger Woods Tour Comeback Win 2018
Tiger Woods went from not knowing if he would ever play golf again to winning the 2018 Tour Championship marking his first win in more than five years.

Tiger did it. He absolutely did it. After five years and major surgery, Tiger Woods won a major golf tournament. And despite what you think of him or what he went through, his comeback is noteworthy. Tiger turned his career around, after he himself ran it into the ground.

So here’s to Tiger. He came back and his comeback is a throwback to when we fell in love with him way back. Here’s how USA Today told the story:

“It was a picture of confidence, an intimidating one at that, an image of a man who was in total control and knew what lie ahead. Six hours later, and after a wardrobe change, Woods was posing with the championship hardware, a portrait that seemed impossible 18 months ago.

After starting his latest comeback with tempered expectations and doubts about how long he could play, Woods steadily pieced together his swing and his game.

With a two-shot victory in the season finale, a win reminiscent of so many from his best days of yesteryear, Woods capped a comeback for the ages and completed his climb out of an abyss of physical agony, mental anguish and spiritual loss. The 14-time major champion also continued his remarkable climb up the official world rankings, all the way to No. 13 after starting his comeback ranked No. 1,199th.

“I had a hard time not crying coming up the last hole,” said Woods, who finished second in the FedExCup and won a $3 million bonus. “The people who are close to me saw the struggles and what I was going through, and some of the players that I’m pretty close to, they’ve really helped throughout this process the last few years.

“I’ve explained throughout the year that I just didn’t know whether this would ever happen again. If I could somehow piece together a golf swing this year, I felt like I could do it. My hands are good enough, and I just didn’t know if I could piece together a golf swing. But somehow, I’ve been able to do that, and here we are.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/golf/2018/09/23/tiger-woods-wins-tour-championship-first-time-five-years-80th-title/1405052002/

Good for you Tiger. Good for you.

Nike and Kaepernick: “Just Do It?”

Kaepernick Nike Commercial
Nike’s 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” Commercial Featuring Colin Kaepernick

By Paige Gawley‍, Entertainment Tonight

“Colin Kaepernick’s Nike commercial is here!

Following the controversial announcement that the 30-year-old NFL free agent would team with the sports brand earlier this week, the company has released a two-minute commercial featuring the athlete.

The uplifting ad includes people of all types — disabled and able-bodied; girls and guys; kids and adults — trying to accomplish something. Though they don’t always succeed, they always keep trying.

‘If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what you think you can do, good. Stay that way,’ Kaepernick says in a voiceover. ‘Because what non-believers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult. It’s a compliment.’

The ad continues with specific ways to dream big.

‘Don’t try to be the fastest runner in your school or the fastest in the world. Be the fastest ever,’ Kaepernick declares. ‘Don’t picture yourself wearing OBJ’s jersey. Picture OBJ wearing yours. Don’t settle for homecoming queen or linebacker. Do both. Lose 120 pounds and become an iron man, after beating a brain tumor. Don’t believe you have to be like anybody to be somebody. ‘

The Nike commercial also features clips of famous athletes doing their thing.

First it’s Alphonso Davies, a teenage refugee from Liberia, who plays soccer for Canada. ‘If you’re born a refugee, don’t let it stop you from playing soccer for the national team — at age 16,’ Kaepernick says.

‘Don’t become the best basketball player on the planet. Be bigger than basketball,’ the footballer player says alongside video of LeBron James opening his I Promise School school in Ohio.

The ad flashes to Kaepernick, who declares, ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.’ The statement references the fact that Kaepernick hasn’t been signed by an NFL team since 2016 when he was one of the first NFL players to kneel during the national anthem as a way of protesting police brutality and racial injustice in America.

‘When they talk about the greatest team in the history of the sport, make sure it’s your team,’ Kaepernick says of the U.S. National Soccer Team.

Shaquem Griffin, an NFL player with one hand, is featured next. ‘If you have only one hand, don’t just watch football, play it. At the highest level,‘Kaepernick says, ‘and if you’re a girl from Compton, don’t just become a tennis player. Dream of being the greatest athlete ever,” Kaepernick says of Serena Williams. ‘Yeah, that’s more like it.’

The ad ends with Kaepernick telling viewers, ‘So don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough.’

When news of Kaepernick’s new gig broke on Monday, there were strong reactions from both sides. Musician John Rich was against the ad, while the NFL and celebrities including Kobe Bryant, Common and LeBron James came out in support.”

So, what say you?  Is Nike exploiting Colin Kaepernick, or is Kaepernick just exploiting his situation?  Take your pick. Either way, if you can stand back and be objective, you will certainly conclude that there is more  meat than bones in this mesmerizing message.

 

Sports and John McCain: “Exploring John McCain’s Profound Impact On The Sports World”

John McCain Hand Over Heart
John McCain Hand Over Heart

By Larry Brown

http://larrybrownsports.com/baseball/john-mccain-profound-impact-sports-world/461521

“Senator John McCain died on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at the age of 81 after succumbing to brain cancer. The longtime Arizona state senator was best known for running for president against Barack Obama in 2008 and for being a Vietnam War hero who survived despite being tortured as a P.O.W. McCain was also a big sports fan who had a profound impact on the sports world during his time in congress. That is the part of his legacy that we would like to explore.

During his political career, McCain had a big hand in the reformation of baseball, boxing, and the UFC, as well as other sports. Matching his conservative ideology, McCain often focused on more fairness and rules to protect athletes.

BASEBALL

McCain was one of the big reasons why MLB introduced a drug testing program that helped end the steroids era in the sport.

Even though the use of steroids was illegal in the country, MLB’s drug testing was extremely lax (just one test per year), with light penalties. That led to the game being overridden by steroids users for around a decade between the early 1990s to the early 2000s. In order to get the sport to clean up the drug use, McCain, acting in his role as Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, threatened federal legislation if MLB did not introduce a harsher drug policy.

“Major league baseball players and owners should meet immediately to enact the standards that apply to the minor leagues, and if they don’t, I will have to introduce legislation that says professional sports will have minimum standards for testing,” McCain said in Dec. 2004. “I’ll give them until January, and then I’ll introduce legislation.”

In 2006, MLB introduced its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The program included more comprehensive testing as well as significantly harsher penalties to discourage cheating.

His big reason for pushing for harder drug testing? “What I care about are high school athletes who are tempted to use steroids because they think that’s the only way they can make it in the major leagues,” McCain said in a 2004 ESPN article on the matter.

McCain also supported bills that pushed for Shoeless Joe Jackson to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and legislation to honor Jackie Robinson.

BOXING

McCain was a lightweight boxer and huge fan of the sport. He also worked hard to help improve the sport with regulations aimed at protecting fighters medically and from financial exploitation.

In 1996, his Professional Boxing Safety Act bill was passed. The bill mandated all boxing matches be supervised by a state athletic commission; fighters be physically tested before being medically cleared to fight; health insurance coverage for each fighter; and the presence of an ambulance and medical personnel at each fight.

As positive as those changes were, he made even more contributions later with the passing of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. The Ali Act, which came into law in 2000, sought to prevent fighters from being exploited. The act mandated a separation between promoters and managers so that a fighter’s best interest would be represented. The act sought to end widespread corruption in the sport.

“If we can pass this legislation, there’s some hope,” McCain said in an ESPN article by Tim Graham before the legislation was passed. “I believe that boxers are the most exploited of all professional athletes. They come from the lowest economic rung, and they generally are the least educated, and they’re in the only major sport that’s not unionized.”

UFC

McCain was not a fan of the UFC, which he compared to “human cockfighting” back in 1997. He was one of the biggest enemies of the organization, which began without weight classes or rules, notoriously holding an “anything goes” attitude. McCain’s criticism and issues with the UFC led to it being pulled from pay-per-view and banned in every state around 20 years ago.
The UFC began to clean up the sport little by little, introducing rules and regulations, and seeking legalization state by state. In 2014, UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta credited McCain’s toughness for helping the league gain legitimacy.

“I have to give him credit,” Fertitta said. “Without him doing what he did back in the ’90s to force regulation, this sport would be dead. It wouldn’t exist. Honestly, for all the negatives he caused, he actually allowed the sport to foster and grow.”

McCain’s influence on sports doesn’t end there. During his political career, he sought to ban gambling on college sports. More recently, he sought to end government spending on military recognition at sports events, which many thought were done out of patriotism rather than commercialism.

McCain was incredibly accomplished and worked hard to improve the sports world. His work in the sports arena has had a great effect and will continue to long after his death.”