Croatia Stuns England, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Is Theirs for the Taking

Coratia's mario-mandzukic 2018
Mario Mandzukic celebrates after scoring Croatia’s winning goal in their upset, comeback win against England

“Little” Croatia didn’t get the memo. Little Croatia didn’t read the script. And Little Croatia, the little country across the Adriatic Sea from Italy (see, sports and a geography lesson to boot!) that was carved out of former Yugoslavia (and a history lesson), is on its way to its first World Cup Final in only 27 years of existence. And along the way, Team Croatia defeated Argentina and host Russia. Unbelievable.

England was on its way to not just the World Cup Final, but to a victory in the World Cup Final. It was a fait accompli, or so they thought. Until Croatia got in the way with a come from behind, goal in extra time-turnaround win. It was an upset for the ages. England wasn’t supposed to lose. And Croatia wasn’t supposed to win. And that’s how the ball bounces in this summer of surprises.

And here’s the theological twist: what have people, or even you yourself, said that you couldn’t do? What seemingly insurmountable, unachievable, or impossible feat have you been told just can’t happen in your life? Write it down. The Biblical examples are endless. Abraham and Sarah had their promised baby boy late in their retirement years. So did Zacharias and Elizabeth. The woman with the issue of blood was cleansed after being sick for so long, and the widow from Nain had her son raised to life again. It can happen!

So write it down. Write what you are believing God for down. Put a magnet on it and stick it on the refrigerator. Write it in on a post it and stick it on your mirror. This way, every day, you can remind yourself of what you are believing God for. And then remember Croatia in the FIFA 2018 World Cup. Because if Croatia can pull off the improbable, you can too.

And if “little” Croatia defeats France in the final on Sunday, they will forever be the upstart that pulled off the upset that we will be talking about for ages to come. And, when your miracle comes to pass, we’ll be talking about you too.

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Why I’m  Going to Watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup (now)

Neymar-world-cup-2014-hairstyles

 Ok, ok, ok. So stop ribbing me already about not watching the World Cup. I’m going to watch Brazil beat Belgium tomorrow. Because Brazil is the favorite now, right?  So that should be a great match. What? You mean you’ve been watching the whole, entire tournament; every match, every penalty kick and every minute of stoppage time? Please.

Let’s just say that I’m finally going to go all in on the world Cup. Partially because it’s the Elite Eight (what? they don’t use that term?) and partially because it’s almost over and I’d hate for some great goal to get scored and I didn’t see it. And I’ve got to see Neymar’s fancy new doo.  What? That hairdo was from 2014? Ooops.  Oh well, Neymar’s the flashy guy on Team Brazil so he (or his hair) and the match should still be great to watch.

AND I’ve got to watch because Russia is still in it (booooo!) And if they (they being Russia) win, we’ll never live it down. So let’s all watch the Russia/Croatia match and route, route, route for the AWAY Team. GO Croatia!

Coach Jimmy V: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

UCT Cover

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds: get your copy TODAY!

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Upsets%2C+Comebacks+and+Turnarounds

https://read.barnesandnoble.com/book/upsets-comebacks-and-turnarounds-2/cover#1

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this photo is worth a thousand pictures. The image is that powerful. 

Every time I look at the cover photo for Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds, a book about God and sports, I get goose bumps. It’s a photo that you almost want to jump into. It’s the party that we all want to crash. It’s the celebration that we all want to be a part of. It’s a picture of pure, unbridled and unapologetic joy. There’s nothing in the world like it. That’s why we need Heaven’s help to get it. It’s unspeakable joy.

Coach Jimmy Valvano experienced this kind of indescribable joy when his team pulled off the upset of the ages and won the 1982 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. The picture speaks volumes. After the big win, Coach Jimmy V is being carried off of the court by the fans. The FANS!  It’s not that this doesn’t happen often, it’s that it NEVER happens. Being carried off the court or the field by the players? Yes, that’s happened. But to be carried off by fans is unheard of. After this historic win, the excitement and ecstasy of victory was so moving that it moved the fans close to the winning coach to the point that they undertook this unprecedented uprising.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack defeated the heavily favored University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma team in a NCAA Men’s Basketball Final that will never be forgotten.  Coach Jimmy V’s arms and hands are stretched wide, as the hands and arms of his fans are stretched high to lift him and laud him and raise him and rally around him for the great victory he’d won. And great victories deserve and even demand great celebrations. And that’s what we witness here in this iconic photo.

Joy is great delight, and only comes from something exceptional and unusual. And the 1982 Wolfpack win was truly exceptional. It was a stroke of coaching genius on the part of Coach Jimmy V. The theological tie in is this: isn’t our spiritual victory over sin and Satan by the power of the Cross even more exceptional and extraordinary and moving and marvelous? I believe that Jimmy V’s sports victory is God’s way of giving us a glance and a glimpse of the glorious celebration we will have in Heaven with Him at the end of time.  It’s pure, unspeakable joy, and we don’t have to wait till the end of time to get it.

 We can have this joy in Jesus right now. 

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!

Five Reasons Why You Should Become  A Washington Capitals Fan

RocktheRed

Number 1: The Washington Capitals need all of the help they can get. This franchise has NEVER been to the Conference Finals, much less taken a whiff at the Stanley Cup Trophy, or even dreamt of WINNING the Stanley Cup. So you see? The Caps need your faith and your hope and your love. They need you to push and to pull and to yell and to scream and to scratch and to claw them to the top. In other words, the Caps need help in every sense of the word.

Number 2: The Capitals are playing a really good team in the Tampa Bay Lightning, and everyone has predicted that the Lightning are going to blitzkrieg the Capitals into playoff oblivion. But not so fast; at last check, the Capitals were winning Game One 4-0.

Number 3: The Washington Capitals finally got the monkey off of their back and exorcised their demons, advancing past the Pittsburgh Penguins after dropping their past two playoff series to their rival. Thus the Caps have a feel-good story second only to the Las Vegas Knights, who are drawing fans who don’t even know how to spell hockey. And the Caps need your help because they have their work cut out for them as the Tampa Bay Lightning are favored to win this series, if not the Stanley Cup.

Number 4. The real feel-good story of the 2018 NHL Playoffs would feature the Capitals against the Las Vegans Knights in the Stanley Cup Finals. Now THAT would be must see TV. And Hockey needs all of the fans it can get. So if the Caps can get past the Lightning AND face the aforementioned darling Las Vegas Knights for the Cup, we all should be glued to our TV sets to see sports history in the making.

And Number 5:  The Capitals are the underdogs. And we all know that we all should root, root, root for the underdog. If the Capitals win, it would be an epic story, an upset for the ages, and a turnaround tantamount to the some of the greatest sports stories, ever. And the Caps need your help, not just because they’re any underdog, but especially because they are an underdog that has a small fan base, or more to the point, a small hockey fan base. Let’s face it; Washington DC is a football town. In other words, since the Redskins aren’t playing, the casual DC fan doesn’t know that the Caps even made it this far in the playoffs.

For all these reasons, and more, Rock the Red!

Go Caps!

Hockey Fans Unite!

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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’.

Is Baker Mayfield The Answer to the Cleveland Browns’ Question?

Baker Mayfield is the embodiment of faith and hope and love for the game that Cleveland Browns fans have everywhere. At least some think he is. He’s a risk and a gamble and a wild card and a wild one as the Browns are going out on a limb and betting the farm on a hothead who’s got a hot arm who hopefully can get on a hot streak. We’ll all have to just wait and see how it turns out because right now he’s just numbers on paper. Here’s what an ESPN staff writer had to say about Mayfield being the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft:

Pat McManamon

ESPN Staff Writer

 

“The Cleveland Browns surprised the NFL world by making quarterback Baker Mayfield the first overall pick in the draft Thursday night.

The Browns has been expected to take a quarterback and had insisted Mayfield was under consideration through the pre-draft process. Most speculation still centered on USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, but momentum started to build in the last few days that the Browns favored Mayfield.

Cleveland also had the fourth pick Thursday and used it to select Denzel Ward, a cornerback back from Ohio State.

Mayfield, who had a stellar college career at Oklahoma but also made headlines with his behavior on and off the field, will be tasked with turning around a Browns team that went 0-16 last season.

Mayfield joins a roster that has Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback and Drew Stanton as the backup. The Browns hope to play Taylor this season, allowing Mayfield time to learn and grow. Mayfield, though, said at the scouting combine he would never “settle” for a backup role.

The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2002, which is the longest active drought in the NFL. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have had 28 different starting quarterbacks — the most in the league during that span.

Baker Mayfield will be tasked with turning around a Browns franchise coming off an 0-16 season in 2017. Harry How/Getty Images

Mayfield led FBS with a 70.5 completion percentage in 2017, and he set a single-season record by averaging 11.5 yards per attempt. He threw for 4,627 yards with 43 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

But Mayfield also garnered negative attention in recent years for his on-field antics, which included making an inappropriate gesture toward Kansas’ sideline and for planting Oklahoma’s flag on Ohio State’s logo at the 50-yard line after the Sooners’ victory over the Buckeyes. And if that wasn’t enough, on top of all that, Mayfield also was arrested last year in Arkansas on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest. He reached a plea deal last June and paid fines for several of the charges.

Throughout the draft process, the Browns said they felt Mayfield had admitted to mistakes and they were behind him. Browns general manager John Dorsey even joked with Mayfield at the team’s combine interview, asking how he liked food trucks, a reference to the February 2017 arrest that took place near food trucks.

Mayfield, who is from Austin, Texas, transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma after his freshman season. During his college career, he threw for 14,607 yards and had 131 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. He also rushed for 21 TDs and caught another during his college career.”