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.

Sloane Stephens Wins the 2017 US Open: The Impossible is Possible

USP TENNIS: U.S. OPEN S TEN USA NY
September 7, 2017 New York, NY, USA– Sloane Stephens of the United States celebrates after match point against Venus Williams of the United States on day eleven of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY

Once again, we have yet another “David” pulling off an upset win when no one, and I mean NO ONE, gave her a chance. The “her” is Sloane Stephens. 

Who is Sloane Stephens?  Who knew or even wildly guessed she would win the US Open?  And who saw this one coming? We’ll field the answers to Questions 2 and 3 first: nobody and not anybody.  Now for Question No. 1: Sloane, a 24 year old who has been playing professional tennis since she was 16, came from nowhere and ended up somewhere very special. The winners circle at the US Open is a pretty special place to be, especially when you didn’t expect to end up there.  Good for her. For more on Stephens, check out her web site http://sloanestephens.com/about/ which is pretty nice.

Sloane Stephens, who was unseeded and ranked 83rd, defeated Venus Williams in the semi-finals of the US Open, and in 2013.  At the tender age of 15, she defeated Serena in the Australian Open! Sheeesh!  I love it. 

Once again, sports stands at the front of the classroom, with chalk in hand at the blackboard drawing X’s and O’s, teaching us once again that an unknown can come from the unknown and become so well known that we can’t ignore how hard work and faith can combine and collaborate in a comeback conquest for the ages.  But none of this looked possible earlier this summer.

Stephens, who had been sidelined for 11 months after a foot injury and underwent surgery in January, made her comeback at Wimbledon and entered this summer’s US Open Series ranked 957th.  Talk about sitting in the back of the bus! But she’s been on a tear in the North American events, reaching the semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati.  

“I had surgery January 23,” Stephens said. “If someone told me then that I’d win the US Open, I would say ‘It’s impossible – it’s absolutely impossible.’  My journey to get here, coming back, just being able to keep it all together and have such a great team behind me — this journey’s been incredible. And I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world. 

Wow. What a humble, meek and modest message.

With the win, Stephens is projected to rise to No. 17. She also nets a hefty payday: $3.7 million. Her career earnings heading into this tournament were $4,519,709, with $310,546 coming this year.  http://us.cnn.com/2017/09/09/tennis/us-open-final-madison-keys-sloane-stephens/index.html

 Sloane Stephens

And her reaction and facial expression after she found out how much her earnings were is priceless.  “That’s a lot of money,” a visibly surprised Stephens said.

 Sloane Stephens Wins 3.7 Mil

Get used to it sista. 

Winning Cures Everything

Everyone loves a winner.  Because winning cures everything. It cures frustration and fury and disappointment and depression and everything else in between.  Winning ways will win you admiration and approval and applause and affection, not to mention esteem and honor.  It’s an axiomatic truth; winning cures what ails us, and we have a lot of maladies that we need healing from.

When you’re winning, you’re conquering and overcoming and triumphing over your foes and your fears. And  your fiercest foes may not be as dangerous as your deepest fears or your weariest woes.

This year, the North Carolina Tar Heels showed us how to win ugly. And even though it wasn’t pretty, it was beautiful.  North Carolina avenged a last second, buzzer beater, gut wrenching loss to Villanova in last year’s final. And if that wasn’t a horrible way to lose, I don’t know what is.

This year, while Gonzaga may have been the sentimental favorite, it would have been awful and even cruel and unusual punishment for North Carolina to lose in the finals for a second year in a row.  So the basketball gods asked the God of the universe for permission to let this one go Carolina’s way. 

We all want God to right our wrongs and cure our ills and forgive our iniquities heal our diseases. Especially this time of year during early Spring, the time of the singing of the birds, when hope springs eternal.  We all need a second chance, or more specifically, another chance, at life. After we slip up and trip up and mess  up, we all need another shot at redemption. This is what we all hope and dream and strive for; atonement, renewal and restoration.  

So don’t give up and don’t give in. Even when you lose a tough one, believe that you can bounce back and win the big one.

Is Tim Tebow Relentlessly Pursuing Failure?

tim-tebow

This is an excellent post from ESPN’s David Fleming, so I’m sharing it it’s entirety:

TIM TEBOW’S FIRST day of spring training unfolded pretty much exactly as expected. Before he stepped foot onto First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida, his $28 Tebow 15 jersey was already available for purchase outside the ballpark. There was touching chatter about the joys of pursuing his “childhood dream” of playing baseball, not to be confused with his currently on hold “lifelong dream” of being an NFL quarterback. Many experts, after making a special point to say how nice and hard-working Tebow is, admitted that the guy who struck out 20 times in 62 at-bats during the Arizona Fall League didn’t look any more comfortable or natural as a pretend baseball player.

 None of that, of course, stopped networks, including this one, from running video of Tebow crushing home runs during his first batting practice session, titillating footage that has only slightly less correlation to actual baseball performance than sunflower-seed spitting. And, predictably, before the day was through, the New York Post had dubbed Tebow “a much more athletic Garth Brooks” while judging this spring training experiment to be Tebow’s latest, greatest feat of athletic failure. It was a declaration that Tebow seemed prepared to handle better than any curveball he has faced.

 “There are certain things in life we love and we have the chance to pursue, but a lot of the time fear of the unknown, fear of failure gets in the way,” Tebow told Marty Smith on SportsCenter at the start of camp. “If I fall flat on my face, then guess what, I’m going to get right back up again.”

 It’s a mantra that has sustained Tebow over the past five years. On Jan. 9, 2012, Tebow threw for 319 yards in a stunning 29-23 overtime win against an injury-depleted Pittsburgh defense in the AFC wild-card playoffs. Since then, though, he has grifted his way to untold riches and largely unearned opportunities with five franchises in two professions while barely bothering to alter his act. First, NFL quarterback was the dream he would relentlessly pursue, then — nope, hold up, wait a minute — it was actually baseball the entire time. In both sports, he has benefited from the same viral coverage to cloak his shortcomings, co-opted the same kind of devout “experts” to vouch for his authenticity, shown the same lack of humility and understanding of the challenges he faced, and, worst of all, exploited the same needs and dreams of fans in both sports.

What continues to make him one of the most puzzling and compelling athletes of his era, though, is not the long string of embarrassments, but rather, what seems to be Tebow’s absolute fearlessness in the face of Mets spring training, a challenge that is almost certainly going to be his greatest, most public humiliation yet.

“People will say, ‘What if you fail? What if you don’t make it?'” Tebow said at the beginning of this process. “Guess what? I don’t have to live with regret. I did everything I could. I pushed it. And I would rather be someone who can live with peace and no regret than being so scared I didn’t make the effort.”

Whether you think that’s enlightened or idiotic is up to you.

TEBOW HAS BEEN transformed into shorthand for fans, an instant litmus test. Are you a fellow dreamer and believer? Or are you one of those cold-hearted realists who worry about the minor league player who had his spring training roster spot stolen by Tebow’s publicity stunt?

In a way, he has even become a counter-culture icon, unafraid and unharmed by failure in an increasingly perfectionist society. It’s a place where icons such as Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison confiscate their kid’s participation trophies and up to 75 percent of kids drop out of sports before age 14 because of a fear of failure. And so, what might be at the heart of the latest chapter of our ongoing infatuation with Tebow is the utterly unsettling way he has embraced, perfected and, yes, profited from the art of failure.

It would certainly explain this latest campaign, why at 29 he’d be so gung-ho about publicly attempting the most difficult challenge in sports — hitting Major League pitching — after more than a dozen years away from the game.

“I applaud what he’s doing. So many of us are crippled by high expectations that we tend to quit things way too early,” says Mark Anshel, a professor emeritus at Middle Tennessee State and the author of “In Praise of Failure.” “I think Tim Tebow knows exactly what he’s doing. If helping people deal with failure is how you believe you were called to serve God, then I’d say attempting to become a professional baseball player out of the blue at 29 is the absolute best place for him to be.”

Tebow ‘not going to worry’ what people think

On the first day, Tim Tebow spoke with his trademark smile and charisma, Tim Tebow added a new line to his resume: spring training attendee. What did the QB-turned-outfielder say at Mets camp, and how many BP homers did he blast?

Since the 2012 NFL playoffs, Tebow’s business as a pro athlete has been failure — and business has been good. After a brief, brilliant flash of success, the Broncos grew tired of his terrible throwing mechanics and struggles with the cognitive side of the game, and Tebow agreed to a trade to the absolute worst possible spot for a developing quarterback: the New York Jets. Tebow’s act of self-sabotage resulted in him completing just six passes behind Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy before being cut by Rex Ryan.

Not only did Tebow make the same choice when it came time to pick a baseball team, at both stops he also used his popularity and the ravenous media coverage, including a good share of it from yours truly and the rest of ESPN, to take the attention off his on-field struggles. No one remembers that on the first day Jets camp was open to the public, Tebow was so bad he completed just three passes while fans heckled him and coaches worried that he wasn’t a viable option to replace Sanchez. Instead, the only thing we remember about Tebow as a Jet was the shirtless QB jogging across the field in the rain after practice. Similarly, no one knows that Tebow went 0-for-3 in his Arizona Fall League debut or that scouts knew right away there was zero justification for his roster spot — a gift he honored by keeping his TV gig on the side. No, we remember him “saving” a fan who collapsed during an autograph session.

When his first stop in New York was over, an NFL scout told me the truest thing I have ever heard about Tebow’s athletic career. And it remains just as true in baseball: It is nearly impossible to find a teammate who will say anything bad about him as a person, or a scout who will say anything good about him as a player. “He’s a tough guy, a great leader, a great person,” an NFC scout said at the time. “He’s just not a quarterback.”

It didn’t matter. In fact, it only helped Tebow develop his brand: Failure Incorporated. The next summer, after he was unceremoniously let go by New England, Tebow vowed to go to the ends of the earth to make himself an NFL quarterback, a pledge that apparently did not extend to Canada or Orlando, where he had standing offers to hone his QB craft in the CFL and the Arena League. Stooping to play fullback or tight end, where he worried he would no longer be everyone’s focus of attention inside the huddle, was out of the question too. (And yet we believe this same guy intends to spend his summer in Single-A ball, riding a crowded, stinky bus, grinding his way through 140 games in 150 days?)

In parting ways with the Patriots, Tebow tweeted 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, in part, that “power is perfected in weakness” and, therefore, the best way to have Christ’s power dwell inside you is by boasting of your weaknesses. This seems to be the moment where Tebow was able to meld his rapidly dwindling prospects as an NFL quarterback with the universal connection to, and the spiritual rewards of, failing with honor and purpose — sometimes over and over and over again.

Despite an abundance of critics, Tebow has remained steadfast in his endeavors. The fear of failure is not something that dictates his path. Rich Schultz /Getty Images

IN 2014, TEBOW turned to former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer for tutelage and support. Dilfer and passing guru Tom House worked to improve Tebow’s throwing mechanics at the University of Southern California. But like millions of Tebow supporters, Dilfer might have been unable to separate his fondness for Tebow the man and his evaluation of Tebow the quarterback.

“This is one of the greatest players to play college football, and he didn’t know how to pass,” Dilfer raved on ESPN at the time. “I believe now he knows how to pass. Every GM, every scout, every person out there should go at least watch Tim Tebow now, because it’s a different guy.”

From – David Fleming, http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/18791367/tim-tebow-relentless-pursuit-failure

Cool Runnings Says, “Finish!”

cool-runnins

Cool Runnings is the true rags to sports riches story about the humble hubris of the human spirit.  When a Jamaican sprinter is disqualified from the Olympic Games, he enlists the help of a dishonored coach to start the first Jamaican Bobsled Team.  And the irony is that they finished, but not first or even in the middle of the pack. The team’s borrowed bobsled broke going down the track and they had to carry it on their shoulders across the finish line. But they finished nonetheless. 

According to Roger Ebert, “it’s not a bad movie. In fact, it’s surprisingly entertaining, with a nice sweetness in place of the manic determination of the average sports picture. The actors playing the bobsledders have a nice comic charm, especially Doug E. Doug as a high-energy guy named Sanka Coffie. And John Candy has a couple of stirring speeches that he somehow delivers as if every word were not recycled from other films. If you like underdog movies, you might like this one.”

And here’s some more inspiration from some sports and entertainment greats:

Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
John Wooden

The mark of great sportsmen is not how good they are at their best, but how good they are their worst.
Martina Navratilova

Sports is the toy department of human life.
Howard Cosell

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.
Michael Jordan

Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.
Lou Holtz

Most football teams are temperamental. That’s 90% temper and 10% mental.
Doug Plank

A winner never whines.
Paul Brown

I wouldn’t ever set out to hurt anyone deliberately unless it was, you know, important -like a league game or something.
Dick Butkus

The reason women don’t play football is because eleven of them would never wear the same outfit in public.
Phyllis Diller

How To Bounce Off Of The Bench and Hit a Grand Slam (To Win A Playoff Game)

miguel-montero

How ‘bout ‘dem Cubs!

Up 3-1 in the 7th, the Cubs gave up the lead and, voila, the game was tied. So to the ninth inning and probably extra innings we go, right? Not with the third string catcher pinch hitting, we don’t. That’s right — the Cubs THIRD string catcher came in from off of the bench with bases loaded and 2 outs, and the count quickly ran to 0-2. But then, on the very next pitch, lightning struck.

When Miguel Montero stepped to the plate in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLCS to face Dodgers reliever Joe Blanton with two outs and the bases loaded, I’m guessing even the most optimistic of Cubs fans didn’t expect to see a grand slam.

Montero is a two-time All-Star with 120 career home runs, but he had struggled during the regular season, hitting .216 with just eight home runs in 241 at-bats. When Blanton ran the count to 0-2, it seemed we’d be headed to the ninth inning with a tie game and Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman out of the game. The hero of Game 1 gave Cubs fans everywhere hope and a view through a periscope towards a favorable near future.

Ironically, he was about as low as you can go for a major league baseball player, but Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero’s struggles never got him down to the point of mailing it in. Instead, he kept his head up and his attitude as positive as he could — and he waited for his moment.

That moment came in a big way Saturday night, as Montero became the third player ever to hit a postseason, pinch-hit grand slam, and he propelled the Cubs to an 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. It was an instant classic featuring more managerial second-guessing than a regular season’s worth.

“I’m not going to do any good to anybody being a cancer and being upset about it and being a cry baby,” Montero said of losing playing time. “I’m not going to be a cry baby. I’m going to keep my head up, and whenever they give me a chance, I’m going to take advantage of it.”  And take advantage of it he did. Montero hit a 0-2 slider — the third one he saw in the short at-bat — out to right field off Dodgers reliever Joe Blanton and sent the crowd of 42,376 into hysteria. 

“Obviously, as a kid, you always dream of the situations,” Montero said. “And that’s what you live for. It’s easy to hit a grand slam in the first inning when nobody is actually screaming at it, and this one is a lot more special because it’s in front of this special crowd that we have, and you’re always looking for that.” (Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer)

montero

I love this part about Montero: he did not complain, mumble or grumble. Instead, “he kept his head up and his attitude as positive as he could — and he waited for his moment.”

And that’s what I’m going to do too.

If You Ain’t Got Hope, You Ain’t’ Got Nothin’: Eagles All the Way, Baby!

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
Aug 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws a pass during pre game warmups against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

As the sign says, “If not now, Wentz?”

if-not-now-wentz

OK, OK, OK – so, I’m not supposed to get all giddy and gabby and excited and ignited just yet, but . . . It’s just that my Eagles looked so good last week! (Yes, it’s only Week 1) But, if my Eagles (altogether now, pronounced “Iggles”) win on the road in Chicago, and do so convincingly, then the sky’s the limit, right? 

So, let’s all watch wonder boy Carson Wentz on Monday Night Football tonight, and witness my Eagles beat up on the “Bad News Bears.” And then I’ll be back tomorrow to write a great post on how good (or great?) my Eagles are, and how far they, I mean “WE,” will go this season. I mean heck, the Redskins stink! ‘Dem scabby Skins are 0-2 and they’re calling for Kirk Cousins head already! 

So why can’t my Eagles soar! (Did I tell you that I’m an eternal optimist, and that all Eagles fans everywhere have been here before in the last 5 years? Yeah.)

Because if you ain’ t have hope, you aint’ got nothin’.

Altogether now: “Fly, Eagles Fly, on to Victory!”