Coach Jimmy V: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

UCT Cover

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds: get your copy TODAY!

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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. 

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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!

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.

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.”

LeBron James: Still The King

LeBron James just hit a buzzer beater to beat the Indiana Pacers 98–95 in Game Five of a 2018 First Round playoff series. It was vintage LeBron.  The king delivered a certified instant classic with an epic performance at home to give his team a 3-2 series lead. He almost had a triple double:  44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He had an attack dog mentality as he dominated his opponent and carried his team on his back, again,

LeBron had a huge block when Indiana could have taken the lead. And the block came right after he turned the ball over under his own basket with under a minute to play. Instead of an embarrassing defeat, with only three seconds left on the clock, king James hit a three pointer from the top of the key. Instead of overtime and a possible loss at home, the king of the NBA led his team to yet another thrilling victory with yet another buzzer beater and yet another demoralizing defeat for an opponent that could’ve stolen a game from the James. But not so.

Cleveland is not a great team but they still have the game’s greatest player. The argument for the greatest of all time still rages as the jury is still out because the verdict is not in. Is James better than Michael? Kobe? Magic? Wilt Chamberlain? Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Bill Russell? The debate rages on. For now, once again, the great one proved that he is still the reigning undisputed heavyweight champion of the basketball world.

The great ones always find a way. Always. And once again this great player found another way to win.

The corollary is clear. You might not be that good or that great. None of us are. But with the great God we serve, you’re still great. And every day and in every “game” you have the chance to win even though you’re down and it looks like you may be out. But not so. Not with the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on your side.

Jesus is the ultimate greatest One, and He will always find a way for you to win. Always.

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?