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

Note To Cowboys Fans: Who Is Dak Prescott?


Who is Dak Prescott? Dak Prescott is the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback. Seriously. He’s a 4th Round “find” from Mississippi State. And he apparently and actually faired fairly well during this Pre-Season. 

So how will the Cowboys cope without their star but also star-crossed QB, Tony Romo? We’ll see. For now, the foreseeable future of America’s franchise football team rests  on the arm, head and shoulders of a virtual unknown. And if he does well, he won’t be unknown for long.

http://www.espn.com/blog/dallas/cowboys/post/_/id/4753461/dak-prescott-has-been-here-before-says-he-is-ready


Michael Phelps!

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Wow! What’s not to like?  He’s won going away, and in so doing he’s set the bar so high that it will be tough for any US athlete to beat and best his mark for gold medals won.  But that’s how we like our heroes. We like it for them to be above us and beyond us and ahead of us. But with all of that privilege comes responsibility. And in the end, Phelps has shown himself to be a worthy champion.

Here’s a little bit of his bio and a short list of his Olympic accolades:  

Michael Fred Phelps II was born on June 30, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland and is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals. Phelps also holds the all-time record for Olympic gold medals at 23; 14 ahead of the second-highest record holders. Phelps also holds the record for Olympic gold medals in individual events at 13, and Olympic medals in individual events at 16.

 In winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, Phelps broke fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz’s record of 7 first-place finishes at any single Olympic Games. Five of those victories were in individual events, tying the single Games record. In the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Phelps won four golds and two silver medals, making him the most successful athlete of the Games for the third Olympics in a row. And this year in Rio, we all watched Phelps win 5 gold medals and one silver.

Yet with all of the winning and medaling and achieving, Phelps has also had his handful of hiccups.

In November 2004, at the age of 19, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Salisbury, Maryland. Asked about the incident later by Matt Lauer on the Today Show, Phelps said that he had “let a lot of people in the country down.”

In February 2009, publication of a photograph of Phelps using a bong resulted in the loss of the Kellogg Company as a sponsor, as well as a three-month suspension by USA Swimming. Phelps admitted that the photo, taken at a party at the University of South Carolina, was authentic. He publicly apologized, saying his behavior was “inappropriate”.

And in September 2014, he was arrested again, on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding in Baltimore, Maryland. As a result, USA Swimming suspended him from all competitions for six months, and stated he would not be chosen to represent the United States at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships.

But Phelps has overcome each and every stumble and bumble.  He is retiring from the sport (again) and is going out on top, winning his last race. Phelps participated in five Olympics and won in four consecutive Olympic Games. Not too shabby.

Phelps now has a cute little boy and pretty little fiancée, and by all appearances, he seems to have handled the ups and bounced back from the downs of his life and career with a degree of class and composure. His major triumphs were on the grand stage, so if follows that his minor tragedies were equally public a swell. Because “to whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)

So congrats to you, Michael. You won the 4×100 medley relay in your last race. And after you won you marched around the arena with a “Thank you, Rio” banner. That was classy. You are a class act, and you will be a tough act to follow.

Simone Biles: “Dreams DO Come True”

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Yes they do. They absolutely do.

A dream is “a condition or achievement that is longed for; an aspiration.” Another meaning of dream is that it is “a wild fancy or unrealistic hope.” Polar opposite meanings of the same word; either meaning can take you to the top or drag you to the bottom. So which one applies to you? Which definition of dream do you choose? Do you envision your “series of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations occurring involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep” as an achievement that is long for or a wild fancy or unrealistic hope?

For Simone Biles, the answer is simple and profound: she has achieved her dream, and it’s not an “unrealistic hope” or a “wild fancy.” Dreams of achievement and accomplishment and joy and jubilee come straight from heaven, and for Simone Biles, the fulfillment of her dream is another illustrious example for us all.

Samone was already considered the world’s greatest female gymnast before even competing in the 2016 Olympics. And she excelled to new heights when she emphatically confirmed her stellar standing on Thursday by winning the women’s individual all-around gold medal at the Rio Games.

Wearing a stars-and-stripes leotard, Biles, 19, joined Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas as American all-around winners.

After winning the all-around at the Olympic trials, she was named to the 2016 Olympic women’s gymnastics team. She led the U.S. team to win gold in a wonderful way, and overcame overwhelming odds to beat the world’s best at the historic 2016 Olympics in Rio, a city living a dream as well.

Born on March 14, 1997, in Columbus, Ohio, gymnast Simone Biles has emerged as a champion in her sport. She and her sister, Adria, were raised by their grandfather Ron and grandmother Nellie, after their mother’s struggle with a substance abuse problem.

Ron and Nellie eventually officially adopted the two girls, and Biles calls her grandmother “Mom.” Nellie has been a constant source of support through Biles’s rise in the world of competitive athletics; as the gymnast told CNN, “She encourages me and never lets me feel down about something for too long.”

Biles is a part of the 2016 USA Olympic Gymnastics Team dubbed “The Final Five” because after this year, the team will only be comprised of four members. The Final Five are the third American women’s gymnastics team to win gold, following team victories in 1996 and 2012. After taking the team gold, Biles tweeted “dreams DO come true” and a photo of the U.S. team on the medal podium.

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Yes dreams do come true, so let’s you and me make ours come true too.

Russell Westbrook, Hometown Hero

Westbrook Presser

Russell Westbrook is staying in OKC.  And in so doing he’s become the hero for the hometown, the same Midwest hometown that just lost KD, Kevin Durant, to the rival Golden State Warriors only one long month ago. So what does this say about Westbrook and his dedication and loyalty to his team and his town? It says a lot. It doesn’t hurt that they’re paying Westbrook a whole heapin’ helping of dough, but he could have gotten paid elsewhere, right?

Loyalty and devotion and dedication are almost dinosaurs in this modern age of me, myself and I.  “Lookout for #1” is the theme song for many adolescents (and many adults, too) that have no penchant or proclivity for staying put in a job or a relationship or an obligation over the long haul.  And that indictment is especially true of athletes. Team dedication for the duration and long term commitments and contributions for an extended stay are almost a thing of the past.

A strong sense of duty to a core group and a common cause is part of our DNA. We long to be a part of something and to make a difference somewhere and to be connected to someone. And the lack of stability and steadfastness and stick-to-itiveness is a symptom of our bruised and broken, fragmented and segmented society.

So what is the cure for what ails us? What is the prescription and the panacea for our herky, jerky, restless, and borderline reckless world? Statements about concern and allegiance and faithfulness should be earnest and true, and Russell Westbrook gave all of us all that and some as he announced his decision to stay in Oklahoma City for at least two more years.

Westbrook’s press conference speech has quickly become an instant classic. Asked why he agreed to the extension now rather than wait until next season, Westbrook was emphatic:

There’s no need to wait if you know where you want to be.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:17222093

How thoughtful. How insightful. How profound. And, to take it a step further, I submit this axiom: “If you know where you need to be, and it’s where you want to be, then you’ve really in a good place.” Westbrook went on to say more:

There’s nowhere else I would rather be than Oklahoma City,” Westbrook said at a news conference to announce the deal. “You guys have basically raised me. I’ve been here since I was 18, 19 years old. You guys did nothing but good things for me. Through the good and the bad, you guys supported me through it all, and I appreciate it. Definitely when I had the opportunity to be able to be loyal to you guys, that’s the No. 1 option. Loyalty is something that I stand by.”

Westbook The Hero

Spiritually speaking, our faith in God and our faithfulness to each other are  one in the same. Both together, they should endure and last a lifetime. So fealty and fidelity and honesty and sincerity are not things of the past. They are alive and well and we do well to emulate the example that we’re seeing in Russell Westbrook today.

In Basketball, “TD” Stands for Timmy Duncan

tim-duncan-5-championships

I know it’s time to blog about baseball and the boys of summer and the Olympic Trials and Tom Brady losing his latest appeal regarding “Deflate Gate,” but we must pause because due applause is fitting and proper for one of the all-time great basketball players of our time: Tim Duncan.

Timmy Duncan was solid and steady, sturdy and stable, dependable and reliable, night in and night out. He just came to play and got the job done. Game after game and season after season and championship after championship, Tim scored points and grabbed rebounds and blocked shots. He wasn’t flashy nor was he flamboyant. And thank God for that.

The New York Times reported that “Duncan’s retirement was as quiet as Kobe Bryant’s was colorful and protracted. The Spurs released a statement highlighting his achievements, but without a quotation from the player.” It speaks volumes to how unassuming and unpretentious this humble and yet heroic player was. And what a lesson for all the sports world to follow.

Thanks for 19 great seasons, Timmy. You were one of the best. And boy will we miss seeing you together with these guys. 

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Here’s the full New York Times article:

By VICTOR MATHER

“After 19 years and five championships with the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan announced Monday morning that he would retire at age 40.

Duncan was an elite player on an excellent Spurs team for his entire career. The Spurs made the playoffs every year in his tenure, never with a winning percentage lower than .610, and won five titles, with Duncan the finals’ most valuable player in three of them. He also won the league M.V.P. Award twice.

A relative latecomer to basketball growing up in the Virgin Islands, the 6-foot-11 Duncan was initially a swimmer. He was the No. 1 pick in the N.B.A. draft after four years at Wake Forest. (The Spurs had the top pick as a result of a rare down season largely caused by an injury to David Robinson.) The player selected just after Duncan, Keith Van Horn, has been out of the league for a decade.

Duncan initially starred in a “twin towers” lineup with Robinson, winning two titles. After Robinson’s retirement in 2004, Duncan carried on as the team’s star, winning three more N.B.A. crowns, most recently in 2013-14 over the Miami Heat in LeBron James’s last year there.

Duncan’s low-key nature often kept him out of the spotlight, but the sheer force of his accomplishments pushes him onto just about every list of the greats.

Duncan ranks fifth in career blocked shots (3,020), sixth in rebounds (15,091), seventh in games played (1,392) and 14th in points (26,496).

Duncan’s playing time had gradually been reduced in recent years, and he had ceded his starring role on the Spurs to Kawhi Leonard. Though he started 60 of the 61 games he played this season, he hit career lows in just about every category. But he was an All-Star as recently as 2015.

Duncan’s retirement was as quiet as Kobe Bryant’s was colorful and protracted. The Spurs released a statement highlighting his achievements, but without a quotation from the player.”

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http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/sports/basketball/spurs-tim-duncan-retires-after-19-nba-seasons.html?_r=0

 

The Sum of Pat Summitt

Summit

Pat Summitt was an icon. Pat Summit was a legend. Pat Summit was the sum total of what a coach and mentor should be. Pat Summitt’s wins and victories and championships and graduation rate are her legacy and are the summary of a superlative life well lived.  All that has been said and written about Pat Summitt are a mere synopsis of her influence and are proof positive that she was a force to be reckoned with.  

Pat Summitt built the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers into a perennial power on the way to becoming the winningest coach in the history of major college basketball. The sports world now pauses to mourn her loss. Pat died today, June 28, 2016. Her death came five years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 64.

In 2011, Summitt announced she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, but vowed to keep coaching. “This is not a pity party,” she said. “We’re not going to sit here and feel sorry for Pat Summitt.”

She stayed on for one more year, securing the Lady Vols their 16th SEC Championship under her leadership before retiring. But she didn’t step away from the sport she loved.  Summitt battled the disease with “fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced,” her son, Tyler Summitt, said.

“Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.”  As the wins and the championships piled up, Summitt’s astonishing achievements commanded national attention and helped usher women’s basketball into the spotlight.

Tyler went onto say that “she’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many — she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure.”

Pat Summit was driven to perfection and always remained true to her standards. That meant doing things the right way, no matter what. Summitt’s impressive coaching record earned her a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

President Obama paused to pay homage to this basketball great.  Obama said that “her legacy, however, is measured much more by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat’s intense competitiveness and character, and as a result found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder, and live with courage on and off the court,” Obama said.

“For four decades, she outworked her rivals, made winning an attitude, loved her players like family, and became a role model to millions of Americans, including our two daughters.”

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Thank you for your life and legacy, Pat Summit.