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. 

SPORTS360 Podcast

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Hey Everybody! 

My book Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds is now available on Amazon.com!  Please check it out and let me know what you think.   If you like the blog, you’ll love the book. AND a dear friend featured me on his new, insightful and thought provoking Podcast, SPORTS360.  Jeff and I discuss the book, how we connect with God through sports, my Philly teams, and the intersection of sports and spirituality. Check it out on YouTube.com.

ALL CAPS!

 The Washington Capitals are leading 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Yes, the Washington Capitals! Not only did they make it to the Finals, but they are dominating the opposition, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. And I’m happy for them, and for all of Washington D.C., a town starving and chomping at the bit for a sports champion.

 So here’s to the Caps. It’s All CAPs all the time around the Capital Beltway these days. ALL CAPS means that the team and the fans are ultra and extra and frenzied and fanatical. And I’m happy for them. Yes I am. Because the Bible says that you should rejoice with those that rejoice. So, this time, since it’s been a long time a comin’ for this team that has tried and tried again and again to get to the top, let’s hope that they get there this time.

 

Go Caps!

Cinderella vs. Cinderella!

I called it! I’m not bragging or anything but I absolutely called it. The Washington Capitals just defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Game 7 ON THE ROAD, and for the first time in franchise history, mind you, they’ve reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

Now it’s the Las Vegas Golden Knights versus the Washington Capitals for the championship – Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s a unique matchup. It’s unprecedented and almost unheard of.

These two teams were not picked to go this far or to fair this well. But they have overcome the odds and come over the obstacles laid out against them. The Caps and Golden Knights have recovered their own fumbles and debunked the doubters and jeared the court jesters to reach the threshold of the summit of their sport. These two teams now make it almost impossible for the casual observer to choose a fair-haired favorite or pick the one most popular.

Sports fans now have a “Sophia’s Choice.” In other words, the NHL now has a peculiar problem. We now have two Cinderella teams going head – to – head, playing for all the marbles. But only one team can win. Because no participation trophies will be given out here. The lone winner takes home the Stanley Cup Trophy!

So who ya got?

Can Houston and Harden Whip the Warriors? . . . Hardly

USP NBA: HOUSTON ROCKETS AT PHOENIX SUNS S BKN USA AZ
James Harden Is Looking Up (becasue he needs all of the help he can get against the Warriors) 

The Houston Rockets lost Game One AT HOME to the defending NBA Champs, the Golden State Warriors.  Now, Game Two is a must win for Harden and the Rockets. James Harden and the Houston Rockets have just one shot at dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Playoffs: Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. 

Houston can’t lose Game 2 and head to Oakland and expect to win the Western Conference Finals.  They just can’t.  It’s is possible? Anything is possible to those who believe. But this one I gotta see. Judging by the way the Warriors played in Game One Monday night, it just aint gonna happen.

So all of the chips are down and all of the money is on Harden coming through in a clutch, do or die situation, one which the Rockets have been waiting for since Harden jumped ship and left OKC for Texas. And since they acquired Chris Paul after he jumped ship from the NBA’s graveyard, I mean the LA Clippers last summer, they’re supposed to be built to win now. Well, now has come.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni never had any doubt that the Harden-Paul duo would work, having been on the Team USA staff when they played together in the 2012 London Olympics. “I say sometimes flippantly that there isn’t really a superstar store in the NBA where you get to go and pick out which one you want,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey said.

Making it fit and making something happen works only when you have chemistry. And this year, the Rockets certainly had chemistry and “fit”.  The Rockets rolled to the NBA’s best record (65-17) and earned their chance to meet the defending champions in the Western Conference finals in large part because of a series of summer moves Morey executed with beating the Warriors in mind.

I love what Morley said about taking advantage of opportunities: “You have to jump on the opportunities as they come and sometimes make them fit.  But in this case, we didn’t really have to [make them fit]. The fit was really incredible from day one.” Morey acknowledged that he particularly wondered how the “alpha dogs” would coexist in crunch time. The answer: even better than the Rockets could have reasonably hoped.

But it will all be for naught if they lose tonight.