Stop The Madness! — 2020 Edition

“So he changed his behavior before them; he pretended to be mad when in their presence. He scratched marks on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle run down his beard.”

1 Samuel 21:13

It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s senseless and nonsensical, ludicrous and illogical that a top 10 team like the University of Maryland Terrapins would suddenly play their worst basketball of the season at a crucial and critical time when everything matters the most.

The Terps are now 23-7.  They’ve lost three of their last four games, and they looked bad doing it every time.  They lost to Ohio State 79 -72 on Sunday, February 23rd. Then they barely beat Minnesota 74 -73 on a buzzer, beater prayer of a shot by Darryl Morsell after being down by 16 at the half. And if that wasn’t enough, Maryland hosted the ESPN show “Game Day” – GAME DAY!  — for the first time in decades at the Xfinity Center in College Part on Saturday, February 29th and STILL  lost 78 – 66 to Michigan State.

Most recently, as in Tuesday night in Piscataway, NJ, the Terps played Rutgers University. This was, or should have been, a “gimmie’ game, i.e., a win with little or no or not so much effort expended against a lesser opponent.  Rutgers is unranked and has not beaten Maryland in years. But it is the month of March, and here’s where the madness begins.

With the Big Ten regular season championship on the line, and the Big Ten Tournament looming, the Terps fell behind early, continuing another troubling trend, and trailed by as many as 11 points just past the midpoint of the first half. But by halftime, Maryland trailed by only six points, 35-29. The Terps could have stayed in the game with a few solid possessions. Instead, Smith missed a shot on the team’s first possession of the second half, and Cowan couldn’t hit an open three-pointer on the next. Maryland let Rutgers’s lead swell to 13 points less than three minutes into the half and never truly threatened again.

It’s March, and it’s time for madness. As part of the Wednesday morning melancholy mop up, the Washington Post posted this headline: “Maryland Is Left Searching For Answers After Another Dud Against Rutgers.”  Head coach Mark Turgeon said this about his team’s maddening performance: “It’s really frustrating that we did not match Rutgers’s intensity. I think it’s just the weight of everything. There’s been great weight on us all year. … But we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to go get it.”

And that’s just it. Feeling sorry for yourself never works. So, get over your last loss, and get back up and get back going. Because repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result, is just  . . . March Madness.

A Victory for Vanessa Bryant

 

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Vanessa Bryant Eulogizing her husband Kobe Bryant at the Memorial Service, Staples Center, Los Angeles, Monday, February 24, 2020

Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late, great NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant, just won a great victory, and triumphed gloriously in the face a clear and crushing loss. Vanessa Bryant, someway and somehow, summoned strength to stand and state her love for her loving husband and her little lady.  It was a moving, emotive message of triumph amidst unspeakable tragedy. God bless her!  She stood flat footed, and through tears and talking back to herself — “Ok, you can do it” — she motivated the mass of mourners when she herself just wanted to weep and wail and question and query God about why this all happened, and what she’s supposed to do now.

Vanessa Bryant is by all standards a trooper and a champion.  Her husband won five NBA Championships, but her performance at her husband’s memorial service at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 was a testament to her greatness and her superior solemnity far beyond what her husband achieved on the basketball court. Vanessa’s strength and courage under fire was phenomenal, and was also absolutely supernatural. Why?  Because only Heaven and all things holy could help her handle the stress and the strain of the moment with power and poise.  

Vanessa Bryant would have made Kobe proud. She honored her husband and daughter with grit and grace and dignity and distinction. She spoke and stood when she did not want to, but she had to. And it was amazing. What was so amazing was that we all knew that this was an impossible position to be in, and yet in the midst of understandable and allowable grief, she pressed through her own misery and misfortune and sorrow and sadness in order to help the rest of us, hopefully and eventually, overcome ours.

That’s why Heaven had to help. Because she had to do it. And in so doing she carried the burden of her bereavement, even if for a moment, above and beyond the heavy pall of defeat that tried to weigh her down and wipe her out.

 God bless you, Vanessa Bryant.    

Brett Brown Is Goin’ Down

Eastern Conference Semifinals - Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown is wearing a frown, because his team is going down. Winning in the playoffs may be the least of his concerns, as his team can’t seem to figure out how to win with the roster they’ve got in the regular season.

Brett Brown has got ta’ go. Period. That’s NBA speak for this dude is running the Philadelphia 76ers into the ground. Philly has two of the best young talents in the game in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and yet these same Sixers are stinking up the house. And who is to blame? Leadership, a.k.a., the head coach.

Brett Brown has overstayed his welcome in Philly. Period. He can’t seem to motivate or stimulate or activate this team’s talent so that they can win on the road and against rival teams that are now ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. And that’s the coach’s job, right? To lead his team to victories and to plead for his stars to give their all and to read the emotions and psyche of all of his players so that he gets the most out of them. But none of that is happening.

Brett Brown is not getting the job done. Period. Some say that the combination of Embiid and Simmons and Horford is a failed experiment. But I contend that it’s the coach’s job to merge the mix and not make a mess. The Sixers are playing carelessly and like they just don’t care. And that’s sad, because Philly fans and all true sports fans the world over, want a winner. And more importantly, they want to see effort and energy and a consistent work ethic. None of those are even remotely evident in Philly when it comes to the 76ers. Not even.

Oh well. I said it here first. Before you even think of trading Simmons or somebody else, consider benching Brett Brown. He’s the one that should be sent packing. Years ago, I told my two sons this: either lead, follow, or get out of the way. Since the Sixer’s head coach is not leading, there is only one other viable option.

The Philadelphia Inquirer may have said it best:

“Since their 121-109 win over the Bucks on Christmas, the Sixers are 8-10 overall and 1-6 against the Pacers, Heat, Raptors and Celtics. For the season, they are 1-2 against the Pacers, 1-3 against the Heat, and 1-2 against the Raptors.

So, yes, things are well past the point of dire, and you get the sense that the locker room feels it, too. You can see it in the Sixers’ body language on the court, and you can hear it in the words they speak off it. After a blowout loss to the Celtics in Boston in Saturday night, somebody asked Tobias Harris when it would be time for the Sixers to get concerned about their place in the standings.

‘About 10 games ago,’ the forward said.

And the most disconcerting loss of the season had yet to come. It would arrive two days later, on a Monday night in Miami, against a team whose home crowd still seemed to be sleeping off its Super Bowl hangover. By the end of a 137-106 loss, the solution to fixing the Sixers seemed startlingly clear: Go back in time and don’t change them in the first place.” https://www.inquirer.com/sixers/sixers-trade-targets-nba-deadline-al-horford-josh-richardson-ben-simmons-20200204.html

Unfortunately, Jimmy Butler aint’ coming through that door. That ship has sailed. The moral of the story is this: the Sixers need to man up and play with heart and spirit and figure out a way to win with the team they’ve got now. Otherwise, somebody’s gotta go.

It’s How You Finish: Eagles Win NFC East!

Buffalo Bills v Philadelphia Eagles
Fletcher Cox #91 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts to a sack. (Leff/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East after all. After being the pre-season favorite, and then falling off the map during the season, and then enduring multiple injuries along the way, the Eagles put together a late season march through their NFC East opponents and won four straight to finish 9-7.

It was improbable, and at more than one point it seemed impossible, but those plucky Birds pulled off a comeback for the ages. The Eagles turned their torrid season all the way around, and now they are in the playoffs for the third straight season. It took leadership and perseverance, and grit, and Fletcher Cox has all these, and some.

For many of us, 2019 was that kind of year. It began with high hopes and powerful promise, but along the way the wheels came off and I was left on the side of the road for dead. But that’s just when Heaven starts helping and God get’s going. God honors faith. God rewards faith. And God expects us to have strong faith to endure the tests and trials that face us.

So take it from me, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. So finish 2019 strong, and let’s begin 2020 with the faith to believe that we can conquer anything and everything that life may throw our way.

As for my Eagles, I pick them to go all the way! And why not, we’re underdogs again, just like 2017 when we won Super Bowl LII.

Fly Eagles fly!

Anybody Hate the Dallas Cowboys? Vol. 2

Eagles Cowboys Logos

Anybody hate, and I do mean HATE, the Dallas Cowboys! 

Today’s game is essentially for the Division, the NFC East, and the season is on the line for both teams.  Both teams are a mediocre 7 -7, both teams have marginal quarterbacks, and both teams have an equal change at victory. So what will determine the outcome? Preparation. 

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”  The key word in this age old adage is “preparation.”  Then the next most instructive word is “prior.” Let’s unpack them both.

According to one source, “apparently the saying came from the British army and is a shortcut of the original 7Ps which mean Proper Planning and Preparation Prevent P. . . Poor Performance.”

Preparation is “the activity of putting or setting in order in advance of some act or purpose.” Preparation is also “the activity leading to skilled behavior.”  And this one must do in ADVANCE.  In the moment mental muscle is great. However, for physical strength, you need to go to the gym and work out prior to showing off your agility and physicality in a game. Mental toughness is built the same way.

Today’s Eagles Dallas game is the biggest game in Eagles’ history since the Super Bowl LII win against the Patriots. And in order to win, hopefully Carson Wentz and the Eagles have prepared themselves. And hopefully this preparation will lead to skilled behavior on field, aka, a decisive victory.

This is a great life lesson. So let’s apply it and learn from past mistakes. Let’s prepare more, and prepare better. Let’s not rush to judgement or be in an unnecessary hurry for anything.  God prepares, so me should prepare. David said that the Lord “prepared a table before him in the presence of his enemies.” Anybody like that verse?   I do!  (And to be sure, the Dallas Cowboys are mortal enemies to all Eagles everywhere!)

Let’s prepare for victory. And that will take coherent, cognitive activity, including, perception and reasoning. For the Eagles to defeat Dallas today,  Wentz will have to be at his cognitive and coherent best. And then there’s the whole Christmas Miracle thing, but preparation sure won’t hurt the Eagles, and it certainly will help you and me too.

Note From Joe Burrow: Nice Guys Do Indeed Finish First

Joe Burrow Heisman
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow wins 2019 Heisman Trophy by record-setting margin

Joe Burrow just won the Heisman Trophy. Thereby, Burrow proved that nice guys can, and do, finish first.

In his epic, record setting season and his emotional and heartwarming acceptance speech, Joe Burrow proved and pronounced three things;

     First, you can beat the odds.

     Second, you can rise from obscurity; and

     Third, nice guys don’t have to finish last.

Burrow beat the odds. No one, and I mean NO ONE, had Joe Burrow as a Heisman Trophy finalist at the beginning of the 2019 season, much less the runaway winner. But Burrow led “LSU’s passing game that finished No. 116 in 2014, No. 106 in 2015, No. 101 in 2016, No. 84 in 2017 and No. 67 in 2018 sprang to No. 2 in 2019, largely through the mastery Burrow left strewn across storied American fields such as Texas, Alabama and Atlanta (against Georgia in the SEC championship game). Receiving yards went lavished on brilliant wideouts such as Ja’Marr Chase (1,498), Justin Jefferson (1,207) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (545).”  ESPN

Burrow rose from the obscurity of Athens, Ohio, an impoverished rural county, to the national stage of instant stardom.  Burrow was a backup quarterback at Ohio State, and then transferred to LSU, and now he’s the Heisman Trophy winner on the No. 1 Team in the nation favored to win the college national championship.  Burrow led LSU “from 2,894 passing yards in 13 games in 2018, then ascended to 4,715 in 13 games so far in 2019. He threw 48 touchdown passes against six interceptions.” Incredible.

Talk about a rags to riches, Cinderella, Rocky Balboa story.

So we say congratulations to Joe Burrow. Thanks for reminding us that nice guys can indeed finish first.

PS: Now watch Burrows Heisman Trophy acceptance speech and try to hold it together. I dare you not to shed a tear.

 

The Eagles Need A Christmas Miracle

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Do you believe in miracles?

The Eagles just got one, as they defeated the New York “Football” Giants, 23-17 in OT on Monday Night Football (in the rain, mind you!) at Lincoln Financial Field. After a dismal and tragic first half, the Eagles scored 20 unanswered points to pull out a thrilling, come from behind, turnaround, must win game.

Can a Christmas miracle come in four parts? If it can, the Philadelphia Eagles just got Act One. Shakespearean plays are divided into acts and scenes – and always have a Five Act structure, no exceptions. But for the Eagles, we’ll make an exception here, because they need just three more wins, or “Acts,” to win the Division.

Do you believe in miracles? After tonight’s win, you just have too. The Eagles season has been somewhat of a Shakespearean Tragedy, and the heartbreaking first three months of the 2019 season has felt like and has been full of calamity and catastrophe, just like Shakespeare would draw it up.

But that was then, and this is now. Now, with this win, the horrid and hideous opening of this season can now lead to a tremendous, comedic conclusion. The Eagles are now 6-7, a losing record not so far removed from their historic Super Bowl LII win.

For the Eagles to comeback from way back, you must believe in miracles. This season has had more than enough heartache and had looked like it will end in heartbreak before tonight’s miraculous and momentous end. If the Eagles win their remaining games, they win the NFC East and move on to the playoffs. But they will need a miracle to do it. And they just got part one, thanks to a touchdown from Wentz to Ertz in overtime

Do you believe in miracles? You must. Christmas is all about miracles. The miracle of the virgin birth paved the way for every other miracle, including the one we just got tonight.

Was I watching? No. I couldn’t bear to watch, so instead my wife and I had on a heartwarming miracle movie on the Hallmark Channel. Yes, the Hallmark Channel. After the Eagles were down 17-3 at the half, I tuned out and turned the game off. But they won without me. We got the miracle we needed to keep our playoff hopes alive.

Do you believe in miracles? Yes it takes faith and it requires hope. And you must love this Eagles team, warts and all. Yes, I believe in miracles. And if you’re an Eagles fan, you just have to.

Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz after the Super Bowl LII Miracle