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.

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My Book Is Out! “Upsets, Comebacks & Turnarounds” Coming Soon

UCT Cover

Hey Everybody! I birthed a book!

After years of writing and editing and kneading and massaging this baby of an idea inside of me, voila, my book is here!  It will be available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com soon so stay tuned! I hope you read and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s a pick me upper and a shot in the arm for all who love the little guy and the also-rans in sports and in life. 

Here a few excerpts from the back cover:

In the World of Sports, there’s nothing like an upset win, a comeback from way back, and a complete turnaround. The same is true in life. In sports, we celebrate the underdogs, both the teams and the players who are at a distinct disadvantage and are expected to lose. Yet some way, somehow, these teams and players  find a way to triumph in spite of adversity.

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds looks back to those who have alreadly overcome and looks forward to those facing overwhelming obstacles yet to be overcome.

This book examines the intersection of God and sports . . . and is a tribute to all of the biblical long-shots; to all of those who, in sports and in life, “didn’t stand a chance.”

Black Panther is a “Bad” Cat

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For all those of you who have NOT seen the Black Panther film, stop reading. Stop reading right now and go and see it. It’s that good.  And of course you have to understand that in the hood, “bad” means good. And everywhere, someday, right will win the fight, and all that is noble and just will finally reign supreme.  Regardless of your sex, race or ethnic origin, if you love watching the best team win, and if you love what is true, and honest and lovely and good, you will love this film.

If you love comeback stories and good overcomes evil dramas, the Black Panther is for you. And if you love victories with a come from behind turnaround twist, you will appreciate the cinematic genius of Ryan Coogler and the acting acumen of Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright and Angela Basset and so many others.  

I read an outstanding review by Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post and can’t say it any better that she did. In short, Ann Hornaday said, “The Black Panther is a different kind of superhero (who) will mean so much to so many.”  Amen sista.

Here ya go:

” ‘Black Panther,’ an adaptation of the iconic comic book that has been decades in coming, proves to be more than worth the wait. This lush, impressively well-acted film, about an African king learning how best to marshal the superpowers with which he’s been endowed, comes draped in anticipation, not only from hardcore fans of the source material, but also from filmgoers already steeped in breathless hype. Director Ryan Coogler, working with a script he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole, doesn’t just meet but exceeds those expectations, delivering a film that fulfills the most rote demands of superhero spectacle, yet does so with style and subtexts that feel bracingly, joyfully groundbreaking.

Chadwick Boseman, until now best known for channeling the likes of Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, comes masterfully into his own here as T’Challa, crown prince of the mystical kingdom of Wakanda, who assumes the throne when his father is killed while giving a speech at the United Nations. After an elaborate initiation ritual, T’Challa is tasked with hunting down an evil arms merchant named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who has stolen a Wakandan artifact made of the precious metal vibranium. Outfitted with dhesive footwear, a fearsome feline mask and a suit that can absorb and redirect power, invented by his techno-genius sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa sets off for South Korea with his allies, General Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), an accomplished operative who also happens to be T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend.

That game, once it’s afoot, is plenty entertaining, even if it never veers beyond the most conventional contours of modern-day movie action. In a recent interview that went viral, the music producer Quincy Jones noted that most rap music is “just loops, beats, rhymes and hooks.” The same formula applies to the comic book movies that, at their most uninspired, feel like thinly cobbled-together series of battles royal, windy expository encounters, spatially challenged chase scenes and epic standoffs.

The difference with “Black Panther” is that, while observing the outlines of the traditional comic book arc, Coogler and his creative team have enlarged and revitalized it. Drawing on elements from African history and tribal culture, as well as contemporary and forward-looking flourishes, “Black Panther” pulses with color, vibrancy and layered textural beauty, from the beadwork and textiles of Ruth Carter’s spectacular costumes and Hannah Beachler’s warm, dazzlingly eye-catching production design to hairstyles, tattoos and scarifications that feel both ancient and novel.

Make no mistake: Coogler doesn’t use “Black Panther” as an awkward delivery system for such Deep Ideas. Rather, he weaves them in organically and subtly. “Black Panther” is great fun to watch and shot through with delicate threads of lighthearted humor, mostly delivered from Wright’s cheeky, sarcastic whiz kid and Martin Freeman, who shows up midway through the film as an earnest if unlikely ally.

Gracefully photographed with a gratifying un-frenetic touch by Rachel Morrison (nominated for an Oscar for her marvelous work on “Mudbound”), “Black Panther” succeeds far beyond Coogler’s directorial chops (which are prodigious), striking visual design and thematic depth. As a showcase for many of the finest actors working today, it proves how essential performance is, even in movies that on their surface demand little more than fitting into a latex suit and affecting a convincing grimace.

Boseman, who strides through “Black Panther” with unforced, charismatic ease, assumes almost Shakespearean levels of doubt as his character is challenged by an unexpected rival. Nyong’o, Wright, Sterling K. Brown and Daniel Kaluuya bring poetry and gravitas to roles that transcend mere support. Michael B. Jordan, who broke out in Coogler’s debut film, “Fruitvale Station,” brings scrappy, street-smart volatility to his performance as a character with whom T’Challa has a karmic connection, and Gurira steals every scene she’s in as an indomitable warrior trained in the art of spearcraft.

It’s these actors — their faces, their commitment, their attention to craft and detail — that elevate “Black Panther” to stirring heights, whether they’re surfing on top of speeding cars through the colorfully lit streets of Busan, arguing against the backdrop of a teeming, futuristic city or communing with their deceased elders on the ancestral plane. And, as they dominate the screen in a movie rooted firmly in their own history and narratives, they provide an exhilarating, regal rebuke to the chronic absence and denigration of black bodies in American cinema.

‘Black Panther’ may be grounded in the loops, beats, rhymes and hooks of contemporary film grammar, but it feels like a whole new language.”

Live Like a Lion

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If you haven’t seen the 2017 film “Lion” yet, stop reading.  Stop reading now. Do not pass go, and do not collect $200. You must make or take time to watch this film. 

“Lion” has a litany of lessons and points and positives that all combine to teach a meaningful, muscular message that will preach for a lifetime. It’s a rags to riches, lost and found, comeback story of redemption that transcends race and creed and color, and yes, religion. God is not the author unfortunate circumstances, but He is the editor.  And God can edit any and every life circumstance for good. 

Rex Reed said that “Heartwarming ‘Lion’ Is the Feel-Good Tearjerker We All Needed.” Amen.  Another review posted on Cinemabravo.com says it all:

“Lion” has a genuine and heartfelt purpose that not all celebrated artsy films have. Lion has emotional depth as deep as the ocean; moving, like its waves; it’ll sway you, but it won’t drown you. The tide of this film’s journey will take you someplace else, making it an experience rather than just another movie to watch. That is more than enough for a film to stand tall.

Director Garth Davis’ biggest achievement is perhaps giving the film a soul as the actors give it a heart. Also, an honorable mention to its sublime cinematography for a visually stunning picture — alluring yet gritty, colorful yet dark — a manifestation of a lost child’s journey towards finding his home: eventful, oftentimes dangerous, but ultimately hopeful.

Lion comes roaring to life from across the screen because it “ fully relies on iconic characters and inspiring storylines about a journey of a person — more so a character study of a man’s heart and soul, tackling every emptiness and every joy. Lion gives such nostalgia to that era of filmmaking that contemporary cinema is often prejudiced of. It is a reminder that the most important element of cinema as art is how it affects and transcends emotions across the screen. Lion does just that without the clichés of a conventional melodrama.

This is one of Nicole Kidman’s best roles because her performance is universal; she epitomizes maternal instinct and unconditional love that radiates even with such limited screen time. Dev Patel’s performance as adult Saroo is the core of this film. You will root and hope for him, until you find yourself clinging to his search for life. Again, another universal performance that isn’t difficult to sympathize with.” Dennis Buckley, https://cinemabravo.com/2017/04/06/movie-review-lion-2017/

Sunny Pawar, an enchanting, lovable boy, plays the lead character at age five, and Dev Patel plays the adult – Saroo. Both have acute, lion-like instincts that enable them to survive and even thrive under the best and worst of circumstances. And so the moral of the story is this: live – and for you athletes, play – like a lion. Because no other animal can endure and forbear the stresses and strains of life like a lion can.

And you can’t beat the theme song either.

Moonlighting In La La Land: A Blunder of Oscar Proportions

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This one takes the cake. I mean, REALLY?  How does a firm like PricewaterhouseCoopers manage to muff this one? And then how do you not READ what the dag gum card says? I mean the entire card, since you weren’t sure everything was kosher? And THEN, how do you, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not take responsibility for the mishap and come on stage immediately and publicly apologize to the winners and — sorry La La Land – the losers – and to your audience? How do you not make an overt effort to clean up the mess? 

It’s called responsibility. It’s called accountability. It’s called taking ownership and showing leadership and bearing the burden of righting a wrong, regardless of how embarrassing it is. We’ve all been there, and we all know that a wrong un-righted will sink the ship. 

There’s plenty of blame to go around on this one. Let’s just hope that when we find ourselves in such a pickle, we don’t point fingers and pin blame, but we readily admit our participation in the predicament, and graciously, but not boorishly, acknowledge our part of the poop and apologize. In theological terms is called asking for forgiveness. Isn’t that what we as believers are supposed to do? 

Here is one spot on spin from a reporter at AZcentral.com: 

“The wildest screw-up in Oscar’s history couldn’t have been more metaphorically momentous for African-Americans who last year shamed the Academy’s lack of diversity. 

The crazy finale turned the entertainment world upside down when “La La Land,” which had mostly white leading actors, mistakenly received Best Picture. It turned out that “Moonlight,” with mostly black actors, had won. 

It wasn’t just the screw-up that stunned (us all). The moment embodied the #OscarSoWhite shaming campaign last year against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The uncomfortable faces of white entertainers handing over the figurine to African-Africans was simply surreal.” Well said, even though everyone seemed to give the La La Land cast kudos for handing over the Oscar, and handling the awkward moment, graciously. 

Anyway, here’s what happened at the Oscars last night when the envelope for Best Picture was opened (as reported by thedailybeast.com and the inquisitor.com) in case you missed the play by play and the blow by blow: 

“Everybody is talking about that awkward moment at Oscar 2017 now. It’s being discussed above all the glory associated with winning the prestigious trophy. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, two Hollywood legends by their own merit, became the center of attraction for being responsible for the mix-up.”

To be sure, while Beatty opened and held the card, it was Faye Dunaway who actually announced that it was La La Land that won the Best Picture award.

“When the entire team went to the stage to celebrate the occasion at the Oscars, it was producer Adele Romanski who realized there was a mistake. He declared it was the Moonlight team that should come to the stage.” (http/:/www.inquisitr.com)

 “Beatty lost no opportunity to hammer home his case, telling DailyMail.com’s long time showbiz reporter Baz Bamigboye: “People thought I was being dramatic but I wasn’t. There was something wrong. I showed it to Faye and she said La La Land.” 

Hours after the blunder, accounting firm PwC, which collates votes and administers the awards, issued a statement saying: “We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. 

The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. 

“We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.” According to reports, Beatty’s wife Annette Bening phoned him as he was entering the ball and suggested he head home but the iconic actor refused, saying once again that he had done nothing wrong. 

According to USA Today, one of the accountants from PwC realized Beatty had been given the wrong envelope within seconds. The accountant jumped up, saying: “He took the wrong envelope!”  Oopps. Too Late? Or was it?

“Hidden Figures:” UNSUNG HEROES

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In just about every game, especially every “big” game, and every game of consequence, there is a player that turns into a hero in an instant. This player turned hero does not plan on it, but he or she ends up doing the unthinkable: they make the play of the game. The coach may not even know their full name; the other players don’t associate with them that much if at all; and most fans don’t even know they’re on the team. But this hero in hiding is about to go public. This hero may not be a starter or a star, but this average Joe will make a play, a game saving tackle, a field goal in overtime, a pick-six interception for a touchdown, a three pointer at the buzzer, or a walk-off home run, that wins the game and seals the victory.

The Film “Hidden Figures” is a must see. If you have not seen this film, stop reading – stop reading right now — and go and see this inspiring, stirring and stimulating historical narrative. There are outstanding, Oscar worthy performances in this Oscar worthy film that should be seen and appreciated by all. “Hidden Figures” is up for three Academy Awards at the Oscars Sunday night.

HIDDEN FIGURES is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.

Read more: http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/movies/hidden-figures/43036/hidden-figures-new-character-posters-trailer#ixzz4Zpam0Jq0

The movie, based on the book by Hampton native Margot Lee Shetterly, details the lives of three black women working at Hampton’s NASA Langley during the space race — in the height of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s. All three women have been hidden to many of us who did not know that African American women played a vital role in the space race. They did complex math calculations for NASA, and were called “computers” long before the term was applied to machines.

Shetterly’s book proposal was sent to 16 publishers. There were enough “nos,” that she submitted her research to a Ph. D program at the University of Virginia. She was accepted into the program about the same time she received an offer from publishing group William Morrow and Company.

In 2014, the same year her book received an offer, Shetterly’s proposal for the story was auctioned off to Levantine Films. Before Shetterly even had finished writing the book, she got a call from Donna Gigliotti, an Academy Award-winning producer. Gigliotti has producing credits for films including “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Shakespeare in Love.” She was hooked by Shetterly’s 55-page proposal.

“I was attracted to ‘Hidden Figures’ because it is an untold story; it’s authentic,” Gigliotti wrote to the Daily Press in September via email. “Also it has strong women characters at its center — all my movies share that quality.”

It soon had a screenwriter, Allison Schroder, who received an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay along with the film’s director, Theodore Melfi. The script was delivered in May 2015 and casting began a month later. Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan) and Janelle Monae (Mary Jackson) were brought on as leads.” Jonathan Black, Contact Reporter, joblack@dailypress.com

The three women portrayed in “Hidden Figures” are what we call in in sports “unsung heroines.”

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David was a “sung” hero. He defeated the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone. In so doing he defeated giant Goliath and the archrival Philistine army and won the victory for Israel. The eighth son of Jesse went on to be the sweet psalmist of Israel and the apple of God’s eye. After David’s unlikely but stirring victory, the women sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). While there are many others like David, there are many more unsung heroes whose songs have yet to be sung.

Just like the women in “Hidden Figures,” the woman at the well was an unsung hero. The Samaritan woman from the town of Sychar was the first evangelist. But first she was a “only” woman, and a Samaritan woman at that. When the disciples returned from buying food in town, they were surprised to find Jesus talking with “a woman”.

Jesus came so that we would all be one big happy family. But before He came the status of women was, at best, the least of all. And it was a common fact that the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. Worst still, this woman had a checkered past. She had been married five times, she was living with a man that was not her husband, and she went to the well alone in the heat of the day. No friends, no lasting companionship, no true loving relationships. Yet she is the first one to whom Christ revealed himself to outside of his inner circle. Heaven arranged for her to meet the True Prophet, the prophesied One, and the Savior of the World.

God has a way of choosing and using unlikely, unassuming underdogs to achieve his purposes. This teaches us that God is not looking for superstars, standouts, “phenoms”, or number one draft picks who are full of themselves. God is looking for those like this woman who met Jesus at the well, an unlikely, unsung heroine whose name we don’t even know. God is looking for those who like the woman of Samaria are thirsty for living water. God is looking for those who don’t mind leaving their water pots, for those who will run and tell the very people who may despise and disdain them that they have found the Christ.

She was the lone witness and a “hidden figure” that caused many of the Samaritans to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. And God is still looking for heroes and heroines whose songs have yet to be sung.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-Lkry-newtab&hsimp=yhs-newtab&hspart=Lkry&p=Hidden+figures+you+tube+movie+trailer#id=34&vid=3c7ff4296914be4780720654d9799f29&action=view

 

Cool Runnings Says, “Finish!”

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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