Too Much Talk and Not Enough Play

Lebron-Curry Some Cavaliers have been a little too cavalier with their comments. And some warriors have been a little too wanton with their words. Both teams are posturing and showboating and mudslinging so much that you wonder if they will have anything left when the games begin. There’s been too much work with the mouth and not enough play with the muscles. Of course the Finals haven’t begun yet, so let the talking terminate and let the games begin.

Goliath was a big mouth, and nobody likes a big mouth. Goliath was a loud mouth, trash talkin’, tongue waggin’ somebody. And until David came along, he could back up what he said by what he did. But that all changed. Because David could out talk his taunter because of what his God could do.

Trash talking is and always has been a part of the game. Oft-times players brag and boast about what they are going to do on the court and on the field, yet, only 50% of all trash talkers can deliver; only one team can win the battle for the game, and by extension, the trash talk war.

David and the giant Goliath engaged in what we would call trash talk. “The Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.’”

But David was unphazed.  He did not talk trash; he spoke by faith. “Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.’ ”  1 Sam 17:43-47, RSV

So many of us talk a good game, and yet we don’t back up what we say.  We say one thing, and do another. In my book, that’s trash talk. We promise but we don’t deliver. That’s trash talk.  Indeed we over promise and under deliver.  That’s trash talk.  We purport and “front” and sell wolf-tickets, yet when it’s time to cash them in, we come up short. We talk loudly and proudly before the game, yet slink silently and pitifully on the sideline; after boasting and brandishing we live unseen and unheard lives and are unable to back up what we say.

Many doubt our faith and our Lord. They are trash talking us.  They are wolfing us down. And so the question is, what is our response to this doubting, doubtful, degenerate generation? Like Goliath they look down on us and decry us and our God. Can we backup everything we say?  Can we do everything we promise? As Christians, can we perform and can we deliver?

No worries. As long as we speak the Word of God, we have no fear of trash talkers. And our Champion and King can back up what he says. He will do just what He says! Contrary to Ali, Jesus Christ the righteous is truly the greatest. What He promises He is able also to perform. So let’s follow our Lord’s example.  Let’s say we’re going to do the right thing, and then let’s DO the right thing. No more saying one thing and doing another.   No more reneging on our word. No more trash talk.

Don’t Let Your Fans Down

Charlotte Bobcats v Houston Rockets

James Harden let his fans down. He scored a measly 10 points in a Game 6 AT HOME when the playoff season was on the line. San Antonio was missing two of its superstars – Tony Parker AND Kawhi Leonard – and Houston and Harden still couldn’t muster enough mettle to win the game. And the worst part of it is, he played bad (badly for you English majors) and looked bad doing it. And his poor play in this seminal and signature game is another reason I’m not a James Harden fan.

Everybody has fans. Everybody has a fandom and a fan base and a fan nation that route and cheer us on and up and over the humps of life. These fans are crucial and critical to our psyche and our psychology; our fans are vital to our overall vitality and are essential for the state of our mind and the soundness of our soul.

That’s why we should never let our fans down. Even in defeat, loyal fans will cheer for you and chant your name and boost your game. But don’t let them down. Because fans have short fuses and long memories; while they will long remember your great game, after a dreadful loss, they will not soon forget that you are to blame.

Fans understand that nobody’s perfect and that everybody’s suspect. But when you don’t do your best or give your best or even TRY to play your best, you’ve done the worst thing imaginable in the eyes of your fans.

Your fans need to know that you’ve tried and that you’ve given it your best shot. While Harden had a sensational season, he had an uncharacteristically horrible last game of the series against the Spurs. And that’s what everyone, including this fan, will remember most.

So just remember, here’s what hardened athletes and every human heart beat have in common; it’s your friends and your favorites and your supporters and your sponsors that have your best interest at heart. They have your back. They will defend you against all comers (I’m from Philly so I DARE you to say a cross word about Allen Iverson!) But surely, I digress.

Loyal fans are the ones that will be there for you when the chips are down and the season is suddenly over. Remember not to forget and forestall the very fans you need to support you when the going gets rough.

So don’t let your fans down. At least they like you, bad days and bad games and all.

Thank God For Sports: a.k.a., Why Did God Invent Sports?

Kids Celebrating

God likes Baseball. And I think that He’s rooting for the Cubs this year (they’re in first place, right?) God likes football (American) and soccer (football) and basketball. God actually loves sports – ALL sports. And so it follows that God especially likes the Olympics. But more on that later.

So where were we? Oh yeah. God loves sports. God loves badminton and bocce ball and beach ball and bowling and lacrosse and laser tag. God loves gymnastics and aerobics and swimming and diving and crewing and sailing and skydiving and rock climbing and track and field and field hockey and everything else in between.

There are reasons why we need to actively participate in sports (and the key word is ACTIVELY, not passively, all you couch potatoes out there!) Here are three: 

“We need regular exercise. Kids on a sports team will be able to run, jump, and play with friends. Exercising in a group environment will teach kids to appreciate physical activity at a young age, likely reinforcing the habit for life. Keeping a child active is one key to preventing a sedentary lifestyle that could lead to serious health conditions like type II diabetes, stemming from childhood obesity.

 We need to learn sportsmanship. When children play an organized sport, they’ll learn to work together as a team to better understand respect and sportsmanship. Even though a soccer team may win a game, kids will be taught to congratulate the losing team and vice versa when the tables are turned.

 We need to relieve stress. Children that have difficulty coping with day-to-day stress at school or at home can use group sports for much-needed stress relief (And adults too). Even more importantly, children with a bad home environment can use team sports as an outlet instead of turning to drugs or crime as a result of peer pressure.” https://geckosportsblog.com/2014/12/22/what-you-should-know-about-the-benefits-of-kids-playing-sports/ 

So since I’m not alone, I found this article in Christianity Today by Mark Moring that pretty much sums up what I’d like to say on the subject:

So, if you play any sport in general, or if you play or played high-school sports in particular, you’re hardly alone. “More than 6 million students played sports at the high-school level last year. Wow!

But why do you play? According to a recent survey, you’ve apparently got some great reasons. Here are the top ten reasons high-school students play sports:

10. To win
9.   To learn new skills
8.   For the challenge of competition
7.   To be a part of a team
6.   To get exercise
5.   For the excitement of competition
4.   To do something I’m good at
3.   To stay in shape

2.   To improve skill

1. To have fun

The No. 1  answer was “To have fun.” I like that. I also like the fact that “to win” was buried at the bottom of the list.

Sure, winning is great. My team won the state basketball title my senior year, and that was one of the all-time highs of my life. But it wasn’t just the winning. That’s fleeting. Victories alone don’t make great memories. People do.

My teammates were my best friends in high school, and we had a blast. Sure, we worked hard in practice. But we had fun too. And man, those road trips on the bus—we really knew how to have a good time. Still, as I look at this list of good reasons to play sports, there’s one very good reason missing: To glorify God.

Actually, I think glorifying God and having fun kind of go together, at least when it comes to sports. If God gave you the ability to play sports, it pleases Him to see you having fun while using that ability:

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

So, when you play, play for him. That’s about as good—and as fun—as it gets.  If God gave you the ability to play sports, it pleases Him to see you having fun while using that ability.” 

 

Why Does Free Agency Cost So Much?

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors - Game Seven

Kevin Durant is now a Warrior. Duane Wade is now a Bull.  And Derek Rose is now a Knick. Paul Gasol is now in San Antonio. Al Horford left Atlanta for Boston and Dwight Howard is in Atlanta instead of Houston. Whew! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

News Flash: everything that’s supposed to be “free,” aint — including “Free Agency.”  Every team that lost a player is either hurting or scrambling. Some teams may have gotten better, but many teams certainly got worse, and all teams are spending money like its water. So this is a good thing?

The Oklahoma City Thunder will never be the same. And some say that OKC will never rise again.  Truth be told, some teams, especially OKC, will falter and flounder and stumble and fumble for years to come. Because you don’t win and you can’t win without playmaking players. Your either draft them or trade for them or get them via “Free Agency.”  But at what cost?

I get it that players have the right to move from team to team and get more money than ever before. I do. I absolutely do. But I’m also an old fashioned, fuddy-dud when it comes to keeping a team together.  Because winning is all about chemistry.

OKC could have or should have said to Durant, “We’re committed to you and to winning so we’re going to go out and get the best players to complement you and Westbrook to make sure we have the best chance of winning a championship.” Maybe then Durant would have stayed with the Thunder and he may well have won Oklahoma City an NBA Championship.  But he’s not, and he won’t. And the cost to Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Thunder is incalculable.

So what’s the lesson to be learned? What’s the moral of this story? Where’s the hidden truth in all of this?

Life is about choices and decisions and options and alternatives. And we all hope and pray that we’ll make the right choice and the correct decision and pick the right option and choose the best alternative all the time.  Wishful thinking. But thankfully God is so merciful that He can take even our bad choices and turn them around and allow good to come out of them.  

I’ve found out that some things you pay for twice, and others you pay for over and over again. Some decisions cost you big time. And the sting remains overtime. With some selections you lose friends and make enemies. It’s just like striking out at the plate. But other times you hit one out of the park on a 3-2 count. And sometimes, you get much more than you asked for and you pay next to nothing.

So here’s to making the right choices, every time, all the time, and trusting God to fix the wrong and make it right. Because everything costs something, even when you don’t have to pay.

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.”

 Pat Summit NCAA-WOMENS-BASKETBALL-GEORGIA-AT-TENNESSEE-

Thank you for your life and legacy, Pat Summit.

 

“Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee”

muhammad-ali-sonny-liston

Muhammad Ali, a.k.a. “The Greatest,” taught us how to be great. He could only teach what he knew, and he knew greatness.  He knew how to be grand and how to be grandiose; he knew how to be extravagant and how to be exaggerent; and he especially knew how to be over-the-top and under the table, all at once at the same time. Ali was one of a kind and in a class all by himself. That’s why he was loved and loathed, reviled and revered, and shunned and wooed the world over.

In the 1960’s, Ali was known for being a captivating and a controversial and a popular and a polarizing figure both inside and outside the boxing ring. He was one of the most recognized sports figures of all time, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.

Ali was iconic and an icon, a legend and legendary, a trend setter and a trailblazer.  Ali did what no other athlete, and a black athlete at that, did before. He stood up for his rights as he stared down the draft. He made many friends and made many more enemies, all in the same breath.  He did his fighting in and out of the ring. And along the way, he taught us some things he didn’t intend or set out to. Ali taught us how to take a hit, and why not to.

Ali is said to have ushered in the “Golden Era” of boxing.  Along the way, he won the Heavyweight Championship of the World three times as he fought and defeated some of the best boxers ever to enter then ring. Ali defeated the likes of Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Leon Spinks.  He also fought to defeat racism and classicism, poverty and paucity, inequity and inequality, imbalance and injustice, just to name a few.

Ali was impressive “on and off the court” and in and out of the ring. He was lush and lavish, most times gaudy and garish, oft times loud and lurid and showy and brassy and crude and what we thought was rude. But Ali was truthful and candid and straight and frank, especially about himself and the times he lived in.

Ali could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” His style of fighting was new and novel and different and divisive. During his career, he was criticized and ridiculed and jeered and sneered and derided and disparaged from day one. Yet and still he managed to reach the top of his craft three times, and stayed at the top of the charts and was first in the hearts of millions of fans the world over.

So how did he do it?

Ali remained true. He was who he was and he didn’t try to please or appease just to “get a vote.” He made many decisions I’m sure he’d like to take back; but then again, he wouldn’t be Ali if he didn’t do what he did or say what he said. This is the lesson that Ali taught us.

So don’t be afraid to be different and to make a difference, even if it costs you a few friends or your championship belt. Dare to be distinct. Dare to be divergent. Dare to be diverse from the crowd. We are made to be our own snowflake. So, if God made you uniquely you, why are you trying to fit in?  If you don’t fit, it’s because God made you NOT to fit, but to be a stand up and to stand out and to make a difference where there needs to be change and modification and alteration and transformation.

Thank you, Muhammad Ali, for teaching us the trade secrets of success in sports and in life.

 

Here are some the other things Ali taught us, in quotes:

It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.

I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.

A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.

Trump Is The Goliath Of Our Day

donald-trump-flashes-the-thumbs-up

Trump is the Goliath of present politics. And just like in sports, when the bad guy looks mean and mad and menacing, and the underdog looks lean and lanky and listless, it may seem like all hope is lost. And Trump is just like Goliath. He’s big, he’s loud, he’s brash, and he’s brazen, and it looks like he’s going to win. And if he does, God help us.

Yes we’ve all hated the “Goliaths” of sports: the New York Yankees or the Boston Celtics or the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons or the dastardly Duke Blue Devils. We’ve hated the favored first place team anywhere all the time. But you have to admit that when they whipped and walloped and worn down and beat up the opposition (including our hometown team, for that matter) they most certainly had energy. The question is, was it positive energy or negative energy? Either way, it was energy.

So the question is no longer “Can Trump win?” The Question is “WILL Trump win?” And for all those of you out there that say it can’t happen and it won’t happen and it better not happen and there’s no way it could or should happen, I urge you to think again. I urge you to reach out and run out and race out right now and require every relative and resident you know to register to vote and ensure that he does NOT. Does not win the 2016 general election, that is. Because he’s all but got the GOP nomination locked up. It’s that serious.

Like him or lump him, Trump is an attraction. Like him or not — like it or not, Trump has traction. And he has energy. It might be negative energy, but it’s still energy. Hoping and wishing and wanting him to lose is not going to cut it. It works the same way with you and me, too. Wanting to win and wishing that we win does not ensure that we will win. It’s a good start, but it’s not enough. David is needed to cancel and counter and contradict Goliath.

So, to continue the Biblical analogy, if Trump is Goliath, who’s David? More importantly, where’s David? Maybe we don’t know who he is or where she is because he or she hasn’t been released and revealed to the battle field just yet. If that’s the case, I sure hope that  he or she’s on the way. You will remember that David came off the sideline and out of the shade and out of the shadows and burst into the light and onto center stage after God providentially arranged for the soon to be shepherd king to be sent to save the day.

So . . . ? Where does that leave us? What does that leave us? Who does that leave us? Instead of believing God, Saul and his army were fumbling and mumbling and crumbling away in dens and caves. They did this for forty days. And they would have done it longer had not David arrived on the scene.

So let’s not bemoan and bewail our political situation. Let’s not belittle and bad mouth Trump or any other candidate either. Let’s put our trust in God. In all of our situations, let’s pray that God will send us a deliverer. When our team is down and our winters’ are brown and our face wears a frown, let’s continue to hope and to pray that God will turn it around, and send David, or send US to be the David. Because He did it before, and He can do it again!