Should We Pity Poor, Winless Nebraska?

Nebraska Coach Scott Frost
Despite the Historic 0-6 Start, Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost Should Keep Looking Up

The  University of Nebraska was once a college football power.  Under Tom Osborne from 1973 to 1997, the Cornhuskers went an astounding 255 – 49–3,  for a winning percentage of 0.836. Osborne subsequently became Nebraska’s longest-tenured coach, ending with the fourth-highest winning percentage in major college football history. Osborne never won fewer than nine games and secured 13 conference titles in his 25 seasons. And for those interested in ancient college football history, before Osborne, there was head coach Bob Devaney.

Bob Devaney lead Nebraska to a 101–20–2 record, with a 0.829 winning percentage from 1962 to 1972.  Delaney brought about an immediate turnaround in the fortunes of Nebraska football. He led Nebraska to a 9–2 record in his first season, which was capped by the school’s first bowl win, against Miami in the 1962 Gotham Bowl.  Wow. Talk about winners. Nebraska could surely use Osborne or Devaney right about now.

Now, the once mighty and proud Nebraska football program has fallen on hard times. Most recently, The Cornhuskers blew a ten point margin and fell to Northwestern, 34 -21, after having a 31-21 fourth quarter lead. A Northwestern field goal cut the lead to 31-24 with about two minutes left in the game. Northwestern would then get the ball back and marched 99 yards with zero time-outs for a game tying touchdown that sent it to overtime. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable, especially for a team that was 0 -5 and searching desperately for its first win.

In that oh so painful loss to Northwestern, Nebraska had the ball first in the extra period. The drive came to a fourth and one, and then a nightmare for Huskers fans. A botched snap and QB Martinez was forced to scramble; he launched one for the endzone and it was intercepted. Northwestern got the ball and got into position to allow kicker Drew Lauckenbaugh to make a 37 yard field goal to give Northwestern the stunning 34-31 win.

Last week, after Nebraska lost to Michigan, Head coach Scott Frost told his players in the locker room at Michigan Stadium that “things can’t get any worse”, and their 56-10 loss to No. 19 Michigan could serve as a “watershed moment” for the program in its first year with a new coaching staff. When they were 0 -5, the Nebraska coach believed that the Cornhuskers had reached the bottom.

But then the bottom fell out, and they lost this heartbreaker to Northwestern to fall fo 0 – 6 for the first time in school history. It’s the worst start EVER for this storied football program.

Incredible. Just incredible. So, are we to feel sorry and compassionate for the Cornhuskers? Some say yes, but most, I surmise, would say no. They had their heyday, and now the mantle for winning big in college football has moved on the Southeastern Conference. The SEC touts such powerhouse schools such as Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia, just to name a few.  Ohio State and Michigan, two bragadocious, Big Ten schools, are still powers, so why not Nebraska? It’s a thousand things, none of which can be fixed in an instant. 

So let’s encourage Nebraska.  And let’s encourage all of our friends who are going through a tough time. Things will get better. Things HAVE to get better, right? They have to; they just have to.  Becasue life is like sports and sports are like life.  Trouble don’t last always. 

And always remenber; “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

 

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Why Are We Talking About Football In July?

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Why are we talking about football in July? Why does ESPN’s Sports Center allot and spend the bulk of its air time reporting from minicamp? And why aren’t we spending more time talking about the first place Phillies!? Because we love football, and we love movies about football.

Baseball may be called the national pastime, but football actually is. We are obsessed with our teams and their talent. Even in July, we are passionate and preoccupied with the schedule and needed wins and unwanted loses. And we can’t get enough of how good our teams look on paper. That’s why we love the underdog. And that’s why we all loved The Waterboy, and The Replacements, and all Philly fans everywhere rooted for Vince Papale in Invincible.

Just think – if we put as much time and effort into averting teen pregnancies and decreasing drug addiction and preventing recidivism and bolstering job creation and creating more affordable housing, we might also come up with a cure for cancer along the way. No there’s nothing wrong with watching and celebrating sports (especially football in July), but do you think our society has perhaps, maybe, possibly gone a bridge too far?

This is coming from an avid, borderline rabid sports fan, and a PHILLY sports fan at that. The Eagles are the defending Super Bowl Champions, and so defending the crown is all we Eagles fans are concerned about right now. In July. The sound of sports and the matrix of sports has sent many a fan one flew over the cuckoo’s nest. And that sound reminds us of listening to Brian’s Song and Radio. Yes, it’s July, and while some like it hot, on any given Sunday, there’s a Rudy we can root for.

It’s in July, when football players train and talk about training camp becomes insane, that we Remember the Titans. It’s in July that we start thinking about Friday night lights and being Undefeated (the Best sports documentary ever!). So let’s not get to excited nor should we neglect to look for the Silver Linings Playbook in sports. We all need to protect our blind side. That’s why balance and moderation and having more than enough margin in life is a good thing. Because too much football in July can be a bad thing. But it doesn’t have to be.

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.

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.”

Running The Human RACE  

RACE

I just saw the 2016 film, RACE, “a sports movie that once again shows the triumph of the human spirit and how everyone is equal when the gun goes off.” 

Jesse Owens’ quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. It’s a solid sports biopic that teaches and entertains and leaves you longing for more. The history lesson gives nuances that you definitely want to explore on your own, such as, what did Owens do after the Olympics?

The racial challenges that Jesse Owens wrestles with in the film are palpable. Jim Crow rules on the American frontier while Hitler and the Third Riech are rising in Germany.  While both are sinful, it’s hard to split hairs or point fingers; the tension between the races presents the viewer with a moral dilemma: when it comes to race, is there a blacker black or a whiter white? The question is asked but not answered. Racism and antisemitism are on full display, and who’s to say which is the more sinister evil?

Sports gives the human race the opportunity to run the race of life with zest and zeal, blocking out all distractions and evil intentions in order to obtain gold.  And now, in this the 21st Century, when it comes to race, it seems that the blending and the melding of interracial relationships present us an even tone instead of the juxtaposition of black vs. white, which are values, not colors.

As for the film, I enjoyed it emensily, but also agree with this film critic: “Perhaps the strongest argument against Race is that a film this important deserves more than a standard, by-the-numbers treatment. Although there’s nothing terribly wrong about the movie, there’s nothing special about the way in which it presents a remarkable 20th century chapter. The bare necessities are there, the performances are competent, and there are some strong moments but Race suffers from a lack of ambition. It’s too safe and that quality mutes its impact and limits its ability to be more than a history lesson.”   (A movie review by James Berardinelli)

Don’t Play With The Game

Bend It Like Beckham

The game of life comes with rules and regulations, directions and instructions and do’s and don’ts. For instance, it’s just not a good idea to drink and drive. Hence the admonition, “Don’t Drink and Drive!” Then there’s the allowance for right turns on red. So that’s a good thing, right?

We’ll here’s one for everyone to follow as well: “Don’t play with the game.”

Life is nothing to play with. Since life is a game, and there are rules for games, then this is one of them. Life is too short, and tomorrow is not promised. Make the most of every moment, and don’t trifle with the sanctity of life. Living is hard enough, so breaking rules and making up your own policies is foolhardy, at best.

In the game of life there’s a game clock and half court and foul balls and penalties. Sometimes someone may commit a false start or run out of bounds or line up off-sides. Even though It happens, most times it shouldn’t. You’ll want and need to play within the rules, right?

But then again, the world has imposed some rules that need to be broken. Ours is to figure out which ones are hard and fast and which ones are flexible. For instance, what about these recent taboos:

The rule to marry within your culture?

The rule to follow the crowd?

The rule to put family first?

The rule to marry for money? (The rule actually says you should marry for love, right?)

Anyway, it takes discernment and discretion and wisdom and good judgment to play this game the right way. And since we all want to win, we should play to win. And playing to win means that you honor the guidelines and bylaws that have been time tested and proven.

So don’t play with the game. Don’t take it lightly or live it loosely. Play hard and play for keeps. And when necessary, bend it like Beckham.

Watch the film Bend It Like Beckham. You’ll see what I mean.

 

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/movies/bend-it-like-beckham/8d6kgwzl5wz0

“Keepers of the Game” – Sports and Spirituality Go Hand in Hand

Keepers of the Game
Sports and movie fans, I found another one that’s a must see. Here’s what Andy Webster of the New York Times had to say about it:

“If you’ve cheered on a daughter at a high school sporting event, you’ll identify with Judd Ehrlich’s exhilarating documentary “Keepers of the Game.” If you’ve lived in a small town, as do the resilient athletes in this movie, you’ll probably connect even more. And if you are a fan of lacrosse, a game originated by Native Americans, you may relate most of all.

Keepers of the Game’ is about the Salmon River Shamrocks, a girls’ varsity lacrosse team near Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, in Canada and upstate New York, during their 2015 season. The pressures aren’t just on the field. There is the historical oppression of the American Indian, a fact never lost on the players. Boys call a local radio station to express doubts about the suitability of girls for lacrosse. Tsieboo Herne, a high school senior and the team captain, first embraced the game to fight depression.

The ninth-grade goalie Marcella Thomas, who lives on a reservation with her mother and who once found her father’s dead body after a horseback-riding accident, grapples with self-doubt. And there are the Shamrocks’ regional rivals, the Massena Central Red Raiders, whom they face in a climactic championship.

There are heroic adults here, including Hawi Thomas, Marcella’s patient mother, and Elisha King, a firm, nurturing coach. There is also deft editing, artful camerawork and effective music in abundance; Mr. Ehrlich (“Magic Camp”), an Emmy-winning documentarian, clearly knows his craft.

I won’t say how this movie ends. But the film is about much more than the game.”