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.

“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.”

Trouble With The Curve

Trouble With The Curve

What do Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake have in common? You guessed it! A sports movie! Trouble With The Curve is a decent, borderline believable, tough and tender sports film about baseball and boys and dads and daughters and living life in general and life and living in specific. That’s how good this film is.

Eastwood is, well, Eastwood. He’s a gritty and grumpy, beaten and beleaguered baseball scout who still has a little left in the tank. His daughter, his gutsy but girley protégé, is sent by a family friend to look out for him, but it’s the Dad that makes up for lost time and ends up finally looking out for his little girl. And then there’s the love interest. Timberlake plays the boy next door who comes in just at the nick of time to save them both, and ends up getting saved himself.

So if you like Eastwood, and I finally do, and can stomach Timberlake, who’s more than a decent actor, and an amicable and antagonistic Amy Adams, then you’ve got yourself a movie. All you need now is a date.

Life can throw you curves. And most of us, if not all of us, have trouble with the curve. We have trouble with our faults and our fears and our doubts and our dreads and our qualms and our quagmires. But thank God for grace. God’s grace helps us with the curves of life. When we can’t seem to get a hit, and we strike out and luck out and bottom out, God helps us.

So, if you’re having trouble with the curve, get up and look up and give up the curves that life throws you. Stop swinging at nothing and whiffing at the wind. Give your curve to God. Just surrender to Him and give God your curve. He can handle it better than you.

Repeated, Recurring Redemption – Cam Newton and Michael Oher in Super Bowl 50: “Another” Second Chance

Cam and Michael Oher

Michael Oher’s story is the subject of the hit 2009 sports film “The Blind Side.” The storyline features Oher, an offensive lineman who played for the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans and currently plays for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL. “Blind Side” follows Oher from his impoverished upbringing, through his adoption by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, portrayed by Sandra Bullock, to his position as one of the most highly coveted prospects in college football, then finally becoming a first-round pick of the Ravens.

And now, Oher has another chance to protect another quarterback’s blindside. And the story of his coming to Carolina and playing in another Super Bowl is as special as his original rags to riches sports saga.

After being cut by the Tennessee Titans, Oher was rehabbing from toe surgery in the offseason when he received a text from Cam Newton. The quarterback has recruited players before, but not this hard. Newton’s brother, Cecil Jr., had played on the practice squad in Baltimore, and he was around Oher every day. They became friends. He knew Oher was talented and professional, and was confident he could protect his brother. Cecil told Cam that Oher would be a key acquisition to the team.

So, as the story goes, Newton texted Oher, and he didn’t just say he wanted him. He said he needed him. When the Panthers signed Oher to a two-year, $7 million deal last March, the move was widely criticized. Oher, 29, appeared to be on the downswing and in a downturn.

But the opposite happened. The unthinkable and un-scriptable happened. Oher got another second chance as he wound up being the only offensive lineman besides center Ryan Kalil to start every game in 2015 for the Panthers, who surrendered just 61 quarterback hits.

Oher said the message from Newton made him feel at home. For the first time in a while, somebody wanted him. He was reunited with offensive line coach John Matsko, his former coach with the Ravens, and quickly bonded with his teammates.

What a story. I mean, really radical redemption comes once for a few of us; for Michael Oher, it came twice. And if you believe in miracles, and I do, then the miraculous that happens on the grassy field is only a fraction of what could and can happen on the glassy field of spiritual life. And that’s why for all of us, repeated, recurring redemption is always readily available.

And The Last Shall Be First . . .


So the last shall be first, and the first last.
Matthew 20:16, KJV

Kevin Costner is one of my favorite actors. He has stared in and directed a number of sports movies that have told the story of stunning triumphs and stellar victories. From Field of Dreams to Bull Durham to For Love of the Game, Costner captures the essence of sports on camera and through film like few others can.

Costner’s latest amazing achievement is McFarland USA, a true story about a transplanted, first year, cross-country coach in a small California town who transforms a tacky team of amateurish athletes into a comely collection of championship contenders. With no means and no money and no modicum of coaching cross-country, Costner’s character, Jim White, manages to convince and convert a contingent of castaways into a compelling crew of contenders.

Costner certainly came across a little known, marvelously phenomenal tale of trial and triumph. It is a telling of the lives of young men who didn’t’ think they had a chance at anything but share cropping and menial living. Yet Coach White coached his chosen, cherry-picked, crew of up and comers and coached across the class and color lines and was blessed to harvest a bumper crop of champions.

I watch sports movies for something to do and McFarland USA came of nowhere and is right up there with the best of ‘em. Don’t tell everybody, but I’m a sucker and a pushover for a rags-to-riches, come from behind, win when no one gives you a chance story. And McFarland USA is another one that will juice you up and fill you up and lift you up to believe when all signs point the other way.

McFarland USA teaches that the last can and indeed shall be first. That’s theological, spiritual speak for this: the underdogs and underachievers and under-believers can come from all the back and end up leading the pack. An underdog is one who is last and least and the slightest and has the slimmest chance at a championship. All underdogs have a disadvantage and are expected to lose. And that is why McFarland USA is such a great movie and is an even greater story.

Just watch it and see.

Baseball is Like Life: A.K.A, Why the World Series Isn’t Played in April


October and April have several similarities: both can be hot and cold, both are at the beginning of the change of seasons, and both are big baseball months. But one is the beginning, and the other is the end. One is the commencement for all, and the other is the coronation for one.

So, if your home town team isn’t doing very well right now (Philly and Nationals fans, take note) relax. That’s right, RELAX! Baseball is like life and life is like baseball. In life and in baseball, the end is vaguely in view, and there’re a lot of games to play and a lot of days to live between the start and the finish.

Baseball is like life and life is like baseball. Between the first pitch and the final out there’s lots of time to make mistakes, emit errors and generate gaffes. It’s cold now and it will be cold then and all along the way and there’s a lot of time to straighten out slips and triumph over trips. It’s a long season so there’s plenty of time to tidy up tumbles and straighten up stumbles. It’s still early so there’s plenty of time to blot out blunders and blotches and faults and foibles.

But don’t try to do all of that on your won. You will need help. You will need Divine assistance. Kinda like “Angels in the Outfield,” but with more of a Heavenly twist. 

Thank God. Aren’t you glad baseball is like life?

Think B4U Move


“Think Before You Move.”  It’s a moto that fits in sports and in life. And it’s the mantra and mainstay of the film “Life of a King” staring Cuba Gooding, Jr. It’s a must see. Cuba puts in a solid and stirring performance in this rag to spiritual riches story which should incite and inflame, motivate and stimulate all of us to try and “change our world.” The moral of the story is, despite missteps and mistakes, we all should at least try. And in trying to make a difference, you must make the right moves.

Based on a true story, Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as Eugene Brown, an ex-con who establishes a chess club in Washington, D.C. as a way to reach out to inner city youth and help them make better life choices. That’s the basic premise of Life of a King. And what sounds like a bore fest on paper turns out to be a deeply challenging movie that takes a hard look at a world far too many children find themselves growing up and living in.

DVD Life of A King

Gangs, drugs, prostitution, and violence are what many of these kids see and experience on a daily basis, a world seemingly void of hope, where dignity, respect and honor are nothing more than grand ideas. And it’s in this world where ex-con Eugene Brown begins his outreach to the inner city kids to teach them that they need to think before they move by way of the game of chess.

Life of a King is a captivating, powerful, and stunning independent film, and joins such movies as Freedom Writers, Dangerous Minds, and Lean on Me as one of the best ‘mentor does everything they can to help kids from the city’ type movies.

As usual, Cuba Gooding Jr. (Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, Selma, Red Tails) is superb, playing Eugene Brown with passion and conviction. Likewise, Malcolm M. Mays, Carlton Byrd, and Kevin Hendricks are excellent as three high school friends who come into Eugene’s life around the time he starts the chess club.

Life of a King is powerful, hope filled, and inspiring.  It’s not really a ‘Christian’ movie (one man mentions The Bible), but it does show how one man can truly make a difference in the lives of many. And there are enough unexpected twists and turns to turn this telling from a tiny, trite tryst to a tall and triumphant tale.   

Borrowed from Christian St. John,