The Boston Celtics?

 Boston-Celtics-Logo

Yes, the Boston Celtics. And I hate the Boston Celtics, but more on that later.

The Boston Celtics sent my Philadelphia Sixers home packing in only five games after jumping out to a 3-0 series lead. The sometimes clumsy and always inconsistent Sixers practically gifted the Celtics Game 2 of their Second Round Playoff series.

Philly’s ancient rival had something to prove in the 2018 NBA Playoffs because everybody had hastily picked the Sixers to advance to a chance to beat LeBron, but it wasn’t meant to be. And then when they blew a late game lead in regulation and then completely lost it in OT in Game 3 to effectually lose the series, the Celtics knew that it was their time. The Sixers had something special going this season, and they were on the verge of something really special. But the Celtics had other plans. And now it’s the Celtics who are on the verge of something special.

The LeBron’s (a.k.a., the Cleveland Cavaliers) are NOT the Sixers, and yet Boston had a 29 point lead on these same Cavs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But lest we forget, Cleveland lost Game 1 to Indiana in the first round, and we were asking if LeBron was out of gas then. And the answer was a unanimous “NO!” LeBron came roaring back to take out the Pacers, and they just thumped the hapless Raptors in a surprising sweep. Now LeBron finds himself in the Eastern conference Finals once again.

So, the question is this: can the Celtics, who are playing without Kyrie Irving, win the East and beat King James, the reigning King of the NBA pop culture?  LeBron is still LeBron, and one game aint no series. So we’ll see.

And in case you didn’t know, I’m from Philly, so I HATE the Celtics. I just love to hate them. And that’s where the whole love your enemy like your neighbor part comes in.  Did I get that right?  Anyway, since I’m from Philly, I mean, I just have to hate all Boston teams, right?

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Sixers vs. Celtics: Just Like Old Times

Here we go! The Sixers and the Celtics are getting ready to go at it in the playoffs one more time. And it will be just like old times, right? For those that can remember, Dr. J. played against Larry Bird all season long and almost every year in the playoffs. They went toe to toe, duking it out, sometimes literally, each leading their team, each vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. It was great theater and better basketball.

And here we go again. Now we have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid versus a new band of Bostonians including Al Horford, Terry Rozier and rookie sensational Jason Tatum. It should be an instant classic series. All of Philly and all of Boston are sitting on the edge of their seats already in gleeful anticipation — and the opening tip off hasn’t even come yet.

And that’s the anticipation that Christians have living in these toxic and turbulent times. We don’t fear what’s going to happen next. We anticipate the lively hope we actually already have, and now enjoy the promise of the soon coming of Christ. The gloom and doom of yesterday and today will fade in God’s tomorrow as Christ will usher in a truly golden age of bountiful blessings for all who trust and believe in Him.

We have the promise now, and will inherit a retirement package second to none. The theologians call it “the already and not yet.”

And that’s the lesson that this new, highly anticipated Philly/Boston NBA Basketball Playoff series teaches us. Anticipation and expectation are spiritual things. And they belong in church and in sports too.

Is Baker Mayfield The Answer to the Cleveland Browns’ Question?

Baker Mayfield is the embodiment of faith and hope and love for the game that Cleveland Browns fans have everywhere. At least some think he is. He’s a risk and a gamble and a wild card and a wild one as the Browns are going out on a limb and betting the farm on a hothead who’s got a hot arm who hopefully can get on a hot streak. We’ll all have to just wait and see how it turns out because right now he’s just numbers on paper. Here’s what an ESPN staff writer had to say about Mayfield being the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft:

Pat McManamon

ESPN Staff Writer

 

“The Cleveland Browns surprised the NFL world by making quarterback Baker Mayfield the first overall pick in the draft Thursday night.

The Browns has been expected to take a quarterback and had insisted Mayfield was under consideration through the pre-draft process. Most speculation still centered on USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, but momentum started to build in the last few days that the Browns favored Mayfield.

Cleveland also had the fourth pick Thursday and used it to select Denzel Ward, a cornerback back from Ohio State.

Mayfield, who had a stellar college career at Oklahoma but also made headlines with his behavior on and off the field, will be tasked with turning around a Browns team that went 0-16 last season.

Mayfield joins a roster that has Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback and Drew Stanton as the backup. The Browns hope to play Taylor this season, allowing Mayfield time to learn and grow. Mayfield, though, said at the scouting combine he would never “settle” for a backup role.

The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2002, which is the longest active drought in the NFL. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have had 28 different starting quarterbacks — the most in the league during that span.

Baker Mayfield will be tasked with turning around a Browns franchise coming off an 0-16 season in 2017. Harry How/Getty Images

Mayfield led FBS with a 70.5 completion percentage in 2017, and he set a single-season record by averaging 11.5 yards per attempt. He threw for 4,627 yards with 43 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

But Mayfield also garnered negative attention in recent years for his on-field antics, which included making an inappropriate gesture toward Kansas’ sideline and for planting Oklahoma’s flag on Ohio State’s logo at the 50-yard line after the Sooners’ victory over the Buckeyes. And if that wasn’t enough, on top of all that, Mayfield also was arrested last year in Arkansas on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest. He reached a plea deal last June and paid fines for several of the charges.

Throughout the draft process, the Browns said they felt Mayfield had admitted to mistakes and they were behind him. Browns general manager John Dorsey even joked with Mayfield at the team’s combine interview, asking how he liked food trucks, a reference to the February 2017 arrest that took place near food trucks.

Mayfield, who is from Austin, Texas, transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma after his freshman season. During his college career, he threw for 14,607 yards and had 131 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. He also rushed for 21 TDs and caught another during his college career.”

LeBron James: Still The King

LeBron James just hit a buzzer beater to beat the Indiana Pacers 98–95 in Game Five of a 2018 First Round playoff series. It was vintage LeBron.  The king delivered a certified instant classic with an epic performance at home to give his team a 3-2 series lead. He almost had a triple double:  44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He had an attack dog mentality as he dominated his opponent and carried his team on his back, again,

LeBron had a huge block when Indiana could have taken the lead. And the block came right after he turned the ball over under his own basket with under a minute to play. Instead of an embarrassing defeat, with only three seconds left on the clock, king James hit a three pointer from the top of the key. Instead of overtime and a possible loss at home, the king of the NBA led his team to yet another thrilling victory with yet another buzzer beater and yet another demoralizing defeat for an opponent that could’ve stolen a game from the James. But not so.

Cleveland is not a great team but they still have the game’s greatest player. The argument for the greatest of all time still rages as the jury is still out because the verdict is not in. Is James better than Michael? Kobe? Magic? Wilt Chamberlain? Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Bill Russell? The debate rages on. For now, once again, the great one proved that he is still the reigning undisputed heavyweight champion of the basketball world.

The great ones always find a way. Always. And once again this great player found another way to win.

The corollary is clear. You might not be that good or that great. None of us are. But with the great God we serve, you’re still great. And every day and in every “game” you have the chance to win even though you’re down and it looks like you may be out. But not so. Not with the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on your side.

Jesus is the ultimate greatest One, and He will always find a way for you to win. Always.

Note From Fergie: This Is How To Butcher the National Anthem

Fergie

If you haven’t heard by now, the pop star Fergie sang the National Anthem before Sunday night’s 2018 NBA All-Star game. And she showed us how NOT to sing the our national song on national television. To quote one columnist, “it was … something. To say the singer put her own spin on the Star Spangled Banner doesn’t even begin to describe what happened here.”  As the former “Black Eyed Peas” singer sang the our national song,  even the all-stars couldn’t hide their laughter. But it was no laughing matter. It was NOT funny, and it was no joke.

Fergie’s “rendition,” if you want to call it that, was worse than wretched. It was past pathetic. It was downright disgraceful. And if anyone needs an example of how to embarrass themselves and set a bad tone, this was it. Singing the nation anthem prior to big games and important athletic events is a time-honored tradition. It’s also an honor for those asked to perform it. 

So why did she do it? Why did Fergie trifle with tradition and rail on a hallowed rite and ritual? This may be a gross over-generalization, but it seems as if this generation has lost the art of respect and the science of reverence. To make light of a custom and best practice is to say that the individual is more important than the whole.  Essentially, Fergie belted out that she is more important that the Country and the customs that we have all come to love and cherish.

Let this be a lesson to the rest of us; some traditions just need to be respected and preserved.

Why Aren’t You Watching Mikaela Shiffrin (and others) in Pyeonchang?

Mikaela Shiffirn 2018 Gold

Even Shaun White could hardly believe it.

Shaun won the gold medal in the men’s halfpipe with a near perfect run in a dramatic finish. He was in first place until his closest competitor scored a 95.25.  That bumped Shaun down to second, with only one chance left to retake the lead. On his last run, White scored a 97.75 to pull ahead of Hirano, who landed back-to-back double cork 1440s of his own ( I can’t explain what that is, but whatever the term, it looks amazing when they’re in the air turning every which way) . I’m so happy for Shaun White, especially to win the way he did.

And not to be outdone, here comes Mikaela Shiffrin.

On the night after the aforementioned snowboarding legend Shaun White won the 100th Winter Olympics gold medal in United States history, Mikaela Shiffrin made it 101 as her legend grew. America’s next big thing in skiing picked up the second Olympic gold medal of her career and her first in giant slalom. Shiffrin’s combined pair of runs in giant slalom on Thursday clocked in at 2 minutes, 20.02 seconds, usurping 34-year-old Italian Manuela Moelgg for the top of the podium. And Mikaela, like Shaun, saved her best for last. She took first place on her last run which was her last chance to get the gold in this event. Whew!!!

Both victories came at the 11th hour, on fourth and goal if you will, (a.k.a. Nick Foles and the Eagles pulling off the Philly Special!) when both athletes had to have their best performance, ever. And if that doesn’t send shivers down your side and goose bumps up your spine, I don’t know what will.

Then, if that wasn’t enough to get your juices going even more, the German ice dancing pair that had vied for gold for what seems like forever finally broke through and won the pairs gold medal. They were sobbing – SOBBING- for joy, and I was too.

Aljona Savchenko is a Ukrainian who has skated in five Olympic Games for two different countries and with three different partners. In PyeongChang, she finally realized her Olympic dream of winning gold. Together with partner Bruno Massot, Savchenko, who skates for Germany, was in fourth place after the short program. But she and Massot were the only couple among the top three to skate a clean free program, which vaulted them to the top of the podium. Their scores were the highest ever recorded for the pairs long program and it was enough for gold. After earning two bronze medals at previous Olympics with another partner, Savchenko said of her first, long-awaited gold: “I never give up. I keep fighting.”

And that’s the lesson: Never give up. And Keep fighting. Just keep fighting and never give up. It’s the lesson we keep hearing and seeing and need to keep believing until our quest for gold comes true, too.

Cleveland Makes Wholesale Changes

Cleveland Cavaliers Logo

Sometimes we need to make changes, wholesale changes. When there are structural deficiencies and institutional incompatibilities, cosmetic corrections and surface suggestions just won’t cut it. When the apple is rotten to the core, radical reforms are needed in order to right the ship and produce lasting results. And that’s what the Cleveland Cavaliers figured out.

Isiah Thomas is gone. Dwayne Wade was shipped back to South Beach. And other fixtures of the franchise that revolves around LeBron James are gone too. Were such drastic steps necessary?  Only time will tell. But sometimes you have to do some deep cleaning in order to get rid of all of the dross.

Not that individual players were the problem; it was the chemistry of the team that was the problem. And in order to fix what’s wrong chemically, you need an entirely new formula. That’s what happened when Jesus came to town.

Jesus came to make wholesale changes. The Pharisees and Sadducees and the religious establishment had settled unto a fixed, flat-rate, unforgiving system that they thought worked for them, when in truth it didn’t work for anybody. Jesus came with new rules and a fresh perspective and a better way of living. The only problem was, he had to blow up the old system and make wholesale changes. And the establishment didn’t like.

That’s the lesson. So, let’s take a page from the Cleveland Cavaliers playbook. When things aren’t working, look at everything. And I mean EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY.  Some of the things you’re doing may need to be revised, revamped or even revoked. The same goes for the people in your life that you may even like.  If they’re not working for you, they may in fact be working against you.   

So do yourself a favor. If you must, and some of us are in a season or situation where we must, make wholesale changes. It’s better that being bitter.  Indeed, the changes may hurt.  But the changes, if done with the goal of getting better in mind, will in fact help.