You Need To Go To A Baseball Game

Guess what? I went to a baseball game! And not just any game – I went to Orioles Park at Camden Yards to watch the O’s play the St. Louis Cardinals.   And we had a blast. It was a Father’s Day gift from my wonderful wife, and my son came down from Philly to join us.  It was just what the doctor ordered. 

Never mind it was 90 degrees in the shade! But thank God we had shade, because we would have baked and broiled and fried to a crisp in that hot sun. But who’s complaining?

Never mind I’m not an Oriole’s fan. Before the game, I couldn’t tell you one player on their roster, but that doesn’t matter. We were at the ballpark, a ballpark I’d never been to before, mind you, and the feel and the vibe and the atmosphere were second to none. AND this season Camden Yards is celebrating their 25th Anniversary!  You mean to tell me that I’ve been talking about going to Camden Yards for 25 years?! Good  gracious! 

And never mind I wasn’t wearing black and orange, the home team’s colors; the rule is, you “route, route, route for the home team,” and cheer and yell and scream for the home team I did. There were a heap of home runs and triples (two in one game by the home team)  and it was a thoroughly entertaining affair. In the end, it’s always great when the home team wins big, and the O’s won 8 to 5. At one point, the score was 7 – 2, and it wasn’t that close.

So why do you need to go to a baseball game? I’m glad you asked.  Going to a game, pretty much any game, puts you in touch and in tune with the game.  Yes most of us watch on TV because we can’t get to the stadium or the arena or the park everyday (not to mention we can’t afford to do so). But there comes a point when you just have to be there.  

And here’s the point; there is no sustitute for presence.  In life and in sports, being there is just as important, and sometimes more so, than the outcome. My wife loves gifts, but she loves me more. And I enjoy her company and the company of my sons and daughters more than what they can give me or buy me or order on line.

So, the next time you want to dial it in,  or take a rain check or wait until next time- think again. Because being there is more fun, and getting there is half the fun.

The Washington Capitals: An Unfinished Playoff Life

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One of my favorite movies is “An Unfinushed Life.”  It’s a moving, modern-day, morass of a movie about family and relationships and hurt and healing that takes you up and down and all around; it takes you all the way from wide open, endless possibilities to an almost certain dead-end. Or so it seems.  It’s as if the writer and director were giving us a cap full of the Washington Capitals playoff season.  Ouch.

“An Unfinished Life” stars a hat trick trio that puts in a power play performance worthy of every hat being tossed to the ice. Playing center is Jennifer Lopez, a young, widowed mother who has no one and nowhere to go except to her deceased husband’s father, who blames her for his son’s death. The dad is played by Robert Redford, who’s an old fart with a cold heart; ’nuff said. Rounding out the All Star lineup is my man Morgan Freeman, the only friend Redford’s character has; and he’s got a story to tell as well. Throw in the plunky, spunky adolescent daughter and the local love interest for love starved, affection craving JLo, and voila, you’ve got a ready-made, dysfunctional bunch of denizens ripe for redemption.

You get the feeling that the title of the film is not just about the dead son and husband and father, whom we never meet (not even through flashbacks – thank God!), whose life ended suddenly and abruptly.  The film depicts a dysfunctional family and the long, arduous road back to functionality through blood, sweat and tears. And it’s also about all of our ragged and unfinished, rough and unvarnished lives which hold so much promise and potential yet fail to reach or maintain spiritual maturity.

That pretty much sums up the Washington Capitals perennial playoff picture; unfortunate and unexpected and unfinished. Some would say it’s unfair. The Capitals are down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and once again they’re on the verge of facing yet another early exit from the playoffs.  The Capitals have finished first in the LEAGUE for at least four of the last six years, yet they can’t seem to duplicate that success in the second season. The question coming from the top of every hockey hounds head is, “Why?”  

And everyone inside the Beltway wonders why as well: why, when we’re the No. 1 Seed once again and we’ve had the best players over the years like Jaromir Jagr and Alexander Ovechkin; why this doesn’t translate into post season success is anybody’s guess. They’re the favorites to win the Stanley cup year in and year out, but their great regular season team consistently falters and flounders and fizzles out long before they should.  

The difference between the actors in this film and the players on the Capitals ice is that redemption finds the actors; and since life is about redemption and restoration, a reversal of fortune for these Caps should be in the cards, right?

For the rest of us, we have hope that redemption will find us, and that one season soon, redemption will come a’ calling for the Washington Capitals team too.

How To Be A Poor Sport

Russell Westbrook Attitude It’s amazing how some athletes can show us how to be both great and gruesome, unheralded and unglamorous, unstoppable and inexorable, all at the same time. It’s incomprehensible how the same athlete can have a triple-double and light up the scoreboard and yet have an attitude and a disposition and a standpoint that sticks out like a sore thumb and stinks up to high Heaven.

And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about Russell Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook may deserve to be the NBA MVP for 2017, but he also deserves a swift kick in the pants and a round wrap on the wrists, at the least. Westbrook stormed off of the basketball court after his Oklahoma City Thunder team lost Game 5 to the heated and hated rival Houston Rockets.  To add insult to injury, Westbrook is in competition with Houston’s All-star guard — and his former teammate — James Harden, for the MVP Award. 

Sadly, Westbrook could not lose graciously nor could he accept defeat amicably.

And that’s the hallmark and it should be the trademark of every true sportsman. Knowing how to win and learning how to lose is part and parcel of sports.  Since professional athletes are role models (note to Charles Barkley), anything they do and everything they say is scrutinized and analyzed to the Nth degree.

Sports and sportsmanship go hand in hand. https://godandsports.net/2014/05/30/sports-and-sportsmanship-go-hand-in-hand/ For the presumptive MVP to have such a great season end on such a grumpy note does not bode well.  When you don’t win, it’s chivalrous and courteous to shake hands and wish the winner well.  After a loss, moping and muttering and grunting and grumping aren’t acceptable actions for above average athletes. Unfortunately, Westbrook didn’t get the memo. 

The moral of the story is this: even when it hurts, and we’re mad and we don’t like how things turn out, let’s dig deep and reach high and stretch wide so that we can show how to lose with grace. Because just as we wax strong when we win, we gain just as much strength, if not more, when we learn to lose like a good sport.

Who Should Be The MVP?

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Westbrook? Harden? Leonard? Curry? Or even LeBron?  Who has carried and cajoled and compelled their team better that all others?  And who has made them better? Who has been the on the floor and the off the hardwood commander and chief and captain and quasi coach?  In other words, who’s been the bossier boss?

The clear favorite seems to be Westbrook, even though Harden and others have somewhat to say about the final vote. No, Oklahoma City will not go far in the 2017 playoffs, but they would be nowhere without the heroics of Russell Westbrook this season. Period. Paragraph.

Do total team wins count towards or count against a player?  I mean, if I’m a great player but my squad is a middle of the road team, does that hurt me or help me? Does it matter how many wins my team gets, as long as it’s more with me than without me?  If I made my team better and they would have been much worse without me, shouldn’t that be worth something?

The Oklahoma City Thunder certainly had every reason to tank and topple this season, with Durant leaving, and especially with the WAY he left. But no; somehow, someway, Westbrook summoned strength and led his team to a winning season and they got into the playoffs. And not only that, but Westbrook broke the single season record for triple doubles, topping Oscar Robertson’s record which has stood for decades.

The Bible is full of MVPs. From Abraham to Amos, and from Zechariah to the daughters of Zelophehad, heroes and heroines of the faith all made their situations better because of their faith and their fortitude. They scored heavenly points, grabbed spiritual rebounds and dished out divine assists in route to leading their respective teams to victory.

So what about you? Is your “team” better with you, or without you? Do you make any given situation you’re in better or worse? Is your job, your group, or your club healthier, happier, enhanced and improved with your talent and your flair and your flavor? If so, you’re an MVP too.

The NBA or the NFL? Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

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The NBA or the NFL? 

Right now, it’s hard to tell which sport is hot and which one is not. Both the NFL and the NBA are intriguing and exciting, heart pounding and foot stomping. Ever since Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook split up, the NBA has been hotter than all get out. And on the other side of the ball, the Giants just beat the Cowboys, my pick to win this year’s Super Bowl.

So who’s hotter? The NBA or the NFL? While each compete for high ratings and the top ranking, we get to sit and watch.

Can The USA Men Win Basketball Gold In Rio?

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More than any other player, Carmelo Anthony is the face of the 2016 US Men’s Olympic Basketball Team. He represents their past and epitomizes their future. He’s an accomplished athlete who has won championships at every level, save the NBA. And it’s this asterisk next to his accolades, this rip on his résumé and this “but” on his byline that keep us wondering if Melo has the macho to guide this team to gold.

Carmelo Kyam Anthony (born May 29, 1984) is an American professional basketball player for the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). In Anthony’s freshman season, he led the Orangemen to their first ever National Championship and was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Anthony then entered the 2003 NBA draft where he was selected with the third overall pick by the Denver Nuggets.

Since entering the NBA, Anthony has been named an All-Star nine times and an All-NBA Team member six times. In 2011, he was traded from Denver to the New York Knicks just days prior to the NBA trade deadline. On January 24, 2014, against the Charlotte Bobcats, Anthony set the Madison Square Garden and Knicks’ single-game scoring record with a career-high 62 points.

Anthony has been a member of the USA Olympic basketball team a record four times, winning a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics and gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. He is the United States Olympic men’s national basketball team all-time leading scorer.

But despite all of the firepower Melo and his teammates have, there is an aura of skepticism about Melo in general and this US team in particular; especially since they’re not blowing their opponents away like previous US Olympic Teams have in the past.

Luis Scola, an Argentinian national and a member of the Brooklyn Nets, said this about the US Team:

“There was this time that the U.S. kind of got bored of the FIBA (Olympic competition) thing,” Scola said. “And they didn’t put a lot of effort, didn’t put a lot of work on it. They didn’t really commit to it. And those years they lost. And then they said: ‘Stop. Enough.’ So I believe it’s pretty much up to the U.S.

“If U.S. takes this seriously, and they really put work into it, and they put their minds and their bodies into it, it’s going to be very, very hard to beat them any year they come and play. They have so many good players. They have so many athletes. The difference of the athleticism between those guys and everybody else is very, very big. So if they really focus on it, it’s going to be very hard to beat them in any tournament. It’s been like that forever.” http://www.espn.com/olympics/basketball/story/_/id/17314081/olympics-2016-how-world-underdogs-see-chances-upsetting-team-usa

And the same goes for you and me. When we set our minds anew on what we hope we can do, there’s nothing and nobody that can stop us. He who lies within us is greater that what lies before us. So with the help of Heaven and a lift from the Lord, with God all things are possible to those who believe.

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

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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.”