One Point

Ben Simmons After Loss
Ben Simmons Scores One Point in Loss to Boston in 2018 Playoffs

Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers rookie sensation point guard, the same point guard who is the consensus Rookie of the year in the NBA this year, scored one point in Game 2 of their much anticipated series with their hated and heated rivals, the Boston Celtics. One whole point.

But it was a good loss, and I’ll tell you why.

 The Sixers lost by five.  It was a close game down the stretch, and the team from South Philly was even up by five late in the fourth quarter. But they lost every lead they managed to build. Little leads. Big leads.  All kinds of leads. They lost the leads and the game.  By just five points. 

So they (and we) need to learn how to play (and live) when losing and when leading. And that’s a life lesson.

Big Ben only scorned one.  One point. So just think, a few made baskets, even just two, and a few more made free throws would have made a difference. But nooooooooooooo. Ben picked a bad time to have an unbelievably bad game. And it hurt his team. Not that the rest of the team is not culpable.   The Sixers blew a 21 point lead in the second quarter, and that is where the game was lost.

So what’s next for the Sixers?  They play the next two games at home. But if they  lose this series, and they may well may get blown right out of the gym the next two games, it will be a short time loss but, hopefully a long-term gain.  Teams general, and these Sixers in specific, need to learn how to play with a lead. And the Sixers haven’t figured that part out yet. Oh well. It was a great season. It’s not over yet, but it sure feels like it’s over.

One point. One lousy point. It will count if they learn from this, and this will be a good loss, if, that is IF, they learn. Maybe this series, and maybe not. But certainly this lesson must be learned down the road.

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My Book Is Out! “Upsets, Comebacks & Turnarounds” Coming Soon

UCT Cover

Hey Everybody! I birthed a book!

After years of writing and editing and kneading and massaging this baby of an idea inside of me, voila, my book is here!  It will be available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com soon so stay tuned! I hope you read and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s a pick me upper and a shot in the arm for all who love the little guy and the also-rans in sports and in life. 

Here a few excerpts from the back cover:

In the World of Sports, there’s nothing like an upset win, a comeback from way back, and a complete turnaround. The same is true in life. In sports, we celebrate the underdogs, both the teams and the players who are at a distinct disadvantage and are expected to lose. Yet some way, somehow, these teams and players  find a way to triumph in spite of adversity.

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds looks back to those who have alreadly overcome and looks forward to those facing overwhelming obstacles yet to be overcome.

This book examines the intersection of God and sports . . . and is a tribute to all of the biblical long-shots; to all of those who, in sports and in life, “didn’t stand a chance.”

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.”

Flip The Script, aka, Change Your Ending

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons Flipped the Script and They’re Having Fun Doing It

You can’t change your beginning, but you sure can change your ending.  You can’t go back and change what happened, but you can, spiritually speaking, reach forward and change what you want to happen.  That’s what Philly teams are doing, and that’s what I’m doing too. The Urban Dictionary says that Flip the Script means “to gain control in a dialogue that is being dominated by another person so that you are now in charge.”

Spiritually speaking, we all need to gain control of the dialogue of our lives and flip the script, just like Philly sports teams have done and are doing.

In the dialogue of the 2018 NFL season, no one, and I mean NO ONE, picked Nick Foles to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a win in Super Bowl LII. Except me, right?  But they did it. They flipped the script. They won the big one.  When Carson Wentz went down, Nick Foles got up and led the Eagles to an unforgettable Super Bowl victory. 

And now, another Philadelphia team, the Sixers, is flipping the script.  The Sixers won a whopping ten games just two short seasons ago. This season, in their wildest dreams, they hoped to break even and be a .500 team, and maybe, just maybe, if they were lucky, possibly make the playoffs. Instead, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid led their young teammates to 52 wins. They are the No. 3 Seed in the Eastern Conference and they ended the season on a 16-game winning streak. That’s a winning streak six games longer than the win total just two years ago. Are you kidding me? AND . . .  this was the longest winning streak in FRANCHISE HISTORY.  And now they’re on the verge of advancing to the second round of the playoffs in convincing fashion. WHAT?

It just goes to show ya — you can’t change when you were born or where you were born or how you were raised, but you sure can change where you live and where you work and where you worship.  You can’t change where you’ve been, but you absolutely can change where you’re going. You can’t change your past, but you can change the trajectory of your future.

I don’t like where I am, what I do or how things are going at work. Since I don’t like it, I’m changing it. I’m changing where I’m headed and where I’m going and what my situation is so I’m sure to change my ending. I’m going to flip the script.  For some, living in the suburbs in a picturesque subdivision in a house with a two car garage on a cul-de-sac backing to woods sounds nice, but it’s not working for me.  Working a hoity-toity job in a destination location where there is a long line of applicants trying to get a foot in the door may sound like the cat’s meow, but it’s not working for me. It may fit the mold and the make and the makeup of where one would kill to be, but it’s not for me.

Spiritually, we need to know what works and what doesn’t. We need to know what’s working, and what’s not working.  The Eagles and the Sixers flipped the script. They turned negatives into positives. They used all of the adversity and hardship and hindrance’s they faced and turned them into fuel for the turnaround. They used all of the bad to help them go from worst to first. They went from the bottom of the pile to the top of the heap.  The Eagles were underdogs in every playoff game.  Underdogs! So many people had written their ending, but they flipped the script, proved the doubters wrong, destroyed the odds, and came out on top.

 And I’m going to do the same. How ‘bout you?

Are The Cavaliers In Trouble?

Dallas Mavericks v Cleveland Cavaliers

Is this the end of an era? Is this the end of the line? Is this the end of the end of LeBron James’ dominance in Cleveland?  It just may be. Because the Cavaliers are in trouble.  LeBron is looking off, looking for answers from someone, somewhere that don’t seem to be coming.

All season long, Cleveland has struggled with roster moves after moving Kyrie Irving to Boston in the offseason. And the end result is this?  The end product of all of the tinkering and tempering and tampering with trades and acquisitions this season still seems to be a big question mark. In other words, there’s trouble in LeBron Land.

The Cleveland LeBron’s (aka the Cleveland Cavaliers) lost to the hungry, upstart Indiana Pacers AT HOME in Game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. Cleveland looked absolutely apathetic and the home team got booed off of their own court. Now the Cavs are left with trying to figure it out and how to avoid disaster. So, is there trouble in LeBron Land? I’ll say.

But maybe this is just Game One. Maybe it’s just one game, right? I mean, every team is entitled to an off day, right? Maybe. But if the play of the supporting cast LeBron is stuck with is any indication of things to come, then LeBron will be saying goodbye, audios and Auf Wiedersehen to Cleveland in search of the next team he can take to the Promised Land of an NBA Title.

The DiVincenzo Factor

DiVincenzoVillanova-superJumboDonte DiVincenzo winking after a shot against Michigan on Monday. He had 31 points, five rebounds and three assists and was voted Most Outstanding Player in Villanova’s 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Title win.

Credit Ronald Martinez/Getty Images        

Donte DiVincenzo’s name is just like his game: unique and intimidating. I mean, don’t you wish you could have a championship game like Donte DiVincenzo? You know, Villanova’s killer sixth man off the bench who just killed it against upstart Michigan? I mean he KILLED IT! He doesn’t start, and yet he scored thirty-one points, had block after block and timely three pointers to carry his team to victory. It was an impressive performance to say the least. 

One sports writer put it like this: “Had DiVincenzo been in a video game, flames would have been coming off his ball.”

The statistics — 31 points on 15 shots, five rebounds and three assists — still undersell the extent to which DiVincenzo was his team’s fulcrum Monday night. The team’s sixth man, he was the one who stopped the bleeding after the underdog Michigan surprised the 67,831 spectators in the Alamodome and millions more watching on television who had expected a fairly easy victory by Villanova, the top seed.

Before DiVincenzo scored his first basket, Michigan led 14-8. Villanova’s next 8 points were DiVincenzo’s: a 3-pointer, a 3-point play, a jump shot. DiVincenzo responded to ball screens by hitting long 3s from where he was standing or, once, finding Omari Spellman down low on a brilliant bounce pass.

On defense, during one stretch he forced a driving Zavier Simpson into a miss and then, on the next possession, the 6-foot-5 DiVincenzo straight-up blocked an attempted dunk by Charles Matthews. At one point, after back-to-back 3-pointers, DiVincenzo winked at the crowd. He later said he was aiming for Hart.

The moral of the story is this: every team needs a DiVincenzo on their bench because the DiVicenzo factor is so awe-inspiring it sends goose bumps up and down your spine. I’m so happy for him. He could have been a starter on any other team. Instead, he sacrificed playing time and came off of the bench and put the team first. And the end result was another National Championship for Villanova. AND he was rewarded and voted Most Outstanding Player for the Final Four. Wow. March Madness surely went out with a bang.

Sounds like we all could learn a lesson or two from Vilanova and Mr. DiVincenzo. Can you pronounce his name right yet?