Can The USA Men Win Basketball Gold In Rio?

Carmello Antony USA-Olympics--Basketball-Men-s-Team

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?

Kids Celebrating

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.” 

 

The Sum of Pat Summitt

Summit

Pat Summitt was an icon. Pat Summit was a legend. Pat Summit was the sum total of what a coach and mentor should be. Pat Summitt’s wins and victories and championships and graduation rate are her legacy and are the summary of a superlative life well lived.  All that has been said and written about Pat Summitt are a mere synopsis of her influence and are proof positive that she was a force to be reckoned with.  

Pat Summitt built the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers into a perennial power on the way to becoming the winningest coach in the history of major college basketball. The sports world now pauses to mourn her loss. Pat died today, June 28, 2016. Her death came five years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 64.

In 2011, Summitt announced she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, but vowed to keep coaching. “This is not a pity party,” she said. “We’re not going to sit here and feel sorry for Pat Summitt.”

She stayed on for one more year, securing the Lady Vols their 16th SEC Championship under her leadership before retiring. But she didn’t step away from the sport she loved.  Summitt battled the disease with “fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced,” her son, Tyler Summitt, said.

“Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.”  As the wins and the championships piled up, Summitt’s astonishing achievements commanded national attention and helped usher women’s basketball into the spotlight.

Tyler went onto say that “she’ll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many — she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure.”

Pat Summit was driven to perfection and always remained true to her standards. That meant doing things the right way, no matter what. Summitt’s impressive coaching record earned her a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

President Obama paused to pay homage to this basketball great.  Obama said that “her legacy, however, is measured much more by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat’s intense competitiveness and character, and as a result found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder, and live with courage on and off the court,” Obama said.

“For four decades, she outworked her rivals, made winning an attitude, loved her players like family, and became a role model to millions of Americans, including our two daughters.”

 Pat Summit NCAA-WOMENS-BASKETBALL-GEORGIA-AT-TENNESSEE-

Thank you for your life and legacy, Pat Summit.

 

The Road To Glory

normal_glory_road

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.
Isaiah 40:4-5, KJV

My mom watched the film “Glory Road” last night and she loved it. My mom is the reason I love movies so much. Growing up, my sisters and I would watch movies with her and learn life lessons along the way. My mom called movies “stories;” she always wanted to watch a good story. Now I know why.

Movies are stories indeed, and all-the-world loves a good story. Good stories are the Bible’s benchmark and baseline; from Adam to the Anti-Christ, Biblical stories teach us and reach us like no other medium or method or mode can. Likewise, all stories, and specifically all good stories, covey vigor and vitality, power and potency, energy and efficacy as they compel us to do more and to do better and to be better than we presently are in life. After all, don’t we all want to overcome obstacles and be better persons?

“Glory Road” is the 2006 American college basketball docu-drama based on the true story surrounding the events leading to the 1966 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship. Don Haskins portrayed by Josh Lucas, head coach of Texas Western College, coached a team with an all-black starting lineup, a first in NCAA history. Glory Road explores racism, discrimination, and student athletics. Supporting actors Jon Voight and Derek Luke also star and perform admirably in principle roles.

I love “Glory Road” because it is seriously funny. It deals with a serious subject, racism in the American south in the 1960’s, yet it interjects and intertwines a healthy dose of happiness and light-heartedness in a way that helps the medicine go down. That’s right, the medicine; remember the words of Mary Popins? “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in a most delightful way.”

“Glory Road” contains the medicine of the truth and the teaching that racism and bigotry and pride and prejudice is and always has been wrong. The oppressive practice and sinister system of not allowing black players to start on major teams in major sports at major universities was wrong. And thankfully the boldness and bravery and bravado of Coach Don Haskins changed all of that.

And so we learn that the road to glory is not straight or simple; it is not through flowery beds of ease but through stormy and bloody seas. The road to glory is through aches and pains, through agony and misery, through heart-ache and heart break, and mostly through oppression that must be overcome. Just ask Jesus.

So the lesson is this: what oppressive system needs to come down next? What wrong needs to be made right? What crooked thing needs to be made straight? What person or people group or population is in the valley and needs to be raised up? The truth of God’s Word will endure forever. Right will prevail over wrong, good will conquer evil, and love and truth will always win in the end.

So today I celebrate my mom, Lerotha. She taught me to love good movies, to live a good story, and to labor so that the oppressed are set free.

The Thrill of Victory

Germany's Goetze
Winning it all: there’s nothing quite like it. Winning games is one thing, winning the championship game is another, and is something else all together. Winning at the entry-level is nice, but winning at the highest level is sweet indeed. Beating a bad team is elementary; defeating the best team is doctorial. And we say this because the thrill of victory was amazingly displayed yet again as Germany won the 2014 FIFA World Cup over Argentina in Extra Time (OT for us Americans). Germany fought a good fight and was rewarded for their blood (literally), sweat and tears. Their toil matriculated into triumph as the hero, a sub, scored the winning goal in dramatic fashion.

We all want to win it all. Don’t we? I mean, didn’t Vince Lombardi say, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Well almost. On the other side of success, losing, to put it crassly, “sucks.” It hurts and it harms, it dents and it damages, it wounds and it wears, and it leaves us with an empty felling as big and as wide as the Grand Canyon. But enough of losing for now. We’ll learn the lessons of loss another time. For now, it’s time to focus on the win.
Germany's Goetze celebrates his goal against Argentina infront of teammate Mueller during extra time in their 2014 World Cup final at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro

Winning cures what losing kills. A loss kills or kindles the spirit; a loss embarrasses or emboldens the will; a loss destroys or defines the soul. Take your pick. You are either bitter or better because of a loss, not because of a win. But why all this talk of loss when we want to speak of gain? Because we learn more from our mistakes than we learn from our successes.
German's Win in 2014 FIFA World Cup

And so we have learned that wining is the fruit and the harvest of lack and loss. Winning is the culmination of learning from defeat after defeat, from disappointment after disappointment, and from despair after despair. The reason Christians, above all other believers in the Higher Power, can look forward to victory later and experience victory now is how we deal with death and demise. We may fall seven times, but we get back up every time. In the face of resistance and resentment, opposition and contradiction, tension and turmoil, variance and vitriol, we are victorious. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!
Germany's Schweinsteiger holds the World Cup trophy after winning the 2014 World Cup against Argentina in Rio de Janeiro

All of the wins and the victories of David and Daniel, Elijah and Elisha, and Peter and Paul will all seem like Jr. Varsity accomplishments in comparison to the ultimate victory of our Lord Jesus over all the forces of evil. God is angry with the wicked every day; that is why David prayed “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end.” (Psalm 7:9). And the good news is that we don’t have to wait until the battle is over, we can shout now! Winning games is victory; winning the championship is triumph. So we can revel in the words of Paul: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:14, KJV

USA Soccer: Plenty of Heart, Not Enough Body, and Just the Right Amount of Soul

USA-Belgium-Loss

It has been said that we should play smarter, not harder. The only problem with this half truth is that in sports, even after you’ve played smart, you still need to play hard. And at the end of the day, the physical part of the game still needs to be played, and still needs to be won.

The US Men’s Soccer Team had heart, they had soul, but they lacked “physicality.” That’s the new, made up sports word sports commentators like to throw around when they talk about physical teams and physical players. Technically sound and mechanically correct players don’t grow on trees. And so in the World Cup, and at all of the high levels of sports, an athlete that is technical and mechanical is a good thing. Thus, physicality certainly helps, and the lack thereof certainly hurts.

There are some things that there’s no substitute for. And there’s no substitute for size, power and speed. None. You need height to be a basketball player, you need strength to be a football player (American Football, that is) and you need speed (or at least agility) to be a great player in almost any sport. At least not having any of these doesn’t help, and having any of these doesn’t hurt.

If there is no substitute for heart, and there’s no substitute for soul, it follows that there’s no substitute for having a “body.” Playing virtually does not equal playing actually. You can draw up all of the X’s and O’s you want, but if you don’t execute, it means nothing. The US Team gave it a go, and it almost seemed as if the US would be able to sing the high note of, ” . . . La, Tee, Doe!” – but alas, it was not meant to be. Belgium out ran, out muscled and outplayed the US for 120 minutes. Nough’ said.

On the other hand, the US goalie, Tim Howard, made 16 – count’ em – 16 saves in the match against Belgium. That’s a new World Cup Record. So even if the effort is great, and even though the endeavor is grand, in the end, you still need for it all to come together at the right time. And the reality of that truth only hurts all the more after you’ve played your heart out and still come up short. As we say in America, the solace is, wait till next year (next World Cup).

So we should be proud of our US Soccer Team, because they had nothing left to give after they gave it everything they had.

USA! USA! USA!

USA Soccer

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Psalm 133:1

There’s nothing like team pride, team spirit and team chemistry. All three are not physical, tangible, animate objects so you can’t quantify them, meaning you can’t compute their quantity or calculate their capacity. Yet and still these ingredients are vitally important to the health and welfare of a winning team. With them, a team is not guaranteed success, but without them a team is almost guaranteed failure.

Team pride is owning your team when they win and not disowning them when they lose. It’s rooting hard when they’re down by double digits, and yelling louder when they up by an insurmountable margin. Team pride is wearing the colors during the offseason, and touting the jersey on the day of the big game. There’s nothing like being on your team’s side. There’s nothing like a winning team’s ride. Nothing.

There’s nothing like team spirit. The USA defeated Ghana 2-1 and it seemed like everywhere I went, people were watching and waving, yelling and screaming in support of our team. It was fun to be a part of. I mean, it was like we won the how dag gum thing!

Team spirit and team chemistry is what the Bible calls unity. Unity is not uniformity. We can all wear the same uniform and not be unified. Quite the contrary, unity means we all have the same aim and the same end, the same goal line and the same goalie.

Team chemistry means “things” work, on and off the court, on and off the field. If it’s broke, it’s fixed; if it’s damaged, it’s repaired; if it’s inoperable, it’s restored to working condition, because team chemistry requires that EVERYTHING be in working order. It’s working together and singing together and functioning as a well-oiled machine. The Bible says unity is “being on one accord,” “being of the same mind,” and “be likeminded one toward another.”

Team chemistry requires a selfless spirit and a humble heart; they are prerequisites for team chemistry. Just ask the San Antonio Spurs, the new and present poster child for team chemistry. They have players from different continents playing together as if they grew up together. It’s was quite impressive to watch.

And so we quote the Apostle Paul, who put it so well: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10
So when it comes to team pride, team spirit and team chemistry, just remember this: when we’re all rowing together, we’ll all get to where we’re going together, and all that much faster.