The Heart of a Champion: Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors Show Doggedness Without Durant

Steph Curry Scores 33 in 2nd Half
Steph Curry Scores 33 2nd half points after going scoreless for the first two quarters in an epic win over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semi-finals May 10, 2019

The Golden State Warriors just did it again. They beat the Houston Rockets to advance to the Western Conference Finals — again. That’s four times in the past five years. James Harden, Chris Paul, Coach D’Antoni and the rest of the Rockets did everything they possibly could to stop Steph and Klay and Igoudala, but all to no avail. The Warriors willed their way to a win on the road, in a hostile environment without their leading scorer (and best player) Kevin Durant.

It was a beauty to behold. It was improbable and next to impossible. But they did it, and they did it in incredible fashion. It took them everything they had, and just about every player they had as they employed their diversity. And Steph Cury had to overcome in game adversity as well. Steph, held to zero points in the first half, broke out for 33 points in the second frame and ripped the Rockets on their home court. Steph scored 23 points in the fourth quarter and 16 in the final five minutes. And it is worth noting that the ENTIRE Rockets team scored 16 points in the final five minutes of the game. Incredible.

Klay Thompson, the other half of the Warriors backcourt, was terrific throughout, finishing with 27 points while shooting 7-of-13 from 3-point range — including one that essentially sealed the win in the final minute. The Splash Brothers came through when it mattered most.

For their part, Houston was supposed to win at home, especially since Durant was injured and wasn’t even in the state of Texas for the game. Yet the Rockets state of play showed just how wounded they are. Yes they played hard, but it wasn’t enough. Yes they went toe to toe for three quarters, but they fell short, again. And yes they wanted to win, but why did they not have the will to win?

And that’s the difference between the Rockets and the Warriors, and between victims and victors and between chumps and champions. No offence to James Harden and Chris Paul; they are great future Hall of Fame players, but they lack the grit and the gumption to pull off and pull out a win when defeat is taunting them and they are face to face with the fear of failure.

The difference between these two groups is will. Will has power; that’s why we call it willpower. Dogged determination will move mountains and stops the mouths of lions. It speaks peace to the tempestuous storm, and settles the raging seas. It rebuilds ruined cities and restores the joy of our salvation. Will is akin to faith, and faith must be spoken, without hesitation or reservation.

Will is determination, and determination must be rooted in resolve. And nothing can uproot or dislodge or destroy a man or woman with a made up mind that knows they are destined to destroy the works of the devil. No hint of doubt or trace of fear should be found in a man or woman of destiny. The task may seem improbable or even be said to be impossible. But don’t delay or postpone or suspend your decision to believe God.

Say with me: “I will believe that what God has promised, He is able also to perform.”

Thou Shalt Console Thy Brother

alshon jeffrey drop

Alshon Jeffrey did not lose the game. His dropped pass near the 20 yard line in the waning moments of the Divisional Playoff game against New Orleans in the Super Dome certainly would have put the defending Super Bowl champions in position to score the winning touchdown, but it just didn’t happen this time.  Primed for another miraculous comeback victory, Nick Foles drove the Philadelphia Eagles into scoring range down just six points to the No. 1 seed Saints ahead of the two-minute warning.

Then, zap. The magic was gone. We all hoped that Saint Nick had one more trick up his sleeve and we all believed that he could pull just one more rabbit out of his hat, but his pass, which was right on target, was dropped by the Eagles best receiver.  “Foles zipped a pass to his top receiver, Alshon Jeffery. The ball slipped through the wideout’s hands and landed in the gut of Saints corner Marshon Lattimore. Drop. INT. Comeback bid evaporated.

The interception epitomized the Eagles’ offensive struggles the final 45 minutes of the 20-14 loss to the Saints. And Jeffrey felt like he had blown the game all by himself.

“I let my teammates down. I let the city of Philadelphia down. That’s on me. We’ll be back next year for sure,” Jeffery said in the locker room. “One play don’t define me. I mean, all of the greats, they have missed game-winning shots. … So it happens. It’s part of football. I just hated the way it happened in the playoffs and it was the final moment.”

It’s hard. I mean, it’s really hard because he’s so down,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters of his message to Jeffery. “But for me, it’s about staying positive. Listen, he’s made many, many big catches for us this season and he will continue to do that. He’s just got to keep his head up. Don’t let one play define you. It’s not who he is. He’s too good of a player. He’ll embrace it obviously and he’ll be better for it, but I told him to keep his head up and keep playing.”

The Eagles started the game scorching hot scoring back-to-back 75-plus-yard touchdown drives to open the game with a 14-0 lead to stun the Superdome fans. The Eagles gobbled up 151 yards and eight first downs in the opening quarter.

But then the momentum shifted and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints scored 20 unanswered points to overcome their biggest deficit ever in post season play. There were a lot of plays between the first quarter and the fourth quarter that got away from Eagles, and that’s why Alshon shouldn’t shoulder the weight of this loss on his own.

But back to the play that said it all for the Eagles. Nick didn’t play all that well, and the defense, while holding Brees to 20 points, gave up too many big plays.  And Alshon Jeffrey did not lose the game. No he did not. The moral of the story is this: “one play and one day does not define you.” No it does not. And those of us who understand life and living know that a legacy is not built or destroyed in a day. Your legacy is built on the test of your character over time.

Keep your chin up. Hold you head high, and be an encouragement to someone who may have failed today but has the promise of destiny tomorrow.  Because failures are not final, and God has a plan for you, and he plans on using the good and the bad, the happy and the sad of your life to make you better.

So always remember, after a tough loss, the first commandment with promise is “thou shalt encourage thy brother.”

Note to Jason Garret: Go For It!

Jason Garrett Jason Garret, the current (emphasis on “current”) coach of the Dallas Cowboys, decided to punt the ball back to the Texans in OT instead of going for it on 4th and 1. Seriously.  And it cost his team the game.  The lesson is crystal clear: there are times to play it safe and there are times to take a chance, or a risk, or more pointedly, a leap of faith.   The only problem is, you need to know in your knower which time is the right time, and which time is the wrong time, to go for it. But you absolutely have to know.

Winning is all about faith. It’s about believing in yourself and in your teammates and having the courage to move forward when the odds are against you.  To get touchdowns you first need to get first downs, and Dallas failed on both counts last night against the Texans. And it was a bad decision by the coach that lead to the latest Dallas debacle.  

Here’s how one sports writer put it:

“I’m going to say something that folks who cover the NFL haven’t have reason to say in a long time — Jerry Jones was right.

In overtime of Sunday night’s loss to the Texans, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett opted to punt on fourth-and-1 from Houston’s 42-yard line on the first possession of the extra frame. That needlessly cautious decision gave Houston the ball back, and they drove 72 yards down the field to kick the game-winning goal.

After the game, Jones called out his coach. ‘We were being outplayed. It’s time for risks at that particular time.’

He’s right.” Jerry Jones, for once, was absolutely right. This time. https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2018/10/8/17950526/cowboys-texans-fourth-down-punt-overtime-jerry-jones-criticism-jason-garrett-hot-seat

So let’s learn the lesson; when everything is on the line, don’t play it safe . . . GO FOR IT!

Who Dat? Drew Brees Makes History as the Perfect Professional QB

Drew Brees Sets Record
October 8, 2018: Drew Brees Sets All Time NFL Passing Record at 71, 968,

 Drew Brees just made history. Drew Brees just set a new NFL passing record. Tonight on Monday Night Football, Brees surpassed Peyton Manning to become the all-time passing leader in NFL history.  He threw to eight different receivers and amassed 250 in one half of football to set the new record. And he threw to a wide open Tre’Quan Smith for 62 yards to go over the top with 71,968 yards passing . . .  and counting. You go boy!

So here’s to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, and to all of those faithful Saints fans screaming and hollering and chanting “Who Dat” at the Super Dome. We’re all so happy for Drew, as is the rest of the watching football world. He’s worked so hard and he deserves so much; he’s won Super Bowl XLIV in 2009, he’s a perennial Pro Bowler, and he’s on his way to Canton Ohio (the Hall of Fame), certainly on the first ballot.  Brees is absolutely deserving of all the accolades we can heap upon him, because he’s the perfect professional.  

So how about you? Are you watching history or making history?  In other words, are you a professional or an amature?  Do you bring your “A” game every game, night in and night out, or do you make excuses or point fingers or take plays off during your contract year because you don’t want to hurt your chances of getting a max contract? 

Let’s take a page from Drew Brees’ playbook: play hard, play smart, and play to win, every game.  Above all, love your family, and put them first.  These are the traits of a true champion and a perfect professional.  Oh, and one more thing – don’t chase records – let the records chase you.

Aaron Rodgers Does It Again!

Aaron Rodgers. No. 12
Aaron Rodgers Leads Epic Comeback Against the Chicago Bears, 24-23, On Sunday Night, September 9, 2018

Aaron Rodgers did it again. 

That’s right folks, Aaron Rodgers, the king of comebacks, pulled off yet another one on national TV against the Packer’s bitter rival, the Chicago Bears.  No one thought he had it in ’em. No one thought it could happen. No one, except Aaron Rodgers.

Which leads us directly to our point.   You can make it! You can absolutely comeback from way back and win, even with a bum knee. It doesn’t matter how banged up or beat up you are, you can overcome any and every obstacle to reach the top.  But you must have faith. You must have hope. And you must believe that all things are possible to him that believeth. Doubt and fear are like oil and water; the just don’t mix. So when you’re feeling low and have nowhere to go, when your friends are few, and the finish fades from view, always remember Aaron Rodgers. He did it. Rodgers came from behind, AGAIN! And you can too.

Here’s how one sports writer put it:

“Aaron Rodgers can beat the Bears in the regular season. Aaron Rodgers can beat the Bears in the playoffs. And, as Sunday night proved, he can beat the Bears on one leg.

Rodgers rallied the Packers from a 20-0 second-half deficit less than an hour after being carted to the Lambeau Field locker room with an apparent knee injury. The two-time NFL MVP willed his team back from the dead, throwing three touchdown passes despite not being able to put much weight on his left leg in a 24-23 victory that will stand as one of the most memorable moments of his football career.

But for Chicago, it was just more of the same. Sunday’s win marked the sixth time Rodgers had engineered either a fourth-quarter comeback or a game-winning drive against the Bears. It was a familiar feeling 250 miles northeast of the Windy City, too. Rodgers has come back to beat the Detroit Lions an additional five times. Some of these epic comebacks have been for playoff spots. Others meant nothing more than pride. One doomed Detroit to the dumbest possible season.

So where does last night’s win rank on the scale of Rodgers comebacks against NFC North rivals (he’s 12-7 against the Vikings as a starter but none of those wins featured a game-winning fourth quarter drive)? It’s near the top with room to grow based on how the Packers play after Week 1.”  https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2018/9/11/17841522/aaron-rodgers-comeback-wins-bears-lions-ranking

 

 

Brian Dawkins: The Best Eagle Ever

 

 

brian_dawkins_football_hall_of_fame_speech
Brian Dawkins 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Speech

Faith, family & football: these are the three key elements in the life of Brian Dawkins, arguably one of the best players to don a Philadelphia Eagles uniform in the modern era. Dawkins is passionate about everything, and everything starts with faith. Faith the noun and faith the verb were Dawkins’ No. 1 traits. He practiced what he preached and he lived what he learned.

Dawkins’ speech at the 2018 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony was one for the ages. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and stop reading right now and watch it. Please. It’s totally worth it. B-Dawk was the first Eagle to reach the Hall since Reggie White, the “Minister of Defense” in 2005, and it was worth the wait. I’ve watched the clip over and over and I’m moved to tears and cry like a baby every time.

Dawkins began his speech by giving praise to God. He shouted “hallelujah” before uttering any other words. It set the tone and paved the way for a stirring, rousing, emotionally moving speech that revealed that there was no shame in Brian Dawkins game. His past, private struggles are now very public, as he detailed how his pain gave birth to his gain. Dawkins faith and his family, especially his wife, were vital to helping him deal with the vicissitudes of his life,

Dawkins was a great football player and he wasn’t great by accident. He was a great player because he is a better person. He urged everyone not to settle, but to push through the pain, because there is purpose in pain. You saw how he played the game; he played with reckless abandon. And that’s how he lives. Dawkins told us that his pain increased his faith exponentially. He said that he went “through” his struggles – he did not stay in them. And he encouraged everyone with these words: “Don’t stay where you are; keep moving and keep pressing through.”  

If we didn’t learn anything else from the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, we learned this; it’s faith that gets us through, it’s family that carries us through, and football, for most of the inductees, as rough and tough as it can be, connected the two together. Brian Dawkins, Randy Moss and Ray Lewis are symbols of the faith we need to have in God, the strength that family gives us, and the joy of being a part of a championship caliber team that endures pain and struggle and secures victories and upsets and comebacks and turnarounds in providential ways. 

So take it from Brian Dawkins: push through. There’s s gain on the other side of your pain.

 

Coach Jimmy V: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

UCT Cover

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds: get your copy TODAY!

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https://read.barnesandnoble.com/book/upsets-comebacks-and-turnarounds-2/cover#1

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this photo is worth a thousand pictures. The image is that powerful. 

Every time I look at the cover photo for Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds, a book about God and sports, I get goose bumps. It’s a photo that you almost want to jump into. It’s the party that we all want to crash. It’s the celebration that we all want to be a part of. It’s a picture of pure, unbridled and unapologetic joy. There’s nothing in the world like it. That’s why we need Heaven’s help to get it. It’s unspeakable joy.

Coach Jimmy Valvano experienced this kind of indescribable joy when his team pulled off the upset of the ages and won the 1982 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. The picture speaks volumes. After the big win, Coach Jimmy V is being carried off of the court by the fans. The FANS!  It’s not that this doesn’t happen often, it’s that it NEVER happens. Being carried off the court or the field by the players? Yes, that’s happened. But to be carried off by fans is unheard of. After this historic win, the excitement and ecstasy of victory was so moving that it moved the fans close to the winning coach to the point that they undertook this unprecedented uprising.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack defeated the heavily favored University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma team in a NCAA Men’s Basketball Final that will never be forgotten.  Coach Jimmy V’s arms and hands are stretched wide, as the hands and arms of his fans are stretched high to lift him and laud him and raise him and rally around him for the great victory he’d won. And great victories deserve and even demand great celebrations. And that’s what we witness here in this iconic photo.

Joy is great delight, and only comes from something exceptional and unusual. And the 1982 Wolfpack win was truly exceptional. It was a stroke of coaching genius on the part of Coach Jimmy V. The theological tie in is this: isn’t our spiritual victory over sin and Satan by the power of the Cross even more exceptional and extraordinary and moving and marvelous? I believe that Jimmy V’s sports victory is God’s way of giving us a glance and a glimpse of the glorious celebration we will have in Heaven with Him at the end of time.  It’s pure, unspeakable joy, and we don’t have to wait till the end of time to get it.

 We can have this joy in Jesus right now.