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.

Is This The Year For The Cubs?

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The Chicago Cubs finished the 2014 season 73-89, eight games under .500 and 17 games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.  But that was then. This is now. Now, the Cubbies have Joe Maddon as their manager, and in just one year, Maddon has motivated his men to make a massive and mammoth march toward the goal of winning a World Series, the first since 1908.

The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, becoming the first Major League team to play in three consecutive Fall Classics, and the first to win it twice. The team has appeared in seven World Series following their 1908 title, most recently in 1945. The Cubs have not won the World Series in 107 years, the longest championship drought of any major North American professional sports team.

But somebody say “Turnaround!”

The Cubs finished this season with the third best record in baseball. These same Cubs beat the Pittsburg Pirates in a one game playoff and then went on to defeat the league leading St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in the National League Division Series, and now they face the New York Mets in a NLCS showdown. 

Motivation is often overlooked and underestimated, unobserved and disregarded, passed over and swept under. But those of us who know the value of motivation know that a good motivator can make or break a player or a game or a team or a season. And that’s why you need a good coach.

 A good coach can motivate a team to do the impossible and the improbable. A good coach can  inspire and influence and impact in ways that numbers and statistics and digits will never tell. And from all accounts, Joe Maddon is doing just that with the 2015 Cubs.

The Cubs and the Mets have never met in the playoffs. Ever. So this should be a doozy of a series.

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 20: Joe Maddon the manager of the Chicago Cubs watches the action against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 20, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

So what about you? Who are you motivating and encouraging and prompting and provoking to greatness? Joe Maddon came up short in Tampa, as my Phillies beat Joe’s Tampa Bay Ray’s in the 2008 World Series. But that didn’t stop Joe from trying. Now he’s with the Cubs doing his thing, and I hope he pulls it off.

So stop crying over spilled milk and reliving long ago losses and wrangling over missed opportunities. Stop waiting for someone to come along and encourage you and start looking for someone else to encourage. You’ll be glad you did.

Go Cubs!

How To Get Out Of A Slump: Meet The Right People In The Right Place At the Right Time

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I just got out a slump. And so did the Mets; Yes the Mets; the Amazin’ Miracle Mets. But first me. Sometimes you limp and lag and teeter and totter and flip and flop along and you don’t even know that you’re not moving in a logical procession or making any meaningful progression. That was me. But that’s over. Thank God.

Sometimes you just don’t know what to do or when to do or how to do what you know you need to do to get out of a rut. Sometimes you’re in a rift or a ravine or a gully or a gorge or a ditch or a drain that’s leading to nowhere. You know you need to reboot and recharge and re-image and rethink everything. And you know it but you can’t quite seem to do anything about it.   That is unless and until you happen upon or meet by chance or run into the right people in the right place at the right time. Well, all of that happened for me in Seattle.

Seattle got me out of my slump. And more specifically, I’m out of my slump because I met a great guy and his wife, Chris and Cindy. They were hidden away in an out –of- the way restaurant on Bainbridge Island and they gave me the gumption I need to go on just a little further. Yes I go to church and pray and read my Bible, but there’s something about meeting someone “out of the blue” that charges your battery and revs your engine like nothing else can. There’s something about a coming together at just the right time that is almost indescribable and indiscernible but is real and palpable nonetheless.

So here’s another reason to believe in Providence. It all went down like this:

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I really wanted to take a ferry ride across Puget Sound and I wanted to go on a nice, sunny day. Well, Monday, April 20th was my day. It was a beautiful, balmy 72 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And for all that know Seattle, weather like that doesn’t come around every day. So I caught the 4:40 Ferry and had a therapeutic trip and a resuscitating ride with views of Downtown Seattle and the Olympus and Cascades Mountains to die for.

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I got to Bainbridge Island and determined to eat dinner at a local diner, so I asked around. I was told there were plenty of nice places to choose from. Then I “happened” run into an older lady who told me to “hurry up!” She thought I was going to the museum, but I told her I was looking for a nice, homey restaurant. She gave me a few suggestions, but then said if I wanted to go to an out-of-the way place on the water I should walk a little further and go to Harbor Public House (http://harbourpub.com/ ). I’m so glad I did. I believe God put the right people in the right place at the right time just for me.

Enter my new friends. They were sitting and waiting for a table outside overlooking the water. I chatted it up a little with them and the next thing you know, because they had been waiting awhile, and I wanted to eat outside too, they invited me to dine with them. Wow! It was great. The ferry ride was “Da Bomb,” the food was better and the company of my new friends was the best.  Wow.  Sounds like teamwork played a part in this, huh? 

Talk about a Providential turn of events. And so it is in life and in sports for those who go a little further wait a little longer and reach a little higher than they were reaching just a day or two ago. When you have everything fall into the just the right place at just the right time it is no accident.  It’s Divine. Coincidentally, Deborah Fike in “The Change Blog,” suggests that one of the ways you get out of a slump is to reconnect with old friends or, — find new ones! And that’s what I did! And in writing this blog I found these blogs which were helpful: http://www.thechangeblog.com/get-out-of-a-slump/ http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Out-of-a-Slump

And speaking of Divine, how ‘bout ‘Dem Miracle Mets! (Previous Blog Please 🙂 )

Chip, Chip, Chipping Away; a.k.a., The Chips Are Down In South Philly

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I just came back from the dentist. My dentist, whom I LOVE, is great (What’s Up Doc!).  She’s an avid, rabid, die-hard Philadelphia Eagles football fan; so how can you not love your dentist when she knows more about your football team than you do? We fussed and fumed about Coach Chip Kelly’s future so bad that we had to laugh to keep from crying. But we laughed so hard we did cry! And you better believe Chip Kelly’s shocking shenanigans are no laughing matter, as all of Philly is nigh near tears.

Chip Kelly came to town after Andy Reid left for Kansas City.  Ok. So we got over that, because Andy, much as we loved him, had done all he could do in South Philly.  Andy had run out of chips, and it appears that Chip is using up all of his chips too; and for Mr. Kelly, the game for him has barely begun.

Enter Chip Kelly, who is now front and center.  So after Andy we got a dandy of a coach in Chip (or so we thought) and his newfangled offense. Ok. So for Kelly’s first two seasons we put up with being laughed at by the Cowboys and the Redskins and even the New York Football Giants, not to mention the rest of the League. But we win!  Even with this crazy, hurry-up, hafta’ catch your breath offense, we win!

My Eagles went 10-6 in Chip’s  first year AND won the NFC EAST! Go figure!  That’s not too shabby for a first year coach with a new system, right? But we go 10-6 AGAIN in his second year AND fail to make the playoffs! What?!!!  This, when we were picked to win (or at least go to) the Super Bowl. Not good. Not good at all, especially if you’re an Eagle’s fan.  NOW THIS!

Charles “Chip” Kelly is chip, chip, chipping away at the Eagles roster. He’s chipping away at the Eagles fan base, and in so doing, he’s chipping away at his job and maybe even his NFL career. Last year he traded DeSean Jackson, a fan favorite no less, to the Washington Redskins for Pete’s sake! This year, for an encore, he just shipped Shady McCoy to outer Siberia, I mean Buffalo, for an injured kid who sat out all of last season for crying out loud (but he played for him at Oregon.) THEN, he traded Maclin. AND,  . . . this just in, . . .  we just traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford.  Whaaaaaaaat?!!!

Chip had better put some chips together to make a whole something because his support is sinking and his boosters are blinking and his defenders are dropping like flies.  He’s been a first-rate coach with an inside track, but now he’s being second guessed and hardly has an outside chance of staying in Philly for more than a year if this doesn’t work.  And it better work.

 A chip is a flake and a flaw, a minute, miniscule morsel, a scrap and a scrape, a tidbit and a taste, a slice and a shard — but not nothin’ near a whole anything. And as he cranks out trades, Mr. Kelly might want to consider that his chip may be crumbling and his mindset may be mumbling because he seems to be bumbling his way out of a decent job.  Too bad.

Spiritually speaking, God takes gambles too. For starters, He gambled on me and you. And God is chipping away at our faults and our foibles and our flops and our flaws and our failings and our fears and yet He keeps giving us the ball even when we fumble and fall. Because God’s gambles always work out.  

So, let’s take the positive path, shall we? When you have a problem, what do you do? You can’t swallow the whole bowl of gruel in one big gulp. So chip away at the problem, and try to whittle that big mountain down to bite size chunks. So, let’s all take a deep breath, count to ten, and THEN look for a new coach!

Sorry Chip, but your chips are down. So I hope you have a chip on your shoulder, and that chip is that you can prove that you’re right and the rest of the football world is wrong. Because sometimes you have to take risks and gambles and go against the grain and try to beat the odds when you think you’re right. The only thing is, you better be right.

Hit or Miss?

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I went bowling today. Yes bowling. It was a team building exercise with our Division at work, and, for the most part, it was fun.  The outing was entertaining and exciting and enjoyable. Some team members could bowl very well and some had never bowled before at all. But that’s not the point. The point is that we did it TOGETHER! We did it as a team.  The wearying and wearisome part was the entire Division did not take part; and for me, that’s not a total team effort.  

Sometimes we hit and sometimes we miss. Sometimes we laugh and sometimes we cry. Sometimes we smile and sometimes we sigh. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and. 

Sometimes we hit it out the park and sometimes we go down swinging. Sometimes we can’t miss and sometimes we can’t hit the side of a barn.  Sometimes we bowl strikes and sometimes we roll gutter balls. But such is life. We have to take the good with the bad and the hits with the misses and thank God that it all does in fact work together for good for those who love God. And I love God.

So let’s take the hits and the misses; let’s take the knockouts and the washouts; let’s take the strikes and the gutter balls, the ups and the downs, the wins and the loses and the success and the failures and somehow trust God to make them all work together for our good.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28, KJV

What To Do When Your Team Stinks: Be Thankful

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Who is Brett Brown, and why does this wanna-be, first year coach of the Philadelphia 76ers still have a job? The Sixers are 0-13. That’s the worst start in the team’s history, and their roster is full of players I’ve never heard of. My son went to seen them play and he said they look like crap (against the Knicks at MSG – and he had courtside seats! Dat’s my boy!) Anyway, to top it all off, Brett Brown, whoever he is, coached last season at Boston College of all places. He’s not even NBA material!

What is the NBA record for loses to start a season? Eighteen. So why are people even watching the Philadelphia 76ers play? To see them break the “record?” I mean seriously? And the kicker is that the Sixer’s webpage is begging people to purchase packages, not just individual tickets, but Ticket Packages!? Seriously?

When are these same 76ers going to win a game? When are they going to snap out of this slump? What is a fan to do? Keep hope alive. We’ve gotta remember that trouble don’t last always, and it can’t possibly get any worse, or go on like this forever. Right? What am I to do? We’ve got to remember the great teams that we’ve had, and hope that they will return, in new improved form.

Where oh where are the great Sixer Teams of yesteryear, and the great players that played in South Philly at the Spectrum? And why am I even writing about the sad and sorry, hapless and luckless, can’t buy a win Sixers? Because we are a storied franchise with a rich history. I mean, we had Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain, Billy “C” Cunningham, Dr. Jr., Bobby Jones, Allen “The Answer” Iverson and Charles Barkley, The Round Mound of Rebound, to name a Hall of Fame few. And now we’re stuck with a bunch of bumbling bums who can’t even muster enough muscle to win a dag gum game. Oh well.

Why are Sixer fans being tortured thus? Because all teams go through tough times. It’s a mirror and barometer of our lives. And the way to survive is to think on the past good and look toward and forward to a future hope. And Since its Thanksgiving, I guess we need to be thankful that they haven’t broken the record for loses to start a season. And our thanksgiving prayer will include a provision that God spares us from breaking that ignominious record.

And why do the 76ers stink to high Heaven? Somebody has to be bad, and had the NBA asked for volunteers, the Philadelphia 76ers would’ve raised their hand and yelled, “Pick me!” Not that there’s anything wrong with Noel, the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. Well, there’s nothing wrong with him except for that injured knee — which supposedly will keep him out until at least December. Even when he returns, there’s that whole business about him being a rookie.

What to the Sixers look like? The have the look of an expansion team, only probably not as good. But all of this appears to be by design. If they are this bad all season, we’ll control the fight for a high draft pick come next spring. And that’s something to be thankful for.

When You’re Hot, You’re Hot; And When You’re Not, You’re Not

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The Kansas City Royals are red-hot. How hot are they? They’re now 6-0 – undefeated in the 2014 Postseason, they’re won 4 of five games in extra innings, and they’re hitting home runs like IHOP heaps out hotcakes. These Royals swept the Angel’s in the ALDS and before that they won a one game playoff against the A’s. The Royal Blue Bombers now have the Baltimore Orioles in their sights and it doesn’t look good for the orange and black.  The Royal Blues have the Orioles feeling blue as they have won back to back games ON THE ROAD in the ALCS against the best team in the AL East.  Good gracious! Talk about catching fire and getting hot at the right time.

Clearly, the Royals are proving that they’re the hottest team in baseball, because they are showing up and showing out just when it counts.  These Royals are the hottest team in the coolest month.  On the other side of the ledger, the poor Baltimore Orioles look like a deer staring into a pair of high-beams; clearly, the O’s are not a Johnny-come-lately team, but now they look like they don’t know what just hit ’em.

The Kansas City Royals are playing the kind of white-hot ball every fan wishes their team was playing this time of year. They are playing loose, light, and lively. They have nothing to lose, seeing as they haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985; that’s 29 years. Talk about no pressure. And yet they’re playing with a reckless abandon that is fun to watch but fearful to play against.

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Baseball in October is as special as eating your favorite ice cream and cake on your birthday. And on your birthday, you think you can do and be and say anything and get away with it. On your birthday you’re “hot;” you’re Da’ Man (or Da’ woman, as the case may be), and everybody exalts and extols you and expects and assumes and presumes that you can and could and may and might do the improbable. And so it is with baseball in October.

October is the occasion and opportunity for the best of baseball and baseball at its best. This time of year, you don’t necessarily need to be good, even though being good doesn’t hurt and it certainly does help. On the cool and cold nights of October, it’s better to be hot and hungry than to be good and gruffy.

October is the month you want to be hot, especially if you’re a baseball team.   And the Royals are just that. They’ve got confidence, charisma, and chutzpah, with the ability to get hits seemingly at whim and the ability to score runs seemingly at will. And as we all know, being hot is the uncanny combination of talent and tenacity and flair and fortuity.

And so what about you? Can you get hot at the right time and be at the right place and dot a base hit in just the right spot? And can you do all of this on demand, when the pressure is on and the bets are off?

Spiritually speaking, Believers are supposed to be “hot.”  In order to win, we need to get hot, and in order to get hot we need the fire of God. Being hot comes from spending time with the God who is a consuming fire. It takes praying hot prayers and shedding a lot of tears living a glowing life. And it takes following the leading of the Lord. We can’t possibly know and be and do everything the right way all of the time, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Wind of God, the Divine Comforter and Keeper, we can be hot with the fire of God just when we need to be.

So stop relying on your own muscle and your own might. Instead, desire and determine to depend on the leading of the Lord. It’s the only sure way to get and stay hot.