March Madness: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

“Nothing feels better than this,” UNR coach Eric Musselman said. “Nothing. Sweet 16!”

UVA made history. So did UMBC and so did Loyola-Chicago and so did Buffalo. UVA was the first No. 1 Seed to lose to a 16 Seed. Likewise, UMBC has the distinct honor of being the first 16 Seed to upset a No. 1 Seed. It’s never happened before, and we all thought that it never would. Correction: we didn’t believe it ever could. But it did.

Loyola-Chicago, an 11 Seed, defeated Miami, a Six Seed, and then turned right around and defeated Tennessee, a Three Seed. Madness.   Buffalo, seeded 13, THIRTEEN!, beat Arizona, a 4 Seed — in the first round. And that’s just for starters.

Xavier, another No. 1 Seed, is gone. North Carolina and Cincinnati, both No. 2 Seeds, are gone too, and so is Michigan State, a No. 3 Seed. Notice a trend here? Houston beat Michigan – no wait, Michigan actually won! And on a buzzer beater by a freshman, no less! Goodness! And it’s going to snow tomorrow night! Talk about March Madness. There was barely a bad game in the tournament. Yes some were tough to watch because of poor officiating and spells of sporadic shooting, but all in all, it’s seems to be the year of the underdog. We could talk all day about UMBC beating UVA, but how about Nevada’s win?

Josh Hall converted an offensive rebound for the tiebreaking basket with 9.1 seconds left as University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) erased a 22-point deficit in the final minutes of a stunning 75-73 victory over Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. UNR’s stirring comeback — the second-largest in tournament history — came just two days after the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack rallied from 14 points down to beat Texas 87-83 for its first NCAA victory since 2007.

The Wolf Pack (28-7) move on to an all-upstart South Region semifinal matchup with 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago (30-5) on Thursday. Cincinnati, the No. 2 seed, never trailed until Hall’s tiebreaking basket but watched its lead disintegrate as it failed to make a basket in the final 5:45.

Nothing feels better than this,” UNR coach Eric Musselman said. “Nothing. Sweet 16!”

This year, perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, there have been more upsets, comebacks and turnarounds than you can shake a stick at. We’ve seen epic victories, historic collapses, and a little of bit everything else in between. It’s so much like living in the Bible days, it’s scary. It’s almost as if the Bible is coming off of the pages, or up out of your smart phone. The holy writ says that “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first”. That’s what we’re seeing here.

It’s so spiritual, it’s so mystical, and it’s so applicable to everyday life in general and to our lives in specific that we have no choice but to stop and take note. How are the teams who no one picked to win winning with reckless abandon?   

I submit that we must acknowledge the otherworldly dimension of sports. But before you dismiss this notion, hear me out.  Not everyone believes in prayer, but those that do believe that faith and works actually work together for good. Mix some elbow grease in with a good game plan and teamwork and a technical reason for how David defeated Goliath and, viola, you get Loyola-Chicago winning two games in this tournament, and  UBMC trumping over an overconfident and (shall we say overly arrogant?) Virginia team that swears by its “system” come what may.

Miracles do happen on ice and yes, on the hardwood. You may not be a believer, but after this weekend’s upsets, comebacks and turnarounds, I don’t see how you can’t be.


Win At The Buzzer

Last night I went to a George Mason University Men’s basketball game. My wife Lisa is an alum and also the VP of the College of Health and Human Services Alumni Chapter Board, that organized a tail gate party for the CHHS alumni. It was wonderful to meet many alum, that came from far and near, who are doing amazing things “on and off the court.”

Bettyann Duffy, the President of the CHHS Alumni Board was there as well. She’s from Philly, so we have a common bond. It was great. And we also met some Eagles fans! So, what’s not to like about going to a George Mason game?

The Dean of CHHS, Dr. Germaine Louis and her husband, also came and we had a ball talking about the Eagles Super Bowl win. But now we’re only going to talk about Mason, because the game was even greater than the tail gate party.



On the surface, George Mason seems like a relatively average Division-I team.  Saturday, the Patriots improved to 14-15 overall on the season and 8-8 in the Atlantic 10 with a thrilling 78-76 win over Massachusetts. The game ended on a buzzer-beater layup by sophomore guard Ian Boyd. Mason cruised to a 16-point halftime lead, so it looked like the home team would make quick work of visiting UMass. Not so.

UMass came out of the locker room with a vengeance and eventually tied the game. UMass would’ve won except one of their players fouled Mason on a three-point attempt. With no time on the clock, the Mason player calmly drained three free throws to send the game into overtime. Unbelievable. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, the extra session was even better.

In OT, Mason pulled ahead, but UMass wouldn’t go away. With five seconds left, UMass tied the game. Then Mason’s best player, Otis Livingston II, drove the length of the floor. He was defended by at least two UMass players so he ditched the ball to a teammate on his left who made a layup as time expired. Final score: Mason 78, UMass 76. In overtime! What a game.

The irony is that at the close of the Tailgate Party we all sang the Mason Fight Song, not realizing that this game would prove to be just that, a fight. And sometimes life is just like that. Sometimes, you get ahead and then you fall behind and then you find yourself with time running out trying to figure out how to pull it out.

Sometimes, you need more time and more grace and another break to fall your way. In order to win, you have to keep pushing and pulling, fending and fighting through ups and downs and ins and outs. That’s how you Win at the Buzzer.


Why Aren’t You Watching Mikaela Shiffrin (and others) in Pyeonchang?

Mikaela Shiffirn 2018 Gold

Even Shaun White could hardly believe it.

Shaun won the gold medal in the men’s halfpipe with a near perfect run in a dramatic finish. He was in first place until his closest competitor scored a 95.25.  That bumped Shaun down to second, with only one chance left to retake the lead. On his last run, White scored a 97.75 to pull ahead of Hirano, who landed back-to-back double cork 1440s of his own ( I can’t explain what that is, but whatever the term, it looks amazing when they’re in the air turning every which way) . I’m so happy for Shaun White, especially to win the way he did.

And not to be outdone, here comes Mikaela Shiffrin.

On the night after the aforementioned snowboarding legend Shaun White won the 100th Winter Olympics gold medal in United States history, Mikaela Shiffrin made it 101 as her legend grew. America’s next big thing in skiing picked up the second Olympic gold medal of her career and her first in giant slalom. Shiffrin’s combined pair of runs in giant slalom on Thursday clocked in at 2 minutes, 20.02 seconds, usurping 34-year-old Italian Manuela Moelgg for the top of the podium. And Mikaela, like Shaun, saved her best for last. She took first place on her last run which was her last chance to get the gold in this event. Whew!!!

Both victories came at the 11th hour, on fourth and goal if you will, (a.k.a. Nick Foles and the Eagles pulling off the Philly Special!) when both athletes had to have their best performance, ever. And if that doesn’t send shivers down your side and goose bumps up your spine, I don’t know what will.

Then, if that wasn’t enough to get your juices going even more, the German ice dancing pair that had vied for gold for what seems like forever finally broke through and won the pairs gold medal. They were sobbing – SOBBING- for joy, and I was too.

Aljona Savchenko is a Ukrainian who has skated in five Olympic Games for two different countries and with three different partners. In PyeongChang, she finally realized her Olympic dream of winning gold. Together with partner Bruno Massot, Savchenko, who skates for Germany, was in fourth place after the short program. But she and Massot were the only couple among the top three to skate a clean free program, which vaulted them to the top of the podium. Their scores were the highest ever recorded for the pairs long program and it was enough for gold. After earning two bronze medals at previous Olympics with another partner, Savchenko said of her first, long-awaited gold: “I never give up. I keep fighting.”

And that’s the lesson: Never give up. And Keep fighting. Just keep fighting and never give up. It’s the lesson we keep hearing and seeing and need to keep believing until our quest for gold comes true, too.

Alex Smith Instead Of Kirk Cousins? Seriously?

Wow. Look at that pic. Two of the most recent Washington Redskins’ quarterbacks who are long gone or are about ready to go. Too bad.

The Washington Redskins just signed Alex Smith. Well, they signed him last week but it wasn’t important enough to pull me away from all of the Super Bowl hype. Now that my Philadelphia Eagles have won the Big One and are World Champions (man that sounds so good!) we can turn our attention to other more trivial NFL matters. Like where Kirk Cousins will be playing next year.

First of all, what was Andy Reid thinking? Are they mad at Smith for tanking this season after starting out so well? After all, the Chiefs started off 5-0, and their first two wins were against, wait for it, the Patriots and the Eagles! So what happened? What had happened was . . . Anyway, the Chiefs cooled off and couldn’t sustain their fast start and got booted from the playoffs in the wildcard round.

Which brings us to Smith’s sudden and unexpected departure from KC and his coming to DC. Statistically speaking, Kirk Cousins is better than Alex Smith. And he’s younger. So remind me again why the Redskins don’t want Cousins? Oh yeah, we haven’t answered that question, and we don’t have an answer, and probably never will.

Oh well; so much for the Redskins getting better this offseason. That’s one less team in the NFC East my Eagles will have to worry about next year.

The Philadelphia Eagles Overcome Everything!

Nick Foles Lombardi TrophyThe Philadelphia Eagles overcame everything that was thrown their way in route to winning Super Bowl LII in a wire to wire thriller.  They overcame injuries and insults and insolence and indifference.  They overcame being underdogs and afterthoughts and from being dead last in the NFC East a season ago to coming back from way back to shock the NFL World in 2018 on Super Bowl Sunday Night.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, picked my Eagles to defeat the evil empire New England Patriots (except maybe Randy Moss). But every other so-called “expert” in the field of professional sports picked the Pats to win in a laugher.  But they were wrong.

The Eagles lost their star quarterback Carson Wentz and their vitally important All Pro Offensive left tackle Jason Peters (remember “The Blind Side?”) and their defensive leader Michael Kendricks along the way.  They finished dead last in the NFC East last year (did I say that already?) and were picked to do the same this year.  But that was then and this is now.

There are so many redemptive stories on this Eagles Championship team. But the story of Nick Foles takes the cake.  Nick Foles emerged from the shadows and proved the doubters wrong as he played better than even he may have expected in the playoffs to give Philly their first Super Bowl win, ever. And how sweet it is! 

Here’s what the New York Times had to say about Nick Foles winning Super Bowl MVP honors:

“Three weeks ago the thought of Foles being named the most valuable player of Super Bowl LII would have seemed ludicrous, but after watching the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback crush the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, and then essentially match that performance against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the choice seemed obvious.” Amen to that.

Nick Foles taught us how to endure and persevere and hang on in there. Yes Nick made a difference, but his teammates believed in him and in the power of “TEAM” as well.  For everyone out there who’s thinking about quitting (Nick Foles did) or giving up or listening to what everyone else is saying, hold on just one minute. The motto for the Eagles this postseason was this; “one can make a difference, but a team can make a miracle.”  And that’s it; that’s the answer.

The Eagles had a miracle season and a miracle Super Bowl and got miraculous plays from players who believe in miracles. At the end of the game, when they needed one defensive stop — just one — they got it, just when they needed it most. The Eagles got a strip-sack-fumble of Brady by Brandom Graham which bounced right into the hands of Derek Barnett. But to seal the deal, they needed yet another stop, and they got it: a deflected Hail Mary prayer of a pass to Gronkowski fell harmlessly to the turf.  Thank God!

And miracles still happen because we still believe in the power of hard work and teamwork and working and believing together. The Eagles just won the Super Bowl when they weren’t supposed to. And along the way, they overcame everything Brady and everyone else threw their way. 

Jesus overcame everthing. He overcame death, hell and the grave. He was in all points tempted, and was yet without sin. And He said this to us:

In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

With Jesus, we can overcome everything, too. We can overcome past pain and present strain. We can overcome the hurt of our dark history and the disappointment of unfulfilled destiny. We can overcome factual failure and fictitious fears. We can overcome everything.

So let’s learn from the Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s overcome everything. Everything people say and everything we do. Everything. Let’s overcome every disappointment and every defeat; every hindrance and every setback; every letdown and every putdown; every difficulty and every disadvantage; every big thing and every little thing. Everything.

The Eagles Super Bowl LII win once again proves that we can in fact overcome everything.  And so, my friends, as we celebrate with the Eagles and Philly fans everywhere, let’s determine that with the help of Heaven, we will overcome everything!

Eagles Super Bowl Champions! Philly Philly!

Yes folks, I was there!

Well, by “there” I don’t mean in Minneapolis. I mean in Philly on Broad Street after the big win.  It was great. And it was loud.  Horns were honking and whistles were wailing and folks even got pots and pans out from the cubbard to bang clamorusly. Me and my better looking twin (my youngest son Daniel) went out to join the throngs of screaming, yelling, celebrating fans who at long last could enjoy a win in the form of a Super Bowl Championship. That’s what victory will do to ya. 

No, I did NOT throw any trash cans or bricks or bottles. I just yelled a lot. And what I saw was a (mostly) civil celebration by a Philly fan base who, as most would admit, desered to defeat Brady and Belechick in what was the best super bowl ever!

Yes Philly fans get a bad wrap. We are passionate and zealous and spirited. Don’t begrudge us for that.  No, every Philly fan is not as civil as most would like, but then again, no city has a “perfect” fan base, right?

And yes, sports teaches us how to win, and how to lose.  But this year, the Philly fans are celebrating one of the biggest wins we may ever see in our lifetimes. And most Philly fans showed the sports world how to have the best post game party ever as we all danced in the streets.

And I was there!

The Minnesota Miracle

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

Sometimes, you just need a miracle. You only have 25 seconds left to win the game? No problem. The game was gone; done and won (and lost), just like that.

Gone In 25 Seconds! That’s how fast the lead left the hands of the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees had just led his team to a potential game winning field goal to make the score 24-23 with just 25 ticks remaining on the clock. And what can you do with 25 seconds? Just ask Minnesota’s NFC Championship Game bound quarterback Case Keenum.

Talk about a stunner. The glory of this victory was nearly overshadowed by the agony and misery of the defeat. Keenum and Minnesota won, then lost and then won this game all over again. And Drew Brees lost, won, and then lost it for good.  It was one for the ages. How could this have happened? Why did it happen? And when it happened, all watching, victors and vanquished alike, were asking “What just happened?”

If you didn’t see it, you missed an overwhelming and awe-inspiring, crushing and humiliating, fantastic finish.  It was delightful and demoralizing, delirious and deleterious, depending on which color jersey you were wearing. The Vikings won on the final play of the game. With the clock winding down and the Vikings out of timeouts, Case Keenum found wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock struck zeros.

It’s being called the Miracle In Minnesota. Keenum had the ball in his hands in the final moments and orchestrated a major miracle. Keenum threw a pin-point pass to Diggs, who came down with it behind the New Orleans secondary, stayed on his feet and stayed in bounds, then streaked into the end zone as the Vikes stayed in the hunt for that elusive Super Bowl title. Diggs finished the game with six receptions for 137 yards, with his late snag on Sunday launching him into Vikings lore.

Minnesota jumped out to a 17-0 lead early in the game on a pair of rushing touchdowns by their running back tandem of Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. The two combined for 84 yards on 27 carries, outrushing the dynamic Saints duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Drew Brees was a maestro for New Orleans, orchestrating a second half comeback with three touchdown passes. New Orleans had taken a 24-23 lead with less than a minute to play as Wil Lutz drilled a 43-yard field goal to put the team ahead, erasing a 17-0 deficit. There were four lead changes in the final four minutes alone, with the Vikings having the ball.

The Vikings move on to play the Philadelphia Eagles next weekend in the NFC Championship Game. The winner will move on the Super Bowl to face either the New England Patriots or Jacksonville Jaguars.

But you all know who you should be rooting for, right?

Go Eagles!