Penn State Redemption

penn-state-tops-wisconsin-to-win-big-ten-championship_5_1Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin hugs his wife after his team defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 38-31 in the 2016 Big Ten Football Championship Game in Indianapolis on December 3, 2016. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

Penn State’s 38-31 victory over No. 6 Wisconsin in Saturday night’s 2016 Big Ten championship game was bigger than you think. With a convincing win, Penn State won its first conference championship in eight seasons. It was, in part, a vindication for Coach James Franklin and the Penn State Football program.

When the Wisconsin Badgers raced out to a 28-7 lead over the Nittany Lions in the first half, the impact of this year’s successful season was in doubt and it seemed like Penn State Football had only come halfway home. Yet their remarkable comeback in the second half against Wisconsin — the largest in Big Ten title game history – coupled with their victory over Ohio State earlier in the season, was proof positive of the return of Penn State Football. The turnaround removed all doubts about how far Penn State has come since their fall from grace in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

In 2012, Penn State Board of Trustees hired former FBI director Louis Freeh and his firm, including a team of former federal prosecutors and FBI agents, to conduct an independent investigation into the scandal. In the opinion of many, the mission Freeh was given seemed to presuppose that Sandusky’s crimes were not his alone and that people who had reason to suspect him had looked away.

Joseph Vincent Paterno, a.k.a. “Joe Pa,” was fired the second to last game of the 2011 season in the middle of the scandal. After being accused in the Freeh Report of withholding information about Jerry Sandusky’s inappropriate behavior in the locker room, in essence, Paterno was found “guilty” in the court of public opinion. A year after the report’s issuance, the chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees, which had originally commissioned the report, said that Freeh’s conclusions amounted to “speculation.”

On September 4, 2013, in an interview conducted by Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports, the former Chief Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Frank Fina, who investigated and prosecuted Jerry Sandusky, stated that he found no evidence that Joe Paterno participated in a cover-up. Fina then qualified that statement, stating that he saw no need to judge Paterno beyond his own words and that Paterno himself said it best. “He said: ‘I didn’t do enough… I should have done more.'”

Because of the findings of the Freeh Report, The NCAA vacated 112 of Penn State’s wins dating back to 1998. This included the removal of Paterno’s last 111 wins at Penn State, dropping him from first to 12th on the all-time wins list. And, while it may never be medically proven, the scandal certainly sucked the life right out of Joe. In November of 2011 it was reported that Paterno had a treatable form of lung cancer.

It is clear to me that the scandal only helped to worsen Joe’s condition, and on January 13, 2012, Paterno was hospitalized for complications relating to his cancer treatment. He remained there until he died nine days later on January 22, 2012.

But redemption is sweet. In 2015, the NCAA reinstated Joe Pa’s wins. And the vigor and vitality of the Penn State football team has been restored as evidenced by the 2016 Big 10 Championship win which was transforming and is heartwarming indeed.

As my momma used to say, “God don’t like ugly.” God will one day right every wrong and make every rough place plain. God will upset the apple cart of your enemies and make every crooked lie straight and every false accusation frivolous.

And that is what has just happened for Penn State.

Trump Just “Trumped” Them All

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The unbelievable, inconceivable, almost unimaginable has happened. Donald Trump just pulled off one of the biggest upsets of all time.  Donald Trump is now the president elect, and I humbly have to state that I did say that this could happen.  Just check my blog from LAST August! https://godandsports.net/2015/08/19/the-donald-may-trump-them-all/ I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the 2016 presidential election just yet, but suffice it to say, the Donald has Trumped them all.

It’s so astounding that it’s worth repeating . . .

Donald Trump won the election for president. Of the United States. Of America. And in case you haven’t thought this through, as volatile and visceral as he’s been in the past, the fact that he ran is not the big news. The fact — and now it’s a fact that’s settling in — that Trump actually WON the White House and he will be the leader of the free world for at least the next four years, is even more jolting and jarring, at least for some of us. Trump came out of the early Republican Candidates Debate as the front-runner. That’s right. Trump actually took the lead and lead the pack — and it was certainly a pitiful pack of possibles at that —  in August of 2015- with 25% of the vote, according to some sources.

“Bloomberg Politics Managing Editor Mark Halperin stated that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has ‘reached a turning point’ where the ‘establishment candidates’ think he can win Iowa; ‘most’ believe he can win the nomination, and ‘a significant number think he could win the White House.’ ” Of all the paltry possibles running, Trump may in fact trump them all.

 And “The Donald” has trumped us all.  He’s pulling no punches and taking no prisoners.  And since politics is a blood sport, we certainly saw much of his brash, brazen, bravado until the final whistle sounded and the last ballot was tallied on the day and night and morning after the election..

Donald Trump is the ELECTED president of these United States. So what does all of this mean? Well, for starters, it’s important to know that sports and politics are similar and the same. Politics is like baseball because the season is long and the race is not given to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Politics is like football because the ball, or the focus of the “game,” has an uncanny tendency to bounce in a funny way. Politics is like basketball because you need to play all four quarters; winning the first half doesn’t necessarily mean that you will win the game, which can be won and lost in the last two minutes. And politics is like hockey; you have to be strong and be able to take a hit.

Politics is like sports and sports are like politics. You don’t know who is going to win, so that’s why you play the games and keep score.  As Hilary Clinton and all of the rest of America has just learned, anything can happen to change the race between the begining and Election Day, 2016. 

And so the lesson is this: if the believers who still believe that God’s got the whole world in his hands will just believe Him and stop putting their faith in a man, or a woman, and stop telling Heaven who should be in the White House, then our faith in Him will carry us through.

Penn State Beat Ohio State? Wait, What?

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Talk about an upset!

What once looked like a comfortable victory quickly turned into a stunning 24-21 defeat for Ohio State on Saturday night when Penn State scored 17 unanswered points over the last quarter and a half.

Penn State’s thriller of a win against the No. 2 team in the land came down to a blocked field goal. Ohio States’ field goal attempt  to extend the lead turned into a devastatingly, disastrous play that lost the game. Nittany Lions defensive back Marcus Allen shot into a gap and jumped to block Tyler Durbin’s 45-yard field goal try, and Grant Haley scooped it up and ran 60 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 4:27 left in the game.

And the play that turned into the game-winning touchdown for Penn State started out with Ohio State being in a bit of a hurry. With a 21-17 lead with less than five minutes to play, OSU looked like it rushed kicker Tyler Durbin onto the field to attempt a career-long 45-yard field goal. Then the bottom fell out for Ohio State.

Conversely, on this same play, the Heaven’s opened up for Penn State. So it just goes to show ya, miscues and misfortune for one can actually be a miracle for another. And that’s just what happened in Happy Valley this past weekend when Penn State’s  newest heroes  Marcus Allen and Grant Haley blocked the kick and then recovered it and ran 60 yards for the game-winning touchdown

The blocked field goal attempt was the second special teams collapse in the fourth quarter by the Buckeyes. With 11:42 to play, Cam Brown blocked a Cameron Johnston punt and the Nittany Lions turned that into a field goal that cut Ohio State’s lead to 21-17. And the rest is history.

So just remember. It’s never over. Never. Keep playing and keep plugging and keep pressing and keep persisting until you break through and your break through comes.

Westbrook Slams The Spurs, a.k.a. Can You Hear The Thunder Roll?

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

This year, more than any other year in recent memory, the NBA Playoffs are as unpredictable and un-scriptable and unforeseeable and undeterminable as could be. I mean, the twists and turns and bumps and bends in the road are enough to throw anybody off of their game. And that’s just like life. That’s why you play hard and play smart and trust and believe that all things will work together and work out for good (Romans 8:28).

Sometimes and oft times and most times you think the ball is going to bounce your way and you think that things are going to go your way and all of a sudden, out of the blue, you’re injured and break your hand or bust your knee and everything changes. Just like that. On the other hand, you could win when no one gave you a chance and you could defeat the favorite when they were supposed to blow you away, and just like that, you’re contending for a title.

Yes, King James is going to play in the Eastern Conference Finals, and yes, Stephen Curry is going to defend in the Western Conference Finals, but all in between we’ve had unbelievable and unpredictable results.

In the East, the Raptors and the Heat are playing Game 7 in Toronto tomorrow. And it’s anybody’s guess who will come out on top, as the Raptors look like champs one minute and chumps the next. So, if they get by Dwayne Wade and his band of boys from South Beach, there’s no tellin’ how they’ll fare against King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the next round. But the gift we really want to see under the tree is Wade and LeBron going head to head. But this year’s playoffs don’t seem to be in the giving mood.

More importantly, the LA Clippers are as snakebit as they come. I felt really bad for Chris Paul. I did. He and the Clippers just can’t seem to win in the playoffs. And the amount of injuries the Clippers dealt with in just one series was almost unthinkable; losing Chris Paul (hand) and Blake Griffin (quad) in Game 4, they could’ve phoned it in when their stars went down. Instead, the banged-up, beat up, severely depleted Clippers fought and scraped for every loose ball and every long rebound in an elimination Game 6 against the Portland Trailblazers, before eventually falling just short in the game, the series and the season in a 106-103 loss.

Then, to top it all off, the San Antonio Spurs lose in six games to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Who saw that comin’? The favored and fundamental Spurs fell from grace in six games, losing two games AT HOME, as Russell Westbrook and the 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant wouldn’t go down without a fight. And it turns out they were determined not to go down at all. The Spurs were supposed to win going away and set up a showdown with Curry and the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Oh well; there goes the script.

So who ya got? Can Curry carry his comrades past the plucky, perky, chirpy duo from the dustbowl destined to derail the destiny of the boy wonder? We all want Curry to win another title. It would be a shame to waste a record setting 73-wins season and not win another Championship, right?

But who could argue against a Kevin Durant/LeBron James Finals? Steph Curry could. So this is a tough one. If Curry loses, the basketball world will be voting and pulling and cheering for Durant to finally win the NBA Championship he so clearly and dearly desires and deserves. That’s why we play the games and keep score.

So tell me again – why aren’t you watching the NBA playoffs?

Stay On Your Toes: The Misty Copeland Story

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To stay on your toes means to stay alert and attentive and aware and awake and spiritually alive.  And it’s what Misty Copland has done and is doing. So if you need a shot in the arm and a kick in the pants, watch this 60 Minutes feature about her.  You won’t regret it.

Misty-Copeland-Dating-Prince-9

Misty’s story is the story of  an ultimate upset, a comeback from way back, and a tremendous turnaround.  She’s an African American, a.k.a., a black beauty who basically backed her way into ballet. She’s gone from living in a motel with her divorced single mom and siblings, to the cover of Time and Essence Magazines, to becoming a ballerina to behold. “She’s changing perceptions one step at a time.” 

Misty-Copeland-for-Essence-Magazine-September-2015-ESSENCE-Sept-Misty-Copeland

Misty Copeland is the embodiment of the American Dream. But more than that, she is a spiritual vision and sacred visualization of what faith and hope and love can do. Misty has overcome more obstacles than many of us ever would even dare to face.  Her story is captivating and compelling and gripping and engrossing – and it deserves to be heard and held in high praise.

I hope to see her perform soon. And you will to.  

 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/misty-copeland-unlikely-ballerina-60-minutes-2/

Nowhere To Go But Up

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Ever felt like you’d hit rock bottom, and then the bottom fell out? Ever felt like you were flat on your back staring up at the ceiling? Ever felt like it was over, you were finished, and the fight was finaled out? Well, if that’s where you are or where you’ve been lately, there’s hope. You have nowhere to go but up.

And for the subject, verb and predicate of today’s lesson we have the Philadelphia Phillies. They have the worst record in baseball, ergo they are the worst team in baseball, and they just traded two of their best pitchers, Cole Hamels, who just threw a NO-HITTER mind you, and a viable relief pitcher.

But I get it. I absolutely get it. The Phils are “rebuilding.” So dump all of the overpaid, overpriced, under-achieving, under-performing old farts while you can still get something for them, and move on.

Here’s what one tweeter said of the Hamel (and possible Howard) trade: “I think if they trade Howard and Hamels to the Braves for a 46th round draft pick they will eliminate two H names from their roster and be in a better balanced position in the universe.” HA! LOL!

And here’s what another tweeted: “In order to win you need a Killer Instinct.” Amen. You need to go for the jugular every time. And in order to win, you take no prisoners. Period.

So there are 3 kinds of teams,
Level 1 ” It’d be nice if we could win.”
Level 2 “Maybe we can win.”
Level 3 ” What do you mean, “Maybe?”

The Phils are on Level 1. In order to rise, they need a gung ho player who will get in the face of someone who does not produce. And so do you. When you aren’t producing, you need someone to recognize where you are and help you get to where you need to go.

I’d rather be a level 3 team. How about you? So rise up and stop wallowing in the past. Stop wallowing in defeat and dejection and depression. Rise up.

After all, you have nowhere to go but up.

UVA, Your Time Has Come

UVA Baseball

Virginia is for lovers of baseball. College baseball.

Virginia doesn’t have a professional team of any kind in any sport to speak of. Yet we do have the University of Thomas Jefferson. And the University of Virginia Men’s Baseball team just won it all. And they won when one would wonder why and how. Why not last year? Why not the year before? And how in the world did they manage to win the College World Series with this team and with these freshman and without last year’s juggernaut of stars and standouts?

They weren’t even ranked. They barely made the postseason. And they weren’t supposed to be any good this year. After all, last year the Virginia Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 and were the favorites to win in all. This year they weren’t supposed to win at all. Last year they fell to Vanderbilt in the College World Series. This year they beat Vanderbilt in the College World Series (CWS). Because this year their time has come.
Six weeks ago, it looked as though Virginia might not even qualify for its conference tournament, let alone the NCAA Tournament. That was then. This is now.

And just look at the Cavaliers now.

They’re national champions for the first time in baseball after finishing a magnificent postseason run with a 4-2 victory over Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.

“This team was a crazy ride this year,” said Coach Brian O’Connor, who was born in Omaha. “Certainly, we had a lot that went against us through the year, but this team found a way and got into the NCAA Tournament. It’s an amazing example of what you can do if you put your mind to it, play for each other and have each other’s backs.

“Not many people thought this could happen. I couldn’t have forecast it. But we’re darn glad we’re sitting up here with this trophy.” Freshman Pavin Smith homered and drove in three runs and Brandon Waddell turned in another strong College World Series pitching performance.

The Cavaliers (44-24) prevailed in the CWS finals rematch against the defending champion Commodores and won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s first title in baseball since Wake Forest in 1955. “We were just a team that never gives up,” Smith said. “We’re really resilient. And it showed in the first inning when we were down 2-0 and didn’t stop playing.” Wow.

I’ve NEVER watched the CWS. Never. But this year, a buddy at work told me that the Cavaliers had made it into the College World Series, excuse me, the CWS, and I said, “OK.” So for the rest of you that never even heard of the CWS, much less watched it, I watched for you. I watched as Virginia came back from being down two runs and went on to win 4-2. With a FRESHMAN leading way! A FRESHMAN! I love it.

So, here’s more juice for your jug and fuel for your fire. If the Virginia Men’s Baseball team can come out of nowhere after years of futility and sterility and bareness and barrenness and athletic poverty and paucity and win it all, you (and I) can too.

Because our time has come. So until it manifests, let’s join Job and say, 

“All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.”  Job 14:14, KJV