How Much Is Too Much?

odell-beckham-jr.2

Odell Beckham, Jr. is all smiles, because Odell just got paid. The New York Football Giants just offered their star stud a deal that makes him the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL. Is he worth it? Some say yes. Does he deserve it? Some say no. But the deal is done, and now Odell is one fat cat.

And so the question is this: how much money is too much money? How many cars are too many to own? How big a house or how many houses does one need? How many yachts and private jets and penthouses and beach bungalows does one need to be satisfied? In essence, how much is too much? Most would agree that professional athletes are overpaid. And this just adds fuel to that fire.

On the one hand the Bible speaks of Abraham, and Abigail and Solomon and the Rich Woman from Shumen, all who loved God and were a blessing to their fellow-man, and all of them were very rich. And the New Testament tells of those who were very well off, including the Roman Centurion that built a synagogue for the Jewish People of Capernaum, and Barnabas, both of whom had means. And Jesus himself said that He came to give us abundant life, right here on earth.

On the other hand, rich, yet wise King Solomon said “Labor not to be rich.” (How ironic is that?) And Paul told Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” The Message Bible puts it this way: “Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.” The Bible also speaks of the deceitfulness of riches which “choke the Word.” The New Living Translation says that the “lure of wealth” crowds out the message that God intends for us to receive.

And just what is that message? The message from Heaven is that the Kingdom of God is more important than the things of this world. Yes God wants us to enjoy everyday life, but enjoying everyday life is not the goal of life. If we seek God first, He promised to add things to our life. It doesn’t work the other way around. God comes before things, and money; things and money do not come before God.

Anyway, that was the color commentary — here’s the play-by-play:

“Odell Beckham Jr. has agreed to a five-year extension with the New York Giants that makes him the highest-paid wide receiver in football.

The three-time Pro Bowler can receive a maximum $95 million over the course of the deal ($90 million base value plus $5 million in incentives), with $65 million in total guaranteed money, a source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson, including $41 million fully guaranteed at signing.

Over the first three years of the deal, Beckham will be paid $60 million for an average of $20 million a year over that earlier term. This means the new money average of the extension is $18 million a year over the five years, but his total average over the entire deal is $16.4 million a year over six years, which includes his previous option year (for this season).”

Word To The Wise: Don’t Bet Against Brady

Brady SI Cover

Could we see this Sports Illustrated cover again this year? Don’t bet against it.

Some say that sports and life are polar opposites. In fact, sports and life are actually opposite sides of the same coin.  In both sports and life, there are some things that you thought would never happen and yet happen they do. In sports and in life, there are the improbable, implausible, almost impossible occurrences and incidents that no one, and I mean no one, could even dream up in a thousand years and yet “Voila!” – they appear and emerge and transpire right in front of our very eyes.

Such is the case with Tom Brady. He is headed for yet another AFC Championship Game, against his rival Peyton Manning, and perhaps the only thing that stands between him and another Super Bowl ring is a favorable coin flip or two.

Yes, Peyton Manning is the sentimental favorite. No, the New England Patriots aren’t as feared nor as favored as they used to be. Yes, Manning is playing at home in front of friendly fans. No, Brady isn’t superman or super human, but yet and still . . .

Brady has been protected by a stunning 37 different offensive line combinations this season. That’s unheard of. They have a patchwork lineup and a lot of unnamed and unheralded players, except for Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski, considered to be the best tight end in the game. And here’s another one for the books: Brady is the only member of the Patriots roster left from the 2005 Super Bowl Team. If there’s one constant in the Patriots puzzle, it’s Brady.

Sports science stipulates cohesion and consistency and comrade on any and every team. And yet, with all of the shuffling and shifting, the one constant with the Brady Bunch is, you guessed it, Brady. The Patriot Way is the Brady Way. Brady has won more than most. So it’s difficult, nay pert near impossible, to bet against Brady. So don’t do it. Don’t bet against Brady. Just don’t do it. You’ll thank me later.

Brady, the University of Michigan stud, was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round (THE SIXTH ROUND!) of the 2000 NFL draft. In Brady’s 13 full seasons as a starter (he missed nearly all of 2008 with a torn ACL), the Patriots have earned six trips to the Super Bowl, winning four. Brady has won three Super Bowl MVP awards, two league MVP awards (2007, 2010), has been selected to eleven Pro Bowls, and has led the Patriots to more division titles than any other quarterback in NFL history, with thirteen. Brady is fifth on the all-time list for career passing yards and third for career touchdown passes. His career postseason record is 22–8; his playoff win total is the most in NFL history. Unbelievable.

Some players aren’t pegged or don’t seem to have the potential to pan out and prosper. Yet someway somehow, they seemingly, consistently and continuously find a way to win. We might not like them but we sure do respect them. They give us patterns and paradigms to follow. Whatever happens, and in spite of who comes and despite who goes, there stand players like Tom Brady, like a stone wall. He’s endured derision and disdain from everyone from Roger Goodell to me in this blog. But like the Bible says, Brady is steadfast and unmovable. So, like him or lump him, just don’t bet against him.

So, like it or not, Brady gives us our Bible lesson for today:

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV

Dabo Swinney: #Bring Your Own Guts!

Dabo Swinney
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney

William Christopher “Dabo” Swinney, the head coach of the Clemson Tigers, will play for a National Championship on Monday Night against the vaunted and seemingly invincible Alabama Crimson Tide.  I’m rooting for Dabo, not only because of his insanely cool, country boy name, and not because of his faith or the fact that he’s had a life of family pain and poverty, but because of his manly, macho motto: “Bring Your Own Guts!”

Dabo, that’s right Dabo (how do you get the name Dabo?), took in his mother while playing at Alabama. ALABAMA!? Wow. How’s that for irony? He played AND coached at Alabama, and now he’s got to go through ‘BAMA to reach his ultimate goal. Dabo also reconciled with his alcoholic father before his death. Tear-jerker stuff.

Monday’s championship game will not be his life’s biggest battle, just the most recent.  And I just checked on the name “Dabo:” this nickname was given to him as an infant by his parents when his then-18-month-old brother would try to enunciate “that boy” when referring to Swinney. Ok. I guess that’s just a southern thing.

Anyway, I like Dabo. I like the name and I like his game. I like his maxim and his motto. “Bring Your Own Guts.” This principle and proverb applies to sports and to life. It applies to the pros and the para-professionals. And it applies to collegiate champions and to high school letterman alike. Everyone needs guts, but you’ve got to bring your own.  You can’t live off of mine, and you can’t make it without yours. It’s that simple, and yet it’s that profound.

When I perspire, I can inspire and I can preach hellfire, but at the end of the day, you better bring your own heart and your own spirit and your own mettle and your own muster. Because everyone needs to learn how to aspire to be all they can be. In other words, bring your own guts.

I like another thing Dabo said. He’s a tough coach but he loves and is loved by his players. That’s why he’s right on another note: “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” Wow.  The Apostle Paul couldn’t have said it better. Rules, rules, rules.  They breed refusal and rejection and resentment and ultimately rebellion. But with relationship, rules restore and redeem and reconcile. It’s so spiritual. And yet many still don’t get it.

But I do. And I hope you do too. So thanks Dabo. Thanks for being a walk on at Alabama and for graduating with honors and for having the guts to coach Clemson with gusto. Alabama may look good, but your guts will hopefully lead to Clemson’s glory on Monday night.  

The Coronation of King Curry

steph-curry-5-6-15

Wardell Stephen “Steph” Curry II is now King of the Basketball World. He’s eaten his Wheaties so his spice and his dice are so nice they’re without vice. He has a boyish frame but a manly game and he has led his Warriors to the brink of an NBA crown. The 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player and a two-time NBA All-Star, Curry is considered by some to be the greatest shooter in NBA history. And that’s high praise.

Up until now, LeBron “King” James has ruled the basketball world. He has won 2 out of the last four NBA Championships, and this is his 5th Finals appearance in 5 years. But it looks like the reigning ruler will have to share the scepter and pass it on to the up and coming kid king. And it’s not for lack of effort, either. It’s just that LeBron has tried and tried to carry his team on his back, but that’s a tall order, even for the best player in the world. It appears that no Love and no Irving will spell no championship for the outgoing king.

Curry is a likeable, laudable, brash “splash” brother who is handling the spotlight pretty well. And that is one of the reasons he’s so loveable. So what’s not to like? I like almost everything I know about him. He’s hard not to like. I like his game and his fame and his game face and his Under Armor shoes lace. His Dad is an NBA old hand and his family are cheering at hand at all of his NBA games. The girls think his “cute” and the guys are jealous of his repute.

But more importantly and more significantly, Curry is a Christian. And an outwardly open Christian at that.

Curry spoke about his faith during his MVP speech by saying, “People should know who I represent and why I am who I am, and that’s because of my Lord and savior.” He also said the reason that he pounds his chest and points up is that he has a “heart for God” and as a reminder that he plays for God. On some of his “Curry One” basketball shoes, there is a lace loop scripted “4:13”. It is a reference to the Bible verse Philippians 4:13.

So let’s pound our chests and point up to Heaven for Him, and for the prince who has since become a duke who is no fluke.

All hail, King Curry.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13, New Living Translation

Playing With A Chip On Your Shoulder

SI Bryce Harper Guess who’s in first place in the National League East? The Washington Nationals. That’s right, the Washington Nationals. The team with the curly double “u” for a logo. The last time we checked in with these same Nats they were tied for last place and looking bad doing it. (https://godandsports.net/2015/04/27/sports-in-washington-dc-up-and-down-and-all-around/) Right now they’re red hot; they’re clearly the hottest team in baseball, having won eight of their last ten, and they have the hottest player in baseball, Bryce Harper, who’s hitting home runs just for something to do. So what about this Bryce Harper dude? He’s been billed as “Baseball’s LeBron.” He’s been on the cover of  Sports Illustrated TWICE. He’s just 22 years old, he’s getting it done at the plate and in the field, and he’s the toast of the league and the talk of the town. He’s brash and brazen, chucky and cheeky, sassy and brassy, and he’s just what the Dr. ordered in order to get these Nats to where they want to go. And he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. SI Bryce Harper2 The Washington Nationals have built themselves into a bona fide, legitimate veritable and unquestionable contender. And it’s because they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder — and it’s working. Since moving from Montreal 10 years ago, the Nats have had to prove that they belong. For ten years, the Nats have been trying to prove that they’re not a step-child, black sheep, wannabe, not quite ready for prime time team (https://godandsports.net/2014/10/08/not-quite-ready-for-prime-time/).

Someone who has a chip on their shoulder is angry all the time. They feel that they have been wronged by the world, so they are always ready for a fight or a feud or a scuffle or a tussle. They are easily offended because they feel that they have been treated unfairly by others, or perhaps they feel inferior. The Nats fit this bill to a tee. Bryce+Harper+New+York+Mets+v+Washington+Nationals+elEfXksh7sDl Playing with a chip on your shoulder can also mean that a person has a grievance about something. Something bad has happened and they believe it was someone else’s fault. This kind of person is constantly angry about it so that it affects their behavior. In their mind, a person who is “chippy” is showing how tough they are. Sounds like Bryce Harper and the Nats to me.

The phrase dates back to 1830 when two churlish Long Island boys were determined to fight. A chip was placed on the shoulder of one, and he demanded the other to knock it off at his peril. In this case a chip was a small piece of wood. Ever since, a young boy who is angry about something and determined to fight would place a small chip of wood on his shoulder and challenge another person to knock it off. When the chip was knocked off, it meant the opponent was ready and the fight would begin.

The Nats have something to prove. And so do you. You are fairer than they say you are, you are finer than they sense you are, and you are fiercer than they suppose you are. So go ahead. Prove it. Put the chip on your shoulder. Play “Mad Enough To Win” (https://godandsports.net/?s=Mad+enough+to+win) and make sure you “determine to disappoint the devil” (https://godandsports.net/2013/10/03/determined-to-dissapoint-the-devil/)

The phrase “Playing with a chip on your shoulder” has a negative connotation, but it need not be entirely negative. When your friends forsake you and your enemies underestimate you, there’s nothing wrong with playing with attitude and arrogance, with aggressiveness and assertiveness, and with determination and this declaration: that nothing and no one, and I mean NO ONE can or will beat or best you or strip you or stress you. Why? Because you are more than a conqueror. God always causes you to triumph in Christ. God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. And your victory lies in your faith. 

So always remember and never forget that you were designed and you have been destined to win.

LeBron James and the Cavaliers Will Win The NBA Championship

James from rear

Ok, Ok, Ok. Fine. I get it. LeBron is the greatest basketball player playing today. But you’ll have to excuse me because I’m from the MJ era, and in my book, Michael Jordan is still The One. Mike won 6 NBA Championships in six tries. That’s six for six, with two three-peats. That’s a stat that will (or may?) never be repeated. LeBron is two for four, with four straight finals appearances. Not too shabby, but not quite like Mike.

LeBron James is single-handedly carrying his Cavaliers to victory. The team should be renamed the “LeBron Cavaliers” as King James is carrying the team on his proverbial back and willing them to beat anyone and everyone that stands between them and the first NBA Championship for Cleveland. The Cavs moved one win away from the Eastern Conference finals after beating Chicago 106-101 in Game Five of their semi-final series on Tuesday.

LeBron finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Another double-double. Not too shabby. And the stats are a mere pat on his back and feather is his hat. The stats don’t count the willpower and the staying power and the grit and the grind and the force and the fervor that Sir James has and plays with. It’s a wonder to behold. Right after Derrick Rose won game 3 on a buzzer beater, James, not and never to be outdone, won game 4 with a buzzer beater of his own.

I watched Game 5 and was mesmerized. LeBron played like a man-child. With the series between Cleveland and Chicago – correction, between LEBRON and Chicago – tied at 2-2, the all-important Game 5 was on the line. Donning the signature headband he ditched in March, James played like a man possessed. Remember, he won game 2 by powering to the basket, leaving Bulls defenders in his wake and keeping the Cavs, missing two starters, from falling into a 2-0 hole. Likewise, James won Game 5 the same way.

Now DA Bulls will have to win two games to defeat the Cavalier Cavs, including a Game 7 on the road in Cleveland. And that just aint gonna’ happen. So here we go. The Cavs are on the verge of an NBA Championship. Yes an NBA Championship. They are eager and energized, moved and motivated and stirred and stimulated.

And yes I said that LeBron couldn’t win without love, Kevin Love, but James has taken it upon himself to prove me wrong. In fact, James has made it his mission in life to prove EVERYBODY who doesn’t wish or want him to win in Cleveland wrong. Dead wrong. And that is as close to a spiritual spectacle as you can get.

LeBron James may not be loveable or even likeable, but he certainly is capable of winning and succeeding and prevailing and triumphing over his enemies. And the same should apply to me and you. Let someone say you can’t do something or you don’t have what it takes or you don’t stand a chance. That should be fuel for your fire and wind beneath your wings.

So take it from LeBron. You can do what everyone else says you can’t do. You can do all things through Christ that strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). The Message Bible says it this way:

Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Believe it.

A Few of My Favorite Things

_rtrmadp_3_ncaa-basketball-ncaa-tournament-3rd-round-villanova-vs-nc-state
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Underdogs that win and teams that turn it around and competitors that comeback from the dead. These are a few of my favorite things.

Yes these are a few of my favorite things. The classic song from the classic, 1966 Academy Award winning film “The Sound of Music” cannot be improved upon, but someone should tell Julie Andrews that she can add the NCAA Tournament to the list!

The NC State Wolfpack just defeated the No. 1 Seed Villanova Wildcats to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Talk about sweet surprises. It’s not like the Wolfpack hasn’t been to the Big Dance almost uninvited before. In 1983, Jimmy Valvano and his mass of miracle makers defeated TWO, count ‘em, TWO No. 1 Seeds, Virginia and then Houston, en route to winning the National Championship in the upset win of the ages.

Upsets, comebacks and turnarounds. These are few of my favorite things. Upsets, because everyone loves an underdog. Comebacks, because we’ve all fallen behind and fallen off and fallen down with no hope of getting back up again. And turnarounds are only illegal if they’re committed in defeat. But U-turns and reversal of fortunes are welcome by all those whose feet are going downhill fast and are facing a dead-end.

But some way, somehow, a miracle emerges. Right before our very eyes, the impossible and the improbable incredibly occurs. Our wildest dreams come true and the world is watching in wonder as the Maker of marvels and the Winnower of wonders surprises us with yet another superlative that only He is capable of conjuring up.

NC State Believes

It’s so spiritual. Paul told the church at Ephesus that “you lived in this world without God and without hope.” And that goes for me and you too. We have all had hopeless situations and deflated expectations. But God stepped in just in the nick of time to save the day, and save us too.

A caring coach and passionate players are just a few of my favorite things. NC State’s Mark Gottfried is a good coach. And a good coach is one of my very favorite things. Coach Gottfried hugged and held and embraced and encouraged his players to the point that I would play for him right here and right now. A coach that truly cares and even loves his players and players that respond in kind by winning a tight ball game and triumphing over a tough team is food for the soul. Yes, these are a few of my favorite things.

NC State v Villanova

So add to the list, because “when the dog bites and when the bee stings, and when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things,” . . .  including an NC State upset win over a No. 1 Villanova, and then I don’t feel so bad!

And the rest of the song goes:

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eye lashes
Silver white winters that melt into spring
These are a few of my favorite things!

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
my favorite things
and then I don’t feel so bad!