Winning In January

 Ben Roethlisberger

In January, the days are short and the nights are long. The howling, northwest winds are chilly and the wind chill makes it even chillier. The ground is hard and the air is dry. In sum, there is nothing inviting about January. Most want to remain inside but they still play football outside. At least some do.  And some go on to win in January.  Only some.

The comfort January brings to football teams who win is in cold contrast to the weather, as the poem by Helen Hunt Jackson unfolds:

O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire,

What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn

Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn

Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire

The streams than under ice. June could not hire.

 

Her roses to forego the strength they learn

In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn

The bridges thou dost lay where men desire

In vain to build.

 

O Heart, when Love’s sun goes

To northward, and the sounds of singing cease,

Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace.

Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose.

Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows,

The winter is the winter’s own release.

 

January by Helen Hunt Jackson

 

Football in January is akin to basketball in June; only a few teams are privileged enough to make it to the postseason, and fewer still advance in the playoffs.  And this year, that would be my Eagles.  Philly played a gritty, gutsy game and eked out a win when no one game them a chance. To win in January is to summon every ounce of effort and every drop of determination because wins in January don’t come easy.

So here’s to Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles on their first playoff win since 2008. Hopefully, there’s more to come.

“Survive the Ground”

Survive The Ground Rule

In this life, you have to survive the ground. In order to survive the ground, you first have to learn how to survive the ground. Learning isn’t always quick and easy or fun and pleasant. Learning comes with bumps and bruises and scratches and scrapes. Just ask the Pittsburg Steelers. And that’s why Jessie James, Ben Roethlisberger, and Coach Mike Tomlin, who looks just like Mike Epps, are licking their wounds and bidding their time until they meet the New England Patriots again, perhaps in the 2018 AFC Championship game?

In Sunday’s clash with the vaunted Patriots, Pittsburgh Steeler’s tight end Jesse James absolutely, positively seemed like he caught the ball seconds before the end of regulation at the goal line. In fact, Jesse James did not catch the game-winning touchdown against the New England Patriots. “The catch rule, as we all know and hate it, declares clearly that a player going to the ground while making a catch must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground.

When you watch the play, you see James diving for the ball. As he lunged across the goal line, the ball fell to the ground. Before James could gain possession, Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon dove on his back to render him down and the play over.

Very clearly and simply, James did not maintain control of the ball throughout the process. In other words, the catch did not survive the ground. Here’s how it appears in the NFL rulebook:

“A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by an opponent) must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, there is no possession.” http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/262186/the-nfl-catch-rule-has-issues-but-steelers-survive-the-ground-call-was-right

And that’s what we’ve all got to learn. We’ve got to learn how to survive the ground. Sometimes we get knocked down and pushed down and even thrown down, but we’ve got to survive the ground. We can’t let a fall or a push or a shove hamper our hopes or dislodge our dreams. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but we can’t let names or slurs or insults or false accusations hurt us to the point that we lose a firm hold on what Heaven has promised us. Maintain possession.  Lay hold to your hopes and don’t let go of your dreams.

So survive the ground. Get back up and get back going. Don’t let a little slip or a trifle trip endanger your destiny.

Win then Lose then Win Again

Gronkowski

 “Life is queer with its twists and turns, as every one of us sometimes learns.” 

Sometimes you have to win twice just to win once. Sometimes you think you have it all together and it’s all wrapped up only to realize there’s a hole in the bag; but then you catch the cavity and plug the gap just in time to save the day.

Sometimes, when it seems like you don’t have a payer, a prayer is all you need.

Sometimes you win and then you seem to lose it; and then, lo and behold, you win after all. And that’s just what happened to the World Champion New England Patriots. Everybody knows that Rob Gronkowski is Tom Brady’s “go to” guy.  Brady has been throwing to No. 87, Rob Gronkowski, just for something to do, and the pair has been winning with regularity since he came into the league in 2010.  And the couple did it again today against Pittsburg.

With 1 minute left on the clock, the Pats prized tight end caught an almost uncatchable ball inches off of the ground to pave the way for another incredible, improbable but you knew it was coming, come from behind Division clinching win IN Pittsburg at Heinz field.

Then, Big Ben got the Steelers to the ten yard line in the blink of an eye. Then Roethlisberger threw a pass over the middle to Jessie James and the home team seemingly scored. The Steelers had come back with less than a minute left to beat Brady at his own game. But not so fast.

Sometimes, like it or not, the game is won and lost by a decision the referees make. In this case, the zebras reviewed the play and ruled the pass incomplete because the receiver did not maintain possession as he went to the ground AFTER he crossed the goal line.  Unbelievable. The game ended when Big Ben threw an ill-advised pass across the middle that was intercepted in the endzone. Absolutely unbelievable.

New England won, then seemingly lost, and then won again. Again. The same thing  happened in two — count ‘em, TWO — Super Bowls; last year against the Falcons and three years ago against the Seahawks. The five time World Champions have a knack for winning games twice. You would think you should only have to win once. But such is life.  

And so the moral of the story is this: sometimes you have to win twice just to win once. Even though it looks like it’s over, it’s not over. Keep fighting until victory is won.

Big Ben Says “Don’t Count Me Out!”

Ben Pointing

Ben Roethlisberger had the game from hell last week. He had the worst game of his illustrious, all-pro career.  He had a career-high five – count ‘em – FIVE INTs. That’s five interceptions in one game. And that’s not good.

But Ben Ben’s not done yet.  Today Ben bounced back and beat the previously undefeated Kansas Chiefs on the road at Arrowhead Stadium in KC. 

Last week, Ben threw too many interceptions and was ready to throw in the towel. Two of those INTs Jacksonville returned for touchdowns in a 30-9 loss to the Jaguars. The bitter, biting, baneful loss left the Steelers frustrated and the most prolific passer in franchise history struggling to put a finger on how things went so wrong, so quickly for a group that was expected to be among the league’s best.

Last week, just five weeks in, Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers were (3-2) and decidedly average. And then there came this from Big Ben himself:

 “Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” Roethlisberger said.

The 35-year-old was kidding. Mostly. While he tried to chalk it up as simply a bad day at the office, in reality this one was different than most. No Steelers quarterback had thrown it to the other team five times in a game since Mark Malone did it against Cleveland 30 years ago. 

https://apnews.com/79913b5d9488456bb21494f36aa1b17c/Roethlisberger%27s-rough-day-paves-way-for-Steelers%27-loss

 That was last week.  And as they say, that was then, and this is now.

Now is a 19-13 win over previously undefeated Kansas City. And this week Ben had help; big help. Pittsburg’s Steel Curtain defense regained its former, famed glory and held Alex Smith and the high powered, league leading offense to six first half yards. That would be six, as in comes after five and right before seven. And KC had one first down in the first half. Just one.  It was total domination by the Pittsburg “D” for 3 ½ quarters.

Now the Steelers are 4-2 and looking one hundred and eighty degrees better than they did in last week’s loss. That’s quite the bounce back. That’s quite the turnaround. That’s quite the statement game. And this is why we love sports. And this is why sports and faith are not foreign; nay, sports and faith are famously familiar BFFs and bosom buddies. 

Everything we do is spiritual.  Everything. Including what happens on the field, on the court, on the ice, on the track, in the pool and in the gym.   And once again, Big Ben gives us a reason to believe, a reason to hope, and another reason to get back up and get back going, again.

So take it from Big Ben. Don’t count yourself out.  Say it over and over and over again.  You can make it. And tell your enemies and your foes the same thing. Tell the naysayers and the bogus soothsayers to take a hike too. Tell them emphatically, “Don’t count me out!”

Follow the Leader: Brady or Rodgers or Ryan or Roethlisberger?

aaron-rodgers-6

So who ya got? Which quarterback is better? Which quarterback will advance and carry and lead his team on to the Super Bowl?  Brady is Brady, and Rodgers is Rodgers (did you see that finish?) and Roethlisberger can’t be counted out. But what about Ryan?

Ryan is the presumptive MVP, but how can you bet against Brady?  And after Rodgers did what he did in Dallas, how can you bet against Rodgers?

Because it’s all about leadership. Everything, and I mean everything, rises and falls on leadership. For me, I need Heaven to lead me and guide me and instruct me in the way that I need to go. Because without a leader, you’re lost. You’re a ship without a sail and a plane without wings. Without an executive director or a chief officer, one who rules and guides and inspires us on and up and forward, we won’t win a thing.

So who ya got? A Brady/Rodgers Super Bowl would be just dandy. As for me, Rodgers has the hot hand and he may well win it all.

Are the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl Bound?

wentz-3

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, but . .  . Philadelphia has just been dubbed “Carson City!” 

It wasn’t supposed to happen. At least not like this. The Pittsburgh Steelers are stingy on defense and stagy on offense and they are (or were?) supposed to be somebody’s pre-season pick to go to, if not WIN, the Super Bowl. But not so fast. “Big Ben” Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin, both wily veterans, were supposed to handle the upstart Eagles, handily.

Enter rookie quarterback CARSON WENTZ! The Eagles, I mean MY Eagles, beat up and beat down the before the game solid, but after the game squalid Pittsburgh Steelers 34-3, and it wasn’t that close. So now who’s a favorite to go to the Super Bowl?

“Magical,” he said. “Seriously. It’s like magic.  This is what Philly’s staid offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, had to say when he was reaching for the right word after Sunday’s game. 

“I’ve been around a lot of smart quarterbacks, a lot of really good quarterbacks. This guy had something we all noticed. On the practice field, just watching him warm up and get ready, I was giddy. His movements, his explosiveness in his lower body. His arm strength. His accuracy. Then in the classroom, his intellect and his football acumen—hard to describe. But all there. He could not be stumped, by any of us. What’s your protection here? Why’d you pick this receiver? What do you like about this play? He was so far ahead of guys I’ve studied.

And we kept hearing about the level of competition, that people were worried about the North Dakota State part of it. I said, ‘Let ’em keep saying that! Please keep saying that.’ ”

“I am literally in tears with how good he is. I’ve been an Eagles fan for 24 years, my whole life. I bought this jersey three weeks ago. When we drafted him I thought he was the change of the franchise” said 24-year-old Kyle Frazier. And Vince Fabrizio, 54, said: “He will take us to a Super Bowl as some point.”

Like, now? This has been an absurd ride so far. Wentz and the Eagles 34, Big Ben and the Steelers 3. The guy who was supposed to redshirt this season, the guy who wouldn’t be playing right now if Teddy Bridgewater hadn’t suffered a freak injury last month, 1,170 miles away, the guy who has every downtrodden fan in Cleveland vomiting (again) this morning because the Browns gave away the chance to draft him … that guy is 3-0, with the wins coming by 19, 15 and 31 points, and just when is construction beginning on that statue? (Mike Wise, MMQB http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2016/09/26/carson-wentz-eagles-nfl-week-3-monday-morning-qb-peter-king)

So, do you need Biblical reference to go along with this modern day sports miracle in the making?  Try this one on for size:

God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, New Living Translation

 And while some have an aversion if it’s not their favorite version,  I must do a recursion to the old fashioned, but tried and true KJV, which may say it best:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 1 Corinthians 1:27, KJV