A Victory for Vanessa Bryant

 

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Vanessa Bryant Eulogizing her husband Kobe Bryant at the Memorial Service, Staples Center, Los Angeles, Monday, February 24, 2020

Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late, great NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant, just won a great victory, and triumphed gloriously in the face a clear and crushing loss. Vanessa Bryant, someway and somehow, summoned strength to stand and state her love for her loving husband and her little lady.  It was a moving, emotive message of triumph amidst unspeakable tragedy. God bless her!  She stood flat footed, and through tears and talking back to herself — “Ok, you can do it” — she motivated the mass of mourners when she herself just wanted to weep and wail and question and query God about why this all happened, and what she’s supposed to do now.

Vanessa Bryant is by all standards a trooper and a champion.  Her husband won five NBA Championships, but her performance at her husband’s memorial service at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 was a testament to her greatness and her superior solemnity far beyond what her husband achieved on the basketball court. Vanessa’s strength and courage under fire was phenomenal, and was also absolutely supernatural. Why?  Because only Heaven and all things holy could help her handle the stress and the strain of the moment with power and poise.  

Vanessa Bryant would have made Kobe proud. She honored her husband and daughter with grit and grace and dignity and distinction. She spoke and stood when she did not want to, but she had to. And it was amazing. What was so amazing was that we all knew that this was an impossible position to be in, and yet in the midst of understandable and allowable grief, she pressed through her own misery and misfortune and sorrow and sadness in order to help the rest of us, hopefully and eventually, overcome ours.

That’s why Heaven had to help. Because she had to do it. And in so doing she carried the burden of her bereavement, even if for a moment, above and beyond the heavy pall of defeat that tried to weigh her down and wipe her out.

 God bless you, Vanessa Bryant.    

Kobe Bryant: Too Soon To Die, Too Late To Say Goodbye  

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Kobe Bryant and His Daughter, Gianna Maria Onore, 13, were both Killed in a Helicopter Crash on Sunday,January 26, 2020.

Not many people demand attention. Kobe Bryant did.  And now he’s gone. Today, President Trump tweeted about Kobe’s death … saying, “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news! “

 Yes it is.

Kobe Bryant’s untimely death hurts just as much if not more than Whitney’s in February of 2012 or Michael’s in June of 2009. Of all the unexpected and sudden, unforeseen deaths in recent memory, this one really hurts.

Tragic accidents are brutal.  Tragic accidents are unforgiving. And tragic accidents like Kobe’s are humanly impossible to deal with. They rip your guts out, punch you in the throat, put you in a choke hold and then stand over you and demand that you sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs with a smile on your face.  After a loss like this, there is no earthly way to recover or salvage our sense of sensibility other than to look to heaven for repose.

Kobe was LA, and Kobe was the Lakers. He was admired and loved or just respected or downright hated by everybody. Everybody had an opinion about him, because his life on and off of the court demanded attention.

Kobe was one of the great, greats, not only in the NBA, but in sports history. He is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and will go down as one the NBA’s most revered scorers and defenders. Kobe’s resume is full of an embarrassment of riches. He made 18 All-Star teams during his 20 year career with the Lakers. He was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft, winning 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs and he was the league MVP in 2008. He was on 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and led the league in scoring for two seasons. He ranks fourth in the NBA for all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring. Kobe also repped USA in a number of Olympic appearances.

Within the storied Lakers franchise, he is listed with a long list of the greatest that ever played the game. The Lakers have won so many games and so many championships. From Jerry West to Wilt Chamberlain, to Kareem Abdul-Jabar to Earvin “ Magic” Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal and now LeBron “King” James. Over the years, the Lakers organization learned how to do one thing, and that is make it to the NBA Finals, and then win championships. And Kobe was a champion who won and lived like one.

And so we weep with them that weep and mourn with them that mourn and pray for Kobe’s wife Vanessa and the entire Bryant family. 

Unfortunately, this sad story got even sadder when it was learned that Kobe’s daughter Gianna Maria Onore — aka GiGi — was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash … She was only 13. We’re told they were on their way to the Mamba Academy for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. The Academy is in nearby Thousand Oaks.

Kobe is survived by his wife Vanessa. Together, they had four daughters — Gianna, Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri. Kobe and Vanessa got married in 2001 after meeting in 1999.  He was only 41,  and he played 20 of those years with one team, one basketball family, the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe is also “survived” by many Lakers who already miss his presence on court, and now will miss him in their lives.

In Kobe’s 41 years, he was much more than a legendary basketball player. He was a husband, father, friend and mentor to so many who still play in the “Association,” aka, the NBA. His iconic impact on the sport and his indelible imprint on the lives of athletes worldwide may never be fully known.

Kobe Bryant; too soon to die, too late to say goodbye.

 Farewell, Kobe.

How Do You Spell Redemption? “Andy Reid!”

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Andy Reid hoists the Lamar Hunt Trophy after his Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans 35 -24 in the 2020 AFC Championship Game.

The Bible says to “rejoice with them that rejoice.” But the truth is, some people are easier to root for than others. And Andy Reid would be in the category of “some people” rather than the “others.” Andy has taken a licken and yet he keeps on ticken. I love it. Sounds a lot like a lot of us. Many of us have been through some tough times here lately. We’ve been through the fire and the flood. We’ve had some high highs and some low lows. Yet through it all, we’ve learned to trust in God. My, my.

Learning to trust God is redemption. Sports redemption is a little different from spiritual redemption, but the premise is just the same. After a loss, you are “found” and you find your way back from the brink of defeat, destruction and despair. It’s enough to drive one to tears of joy.

Here’s how Frank Schwab from Yahoo Sports describes Andy’s story, a story that we hope will have a story book ending:

“On January 4, 2013, Andy Reid was limping away from the Philadelphia Eagles, coming off a 4-12 season and being fired. The Kansas City Chiefs were in even worse shape. They went 2-14 in 2012. On that day, the Chiefs hired Reid. The words “Super Bowl” were not mentioned during his introductory news conference a few days later. Both sides were just looking for some way out of the darkness.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now, the Chiefs are going back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. They overcame another slow start and beat the Tennessee Titans 35-24 in the AFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl LIV.

‘We were blessed to be there and sometimes change is good,’ Reid said when announced as Chiefs coach, ‘change will be tremendous for the Philadelphia Eagles and on the other hand, it will be terrific for the Kansas City Chiefs.’

On Sunday, seven years after coming to Kansas City, Reid had his redemption and the Chiefs had snapped one of the most miserable droughts in the NFL.

The most compelling figure of this season’s Super Bowl could be Reid, who is still looking for a ring to validate a great career, and made some tough decisions that led to this trip to the NFL’s title game. As Reid stood on the podium after lifting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, Chiefs fans chanted ‘Andy! Andy!’ ”

I concur. Go Andy!

A Bad Day To Have A Bad Day

Image result for Lamar Jackson after loss to Titans

Lamar Jackson picked a bad day to a have a bad day. The presumptive MVP who lead the League in multiple categories and lead his Baltimore Ravens to a 14 – 2 record and the No. 1 seed in AFC laid a proverbial egg on Saturday night, AT HOME.  Jackson had three turnovers and was generally off and specifically  late and low and behind and beneath his normal level of play.

The Ravens fell to the the No. 6 Seed Tennessee Titans who shocked the football world by running all over the Ravens, both literally and figuratively.   The Ravens didn’t play very well, and the mistakes and miscues by the star quarterback wearing No. 8 didn’t help.

Lamar Jackson didn’t actually chose to have a bad day, and neither do we. Bad days just seem to happen. And bad days tend to happen at the worst of times. The key is how you react and respond to adversity. The Ravens were favored to win it all, and we all were looking forward to watching a Super Bowl with Lamar in it. But not this year. 

There’s no way to explain how and why Jackson has not performed in the playoffs two years in a row, but his Coach believes that he will rebound and return to form next year.  We all hope so. And Isn’t that just like life? We all need to rebound recover and bounce back and get back up and get back going after falling and failing. That’s why I’m rooting for Lamar Jackson, even if he’s out of the playoffs.

Here’s how the Baltimore Sun reported the story:

“BALTIMORE (AP) — With his bright red shoes and relentless running, Derrick Henry grabbed the spotlight and wouldn’t let go.

When he was done leading Tennessee into the AFC championship game Saturday night, he did a lengthy victory lap around the Baltimore Ravens’ home, slapping hands and taking selfies with Titans fans.

It has been quite a two-week ride.

“It’s not just me,” Henry said after rushing for 195 yards and throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass in a 28-12 upset of the NFL’s top team Saturday night. ”It’s a team effort. We’re all playing collectively as an offense, as a whole. We’re just locked in. We believe in each other. We communicate. It’s working out there.”

The Lamar Jackson who ran with abandon and threw 36 touchdown passes for the best team in the league failed to show up in the playoffs — again.

During his marvelous second season in the NFL, Jackson was an All-Pro quarterback who carried the Baltimore Ravens to the best record in the league. Jackson amassed the most yards rushing by a quarterback in league history and was the catalyst of an offense that led the NFL in scoring.

All of that — as well as Baltimore’s 12-game winning streak and home-field advantage — was irrelevant against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.

Coming off a three-week break and looking appropriately rusty in doing so, an error-prone Jackson threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and didn’t get the Ravens into the end zone until the fourth quarter of a 28-12 defeat.

All season long, Jackson was intent upon erasing the memory of his rookie season, when he guided Baltimore to a 6-1 finish before faltering in the postseason opener at home against the Los Angeles Chargers. Jackson went 2 of 8 for 17 yards and an interception in the first half, and the Ravens trailed 23-3 in a one-and-out playoff performance.

It was Super Bowl or bust this time around, and Baltimore sure looked capable of making that happen. Jackson and the Ravens were virtually unstoppable over the final three months, slapping aside some of the best teams in the league with surprising ease.

That’s what made this game so darn surprising. Jackson did manage to rush for 143 yards, but most of that came in two chunks, a 30-yarder in the third quarter and a 27-yarder during Baltimore’s lone touchdown drive.

But twice he failed to convert fourth-and-1 runs, stuffed at the line of scrimmage on each occasion. Both times, the Titans went the other way for touchdowns.

Before this game, Baltimore was 8 for 8 on fourth-and-1 this season. Then again, very little that occurred during the regular season for the Ravens went right on this night.

Jackson’s 50th pass of the night, on fourth down in Tennessee territory with just over 4 minutes left, hit the ground with a thud. So, in fact, did Baltimore’s season.

He finished 31 for 59 for 365 yards. The main number, however, was the 12 points — Baltimore’s lowest output of the year.

Jackson doesn’t deserve all the blame for the collapse. Heck, the Ravens twice were penalized on punt returns without even getting their hands on the ball. And another All-Pro selection, Marcus Peters, was burned badly by Kalif Raymond on a 45-yard touchdown pass immediately after Jackson failed to gain the yards necessary to maintain possession.

“It only takes turning the ball over one or two times, a penalty here and a penalty there. All it takes is one loss and we’re done,” Yanda said. “That 14-2 stuff does not matter.”

How very true.”

It’s How You Finish: Eagles Win NFC East!

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Fletcher Cox #91 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts to a sack. (Leff/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East after all. After being the pre-season favorite, and then falling off the map during the season, and then enduring multiple injuries along the way, the Eagles put together a late season march through their NFC East opponents and won four straight to finish 9-7.

It was improbable, and at more than one point it seemed impossible, but those plucky Birds pulled off a comeback for the ages. The Eagles turned their torrid season all the way around, and now they are in the playoffs for the third straight season. It took leadership and perseverance, and grit, and Fletcher Cox has all these, and some.

For many of us, 2019 was that kind of year. It began with high hopes and powerful promise, but along the way the wheels came off and I was left on the side of the road for dead. But that’s just when Heaven starts helping and God get’s going. God honors faith. God rewards faith. And God expects us to have strong faith to endure the tests and trials that face us.

So take it from me, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. So finish 2019 strong, and let’s begin 2020 with the faith to believe that we can conquer anything and everything that life may throw our way.

As for my Eagles, I pick them to go all the way! And why not, we’re underdogs again, just like 2017 when we won Super Bowl LII.

Fly Eagles fly!

In A Christmas Miracle, The Eagles Upset The Cowboys!

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Eagles Upset Dallas Cowboys 17-9 for sole possession of first place in the NFC East

They said Dallas was the better team. They said the Eagles didn’t stand a chance. And they said Wentz was overrated and all washed up. But the final score said the opposite. The final Score was Eagles 17, Dallas 9. In this game of arch NFC East Division rivals, the Eagles “D” held the No. 1 offense in the league to three field goals! Nuff said! This was an upset win for the ages, and the Eagles did it with backup, underdog players due to multiple injuries to numerous all pro starters. It was a great team win, a Christmas present from Santa, and a Christmas Miracle, all raped up in one.

It took prayer and faith, pleas for good fortune and fortitude from fearfulness. It took it all and a little more to win this game.

Now the Eagles just have to win the NFC East, right? Right! In my book, Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds, here’s how I describe this Eagles’ win, and every other upset win of epic proportions:

“In the World of Sports, there’s nothing like an upset win, a comeback from way back, and a complete turnaround. The same is true in life. In sports, we celebrate the underdogs, both the teams and the players who are at a distinct disadvantage and are expected to lose. Yet some way, somehow, these teams and players find a way triumph in spite of adversity.

Upsets, Comebacks, and Turnarounds looks back to those who have already overcome and looks ahead to those facing overwhelming obstacles yet to be overcome. This book examines the intersection of God and sports and the connection of sports and spirituality. It is dedicated to those in life not favored to win; to those voted least likely to succeed; and to those picked to finish dead last or not at all; in other words, the underdogs. The Bible is chock-full of unprecedented upset wins.

The Holy Writ is replete with remarkable, courageous comebacks. And scripture is saturated with stories of tremendous turnarounds. Leah, Ruth, Jonathan, Moses, and Elijah are just a few of the faithful who overcame overwhelming odds and were victorious. They found a way to believe God for, and experience, miracles. This is a telling of their side of the story. This book is a tribute to all of the biblical long-shots. to all those who “didn’t stand a chance.” Biblical stories of men and women of the faith are inspiration and motivation for us all. At one point in their lives, ordinary people just like you and me were spiritually empty, bereft of hope and brimming with despair. But God turned it around. He did it for them, He did it for me, and He can do the same for you too.”

UCT Cover

Anybody Hate the Dallas Cowboys? Vol. 2

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Anybody hate, and I do mean HATE, the Dallas Cowboys! 

Today’s game is essentially for the Division, the NFC East, and the season is on the line for both teams.  Both teams are a mediocre 7 -7, both teams have marginal quarterbacks, and both teams have an equal change at victory. So what will determine the outcome? Preparation. 

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”  The key word in this age old adage is “preparation.”  Then the next most instructive word is “prior.” Let’s unpack them both.

According to one source, “apparently the saying came from the British army and is a shortcut of the original 7Ps which mean Proper Planning and Preparation Prevent P. . . Poor Performance.”

Preparation is “the activity of putting or setting in order in advance of some act or purpose.” Preparation is also “the activity leading to skilled behavior.”  And this one must do in ADVANCE.  In the moment mental muscle is great. However, for physical strength, you need to go to the gym and work out prior to showing off your agility and physicality in a game. Mental toughness is built the same way.

Today’s Eagles Dallas game is the biggest game in Eagles’ history since the Super Bowl LII win against the Patriots. And in order to win, hopefully Carson Wentz and the Eagles have prepared themselves. And hopefully this preparation will lead to skilled behavior on field, aka, a decisive victory.

This is a great life lesson. So let’s apply it and learn from past mistakes. Let’s prepare more, and prepare better. Let’s not rush to judgement or be in an unnecessary hurry for anything.  God prepares, so me should prepare. David said that the Lord “prepared a table before him in the presence of his enemies.” Anybody like that verse?   I do!  (And to be sure, the Dallas Cowboys are mortal enemies to all Eagles everywhere!)

Let’s prepare for victory. And that will take coherent, cognitive activity, including, perception and reasoning. For the Eagles to defeat Dallas today,  Wentz will have to be at his cognitive and coherent best. And then there’s the whole Christmas Miracle thing, but preparation sure won’t hurt the Eagles, and it certainly will help you and me too.