How Do You Spell Redemption? “Andy Reid!”

Andy Reid AFC Championship Game 2020
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!

Buffalo Bills v Philadelphia Eagles
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!

Eagles Logo
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

Eagles Cowboys Logos

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.

Note From Joe Burrow: Nice Guys Do Indeed Finish First

Joe Burrow Heisman
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow wins 2019 Heisman Trophy by record-setting margin

Joe Burrow just won the Heisman Trophy. Thereby, Burrow proved that nice guys can, and do, finish first.

In his epic, record setting season and his emotional and heartwarming acceptance speech, Joe Burrow proved and pronounced three things;

     First, you can beat the odds.

     Second, you can rise from obscurity; and

     Third, nice guys don’t have to finish last.

Burrow beat the odds. No one, and I mean NO ONE, had Joe Burrow as a Heisman Trophy finalist at the beginning of the 2019 season, much less the runaway winner. But Burrow led “LSU’s passing game that finished No. 116 in 2014, No. 106 in 2015, No. 101 in 2016, No. 84 in 2017 and No. 67 in 2018 sprang to No. 2 in 2019, largely through the mastery Burrow left strewn across storied American fields such as Texas, Alabama and Atlanta (against Georgia in the SEC championship game). Receiving yards went lavished on brilliant wideouts such as Ja’Marr Chase (1,498), Justin Jefferson (1,207) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (545).”  ESPN

Burrow rose from the obscurity of Athens, Ohio, an impoverished rural county, to the national stage of instant stardom.  Burrow was a backup quarterback at Ohio State, and then transferred to LSU, and now he’s the Heisman Trophy winner on the No. 1 Team in the nation favored to win the college national championship.  Burrow led LSU “from 2,894 passing yards in 13 games in 2018, then ascended to 4,715 in 13 games so far in 2019. He threw 48 touchdown passes against six interceptions.” Incredible.

Talk about a rags to riches, Cinderella, Rocky Balboa story.

So we say congratulations to Joe Burrow. Thanks for reminding us that nice guys can indeed finish first.

PS: Now watch Burrows Heisman Trophy acceptance speech and try to hold it together. I dare you not to shed a tear.

 

Playing With Fire

Simmons on SLIM Cover
Is Ben Simmons Playing With Fire?

The Philadelphia 76ers are playing with fire. Principally, their all-stars, center Joel Embiid and guard Ben Simmons, are too good to be giving too little to the game. So said the beloved and behemoth NBA analysts on TNT, Shaquille O’Neal and former Philly great Charles Barkley. Both of these NBA icons played with fire. And Barkley and Shaq called both of these Philly young bucks out on their lax and lackadaisical performances in recent games on national TV this week.

First, let’s unpack the definition. On the one hand, playing with fire is not a complementary term. The Urban Dictionary says that “Playing with Fire” is “used primarily to advise someone against a course of action that may result in an unpleasing outcome either for themselves or others around them.” In other words, Simmons and Embiid have the potential to be great, but as they play with the fire of forlorn fecundity, they risk their reputations and the prospect of professional prosperity.

On the other hand, all of the Philly basketball greats played with fire. Dr. J, Moses Malone, Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain all played with fire. That’s the second meaning of the term. When you play with a fire in your soul, it consumes you to the point where you want nothing else but to win, by any means necessary. Playing with fire is a necessity, not a nicety. And the Philadelphia faithful expect nothing less than this fire that should burn every game, night in and night out.

Playing with an inner fire is contagious. It’s infectious. It can be transmitted to others in a good way. When a star player is on fire, it’s because he (or she) is playing with fire. Fire consumes and purifies. Fire illuminates and invigorates. Fire is a feeling of great warmth and intensity. When great players want to motivate their teammates, they often say, “Get Fired Up!”

And that’s today’s lesson folks. Saint’s and friends, if we are to be victorious and triumphant, we must play, and live, with fire. Fire in the form of fervent prayer and passionate praise will propel us and project us and eventually will promote us to the next level. Living with fire means that we will not accept anything other than spiritual success, because failure is not an option.

At one point, the prophet Jeremiah felt like throwing in the towel. He was a step away from quitting. But Jeremiah knew that even to think of quitting was playing with fire. Jeremiah knew that to even contemplate giving up was a course of action that would result in an unpleasing outcome for himself and for others around him. Instead of giving up, Jeremiah remembered that God’s Word was like fire shut up in his bones.

So let’s make a decision. Let’s not play around, like listless lackeys do. Let’s play with a fierce fire that will consume and engage us fully and destroy every opponent completely.

Let’s PLAY with fire!