The Miracle Of Momentum

This past weekend I sat down and watched a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game for the first time this season. And I’m a Philly guy, so I’m all about rooting for the home team. But boy oh boy did I pick the wrong time to watch a bad game.

When I turned on the TV, the Phils had a 4-1 lead, and I said, OK!  Then they extended the lead to a 6 -1 margin, and this was against one of baseball’s worst teams, the Florida Marlins. A five run margin should be enough to win a game, right? Wrong.

A five run margin wasn’t enough. Why? Because the Marlins understood the moxy and miracle of momentum. They got one hit, then another hit, and then two runs and then a few more runs, and the next thing you knew, they were winning 9-6, and that’s how the game ended. The Marlins stole the momentum and won the game.  Just like that. The Phil’s can hit but they sure can’t pitch. They just can’t stop the other guys from hitting, and scoring. In other words, the pitching staff, or more specifically, the relievers, failed them, and this wasn’t the first time this has happened this season. It appears that the Phils relievers aren’t worth their salt.

For all those out there who don’t understand momentum, this one is for you. And for those of us who do respect and hold the muscle of momentum in high regard, let this be a reminder. You don’t want to give away what you’ve worked hard for and rightfully earned, or even what you have been given. 

Momentum in sports is everything. When you’re on a roll, you don’t want to do anything to mess it up or muck it up. If you do make a mistake here or there you recover quickly, and get back to rolling. Trying to sit on a lead and playing “prevent” defense (whatever that is) is always a bad idea. Listen; when you have a good lead, even a little lead, but especially a big lead, you want to do everything in your power to protect it and even pad it, because to lose a lead is next to disastrous, and to lose a big lead is tantamount to preposterous. 

In baseball, a “save” is when a relief pitcher comes in late in the game, say the seventh inning or so, and pitches one or two innings. The reliever’s only job is to keep the other team from getting hits and getting on base and, God forbid, scoring runs. Throwing strikes is good, and getting strikeouts is even better. The worst thing a relief pitcher can do is to give up hits and allow base runners and permit the other team to take the lead and win the game AFTER his team has given him the ball with the lead.

The word save is a theological term. In baseball, the relief pitcher could be considered a “savior,” of sorts. A savior is “a person who rescues others from evil, danger, or destruction. The Old Testament viewed God Himself as the Savior, and because God is the source of salvation, He sent human deliverers to rescue His people, Israel. This word was also used to describe the judges of Israel, those “saviors” or “deliverers” who rescued God’s people from oppression by their enemies.” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

A relief pitcher wins the game. In other words, a relief pitcher is a savior who brings salvation. Our Lord is our relief. He will never lose a save. Never. He came to seek and to save all who were lost.  And he can come into your “game,” a.k.a. into your life, and save you too.

Amen.

Smokin’ Bert Cooper: A Hometown Hero Goes Home

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Bertram “Smokin’ Bert” Cooper: 1966 – 2019

I attended a funeral today. Actually we call them “homegoings.” This homegoing was for the brother of a dear friend. His name was Bertram Cooper, nicknamed “Smokin’ Bert.” He was only 53. He was born and raised outside of Philly in Sharon Hill, and he is the pride and joy of the Darby Borough. His life and legacy and faith and fearlessness in the ring are another of those underdog stories that we all love to hear and tell.

Here’s a tad of his tale:

“In very sad and somewhat shocking news, it has been reported how former heavyweight contender Bert Cooper has passed away from pancreatic cancer. Bert was just 53 years old. The rough, tough and often extremely exciting warrior who was once trained by the legendary Joe Frazier (who gave Bert his “Smokin’” nickname) fought so many top names during his up and down career.

Initially a cruiserweight, Cooper soon moved up to heavyweight, and on his best night he could rumble with the best of the best. The knock on Cooper was his lack of discipline. Throughout his long pro career – September 1984 to September of 2012, with numerous layoffs included – no-one knew whether or not Bert would enter the ring in top fighting shape. A lover of partying, this leading to his indulgence in drugs and alcohol – Bert once famously said before his losing fight with a come-backing George Foreman how he had “probably slept two or three hours in the last two or three days.”

But when he was ready to fight hard, Cooper was a force to be reckoned with. Fans still talk about the way Cooper, who was given just six days’ notice (and fighters today, some of them anyway, were moaning that six weeks was not enough time to get ready to fight Anthony Joshua for the world title), became the first man to drop Evander Holyfield. Cooper was eventually stopped but what a war he gave Holyfield.”

“Smoking” Bert Cooper (38-25-0, KO’s 31), 2-time World Heavyweight Title challanger (1991 & 1992), former NABF Cruiserweight Champion (1986-1989) & NABF Heavyweight Champion (1990-1990), former WBF Heavyweight Title holder (1997), former USA Pennsylvania State heavyweight champion (2002).

Victories over the likes of: Orlin Norris, Joe Hipp, Henry Tillman, Willie deWit etc.

Lost to champs & top contenders like: George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Michael Moorer, Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, Mike Weaver, Corrie Sanders, Chris Byrd, Carl Williams, Luis Ortiz, Larry Donald, Fres Oquendo, Joe Mesi, Chauncy Welliver.

Cooper was at one point CLOSE to being a re-incarated Joe Frazier. He surely had his athletics and power, but not the hunger or discipline like Frazier had that made him to a great champ. And when Cooper started with drugs, that was a heart-breaking break-point for old champ Joe who threw Cooper out of his gym in disgust and disappointment for his former protégé.” https://www.boxing247.com/boxing-news/r-i-p-smokin-bert-cooper-1966-2019/117824

For Those In Need of A “Breakthrough”

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Does your prayer life need new life? Does your faith need a fix? Does your belief in the miraculous need some motivation? Then the film “Breakthrough” is for you. It’s especially for you. I believe in miracles, and this film just wrecked me. “Breakthrough” gave me reason to hope all over again. It’s a hard hitting, warm and fuzzy, cerebral yet practical primer on why we all should believe in God.

“Breakthrough” is the ultlimate upset win. It’s a classic comeback, and a total turnaround. John Smith, a 14 -year old star basketball player, is a typical teen. He doesn’t listen to his mom, he doesn’t do his homework, and he doesn’t think he’s living on thin ice. But he is. And yet God gives him a new lease on life with a second chance to make a difference.

In “Breaktkhorugh” it took the faith of a mother and the prayers of the saints to bring John back from the dead. It has intertwined layers of ethos and multiple levels of pathos, all mixed in to a solid, yet sordid story about life and love and how to live a victorious Christian life. Take it from me and do yourself a favor; read this blog and then go out and watch this film. It’s that good. It will do wonders for your soul.

Here’s the New York Times film review by Bilge Ebiri:

“In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell through the frozen surface of a lake in St. Charles, Mo., and remained submerged for 15 minutes. He had no pulse when emergency workers pulled him from the freezing water, or for nearly 45 minutes after; it was reportedly only after audible prayers by his mother, Joyce, that his heart finally started up again. And over the next several days, as his community vigorously prayed for him, the young man made a full, seemingly impossible recovery.

Roxann Dawson’s faith-based film, “Breakthrough,” tells the story of John’s miraculous ordeal with an unassuming simplicity, focusing on the harrowing details of the case without an overreliance on proselytization. Though faith is ever-present — particularly through the devotion of Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and the town’s struggling young pastor (Topher Grace), who remain with John (Marcel Ruiz) every step of the way — the film also wisely dedicates plenty of screen time to the emergency workers and doctors struggling to bring the boy back to life. Here, religion is not in contention with medicine, but seems to work in tandem with it.

The filmmaking may at times be direct and inelegant, but “Breakthrough” isn’t without nuance. Dawson (a TV veteran directing her first feature film) doesn’t sidestep the thorny issue of selective miracles — after returning to school, John wrestles with the fact that he was spared from death while many others aren’t. “Breakthrough” is more suggestive than evangelical, and its willingness to let the mystery of the young man’s survival linger enhances the film’s power. You don’t have to believe in divine intervention to be moved by this story.”

Tiger Woods Wins The 2019 Masters!

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In what might be the greatest comeback in sports history, Tiger Woods outlasted a loaded leaderboard to win the 2019 Masters and win his first major in more than a decade.

Tiger did it. He absolutely did it. After five years and major surgery, Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters golf tournament. And despite what you think of him or what he went through, his comeback is noteworthy. It took faith and guts and fortitude and gumption.

So here’s to Tiger. He came back and his comeback is a throwback to when we fell in love with him way back.

Here’s how Sports Illustrated reported the epic win:

“Tiger shot a final-round 70 on Sunday at the Masters to claim his fifth green jacket and 15th major championship, his first since 2008. Woods trailed Francesco Molinari by two shots entering the final day, but used a vintage back-nine to claim the tournament, redemption and a victory many golf fans thought they would never see.”

So you see, on this Good Friday, we look back to the Cross, the Old Rugged Cross, and remember that after death comes life. And for Tiger, after a meteoric rise and a very public and humiliating fall, he too has risen from the dead.

You Wanna’ Bet?

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The Eagles were not supposed to make the playoffs this year, but they did. At one point in this post Super Bowl celebration season, the Eagles were 4-6 after being embarrassed by the New Orleans Saints in a 48 -7 blowout loss.

The Eagles weren’t supposed to beat DA Bears in Chicago at Soldier Field. But they did.  The Chicago Bears have the NFL’s No. 1 Defense, and everybody said that the Eagles didn’t stand a chance against them.

And Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey WAS supposed to make a field goal to win the game, but he didn’t. Cody Parkey missed a very makeable 43-yard field goal with five seconds left on the clock. And Parkey didn’t just miss it, he hit the left upright – again (he hit the upright five times this season) and then the ball bounced off the crossbar into the end zone.   And the final irony is that Cody Parkey is a former Eagle!

Final score: Eagles 16 – Bears 15. Game over.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles did it again. Nick Foles lead the Eagles to yet another improbable, late game comeback. This time it was against the most dominant defense in football, on the road, late in the game with his team’s back against the wall.

Saint Nick engineered a 12-play, 60-yard drive in the closing minutes and found trade-deadline acquisition Golden Tate for a 2-yard touchdown on fourth down to lift the Eagles over the Chicago Bears, 16-15, in a wild-card matchup at Soldier Field. The Eagles earned the right and advance to play the top-seeded New Orleans Saints in the divisional round Sunday.

The slang term “you wanna bet” is said in answer to something that someone has said, meaning that you are certain that they are wrong. Case in point, the Eagles improbable Super Bowl Victory last year when everybody bet against us, but we still won. Need I say more?

Now, in this post Super Bowl celebration season, Eagles fans believe that we are playing with house money. According to the Urban Dictionary, “playing with house money refers to money that was given to you, easily obtained or stumbled upon. In other words risking it in a bet means you would have nothing to lose. Eagles fans are certain that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain in these playoffs. It’s kinda like last year when no one picked us to win the Super Bowl when Carson Wentz went down to injury. But everybody was wrong.

In sports playing on house money refers to going up against an overwhelming favorite and playing loose and free like you have nothing to lose. A number 16 seed playing against a number one seed in the NCAA tourney would be playing on house money. And the Eagles, the No 6 Seed in this year’s NFL Playoffs tournament, are absolutely the underdog AGAIN!

Living life on house money refers to narrowly escaping death at some previous point in your life. In other words you have defied death and every day that you are still breathing is a bonus. And that is what we as believers do. Through Jesus Christ we have escaped death. Now we have nothing to lose and everything to gain if we live our lives sold out in complete obedience to the will and ways of God. It takes faith and courage. Because God never fails.

So the moral of the story is, I don’t encourage or endorse betting, but you can always bet on God. Always.

You wanna’ bet? 

After 50 Points, This One-Time MVP Is Smellin’ Like A Rose

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Derrick Rose scores 50-points for the first time in his career

You can’t help but be happy for DRose. He turned it around. He absolutely came back from way back when no one thought or dreamt or even bet he could. Yes, we’re talking about Derrick Rose, the onetime League MVP and Rookie of the Year. And in 2011, Rose, with Jimmy Butler at his side, lead a Chicago Bulls team that was 62 -20, and the No. 1 Seed in the playoffs. But that was then, and this is now.

At one point, many argued that Rose was the best point guard in the NBA. Yet those high career highs have been replaced with some very low and lonely lows. Of late, Rose has been through heartache and heart break; injury and rehabilitation and trades and new teams have been the hallmark of his rickety, rockety career.

Now, Rose continues to rebuild his career and has found a home in Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, again. Now, Rose is working to rebuild his commitment to his craft and his confidence in himself and his faith in his future ability to be the player he knows he can be.

After scoring 50 points, including the game winning basket in the 128-125 win over the Utah Jazz, Rose was in tears. Tears. He actually was sobbing as the emotions bubbled up and boiled over in an open show of gratitude and thankfulness.

Good for you DRose. Good for you. All of basketball is happy and is rejoicing with you.

Here’s how ESPN reported on the revival of Derrick Rose:

“To say Derrick Rose has had a rough few years would be an understatement. The former league MVP saw his run with the Chicago Bulls come to an unceremonious end, played one disappointing season with the New York Knicks, then signed on to join the Cleveland Cavaliers’ star-studded lineup last season, only to end up taking a leave of absence from the team before eventually being traded.

When he signed on with the Minnesota Timberwolves late last season, it was seen as a coach doing a favor for his former star player. But Rose never lost faith in himself, telling The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, ‘Anything that comes my way I am going to grab it.’

He did that in a big way Wednesday night, scoring a career-high 50 points to lead the Wolves to a three-point win. He made the go-ahead basket with 30 seconds left, then gave Minnesota a three-point cushion with a pair of free throws with 13.8 seconds left to reach the 50-point mark.” http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/25139327/derrick-rose-scored-50-points-nba-players-loved-it

The Eagles Are Baaaaaaaaack!

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Philadelphia Eagles Star Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles, for the first time this season, looked like their 2017 selves Thursday night. They weren’t nearly perfect, but they led comfortably throughout what would eventually become a 34-13 pasting of the New York Giants at Giants Stadium, err, I mean MetLife Stadium. With the big win, the Eagles may well have saved the NFC East from becoming the NFC Least!

With the big win, Carson Wentz and the Eagles are baaaaaaaack! They’ve climbed back to .500, so now at 3-3, they can legitimately say that the are again the class of the NFC East. Things were looking kind of dicey there for a while, but the Super Bowl Champs are back; they’ve turned things around and straightened some things out, so let’s just hope they’re back to stay.

OK, so yes they beat the hapless, helpless New York Football Giants, so let’s not get carried away or get too ahead ourselves. No, they did NOT play perfect, championship level football. Yes, they looked better than they have since the Super Bowl, and no they can’t punch their ticket to Super Bowl LIII just yet. One win doesn’t erase the previous five weeks. The Eagles still have issues and still have an increasing number of injuries. But it had to feel good to get ahead early, expand the lead, and put an opponent away with rather ease.

It took until Week 6, but the Eagles finally played to expectations. The Eagles offense finally caught up to Carson Wentz in the road win, and with Fletcher Cox leading the way, the Eagles pass rush turned up the heat on Eli Manning. No, Eli is not the Eli of old, because this Eli is now old man Eli. He struggled all game, and that’s putting it kindly.

The only bright spot for the Giants and the only blemish for the Eagles is how the Birds let rookie sensation Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Barkley made like Red Grange out there, “The Galloping Ghost” who played for the Chicago Bears way back. Barkley ran the ball 13 times for 130 yards, catching it nine times for 99 yards, and zigging every time the Eagles zagged as he made Manning’s numbers look better than they truly were.

But enough about Eli Manning and the Giants already. Let’s get back to my Eagles, the defending Super Bowl Champs!

The win wasn’t exactly pretty or simple. The Eagles were playing on three days’ rest, they had to travel up the Jersey Turnpike, and the Giants have enough firepower to have produced the opposite result. But they caught a squad that’s reeling with an aging, ineffective quarterback. Jim Schwartz’s defense deserves credit for getting after Eli Manning, but the 37-year-old quarterback is all but done. The Giants will win some more games, and Manning might have some decent outings on paper, but he’s no longer capable of willing his team to victory. He doesn’t trust his arm to throw downfield and doesn’t have the necessary athleticism to extend plays in the pocket behind a leaky offensive line.

The 3-3 Eagles don’t have to worry about the Giants in the division. The Redskins (2-2) and Cowboys (2-3) are still clearly in the NFC East picture, but when the Eagles play as they did Thursday, with an elite quarterback firing on all cylinders, a suffocating defense with a ferocious pass rush and special teams that are mistake-free, there are few teams that can keep up.” http://www2.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/eagles-giants-carson-wentz-fletcher-cox-alshon-jeffery-what-we-learned-thursday-night-football-20181012.html

So let’s celebrate the win, but let’s not celebrate too long or too much. There’s still much work to do; there’s still too much at stake, as defending our title and defending our honor is still on the line.

And this is the same lesson all of the rest of us need to learn too.