Bryce Haper Wins The 2018 HR Derby with a Flair for the Dramatic

Bryce Harper 2018 Home Run Derby

Bryce Harper vowed to enter, and win, the MLB Homerun Derby if and when the All Star Game was held in his hometown. Well, last night was the night. In dramatic, come from behind, flamboyant fashion, Bryce Harper avoided flaming out at home as he was “on the verge of an anticlimactic ending. Instead Harper began a furious comeback with a nod and some family karma. Down 18-9 to the Chicago Cubs Kyle Schwarber in the final round, Bryce went deep nine times in a span of 10 swings to tie it at the end of regulation. Then he drove the second pitch of bonus time over the fence in center field to win the thing, and all sorts of raw emotions came flooding to the surface.

As magenta steamers rained down from high above the stands behind home plate, Harper walked triumphantly down the first-base line with his bat raised high above his head. Then teammates Sean Doolittle and Max Scherzer came out and handed him the Home Run Derby trophy, and Martinez lifted him off the ground in a mammoth bear hug. It was a moment of sweet relief and unbridled joy in a season with too many negative undertones.

It was a welcome respite for a town and a team playing trying to live up to the hype.

The Washington Nationals are playing below expectations and their boy wonder is having a so-so year. He’s hitting .214. and his 23 home runs are offset by 102 strikeouts and a .187 batting average since the start of May. The Nationals are 5½ games behind first-place Philadelphia and five back of second-place Atlanta in the National League East, and they’re going to have to pick up their play considerably to avoid being one of 2018’s colossal disappointments.

While Harper struggles, Manny Machado is having a more productive season in Baltimore and laying an early claim to the bigger payday in the offseason. Somber, distracted and underachieving are never a good recipe for getting the most out of a free-agent “walk” year.

The 2018 Home Run Derby took on extra meaning for Harper, who participated in the event as a shoutout to the home crowd in what might be his final season in Washington. For sentimentalists, he brought along his father, Ron, as his designated Derby pitcher.

‘It’s unbelievable,’’ Harper said. ‘We have some of the best fans in baseball, and to be able to do that with my family out there, that’s an incredible moment — not only for me, but for the organization and Nationals fans. I’m very blessed and humbled.’”  http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/24116616/mlb-bryce-harper-brings-house-epic-derby-comeback

And that’s the beauty of sports. It gives us a taste and a glimpse of what God gives us heaps and hordes of, and that’s victories and triumphs with a flair for the dramatic. David defeated Goliath and his unheralded victory had a flair for the dramatic. Moses parted the Red Sea as the children of Israel fled Pharoah and his army, and that escape from Egypt had a flair for the dramatic. And of course our Lord was crucified on the old rugged cross, and His resurrection from the dead had a flair for the dramatic.

Is Serena Williams The Best Women’s Tennis Player Ever?

serena-williams-wins-wimbledon

Who are the best athletes ever?

In some sports, there is an ongoing, if not raging debate about who is the G.O.A.T., a.k.a., the greatest of all time. But not in women’s tennis. In women’s tennis there isn’t even the slightest hint of discussion about the best to play the game, ever.

In Basketball, the debate rages on between LeBron and Michael. And for football quarterbacks, it’s Brady vs. Montana, with honorable mentions to Bradshaw, Marino and Favre, Steve Young and John Elway and Peyton Manning, and of course, Roger Staubach.

Hockey is easy: Gretzy the Great will forever hold that title. Baseball is a little harder to pin down, but certainly it’s got to be the Babe or some other Yankee. In other sports, such as women’s gymnastics, Nadia Comaneci’s name comes immediately to mind as she is certainly is at the top of the list. In men’s swimming, Michael Phelps has dominated of late.

Since it’s the season for Wimbledon, we focus on tennis. In men’s tennis, Federer just lost in the quarterfinals for the first time ever (that was a fluke, right?), but he’s still got to be at the top of the list along with Nadal and Sampras and my man Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendl and McEnroe and Andre Agassi and even Jimmy Connors.

But when it comes to women’s tennis, there is absolutely no debate. None. We all loved watching Chrissy Everett, and respected Martina Navratilova, and Monica Seles and Steffi Graff. But when it comes to tennis, there is only one queen. Serena. Not even her sister Venus gets an honorable mention. Serena reigns supreme.

Serena is one win away from wining her eighth major championship, at Wimbledon alone. Here’s how ESPN put it:

“Even after more than a year away from the tour, even after a health scare while having a baby a little more than 10 months ago, Williams is still capable of dominance.

A relatively routine 6-2, 6-4 semifinal victory over 13th-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany on Thursday put Williams into her 10th final at the All England Club and moved her closer to a 24th Grand Slam title, which would equal Margaret Court’s record.

‘It’s crazy. I don’t even know how to feel, you know, because literally, I didn’t expect to do this well in my fourth tournament back,’ Williams said. ‘I just feel like when I don’t have anything to lose, I just can play so free, and that’s kind of what I’m doing.’

After hitting five aces with a serve that reached 119 mph, delivering 16 winners to only seven unforced errors, and covering the court so well with speed and effort against Goerges, Williams will face another German, 11th-seeded Angelique Kerber, on Saturday. http://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/24076249/wimbledon-2018-serena-williams-angelique-kerber-reach-final

That was the play-by-play. Now here’s the commentary: the great ones in every sport inspire us to do our best, to be at our best, and to stay at our best. Because we love to watch the best, and only the best. We like excellence in everything, especially sports. And that’s what sports do for us. Great players give us excellence, and the best ones do that (mostly) all of the time.

Spiritually, God requires excellence as well. Since we can’t be at our best all of the time on our own, He now asks — not demands, but asks — that allow Him to help us be at our best, live at our best, and stay at our best, all of the time. Naturally, that’s what Serena is doing on the court. Naturally and spiritually, that’s God wants to help us do every day in every way.

The Rich Get Richer: “Booggie” Boogies to Golden State

DeMarcus-Cousins (1)
DeMarcus Cousins signed with the Golden State Warriors, and we can’t believe it either.

This Just In: In case you haven’t heard, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins has signed a one year deal with the Golden State Warriors. That’s right, the reigning NBA Champions just got better.  It’s so incredible, so inconceivable, and so indescribable a development that I must defer to ESPN to give us the low down:

“According to most, when healthy (and that includes his attitude), Cousins is maybe the best center in the world, and that includes Joel Embiid. He is utterly unstoppable at what he does, one of just eight players in NBA history to average at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a single season — which he accomplished last season through 48 games before he went down.

He also shot 47 percent from the field, and better than 35 percent from 3-point range, as a seven-footer. Seriously, I think people have kind of forgotten how incredibly dominant this guy is, or they’re at least leaning a little too heavily on the idea that his injury is going to keep him from ever being that player again. No doubt, an Achilles tear is a big-time injury. Probably the worst one a basketball player can suffer. And it’s only worse for a big man carrying around 270 pounds of listed weight.

But this is where smart teams weight the risk vs. reward, and right about now, the Warriors are looking a lot smarter than, well, just about everyone else. Again, the guy took a one-year deal on the mid-level exception for $5.3 million. Kevin Durant saved the Warriors pretty much that exact amount when he signed for $5.6 million less than he was eligible to make in the first year of his new two-year contract. In essence, the Warriors got Cousins for free.

Cousins reportedly said he didn’t receive even a single offer from another team. That may or may not be true. Perhaps he just didn’t receive an offer to his liking. It’s understandable that he would want max money, or something close to it, and it’s equally understandable that no one would dream of giving him that with the uncertainty surrounding his injury. But clearly the guy was willing to talk, and ultimately take a small deal as an opportunity to prove himself, particularly with a team that could offer him the chance to play alongside superstar(s).

In the end, the real winner here is Cousins, who can take his time getting back to full strength on a team that doesn’t need him in any way. Seriously, they don’t need him. Potentially one of the best players in the league is a luxury. And a very cheap one. If he makes it back to something near full strength, the Warriors are going to be the greatest basketball team ever assembled, bar none. Discussion over.

Imagine trying to keep your eye on the two greatest shooters in NBA history in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, quite possibly the greatest pure scorer in history in Durant, and even if you somehow manage to stop those three (which you won’t), you now have to deal with a seven-footer who averaged 25 points and 13 boards last year. Then, even if you shut all four of those guys down, you have a borderline Hall of Famer in Andre Iguodala COMING OFF THE BENCH. Then, on the less than 1 percent chance all those guys are having an off night on the same night, the Warriors, behind one of the 10 best defenders ever in Draymond Green, have the best defense in the league, too. It’s a joke.

All of this is going to let Cousins do nothing but shine if his Achilles is up to it. The guy is used to defenses swarming him. He won’t believe the one-on-one matchups he’ll get with defenses terrified of leaving those shooters open. He’ll learn to play a more modern style with all the Warriors’ ball and player movement, and he’ll remind people that he’s a good passer when given the opportunity. He’ll probably win a championship for his trouble. And then he hits the open market in 2019 as an unrestricted free agent having proved to the league, in the most player-friendly environment imaginable, that he’s still a force. Then he gets paid. It’s brilliant.”

“This is my ace of spades,” Cousins told ESPN on Monday. “This is my chess move.”

Sports once again gives us life lessons to live by. The rich indeed do get richer. But it does not mean that the poor need to get poorer. At least not any NBA teams.  There should be enough talent to go around. Shouldn’t there be?  So what’s your chess move? How will you get better? 

Kawhi Leonard: Demand A Trade

Kawhi Leonard

LeBron James has opted out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This means that the King is now an unrestricted free agent. While this is not a big surprise, what happens next could be.  The Sixers, yes the Philadelphia 76ers, are in the LeBron James sweepstakes. Reportedly, the Sixers can pretty reasonably create the cap space to just sign him outright, but that’s not the big news either. Here’s the skinny from CBS Sports staff writer, Brad Botkin:

“Where this really gets interesting is Philly has a very attractive package to offer for Leonard, with reports out there that the Spurs could be interested in a deal involving Dario Saric and Robert Covington. San Antonio would clearly prefer to trade Kawhi to the East, even if they’ve predictably backed off their stance of ruling out a trade with a team from the Western Conference, and if he were to end up in Philly, if the Sixers could live with the risk of him being a potential one-year rental, suddenly James joining Philly would become his only real chance to play on a super team next year.

Imagine the possibilities of a lineup including James, Kawhi, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Yes, James would have to play off the ball more as Simmons is not equipped at all to do so with his inability to shoot outside 10 feet, but from every other perspective, this is a juggernaut. Defensive versatility. Playmaking everywhere. This would be an incredible team. Keep an eye on this.”

So, it seems that Kawhi, who has done well in San Antonio under the reigning dean of NBA coaches, Greg Popovich, is “demanding a trade.” Not overtly or vehemently, but he seems to want out of San Antonio nonetheless.  So what’s the spiritual lesson to be learned here?”

If you are not victorious in any and every situation in your life, you should demand a trade. If your situation is not to your liking, demand a trade. Is the job stressful? Demand a trade!  Is your money funny?  Demand a trade. Is your current station or status in life not working?  Demand a trade. You might not get out of the situation, but you can demand that your situation improves and gets better than it is.

A better situation is what we all strive and struggle for and want and wish for, right? An improved and enhanced life and lifestyle should always be the aim and ambition of our hearts. So, in prayer, beseech and believe Heaven to trade your stress and strain for a bigger and better and higher and healthier situation than the one you’ve got right now.  Stop settling for the mild and mediocre. Stop accepting less that what you deserve. Stop letting the abundant life that Jesus promised slip away. Just trust Him.

And demand a trade.

It’s Time To Be A Philly Fanatic, a.k.a., Baseball Anyone?

It’s officially time to watch baseball fanatically! Just don’t be like the Phillies mascot who injured a female fan by nailing her in the face with a hot dog shot out of the hot dog cannon. Sheesh.

It’s officially summertime so that means that the boys of summer now get to take center stage. The NBA just crowned the Golden State Warriors again and the surprising Washington Capitals finally captured Lord Stanley’s Cup, after a very long chase. So all that remains is baseball.

What’s that you say? The World Cup is being played in Russia? Seriously? So why didn’t the good ole US-of-A get invited? Huh? They didn’t qualify? Really? I thought Trump and Putin were buddies?

Anyway, it’s now time to pay attention to baseball. What’s that you say? The WNBA is playing their summer league season? Like I said, it’s time to pay attention to baseball and the boys of summer (no offense to the basketball ladies, but the WNBA just doesn’t do it for me).

Anyway, back to baseball. The Evil Empire New York Yankees and their bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox, are at again, going at it, neck and neck, tooth and nail, and it’s fun to watch — the standings that is. I mean, it’s just June and we have a pennant race! And that’s not the only one.

My Philly Phillies just whipped and whupped the presumptive National League favorite to go to the World Series, the Washington Nationals, 12 – 2, and reclaimed second place in the East! Whoop whoop! So there! Here’s what one ESPN writer had to say about my Phillies:

“In the opener of a three-game set in D.C., the Phillies trounced the Nationals 12-2, in the process leapfrogging them for second place in the NL East. Philly is now 8-3 in its past 11 games, while Washington is 3-8 in its past 11. Even though the division rivals will square off twice more this weekend, not to mention 13 more times after that, and even though there’s over half a season still left to play, the upstart Phils sent a clear message on what turned out to be a Freaky Friday: They’re not planning on going away anytime soon.”

And there are other races worth watching too, like the National League Central with Milwaukee and the Cubbies going head to head and the National League West with Arizona and the Dodgers going neck and neck. And did I mention it’s still June? Pennant races aren’t supposed to start untill late August or mid September. Man!

So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go to the TV, take the remote, tune in to the guide (remember the actual TV Guide that came with the Sunday paper? My little sister and I used to fight over it all the time, but then again she had it memorized) — err, where was I?

Oh yeah- it’s time to watch, and pay attention to baseball!

Go Phillies!

Why Aren’t You Watching The World Cup?

So the reason you’re not watching the 2018 World Cup is what again, exactly? This is the WORLD CUP! It only comes around once every four years. So what’s the problem?

Ok, ok, ok, so let’s fess up. I’ll stop being so hard on you because I’m not watching the World Cup either. Why am I not watching the 2018 World Cup? Here’s my list of excuses:

Number One: To my horror, I found out that the US Men aren’t in it. They’re not? Nope. (Please excuse me while I argue with myself). I mean, I was about to turn on a game (I mean match) and I went to my ESPN App to see when the good ole US of A was playing, and I said to myself or to the App, I’m not sure which, “Where’s the USA?” But low and behold, the US isn’t playing. They’re not. Here’s how one sports reporter put it:

“With the World Cup about to kick off, a lot of Americans are about to commence the quadrennial tradition of following international soccer. However, once you start paying attention to the coverage (or maybe you already have if you’re not a casual fan), you may notice something off. No one is talking about the United States. The reason is simple, so don’t overthink it: The United States didn’t qualify for the World Cup in Russia this year.”

Whaaaat? Seriously?

“So how did this happen after the United States made it to the round of 16 in 2014? What happened in four years that caused the United States to fail to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986? Thirty-two teams qualify, so just what the blank happened?”

I kept reading the article and my head got foggy. So no USA men’s team this time around.

Number Two: We just got finished with the NBA Finals and the Washington Capitals historic Stanley Cup Championship win. So I’m exhausted and need a sports break.

Number Three: I don’t know who to route for. I mean, I’m not touting for the home team, right? So who else is there to cheer for, Nigeria? No offense, but I saw that their fans were banned from bringing live chickens to their games? Seriously?

Oh well. Let’s watch. Let’s watch the USA-less World Cup. Let’s just tune in for the love of the game.

The Boston Celtics: “Control the Controllable”

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics

Is this the end of an era? It just well may be.

LeBron James had a 21 point first quarter and a 42 point, 10 rebound, 12 assist virtuoso, triple double performance in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics; but it wasn’t enough.  LeBron made an incredible, instant classic, step-back three-pointer in that same, ridiculous first quarter, but it wasn’t enough.  The miracle, circus shot was absurd, even by LeBron James’ standards, but it wasn’t enough.

Here’s how Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer put it:

“A step-back, fadeaway, late-clock 3-pointer with one of the league’s best defenders draped all over him. And video of the first-quarter spread like wild-fire on social media as sort of a “Look at what LeBron is doing!” snapshot of his 21-point first-quarter barrage in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Here’s the thing: The Boston Celtics liked that possession an awful lot, too. They liked how Marcus Morris made James work just to navigate from the blocks to the 3-point arc in order to set an initial screen. Or how Marcus Smart, who switched onto James, prevented the Cleveland Cavaliers star first from rolling to the basket, then denied James’ initial attempt to back Smart down.

Yes, James eventually got the ball back and made a ridiculous shot, but the Celtics made him work hard for a low-percentage look. And therein lies one of the secrets to Boston’s success through the first two games of the series: making everything hard for James.

‘If you can, watch every possession. We have a bunch of guys coming out that give everything we got every possession,’ Morris told ESPN. ‘LeBron is great, we all know that. That’s something that everyone knows. So, at the end of the day, we can’t hang our heads on shots that he makes. We know he’s going to take those shots, we know he’s going to make some shots. ‘t the end of the day, we control the controllable.’”

We control the controllable.

That’s the quote, and that’s the lesson. We must control the controllable. There’s so much in this life that we can’t and don’t control. We can’t control what others say or do. We can’t control other’s actions or emotions or responses, but we can control what comes out of our mouths and what goes on in our hearts and heads. And we can absolutely control how we treat people. You may not feel like being kind or caring or forgiving or forbearing, but you can control how you act and you react.

So control the controllable. Control what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t.

Now, back to the presumptive Eastern Conference Champions, the Boston Celtics:

“What the Celtics have controlled is their turnovers, which has eliminated easy transition opportunities. They’ve controlled access to the paint, limiting the chances for James to drive and create for either himself or his teammates. And the Celtics have controlled the intensity, dispatching a never-ending stream of versatile defenders, essentially tasking every player in their rotation with defending James at some point.

The other thing the Celtics control: the series (2-0). Yes, Boston knows it cannot relent in its defensive tenacity as the series shifts to Cleveland for Saturday’s Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But an already irrationally confident group took a James haymaker in Game 2 (42 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) and still won by technical knockout”.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23541621/boston-celtics-defending-lebron-james-east-finals

And so the moral of the story is this: Exit, LeBron, enter Boston.