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

Who Dat? Drew Brees Makes History as the Perfect Professional QB

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October 8, 2018: Drew Brees Sets All Time NFL Passing Record at 71, 968,

 Drew Brees just made history. Drew Brees just set a new NFL passing record. Tonight on Monday Night Football, Brees surpassed Peyton Manning to become the all-time passing leader in NFL history.  He threw to eight different receivers and amassed 250 in one half of football to set the new record. And he threw to a wide open Tre’Quan Smith for 62 yards to go over the top with 71,968 yards passing . . .  and counting. You go boy!

So here’s to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, and to all of those faithful Saints fans screaming and hollering and chanting “Who Dat” at the Super Dome. We’re all so happy for Drew, as is the rest of the watching football world. He’s worked so hard and he deserves so much; he’s won Super Bowl XLIV in 2009, he’s a perennial Pro Bowler, and he’s on his way to Canton Ohio (the Hall of Fame), certainly on the first ballot.  Brees is absolutely deserving of all the accolades we can heap upon him, because he’s the perfect professional.  

So how about you? Are you watching history or making history?  In other words, are you a professional or an amature?  Do you bring your “A” game every game, night in and night out, or do you make excuses or point fingers or take plays off during your contract year because you don’t want to hurt your chances of getting a max contract? 

Let’s take a page from Drew Brees’ playbook: play hard, play smart, and play to win, every game.  Above all, love your family, and put them first.  These are the traits of a true champion and a perfect professional.  Oh, and one more thing – don’t chase records – let the records chase you.

Victoria Arlen: “Face It, Embrace It, Defy It, Conquer It”

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If you need a good cry, a downright tearjerker, or you just want to sob for joy, watch the new 30 For 30 Shorts Documentary about Victoria Arlen. After overcoming insurmountable odds at a young age, Victoria has lived each and every day to the tune of her motto “face it, embrace it, defy it, conquer it.”

It’s must see TV. Here’s a snippet from Victoria’ web page.

“Imagine for a moment being trapped inside your own body for four grueling years, unable to communicate with the outside world as your health continued to deteriorate while expert doctors offer your loved ones no signs of hope. Yet you were still there. In mind and spirit you were still you, desperately trying to find a way back to the life you once knew. Victoria Arlen has not only been through this astonishing battle simply to survive, but she has found ways to thrive and has turned her life’s challenges into an unending source of fuel that has led to extraordinary accomplishments.”

“I was told it couldn’t be done. My dream was impossible. But on March 3, 2016, after spending 10 years in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down, I took my first steps without assistance. That was no easy task.”

Victoria Arlen went from a horrific sickness to being paralyzed from the waist down to winning gold medals at the London Para-Olympic Games in 2012 to being a runner up in Dancing with the Stars. Vitoria has an absolutely incredible testimony.

Victoria Arlen sounds like a candidate for a chapter in the next volume of “Upsets Comebacks and Turnarounds.”

Brian Dawkins: The Best Eagle Ever

 

 

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Brian Dawkins 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Speech

Faith, family & football: these are the three key elements in the life of Brian Dawkins, arguably one of the best players to don a Philadelphia Eagles uniform in the modern era. Dawkins is passionate about everything, and everything starts with faith. Faith the noun and faith the verb were Dawkins’ No. 1 traits. He practiced what he preached and he lived what he learned.

Dawkins’ speech at the 2018 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony was one for the ages. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and stop reading right now and watch it. Please. It’s totally worth it. B-Dawk was the first Eagle to reach the Hall since Reggie White, the “Minister of Defense” in 2005, and it was worth the wait. I’ve watched the clip over and over and I’m moved to tears and cry like a baby every time.

Dawkins began his speech by giving praise to God. He shouted “hallelujah” before uttering any other words. It set the tone and paved the way for a stirring, rousing, emotionally moving speech that revealed that there was no shame in Brian Dawkins game. His past, private struggles are now very public, as he detailed how his pain gave birth to his gain. Dawkins faith and his family, especially his wife, were vital to helping him deal with the vicissitudes of his life,

Dawkins was a great football player and he wasn’t great by accident. He was a great player because he is a better person. He urged everyone not to settle, but to push through the pain, because there is purpose in pain. You saw how he played the game; he played with reckless abandon. And that’s how he lives. Dawkins told us that his pain increased his faith exponentially. He said that he went “through” his struggles – he did not stay in them. And he encouraged everyone with these words: “Don’t stay where you are; keep moving and keep pressing through.”  

If we didn’t learn anything else from the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, we learned this; it’s faith that gets us through, it’s family that carries us through, and football, for most of the inductees, as rough and tough as it can be, connected the two together. Brian Dawkins, Randy Moss and Ray Lewis are symbols of the faith we need to have in God, the strength that family gives us, and the joy of being a part of a championship caliber team that endures pain and struggle and secures victories and upsets and comebacks and turnarounds in providential ways. 

So take it from Brian Dawkins: push through. There’s s gain on the other side of your pain.

 

Cinderella Lives! UMBC Defeats UVA 74-54

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It has never happened before. It wasn’t supposed to happen ever.  And it certainly was NOT supposed to happen to this UVA team. And not like this. But it did. Little UMBC handed the second glass slipper to the prince and now they can go on to live happily ever after. Well, not quite, but close. 

The University of Maryland Baltimore County defeated No. 1 ranked Virginia and it wasn’t even close.  What made the win so stunning? UVA was utterly outplayed and out-coached and outclassed. It was a sight to see. The group text I sent to my sons long before the end of the game was this: “We’re watching history in the making.” It may well have been the most improbable upset win in sports history.  That’s ALL of sports. 

Yes the score was tied at the half, 21-21. Yes UVA was missing their star freshman guard DeAndre Hunter; and yes, everyone thought UVA would come out in the second half and take over the game. That’s what we thought, but that’s not what UMBC dreamed.  UVA was picked to win it all. Not so. UVA wasn’t just a No. 1 Seed, they were the OVER ALL No. 1 Seed. UVA never got on track and UMBC did. And they ran UVA right out of the gym. They won by 20 points. Twenty points! That wasn’t just a win, it was a beatdown.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County stunned the University of Virginia, 74-54, in the biggest upset in tournament history. The Retrievers were 22.5-point underdogs. Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, as the Retrievers blew open a tie game at the half and outscored arguably the best defensive team in the nation 53- 23 after intermission. Before this loss, Virginia was 31-2 on the season and the top overall seed.

For many March Madness fans, the upset also breaks  and busts their brackets. Virginia was the most popular pick to win the tournament in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge.

The tiny Maryland school, which lost to teams such as Colgate, Army and Towson this year, relished the attention.  They believed in each other and listened to their coach, who after the game seemed like he just finished brushing his teeth. Coach, you just defeated a No. 1 Seed!  To him, it seemed like no big deal; he was so calm, cool and collected he had time to speak of the next game and winning that one too.  I like him.  I like this coach a lot.

Now UBMC will live in infamy as the ONLY No. 16 Seed to defeat a No. 1 Seed EVER.  And so, by faith, dreams do indeed come true.

And that’s why we love the madness of March.

Coach Jimmy V

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Coach Jimmy Valvano gave one of the most sensational, inspirational and motivational speaches EVER at the 1993 ESPY’s. He coached the NC State Wolfpack to a miraculous win in the 1984 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final with a ragtag, no name bunch of bandits.

Coach Valvano will forever be loved and beloved and remembered for this remarkable, unprecediented, upset, comeback, Cinderalla victory. It’s the win that gave new meaning to the term “March Madness.”

But Jimmy V will mosly be remembered for this speach. It’s worth watching again and again. its powerful inspirational about sports, God and life.

Check it out.

Powerful Inspirational about Sports, God and Life

The Beginning of the Season, and The End of Football (as we know it)

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As much as I love football, and as much as you love football, and as much as America loves football, football will not last forever. It can’t.  Given how it’s butchering our boys and maiming our men, this just can’t go on forever.

Retired NFL star Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease when he committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 43, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. ABC News/ESPN reported that Seau’s family was told of the findings, which determined the brain of the All-Pro linebacker showed abnormalities associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Here’s a blog from Kevin Mind about the impending end of football:

“Evan Murray was a 17-year-old high school senior, honor student, and three-sport athlete who died recently as a direct result of injuries sustained playing quarterback for his school football team.  On the last play of his life, he got drilled by a defender with a clean hit to the midsection.  He gathered himself, rose, and walked off the field on his own.  Shortly thereafter, however, he collapsed on the sideline and the on-site ambulance transported him to the hospital.  It’s unclear what happened next, whether he died en route to the hospital or in the ER or during emergency surgery.  He died, though.  That much is true.  The 17 year old boy died playing a game on a Friday night in his hometown under the lights in front of friends and family.

The worst part is that Evan Murray was not an anomaly.  In the past three weeks, three high school football players have died from football related injuries.  Ben Hamm was a 16-year-old kid from Oklahoma, who collapsed after a tackle.  The impact of the hit caused significant intracranial bleeding.  And despite the best efforts of local neurosurgeons, he was unable to be saved.  Before that, Tyrell Cameron, a 16-year-old from Louisiana, broke his neck covering a punt and died on the field from asphyxiation.  Three deaths in three weeks.  Three teenagers.

Every year 12 boys and young men die playing high school or college football.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, I guess, in the grand scheme of things.  More teenagers and young adults die in traffic accidents over Christmas break than in 20 years of amateur football competitions.  And many of those football deaths are more a function of underlying medical issues like cardiac abnormalities or sickle cell disease.  But many are directly football related.  What if only six kids died every year as a result of football injury?  Does that make it any better?  Is that a number we are all comfortable with?  I have a four-year-old son.   The idea of sending him out to play a game in which there is a statistical possibility that he might die on the playing field makes my stomach turn.

And we haven’t even mentioned the long-term effects of repeated head trauma that football players sustain.  Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative disease affecting people who are subjected to repeated concussive and sub-concussive head traumas leading to progressive neurologic decline, dementia, and psychiatric instability. 

Formerly known as “Punch Drunk Syndrome” when used to describe retired pugilists, the pathophysiology has been well documented and described, especially at Boston University, by neurologists and pathologists studying the brains of selected deceased football players, both from the professional and amateur ranks.  Frontline, the investigative arm of PBS, recently reported on findings from Veterans Administration/Boston University researchers that confirmed CTE in the brains of 87 of 91 former NFL players studied and 131 out of 165 men who had played football either professionally or in high school/college.  The National Football League recently settled a class-action lawsuit brought by thousands of former players suffering from the ravages of CTE for $765 million.

But you object, and you say:  ‘CTE is a disease of older, retired, broken down NFL players — think Mike Webster, Gene Hickerson, John Mackey — players who played long ago in a far more brutal, less regulated era.  We have high-tech helmets now, and penalties for spearing and headshots and you can’t hit the quarterback after he throws.  The game’s been cleaned up, you say.  There are ‘concussion protocols’!  It’s safer!  Roger Goodell said so!’”

 http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2015/10/end-football-coming-doctor-says-cant-come-fast-enough.html

 

This just can’t go on forever.