Tragedy and Triumph

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Louisiana sports reporter Carley McCord is one of five victims killed in a small Lafayette plane crash on the way to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday morning, December 28, 2019.

The triumph for LSU was tremendous, but they simultaneously experienced a tragedy that was equally traumatic. And such is life.

LSU defeated Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl on Saturday night, 63 – 28, as their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow set records for touchdowns and yards and just about everything else. It was an awesome, overwhelming, and overpowering win for Coach Orgeron and the LSU Tigers who have been ranked as the No. 1 college team in the country for most of the year.

But the thrill of victory was overshadowed by the agony of defeat. Earlier in the day, the team learned that offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger lost his daughter-in-law in a plane crash just hours before his team was set to take the field.

Carley McCord — who was also a New Orleans-based sports reporter — was among five people killed in Lafayette, LA Saturday morning as the private aircraft slammed into a parking lot and burst into flames in what’s said to have been an emergency landing after takeoff.

As believers, we are to weep with them that weep, and mourn with them that mourn. So we join with the LSU family as we pause to remember the life of a lady whose time was cut off far too soon. Yes we rejoice over the dramatic win, but let’s not forget that while we rejoice, our hearts are heavy as well.

Rest in peace, Carley McCord.

Note From Joe Burrow: Nice Guys Do Indeed Finish First

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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.

 

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.