Coach Jimmy V: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

UCT Cover

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds: get your copy TODAY!

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, this photo is worth a thousand pictures. The image is that powerful. 

Every time I look at the cover photo for Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds, a book about God and sports, I get goose bumps. It’s a photo that you almost want to jump into. It’s the party that we all want to crash. It’s the celebration that we all want to be a part of. It’s a picture of pure, unbridled and unapologetic joy. There’s nothing in the world like it. That’s why we need Heaven’s help to get it. It’s unspeakable joy.

Coach Jimmy Valvano experienced this kind of indescribable joy when his team pulled off the upset of the ages and won the 1982 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. The picture speaks volumes. After the big win, Coach Jimmy V is being carried off of the court by the fans. The FANS!  It’s not that this doesn’t happen often, it’s that it NEVER happens. Being carried off the court or the field by the players? Yes, that’s happened. But to be carried off by fans is unheard of. After this historic win, the excitement and ecstasy of victory was so moving that it moved the fans close to the winning coach to the point that they undertook this unprecedented uprising.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack defeated the heavily favored University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma team in a NCAA Men’s Basketball Final that will never be forgotten.  Coach Jimmy V’s arms and hands are stretched wide, as the hands and arms of his fans are stretched high to lift him and laud him and raise him and rally around him for the great victory he’d won. And great victories deserve and even demand great celebrations. And that’s what we witness here in this iconic photo.

Joy is great delight, and only comes from something exceptional and unusual. And the 1982 Wolfpack win was truly exceptional. It was a stroke of coaching genius on the part of Coach Jimmy V. The theological tie in is this: isn’t our spiritual victory over sin and Satan by the power of the Cross even more exceptional and extraordinary and moving and marvelous? I believe that Jimmy V’s sports victory is God’s way of giving us a glance and a glimpse of the glorious celebration we will have in Heaven with Him at the end of time.  It’s pure, unspeakable joy, and we don’t have to wait till the end of time to get it.

 We can have this joy in Jesus right now. 

ALL CAPS!

 The Washington Capitals are leading 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Yes, the Washington Capitals! Not only did they make it to the Finals, but they are dominating the opposition, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. And I’m happy for them, and for all of Washington D.C., a town starving and chomping at the bit for a sports champion.

 So here’s to the Caps. It’s All CAPs all the time around the Capital Beltway these days. ALL CAPS means that the team and the fans are ultra and extra and frenzied and fanatical. And I’m happy for them. Yes I am. Because the Bible says that you should rejoice with those that rejoice. So, this time, since it’s been a long time a comin’ for this team that has tried and tried again and again to get to the top, let’s hope that they get there this time.

 

Go Caps!

The Las Vegas Golden Knights!

Who would have thunk it? Few would have thought it. And fewer still would have dreamed it. The expansion team in Vegas, the Golden Knights, the dark horse in the race to win the Stanley Cup, are one step away from winning it all. What a story.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights became the second expansion team in the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB history since 1960 to reach a championship series in their first season. The other team was the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues. It’s an incredible success for a team that had no expectations. The Golden Knights’ management publicly declared a goal of making the playoffs in three years and competing for a Stanley Cup in six.

But in their maiden voyage year, this upstart is about to pull off the unthinkable; an unprecedented triumph of epic proportions. The odds makers had Vegas at 500-1 to win the Stanley Cup Finals! Not 10-1, or even 100-1; 500 -1! Incredible! In theological language, that translates to “they didn’t have a prayer.”

But they must have prayed, because the Hockey gods or the God of Heaven has heard and headed their humble cry.

Who said miracles are a thing of the past?  I’ll be rooting for Vegas!

The Mother Of All Comebacks: Ieshia Champs

“When I was six years old, while playing with an old doll on a beat up sofa, I heard a knock at the door. My grandmother opened the door to reveal a woman I had seen earlier at school that day. My grandmother burst into tears and I was terribly confused. In that moment, I was being taken away and placed in the custody of Children Protective Services. Where was my mother? My father? Both were out on drug binges and I had not seen them in days.

Over the years, the only ounce of stability I received was in the eight hours I spent in the classroom. It was my comfort zone. I was a confused fourteen year old child who had already lived in over six different residences between all four years of high school. Some were friends whose parents allowed me to stay long term, and others were friends who sometimes had to sneak me in to stay the night. I was supposed to be thinking about what color lip gloss to wear or where to hang out with my friends over the weekend, however, I was worried about whose house could I stay at the following day. Soon things became overbearing and I reluctantly dropped out of school during my senior year. I wanted to help others who were in awful situations, perhaps plead someone’s case for innocence, yet I had no diploma and no desire to return to school. As the years grew, my dreams for becoming an attorney died.

By January of 2009, I was a mother of three and given the news of expecting my fourth child. As excited as I was, this turned out to be the most traumatic year I had ever experienced. Each month presented an overwhelming tragedy. I lost everything I owned in a house fire, was laid off from my job, and while seven months pregnant, lost my children’s father to cancer. I was suddenly a single mother of four with nothing to fall back on; not even my sanity.  I had four children, and I was already in my late 20’s. However, in the midst of this turmoil, I went back to school to obtain my GED. I did not want my children to experience what I did as a child. I had to succeed for them and for myself.

Upon matriculation into Thurgood Marshall School of Law, I was scared. I was a mother of five young children, and the only help I had was that of my church family and my sister, who also has five children of her own. My sisters’ love and care for me and my children helped me out in ways that are indescribable. She cooked for us, watched my children and hers after doing long hours at work, and most importantly, she always encouraged me and was a shoulder to lean on when I cried. She has been there every step of the way for me, despite her own personal obstacles she’s had to overcome. My church family has walked this journey with me since day one and has prayed for me daily, talked me out of giving up and most of all, they’ve been a family like no other. They’ve opened their home to me and my children and comforted me. It is situations such as those that gives me the drive and eagerness to become a successful attorney. Many of my peers identify me as a walking testimony, and are amazed at where I am today. I was once told that the odds were against me. I responded by not just defying the odds, but destroying them by resurrecting a dream that died.

I took the pictures with my kids because they helped me through school. They’re graduating too! They would help me review with flash cards while I cooked. They would sit as a mock jury while I taught them what I learned that day. I would sit in my closet and pray and cry because I was overwhelmed and my oldest son, David, would gather his siblings, give them a snack, make them take a bath, gather their school clothes, all to make things easier for me. And I had no knowledge of him doing that until I went to do it!”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ieshia Champs of Houston, Texas.

UVA Coach Tony Bennet: “You Enjoy The Good Times, and You Got To Be Able To Take The Bad Times.”

Once again, sports personifies our favorite professor giving us a sound lecture on how to live life.

UVA Coach Tony Bennett was gracious in defeat. And in defeat he needed grace. Critics derided him for the loss, saying he didn’t do enough for his team or say enough to his team as they went down in defeat to a red hot UMBC team that could do no wrong.

For as humiliating as this must have been for Bennett, the coach handled himself with dignity in the moments after the loss.

The fact is that Bennett was right on the money on this point: “when you enjoy the good times you got to be able to take the bad times.” Amen brother. Here’s the rest of the Coach Bennett post debacle, I mean post game, interview:

“A week ago, we’re cutting down the nets and confetti is falling,” Bennett said. “And then we make history by being the first 1-seed to lose. I’m sure a lot of people will be happy about that, and it stings. But, trying to tell the guys in there, this is life. It can’t define you. You enjoy the good times, and you got to be able to take the bad times.”

And this wasn’t the first time Virginia struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.

“When you step into the arena and you’re in the arena, the consequences can be historic losses, tough losses, great wins, and you have to deal with that,” Bennett said in the interview with CBS. “That’s the job.”

And in another interview, Coach Jim Boeheim of Syracuse came to Bennett’s defense and balanced out the situation with these sage words:

“They pay this guy about $10 million, which they’re to renege on, which is great for a university to do, you have a signed contract with a guy and then say, well, he yelled at his players. That’s — 350 coaches are going to get fired tomorrow for that.

Come on, the tournament is — I’ve lost in this tournament, everybody has. I’ve looked at the list of bad losses, and I couldn’t believe we weren’t even on it. But Mike Krzyzewski has lost, I’ve lost, Roy Williams has lost, Bill Self has lost. Dean Smith lost. There’s nobody that hasn’t lost.

I think you could easily make the case that Tony Bennett’s way overachieved in the regular season and they played like they probably are in the tournament. You could possibly make that case. This year’s a little aberration, obviously. That was a bad — but the other losses, you know, it’s a tough tournament.

And really good coaches, good teams get beat. Tom Izzo is one of the best tournament coaches ever, and I sat there two years ago and watched Middle Tennessee beat them. They played a perfect game. We beat Middle Tennessee the next game by 30, by 30. It’s just basketball.

We lost to Vermont and the next day Tom Izzo, next game Tom Izzo beat Vermont by 20. It’s just the game. It’s a crazy game and the tournament’s a crazy thing. We all know that. We all say that, but then we don’t follow through on that.”

Well said, Coach. Well said.

Dr. Larry Nassar and the Mayhem at Michigan State

Mark Dantonio

 It’s all so sad. It’s all so heart breaking and heart-rending. Misuse is abuse, and abuse of any kind is wrong. It’s actually sin. And sin, when it’s is finished, brings forth death.

Abuse is iniquity at the lowest level. And we just witnessed another case of abuse in sports. “Michigan State professor and doctor for the American gymnastics team, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday for multiple sex crimes, capping an extraordinary seven-day hearing that drew more than 150 young women to publicly confront him and speak of their abuse.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who had opened her courtroom to the young women, including several prominent Olympic athletes, bluntly made clear that Dr. Nassar, 54, was likely to die in prison.”

The Bible is right, for is speaks of what happened to Nassar:

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15, New Living Translation

 And if Nassar’s crimes weren’t bad enough, it has now come to light that members of the Michigan State football and basketball teams are accused of sexual misconduct. 

Here’s the story from ESPN:

“The Michigan State football program did not report three instances of sexual assault and three incidents of physical violence, according to a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines. Outside the Lines reports that at least 16 Michigan State football players have been named in accusations of rape or violence against women since Dantonio took over in 2007.

The report seems to contradict head coach Mark Dantonio’s assertion that there had only been two incidents of sexual assault during his 11-year tenure as head coach.

“We had one incident that involved three people. We had another incident that involved one. We have 120 players usually on our football team,” Dantonio told reporters after four players were kicked off the team and expelled from the university for sexual assault earlier this year.

The details come as part of OTL’s scathing report which details a culture of sexual assault within Michigan State’s football and basketball programs. The university’s athletic department has been in headlines for its mishandling of the Larry Nassar case; Nassar was a faculty member at the university for decades and sexually abused multiple students under the guise of medical treatment during his time there.

According to the OTL report, many accusations of sexual assault were handled by the athletic department, then headed by Mark Hollis, who resigned Friday amid the Nassar fallout. In one instance, Dantonio reportedly handled a sexual assault case by telling the player to talk to his mother about what he did.

The athletic department’s efforts to keep sexual assaults in-house were apparently pretty extensive. When ESPN requested police reports and records for every football and basketball player from ten universities, Michigan State tried to block out the players’ names. ESPN then successfully sued Michigan State for that move, and the names were released.” https://www.si.com/college-football/2018/01/26/michigan-state-football-sexual-assaults-mark-dantonio

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State football coach, said he will not resign following an ESPN report that the school mishandled or ignored allegations of sexual assault against members of the team. Dantonio also said he would not resign, and was there to “look the people” who instigated the reports “in the eye.” https://www.tmj4.com/news/national/spartan-head-coach-mark-dantonio-responds-to-espn-report-about-sex-abuse-at-msu

Wisconsin v Michigan State
EAST LANSING, MI – JANUARY 26: Michigan State Spartans head football coach Mark Dantonio speaks to the media at a press conference before the Michigan State Spartans and Wisconsin Badgers basketball game at Breslin Center on January 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State is facing criticism for its handling of sexual assault accusations on campus. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

“…any accusations of my handling of any complaints of sexual assault individually are completely false,” Dantonio said during the press conference. “Every incident reported in that article was documented either by the police or by the Michigan State Title IX office. I’ve always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with the cases of sexual assault.”

Punishment for crime is only right. I just hope that what happened at Penn State does not happen at Michigan State. Joe Paterno was vilified for what he did and did not know of Jerry Sandusky’s abusive behavior, and it sent him to an early grave. Let’s hope that the truth will overcome a rush to judgement at Michigan State.

Kyrie Irving and Demanding Children

Kyrie Irving Trade

There was a time when people — and for the purposes of this blog, people are athletes — were almost always respectable and correctable, reputable and commendable. But not now. There was a time when folks and sports figures were almost always faithful and forthright, dependable and reliable, tried and true. But not now. And you already know I’m speaking of Kyrie Irving.

Kyrie Irving has demanded — that’s right, DEMANDED — a trade from Cleveland to anywhere in the NBA. Or almost anywhere he wants to go.  What the what?  There was a time not too long ago when no one would have blamed him. But not now. Now he plays with LeBron “King” James. Now (or most recently) his team went to the NBA Finals and represented the Eastern Conference for the past three years. And just last year, his team beat the Golden State Warriors to win Cleveland’s first NBA Championship, ever. And now he’s demanding a trade? C’mon MAN!

Why is Kyrie’s situation different than any and all of the other players who jumped ship and skipped town and got out of Dodge to go to another team? Because THEY were free agents, and they didn’t have two years left on their contracts. That’s the difference.

Demanding children are a product of our times. The Bible says that children will, in the last days, “be disobedient to their parents, unthankful, and unholy.” And all of this absolutely applies to professional athletes who are like children. These adult jocks are offspring of the sports marriage of owners and fans; they are essentially professional sports children who play for their professional sports “parents,” aka professional teams.

That’s why it’s unconscionable for me to even wildly imagine or dare to dream that I would have “demanded” anything from my parents, Elmer and Lerotha. And if I did, I was wrong for doing so. That’s God’s playbook.

Children are to respect their parents.  Peroid. End of discussion. Unfortunately, too many children today are dishonoring and disrespecting their parents, at will. Now, instead of parents raising children, today we have children raising parents.  

The reward given to respectful, reverential children is a long and fruitful life. And this absolutely applies to sports children of sports teams.  When I grew up, they taught me that what goes around comes around. And I just believe that athletes today who “demand” trades aren’t being the respectful, respectable offspring that they should be.