Kobe Bryant: Too Soon To Die, Too Late To Say Goodbye  

kobe-bryant-and Gianna
Kobe Bryant and His Daughter, Gianna Maria Onore, 13, were both Killed in a Helicopter Crash on Sunday,January 26, 2020.

Not many people demand attention. Kobe Bryant did.  And now he’s gone. Today, President Trump tweeted about Kobe’s death … saying, “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news! “

 Yes it is.

Kobe Bryant’s untimely death hurts just as much if not more than Whitney’s in February of 2012 or Michael’s in June of 2009. Of all the unexpected and sudden, unforeseen deaths in recent memory, this one really hurts.

Tragic accidents are brutal.  Tragic accidents are unforgiving. And tragic accidents like Kobe’s are humanly impossible to deal with. They rip your guts out, punch you in the throat, put you in a choke hold and then stand over you and demand that you sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs with a smile on your face.  After a loss like this, there is no earthly way to recover or salvage our sense of sensibility other than to look to heaven for repose.

Kobe was LA, and Kobe was the Lakers. He was admired and loved or just respected or downright hated by everybody. Everybody had an opinion about him, because his life on and off of the court demanded attention.

Kobe was one of the great, greats, not only in the NBA, but in sports history. He is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and will go down as one the NBA’s most revered scorers and defenders. Kobe’s resume is full of an embarrassment of riches. He made 18 All-Star teams during his 20 year career with the Lakers. He was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft, winning 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs and he was the league MVP in 2008. He was on 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and led the league in scoring for two seasons. He ranks fourth in the NBA for all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring. Kobe also repped USA in a number of Olympic appearances.

Within the storied Lakers franchise, he is listed with a long list of the greatest that ever played the game. The Lakers have won so many games and so many championships. From Jerry West to Wilt Chamberlain, to Kareem Abdul-Jabar to Earvin “ Magic” Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal and now LeBron “King” James. Over the years, the Lakers organization learned how to do one thing, and that is make it to the NBA Finals, and then win championships. And Kobe was a champion who won and lived like one.

And so we weep with them that weep and mourn with them that mourn and pray for Kobe’s wife Vanessa and the entire Bryant family. 

Unfortunately, this sad story got even sadder when it was learned that Kobe’s daughter Gianna Maria Onore — aka GiGi — was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash … She was only 13. We’re told they were on their way to the Mamba Academy for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. The Academy is in nearby Thousand Oaks.

Kobe is survived by his wife Vanessa. Together, they had four daughters — Gianna, Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri. Kobe and Vanessa got married in 2001 after meeting in 1999.  He was only 41,  and he played 20 of those years with one team, one basketball family, the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe is also “survived” by many Lakers who already miss his presence on court, and now will miss him in their lives.

In Kobe’s 41 years, he was much more than a legendary basketball player. He was a husband, father, friend and mentor to so many who still play in the “Association,” aka, the NBA. His iconic impact on the sport and his indelible imprint on the lives of athletes worldwide may never be fully known.

Kobe Bryant; too soon to die, too late to say goodbye.

 Farewell, Kobe.

A Bad Day To Have A Bad Day

Image result for Lamar Jackson after loss to Titans

Lamar Jackson picked a bad day to a have a bad day. The presumptive MVP who lead the League in multiple categories and lead his Baltimore Ravens to a 14 – 2 record and the No. 1 seed in AFC laid a proverbial egg on Saturday night, AT HOME.  Jackson had three turnovers and was generally off and specifically  late and low and behind and beneath his normal level of play.

The Ravens fell to the the No. 6 Seed Tennessee Titans who shocked the football world by running all over the Ravens, both literally and figuratively.   The Ravens didn’t play very well, and the mistakes and miscues by the star quarterback wearing No. 8 didn’t help.

Lamar Jackson didn’t actually chose to have a bad day, and neither do we. Bad days just seem to happen. And bad days tend to happen at the worst of times. The key is how you react and respond to adversity. The Ravens were favored to win it all, and we all were looking forward to watching a Super Bowl with Lamar in it. But not this year. 

There’s no way to explain how and why Jackson has not performed in the playoffs two years in a row, but his Coach believes that he will rebound and return to form next year.  We all hope so. And Isn’t that just like life? We all need to rebound recover and bounce back and get back up and get back going after falling and failing. That’s why I’m rooting for Lamar Jackson, even if he’s out of the playoffs.

Here’s how the Baltimore Sun reported the story:

“BALTIMORE (AP) — With his bright red shoes and relentless running, Derrick Henry grabbed the spotlight and wouldn’t let go.

When he was done leading Tennessee into the AFC championship game Saturday night, he did a lengthy victory lap around the Baltimore Ravens’ home, slapping hands and taking selfies with Titans fans.

It has been quite a two-week ride.

“It’s not just me,” Henry said after rushing for 195 yards and throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass in a 28-12 upset of the NFL’s top team Saturday night. ”It’s a team effort. We’re all playing collectively as an offense, as a whole. We’re just locked in. We believe in each other. We communicate. It’s working out there.”

The Lamar Jackson who ran with abandon and threw 36 touchdown passes for the best team in the league failed to show up in the playoffs — again.

During his marvelous second season in the NFL, Jackson was an All-Pro quarterback who carried the Baltimore Ravens to the best record in the league. Jackson amassed the most yards rushing by a quarterback in league history and was the catalyst of an offense that led the NFL in scoring.

All of that — as well as Baltimore’s 12-game winning streak and home-field advantage — was irrelevant against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.

Coming off a three-week break and looking appropriately rusty in doing so, an error-prone Jackson threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and didn’t get the Ravens into the end zone until the fourth quarter of a 28-12 defeat.

All season long, Jackson was intent upon erasing the memory of his rookie season, when he guided Baltimore to a 6-1 finish before faltering in the postseason opener at home against the Los Angeles Chargers. Jackson went 2 of 8 for 17 yards and an interception in the first half, and the Ravens trailed 23-3 in a one-and-out playoff performance.

It was Super Bowl or bust this time around, and Baltimore sure looked capable of making that happen. Jackson and the Ravens were virtually unstoppable over the final three months, slapping aside some of the best teams in the league with surprising ease.

That’s what made this game so darn surprising. Jackson did manage to rush for 143 yards, but most of that came in two chunks, a 30-yarder in the third quarter and a 27-yarder during Baltimore’s lone touchdown drive.

But twice he failed to convert fourth-and-1 runs, stuffed at the line of scrimmage on each occasion. Both times, the Titans went the other way for touchdowns.

Before this game, Baltimore was 8 for 8 on fourth-and-1 this season. Then again, very little that occurred during the regular season for the Ravens went right on this night.

Jackson’s 50th pass of the night, on fourth down in Tennessee territory with just over 4 minutes left, hit the ground with a thud. So, in fact, did Baltimore’s season.

He finished 31 for 59 for 365 yards. The main number, however, was the 12 points — Baltimore’s lowest output of the year.

Jackson doesn’t deserve all the blame for the collapse. Heck, the Ravens twice were penalized on punt returns without even getting their hands on the ball. And another All-Pro selection, Marcus Peters, was burned badly by Kalif Raymond on a 45-yard touchdown pass immediately after Jackson failed to gain the yards necessary to maintain possession.

“It only takes turning the ball over one or two times, a penalty here and a penalty there. All it takes is one loss and we’re done,” Yanda said. “That 14-2 stuff does not matter.”

How very true.”

The Eagles Need A Christmas Miracle

zach-ertz-green.jpg

Do you believe in miracles?

The Eagles just got one, as they defeated the New York “Football” Giants, 23-17 in OT on Monday Night Football (in the rain, mind you!) at Lincoln Financial Field. After a dismal and tragic first half, the Eagles scored 20 unanswered points to pull out a thrilling, come from behind, turnaround, must win game.

Can a Christmas miracle come in four parts? If it can, the Philadelphia Eagles just got Act One. Shakespearean plays are divided into acts and scenes – and always have a Five Act structure, no exceptions. But for the Eagles, we’ll make an exception here, because they need just three more wins, or “Acts,” to win the Division.

Do you believe in miracles? After tonight’s win, you just have too. The Eagles season has been somewhat of a Shakespearean Tragedy, and the heartbreaking first three months of the 2019 season has felt like and has been full of calamity and catastrophe, just like Shakespeare would draw it up.

But that was then, and this is now. Now, with this win, the horrid and hideous opening of this season can now lead to a tremendous, comedic conclusion. The Eagles are now 6-7, a losing record not so far removed from their historic Super Bowl LII win.

For the Eagles to comeback from way back, you must believe in miracles. This season has had more than enough heartache and had looked like it will end in heartbreak before tonight’s miraculous and momentous end. If the Eagles win their remaining games, they win the NFC East and move on to the playoffs. But they will need a miracle to do it. And they just got part one, thanks to a touchdown from Wentz to Ertz in overtime

Do you believe in miracles? You must. Christmas is all about miracles. The miracle of the virgin birth paved the way for every other miracle, including the one we just got tonight.

Was I watching? No. I couldn’t bear to watch, so instead my wife and I had on a heartwarming miracle movie on the Hallmark Channel. Yes, the Hallmark Channel. After the Eagles were down 17-3 at the half, I tuned out and turned the game off. But they won without me. We got the miracle we needed to keep our playoff hopes alive.

Do you believe in miracles? Yes it takes faith and it requires hope. And you must love this Eagles team, warts and all. Yes, I believe in miracles. And if you’re an Eagles fan, you just have to.

Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz after the Super Bowl LII Miracle

Don’t Give Up On Your Team

Brett Brown
Philadelphia Coach Brett Brown doesn’t seem to have any answers as the Sixers have lost consecutive games twice early in the 2019-2020 season.

Do you pray for your favorite team? I need to. And I might need to pray for extra strength to continue to cheer for the home team. Because the Philadelphia 76ers are trying my patience and vexing my spirit. On paper, the Sixers are supposed to be better now than they were last season. That hardly seems to be the case.

Last season the Sixers finished strong, taking the eventual NBA Champion Toronto Raptors to a Game seven in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. It all came down to a four bounce bucket by Kawhi Leonard, the Finals MVP, in a loss at the buzzer.

This season we don’t have Butler and Reddick but we do have Al Horford and Josh Richmond. Great! AND Simmons is supposed to have a jump shot. So what’s wrong?

So now I’m writing without shame or chagrin because there’s plenty wrong with this edition. I’m trying not to give up on my team. And of late, MY team, the Philadelphia 76ers, are sometimes hard to root for and thus easy to give up on. But that’s where faith hope and love come in. And since the greatest of these is love, we’ll have to focus on how much Philadelphian’s love their Sixers.

But first, let me get this out of my system:

As of this writing, early in this the 2019-2020 season, the Sixers’ just lost two in a row, last night to the 3-7 Oklahoma City Thunder and then Wednesday night to the then 3-7 Orlando Magic. The Sixers got us all happy and giddy as they began this season 5-0, but since then they’ve lost three in a row, then another two in a row. Over the last week, they have dropped 5 and won only 2.

As for the Orlando game, yes it was the second night of back to back games; no the Sixers didn’t have Embiid (he was “resting”); yes it was on the road; and, one more yes, it is still early in the season. But the playing and the coaching are wanting, as other teams seem to have figured “it” out, even in early November.

Here’s how the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the Orlando loss:

“The Sixers (7-4) missed a lot of easy baskets in the fourth quarter, committed costly turnovers, and had a tough time defending. All those deficiencies were on display during the Magic’s game- clinching 16-4 run that gave them a commanding 102-89 lead with 3 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.”

THEN in Oklahoma City, the Sixers had a 9 point lead late in the fourth quarter but then managed to mismanage their time and their effort. The game went to OT and the Sixers got outscored, out muscled, out played and out coached in the extra session. Sound familiar? The story of the Ben Simmons/Joel Embiid Sixers is sounding more and more like an old, broken record that no one wants to hear.

So what’s a fan to do? Can we “the people” fire Coach Brett Brown? We want to, but no. Can we the fans force Ben Simmons to shoot jump shots? Of course not. And can the Philly fan base limit Joel Embiid’s turnovers? Fat chance. All we the Philly faithful can do is root, root, root for our home team, and hope that the love we show them is reciprocated and turns into wins and a championship ring.

So that’s it. The bottom line is “Don’t give up on your team.” At the end of the day, Philly fans still love the Sixers AND the Eagles, even though they aren’t playing up to their potential.

It’s called grace. We all need it, but in order to receive it, we need to give it too.

“Stay In The Fight!” —  The 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals Deliver An Upset for the Ages

washington-nationals-fight-finished_500

The Washington Nationals have the distinction of being one of the most unlikely underdogs to win a championship, ever. There’s a long list of least likely, storybook, fairytale teams that no one picked to win it all. And yet they did. This is why we love sports. And this is why sports and the gospel are such good friends.

Winning it all after you’ve been down and downcast and downtrodden and looked down upon is not easy to do. But just like the Nationals did, with help from up above and hope in the one above, we all can rise from the ashes of defeat and despair and end our stories in triumph. The Washington Nationals did it, and in so doing they gave all the rest of us a double dose of hope and heart. The Nationals improbable win gave all the rest of us hope to believe that an upstart with heart can indeed kick start their fortunes and come back from way back to defy the odds.

Here’s a partial list from the long list of Cinderella champions:

In baseball, these Nats are right up there with the ‘69 Mets and the 2006 Cardinals’ and the 1985 Royals. In other sports, who can forget Joe Naimath and the ‘69 Jets or Eli Manning and the 2007 New York Giants who beat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl? Turning to college basketball, we will never forget Jimmy Valvano and the ‘82 North Carolina State Wolfpack or Rally Massimino and the ‘85 Villanova Wildcats. Yes, these Nats have joined an elite club of Cinderellas, including the 1980 US Hockey Team who beat the Russian National Team to win Olympic gold. These indeed were upsets for the ages.

The Washington Nationals 2019 playoff run “was an amazing turnaround to watch. The Nats were able to win the National League Wild Card game in dramatic fashion coming back to beat Milwaukee, 4-3.

Then it was onto the powerhouse, the L.A. Dogers. The Nats going toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league. Howie Kendrick delivering a 10th inning grand slam in Game 5, giving the Nats their first-ever series win in the postseason.

“Stay in the fight” was the motto all season long for the Washington Nationals. Never quitting, never giving up.

And they played like it too, just absolutely dominating the St. Louis Cardinals, breaking out the brooms and sweeping away the Cardinals in just four games.” https://wjla.com/sports/washington-nationals/world-series-how-did-this-happen

Finally, there was the World Series itself! All four wins by the winning team came on the road. Top that!

How did it happen? Faith, hope, a great slogan and a wonky theme song. That’s right. The Nationals adopted the silliest theme song they could find and it worked. It all started when “outfielder Gerardo Parra started using the tune as a walk-up song while mired in a slump earlier in the year, as a nod to his two-year-old daughter.

‘Baby Shark’ took over Nationals Park in 2019 and the team embraced the undeniably-catchy children’s song as a part of its celebrations throughout the season.

Players and fans alike immediately embraced the silliness. “When Nationals players get a base hit, their on-field celebrations mirror the song. A single gets a finger pinch for Baby Shark, a double calls for hand-clapping like a Mommy Shark and a triple gets the full chomp for Daddy Shark.

It’s blown up pretty big. Everyone seems to be doing it,” Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin said before Game 3. “People are wearing shark outfits. It’s like Halloween out there. It’s great.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/playoffs/2019/10/25/nationals-baby-shark-song-world-series/2458499001/

So cheer up my brother. Live in the sunshine my sister. You too can comeback from way back. Get yourself a theme song and stay in the fight.

The Washington Nationals Will Win the 2019 World Series!

juan-sodo-e1571970282606.jpg
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 1: Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after hitting a single to right field to score 3 runs off of an error by Trent Grisham #2 of the Milwaukee Brewers during the eighth inning in the National League Wild Card game at Nationals Park on October 1, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

That’s right folks, you heard it here first on Godandsports.net. The Washington Nationals, the wildcard, come from behind, long-shot, underdog of underdogs team of the century are about to pull off one of the most absurd and illogical upsets of all time.

These Washington Nationals beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Playoff game. They then beat the juggernaut LA Dodgers in Game 5 in LA in extra innings to win the NLDS, THEN they swept the St. Louis Cardinals right of the NLCS in dramatic fashion. Are you out of breath yet?

Now the Washington Nationals are up 2 -0 against the highly favored and favorite Houston Astros.  They won Games One and Two on the ROAD! They beat two of the best pitchers in baseball, Gerrit Cole 5-4 in the opener and then blasted Justin Verlander 12-3 the very next night, to take a commanding two games to none lead into Game 3 at home at National’s Park.

This will be one for the ages if they can pull it off. Their ace pitchers, Max Sherzer and  Stephen Strasburg, did what they had to do and held the Astros hitters to seven runs in two games. Not bad, especially when your young guns such as Juan Soto are playing lights out, hitting the ball out the park at will.

The Washington Nationals have will and grit and guts and nothing to lose.  Nothing. They’re playing with house money, and they’ve proven that they can beat the best of them. Now what’s left to do but win it all?

Over the next several blogs we will examine the storied playoff road that these 2019 Washington Nationals have traveled, and analyze how to apply what they’ve done and hopefully repeat the same. What lessons can we learn from these 2019 Nationals for our everyday lives? Faith to believe, hope to archive, and love to hold it all together.  That’s what the Nationals have, and that’s what we need too.

Stay tuned . . .

Go NATS!

Bianca Andreescu: The New Tennis Queen

bianca_andreescu_us_open_trophy

Bianca Andreescu is now a princess bride. Almost overnight, Andreescu went from princess to queen, from an unknown to being well know. She went from the bottom of the heap to the top of the hill. Her’s is a rags to riches sports story for the ages. In Andrescu, we see that the little Davids are still conquering the giant Goliaths of sports, and it gives us the hope and the heart to do the same. Here’s what sports writers wrote about her epic performance this year:

“What impresses you most about Andreescu? There are so many choices. Power. Athleticism. Strategy. Toughness. Winner’s mentality? Which one did Andreescu use to win?

I resist choosing one, because there’s interplay between all the things you just mentioned. But I remain dumbfounded by the way the final played out. Truth serum: when Andreescu failed to convert that match point at 6-2, 5-1 and suddenly the score was 6-2, 5-5—with the Mighty Serena Williams awoken; a crowd of 24,000 squarely partial to the veteran player; a transformative moment seeming to have passed—I had existential concerns. My thought process: “Serena is going to win the match now, and tie the record. The crowd will go wild and this will be an incredible, indelible moment, a fitting coda to Serena’s career.”

https://www.si.com/tennis/2019/09/11/tennis-mailbag-us-open-rafa-nadal-bianca-andreescu

But it didn’t happen. Here’s what did happen, according to the New Yorker:

“In her 2019 U.S. Open Victory, Bianca Andreescu showed us the swagger that Serena Williams brought to women’s tennis.

Before 2019, Bianca Andreescu was mostly unknown. She began the year ranked No. 152 in the world. But, ever since, she has defeated some of the best players in the world, demonstrating a stunning array of skills—flat, deep ground strokes topping out at close to ninety miles per hour; moony topspin shots designed to disrupt the rhythm of her opponent; nasty skidding slices and delicate drop shots—and the intelligence, imagination, and audacity to use them effectively. She exposed Kerber’s defense-minded game, which Kerber has used to win three grand slams, as one-dimensional. More than that, though, she showed self-assurance—the kind of competitive intensity and unapologetic swagger usually reserved for a few legends of the game. She carried herself more like Serena Williams than like what she was: a teen-ager with a wild card.

That shoulder problem turned out to be a torn rotator cuff. Andreescu had to retire from her fourth-round match in Miami. After pulling out of her second-round match at the French Open, still struggling with the injury, she missed the entire grass season. Then she returned to tour—and promptly won the Canadian Open. She has not lost a completed match since March 1st. She has never, in her career, lost to a top-ten player. (She is now 8–0.) And, on Saturday, she defeated Williams in dramatic fashion, 6–3, 7–5, to win the U.S. Open.

That was part of the story of the women’s final. There was also the player on the other side of the net. Williams came into the match just having won her hundred and first match at the U.S. Open. She was seeking her twenty-fourth grand-slam title, which would tie her with Margaret Court’s total—a record that, given the number of titles Court won in Australia, against weaker fields, only means anything because it seems to have become a strange sort of stumbling block for Williams. Since coming back last year, after giving birth, she has made four slam finals. The over-all level of the tour had risen in her absence, and yet no one else could claim that kind of consistency. But the finals matches themselves have been another story. She had yet to win a single set in any of those matches.

This time, though, there was an air of inevitability about her. She had played well all tournament, starting with a sharp performance against her favorite honing steel, Maria Sharapova, and including an utter dismantling of Wang Qiang, in forty-four minutes, in the quarter-finals, and an even more impressive win against Elina Svitolina, in the semifinals. It wasn’t solely the show of her usual power, which few players can match. She was also fit in a way that she hadn’t been since recovering from the difficult birth of her daughter, which was followed by a string of injuries.

In this final, her movement—not only forward and back but side to side—was finally there, both steady and explosive. Against Svitolina, who has risen into the top five on the strength of her ability to extend points, Williams was actually the superior mover, and won the majority of their long rallies. She had, too, a calmness about her that had often seemed lacking during her comeback.

As a cultural icon—as an inspirational figure, as a brand—Williams has never been bigger, but during the finals matches her aura had seemed diminished. She has won countless matches in her career by imposing herself before the first serve was even struck, but her past four finals opponents had come out obviously feeling less pressure than her. This was understandable, given what she was up against—not only her opponent but also the expectations, even the assumptions, of millions, most of all herself. But, during this tournament, the confidence seemed back. Her first serve, always the most important weapon, was humming at high speeds; the tuning fork seemed to be struck.

It wasn’t that Andreescu was oblivious to any of this; she knows the legend of Williams as well as anyone. There was never a time, in fact, during Andreescu’s life when Williams wasn’t winning; Williams won her first U.S. Open title before Andreescu was even born. Andreescu admitted to being nervous before the match. But she seemed more concerned with her own inevitability. She really did carry herself like a queen.

Williams began the match with an ace, but Andreescu was unphased. She put pressure on Williams’s serve with heavy, attacking returns. “I think she was intimidated a little bit by it,” she said afterward—not something I can remember anyone saying about Williams, ever. But perhaps she was right: Williams double-faulted twice to give Andreescu the first break. From there, Andreescu seemed only to get stronger. She used big body serves to bail her out of trouble—much the way Williams always has. She used the depth of her ground strokes to set up sharp angles or rockets down the line. She set patterns and broke them, and seemed to unsettle Williams, who put only forty-four per cent of her first serves into play and finished with eight double faults. Williams’s footwork was off. Andreescu’s shouts of “Let’s go!” and “Come on!” echoed strangely in the silent stadium. She reached her first championship point up 5–1 in the second set. It seemed, for a moment, hard to watch.

But Williams, ever the competitor, fought back. She saved championship point with a forehand into the corner, and then started to move. Andreescu was the one then whose racquet looked heavy, her swings slower and her serves starting to miss. Williams levelled the score at 5–5, lifted by and in turn lifting a raucous crowd—which was so loud, and so much in Williams’s favor, that at one point Andreescu covered her ears to try to block it out.

Another young player might have cracked at that point, watching such a lead slip away, playing passively, while knowing what Williams can do when she finds her form. Andreescu, though, settled herself, held serve, and broke to win the match.”

https://www.newyorker.com/sports/sporting-scene/in-her-us-open-victory-bianca-andreescu-shows-the-swagger-that-serena-williams-brought-to-womens-tennis