Baker Mayfield Eats A Face Full of Humble Pie

Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield is who he is, and he just learned a long overdue lesson in humility.

In fact, all athletes and sportspersons everywhere the world over got another lesson in humility and sportsmanship and modesty and gamesmanship courtesy of Baker Mayfield. The Heisman Trophy winner and the Oklahoma Sooners suffered a humbling, if not humiliating, loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the first semifinal college championship game at the Rose Bowl last night.

Baker Mayfield was supposed to win. Oklahoma was supposed to come out on top and beat and best Georgia just because.   Mayfield got out to a hot start, but succumbed to Georgia at the bitter end of a classic, come from behind thriller for the “Dawgs”, 54-48 in Double Overtime.

Baker Mayfield is a brash and brazen, braggadocios boy who has a lot of growing up to do. His antics and outbursts all season have earned him a well-deserved reputation and at one point lost him his captainship and almost his career. Earlier this year, he was arrested on a public intoxication and fleeing the scene charge and ordered to undergo 35 hours of community service. And there were other incidents which may have cost other players their scholarships, or more. And during last night’s game, after every early score, Mayfield would run full steam from the end zone with his arms outstretched as if he was soaring above and beyond Georgia’s reach. But not so fast.

Here’s how Sports Illustrated described his behavior: “Mayfield has been known for the emotion he displays during games but avoided controversy during his college finale. When asked about an apparent throat-slashing gesture after the game, he said it wasn’t directed at the Bulldogs. ‘When you get up on a team, you talk about stepping on their throats,’ he said. ‘Obviously, we didn’t do that.’

 As Oklahoma’s frenetic star wandered back onto the playing field to congratulate celebrating Bulldog players, Georgia linebacker Davin Bellamy began screaming at him.

HUMBLE YOURSELF! HUMBLE YOURSELF!

Bellamy stood near the spot on the field where the Heisman Trophy winner had aimed his wild, arms-flailing sprints back to the bench after each Oklahoma touchdown earlier in the day, when the Sooners scored on five of their first six possessions and looked like they were about to blow the Bulldogs out of the Rose Bowl. Instead, Georgia outscored Oklahoma 37–17 after halftime.” https://www.si.com/college-football/2018/01/02/baker-mayfield-oklahoma-georgia-rose-bowl-nflIt was a great game but also a sad commentary on how not to lose. Baker Mayfield couldn’t finish and seal the deal against a Georgia team that didn’t know the word quit. Down 17 just before the half, Oklahoma inexpiably squib kicked after a field goal and allowed Georgia to run one play to get into position for a long field goal. And they made it, cutting the lead to 14.  Then and there,  I said Oklahoma was going to lose and Georgia was going win. Why? Because of Oklahoma’s arrogance. They  thought they were too far ahead for Georgia to catch up and assumed that Mayfield would continue to throw touchdown pass after touchdown pass the entire second half. But it wasn’t meant to be.

The lesson Baker Mayfield hopefully learns is that pride still goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. So let’s let this be a lesson and let’s do what Mayfield didn’t.

Humble yourself.

Why the 2017 US Open is Worth the Watch

 Maria Sharapova First Round 2017 US Open

Maria Sharapova.  Period. End of discussion. She’s more than cute, she’s courageous. She’s a dodgy, dainty dame who can play the game of tennis like nobody’s business. Now, in front of the entire tennis world, she’s mounting a comeback after being out tennis for 15 months for doping. And if you love sports, you’ll love watching a true champion play poorly and yet still win successfully, even on a bad day (or night) at the Office.

Maria Sharapova defeated 18-year-old Sofia Kenin 7-5, 6-2 last night in the third round of the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the Open’s version of center court. The victory wasn’t clean, but it was conclusive, and some points were a thrill to watch. 

But Sharapova has history and baggage (don’t we all?).  She’s trying to overcome negative, popular opinion and overtake her own prideful propensity to prove to the tennis world that she’s still got it; and so far, she indeed seems to be one of the best tennis players in the tournament.

 D’Arcy Maine of espnW.com may have said it best:

“I need to get something off my chest: I have never been a Maria Sharapova fan.

From her former (and in my mind, unjustified) status as the highest-paid female athlete in the world, to her icy demeanor and less-than-stellar rapport with her peers on tour, I’ve always felt she was overhyped. Despite frequent comparisons to, and a lopsided head-to-head record with, Serena Williams, she’s nowhere near that level.

And when she got suspended in 2016 for doping, it only fueled my disdain. On top of everything else, she was using banned substances, too?

As you might imagine, I wasn’t exactly rooting for her to come back. She returned in the spring to much fanfare, but excitement quickly faded as she failed to receive a wild card to the French Open and was hampered by injuries for the rest of the summer. I didn’t feel sorry for her, and, frankly, I didn’t miss her.

Then, on Monday night, Sharapova made her post-suspension Grand Slam debut after receiving a wild card to the US Open. Playing in front of a packed and animated crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium on opening day, the unseeded Sharapova faced No. 2 Simona Halep. As the match began, I was rooting firmly for Halep.

But then a funny thing happened.

Sharapova impressively won the first set, and I found myself admiring her play and her gutsy resolve against one of the best in the game.

Halep came back to win the second set. But there was something about Sharapova’s tenacity, and all the emotions visibly strewn across her face, that was compelling. It looked like a different Sharapova than we had seen before. While her skill set has always been revered, for the first time, she was showing us just how much she wanted to be there.

When she finally closed out the match after an exhausting 2 hours and 44 minutes, she fell to her knees and cried. I couldn’t believe it. Was this the same Maria Sharapova, who was allowing all of her emotions to show as she fought for a win?

It may have just been a first-round match, but it looked like she just won the title. It was (gasp) … sort of inspiring.

As she took her seat on the sideline, she couldn’t control herself and held her head in her hands and sobbed. Meanwhile, I was thinking to myself, “Damn it, Maria! Don’t make me root for you!” But it was too late. I had been pulling for her for at least an hour without even realizing it.

‘I just thought this was another day, another opportunity, another match,’ she told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after the victory. ‘But this was so much more. You can’t control your emotions. Everything you go through is worth it just for this moment.’

As tennis fans, perhaps we needed to see and hear that from her. For once, she acknowledged her own feelings, and more importantly, her vulnerability. It was humanizing, and maybe even relatable. (Until, that is, she talked about the Swarovski crystals on her dress, but I’m going to let that slide this time.)

The reality is, it’s the human emotion, triumph of spirit and fragility of it all that makes sports so great in the first place. We need our athletes to want it as badly as we do from our seat on the couch. While Serena Williams makes cheering for her easy because she seems to live and breathe with every contested point, Sharapova’s previously cold disposition sometimes made it difficult to connect with her. Monday perhaps finally revealed the truth — she does care and isn’t afraid to let everyone know. And that makes her infinitely more likable.

Not only is Sharapova’s story one of redemption and determination — two things I’m always a sucker for — but it also makes this tournament a heck of a lot more fun. With the absence of Williams and the early elimination of Halep and defending champion Angelique Kerber (not to mention everyone else who’s out on the men’s side), the US Open is somewhat lacking in its usual drama and star power.

But with Sharapova, we have someone to get behind — or, for those who still haven’t come over to the dark side, against. Either way, we’ll be watching.”

 http://www.espn.com/espnw/voices/article/20501359/never-liked-maria-sharapova-rooting-the-us-open?addata=espn:tennis:index

Cam Newton: Dissapointed and Dissapointing

Cam Newton Presser After Super Bowl

I’m disappointed for and disappointed with Cam Newton, both at the same time.

First, I’m disappointed for Cam because I like Cam. I do. The Carolina Panthers were arguably the best team in football this year and were the favorite to win Super Bowl 50. With a 15-1 regular season record, they seemed destined to win it all. But it just wasn’t meant to be.  And Cam has been up and down and all around as a pro and as a collegian. He’s been beat up and beat down; he’s taken a lickin’ and he keeps on ticking.  Like him or not, you must admit that his story is compelling.

Cam was a back up to Tim Tebow at Florida. Go figure. Then he was dismissed from the Florida Gators program and fell from grace. Cam landed at a Texas Jr. College, won the JuCo National Championship and then worked his way back to Auburn where he won it all – the BCS Championship game, that is.  His is a rags to riches to rags story, for sure.  

But I’m disappointed with Cam because of his attitude and his ingratitude. Hundreds of NFL veterans would kill to play in a Super Bowl. And while I get it that “you play to win the game! Hello!!!” (thank you, Herman Edwards), you simply can’t win them all. No one does.

But Cam didn’t see it that way. Cam can be a ham but his leg of lamb just got cooked by the Denver Bronco’s battering ram of a defense. So while Cam expected to hit a grand slam, his offense hit a log jam. And it wasn’t pretty. Cam gloated and gloried through the regular season and playoffs and he acted as if the Super Bowl was his to have. His entitled spirit has more than a  touch or a tinge or a twinge of conceit and condescension. And so, it appears that his self-inflicted wounds are what’s probably burning him up the most.

And to add insult to injury, Cam’s countenance fell and his body language went to hell as he soured and sulked and slumped and pouted and puttered and muttered through the game that he felt his team should have won. Yet he got beat like he stole from his own momma. It happens at least once to every athlete. He’s been playing competitively almost all of his life, so he should know what it means to be a good sport, and yet he still doesn’t know how to lose. At least not gracefully and respectfully.

So I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed, not that he lost, but that he handled the loss so poorly and so unprofessionally. He stormed out of the presser (post game press conference) after a unbelievably crass appearance as he responded to reporters questions with haughtiness and hubris. Cam’s arrogance was altogether distressing, disturbing and displeasing. And it was unacceptable.

It just goes to show ya, the Bible is STILL right: pride does come before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Odell Beckham Jr: OBJr = OMG!

odell-beckham-jr

Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants’ sassy and sensational young receiver, is a knucklehead. Or maybe he’s a knucklehead in the making. Or maybe he’s already a full-fledged, full-blown, full throttle blockhead who doesn’t know his butt from his belly bottom. I’m talking dumb and dumber, personified.

Beckham in two seasons has become one of pro football’s most popular and celebrated players and the focal point of the Giants’ offense. His spectacular one-handed catches and entertaining end zone dances after touchdowns have made him a marquee name in sports and a frequent pitchman for commercial products across multiple media platforms. Beckham also graced the cover of Madden N.F.L. 2016, the best-selling sports video game.

But he’s also a knucklehead. A knucklehead is a person of questionable intelligence. The point is, figuratively speaking, that the size of their brain is being compared to the size of a human knuckle. The term is similar to pinhead, or someone of limited intelligence and with a mean nature or someone who prefers using their knuckles or fists, to using their head.

Odell Beckham Jr., or OBJR., was penalized three times for unsportsmanlike conduct during a game-long battle with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman AND THEN after the game he was suspended by the NFL for one game because he repeatedly tangled with Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.

The suspension was for multiple acts as Beckham was whistled for three personal fouls (and it could have been more) for unnecessary roughness. But the most glaring incident came in the third quarter, when Beckham, running at full speed, slammed his helmet into the side of Norman’s. In college they call that “targeting” and it warrants an immediate ejection from the game, whether it was unintentional or not.

In announcing the suspension, the league referred to the vicious collision as a flagrant hit against a defenseless player, “in which Beckham left his feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent.” Unbelievable.

In an era where safety comes first and flagrant fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness are examined under a microscope, players do well to play within the rules and within themselves and not let their emotions get the best of them, especially when it comes to inflicting injury on another player. But OBJR doesn’t see it that way.  

After the game, Beckham defended himself.

“We are out there playing football,” he said. “We are competing. You are a competitor. I’m a competitor. We are always going to go at it.”

Wow. “Go at it” he says. Slamming your head into another player is called targeting or spearing, and once they called it head hunting. Can somebody say “Knucklehead!?”

Not surprisingly, this is not the first time OBJR has been fined for this type of behavior. In fact, this is the FOURTH, count it, fourth time Beckham has been suspended or fined in his short career for violent acts or temper tantrums. In 2014, he was fined $10,000 for kicking Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree in a brawl-filled game in St. Louis. The same month, he was fined $11,025 for taking off his helmet and throwing it to the turf during a prolonged protest of a late tackle out of bounds. Early this season, Beckham was fined $8,681 for throwing a punch at Buffalo Bills safety Duke Williams.

So what can we learn? Or, more pointedly, what should Mr. Beckham learn?  He is 23 years old; old enough to know better and yet young enough not to know what he doesn’t know.  And he doesn’t know how to behave like a professional. He’s substituted macho chauvinism for proper professionalism and is behaving badly like so many of his other young and unbridled stud athletes these days. Jahlil Okafor, take note (https://godandsports.net/2015/12/02/jahlil-okafors-rookie-mistakes/). 

So let’s just hope and pray that his pride is humbled before his haughty, high mindedness costs him more than fines and one game suspensions.

Sports and ISIS

MD Terps BBall

I know what everybody wants for Christmas: “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” And permanent peace will only come when the Prince of Peace comes back to earth. He came the first time as a bouncing, baby boy wrapped in swaddling clothes. He will come the second time King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But for now, peace requires that we prevail against a new world evil and the pandemonium that is ISIS. This new threat must be put out to pasture. While it’s easier said than done, it can be done, because it’s been done before.

Old enemies such as Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin Dada and recent enemies such as Osama Ben Laden and Sadam Hussein have all been vanquished. Now, this new enemy must be met and matched. But the question is, “how?”  I submit that sports supplies the solution.

My University of Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball team is ranked in the top ten and they may be one of the best teams in the country. They seem destined to go the Final Four, and, dare I say, bring another National Championship back to College Park. But for that to happen, more of what I saw in last night’s win against Princeton has to happen.

Maryland has weapons. Lots of ‘em.  We’ve got Rasheed Souliman, the transfer from Duke that we’ll take any day (Thank you Coach K) and Robert Carter Jr., another transfer from GA Tech, and freshman sensation Diamond Stone (more on him in coming blogs.) And of course we’ve got Melo Trimble, a prodigy who has come of age and can score at will and dish out assists with reckless abandon. But last night, it wasn’t anyone of these stars that won the day.

Jaylen Brantley
Maryland Guard Jaylen Brantley 

Enter No. 1, Jaylaen Brantley.  Before last night, I barely knew this kid existed, and most of the Maryland faithful didn’t either. But last night, Jaylen came off the bench and lead the Terps to victory. Brantley scored 14 points on six of seven shooting, dished out two assists and grabbed two rebounds in a super, surprising and superlative show of timely talent. And he did it all in 14 minutes! And another Terp who doesn’t usually shine that brightly, senior Jake Layman, lead the team with 19 points and 8 rebounds. 

Layan averages 11.3 points per game. And Brantley averages 2.3 points per game. And yet they managed to combine for 33 points when nobody, and I do mean NOBODY expected that kind of production from either of them.

So, what’s the lesson, you say? The lesson is that the weapons that we need to defeat our foes are hidden in plain sight. The weapons that we need to survive the fierce fight and subdue the dark knight have yet to be used and utilized to their potential.

Prayer is a weapon. And it’s a weapon that shouldn’t sit on the bench but should be a starter in the game of life. And the sooner that people of faith come together and unanimously use this lethal and legitimate spiritual weapon, the better. Unity is a weapon. We are better together. Humility is a weapon. Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. All of our weapons are at our disposal; we just have to use them and not forsake or lose them at the far end of the bench.

Another One Bites The Dust: A.K.A., The Rise and Fall of RGIII in WDC

griffin2

This is a sad day for Washington, D.C. sports fans. Or is it?

Yet another Washington Redskins’ quarterback has gone by the wayside; yet another ‘Skins QB has been benched; and yet another change has been made at the most important position on FED EX field. Yeash! Oy vey! Mama Mia! Ai, yai yai! (and every other emotional expression I can’t think of!)

Robert Griffin the Third, a.k.a., RGIII, came into DC and he was the talk of the town. He was loved and lauded and praised and applauded even before he stepped onto the field. He had lots and loads of pressure heaped upon him from the gun, being the Heisman Trophy winner and all, and so it was a classic, meteoric rise of epic proportions.

Yet he didn’t help himself by heaping a whole bunch of pressure on his own head on top of all that. RGIII had promise and potential and possibilities galore — it’s just that, well – it’s complicated. His career in DC has been up and down and all around. And here lately, his numbers were low and his ratings were lower, and yet in his mind he was still a wonder. And that’s the problem with most of us; we’re a wonder in our own minds. And so it’s been a classic, colossal, catastrophic fall.

And if it’s a sad day, it’s sad because, on the one hand, while we like Robert and want him to succeed, some of us saw this coming a mile away.

As we all know, the way up is down, and on the way up you had better keep your hopes up but your mouth shut, at least to the press. Being humble and acting humble are supposed to be opposite sides of the same coin. But for RGIII, his recent claim of being the best quarterback in the league didn’t help his teammates (or this fan, for that matter) support him. You can hope and wish and work and will your way to the top, but in order to get there, you’ll need help. So it’s not a good thing when you “piss off” (excuse my French) the help, a.k.a. your teammates and your fans, not to mention your coach (or multiple coaches for that matter.)

And so the only drama left is if and when the Redskins trade or release their once bright and shining star athlete. Griffin was going to lead the Redskins to the Promised Land of multiple NFC East Championships (he got one) and Super Bowl appearances, if not victories, to boot. And after his first year, there was no reason to believe that he wouldn’t. We saw the rise, and now — behold the fall.

So here’s to hoping and praying that RGIII lands on his feet on a different team in a different state with a different result. Let’s hope that RGIII goes to a team with a different scheme that can work with him and walk with him to his desired destiny. Because it would be a shame to go from Heisman Trophy winner to Heisman Trophy has-been.

And so while it may be a sad day, it’s also the first day of the rest of RGIII’s life and career.  In other words, this is a redemption story just waiting to happen.

MVP! MVP! MVP!

andre-iguodala-nba-playoffs-golden-state-warriors-cleveland-cavaliers1-850x560

Andre Iguodala is the 2015 NBA Finals MVP. And he earned it. And he deserves it. Period. “Iggie,” as he is affectionately called, was a onetime Philadelphia 76er (Being from Philly, I had to get that in). Anyway, Iggie saved the series for the Warriors. The winner of the Bill Russell Award, whom Kerr inserted into the starting lineup for the final three games, was a force. Responsible for defending James at one end, Iguodala provided timely offense at the other.

The Most Valuable Player of the Finals wasn’t even a starter this season. No, the Bill Russell Award was handed to Golden State Warriors shooting guard Andre Iguodala, a steady veteran player who scored 25 points in Tuesday’s championship-clinching 105-97 win. His first start came in Game 4 of the Series, and his stops on defense and his points on offense turned the tide for the champs. “He saved this series for us,” Green said. No doubt, Curry would have liked to have received the MVP Award, but without Iguoldala’s energy and effort, the Warriors may not have made it to the top.

Down 2-1 in the series, Kerr wisely made the right adjustment and replaced a starter with his sixth man. And the gamble paid off. Kerr now looks like a basketball genius for coming up with the antidote for LeBron and the solution to success for his struggling team. Iguodala was the best defender the Warriors had and he slowed down the Cavs King James just enough to give his team the breath to breathe new life into the series. Iguodala was the key to the Game 4 win, and the rest, well, is history.

Coach Kerr said it always bothered him that people paid so much attention to his team’s gaudy numbers on offense. The Warriors also had the league’s top-ranked defense. No joke. And Iguodala is a big reason why. Basketball, and life, are about the balance of combinations. “When you get that combination (of the top rated defense and the top rated offense) then you’re going to be pretty good,” Kerr said. “Whether you’re shooting 2s or 3s, it’s about the balance.”

“It’s about the balance.” Sounds like sage words of advice for life.

And so the lesson here is to get the right balance; to get the right combinations in general, and the right combination of offense and defense in particular. Humility is a weapon that can be used on offence and defense. So use it wisely, as did Iguodala, who was a lifetime starter, and yet he sacrificed his wants and wishes for the team and came off of the bench all season. And for that he was called on to come on the big stage at just the right time. And his unassuming attitude resulted in his unpretentious gratitude for an MVP Trophy well deserved.

andre-iguodala

Congratulations Iggie. Your example is helping us to learn the lesson.