Tiger did it. He absolutely did it. After five years and major surgery, Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters golf tournament. And despite what you think of him or what he went through, his comeback is noteworthy. It took faith and guts and fortitude and gumption.
So here’s to Tiger. He came back and his comeback is a throwback to when we fell in love with him way back.
Here’s how Sports Illustrated reported the epic win:
“Tiger shot a final-round 70 on Sunday at the Masters to claim his fifth green jacket and 15th major championship, his first since 2008. Woods trailed Francesco Molinari by two shots entering the final day, but used a vintage back-nine to claim the tournament, redemption and a victory many golf fans thought they would never see.”
So you see, on this Good Friday, we look back to the Cross, the Old Rugged Cross, and remember that after death comes life. And for Tiger, after a meteoric rise and a very public and humiliating fall, he too has risen from the dead.
Coach Tony Bennet drew inspiration from the Contemporary Christian song “Hills and Valleys” as he described how his University of Virginia team bounced back from one of the most humbling losses in sports history.
They said it would never happen, but one year ago, the Virginia Cavaliers were the first No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed. Ouch — that one really hurt. I remember that loss like it was yesterday.
But now, The University of Virginia Cavliers are champions of the college basketbal world for the first time in men’s program history. In his post-game comments, the Virginia head coach recounted how he drew inspiration from the movie Rocky and used the film as a source of motivation for his players. As well as crediting Rocky, Bennett also mentioned a song by Tauren Wells. The song called “Hills and Valleys” contains these heartwarming, spirit lifting words:
I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place
And I have held the blessings
God, you give and take away
No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love
On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
Here’s what Coach Bennet had to say after the big overtime win:
Beyond just the sting of last year’s opening-round loss to the UMBC Retrievers, Bennett has faced numerous questions about whether his defense-first approach was holding back the Cavaliers in the tournament. Despite enjoying a lot of success in the regular season, Virginia had just one Elite Eight appearance in Bennett’s first nine seasons.
Charles Barkley aptly pointed out that Virginia’s best player, De’Aandre Hunter, who went to MY High School, Friends’ Central in Philly, DNP – did not play in last year’s painful loss to UMBC. Hmmmm.
And so this title is an emphatic statement as to Bennett’s tactical acumen. And with only one senior (Jack Salt) on the roster, Virginia might be right back in the Final Four in 2020.
Virginia defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 85-77 in Monday’s 2019 NCAA men’s basketball national championship game.
With 12.9 seconds left in regulation, De’Andre Hunter hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 68 and send it to overtime. Hunter stepped up big again in overtime, connecting from long range to put Virginia ahead 75-73 with 2:10 remaining.
Since I’ve lived in Virginia most of my life, I’m so happy for UVA and for Coach Bennet and for the players that endured last year’s cross of a loss which was for them a Calvary.
Theologically speaking, it just proves all over again that a cross always paves the way to a crown. Virginia’s win proves all over again that we oftentimes must endure the lowest of lows before God raises us up to rejoice in the victory that is ours. And it is our destiny that we win.
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.
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.
Here we go! The Sixers and the Celtics are getting ready to go at it in the playoffs one more time. And it will be just like old times, right? For those that can remember, Dr. J. played against Larry Bird all season long and almost every year in the playoffs. They went toe to toe, duking it out, sometimes literally, each leading their team, each vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. It was great theater and better basketball.
And here we go again. Now we have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid versus a new band of Bostonians including Al Horford, Terry Rozier and rookie sensational Jason Tatum. It should be an instant classic series. All of Philly and all of Boston are sitting on the edge of their seats already in gleeful anticipation — and the opening tip off hasn’t even come yet.
And that’s the anticipation that Christians have living in these toxic and turbulent times. We don’t fear what’s going to happen next. We anticipate the lively hope we actually already have, and now enjoy the promise of the soon coming of Christ. The gloom and doom of yesterday and today will fade in God’s tomorrow as Christ will usher in a truly golden age of bountiful blessings for all who trust and believe in Him.
We have the promise now, and will inherit a retirement package second to none. The theologians call it “the already and not yet.”
And that’s the lesson that this new, highly anticipated Philly/Boston NBA Basketball Playoff series teaches us. Anticipation and expectation are spiritual things. And they belong in church and in sports too.
LeBron James just hit a buzzer beater to beat the Indiana Pacers 98–95 in Game Five of a 2018 First Round playoff series. It was vintage LeBron. The king delivered a certified instant classic with an epic performance at home to give his team a 3-2 series lead. He almost had a triple double: 44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He had an attack dog mentality as he dominated his opponent and carried his team on his back, again,
LeBron had a huge block when Indiana could have taken the lead. And the block came right after he turned the ball over under his own basket with under a minute to play. Instead of an embarrassing defeat, with only three seconds left on the clock, king James hit a three pointer from the top of the key. Instead of overtime and a possible loss at home, the king of the NBA led his team to yet another thrilling victory with yet another buzzer beater and yet another demoralizing defeat for an opponent that could’ve stolen a game from the James. But not so.
Cleveland is not a great team but they still have the game’s greatest player. The argument for the greatest of all time still rages as the jury is still out because the verdict is not in. Is James better than Michael? Kobe? Magic? Wilt Chamberlain? Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Bill Russell? The debate rages on. For now, once again, the great one proved that he is still the reigning undisputed heavyweight champion of the basketball world.
The great ones always find a way. Always. And once again this great player found another way to win.
The corollary is clear. You might not be that good or that great. None of us are. But with the great God we serve, you’re still great. And every day and in every “game” you have the chance to win even though you’re down and it looks like you may be out. But not so. Not with the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on your side.
Jesus is the ultimate greatest One, and He will always find a way for you to win. Always.
As we wake up this weekend, we’re all so sad and sore for a legend and the lore of Lindsey Vonn. Lyndsey lost in her first attempt at gold in Pyeongchang in the Women’s Super G.
Lyndsey isn’t hard to like. First, she’s not hard on the eyes. She’s an attractive blond with a pretty smile and a supportive family. And she simply adored her grandfather who taught her how to ski fast. Unfortunately, her grandfather, Grandpa Kildow, passed away this past November. And she wanted to win gold in honor of him. So what’s not to like? The interview that Mike Torico, the NBC Winter Olympics host, deftly did at her grandparents home in Wisconsin before he died was a tearjerker. The interview was the last time Lyndsey saw her grandfather alive.
“When Kildow died in November just weeks before the 2017-2018 World Cup downhill skiing season began, Vonn struggled to come to terms with his passing. She shared a heartfelt letter she wrote to her grandfather on her Instagram page, giving a sense of just how much he truly meant to her:
Dear Grandpa,I still can’t believe you’re gone. No words can describe how much you mean to me and how much i love you. I wish i had more time with you but i will cherish the memories we had. You taught me to be tough, to be kind, and above all, to ski fast. Now, every time i ski down the mountain I know you’ll be there with me. I’m proud to be your granddaughter and I will think of you always. I will race for you in Korea and I will try as hard as I can to win for you. Please look out for me.
I love you Grandpa.
And it doesn’t look as though time has lessened her admiration for her grandfather; during an interview in PyeongChang on Friday with NBC, Vonn had a hard time keeping her composure as she talked about Kildow.”
Wow. It doesn’t get any better or more touching than that.
Lyndsey’s first event in 2018 was the Super Giant Slalom, and it didn’t go as well as she had hoped. First, she had to be the first skier down the hill and that, unfortunately, was a distinct disadvantage. Yes it was her lot to be first down the hill and no, this need not have been a handicap, but it was. She had no notion of how the course laid out before her because trial runs were not allowed.
Lindsey’s run was fast and clean at the top. But towards the bottom of the hill she took a turn too wide and it cost her dearly. She made just one mistake, and it was one mistake too many.
So we’ll all be rooting and cheating for Lyndsey in her final two events at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang as these Olympics will be her last. And win or lose on the skiing hill, Lyndsey will always be a winner in her grandfather’s book.