The Mets Are In First Place 2.0: a.k.a., A Setback Is Just A Set Up For A Comeback

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What? The Miracle Mets are in first place … again? Yes indeed. The Mets are in FIRST PLACE . . . Again! The 2015 New York Mets started the season on fire, galloping out of the gate with all of the gusto they could muster. They were the belles of the ball and the queens of the dance. But there was only one problem – it was only April.

The Met’s soon cooled off and chilled out and fell well out of first into 3rd and even fourth place. They fell back and had setbacks and stumbled and fumbled away the lead and it looked like it was all over. All of the experts and know-it-all’s wrote them off and counted them out. But now, they’re back on top, and threatening to take the NL East from the favorites, the Washington Nationals. And these same Mets just swept the Nationals AT Nationals Park! Oh my!

Who would have thunk it? The Mets? Really? Seriously? Do they have another miracle season in ‘em? I for one hope so because I for one love an uncommon comeback, and a terrific turnaround.

Why? Because turnarounds are spiritual. They’re born in Heaven and birthed in eternity. And I believe that the spirit of sports is most evident when a team or a track star or a gymnast or a golfer or a point guard or a place kicker has a great game and a great outing and upsets the favorite and knocks off the front-runner, and wins the day.

So how about you? Come on. Let’s pull for the Mets. They’re just like the rest of us. Like the rest of us, they’ve had setbacks, and let downs and put downs. But now they’ve staged a comeback. So just remember that a setback is just a set up for a comeback.

Come on Mets!

Psalm 30:11-12

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

New Living Translation

Of Bats and Balls and Bases

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What’s so big about baseball? Whats the big deal about bats and balls and bases and strikes and steals and walks and walk-offs and fly-outs and ground-outs and foul balls and relief pitching and wild pitches and double plays? Why do some like baseball so much? Then again, why do others like baseball so little? Why do some love baseball and others loathe it?

For the lovers, it’s all about the hot bats and the long balls and running the bases. And don’t forget about the lights-out pitching. Great hitters are fun to watch. They get on a hot streak and it seems like every time they’re up to bat, the ball is going to get hit and the bases are going to be run. There’s something about the talent it takes and the mental toughness that makes a good ball player.

Baseball is timing and technique and torque all rolled up into one. It’s velocity and veracity and pace and power and patience and speed and spunk and spirit that make baseball great. And all of these and a thousand other things besides are why we love baseball. And that’s why others don’t watch until there’s a pennant race.

Baseball, for some, is like watching paint dry. For most, a boring game between a bad bunch of bumpkins is worse than going to the dentist when you have a tooth ache. For all, enduring an ugly game between undisciplined teams is tantamount watching grass grow. It’s torture. But that’s true in any sport, and it’s especially magnified when you have awful, appalling teams battling for nothing.

And the same is true in life.  We all long for meaning. We sense the need for significance and substance. We all loathe meaningless and nothingness living.  Our gut tells us that our lives must mean something, or they aren’t worth anything. A meaningless game is, in my opinion, a waste of time. Yes games must be played because they’re on the schedule, but even the players know that a game that doesn’t MEAN something won’t be worth playing, or watching.  

And same is true with your life. Jesus Christ gives your life meaning. Jesus died because our lives have worth and value.  And life is worth living just because He lives. The bottom line is this: Jesus is the reason that life is worth living.

And so back to baseball. Since its mid-July and August is right around the corner, it’s time to check the standings to see where your team stands (this directive DOES NOT, of course, apply to Philly fans). It’s time to root, root, root for your home team. It’s time to follow those hot bats, gaze at those high, fly balls, and cheer the boys of summer on as they round the bases for home.

Are You Watching Baseball? Of Course You Are – There’s Nothing Else On!

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More people are watching baseball. The numbers are up and interest is high and teams are winning (except mine) and, well, its summertime, right?  And baseball is supposed to be American’s pastime. And besides, there’s no other sports on. But that shouldn’t be the reason people are watching baseball, right?

Prime time television ratings for each of the Major League Baseball teams are up a week before the All-Star break and show an increase over the same period last year, according to data from Nielsen. Using data for each of the 29 domestic U.S. clubs (Nielsen does not track ratings in Canada so the Toronto Blue Jays are excluded), 13 clubs are seeing gains, compared to 12 seeing losses (I wonder who the biggest loser was – Philly?) But surely I digress.   Anyway, the 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants see an average household rating the same as a year ago (4.86).

On top of this, MLB at the local level is dominating summer programming. Each RSN televises an average of 148 MLB game per season, most in prime time (7p-11p), when the television audience is the greatest.

Ten teams are the highest-rated, most-viewed programming in prime time beating the competition in both broadcast and cable. These teams include the Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Arizona Diamondbacks.

People watch and pay attention and follow and tune in because something is worthwhile and worth watching.  People don’t watch and don’t pay attention and don’t follow and tune out because there’s nothing to attract them and appeal to them. People are lured in and hooked on because of  bait that is appealing and attractive and likable and laudable. And so the question is, how attractive is your life? If you are a Christian, are you appealing and attention-getting and approachable or even agreeable to those who would want to watch your life?  If not, you should be.

So let’s take a page out of the Major League Baseball playbook. Let’s attract some more viewers. Let’s put out a product that people can and want to see.

And while you’re doing that, go ahead, turn on the tube and watch a good baseball game. Because before you know it, it will be football weather and time to play and pay attention to America’s REAL favorite sport: FOOTBALL!

Why Philly Fans Are So Angry

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As you know, I’m from Philly. That’s right, Philly. Did I just hear a snicker? I didn’t think so. Anyway, I’m from Philly and Philly fans are NOT happy. Not at all. Not in the least. At least not now.

Right off the bat, I checked the standings this morning and the Phils are in LAST place.  Last place! Dead Last. In the entire League! They are 21-35; that’s 14 games under .500. That means we would have to go on a 14 game hot streak just to get back even. Good Lord. And we won the World Series just a few, well alright, 8 short (or long?) years ago. What is going ON?

Then there’s the Eagles (pronounced Iggles). Coach Chip Kelly has bet the farm and mortgaged the barn with the hopes of winning NOW. Ok Chip. You are now on the clock. If the Birds don’t win, or at least look respectable doing it, all of Philly will be Angry-ERR.

And then there’s the Sixers. Yeah we got a high draft pick (No. 3, right?) but the ballers of Broad Street are a long way from being like Dr. J, “Wilt the Stilt”, and even our beloved Allen Iverson.

And last up, we have to throw in the Flyers, the Broad Street Bullies, the wearers of the Black and Orange, who have gone to the playoffs lately (but not this year), and can’t seem to get all the way back on top. It’s been over 40 years since the Flyers won the Stanley Cup Trophy. Yeash!

It’s been a long time since Lord Stanley’s Cup took a ride down Broad Street at the end of a season, and the Vince Lombardi Trophy can’t even spell South Philly, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy hasn’t taken a trip to the City of Brotherly Love in over 30 years. So sad. Our grief has turned to disbelief, as our anger and angst and fury and frustration continue. But it can’t last forever.

Philly Fans are die-hards. A die-hard is a person who will do anything for a cause or goal. And a die-hard fan is a fan who will root, root, root for the home team, no matter what.

So while we’ve been weeping and wailing and fussing and fuming over our stinky status in the standings, we know that weeping won’t last forever. Weeping may endure for a night, or a long night of losses and defeats and falling short, but joy does come in the morning. And all of Philly is hoping that morning is this year. At least for the Iggles.

Playing With A Chip On Your Shoulder

SI Bryce Harper Guess who’s in first place in the National League East? The Washington Nationals. That’s right, the Washington Nationals. The team with the curly double “u” for a logo. The last time we checked in with these same Nats they were tied for last place and looking bad doing it. (https://godandsports.net/2015/04/27/sports-in-washington-dc-up-and-down-and-all-around/) Right now they’re red hot; they’re clearly the hottest team in baseball, having won eight of their last ten, and they have the hottest player in baseball, Bryce Harper, who’s hitting home runs just for something to do. So what about this Bryce Harper dude? He’s been billed as “Baseball’s LeBron.” He’s been on the cover of  Sports Illustrated TWICE. He’s just 22 years old, he’s getting it done at the plate and in the field, and he’s the toast of the league and the talk of the town. He’s brash and brazen, chucky and cheeky, sassy and brassy, and he’s just what the Dr. ordered in order to get these Nats to where they want to go. And he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. SI Bryce Harper2 The Washington Nationals have built themselves into a bona fide, legitimate veritable and unquestionable contender. And it’s because they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder — and it’s working. Since moving from Montreal 10 years ago, the Nats have had to prove that they belong. For ten years, the Nats have been trying to prove that they’re not a step-child, black sheep, wannabe, not quite ready for prime time team (https://godandsports.net/2014/10/08/not-quite-ready-for-prime-time/).

Someone who has a chip on their shoulder is angry all the time. They feel that they have been wronged by the world, so they are always ready for a fight or a feud or a scuffle or a tussle. They are easily offended because they feel that they have been treated unfairly by others, or perhaps they feel inferior. The Nats fit this bill to a tee. Bryce+Harper+New+York+Mets+v+Washington+Nationals+elEfXksh7sDl Playing with a chip on your shoulder can also mean that a person has a grievance about something. Something bad has happened and they believe it was someone else’s fault. This kind of person is constantly angry about it so that it affects their behavior. In their mind, a person who is “chippy” is showing how tough they are. Sounds like Bryce Harper and the Nats to me.

The phrase dates back to 1830 when two churlish Long Island boys were determined to fight. A chip was placed on the shoulder of one, and he demanded the other to knock it off at his peril. In this case a chip was a small piece of wood. Ever since, a young boy who is angry about something and determined to fight would place a small chip of wood on his shoulder and challenge another person to knock it off. When the chip was knocked off, it meant the opponent was ready and the fight would begin.

The Nats have something to prove. And so do you. You are fairer than they say you are, you are finer than they sense you are, and you are fiercer than they suppose you are. So go ahead. Prove it. Put the chip on your shoulder. Play “Mad Enough To Win” (https://godandsports.net/?s=Mad+enough+to+win) and make sure you “determine to disappoint the devil” (https://godandsports.net/2013/10/03/determined-to-dissapoint-the-devil/)

The phrase “Playing with a chip on your shoulder” has a negative connotation, but it need not be entirely negative. When your friends forsake you and your enemies underestimate you, there’s nothing wrong with playing with attitude and arrogance, with aggressiveness and assertiveness, and with determination and this declaration: that nothing and no one, and I mean NO ONE can or will beat or best you or strip you or stress you. Why? Because you are more than a conqueror. God always causes you to triumph in Christ. God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. And your victory lies in your faith. 

So always remember and never forget that you were designed and you have been destined to win.

The Mets Are In First Place?

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The New York Mets are in 1st place?  Yes, the New York Mets are in 1st place! That’s right, the New York Mets are in FIRST, with the best record in Baseball (it needs to be repeated repeatedly to sink in). Not just in their Division, the National League East, with the Atlanta Braves and ‘Da Nationals, but in all of Major League Baseball. Go figure. Certainly all Yankee Fans everywhere are scratching their heads and shaking their heads right about now. On the other hand, Mets Fans, where are you? Come out, come out wherever you are!

After 15 games, not many people — correction: NOT ANYBODY — had the New York Mets pegged as the team to beat and to have baseball’s best record, but that’s exactly where they stand. The Mets are riding a 10-game winning streak and are now 12-3 on the season. The Last time they had that record through 15 games, they ended the season on a high note and won the World Series.

In 1986, the last time the Mets were this hot to start a season, they won the Fall Classic in the infamous Buckner series. That team was loaded with veteran talent and was actually in stark contrast to this current squad.  This streak may not last long. Or maybe it will? Baseball’s a funny game. But one thing’s for certain — the generally underachieving ‘Amazin’s’ have emerged as one of the best stories of the first month of this season.

Now, over the course of this early April season, the Mets have completely altered the conversation.  They’re doing it with pitching and with defense and with teamwork and with timing, and well, dare I say, with Providence? They’ve dramatically changed the sense of what they are capable of — probably in most fans’ minds and certainly in their own. In church we call it faith; so why should we use another word in sports when we mean the same thing? 

The Mets have gone from bottom feeders to World Series contenders. In the blink of an eye. Wow. I know how it feels. For now, the Mets are out of their year-in, year-out lingering in last place slump. And thank God I’m out of mine, so that means you can get out of yours too.

Live or Die With Your Team

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I’m going to Seattle. That’s right; I’m headed right for the great Pacific Northwest and the Emerald City and one of my stops is Safeco Field for a Mariners game.

The Mariners are picked to finish a respectable ninth in Major League Baseball this year.  Ninth. Of course and as you all know, I’m a Philly guy. That’s right, baby — Philly all the way! And that means Phillies all the way. But the Phils’ are picked to finish dead last in the standings this season. DEAD LAST. Not in their Division — in the League. How’s that for a downer before we even get out of the gate good! Ninth sounds a lot  better.

So, here’s what I was thinking. I need another team. I need a stand by, stand-in, back up, spare tire, in reserve, relief pitcher kind of surrogate-substitute team. It’s not like I’m defecting from the Phillies on anything. Au contraire. I’m a baseball fan and I like to watch a winning team. So, while my Phillies are getting themselves together, I’ll watch someone else. It’s not like I’m cheating or anything like that, right? I mean, I’ll keep my eye on the standings and the scoreboard, and if they decide to get on a hot streak, I’ll be right there.

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And I bet you’ve got a fill-in, fallback, temporary team too, right? You might not admit it, but you do. And I think I’ve got one in the wings. The Boston Red Sox. How ‘bout that? Sox Nation Baby! And that’s not because I hate the Yankees; perish the thought. My son went to school in Boston, I mean BAAASTIN, and I was glad for them when they finally won in 2004.

But wait a minute. Wait one cotton-pickin’ minute. Seriously, no tried and true fan has a backup team. I mean, we live or die, rise and fall, like it or lump it with our home town team. We win with ‘em and we lose with ‘em. None of this girlfriend for every day of the week stuff. Right? Right! So, my Phils stink. And I’m just going to have to live with it. Bummer? No. It’s called faithfulness and fidelity; Christian principles, no less, right out of God’s Playbook. And it’s based on love. We love, and therefore live and die with our teams. 

So, back to the Mariners and Safeco Field. I look forward to going to this field as I’ve heard that their ballpark is very nice. In fact, I’d love to take off one summer and visit each and every ballpark in the US. Wouldn’t that be great? If you or someone you know has done that, let me know. I’d love to hear their story.

So, take me out to the ball game. In Seattle.