Terps Upset Hoyas 76 -75!

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I just watched my University of Maryland Men’s Basketball team come from behind to defeat Georgetown 76-75 in one of the most exciting and exhilarating and excruciating comeback wins ever. They played on the Hoya’s home court, the Verizon Center in D.C.,  in front of a raucous, partisan co-ed crowd. But no worries. With Melo Trimble breaking in the freshmen Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, the Terps did not quit.

Maryland was down by 11 with one minute remaining. Yet the once in charge, haughty and once heady Hoyas literally lost it and made one mistake after another; and Maryland capitalized and converted when it mattered most. The Terps got a big – no, a HUGE win; one that they would have lost not long ago.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told a sports reporter earlier today that the Terps have a ways to go. I watched the entire game, and yes they do. They’re young and youthful and patchy and scratchy. But I’ll take ‘em because they’re my Terps.

They say that a win is a win is a win; that’s true most of the time. But sometimes, some wins are bigger than others. Let’s just say that this comeback win over Georgetown tonight was bigger than life as it will certainly speed up that growth process quite a bit.

It’s great that Maryland and Georgetown are playing again. And it’s even better that my Terps won tonight, when all game they weren’t playing their best. But down the stretch and in the end they found some zest and pulled out an amazing and awesome win.

I told my wife that Maryland is not that good – but they’re not that bad either.

The Final Four and Basketball Body Language

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I love taking and critiquing a good photograph, especially a sports photograph. A really good photo must be formed and framed, fashioned and formatted. Not surprisingly, the photos I choose for each blog are as important and as the blog itself. I agonize and scrutinize dozens of stock photos to get just the right one for each blog. The pictures and the prose go hand in hand.

In the first photo, both hands are raised and the eyes are ablaze (or should be) and the winning Villanova teammate is celebrating a big win over mighty Kansas. It’s a picture of positive body language. Nuff said.

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The next photo, showing two of my Maryland Terrapins, is a classic lesson in negative basketball body language. You don’t have to know the final score to know that these two didn’t win. You didn’t even have to watch the game to know that their team didn’t move on. You just have to watch and study the body language.

Rasheed Sulaimon, the player on the left, is moving slowly, the shoulder on the left slightly lower than the shoulder on the right. Melo Trimble, his partner in crime, is also moving slowly as he sulks and saunters his way off of the court and out of the competition for the National Title. Both heads are hung and all four shoulders have none of the bounce or buoyancy that they had just minutes before. Both player’s bodies are slumped like they’ve been dumped and they’re wilted and faded like an old flower that has faded. Both players seem empty and dry, without direction and with simply no words left to mention.

How different will the body language be for the winners of tonight’s Final Four games? Either North Carolina (my pick) or Syracuse, Oklahoma or Villanova will be laughing and leaping and running and dancing and shouting and screaming.  There will be joy and gladness and rejoicing and yes, shear utter madness.

Winners and losers have different body language. And these two languages are as far as the east is from the west, and as far apart as night is from day, and as sunshine is from rain, and as the dead of winter is from the high heat of summer.

And so the lesson is this: don’t let the roller coaster emotions of March Madness get the best of you. Don’t let your body dictate your language.  Yes you can be elated or deflated, up or down, jubilant or jettisoned, but you don’t have to let these emotions drive the train. Yes the winners will be glad, and yes the losers will be sad, but the seasoned veterans will be able to take it all in and eventually be moderate regardless of the final score.

And in life, we should be too.

The Pain Of Loss

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I just lost my mom. “Loss” is the conventional, politically correct term you use when a loved one or friend passes away. My mom was sick and she died on March 8th, right in the middle of March Madness. So this March, the madness of March was more maddening for me for so many days in so many ways and on so many levels. So that’s why I haven’t been writing or posting for a while.

A loss hurts. A loss burns and bruises and even barks and bites. A loss can break and bend and twist and curve and swerve and nerve your emotions and affections like nothing else can.

For Christians, when someone we know dies, our loved one is not “lost” per se; it’s just that their presence is lost; they’re physically dead and gone to us. And there’s nothing we can do to bring them back. But they’re not lost as if we can’t find them, because we know where they are. However, it’s still a loss of their face and their embrace and their voice and their visits and their laugh and their love.  

While it does not compare — not hardly – the University of Maryland Basketball Team lost. Actually, my team won and lost. They won 27 games, but they lost 9. They began the season 15-1 and finished 14-8, but in March they were 5-3 and they finished the season a woeful 5-6, dating back to that mind bending, nerve numbing, unexplainable, inexplicable loss at lowly Minnesota on February 18th and the home loss to Wisconsin on February 13th.

According to Joshua Needleman of the Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s student run newspaper, “The sentiment for much of the season was when — not if — the Terps started clicking, they’d be unstoppable. They stormed to a 15-1 start even while working through some kinks.”

“Yet in an odd twist, the Terps didn’t get better or wiser over time — like my mom — or like that bottle of Chardonnay residing untouched in the cellar for years. They slowly fell apart, each loss sapping more and more of the fan base’s confidence. There always seemed to be something going awry, a new question that needed an answer.”

In another excellent article written by Alex Kirshner of the TestudoTimes, Kirshner writes “Maryland’s basketball team existed in a weird space this year. The Terps entered the season as a popular national title pick, and they remained so well into February. Even this March, plenty of people thought they had it in them. In the days leading up to the Terps’ season-ending loss to Kansas in the Sweet 16, I’d come around to expecting Maryland to beat the NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed. The Terps had a tantalizing glow about them, even when they weren’t their best.

The Terps wound up winning three times as many games as they lost, finishing 27-9. That’s really good for most programs, and it’s really good for Maryland. The Terps made their first Sweet 16 since 2003, which is quite an achievement. But in the end, why did the season seem so unsuccessful?”

 That’s a question that begs an answer. As with all of the other teams that lost in the NCAA Tournament, we have the hope of next season, and the high expectations of seeing Maryland players go on to the NBA and doing well (but if the underclassmen just came back for one more run!)

With all loses, we must look back, reminisce and recall to mind the mercies of the Lord. We must savor the good and sift through and sift out the bad. My mom was sick — I mean really sick — for the last six months of her life. I watched as she withered away, and the loss of her health and her strength was as hurtful as the loss of her presence.

But the grandkids and my sisters and I have the legacy of her love, many, many, meaningful memories and the wonderful well wishes and the sweet scented sentiments of our family and friends that will carry us till we see her again one day.

Are You Ready For March Madness? You Should Be!

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Yeah, yeah yeah. I know. It’s still February. But March is right around the corner. And this college basketball season coincides with a presidential election year and as we all know, anything can happen.

Let’s check the political “standings,” shall we? Hilary is holding on and Bernie Sanders is holding out and Trump is winning and Bush is losing – er, what’s that? Wait, what? Bush pulled out of the race? Ohmygosh. The presidential election “preseason” pick to win it all just went down in flames. Apparently, America is in no mood for Bush III. There goes the far right republican response to the hot headed hooligan who’s running away with the popular vote; if you think what he says is “popular.” This, my friends, is politics’ version of March Madness.

Donald Trump is such a polarizing symbol. He’s become the non, negative extreme example and the pious, poster boy picture of what March Madness has come to mean to the political machine. In basketball, we’d call Trump an underdog. But he’s an apt allusion for a country that’s used to their front-runners winning and their favorites grinning and their unwanted waning and the forlorned fading into the background. But not anymore. The age of upsets has come to politics. So watch out.

All right already — enough of that politics stuff. Let’s get back to basketball. College basketball.

This college basketball season, the top seeds are falling and the bottom feeders are rising and there’s no clear cut favorite to win it all. It’s just about anybody’s race. You could argue that anyone of the top ten teams in the country can win the championship. Villanova is No. 1. Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia (Virginia?), Xavier, Michigan State and West Virginia all are in the Associated Press Top 10 Poll this week, (emphasis on THIS week) and anyone of them could win it all. OK, maybe not Virginia (Sorry Cavalier fans). And then there’s my Maryland Terrapins! That’s right, MY team! Let’s Go Terps!

So, who ya got? Who’s going to go all the way and go to the Final Four in Houston and cut down the nets? It could be my underachieving Maryland Men’s Basketball Team coached by Mark Turgeon. And if 23-5 is underachieving, then what does overachieving look like? What will the Terps look like when (not if) they put it all together and they REALLY start playing?

And that’s the lesson for the rest of us. We are doing OK most of the time, but then there comes the slip up and the hiccup and the hitch and the glitch that delays our destiny. So we have to do just like my Terrapins did against Michigan today: continue to battle through missteps and mistakes and stop doubting and keep believing. In other words, just hold on. It’s not over yet. Maryland can will it all. And spiritually speaking, you and I can too.

And I believe Maryland will. So there. I said it. And I mean it. And I’m ready for March Madness. Are you?

Slip Out Of The Slump

Melo In Slump

Maryland Terrapins Basketball: How Can Melo Trimble Get Out Of His Slump?

Melo Trimble is in trouble. Big trouble. Deep trouble. Trouble trouble. He’s in danger with a dilemma and a difficulty that he doesn’t seem to know how to fix. He can’t hit the side of a barn and his team needs him. The Terps desperately need their superman, super star, All American point guard to break out of his slump and put on that superman suit and start acting like a super, Super Man and quit acting like a marshmallow Clarke Kent.

Maryland needs Melo to make big shots and hit clutch shots in big games (and small games too, for that matter). The Terps need Melo to lead them and guide them and steer them in the right direction if they are to be anywhere near the great team we know they can be. There’s plenty of basketball left this season, and from here on out and down the stretch, no game is too small and no team is too insignificant. The fact that the Minnesota Golden Gophers were 0-13 in conference play before last night meant nothing. It’s that simple.

Melo is turning the ball over and making bad decisions and just not looking like the Melo Trimble we’ve all come to know and love. It’s sad to watch. It makes me mad to watch. But I’ll be glad to watch Melo march right out of this slump just in time for the Big Ten Tournament and March Madness.

It’s been a while since Melo has played to his potential. In the last two games, first against Wisconsin (AT HOME!) and then last night against Minnesota, Trimble was abysmal.  As I sat and watched in horror, with the game on the line, Trimble turned the ball over three possessions in a row.  First he had the ball stolen from him, then he threw up an anemic looking air ball, and THEN he dribbled the baseline and tried to tightrope the end line but instead went out of bounds.  My, my, my. Game, set match Minnesota.

What’s worst is that he’s lost his touch. Melo can’t hit a shot and can’t knock down a three and can’t stroke a jumper. It’s awful. And he looks awful. Something MUST wrong. Is it physical? Mental? Emotional? What is it? The coaches and the fans and the Maryland faithful are all stumped about the cause of the slump.

If you’ve ever slouched into a slump or been stuck in a rut or pitched into a ditch, you may know a little something about how to get in a funk. But it’s not getting in that we need help with; it’s getting out. Getting in is much easier than getting out, and that’s when we need a helping hand.

Spiritually speaking, we’ve all been in a slump. Long ones and short ones and dry ones and wry ones and dreary ones and weary ones. No two slumps are ever alike, but we’ve all been there. But the good news is that a slump is never eternal. Remember, setbacks are only setups for a comeback. Weeping only endures for a night. Joy is promised to come in the morning. Hallelujah!

During a slump, the key is to recognize that you are where you are. Don’t waste time blaming and complaining. You’re in a slump. Acknowledge it. But is that where you want to be? Of course not! So then you must take the proper and necessary steps to stop the bleeding and start the healing.

So, if you’ve got a good suggestion, please beep him or buzz him or text him or tweet him. Call or contact or page or petition, but by all means, if you’ve got an antidote for what ails my Terps and Mr. Melo, pray tell, please do speak up.

Pretty Ugly: We Didn’t Have A Prayer

West Virginia v Maryland
Sports is full of oxymorons. An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory. Team names like the “Fighting Quakers” comes immediately to mind. And for those that don’t know, Quakers are pacifists, meaning they don’t believe in fighting but instead take “turn the other cheek” quite literally. I went to a Quaker school in Philly (so ask me how I know). And saying we “didn’t have a prayer” is certainly an oxymoron, because there is always hope; but you’re gotta have hope in order for there to be hope. 

Other examples of oxymorons in sports include “boxing ring,” “warming down,” and “forward lateral.” Everyone knows that a boxing “ring” is square, that you warm up when you’re cold, not down, (after a work-out you cool off, but surely I digress) and you can’t go forward and move laterally at the same time. And here’s another one you can add to the list: the Maryland/West Virginia game in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament last night was pretty ugly.

The Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball Team had a great season with an awful ending. By most standards and all accounts, the Terps over-achieved and over-reached and over-performed and had a record-setting season; they won a ton of games, but just came up short at the end. Unfortunately, their season did not match their play last night.

Last night, oxymorons were everywhere and allusions abounded. The Terps played with sharp dullness and tired energy and sloppy efficiency. They turned the ball over 21 TIMES! Twenty-One times! Seriously? And Melo Trimble got hurt, so any hope of winning went out the door when he went down on the floor. Oh well. But even with Melo the Terps were amazingly unexceptional and happily horrible. Last night was painful and stressful and awful and woeful; on the other hand, the entire length of this all of a sudden short season, a.k.a., the season as a whole, was exciting and exhilarating and thrilling and bone chilling. Go figure. And such is life.

In life you learn to take the good with the bad and the ups with the downs and the wins with the losses. You learn to accept the incongruities and the ambiguities of a good team going cold or a bad team getting hot. It’s called living and dying with your team and loving and hating them simultaneously all at the same time. You have to learn to run slow and walk fast and to be nasty with a smile, all at once.

So keep your heads up, Terp Fans. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble are the ones that got us to the Big Dance, and you’re supposed to dance with the girl that you got, not the one you’re trying to get. And she’s still our “girl” even though the dance last night was pretty ugly. But with Mello and the rest of the freshman coming back, we’re actually sitting pretty.

In sports, there are oodles of oxymorons. There’s crying and amidst and alongside the celebration, because only one team can win the last game of the season. Only one team can walk off of the court and say that they went out on top. And only one team can cut down the nets. So far, Kentucky is still the front-runner, with Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona and Gonzaga all close seconds, nipping at their heels.

And so may the Best Team (Kentucky?) win. But that too, can be an oxymoron. And I borrow this clip from Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post:

The thing to remember about Maryland’s season-ending, 69-59 loss to West Virginia on Sunday night wasn’t the final score. It wasn’t the aesthetics, either; West Virginia’s manic style could make the Harlem Globetrotters look sloppy. And it certainly wasn’t the ending — after Melo Trimble was sidelined by two blows to the head, things fell apart, fans in yellow roaring as the typically composed Terps unraveled.

No, the moment to remember came in the first half, when the Terps were still streaking up and down the court with a lineup featuring Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens and Michal Cekovsky. That’s four freshmen, for those without a lineup card, and it speaks to the lasting emotion of this Maryland season: renewed hope.

Winning Is Serious Fun

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No one likes to lose and everyone wants to win. While it’s that simple, it’s not that easy. And as they say, “it’s easier said than done.”  Winning is fun; its serious fun. And fun, Biblically speaking, is “joy.” Joy is a positive attitude or pleasant emotion; it means delight.  The joy which the people of God should have is holy and pure. This joy rises above circumstances and focuses on the very character of God.

It is a joy to win, and it is a downer to lose. In losing we learn life lessons. But there comes a time when it’s time to turn in the lessons, and receive a final grade.

No one likes to lose because losing means to slip and to slide, to fail and to flounder, to miss the mission and jettison the job. When you lose you obliterate the operation, but when you win you inaugurate the celebration. Winning cures everything. Winning cures what ails us. But in order to win we must consistently do and persistently say and voice the vision of victory.  Like my Maryland Terps did last night.

My Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball Team upset No. 5 Wisconsin last night, 59 -53 . It was a fantastic finish to a wonderful win. Dez Wells, Maryland’s senior star, consistently and persistently poked and prodded his teammates to victory.  He mandated that they could win; he pleaded that they should win; and in the end, he ensured that they would win. And win they did. And they had fun doing it, and the fans had fun celebrating it, as they rushed the court to celebrate after the final buzzer sounded.

Everyone wants to win. And Dez Wells does too. He scored 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists; not too shabby. Wells was the spark and the sparkle of the team. AND, I’m convinced that my Terps can play like that all of the time. Instead of being hot and cold and off and on, sometimes up and sometimes down, these Terps could be the best of the best most of the time.  The sky is the limit.

Winning like the Terps did last night makes one ponder and pose and consider and conceive – and even expect — how life would be if we played well all of the time. Just suppose; just imagine; just think of how good we could be if we hit on all cylinders at least MOST of the time? But alas, this season my Terps didn’t; and unfortunately they haven’t – played their best every game — but they could’ve.  And the same goes for all of the rest of us too.

Everyone wants to win and no one likes to lose. Because winning is serious. It’s means something and it matters everything. Why? Because winning is communicable and contagious; winning is transferable and transmittable; but so is losing. And the line and the limit between losing and winning are so thin you can barely see it with a magnifying glass.

Since everyone wants to win, and everyone is serious about winning, we strive for precision and perfection; we strive for faultless and flawless; we strive for the fantastic and the fanciful. We strive for Oscar-winning performances on and off the court. And with help from the Heavens, we hope to have happy, healthy, joyful and jovial endings to all, or at least most, of our games. It’s that serious.

And here’s an excerpt from Washington Post Sports Columnist Jason Ried’s article on the win:

“Recent signs indicate the Terrapins possess what it takes to have some fun in the NCAA tournament, and the biggest one occurred Tuesday night during a stirring 59-53 victory over formidable Wisconsin.”

“Dez Wells wouldn’t let us lose,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Melo was Melo.”

“Picked 10th in the conference preseason poll, Maryland steadily has gained supporters. It’s easy to like an up-and-comer that seemed to come from nowhere. Guess who was ahead of the pack.”

“The victory was the Terrapins’ best of the season by far . . . “

And that’s serious, and that’s fun.