The Eagles Need A Christmas Miracle

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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.

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Zach Ertz after the Super Bowl LII Miracle

The Toronto Raptors: Oh Canada!

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Ok. So the Raptors ripped the reigning NBA royals a new one. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can hear you all the way over here. 

Yes the Raptors won Game One. No, the Warriors did not look like the Warriors. Yes, it was the first NBA Finals game outside of the good ‘ole USofA.  No, Durant did not play. And yes, the fans were pumped and primed and the energy in the building was crazy. And no, the Warriors did not match the Raptors’ intensity. So there; a Game One win for the home team.

But just who were those guys in the home whites? Kawhi turned in a pedestrian performance as he ONLY scored 23 points. But the rest of the Raptors? Who were they? And where did that come from?  I mean a guy named Pascal Siakam scored 32 Points!  Thirty-Two points! On 14 for 17 shooting! Seriously?  That guy shot 82.3% from the floor?!  Are you serious? In other words, that guy, that guy who has a 10 point career scoring average, took 17 shots and missed three.  That only happens once in a never. Is this a dream or what?

Ok — let me try this explanation another way, as I try to lower my blood pressure – breath, breath . . . . Pascal Siakam just played in his first NBA Finals game.  His FIRST. Siakam is averaging 18 points per game in the playoffs and he averaged a very respectable 16.7 for the season.  But his unexpected 32 points in Game One was the most points in an NBA Finals debut since Kevin Durant had 36 for Oklahoma City in 2012, and it made Siakam the first player to score 30 or more on at least 80 percent shooting in a finals game since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2004.

Those two players, Durant and Shaq, were top-two draft picks, as were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan, the other players since 1970 with 30 points in an NBA Finals Game 1 within their first three pro seasons.

So, do you believe in miracles?  This guy from Cameroon, who was going to be a priest, turned to basketball and now turns in the performance of his life when his team needed it most. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. As I watched Game One in disbelief, I realized that it appears that we may, just may, have an upset in the making?

While I’m pulling hard for “my” Warriors, it appears that the team from up North has all of the farm animals lined up to make a dress for the ball.  The newest entry on the long list of sports Cinderella’s thinks she can dance her way into the prince’s heart, and the pumpkin is ready and waiting outside. That’s the pumpkin that just got turned into a riding carriage. We’ll see.

Here’s how Jackie MacMullan from ESPN saw it:

“TORONTO — When you are champions, you stick with what got you here. For the Golden State Warriors, the formula in these 2019 playoffs had been fairly transparent: identify the best player on the opposing team — see James Harden and Damian Lillard — and harangue him into a night of frustration and disappointment.

Thus, the blueprint against the Toronto Raptors was to reduce Kawhi Leonard’s basketball life to misery, or at the very least considerable discomfort. Blitz him, double him, triple him if necessary, force him to give up the ball and dare the others to beat you.

It was a sound strategy on paper — except the “others” were not only expecting it, they were aiming to exploit it. So, it was a collection of “complementary” Raptors who vaulted Toronto to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-109 in a raucous Scotiabank Arena, delivering a roundhouse right to a team that so often has seemed invincible.

On a night when Leonard, who had been the most transcendent player in the playoffs, was a mere mortal, players such as Pascal Siakam happily filled the void. Siakam, the 24-year old forward who once was on a path to the priesthood — until a visit, on a lark, to a summer basketball camp in his native Cameroon detoured him on an improbable basketball journey — scored 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting. It was a prolific performance that would have been unthinkable two short years ago, when he was a raw, unpolished player who couldn’t shoot.

At all.

‘I was joking with him the other day,” teammate Fred VanVleet told ESPN. ‘We used to shoot together in my rookie year, and me and the guy rebounding used to duck sometimes because his shots would come off the rim so hard.

‘He had some bad misses. But what you are seeing now is the result of a lot of hard work. You can just see his confidence soaring.”

And the confidence of the Raptors is soaring as well. Not only do they think they can win, they believe they will win. And that’s how we should be: full of faith, void of fear and brimming with confidence that the Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory. shall fight for us. Regardless of the opposition, notwithstanding the competition, we must trust and believe that we are victors, not victims. We must cling to the Old Rugged Cross and to the truth that we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us.

As for the Warriors, they have their work cut out for them, with or without Durant.

For Those In Need of A “Breakthrough”

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Does your prayer life need new life? Does your faith need a fix? Does your belief in the miraculous need some motivation? Then the film “Breakthrough” is for you. It’s especially for you. I believe in miracles, and this film just wrecked me. “Breakthrough” gave me reason to hope all over again. It’s a hard hitting, warm and fuzzy, cerebral yet practical primer on why we all should believe in God.

“Breakthrough” is the ultlimate upset win. It’s a classic comeback, and a total turnaround. John Smith, a 14 -year old star basketball player, is a typical teen. He doesn’t listen to his mom, he doesn’t do his homework, and he doesn’t think he’s living on thin ice. But he is. And yet God gives him a new lease on life with a second chance to make a difference.

In “Breaktkhorugh” it took the faith of a mother and the prayers of the saints to bring John back from the dead. It has intertwined layers of ethos and multiple levels of pathos, all mixed in to a solid, yet sordid story about life and love and how to live a victorious Christian life. Take it from me and do yourself a favor; read this blog and then go out and watch this film. It’s that good. It will do wonders for your soul.

Here’s the New York Times film review by Bilge Ebiri:

“In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell through the frozen surface of a lake in St. Charles, Mo., and remained submerged for 15 minutes. He had no pulse when emergency workers pulled him from the freezing water, or for nearly 45 minutes after; it was reportedly only after audible prayers by his mother, Joyce, that his heart finally started up again. And over the next several days, as his community vigorously prayed for him, the young man made a full, seemingly impossible recovery.

Roxann Dawson’s faith-based film, “Breakthrough,” tells the story of John’s miraculous ordeal with an unassuming simplicity, focusing on the harrowing details of the case without an overreliance on proselytization. Though faith is ever-present — particularly through the devotion of Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and the town’s struggling young pastor (Topher Grace), who remain with John (Marcel Ruiz) every step of the way — the film also wisely dedicates plenty of screen time to the emergency workers and doctors struggling to bring the boy back to life. Here, religion is not in contention with medicine, but seems to work in tandem with it.

The filmmaking may at times be direct and inelegant, but “Breakthrough” isn’t without nuance. Dawson (a TV veteran directing her first feature film) doesn’t sidestep the thorny issue of selective miracles — after returning to school, John wrestles with the fact that he was spared from death while many others aren’t. “Breakthrough” is more suggestive than evangelical, and its willingness to let the mystery of the young man’s survival linger enhances the film’s power. You don’t have to believe in divine intervention to be moved by this story.”

The Mother Of All Comebacks: Ieshia Champs

“When I was six years old, while playing with an old doll on a beat up sofa, I heard a knock at the door. My grandmother opened the door to reveal a woman I had seen earlier at school that day. My grandmother burst into tears and I was terribly confused. In that moment, I was being taken away and placed in the custody of Children Protective Services. Where was my mother? My father? Both were out on drug binges and I had not seen them in days.

Over the years, the only ounce of stability I received was in the eight hours I spent in the classroom. It was my comfort zone. I was a confused fourteen year old child who had already lived in over six different residences between all four years of high school. Some were friends whose parents allowed me to stay long term, and others were friends who sometimes had to sneak me in to stay the night. I was supposed to be thinking about what color lip gloss to wear or where to hang out with my friends over the weekend, however, I was worried about whose house could I stay at the following day. Soon things became overbearing and I reluctantly dropped out of school during my senior year. I wanted to help others who were in awful situations, perhaps plead someone’s case for innocence, yet I had no diploma and no desire to return to school. As the years grew, my dreams for becoming an attorney died.

By January of 2009, I was a mother of three and given the news of expecting my fourth child. As excited as I was, this turned out to be the most traumatic year I had ever experienced. Each month presented an overwhelming tragedy. I lost everything I owned in a house fire, was laid off from my job, and while seven months pregnant, lost my children’s father to cancer. I was suddenly a single mother of four with nothing to fall back on; not even my sanity.  I had four children, and I was already in my late 20’s. However, in the midst of this turmoil, I went back to school to obtain my GED. I did not want my children to experience what I did as a child. I had to succeed for them and for myself.

Upon matriculation into Thurgood Marshall School of Law, I was scared. I was a mother of five young children, and the only help I had was that of my church family and my sister, who also has five children of her own. My sisters’ love and care for me and my children helped me out in ways that are indescribable. She cooked for us, watched my children and hers after doing long hours at work, and most importantly, she always encouraged me and was a shoulder to lean on when I cried. She has been there every step of the way for me, despite her own personal obstacles she’s had to overcome. My church family has walked this journey with me since day one and has prayed for me daily, talked me out of giving up and most of all, they’ve been a family like no other. They’ve opened their home to me and my children and comforted me. It is situations such as those that gives me the drive and eagerness to become a successful attorney. Many of my peers identify me as a walking testimony, and are amazed at where I am today. I was once told that the odds were against me. I responded by not just defying the odds, but destroying them by resurrecting a dream that died.

I took the pictures with my kids because they helped me through school. They’re graduating too! They would help me review with flash cards while I cooked. They would sit as a mock jury while I taught them what I learned that day. I would sit in my closet and pray and cry because I was overwhelmed and my oldest son, David, would gather his siblings, give them a snack, make them take a bath, gather their school clothes, all to make things easier for me. And I had no knowledge of him doing that until I went to do it!”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ieshia Champs of Houston, Texas.

March Madness: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

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“Nothing feels better than this,” UNR coach Eric Musselman said. “Nothing. Sweet 16!”

UVA made history. So did UMBC and so did Loyola-Chicago and so did Buffalo. UVA was the first No. 1 Seed to lose to a 16 Seed. Likewise, UMBC has the distinct honor of being the first 16 Seed to upset a No. 1 Seed. It’s never happened before, and we all thought that it never would. Correction: we didn’t believe it ever could. But it did.

Loyola-Chicago, an 11 Seed, defeated Miami, a Six Seed, and then turned right around and defeated Tennessee, a Three Seed. Madness.   Buffalo, seeded 13, THIRTEEN!, beat Arizona, a 4 Seed — in the first round. And that’s just for starters.

Xavier, another No. 1 Seed, is gone. North Carolina and Cincinnati, both No. 2 Seeds, are gone too, and so is Michigan State, a No. 3 Seed. Notice a trend here? Houston beat Michigan – no wait, Michigan actually won! And on a buzzer beater by a freshman, no less! Goodness! And it’s going to snow tomorrow night! Talk about March Madness. There was barely a bad game in the tournament. Yes some were tough to watch because of poor officiating and spells of sporadic shooting, but all in all, it’s seems to be the year of the underdog. We could talk all day about UMBC beating UVA, but how about Nevada’s win?

Josh Hall converted an offensive rebound for the tiebreaking basket with 9.1 seconds left as University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) erased a 22-point deficit in the final minutes of a stunning 75-73 victory over Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. UNR’s stirring comeback — the second-largest in tournament history — came just two days after the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack rallied from 14 points down to beat Texas 87-83 for its first NCAA victory since 2007.

The Wolf Pack (28-7) move on to an all-upstart South Region semifinal matchup with 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago (30-5) on Thursday. Cincinnati, the No. 2 seed, never trailed until Hall’s tiebreaking basket but watched its lead disintegrate as it failed to make a basket in the final 5:45.

Nothing feels better than this,” UNR coach Eric Musselman said. “Nothing. Sweet 16!”

This year, perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, there have been more upsets, comebacks and turnarounds than you can shake a stick at. We’ve seen epic victories, historic collapses, and a little of bit everything else in between. It’s so much like living in the Bible days, it’s scary. It’s almost as if the Bible is coming off of the pages, or up out of your smart phone. The holy writ says that “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first”. That’s what we’re seeing here.

It’s so spiritual, it’s so mystical, and it’s so applicable to everyday life in general and to our lives in specific that we have no choice but to stop and take note. How are the teams who no one picked to win winning with reckless abandon?   

I submit that we must acknowledge the otherworldly dimension of sports. But before you dismiss this notion, hear me out.  Not everyone believes in prayer, but those that do believe that faith and works actually work together for good. Mix some elbow grease in with a good game plan and teamwork and a technical reason for how David defeated Goliath and, viola, you get Loyola-Chicago winning two games in this tournament, and  UBMC trumping over an overconfident and (shall we say overly arrogant?) Virginia team that swears by its “system” come what may.

Miracles do happen on ice and yes, on the hardwood. You may not be a believer, but after this weekend’s upsets, comebacks and turnarounds, I don’t see how you can’t be.

Every Team Needs A Sister Jean

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Who is Sister Jean? Meet Loyola-Chicago’s Spiritual Guide and Biggest Fan

“It’s hard to call Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt an overnight sensation. After all, she’s been following basketball at Loyola University-Chicago for more than a half century and said she saw the Ramblers win the NCAA title in 1963. But thanks to television, the internet and social media, the 98-year-old nun has become a media darling.

With victories against Miami and Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, the Ramblers are hoping for more spiritual guidance when they face the winner of the Cincinnati-Nevada game in next week’s Sweet 16.

Here are some things you might not have known about Loyola-Chicago’s inspirational leader.

Praying for victory: As the basketball team’s chaplain since 1994, Sister Jean begins every prayer the same way: “Good and gracious God.” But if you’re thinking she does not invoke the deity for a little help to win, think again. “I ask God to be especially good to Loyola so that, at the end of the game, the scoreboard indicates a big ‘W’ for us,” she told The New York Times. She ends every prayer with an emphatic “Go Ramblers.” Judging from some of the shots Loyola-Chicago has been burying during this tournament — Clayton Custer’s game-winner against Tennessee comes to mind — these prayers have been answered so far.

She’s a Hall of Famer: Loyola-Chicago inducted Sister Jean into the athletic department’s Hall of Fame in 2017, making her the 173rd member to be enshrined. Born in San Francisco in 1919, Sister Jean played basketball in high school.

Good scouting: Every season, Sister Jean researches the boxscores of upcoming opponents, using her sharp eye for detail to point out flaws in the Ramblers’ next foe. Coach Porter Moser found a manila folder on his desk on his first day as coach, according to NCAA.com. Sister Jean had compiled a scouting report on the Ramblers to help the new coach. “She lights up every room she goes into.” Moser told the Times. “She’s always smiling. She has an energy about herself. I connect with that.”

She has her own bobblehead: Loyola-Chicago held a bobblehead promotion night for Sister Jean in 2011.

Super sneakers: Sister Jean has a pair of maroon-and-gold Nike sneakers that she wears during each game. Two names are stitched on the sneaker’s heels: “Sister” on the left heel, and “Jean” on the right.

It’s been quite a ride for Loyola-Chicago, which has knocked off two highly touted programs. Now, the Ramblers will have to go against Sister Jean (they hope to prove her wrong) in the Sweet 16: She picked the Ramblers to lose in that round”. http://www.fox13memphis.com/news/trending-now/sister-jean-doloresschmidt-5-things-to-know/717742144 

“Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus”

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This is a 1991 Christmas film that you’ll have to tell me about, because I’ve never seen it. According to IMDb, the plot summary goes like this: “While newspaper writer Church struggles with the death of his wife, he receives a ‘special’ assignment. He must answer a little girl’s question about whether Santa Claus really exists. It’s based on a true story.”

And the Eagle’s win against the Oakland Raiders on a frosty, Christmas Monday Night proved once again that miracles are possible, and they do in fact happen.  And if backup QB Nick Foles and all of Philly ever needed a miracle, tonight was the night. Foles looked horrible, and did everything possible to lose this game.

On a cold winter’s night in late December, the Eagles had a chance to sew up home field advantage in the playoffs. But they were flat and cold and they ran into a buzzsaw of a running back that’s torched them before.  Enter Marshawn Lynch and the Oakland Raiders with nothing to play for but to be a spoiler.

And spoiler they nearly were. Both teams played ugly and gritty, neither looking like they wanted to win. In fact, this was probably the worst the football team from Philly has played all year, and yet somehow, someway they pulled off an undeserved win.

Ever been on the plus side of an undesirved win? It’s better than beeing on the wrong side of the tracks. And it makes you awfully grateful.

All jokes aside, isn’t what God did for us on the first Christmas equally undeserving? The first Noel was to lowly shepherds, signaling the coming of grace to the least of all.

It just goes to show ya; you can be down but you don’t have to be out. You can look bad and still come out clean. You can lose battles and still win the war. And you can make mistakes and deserve defeat and still, with the help of the God of Heaven, gain the victory.

Santa Claus is the holly, jolly, giving, loving and caring saint who indeed lives in the hearts of every child and every child at heart. And so I’m offering this simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two; miracles can and do happen.

You’ve just gotta believe