Bryce Haper Wins The 2018 HR Derby with a Flair for the Dramatic

Bryce Harper 2018 Home Run Derby

Bryce Harper vowed to enter, and win, the MLB Homerun Derby if and when the All Star Game was held in his hometown. Well, last night was the night. In dramatic, come from behind, flamboyant fashion, Bryce Harper avoided flaming out at home as he was “on the verge of an anticlimactic ending. Instead Harper began a furious comeback with a nod and some family karma. Down 18-9 to the Chicago Cubs Kyle Schwarber in the final round, Bryce went deep nine times in a span of 10 swings to tie it at the end of regulation. Then he drove the second pitch of bonus time over the fence in center field to win the thing, and all sorts of raw emotions came flooding to the surface.

As magenta steamers rained down from high above the stands behind home plate, Harper walked triumphantly down the first-base line with his bat raised high above his head. Then teammates Sean Doolittle and Max Scherzer came out and handed him the Home Run Derby trophy, and Martinez lifted him off the ground in a mammoth bear hug. It was a moment of sweet relief and unbridled joy in a season with too many negative undertones.

It was a welcome respite for a town and a team playing trying to live up to the hype.

The Washington Nationals are playing below expectations and their boy wonder is having a so-so year. He’s hitting .214. and his 23 home runs are offset by 102 strikeouts and a .187 batting average since the start of May. The Nationals are 5½ games behind first-place Philadelphia and five back of second-place Atlanta in the National League East, and they’re going to have to pick up their play considerably to avoid being one of 2018’s colossal disappointments.

While Harper struggles, Manny Machado is having a more productive season in Baltimore and laying an early claim to the bigger payday in the offseason. Somber, distracted and underachieving are never a good recipe for getting the most out of a free-agent “walk” year.

The 2018 Home Run Derby took on extra meaning for Harper, who participated in the event as a shoutout to the home crowd in what might be his final season in Washington. For sentimentalists, he brought along his father, Ron, as his designated Derby pitcher.

‘It’s unbelievable,’’ Harper said. ‘We have some of the best fans in baseball, and to be able to do that with my family out there, that’s an incredible moment — not only for me, but for the organization and Nationals fans. I’m very blessed and humbled.’”  http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/24116616/mlb-bryce-harper-brings-house-epic-derby-comeback

And that’s the beauty of sports. It gives us a taste and a glimpse of what God gives us heaps and hordes of, and that’s victories and triumphs with a flair for the dramatic. David defeated Goliath and his unheralded victory had a flair for the dramatic. Moses parted the Red Sea as the children of Israel fled Pharoah and his army, and that escape from Egypt had a flair for the dramatic. And of course our Lord was crucified on the old rugged cross, and His resurrection from the dead had a flair for the dramatic.

Philly Fans To LeBron: “Don’t Come To Philly”

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Philly fans would rather see LeBron James wear a LA Lakers uniform in the Fall of 2018

What makes anybody think that LeBron James should come to Philly? I mean, why does everybody think that the Sixers need, much less want LeBron James? I mean, do they think we’re desperate or something? Sheesh! Philly doesn’t want LeBron because we don’t NEED LeBron. We don’t. Period. And here’s why:

Number one: LeBron is all about LeBron. Don’t get me wrong; he’s the best player on the planet right now. But if LeBron comes to Philly, the team will be all about him, and to me, that would create a chemical imbalance on the team, and winning is all about creating just the right chemistry.  

Number Two: The Sixers can do just fine without King Janes. We have a few promising princes of our own in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons that are doing just fine. Embiid and Simmons are stars in their own galaxy; introducing the wrong supernova into their orbit might not be such a good idea.

Number Three: The Sixers may have to give up too much to get him, and then how long is going to stay? Championships are NOT, repeat NOT, guaranteed to All Stars who switch teams or to teams with the highest payrolls. Just ask LeBron himself. While he’s won three NBA titles, he’s also lost six, and he’s learned how to lose in the NBA Finals the hard way (Note to LeBron: you still want to defend JR Smith?).

Number Four:  LeBron wants to land in the right “situation.” Well then, go to LA. LeBron should just go on to the Southland where there are plenty of opportunities to diversify his professional portfolio. I’m not knocking my hometown, but Philly is NOT LA. Not hardly.

And Number Five:  I don’t want it to be said that the Sixers “needed” LeBron to win another NBA Championship. We can win it on our own merits and with our own mettle and using our own muster. We can. So let LeBron go to another club where he can take the credit for winning and help them out as they try to win a title.  

Spiritually speaking, sometimes we want to help God out. He can jiggle us out of jams and pick us out pickles with little or no effort. Just ask Moses and the Children of Israel about that whole Red Sea thing. We just need to trust Him and stop trying to help Him. Becasue when God promised Abraham a child in his old age, he consented with Sarah to “help God out” by throwing Hagar into the mix. Bad idea.  Bad, bad, bad idea.

Miriam and Moses and Esther and Elijah give us examples and teach us to have patience and to have faith in the process. And that’s what the Sixers should do. Trust the Process! And LeBron is not a part of Philly’s process.

In other words, Philly fans want to say to LeBron “We got this!”

Moses Malone: A Man Among Men

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Moses Malone had the right name. He was a mover and a shaker. Literally. He moved lesser men out-of-the-way to get his points and rebounds just like the Biblical Moses moved Pharaoh and the Egyptians out-of-the-way to get his people out of the muck and mire of making bricks without being given straw. Both men moved Heaven and earth to lead their people out of bondage. And for sports fans, losing is bondage.

Just like his namesake, Malone was a front-runner and forerunner and a groundbreaker and an earth shaker. And he certainly was a great basketball player. The first to jump from high school to the pros, Moses did it so that Kobe and LeBron and Kevin Garnett and countless others could follow.

Moses was a man among men. He was an All-Star and a League MVP and a Hall of Famer to boot. He averaged a double-double in points and rebounds his entire career. Moses played on a few great teams, and played a lot of great games. And of course Moses led the Sixers to the Promised Land of an NBA Title in 1983. He single-handedly handed Julius “Dr. J” Erving his one and only Championship Ring —  and for that, all of Philly is eternally grateful.

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Moses did his job and did it well. He brought his lunch pail to work every day and didn’t ask for any favors or cut any corners. He scored in the paint and rebounded on the block without fail. When you needed a bucket and needed one “bad,” you went to Moses. The phrase “Malone Alone” became a catchall, as Moses would get points and grab rebounds just for something to do. Because that was what he was meant to do.

So, so long Moses. It is too ironic that you pass away on the heels of the passing of our other beloved Sixers’ Center, “Chocolate Thunder,” Darryl Dawkins. Both of you will forever live in the hearts and homes of the Philly Faithful, everywhere.

A Good Talkin’ To

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Sometimes we just need a good talkin’ to.  Sometimes we don’t even know we’re doing the wrong thing.  Sometimes we’re trying to do the right thing, but we’re doing it the wrong way.  Sometimes we’re doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons. And sometimes were just plain wrong.

Back in the day, my mother would sit my sisters and I down and “lay down the law.”  We usually had done something wrong, or had broken something, or were just getting on her nerves.  So she would give us words of wisdom, usually mixed with a threat or too, and we would sit there and absorb the corrective counsel, which was good for us.   We needed a good ‘ole fashioned talkin’ to.

The 2009 film “The Blind Side” is based on the true story of Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy who take in and eventually adopt a homeless teenage African-American, Michael “Big Mike” Oher. Michael has no idea who his father is and his mother is a drug addict. Michael has had little formal education and few skills to help him learn. Leigh Anne soon takes charge however, as is her nature, ensuring that the young man has every opportunity to succeed. When he expresses an interest in football, she goes all out to help him, including giving the coach a few ideas on how best to use Michael’s skills.

In the film, Leigh Anne attends one of Mike’s football practices. The position he played was left tackle, the position responsible for protecting the quarterback’s blindside.  She observes her son being passive and not asserting himself.  She interrupts practice, pulls her son aside and gives him a good talkin’ to. After this chat, he is more assertive and more aggressive. After the talkin’ to, he stopped allowing the defensive linemen to push him around, and did not allow any defensive player anywhere near the quarterback. That’s what a good talkin’ to will do.

And so sometimes we just need a good talkin’ to. We all need people in our lives that will tell us the truth. Moses’ father in law gave him a much-needed talkin’ to.  Moses was doing too much and delegating too little.  He was putting in too many hours, assuming too much responsibility and taking up to much of the burden of leadership on his own.  How many times do we try to do too much?  How often do we work too hard and rest too little?  As Jethro told Moses, we will “surely wear away . . . because the burden is too heavy.”

So be humble and allow those that God sends your way to give you counsel, guidance and direction.  The sound advice from a trusted, truthful confidant will save you time and trouble in the short run and hair and years in the long run.  As for Michael Oher, largely because he listened to the talkin’ to, he was the first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL draft.

At the end of the day, you’ll be thankful that you listened to the good ‘ole fashioned talkin’ to.     

Love Your Way Through

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Love Your Way Through

There are no two Biblical characters exactly alike.  The breadth of Christian character runs the gamut from Adam to Zechariah and from Zadok to Abigail; we’re all different, yet we’re all the same. The range of Christian experience spans time and eternity, the now and the not yet — past, present and future.  

The extremities and similarities of spiritual understanding are found and bound in the multiple faces and faculties of the faithful. These included Moses and Miriam, David and Deborah, Elijah and Esther, Rahab and Ruth, Peter and Paul; each were fiercely individual, yet all collectively combined their faith, hope and love to form the Kingdom of God.   Each of these Biblical heroes loved their way through tests and trials, and temptations and transgressions by the power of God.

So as “mortals we join the mighty chorus, which the morning stars began.  Father-love is reigning o’er us;  Brother-love binds man to man.  Ever singing march we onward, we’re victors in the midst of strife; Joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumph song of life!”

Each Biblical hero loved their way through. Each loved the Lord. Each hoped for abundant and eternal life.  Each had faith for themselves and for others to move mountains. Each had flaws and fallacies, fears and frustrations that forced them to depend on God for victory. Their talents were not enough. Their love was.

So love your way through. Continue reading

4th And Inches

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This mother was desperate.  Jochabed knew that by order of Pharaoh, her son was to be put to death. Yet she would not lose this son. Not this one. He was the son that God had  promised would come; the promised “Deliverer.”  She saw that he was a “goodly” child, and she decided to obey God rather than men.  When she could no longer hide him in the house, she hid him in an ark daubed with pitch and placed it among the reeds.

So much symbolism. So much irony.  So much parallelism between Noah and the past, and Jesus and the future. 

Moses was “saved” from the wrath of wicked Pharaoh and certain destruction by the ark and by Pharaoh’s daughter who took pity on him when she heard him crying.  She could have been hard, cold and mean. She could have ordered the baby killed with all of the other Hebrew males, like her father ordered. She could have turned the other way and let the baby drift down river, never to be seen again.

Yet, at this “4th and inches moment” in Moses early life, Divine providence was at work, causing the evil design of Pharaoh to serve God’s purpose.  It could have gone the other way. The margin of error was razor-thin. But thankfully, His divine presence stepped in.

And that is how we should view all of our close calls.  That’s how we should view the “do-or-die“ times of our lives. We know that life is a game of inches.

4th and Inches

Continue reading

Big Wins and Bad Losses

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Some wins are bigger than others, and some losses are worst than most – in sports and in life.

David defeating Goliath; big win.  Moses and the children of Israel marching out of Egypt and Pharaoh and his army drowning in the Red Sea; big win. Elijah defeating Ahab, Jezebel and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel: big, big win.  When faced with yet another seemingly insurmountable task or challenge, we should always look back and remember how God performed the impossible; and, if He did it before, He can do it again.

The professional football season is about to begin and college football is already under way.  Yet our attention is still captured by the baseball season and those teams who have a shot at winning it all.  Winning is always good, especially at the end of the year when you’re in first place or trying to catch the first place team.  A timely win and a string of wins can keep the first place team on track or put a struggling team in position to play spoiler and beat the frontrunner.

Boston and Detroit seem to be cruising into October. Texas is now tied with Oakland and it’s going to be a dogfight between them as to who wins the Division.  On the NL side, Atlanta and the Dodgers are comfortably in front, with Pittsburg clinging to a one game lead over St. Louis, the World Series winner in 2011.  Which team will continue to win, and which team(s) will stumble and fall?

Losses at this time of year, especially a string or a stretch of them, are never good. These are what we in the sports world call “bad losses.”  While a loss technically is never a “good” thing, there are some losses that you can learn from and others that you struggle to recover from.  And so it is with  life. Continue reading