Bring It On!

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This is the Finals we’ve all been waiting for: The Warriors vs. the Cavaliers, and now the Warriors have KD, Kevin Durant. It’s Ali / Frazier III all over again.  And this time, Love and Kyrie aren’t hurt, and hopefully Draymond Green won’t get suspended. So both teams will be at full strength, and we’ll see who’s boss. 

As Kobe once said, “to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.” So if you think you’re all that and a bag of chips, you shouldn’t worry who you’re playing. When you’ve got confidence and conviction and assurance and assertion, it doesn’t matter who’s lining up on the other side of the ball.

And the same principle applies spiritually. We who trust in the God of Heaven shouldn’t be worried or concerned when we’re challenged or cornered or confronted or called out. We know we’ve got a God who will fight our battles. We’ve got a God who’s got our back and our front too. We’ve got a God who won’t back down or back up or give in or give out when we need Him most. We’ve got a God who’s not afraid of the enemy or the opposition. Not in the least.  When we have a problem or a glitch or a quandary or a conundrum, our God says “Bring it On!”  We just have to hold on and hold out and not give up.

So wake up! It’s time to watch NBA Finals, and these Finals should show some of the best basketball ever. And if I fall asleep during one of those late night games, it will be because it’s way past my bedtime, not because one team is playing bad ball. But the action and the excitement and the drama should be enough to keep me awake, right?

The plot is thick and subplots are plenty. Will Durant get his ever elusive championship ring after jumping ship and leaving the Thunder behind and joining the Warriors? Will LeBron win back-to-back championships in Cleveland, after starting his career there before jumping ship and going to the Heat to win two rings on South Beach?

And will these be the best Finals ever?

Bring it on.

Muhammad Ali: How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

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If you want to remember and honor and pay respect to Muhammad Ali, check out his web site at http://www.muhammadali.com Its well worth the visit.

What would you like people to think about you when you are gone?

“I’D LIKE FOR THEM TO SAY,
HE TOOK A FEW CUPS OF LOVE.
HE TOOK ONE TABLESPOON OF PATIENCE,
ONE TEASPOON OF GENEROSITY,
ONE PINT OF KINDNESS;
HE TOOK ONE QUART OF LAUGHTER,
ONE PINCH OF CONCERN
AND THEN HE MIXED WILLINGNESS
WITH HAPPINESS.
HE ADDED LOTS OF FAITH,
AND HE STIRRED IT UP WELL.
THEN HE SPREAD IT OVER A SPAN OF
A LIFETIME, AND HE SERVED IT TO
EACH AND EVERY DESERVING
PERSON HE MET.”

“WHAT KEEPS ME GOING IS GOALS”
-Ali on training
A VOICE FOR THOSE WITHOUT ONE
There has always been far more to Muhammad than what took place in the boxing ring. He was fearless in his stance on civil rights, fighting for people suffering injustices in the United States and the rest of the world.

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Muhammad Ali’s polarizing decision inspired Americans of all backgrounds. New York Times columnist, William Rhoden, wrote, “Ali’s actions changed my standard of what constituted an athlete’s greatness. Possessing a killer jump shot or the ability to stop on a dime was no longer enough. What were you doing for the liberation of your people? What were you doing to help your country live up to the covenant of its founding principles?”

“Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee”

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Muhammad Ali, a.k.a. “The Greatest,” taught us how to be great. He could only teach what he knew, and he knew greatness.  He knew how to be grand and how to be grandiose; he knew how to be extravagant and how to be exaggerent; and he especially knew how to be over-the-top and under the table, all at once at the same time. Ali was one of a kind and in a class all by himself. That’s why he was loved and loathed, reviled and revered, and shunned and wooed the world over.

In the 1960’s, Ali was known for being a captivating and a controversial and a popular and a polarizing figure both inside and outside the boxing ring. He was one of the most recognized sports figures of all time, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.

Ali was iconic and an icon, a legend and legendary, a trend setter and a trailblazer.  Ali did what no other athlete, and a black athlete at that, did before. He stood up for his rights as he stared down the draft. He made many friends and made many more enemies, all in the same breath.  He did his fighting in and out of the ring. And along the way, he taught us some things he didn’t intend or set out to. Ali taught us how to take a hit, and why not to.

Ali is said to have ushered in the “Golden Era” of boxing.  Along the way, he won the Heavyweight Championship of the World three times as he fought and defeated some of the best boxers ever to enter then ring. Ali defeated the likes of Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Leon Spinks.  He also fought to defeat racism and classicism, poverty and paucity, inequity and inequality, imbalance and injustice, just to name a few.

Ali was impressive “on and off the court” and in and out of the ring. He was lush and lavish, most times gaudy and garish, oft times loud and lurid and showy and brassy and crude and what we thought was rude. But Ali was truthful and candid and straight and frank, especially about himself and the times he lived in.

Ali could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” His style of fighting was new and novel and different and divisive. During his career, he was criticized and ridiculed and jeered and sneered and derided and disparaged from day one. Yet and still he managed to reach the top of his craft three times, and stayed at the top of the charts and was first in the hearts of millions of fans the world over.

So how did he do it?

Ali remained true. He was who he was and he didn’t try to please or appease just to “get a vote.” He made many decisions I’m sure he’d like to take back; but then again, he wouldn’t be Ali if he didn’t do what he did or say what he said. This is the lesson that Ali taught us.

So don’t be afraid to be different and to make a difference, even if it costs you a few friends or your championship belt. Dare to be distinct. Dare to be divergent. Dare to be diverse from the crowd. We are made to be our own snowflake. So, if God made you uniquely you, why are you trying to fit in?  If you don’t fit, it’s because God made you NOT to fit, but to be a stand up and to stand out and to make a difference where there needs to be change and modification and alteration and transformation.

Thank you, Muhammad Ali, for teaching us the trade secrets of success in sports and in life.

 

Here are some the other things Ali taught us, in quotes:

It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.

I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.

A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Getting Ready for The Big Fight

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I grew up with Muhammad Ali and “Smokin” Joe Frazier and George Foreman (the fighter, not the grill). Then there was Larry Homes and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and Oscar de la Hoya and Evander Holyfield and Tommy “Hit Man” Hears and of course, “Iron Mike” Tyson. But that was then, and this is now. And this very well may be the fight of this fifteen year old Century.

Mayweather v. Pacquiao may well be the fight to end all fights – until the next big fight. It’s been a long time since there’s been a fight of this magnitude. Will it live up to the hype? Will it live down through the ages? Will it be worth the $100 pay-per-view price? I won’t know because it won’t start till way past my bedtime. But this much is true: big fights don’t come around every day, and big fights are big in every way.

Mayweather v. Pacquiao may well be bigger than anything that you face in your life every day. And maybe not. Maybe you have big fights and big games and big races and big heats and big matches and big Game 7’s in your life all of the time. God bless you. Because it takes something to get “up” for the big one.

When it comes to the big fights in your life, it’s all about how you approach them. It’s all about your tactics and your techniques and your practices and your preparation. Because how you go in pretty much dictates how you will come out. If you don’t have an edge and an aura and tact and a tone and the dexterity and the delicacy to bob and weave and duck and dodge and juke and jab and as you fight in the ring of life, you’ve lost before you’ve even won.

In the big fight of life, you can’t have a glass jaw. You can’t just stand there like a statue and get knocked in the nose and hammered in the head and gorged in the gut. You’ve gotta’ fight back. You’ve gotta’ fight fierce. You’ve gotta’ scrap and scrape and battle and brawl and get through every round until it’s all over. You may be sucker punched and rabbit punched and left punch drunk before you are saved by the bell.

So who ya got? I don’t know the fighters well enough to call this one. But the pundits are predicting a whale of a fight. So go ahead. Pay your 100 bucks and tell me how it was. And make sure that you’re ready for your next big fight too.

Who’s In Your Corner?

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Who’s In Your Corner?

Angelo Dundee was in Muhammad Ali’s corner. He was in “Sugar” Ray Leonard’s Corner. He is famed for being the man who trained the man who called himself the “Greatest of All Times”; Muhammad Ali and five other champion boxers. He was a legendary trainer who cornered a host of world champion fighters and was even called upon by Hollywood to help bring authenticity to the 2005 hit movie “Cinderella Man.”

Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, and Paul Giamatti find depth and texture in otherwise ordinary roles in this classic boxing film about a down-on-his-luck pug granted a second chance at glory. Ron Howard’s meat-and-potatoes “Cinderella Man,” a tale about a meat-and-potatoes underdog, may ring familiar; he does have history in his corner: the true story of James J. Braddock, who went from the soup lines to the heavyweight title in 1935.

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So who’s in your corner? Who do you trust? Who do you go to for advice and counsel? Do you surround yourself with “yes men” who agree with everything you say? Or worse, do you walk in the counsel of the ungodly? Do you stand in the way of sinners? Do you sit in the seat of the scornful?

Who’s in your corner? Who can you can you depend on? Who can you count on when the chips are down? Jesus had 12 disciples, called apostles, in His corner. Of these, he held three in close confidence: Peter, James and John. Ironically, Peter, the leader of the band, notoriously denied his Master three times.

Who’s in your corner? David had mighty men of valor in his corner. David had warriors in his corner. David had defenders in his corner. They fought for him. They killed for him. They died for him. At one point three of the roughest and toughest of the bunch broke through enemy lines to fetch a bottle of water for him.

So who do you have in your corner? Fanny Crosby penned these words: “Whom have I on earth beside thee? Whom in heaven but thee?” Continue reading

Trash Talk

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Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth;

1 Samuel 2:3, RSV

Muhammad Ali was arguably the greatest trash talker of all time.  Ali could out-talk the best talkers in the room. In his heyday, he backed up what he said in the ring. Unfortunately, it is a shame that he now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease; his current condition juxtaposed against years of dishing out and taking in physical abuse is a sobering, cautionary tale. 

Trash talking is a part of the game. Oft-times players brag about what they are going to do on the court and on field, yet, only 50% of all trash talkers can deliver; only one team can win game, and the trash talk war.

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So many of us talk a good game, and yet we don’t back up what we say.  We say one thing, and do another. In my book, that’s trash talk. We promise but we don’t deliver. That’s trash talk.  Indeed we over promise and under deliver.  That’s trash talk.  We purport and “front” and sell wolf-tickets, yet when it’s time to cash them in, we come up short. We talk loudly and proudly before the game, yet slink silently and pitifully on the sideline; after boasting and brandishing we live unseen and unheard lives and are unable to back up what we say.

David and the giant Goliath engaged in what we would call trash talk.  Continue reading