Stephen Strasburg: Give Your Team Another Chance At Victory

strasburg-game-6-ws

I TOLD you! I told you the Washington Nationals would win! And wow, what a way to win.

The Washington Nationals won the World Series because Stephen Strasburg, the Series MVP, gave his team another chance at victory.

In April, no one, and I mean no one picked them to go this far, much less win the title the way they did. Going into the playoffs, nobody gave them any respect. And against the astronomical pitching staff of the Houston Astros, there was no way that these plucky, happy go lucky, baseball diamond darlings could pull out and pull off an upset victory. And yet they did it. They actually did it! They made it all the way to a come from behind win in Game 7 of the Fall Classic. And now here they stand as the champions of the world.

It took chemistry and comrade and faith and fight, and conviction and compulsion. Yes it took all that, and some. This Nationals team is the underdog of underdogs, the Cinderella of Cinderella’s and the David of David’s. They upset the favorites; they came back from way back and they turned their 19-31 season all the way around. And they turned a 3-2 World Series deficit around. AND they won all four games ON THE ROAD.

It was almost like a dream that has never come true. Because it’s never been done before — ever. This is the stuff that legends are made of.

The Nats improbable playoff journey was a beauty to behold. This team won the wild card game by coming from behind, then they beat the Dodgers, the best team in the National League, by coming from behind, and then, they beat the best team in baseball, the Houston Astros, by . . . wait for it . . . coming from behind and winning the last two games of the World Series on the road. What they’ve done deserves all of the credit in the world.

Most importantly, Stephen Strasburg went 5-0 with a ridiculous ERA of 1.98 in the post season. And if that wasn’t enough, in Game 6, Stras gave it all he had and turned in the performance of a lifetime. He pitched the game of his life in hostile Houston when his team needed him most. Down three games to two, Strasburg stood in and stood tall and kept the Astros from winning and gave the Nats another chance at victory. And that’s what we all need: we all need another chance at victory.

Here’s what Sam Fortier of the Washington Post had to say about the World Series MVP:

“They might not have been here without him. Strasburg shoved all postseason, shedding the fragile label he once bore and showcasing a reinvented approach that reflected his passage into becoming a veteran. He carried this team through three elimination games and delivered one of the best elimination-game starts in recent World Series history. In Game 6, he was the first pitcher to allow two or fewer runs while going 8⅓ innings since Curt Schilling in 1993.” An incredible performance from someone with high hopes hanging all over his career, and he delivered in the clutch.

So congratulations to Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals, the 2019 World Series Champions.

Kawhi Leonard: 2019 NBA Champion & Finals MVP

Kawhi wins NBA Championship with Toronto

His hands are raised Heavenward, his eyes looking upward, his heart and soul certainly looking onward, all the while celebrating the moment inward,  Kawhi can now say “mission accomplished!”  How spiritual is that? Kawhi is the example of how we should be; our hands lifted up and our mouths filled with praise, celebrating the Victory.

Kawhi came to Toronto for one reason and one reason only — to win an NBA Title.  Done.    

Kawhi crushed and killed every living opponent that came a calling by playing lights out night in and night out. At times he played like a rabid wild animal, demanding the ball from friends and commanding the attention of his enemies. Most times he played consistently excellent and masterfully brilliant, dicing and slicing his way to nightly double doubles from game to game and from series to series as he led his new team to the NBA’s promised land.

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors, 114-110, in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, the last Game at Oracle Arena, sealing the first title in franchise history and claiming Canada’s first championship in a major American sports league since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.

Kawhi Leonard, who posted 22 points, six rebounds and three assists, was named Finals MVP for the second time in his career, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to win that award while representing multiple teams. The all-star forward, who sealed the title with three free throws in a surreal closing second, previously won in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs, who traded him to the Raptors last summer

Now, Kawhi can demand whatever he wants from whomever he wants. And now he’s got his newly stocked resume to back up every commanded penny. From his four bounce buzzer beater against the Sixers to win Game 7 of that series to overcoming and overpowering and overtaking Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals to outperforming and overwhelmingly whupping the defending champs, Kawhi and the Raptors earned every bit of this championship. Every bit.

On the other hand, we must mention and acknowledge the wounded Warriors. The hobbled and humbled defending champions fought like cornered canines but in the end it wasn’t enough.  In the end, anything and everything the Warriors did or even tried to do wasn’t enough. Even the injured Klay Thompson running back out of the tunnel onto the playing floor to shoot his two free throws wasn’t enough.  The weary and well-worn Warriors were well on their way to defeat long before Klay went down,  for the SECOND time. Physically dent and emotionally spent, the W’s were tired and they were beat long before the final buzzer sounded. Curry was not himself and the team was reduced to a shell of their former championship form. But fight they did.

Here’s how ESPN Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne put it:

“This season has been a war of attrition and attention for the Warriors. At times, the team seemed to be dragging itself along — too talented and proud to surrender, but too tired and injured to mount the kind of fight it has become known for.  Five straight years of breathing the same air with the same group of human beings can wear on the most gentle soul. Five years of doing that under the spotlight that accompanies being the best team in the NBA is when pipes start bursting.”

But surely we digress. This is Kawhi’s time. This is Kawhi’s moment. So Congrats to the Raptors who ripped Kawhi from San Antonio. Congrats to first year Coach Nick Nurse who came from out of nowhere to do what previous and banished head coach Dwane Casey couldn’t do. Speaking of Coach Nick Nurse, what about him? He’s got a feel good, upsets, comebacks and turnarounds story all of his own as well.

“Coach Nick Nurse’s team Toronto defeated Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Golden State in these playoffs. That means Nurse got his team past ones coached by Steve Clifford, Brett Brown, Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr. That foursome is about the toughest draw a first-year coach in the league could get in his maiden postseason voyage.

‘He’s one of the hardest-working coaches I’ve seen,” Raptors assistant Jamaal Magloire said during Toronto’s victory celebration after the title-clinching win. “When it comes to this team’s success, he deserves every bit of it.” Nurse played at Northern Iowa, started his coaching career there as an assistant and wound up becoming a head coach at Grand View when he was 23. He coached in Belgium and Britain. He won a pair of British Basketball League titles as a coach, in Birmingham in 1996 and London in ‘00, then got a couple of titles in what is now called the G League.

The second G League crown got Nurse noticed. He was at Rio Grande Valley, guided them to a title in 2013 and that’s when the Raptors called and wanted to talk to him about offense. They ended up hiring him as an assistant.” And the rest is history.

Finally, congratulations to this Raptors team that made it work. Kawhi’s teammates, from Pascal Siakam in Game 1 and certainly to Kyle Lowry Game 6 — with Serge Ibaka and Fred VanFleet and Marc Gasol mixed in between — they all pitched in. And whenever they would and wherever they could, each did their part, and it amounted to a total team win.

So always remember, it’s “Team, team, team;” that’s what it always takes to pull off a quantum victory  like this.


Oh Cananda!

Why You Should Be Watching The NBA Playoffs

James and Simmons
The NBA’s Past, LeBron James, and it’s Future, Ben Simmons

LeBron James. Ben Simmons. Joel Embiid.  James Harden.  Kevin Durant. Anthony Davis. Giannis Antetokounmpo. And that’s just to name a few. These athletes are why you and I should be watching every possible game of these 2018 NBA Playoffs.   And it’s just the first round.

Let’s start with LeBron.

How long has LeBron James been in the NBA?  Fifteen seasons?  Wow. But time is no factor because he says he’s like fine wine; he just keeps getting better with age. And to prove it, just look at his stats, which are staggering.

James has:

3 NBA Titles

3x NBA Finals MVP

3x NBA All-Star Game MVP

4x NBA MVP

14x NBA All-Star

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Yes, LeBron James is still the king of the NBA. And this year, King James is trying to lead his rag tag, bumbling, and sometimes blundering band of basketball bums to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. But it won’t be easy. The Cavaliers are in trouble because LeBron does not have a strong supporting cast. But then again, James has been to the finals with less talent.  So we’ll see.

But LeBron is at the end of the line in Cleveand. And Ben Simmons’  Hall of Fame career is just getting started. Could this be the passing of the torch?

Philly’s phenomenal young rookie, Ben Simmons, had a double double and was 3 assists shy of a triple double in Game 3 on the road in Miami. His partner in the prime of his life is Joel Embiid who returned from an eye injury wearing a mask and led the Sixers with 23 points and seven rebounds. Not too shabby for a seven footer who needed to knock the rust off. Philly won a rough, tough, physical game which was close through 3½ quarters. But the Sixers pulled away and put Miami away down the stretch and won by 20. It was an impressive team win to say the least.

So who ya got?  The Houston Rockets have James Harden who is trying to prove that he is indeed the League MVP and can lead his team to the Promised Land of an NBA Title.  But not so fast. The defending Champs, the Warriors still have something to say, and the upstart New Orleans Pelicans are leading favorite Portland 2-0, and they are winning Game 3 handedly. But don’t sleep on the Philadelphia 76ers.  Don’t do it. They’ve got their best player back and they’re playing their best ball, so the sky is the limit for this young talented team. I’m just saying.

To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.  What’s true in sports is also true in life. Living life involves tests and trials, and in order to come out on top, we’ll need to bring our best. But sometimes our “A” game isn’t quite enough. That’s why we need the help of Heaven. The enemy of our souls tries to throw everything he has at us in an effort to knock us off and knock us down and ultimately knock us out. 

But have no fear. This is The Year of Jubilee.  This is the year that God shows off and shows out and shows up for us. Believe you me.  God is at His best when we are at our worst.

 

A Good Loss and A Bad Win

 Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles defeated the LA Rams 43-35. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we lost our MVP-Candidate quarterback, Carson Wentz to a torn ACL injury.  That’s a win that’s almost not worth it. We won the NFC East but we lost our star QB.

A bad win is a win won when it is not valued or treasured. It is a win won without appreciation or full comprehension of the cost of victory. A bad win is when you win without recognizing with gratitude that it could have gone the other way.

A good loss is a loss that teaches meanings and morals and mottos and maxims. No one wants to lose, but there are times when a loss is just what the doctor ordered. We must realize that in sports and in life, all is not lost when a loss is redemptive and reformative. In actuality, after a positive loss, there can be much gain. This is the balance of life.

So take it from me and my Philly teams.  Last week the Eagles lost to the Seattle Seahawks and the Sixers lost to the LA Lakers and they were not good losses.  Both teams were listless and lethargic lacked the energy and effort needed to pull off a win. The Eagles never got off of the ground, and yet they were “in it” until the end. And the Sixers were behind by 16 at home but yet still tied the game with less than a minute to go. Both could have pulled it out and stole the game but lacked the leadership that was necessary to turn the tide and pull off come from behind wins worthy of mention. 

So let’s take careful stock of our wins, and let’s not bemoan all of our losses.  In fact, let’s be thankful for our wins and our losses. There is nothing to be gained from a bad win, and much to be learned from a good loss.

Hooray For Houston!

 Houston Astros Sports_Illustrated 2017

The Houston Astros just won their first ever World Series, the first and only in the 56 year history of the team. Good for them. They made it through a topsy, turvy seven game series with the LA Dodgers, and came out on top.  And the City of Houston made it through Hurricane Harvey, and it coming out on top of that tough time too. The Astros have many ties to Puerto Rico as well, beginning with Correa and Beltran, and World Series MVP George Springer is half Puerto Rican. So the Astros won not only Houston, but for Puerto Rico,  which was devastated by another powerful Hurricane, Irma. 

I’m not a Houston fan, but I’m glad for them. So I’m not going to hate. Yes I was rooting for the Dodgers, but the Astros won it fair and square.  And they won it for the City of Houston, and that’s pretty special. AND Sports Illustrated called it (albeit 3 years ago, but they called it! How about that!

Never mind Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish got chased out of) his second horrific World Series outing. Never mind Darvish shouldn’t even have been in the game (because of his poor previous play), much less start the Seventh Game of the World Series!  Never mind the game was lost in the dugout by the Dodgers Skipper, Dave Roberts who started Darvish. And never mind the Dodgers still had chance after chance to get back into the game, even after digging a five run hole for themselves. In the bottom of the second, they had the bases loaded with their hottest hitter, Joc Pederson, at the plate, but came up empty and left all three base runners stranded. Oh well.

So Houston won the World Series. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, there’s bad sports news coming out of Houston as well. Houston fans had to go from World Series celebration to losing their star QB, Deshaun Watson because of a torn ACL in practice. Michael Wilbon said “the feel good” from the Astros’ World Series title didn’t last as long as it should have because of Watson’s injury.

In sports and in life, we rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep, and mourn with them that mourn.

Don’t Bet Against Brady

  tom-brady

I’m not a Tom Brady fan. I’m not. And I don’t like the New England Patriots. I don’t. But something tells me to tell you not to bet against Brady and the Pats in Super Bowl LI. Don’t do it. As much as I don’t want them to win, I think they just might pull off and turn in another super, Super Bowl.

 Some say that sports and life are polar opposites. In fact, sports and life are actually opposite sides of the same coin.  In both sports and life, there are some things that you thought would never happen and yet happen they do. In sports and in life, there are the improbable, implausible, almost impossible occurrences and incidents that no one, and I mean no one, could even dream up in a thousand years and yet “Voila!” – they appear and emerge and transpire right in before our very eyes.

 Such is the case with Tom Brady. He is headed for yet another Super Bowl, after a season of suspension and turmoil, and perhaps the only thing that stands between him and another Super Bowl ring is a favorable coin flip or two.

 This year, Matt Ryan may be the sentimental favorite. But Brady is still Brady. He’s still coached by Belichick and he is the only member of the Patriots roster left from the 2005 Super Bowl Team. If there’s one constant in the Patriots puzzle, it’s Brady.

“Since the first week of the season, it has seemed inevitable that it would end this way, with Tom Brady in his seventh Super Bowl and two years of drama finally winding down to one final scene.

 From the moment the New England Patriots beat the Arizona Cardinals in the one game they seemed most likely to lose without Brady — on the road, in prime time, in the first start of Jimmy Garoppolo’s career — the trajectory of the Patriots’ season was set. That first month certified Bill Belichick’s ability to adapt to his circumstances, without Brady and then, incredibly, without Garoppolo, too, shutting out the Houston Texans with rookie third-stringer Jacoby Brissett under center.

But everything after — the 13-1 record since Brady came off his suspension, the nearly flawless regular-season statistics, the relentlessness of the Patriots’ offense even after Rob Gronkowski was hurt — was testament to Brady’s own ability to compartmentalize and carry on.” By Judy Battist, NFL Media reporter

Sports science stipulates cohesion and consistency and comrade on any and every team. And yet, with all of the shuffling and shifting, the one constant with the Brady Bunch is, you guessed it, Brady. The Patriot Way is the Brady Way. Brady has won more than most. So it’s difficult, nay pert near impossible, to bet against Brady. So don’t do it. Don’t bet against Brady. Just don’t do it. You’ll thank me later.

Brady, the University of Michigan stud, was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round (THE SIXTH ROUND!) of the 2000 NFL draft. In Brady’s 13 full seasons as a starter (he missed nearly all of 2008 with a torn ACL), the Patriots have earned six trips to the Super Bowl, winning four. Brady has won three Super Bowl MVP awards, two league MVP awards (2007, 2010), has been selected to eleven Pro Bowls, and has led the Patriots to more division titles than any other quarterback in NFL history, with thirteen. Brady is fifth on the all-time list for career passing yards and third for career touchdown passes. His career postseason record is 22–8; his playoff win total is the most in NFL history. Unbelievable.

 Some players aren’t pegged or don’t seem to have the potential to pan out and prosper. Yet someway somehow, they seemingly, consistently and continuously find a way to win. We might not like them but we sure do respect them. They give us patterns and paradigms to follow. Whatever happens, and in spite of who comes and despite who goes, there stand players like Tom Brady, like a stone wall. He’s endured derision and disdain from everyone from Roger Goodell to me in this blog. But like the Bible says, Brady is steadfast and unmovable.

 So, like him or lump him, just don’t bet against him.

The NBA Now Stands For “Not Boring Anymore!”

nba-logo

The Philadelphia 76ers are on a roll! Last week they beat the Milwaukee Bucks and the LA Clippers. The Clippers! Granted, Chris Paul did not play, but still! And last night they beat the Sacramento Kings, without Joel Embiid. YES! The Sixers were 9-4 in January, and an easy vote for most improved team in the NBA.

The NBA is “Not Boring Anymore.” Harden beat my Sixers on the last Friday on the month by dropping 51 points on them as he recorded a triple double while scoring almost half of his teams points. And speaking of Triple Doubles, Russell Westbrook continues on his tear through the Association by raking up triple doubles almost at will.

And we haven’t event gotten to talking about LeBron crying like a baby or Sir Charles talking about King James like a dog and Steph Curry’s return to MVP form or John Wall being the player of the month, not to mention the Carmello Anthony trade/no trade saga in New York or the DeMarcus Cousins crisis in Sacramento or the Jimmy Butler/Dwayne Wade fiasco in Chicago. And I haven’t even mentioned the how good the Warriors are or the All Star Game Ballot Box brouhaha! Whew!

To be sure, the quality of professional basketball in “The Association” has gotten better. A LOT better. Now there are still too many sub-500 teams, but the exciting thing is, games are more fun than they were when I was coming up. And we’re talkin’ REGULAR SEASON games. Even though my team has a losing record, we are now winning games and are exciting to watch. Individual players such as Joel Embiid and many others are fun to follow as teams are jockeying for postseason positions and playoff spots now, and it’s still January!

Back in “The Day,” The joke on the NBA was that you only had to watch the last 2 minutes of ANY game to know who was going to win. But that’s not the case anymore. On any given Sunday, or weekday night for that matter, you can find a decent NBA game to watch. That has not always been the case.

The parallel is clear; our lives should be a mirror of quality and worth and excellence and value as well.

So it seems that the NBA has arrived, and not a season too soon. It’s not just the Warriors who are drawing crowds, it’s the OKC’s and the Sixers of the world that have a national following too. And this year, I might even watch the All Star Game.