Back In Philly, “Cholly” Is A Hit

Charlie Manuel

“Cholly” Manuel is back home in Philly and he’s making a big and immediate difference.

Charlie, aka “Cholly”  Manuel, will be beloved in Philly forever because he won us a World Series as manager of the Phillies in 2008 and led the team to five consecutive postseason appearances from 2007-11. In nine seasons as Phils’ skipper, he went 780-636, a .551 winning percentage, accumulating move victories than any manager in team history. And before he left town Cholly said “I’ll be Back!” Well not quite, but it makes for a good story.

Now Cholly is baaaaaack! He’s back as the Phillies hitting coach, replacing  John Mallee. Here’s what Ethan Witte and John Stolnis from SB Nation, a Philadelphia Phillies community, had to say about it all:

“That John Mallee has been replaced isn’t too much of a shock. Something had to be done as there was such a malaise surrounding the team, especially the hitters. The fact that Charlie Manuel is tasked with taking the reigns is the shocker. We’ve all known how much Cholly loves hitting. That the team knows this and recognizes not only his expertise, but realizes that something had to be done is absolutely huge. However, the questions this decision raises are fascinating.

Manuel is the most successful manager in franchise history and is a beloved figure in the city. How will he work with the current embattled manager, Gabe Kapler? Will Kapler feel threatened? Will Manuel get credit for turning the season around if the offense improves and the team starts winning? Is it smart for the Phils to turn to a more old-school baseball figure in an era when most teams are hiring young baseball minds?”

These are all good questions. The jury still might be out but the early election returns are in: in the Phillies last 4 games they’ve scored 30 runs, and they scored 11 against they’re old teammate, Cole Hammels. Not too shabby.

Yes, Cholly is back, and what a comeback. And talk about a turnaround! 

So, even at the tender old age of 75, Cholly is making a difference. And that means that you and I, at whatever younger age we are than Cholly, can make a difference too.

The Miracle Of Momentum

This past weekend I sat down and watched a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game for the first time this season. And I’m a Philly guy, so I’m all about rooting for the home team. But boy oh boy did I pick the wrong time to watch a bad game.

When I turned on the TV, the Phils had a 4-1 lead, and I said, OK!  Then they extended the lead to a 6 -1 margin, and this was against one of baseball’s worst teams, the Florida Marlins. A five run margin should be enough to win a game, right? Wrong.

A five run margin wasn’t enough. Why? Because the Marlins understood the moxy and miracle of momentum. They got one hit, then another hit, and then two runs and then a few more runs, and the next thing you knew, they were winning 9-6, and that’s how the game ended. The Marlins stole the momentum and won the game.  Just like that. The Phil’s can hit but they sure can’t pitch. They just can’t stop the other guys from hitting, and scoring. In other words, the pitching staff, or more specifically, the relievers, failed them, and this wasn’t the first time this has happened this season. It appears that the Phils relievers aren’t worth their salt.

For all those out there who don’t understand momentum, this one is for you. And for those of us who do respect and hold the muscle of momentum in high regard, let this be a reminder. You don’t want to give away what you’ve worked hard for and rightfully earned, or even what you have been given. 

Momentum in sports is everything. When you’re on a roll, you don’t want to do anything to mess it up or muck it up. If you do make a mistake here or there you recover quickly, and get back to rolling. Trying to sit on a lead and playing “prevent” defense (whatever that is) is always a bad idea. Listen; when you have a good lead, even a little lead, but especially a big lead, you want to do everything in your power to protect it and even pad it, because to lose a lead is next to disastrous, and to lose a big lead is tantamount to preposterous. 

In baseball, a “save” is when a relief pitcher comes in late in the game, say the seventh inning or so, and pitches one or two innings. The reliever’s only job is to keep the other team from getting hits and getting on base and, God forbid, scoring runs. Throwing strikes is good, and getting strikeouts is even better. The worst thing a relief pitcher can do is to give up hits and allow base runners and permit the other team to take the lead and win the game AFTER his team has given him the ball with the lead.

The word save is a theological term. In baseball, the relief pitcher could be considered a “savior,” of sorts. A savior is “a person who rescues others from evil, danger, or destruction. The Old Testament viewed God Himself as the Savior, and because God is the source of salvation, He sent human deliverers to rescue His people, Israel. This word was also used to describe the judges of Israel, those “saviors” or “deliverers” who rescued God’s people from oppression by their enemies.” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

A relief pitcher wins the game. In other words, a relief pitcher is a savior who brings salvation. Our Lord is our relief. He will never lose a save. Never. He came to seek and to save all who were lost.  And he can come into your “game,” a.k.a. into your life, and save you too.

Amen.

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!

Don’t Press The Panic Button

Nick Foles down

Here’s some sage advice for all those out there who watched the Philadelphia Eagles play and win Super Bowl LII just a few short months ago. If you haven’t seen the Eagles play since the Super Bowl, and if you tuned in last night for the first time since that miracle victory to watch the Super Bowl Champions, you watched in horror as the Eagles lost to the Cleveland Browns in a preseason matchup. The final score: 5-0. Hello? Are you still there? Yes, I said FIVE nothing. Yes the Eagles may be getting off to a rough start, but don’t press the panic button.

Please note that I said the Cleveland Browns, not the Cleveland Indians. If the Phillies lost to the Indians in a BASEBALL game, and you told me that we lost to them 5-0, I’d say, bummer. But this was a professional, NFL FOOTBALL game. And the Eagles played those same Cleveland Browns who haven’t won a game since forever ago. That’s right. The winning team scored a whopping five points. And the Eagles were not the winning team.

What’s that? You don’t watch preseason football? Well, neither did I until the Eagles won the Super Bowl, baby! And I was looking for that Super Bowl bump to carry us right to Super Bowl LIII in the ATL, Hot-lanta.

What’s that? This 2018 Eagles team is NOT nor nowhere near like 2017 Super Bowl team? They’re not? That’s a rhetorical question, because if you watched most of the first half, like I did, you’d be ready to press the panic button. But don’t do it. Don’t press the panic button – just yet.

The 2017 Eagles started the season with Carson Wentz, and they went 2-2 in the preseason and then began the season by going on a tear – they were 10 -1 and on their way to the Super bowl long before we were even daring to dream about a Super Bowl appearance, much less a superlative Super Bowl Victory.

But that was then. And this is now. And now, while everyone says that the 2018 Eagles are BETTER (at least on paper) than the 2017 Eagles, it doesn’t look that way in real life. In real-time, my Iggles are looking like they still suffer from a post-Super Bowl slump. And at the bottom of the heap was our dear, darling Nick Foles.

Yes Nick Foles. Last night Nick Foles, the MVP of Super Bowl LII, against Cleveland, mind you, looked like a red-shirt rookie staring into a pair of high beams. In one particularly dismal stretch, Foles stumbled over his own two feet  and fell in the end zone committing a safety, was sacked and fumbled, and for an encore, he threw interceptions on back-to-back possessions. But don’t press the panic button.

Truth be told, Super Bowl champions aren’t shoe-ins to repeat the following season. Yet all of Philly is hoping and praying that our Birds do it again. But the way they look now, we’ll need another miracle to pull off another miracle.

As believers, we are not to panic. We aren’t supposed to be anxious, we’re not supposed to worry, and God told us not to fear and not to fret? Why? Because God’s got in all in control. He’s got the whole world in his hand, and he’s got you and me, brother in His hand. In other words, in scripture after scripture, we’re admonished to walk by faith, to trust God, and, yes, in my translation, not to press the panic button.

The disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus was fast asleep down in the hold. A storm arose, the winds were whiping and the boat was tripping. It was a high and stormy gale. And so the disciples pressed the panic button. But when Jesus woke up, he chastised them for fearing, and spoke to the sea and said, “Peace, be still.”

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Mark 4:39-41, KJV

Whether it’s watching your team get hammered in a preseason football game or struggling to believe the promises of God, don’t press the panic button. Whether you’re going through a tough test on the job or waiting for your miracle, don’t press the panic button. I fact, here’s what we all should do instead; have faith in God. Remember, whatever you’re going through . . .

don’t press the panic button.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy! (The Phillies Are In First Place!)

Phillies Logo

That’s right folks; the Philadelphia Phillies are in first place in the National League East. And they’re looking good doing it. Well, kinda good.  It’s a stunning turn of events. The Nationals were SUPPOSED to be the best team in the East, but not so. And the Braves came out this season with a little something to prove, but they find themselves going neck and neck with the Phils. And I love it.

It seems like this: every time I watch Sports Center or pay a little too much attention to my ESPN App or am a little too concerned about the standings, they’re losing or they’ve lost. Conversely, when I don’t pay attention or forget to check in or deliberately say “whatever” in a good, unfazed and nonplussed way, they win!  So, is that the formula and the principle — don’t be anxious, don’t worry about it, and don’t sweat the small stuff?

It seems like the same philosophy that pays in life works for us on the field of play too, and vice versa. In essence, sports and life are teaching us, and each other, the same lesson. It seems, yea rather, it is in fact the prescription for a stress free, worry free life.  Whatever happens, in spite of what happens, and yea, even BECAUSE of what happens, we must learn to live this way. The ticket to being “care free” in this life of cares is that feel-good, Bobby McFerrin song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” . . . in Jesus!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=A0geKeeye1Zbd8sAYxdXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0N2Noc21lBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNwaXZz?p=Don%27t+Worry%2C+Be+Happy&fr2=piv-web&fr=mcafee#id=9&vid=78f30eec3fdd9a9a1412ac84a021a934&action=view

And here’s our scriptural ammunition for the fight:

Philippians 4:6

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.    New American Standard Updated Version

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.     New Living Translation

 

 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

1 Peter 5:7, KJV

It’s Time To Be A Philly Fanatic, a.k.a., Baseball Anyone?

It’s officially time to watch baseball fanatically! Just don’t be like the Phillies mascot who injured a female fan by nailing her in the face with a hot dog shot out of the hot dog cannon. Sheesh.

It’s officially summertime so that means that the boys of summer now get to take center stage. The NBA just crowned the Golden State Warriors again and the surprising Washington Capitals finally captured Lord Stanley’s Cup, after a very long chase. So all that remains is baseball.

What’s that you say? The World Cup is being played in Russia? Seriously? So why didn’t the good ole US-of-A get invited? Huh? They didn’t qualify? Really? I thought Trump and Putin were buddies?

Anyway, it’s now time to pay attention to baseball. What’s that you say? The WNBA is playing their summer league season? Like I said, it’s time to pay attention to baseball and the boys of summer (no offense to the basketball ladies, but the WNBA just doesn’t do it for me).

Anyway, back to baseball. The Evil Empire New York Yankees and their bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox, are at again, going at it, neck and neck, tooth and nail, and it’s fun to watch — the standings that is. I mean, it’s just June and we have a pennant race! And that’s not the only one.

My Philly Phillies just whipped and whupped the presumptive National League favorite to go to the World Series, the Washington Nationals, 12 – 2, and reclaimed second place in the East! Whoop whoop! So there! Here’s what one ESPN writer had to say about my Phillies:

“In the opener of a three-game set in D.C., the Phillies trounced the Nationals 12-2, in the process leapfrogging them for second place in the NL East. Philly is now 8-3 in its past 11 games, while Washington is 3-8 in its past 11. Even though the division rivals will square off twice more this weekend, not to mention 13 more times after that, and even though there’s over half a season still left to play, the upstart Phils sent a clear message on what turned out to be a Freaky Friday: They’re not planning on going away anytime soon.”

And there are other races worth watching too, like the National League Central with Milwaukee and the Cubbies going head to head and the National League West with Arizona and the Dodgers going neck and neck. And did I mention it’s still June? Pennant races aren’t supposed to start untill late August or mid September. Man!

So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go to the TV, take the remote, tune in to the guide (remember the actual TV Guide that came with the Sunday paper? My little sister and I used to fight over it all the time, but then again she had it memorized) — err, where was I?

Oh yeah- it’s time to watch, and pay attention to baseball!

Go Phillies!

Heartbreak Sixers Leave Fans at the Playoff Altar

joel-embiid-out-of-gas
Joel Embiid Runs Out Of Gas Against the Celtics

Philly fans love their Sixers. Truth is, we love our sports. We just won the Super Bowl, the Flyers made the playoffs and are relevant, and the Phillies are doing their part by winning too.

But it’s the Sixers that just broke our hearts because we had our hopes up, but maybe too high; and that’s the fans fault. They told us to “Trust The Process” and we did. They promised us the playoffs and they delivered. They teased and tantalized us into thinking they were better than just making the playoffs. And truth be told they are and they’re not.

The Sixers just lost ANOTHER heartbreaker, this time AT HOME in OT to the Boston Celtics. With 1.7 seconds left on the clock in regulation, they forced overtime on Marco Belinelli’s answered prayer-two pointer that looked like a three at the buzzer to force an extra session, but it wasn’t enough.  Embiid wasn’t enough. And Simmons (better than one point) wasn’t enough.  And the coaching wasn’t enough. And the Sixers didn’t have enough. It’s thar simple.

They just didn’t have enough. They showed more promise than poise and their mistakes — correction — they’re costly mistakes with the game on the line, cost them dearly. And I almost forgot to mention the confetti coming down on the court because after regulation the Wells Fargo Center crew thought the game was over and the home team had won with the Belinelli shot, but his foot was on the three-point line. What a tease. Oh well.

So what’s the verdict? We still Trust The Process because it took us further than we thought we could go. But we still have a long way to go. The coaching was suspect and the lack of ball control and discipline from a young team was glaring. But they ARE young, right?

So let’s end on a good note. We made the playoffs. We won a playoff series. WE have Embiid. We have two of the best rookies in the game (we just need to get Fultz on the court). And we may have the Rookie of the Year (ROY).

We will get better. Things will get better. Things have already gotten better. Just think; just two years ago we just won 10 games. I’d say we’ve made significant progress, right? It’s just that we thought that we were better than we really are.

Spiritually speaking, that’s just like most of us. The Bible says that all of righteousness is no better than filthy rags. We must be dressed in His righteousness alone. Only then will we stand faultless before His throne.

Go Sixers!