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.

Who Is The Best Player in the 2018 NBA Draft?

NBA-Draft 2018

Deciding and choosing and picking and reaching a conclusion about a person are not easy tasks. For those of us who actually LIKE people, getting to know someone is actually an enjoyable experience. One of my absolute favorite things to do is talk to strangers. That’s one of the reasons I love to hire, because I get to meet and evaluate talent by conducting dozens of interviews each year.  In selecting talent, it’s necessary to evaluate resumes and character and presence. It’s not easy.

Choosing someone means that you elected (a tricky theological term) to select them above and before and instead of others. Along this line, Christianity is a superior belief system to all others because God actually chooses us, not the other way around. And God chose us, knowing our faults and flaws and faux pas before we even committed them! How about that for taking a chance on a pick!  And God the Father still wants us, despite our limits and limitations and liabilities.  He still drafted us. He actually wants to be our friend in additional to being our deliverer and, through Jesus Christ, our personal Savior.

So if you don’t know God for yourself, just know that He chose you, he picked you and he wants you to “play” on His team. How about that for a Draft night tie in?

So who’s the best player in the 2018 Draft?  DeAndre Ayton? Marvin Bagley? Luka Doncic? y Mo Bamba? Who’s got the most “potential?” Pick ‘em!

Only time will tell.

Note To Ezekiel Elliott: Don’t Dig Your Own Grave  

 

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The Dallas Cowboys in general, and Ezekiel Elliott in specific, are digging their own grave. Elliot was just suspended for six – count ‘em – SIX games. That’s over a third of the season. Sheesh. That’s like a 60-year-old missing twenty years of life. It’s like not living for the first four months of the year.  It’s like not showing up for work on a 9-5 job until well after 11 every day.  That’s a formula for losing, and losing at the game of life is not something that any of us should want to do.

So is this suspension a big deal?  I’ll say.

What’s a Super Bowl favorite to do without the heart and soul of their team?  Lose.  And lose they will.  The Cowboys are implicated as much as Elliott in this me because they defended him and covered for him and basically acted like the investigation was no big deal.  Wrong answer.

When you dig your own grave you’re way behind before you even start and you’re just about out before you even get to the plate. You don’t want to give your enemies and adversaries and opponents and rivals a head start in a short race, and that’s exactly what Ezekiel Elliott did to his team and his teammates by making bad decisions.  Now, the Eagles, Giants, and yes, even the lowly Redskins have more of a chance at winning the NFC East without Elliott in the lineup for a third of the season. 

Oh well. People make their own choices, and sometimes people in general, and athletes in specific, dig their own grave through addictions to drugs or drinking or sexual activities or senseless behavior.   “Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns, such as work, relationships, or health. People who have developed an addiction may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/addiction

And that’s the bottom line. Does Ezekiel Elliot realize how he has affected his life, much less his team?  The problem, or problems, Ezekiel Elliot has caused for himself are bad enough, but the injuries to his former girlfriend and the suspension from the team hurts people way beyond his personal space.  Maybe the suspension, if it is upheld, will give Zeke time to think and reflect and get help and mend his ways.

They say that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  And in Zeke’s life, there’s a smoldering bonfire ready to explode if he doesn’t put it out.

Gabby Douglas Survives The Social Media Circus, and You Can Too

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I’m glad for Gabby. She’s taking a social media malaise, yet she has re-emerged and resurrected her status and her standing because of help from beyond her reach. Movie stars, fellow athletes and others all came to Gabby’s rescue as unknown and unwanted faultfinders heaped and piled on uncalled for criticism about everything from her looks to her hair to her hand not being placed over her heart during the playing of the national anthem.  The heck with her performance, right?  And all she did was her best. 

Gabby Douglas is the decorated Olympic gymnast who won the women’s all around in London. Yet “all” she did was be a part of the “Final Five” who will bring home a team gold medal from Rio. But her individual performance has not been enough to appease some observers on the internet.

Here’s how the Washington Post and the New York Times reported the story:

“After finishing seventh in a field of eight in her lone individual event, the uneven bars, Douglas fought back tears when reporters’ questions about her performance turned to questions about a wide range of criticism that has been directed at her, much of it on social media: about her stance during the playing of the national anthem, her expression in the stands as Simone Biles and Aly Raisman vied for all-around honors, and a perception that she has distanced herself from teammates.

Douglas said she had avoided the Internet while in Rio because of the “negativity,” which she said she didn’t understand.” (Liz Clarke, The Washington Post)

“Douglas, 20, who won the women’s all-around during the London Olympics in 2012, lamented on Sunday that she had been picked apart by people on social media for everything from her appearance — right down to her hair texture — to her behavior during a medal ceremony while the national anthem was being played.

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“When they talk about my hair or not putting my hand over my heart or being very salty in the stands, really criticizing me, for me it was really hurtful,” Douglas, who is African-American, said, according to The Associated Press.

Even her mother, Natalie Hawkins, expressed frustration with the harsh attacks. “They said she had breast enhancements; they said she wasn’t smiling enough, she’s unpatriotic,” Hawkins told Reuters. After some observers noticed that Douglas looked disappointed while watching her teammates succeed, “it went to not supporting your teammates,” her mother said. Hawkins added: “Now you’re ‘Crabby Gabby.’ You name it, and she got trampled. What did she ever do to anyone?”

The Olympics have always been fertile ground for cutthroat competition and narratives about fallen heroes, but observers on social media can distort those stories and take them to extremes — while still expecting athletes to smile and act gracefully when they lose.

Athletes have never been as accessible as they are right now — especially those like Douglas and Franklin who rely on social media to build a fanbase and share sponsored posts from brands they endorse, like United Airlines and Gillette razors.

That accessibility becomes a double-edged sword when they do not perform as well as they should, or if fans catch a whiff of jealousy, bad behavior or team infighting.

But if we have learned anything from social media’s power to tear down idols, it is that the same tools can be used to build someone back up. By Monday, #LOVE4GABBYUSA was being spread across Twitter by fans who wanted to help Douglas feel better despite the onslaught of abuse.” (Katie Rogers, The New York Times)

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So here’s to Gabby and to those who rose to her rescue.  And maybe, just maybe, when you or I see someone being unfairly gang tackled, we’ll rise to their rescue too.

God Save Me From Bad Football

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 29: Sam Bradford #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles passes the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter in a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 29, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

I’m a sports fan. And I watch a lot of sports. In fact, I’m watching my Eagles play right now (or sort of, as I have one eye on the game and both hands on the keyboard.) Anyway, as a sports fan in general and an Eagles fan in specific, I cherish and relish and savor the flavor of a good ball game. Especially a good football game. So that’s why I dislike and despise and detest and deplore bad ball. Don’t you?

Bad ball is when your team just can’t get in gear and can’t get it going and can’t get it right. Bad ball is when your team is lazy and listless and droopy and loopy and just doesn’t’ have it all together. And that sounds like most of us. Because as much I want to throw Sam Bradford under the bus, sometimes the bad football I see in him is the bad living I see in me.

Bad football is like bad living. Slips and slumps and lapses and letdowns and errors and errata and flops and faux-pas make life dodgy and dubious and suspect and abstract. And as long as we have bad football, we’ll have bad living (or is it the other way around?). Yes we all strive for perfection and precision, but that won’t come as long as we are on this side of Glory.

As for God, His Way is perfect. And following His Way is the only way there is to go. We all want predictability and certainty and sureness and consistency. But unfortunately, that won’t happen. It won’t happen outside of faith and confidence and reliance and assurance in God.

So, since God is in the saving business, I’m asking Heaven to help me and God so save me from bad football. That’s right. I need saving and deliverance and rescue and freedom from fumbles and foibles and faults and flaws during the games I watch. And especially the games my Eagles play. Is that too much to ask?

But while I can pray all I want for deliverance from bad football, this prayer won’t make it past my ceiling. The answer to this prayer request just won’t come. On the contrary, my prayer for deliverance from bad living, mine and others, will come as we rely on and trust in and depend upon Him.

Champions & The Championship

Championships are won at high price and heavy cost.  Championships are earned by those who are willing to endure great sacrifice.  Championships are claimed after the fulfillment of a number of prerequisites.  The road to the championship begins long before the first game of the season, and starts with desire and determination.

A championship is a series of competitions or contests to determine a champion.  In order to be a champion, you must first be victorious, and then you can graduate to triumphant.  Victors win, champions triumph.  Athletically speaking, many can win, but only a few can triumph.

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