Don’t get me wrong, but I like baseball. I do. I really do. And I like watching the boys of summer. And I’m not trying to wish the summer away, but . . . is it time for football yet? I mean, it’s July; it’s hot; the grass is dead; it’s July, (it bears repeating) and it just seems like we’re entering the dog days of summer with no end in sight. But alas, there’s hope. There is always hope.
Baseball is ruling the day because the basketball season is long over, hockey is a long forgotten memory, and it’s too hot for football. So what’s a sport’s fan to do? Watch the Houston Astros? Not!
Don’t get me wrong, as the Astros are the hottest thing in baseball since peanuts and Cracker Jack. Sports Illustrated is even picking these same Astros to be the 2017 World Series Champs. Really! We’ll see. And if they do win, I’ll be kicking myself for not paying attention to them all summer long.
(But Lord please bring us some football!)
So let’s be patient and enjoy the summer while we have it. Patience is a virtue, and we shouldn’t complain about anything, even the fact that my Phillies stink. Yes, my Phillies stink and I don’t like the Washington Nationals, so I’m not watching baseball, at least for now.
So let’s be thankful for what we’ve got, and that’s baseball in the middle of the summer. Yes, that’s it! Let’s be thankful; sports wise, and otherwise too.
There is a connection between God and sports, especially during the maddening month of March. Some call it Divine Madness. The month of March is a time when everyone can be a sports fan. And that’s why I write for any and as many that will read. While I’m not a sports writer, per se, I am a sports fan. And I’m a blogger that writes about the nexus and the node and the link and the liaison between God and sports.
I get it that some are not “in” to sports. Many women don’t like sports. Some men don’t like sports, but we won’t go into that, at least not now. Anyway, for those who say they don’t like sports, I can see football being too fluctuated and baseball being too boring and hockey being too horrid. But basketball, and specifically college basketball, and college basketball in MARCH, indeed is rated “E” for everyone.
And that brings us to the subject of our session (wait, is this therapy? Yes, it is, but more on that later). Anyway, the subject of our session is The Big Dance. The Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments are sports for people who do and DON’T like sports.
The obsession termed March Madness is a microcosm of life itself. It’s a single elimination tournament with entirely all sorts of every type, from the cream to the crap, and everything else in between. You have the haves and the have nots; you have the big dogs and the little dudes. You have the powerhouse teams and the rag tag, just happy to make it to the Dance dames who didn’t even dare to dream of dancing with the prince of the prom. There are middle of the roadies who aren’t that bad but they’re not that good either. All are on equal footing and have an equal opportunity to win at least one game, and stand an outside chance at winning the whole dag gum thing.
And that’s just like life. We all have hopes and dreams and ambitions and aspirations and we all collide with each other on the way to dance with the prince at the Ball. Unfortunately and invariably, some dreams will die hard. When a favorite loses to an also ran, and when an unlikely-to-succeed beats the belle of the ball, we all can identify and personify the notions and the emotions and the feelings and foundations that form and frame the structure of our core.
At our very core, we long to be successful and to succeed. We long to be acknowledged and to be accepted. In essence, everyone wants to win and we all yearn to be celebrated. And each and every team in the tournament wants to win, and they have to believe that they have a chance to win it all. And that’s why we love the upsets and the comebacks and the turnarounds that the tournament will give us almost every night for the next three weeks.
And that’s why everyone can be a sports fan, especially during the maddening month of March. God will accept us and receive us; yes all of us – red and yellow and black and white – just as we are and just where we are.
Because we’ve all been dinged and damaged by life in some way; we all need therapy, in some form or another. And so we end this needed and necessary session with this: sports is therapy. Yes it can be misused and abused, but sports in general and March Madness in particular is a window and a glimpse of how we all have a chance and a shot to be elevated to Heaven and to be celebrated by Heaven.
And so the bottom line is this: the God of Heaven is the only hope we have for health and healing in this life. March madness, it its wired, wacky way, teaches us this truth. That’s why everyone can be a sports fan.
To some it’s not rational and it doesn’t make sense, and that’s why some others call it Divine Madness.
Some decisions make all the sense in the world and others make no sense at all. And the Eagles trading Sam Bradford, their starting quarterback, to the Vikings AFTER they went 4-0 in the preseason, is just one of those moves that makes you shake your head and scratch your head and wonder if the Eagles have lost their heads. But not to worry, right? I mean, we’ve got Carson Wentz, right?
If I didn’t have high hopes for my Eagles for this season, I sure don’t have them now. Not that I was a Sham, I mean Sam, Bradford fan. Quite the contrary. It’s just that Wentz has barely touched the ball this pre-season. Oh well. Let’s see what the new kid can do.
Here’s what the pundits are saying, and even they can’t figure this one out:
“Carson Wentz suffered a hairline rib fracture on August 11th in his first pre-season start, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson estimated last week that one of Wentz’s ribs was 60 percent healed. That’s sixty percent. So, has it healed that much in the past few days?
In that one preseason game, Wentz completed 12 of 24 passes for 89 yards and a bad interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s not much work for a quarterback coming from FCS-level college football at North Dakota State, but the Eagles believe he has high-level skills and rare maturity.
Wentz appears mature enough to handle some early bumps in the road. That’s not the biggest concern, really. But another issue that is he hasn’t had much time to mesh with the rest of the offense. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has just gotten his feet wet, too, and the offensive line is still coming together as well. That’s a lot of training on the job.
Fortunately, the Eagles’ early-season schedule is not brutal. After the Browns in Week 1, the Eagles travel to Chicago for a Monday nighter, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3 at home and a Week 4 bye. There’s time for Wentz to develop without facing a menacing defense in the first month of the season.
Still, this is a lot to digest. The Eagles have made wholesale changes and dramatic moves throughout 2016. But even these are surprising developments to be sure.”
Everyone wants to hit a home run. Everyone wants to hit it out of the park and over the fence and further and higher than everyone else. And everyone wants to have everyone cheer for them. It’s part of our DNA. No one wants to strike out and leave runners stranded on base. No one. But the question is, “how do you hit a home run?” or more importantly, “how do you consistently hit home runs?” A simple web search produced this answer:
“I would say the main factors that go into hitting distance are:
A) Batter’s Strength
When the ball hits the bat, the force is applied the opposite direction of the swing, trying to push the bat backwards. A stronger batter can apply more forward force and resist the ball’s force.
B) Pitch Velocity
The faster the pitch, the farther it will soar. This is because the ball picks up kinetic energy, which is then used when sending it over the fence. You will sometimes see contests where fans are chosen to try to hit a homerun off a tee for a car or some big prize- in reality, almost all of the players wouldn’t be able to because there is no kinetic energy to add to the hit that the pitch provides.
C) Bat Speed
Kind of takes a back seat to the batter’s strength, because obviously if you’re stronger you’ll be able to swing faster- however certain technique can help improve bat speed
D) Connection (hitting the ball at the right angle and on the optimal spot “sweet spot” on the bat).”
So, what is the spiritual tie in? How to you translate this sports analogy to life?
Batter’s strength is number one. You first have to be strong enough. And strength comes through endurance and perseverance and patience and tolerance. It doesn’t come overnight but time is not the answer either.
Strength comes through training and practice and preparation and correct application. It’s not that simple, but then again, it’s really a factor of willpower and backbone and drive and determination. It’s about overcoming and obstacles and sticking to it and hanging in there and going the distance.
“Dealing with and overcoming setbacks and stumbling blocks is what builds your character and ability to grow. Remember, don’t take things personally. People do things to other people because it makes them feel better. They try to get you to feel as bad as they do about themselves. You need to be careful with emotions. They can be a very negative force in your life that can direct you on paths better not travelled. We all experience bad things from other people. It’s how and what we do with those experiences that define who we ultimately become.”
Pitch Velocity is number 2. In other words, the harder and faster the ball or “the situation” comes at you, the higher the chance of you hitting it farther. In other words, if we want to hit home runs, we should get excited when it’s hard and it’s difficult and it’s challenging. Because the darker the night, and the fiercer the fight, the sweeter the victory.
Bat speed and Connection are factors of practice, practice, practice. “Practice? We talkin’ bout practice?” (Where is Allen Iverson when you need him?)
So, as you watch this year’s Home Run Derby (note that you’re watching, not me, because it’s just not my cup of tea), let’s remember one of the greatest home run hitters of all time, Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October.” In the 1977 World Series, Reggie hit three home runs in Game Six against the Dodgers on three consecutive at bats. Not too shabby.
So, here’s to the home runs in life that you and I will hit.
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
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.
ALI ON THE VIETNAM WAR
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?”
What do track and field and baseball have in common? In fact, what commonality do all of sports share? Comebacks.
If it was a movie, most people would have scoffed and said it was impossible. But it happened. Just ask anyone from Boston, they’ll tell you they were at the games. The hated rival New York Yankees were embarrassing the Boston Red Sox on their way to a 3-0 lead in the 2004 best-of-seven ALCS, including a 19-8 shellacking in Game 3.
Most Red Sox fans now will say they always believed it could happen. They would be lying.
Game 4 went into extra innings but ended with David “Big Papi” Ortiz hitting walk-off home run in the 12th inning to avoid the sweep. Papi then hit a game-winning single in the 14th to win Game 5. From there came Curt Schilling’s bloody sock game and lots of home runs in Game 7… Leading to the Red Sox’ first World Series win in 86 years and the greatest comeback in team sports. It was so good that ESPN did a 30 for 30 documentary on it, “Four Days in October.” And my story is almost as dramatic.
I ran track in high school.
Because I was the only high hurdler on the team, I ran the 110-meter hurdles out of necessity. The last track meet of senior year was the Penn Jersey Conference Championships. My father, who had never witnessed any of my meets, was able to attend this one. The race was called the start was clean. But at the eighth or ninth hurdle, I banged elbows with the runner next to me. The collision set off a chain reaction. I crashed into the next hurdle and down I went, taking a few other runners with me.
Looking back, an onlooker who wanted to mix sports metaphors could have screamed, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” (The immortal words of Howard Cosell.) Anyway, the picture was as unsightly as a train wreck. Disappointed, mad and embarrassed, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and went to sulk on the other side of the track. Soon, after a huddling of coaches and officials, the decision was made to run the race over, with no penalties to any runner. I was relieved when my coach came jogging over to relay the news.
The storybook ending is this: I won the race, and was honored to be First Team – All Conference. Finishing first, my last race was my best one, and the only one my father saw me run. I was glad to make my Dad proud.
Looking back, I often use this race as inspiration for life. How many times have I stumbled and inadvertently caused others to fall, but yet I was given a second chance? (Too many to tell here!) After each fall, each miss-step and each mistake, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start over again. I call it “bounce-back-ability:” It’s the ability to get back up and keep it moving.
We should live with the knowledge that as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, we make “Dad” proud by enduring trials, temptations and utter collapses. Our Heavenly Father is not looking down with anger or disdain; He loves us and wants the best for us. He is there cheering us on and encouraging us to get back up and try again.