Tragedy and Triumph

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Louisiana sports reporter Carley McCord is one of five victims killed in a small Lafayette plane crash on the way to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday morning, December 28, 2019.

The triumph for LSU was tremendous, but they simultaneously experienced a tragedy that was equally traumatic. And such is life.

LSU defeated Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl on Saturday night, 63 – 28, as their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow set records for touchdowns and yards and just about everything else. It was an awesome, overwhelming, and overpowering win for Coach Orgeron and the LSU Tigers who have been ranked as the No. 1 college team in the country for most of the year.

But the thrill of victory was overshadowed by the agony of defeat. Earlier in the day, the team learned that offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger lost his daughter-in-law in a plane crash just hours before his team was set to take the field.

Carley McCord — who was also a New Orleans-based sports reporter — was among five people killed in Lafayette, LA Saturday morning as the private aircraft slammed into a parking lot and burst into flames in what’s said to have been an emergency landing after takeoff.

As believers, we are to weep with them that weep, and mourn with them that mourn. So we join with the LSU family as we pause to remember the life of a lady whose time was cut off far too soon. Yes we rejoice over the dramatic win, but let’s not forget that while we rejoice, our hearts are heavy as well.

Rest in peace, Carley McCord.

In A Christmas Miracle, The Eagles Upset The Cowboys!

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Eagles Upset Dallas Cowboys 17-9 for sole possession of first place in the NFC East

They said Dallas was the better team. They said the Eagles didn’t stand a chance. And they said Wentz was overrated and all washed up.   But the final score said the opposite.  The final Score was Eagles 17, Dallas 9. In this game of arch NFC East Division rivals, the Eagles “D” held the No. 1 offense in the league to three field goals!  Nuff said!  This was an upset win for the ages, and the Eagles did it with backup, underdog players due to multiple injuries to numerous all pro starters. It was a great team win, a Christmas present from Santa, and Christmas Miracle, all raped up in one.

 It took prayer and faith, pleas for good fortune and fortitude from fearfulness. It took it all and a little more to win this game. 

Now the Eagles just have to win the NFC East, right? Right!  In my book, Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds, here’s how I describe this Eagles’ win, and every other upset win of epic proportions:

“In the World of Sports, there’s nothing like an upset win, a comeback from way back, and a complete turnaround. The same is true in life. In sports, we celebrate the underdogs, both the teams and the players who are at a distinct disadvantage and are expected to lose. Yet some way, somehow, these teams and players find a way triumph in spite of adversity.

Upsets, Comebacks, and Turnarounds looks back to those who have already overcome and looks ahead to those facing overwhelming obstacles yet to be overcome. This book examines the intersection of God and sports and the connection of sports and spirituality. It is dedicated to those in life not favored to win; to those voted least likely to succeed; and to those picked to finish dead last or not at all; in other words, the underdogs. The Bible is chock-full of unprecedented upset wins.

The Holy Writ is replete with remarkable, courageous comebacks. And scripture is saturated with stories of tremendous turnarounds. Leah, Ruth, Jonathan, Moses, and Elijah are just a few of the faithful who overcame overwhelming odds and were victorious. They found a way to believe God for, and experience, miracles. This is a telling of their side of the story. This book is a tribute to all of the biblical long-shots. to all those who “didn’t stand a chance.” Biblical stories of men and women of the faith are inspiration and motivation for us all. At one point in their lives, ordinary people just like you and me were spiritually empty, bereft of hope and brimming with despair. But God turned it around. He did it for them, He did it for me, and He can do the same for you too.”

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Note From Joe Burrow: Nice Guys Do Indeed Finish First

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LSU quarterback Joe Burrow wins 2019 Heisman Trophy by record-setting margin

Joe Burrow just won the Heisman Trophy. Thereby, Burrow proved that nice guys can, and do, finish first.

In his epic, record setting season and his emotional and heartwarming acceptance speech, Joe Burrow proved and pronounced three things;

     First, you can beat the odds.

     Second, you can rise from obscurity; and

     Third, nice guys don’t have to finish last.

Burrow beat the odds. No one, and I mean NO ONE, had Joe Burrow as a Heisman Trophy finalist at the beginning of the 2019 season, much less the runaway winner. But Burrow led “LSU’s passing game that finished No. 116 in 2014, No. 106 in 2015, No. 101 in 2016, No. 84 in 2017 and No. 67 in 2018 sprang to No. 2 in 2019, largely through the mastery Burrow left strewn across storied American fields such as Texas, Alabama and Atlanta (against Georgia in the SEC championship game). Receiving yards went lavished on brilliant wideouts such as Ja’Marr Chase (1,498), Justin Jefferson (1,207) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (545).”  ESPN

Burrow rose from the obscurity of Athens, Ohio, an impoverished rural county, to the national stage of instant stardom.  Burrow was a backup quarterback at Ohio State, and then transferred to LSU, and now he’s the Heisman Trophy winner on the No. 1 Team in the nation favored to win the college national championship.  Burrow led LSU “from 2,894 passing yards in 13 games in 2018, then ascended to 4,715 in 13 games so far in 2019. He threw 48 touchdown passes against six interceptions.” Incredible.

Talk about a rags to riches, Cinderella, Rocky Balboa story.

So we say congratulations to Joe Burrow. Thanks for reminding us that nice guys can indeed finish first.

PS: Now watch Burrows Heisman Trophy acceptance speech and try to hold it together. I dare you not to shed a tear.

 

Stephen Strasburg Just Got A $245 Million Payday: Miracle or Madness?

 

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Stephen Strasburg signs record $245 Million contract with 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals.

It’s a miracle that the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series. The madness is that they had to pay their ace, MVP pitcher Stephen Strasburg, $245 Million dollars to stay with the team. I say they “had to,” because if they didn’t, another team would. That much mula is mad money, no matter how you slice it.

Stephen Strasburg just cashed in. But I’m not hattin’.  He had a great year and won his team the World Series, so he deserves to be rewarded. But MAN!  Salaries in professional sports continue spiral up and out of control, with no ceiling in sight. That’s madness. Why on God’s green earth does free agency cost so much?

The miracle could be how these exorbitant salaries will be used by those who are blessed with them. The moral of the story is this: those who are rich are charged not to trust in wealth, but in God.  Paul instructed Timothy to “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Tim 6:17, NIV

So, since we can’t stop the ever increasing rise of riches in this world, especially in the world of sports, let’s collectively use it to our advantage. Let’s turn a possible negative into a positive. No we can’t spend Strasburg’s money, but we can encourage him to give back. Money is not bad, but loving money above God and all else is.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, Stephen Strasburg and the $245 Million his Washington Nationals just gave him, as the defending champions brought back their World Series MVP.  Here’s how one sports writer put it:

“Well, the hot stove is officially lit. An eye-popping $245 million deal for ace Stephen Strasburg to return to the Nationals got the fun started on the first day of baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego.”

“Stephen Stasburg just signed the largest ever contract for a pitcher in both total and average annual value ($35 million). Former Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole is expected to surpass both of those numbers this offseason, but Strasburg still projects as the highest-earning pitcher in major league history. His career earnings will come out to just over $361 million when this contract ends.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/12/09/stephen-strasburg-contract-nationals/

And here’s ESPN’s David Schoenfield’s gut reaction to the question, “Do you like this deal for the Nationals?

“Hey, it’s not my money! This guy just carried your team to a World Series title, but that’s also a very large chunk of change for a pitcher who just topped 176 innings for the first time since 2014. There’s nothing wrong with bringing him back and continuing to construct your team around the big three of Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin.”

I’m happy for Strasburg. I am. And I hope he goes on to have many more productive seasons. With that, even though I’m a Phillies fan, go NATS!

Down Goes Duke! Stephen F. Austin Defeats Duke in an Upset for the Ages

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Stephen F. Austin hands No. 1 Duke its first non conference home loss since 2000

It’s one of the most heartening and heartwarming, feel-good sports stories of the year, at least for everyone who hates Duke. Yes, this one is being celebrated by non-Duke fans everywhere.  Little, lanky, Lilliputian Stephen F. Austin State University just defeated Duke 85 – 83 in overtime at Cameron Indoor Arena.  Unbelievable.  In other words, Stephen F. Austin (SFA) just became Cinderella personified and made a pre-Ball appearance in November, and she’s lookin’ girly good.  

It’s a long ways off from the madness of March, folks.

First of all, where IS SFA anyway?  I had to look it up. SFA is a public university in Nacogdoches, Texas. Yes, Nacogdoches.  Seriously.  It’s in East Texas.  SFA was founded as a teaching school and now has 12,614 enrolled students. And now this pint sized David just beat juggernaut Goliath with a sling shot and a stone.

As sports fans, this is what we live for. This is why every sports fan should go to church every Sunday (before or after the game). And this is how the theology of sports points us to the mystery of Godliness.

Upsets, comebacks and turnarounds is what Heaven is all about. God is the God of the underdog. Our Lord came to upset the negative status quo. The King of Kings is orchestrator of all comebacks, and the Root and Offspring of David is the one who turns every pitch black and hopelessly bleak situation all the way around, for good.

Here’s how we know: Duke was favored to win by 27 points. Stephen F. Austin was not just in the game, but they outscored Duke in the paint by a mile. That doesn’t happen every day, not even when Duke plays a RANKED opponent. 

After the historic game, here’s what Coach K had to say:

“They were better. Bottom line,” Krzyzewski said. “They were tougher than we were. They played with great poise. And we helped them. You can’t give up 64 points in the paint. We don’t even give up 64 points. And we gave up so many layups. You go 11-of-24 from the foul line in the second half, it’s just a recipe to lose. So we weren’t deserving of winning. That team was deserving of winning, and they won.”

If you’re wondering why this game, this upset win, is such a big deal, here’s what ESPN had to say:

“No. 1 Duke suffered its first loss of the season in stunning fashion Tuesday as the Blue Devils lost an overtime stunner at the buzzer to Stephen F. Austin, 85-83, in an absolutely wild ending at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke became the third No. 1 team to lose this in NOVEMBER, seeing its 150-game non-conference home winning streak snapped by Stephen F. Austin senior forward Nathan Bain’s coast-to-coast layup at the overtime buzzer. The Blue Devils entered the game as 27.5-point favorites, making the Lumberjacks’ win the biggest Division I upset of the past 15 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Duke took a 15-point first-half lead, but SFA — which had just lost to Rutgers and finished below .500 last season — came all the way back in the second half to take the lead in the final minutes. The game went into OT when Duke’s Cassius Stanley missed a contested midrange jumper at the buzzer.

Stephen F. Austin was able to secure a loose ball under Duke’s basket and then senior forward Nathan Bain drove the ball the length of the floor and banked in a layup just as the buzzer sounded.

It’s easily the biggest win the history of Stephen F. Austin. The team never backed down from Duke down the stretch of regulation and throughout overtime before this layup won it.” https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/28172273/duke-college-basketball-latest-no-1-casualty-stephen-f-austin-pulls-ot-stunner

And there it is: there’s the epiphany and the theophany. The revealed Truth we are to live and learn is this – in the face of a big, bad, bully, never back down. Darkness will be defeated by the light, and right will overcome might. When all hell is breaking loose, never ever give up.

Never give up. You can make it! Your dreams are your ticket out, and your dreams can come true. Just ask Nathan Bain and the Stephen F. Austin University Men’s basketball team.

Don’t Bet Against The Buckeyes

Ohio State

 

Ohio State just passed its first serious test of the season. Ohio State, now 10 -0, just beat Penn State at “The Shoe” and convinced the college football world that they are one of the best teams in the country.  Penn State tried everything – forcing fumbles, throwing in a backup quarterback, and then unleashing a surprisingly staunch defense in the Third Quarter – but it wasn’t enough as nothing could stop the Buckeyes.

Penn State found themselves down 14 -0 at the half and then 21-0 in the Third Quarter but closed to 21 -14. Testy Penn State tested the Ohio State, but in the end, it was Ohio State’s phenom QB Justin Fields who kept making NFL-caliber plays with his arm and legs that won the day.

Now, the Buckeyes have to beat their real arch rival, Michigan, next week in Ann Arbor to win the Big Ten Title and stay in the hunt for the college football championship. 

Someone once said, that when the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’, and Ohio State’s star power on offense and defense got a goin’ today.  Chase Young, Ohio State’s standout defensive end and Heisman hopeful played with a chip on his shoulder after serving a two game suspension for a NCAA rules violation. And Running back J.K. Dobbins ran all over the Nittany Lions. Dobbins ran the ball 36 times for 157 yards and Justin Fields ran for another 68 yards, and Penn State could not fully answer the Buckeyes.

The moral of the story is this: pass the test.  Dig in and hold out and buckle up and hunker down. You can pass the test. You can. Determine to overcome your mistakes and missteps and play like there’s no tomorrow

Is Stephen A. Smith A Sellout?

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Stephen A. from ESPN’s First Take goes off on Colin Kaepernick

Stephen A. is now one of the highest paid ESPN sports analysts, ever. And for this, he is seen by some and maligned by many as a sellout, especially with regard to Colin Kaeperknick’s feud with the NFL, and his recent workout fiasco.

In light of the shenanigans surrounding the workout, Stephen A. voiced his opinions in his usual loud and lurid fashion. Instead of standing with the “Power to the People” position which sees Kaepernick as a martyr for “Black Lives Matter” oppression, Stephen A. continues to deride him as being a rebel without a cause, or more pointedly, a martyr for his own cause.

The jury is still out on Kaepernick. As for Stephen A., his rash, rambling rants sell air time. And so, as far as ESPN is concerned, mission accomplished. Because talking heads are paid to sell air time. However, has anyone paused long enough to consider it seems that more people are talking about the silly workout controversy and Stephen A.’s reaction to it than they are the actual reason why Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem before NFL games in the first place?

I like Kaepernick. I do. And I believe that he deserves, (or is that he deserved?) a second chance. And I like Stephen A. too. He’s a Philly guy. But just because I like them doesn’t mean I agree with them or agree with how they’re handling this situation.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I think it’s time for a fact check: the media has a way of selling and slanting a story, and it’s up to those who love the truth to find the facts. And here are some of the facts:

“Following Colin Kaepernick’s workout on Saturday, Stephen A. Smith of First Take took to social media and said that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback doesn’t actually want a job in the NFL. He believes that Kaepernick just wants to be a martyr. Monday morning, Smith provided more thoughts on the matter, saying that Saturday’s events just eradicate all of the QB’s points about the NFL.

During an expanded back-and-forth between Smith and his co-hosts, the longtime ESPN analyst explained why he has been critical of Kaepernick in recent days. To him, he doesn’t like how the free agent handled Saturday’s workout, including how he switched the location with fairly little notice.

As Smith continued to explain, multiple moments created questions for him on Saturday. Specifically, he pointed out that the NFL and all of the teams that were scheduled to attend the workout found out about the change in location roughly 30 minutes before the start of the event.

This timeline made it appear to be a last-minute change. It also made it far more difficult for the teams to attend the workout considering that the new location was roughly an hour away from the Atlanta Falcons team facility, which was the original location.

However, Smith said that there were factors that made this switch appear planned. The workout took place at a public high school, and it was captured by videographers on site. Additionally, there was security in place, as well as many Kaepernick supporters in “I know my rights” shirts. For the co-host of First Take, this was just evidence that the former San Francisco 49ers QB had planned to change the location. He believes that Kaepernick would have had to meet with the superintendent of the school and get permission to hold the workout on the field.”

On the other hand, here’s another, opposing and pointed point of view from Luther Campbell of the Miami Herald:

“In the battle to control the narrative of a controversial story, Uncle Tom-esque black pundits play a crucial role in tearing down black professional athletes who rebel against white sports franchise owners. The fallout from Colin Kaepernick’s controversial NFL workout this past Saturday is exposing commentators such as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

Stephen A. was one of the first to tweet and go on television to question Kaepernick’s intentions and justify why NFL teams have blackballed the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback for the past three years because of his National Anthem protests. Tuesday, Smith also defended himself by yelling, “I’m a black man, you idiots!” and claiming throughout his career he’s “taken on the fight on behalf of African-Americans throughout this nation.” https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-city-commissioners-will-vote-to-give-themselves-taxpayer-funded-pensions-11319342

In sum, amidst the clamor and the clanging of media pundits spewing their opinions of Colin Kaeperkick, I’m so glad that I know and love the truth. Because His truth is marching on, the truth is the light, and truth shall prevail.