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.

Don’t Bet Against Brady

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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.

Another Reason To Hate Duke: Grayson Allen is “Trippin’”

Jimmy V Classic

Coach “K” got it wrong. The Duke Coach got it all wrong. Coach Mike Krzyzewski suspended junior guard and former captain Grayson Allen “indefinitely” and the indefinitely lasted a whopping one game. Allen was suspended for just one game for tripping an opposing player, not once or twice, but for the third time. And now Grayson Allen is playing again. Unbelievable.

I say again, this marked the third time that Grayson Allen intentionally tripped an opposing player in the past year. Allen intentionally stuck out his leg and tripped an Elon player Wednesday night, December 22nd, an incident he later apologized for. Allen was defending Santa Ana late in the first half of the Blue Devils’ 72-61 victory. Santa Ana drove past him on the baseline, and Allen stuck his right leg out, sending Santa Ana to the floor. Allen was assessed a technical foul. He then became overly emotional on the bench after he found out about the technical.  Talk about a poor sport.

Grayson Allen has now thrice committed the same dirty play. Does that make him a dirty player? You tell me. Allen has now gone from a mild-mannered, Bible verse-tweeting potential All-American to the biggest villain in college basketball. The passionate, palpitant, hard-nosed Allen is arguably the Duke Blue Devils’ best player and is the heart and soul of his team. With him they have a shot at going deep into the NCAA Tournament. Without him, they’re toast. So is that the reason why Coach K and the Duke University brain trust are putting up with his behavior?

There have been many discussions regarding disparity in punishment as pertaining to race. Just think: what would have happened if Grayson Allen was another color, race or creed? He probably would have been kicked off of the team and possibly dispelled from his school. It is disappointing and disparaging to see a Duke player get treated differently than other players would certainly be treated. The  “conspiracy theorists” of the world all believe that there is a double standard, and Duke in general, and now Grayson Allen in particular, got off and got by after doing what is horrible at best and heinous at worst.

Allen has endured a significant amount of scrutiny and criticism, and has been caught up in a viral, social media firestorm; but he did this to himself, purposefully tripping three opponents in the last two seasons. First it was Louisville’s Ray Spalding on Feb. 8, 2016, then Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes on Feb. 25, 2016. The first incident was surprising; the second incomprehensible, a pattern of dirty behavior that no longer could be written off as a “Did he or didn’t he do it intentionally?” debate. No, he did it, with his right foot out, left heel up. It turned Grayson Allen into a trending topic on Twitter, an ignominious YouTube sensation and the topic of conversation around the country.

Then, this past December, Duke suspended Allen after the third incident. Here’s what Coach K had to say after the latest trip: “We have had the opportunity to thoroughly review the incident involving Grayson Allen from last night’s game against Elon. As I stated last night, the incident was unacceptable and inexcusable. . . . As a program, we needed to take further steps regarding his actions that do not meet the standards of Duke Basketball. To that end, we have determined that Grayson will be suspended from competition for an indefinite amount of time.” And Coach K stripped Allen of his captainship.

Former Duke standout Jay Williams had this advice for Grayson Allen:  “Grayson Allen has a choice to make, the same one another former Duke guard had to make a long time ago. Will he learn from being forced to sit and watch? What happens next will define him.” And one ACC coach told ESPN’s Andy Katz that Allen needs help handling his actions. To say the least.

ACC commissioner John Swofford issued a statement supporting the move, calling sportsmanship “one of the core values of our league” and adding that the suspension “demonstrates adherence to this important principle.”

And here’s what Allen had to say for himself: “I made a really bad play. I’m sorry to him, Santa Ana ….. I’m sorry to the officials who had to call that. I’m sorry to my team. It was selfish and taking away from them. I’m not proud of that at all.”

Duke’s season depends on whether Grayson Allen can grow up. Yes, Duke made the right move suspending Grayson Allen, but it’s what happened during his short time away — and WHY he returned so soon — that will define a season for a team many thought would play for the title.

The question was asked, “how long should Grayson Allen sit?” The answer?  He sat one game. A whopping one game. Wow. He should have sat for much longer.  In hockey, if a player is tripped on a breakaway (with no opponents to pass other than the goaltender), a tripping call may result in a penalty shot for the tripped player. Nuff said.

Yes I believe in grace and mercy and redemption, but I also believe in judgement, and in this case, the punishment did not fit the crime.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand its dirty players. Right is right and wrong is wrong.  And Grayson Allen was wrong, three times over, and he got away with what amounts to a slap on the wrist.

What’s wrong with that picture?

A-Rod is Going A-Way

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Alex Rodriguez announced his retirement on Sunday, bringing to an end one of the most hated and reviled professional sports careers ever.  http://ftw.usatoday.com/author/luke-kerr-dineen

And there’s not much more to say. Comparatively, there have been a number of all-star retirements lately: Kobe ended his career with a season-long sendoff that ended with him scoring 60 points in a storybook final game at Staples Center. Tim Duncan closed out his career with a lot less fanfare, but he went out at the end of the season, and was as unpretentious at the end as he had been all along.

But for A-Rod to suddenly and un-summarily drop everything and announce his “retirement” in August when the season is not near over is as fishy and as smelly as the sight and smell of dead fish floating in a polluted river. But it appears that the season has been over for him for some time.

One sports writer put it this way:

Whenever a high-profile sports figure retires it’s only natural to begin debating his legacy. With his last game approaching on Friday, now we shift our attention to A-Rod, and needless to say, the early prospects don’t look good on his post-retirement stock.

So let’s just leave it at that. A-Rod said he didn’t use performance enhancing drugs. And he did. He said the allegations of wrongdoing were false. And they weren’t.  A-Rod was considered A-Fraud by most and many more just had enough of the could-have-been, should-have-been, all-time-great, but wanna-be, boy wonder.

So long A-Rod. You were suspended by MLB for 162 games in 2014 for your involvement in the Biogenesis PED scandal.  And unfortunately, this is what we will remember the most. For his part, when it came to how he wanted to be remembered, Rodriguez acknowledged his past mistakes, with this:

I do want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with the game of baseball, someone who loves it at every level,’’ he said. “Someone who loves to learn it, play it, teach it, coach it. And also, I’m going to be hopefully remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot, but someone that kept getting up.

A-Rod With Bat

After you fall down once or twice, keep getting up. That is the essence of a comeback and a turnaround, right?

A Devilish Difference: God Doesn’t Like Ugly

Draymond Green

It’s still true. It’s still a proven fact. And it’s still being proven, even as we speak; one person can make a difference, for good or for ill. Draymond Green missed Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals. More to the point, Green was suspended for accumulating one too many flagrant fouls in the playoffs, and his stupidity and his absurdity cost his team a win, and perhaps a championship.

It’s a proven fact that without Green, the Golden State Warriors saw red. Draymond Green is a fierce, ferocious fellow, full of energy and vitality. His presence makes a difference on the team, and his absence does as well. Yet Green tends to think with his mouth and talk with his arms (and legs for that matter), and the unintended but inevitable consequence is that he gets caught with both hands in the cookie jar.

It’s still being proven that when emotions and passions and feelings and moods get in the way, bad things happen. These various and varying, sundry and sultry, internal intangibles tend to get in the way and take control and take the place of realistic rationale and right reason. Consequently, illogical and illegitimate thinking and thoughts intentionally come to mind. And as we all know, thoughts invariably become things.

It’s still true that love is stronger than hate. Martin Luther King Jr. said that

returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars … Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

But athletes are taught to dislike and even hate their opponents to the point that they will do almost anything to win and/or to wound their “enemy.” But fierce rivals need not go to the extreme and hurt or mishandle members of the opposing team. “Hate of other people ‘is really displaced hate of oneself,’ psychologists say. And ultimately, feelings of self-hate motivate people to restore their sense of significance through action.”

It’s still true that one person can turn the tide and save the day. It’s also still true that one person, especially one lone gunman, can destroy the day and snuff out the lives of lay persons unnecessarily. Unfortunately, another mass shooting has turned into a mass killing and the subsequent motley, mutinous massacre leaves us doubting and pondering and questioning society as a whole, and probing and examining and investigating our own individual values and mores in specific.

It’s truer now than ever; our morals and ethics and tenets and beliefs and practices are on trial. They’re being put on the witness stand, and we’re all forced to do the swearing in and the direct questioning and the cross-examining in order to peel back the layers of bogus, bigoted, artificial flavoring and coloring to get down to the truth.

In the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter that Pulse was a Gay night club. Not when 49 innocents were gunned down in the prime of their lives by a lone gunman who determined that he wanted to make a difference; a decidedly destructive, diabolical, devilish difference at that.

So is it wrong to compare Green to the shooter in Orlando? Maybe so, but my mother taught me that God doesn’t like ugly. Make no mistake about it, doing the wrong thing is still wrong, no matter who you are.

Odell Beckham Jr: OBJr = OMG!

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Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants’ sassy and sensational young receiver, is a knucklehead. Or maybe he’s a knucklehead in the making. Or maybe he’s already a full-fledged, full-blown, full throttle blockhead who doesn’t know his butt from his belly bottom. I’m talking dumb and dumber, personified.

Beckham in two seasons has become one of pro football’s most popular and celebrated players and the focal point of the Giants’ offense. His spectacular one-handed catches and entertaining end zone dances after touchdowns have made him a marquee name in sports and a frequent pitchman for commercial products across multiple media platforms. Beckham also graced the cover of Madden N.F.L. 2016, the best-selling sports video game.

But he’s also a knucklehead. A knucklehead is a person of questionable intelligence. The point is, figuratively speaking, that the size of their brain is being compared to the size of a human knuckle. The term is similar to pinhead, or someone of limited intelligence and with a mean nature or someone who prefers using their knuckles or fists, to using their head.

Odell Beckham Jr., or OBJR., was penalized three times for unsportsmanlike conduct during a game-long battle with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman AND THEN after the game he was suspended by the NFL for one game because he repeatedly tangled with Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.

The suspension was for multiple acts as Beckham was whistled for three personal fouls (and it could have been more) for unnecessary roughness. But the most glaring incident came in the third quarter, when Beckham, running at full speed, slammed his helmet into the side of Norman’s. In college they call that “targeting” and it warrants an immediate ejection from the game, whether it was unintentional or not.

In announcing the suspension, the league referred to the vicious collision as a flagrant hit against a defenseless player, “in which Beckham left his feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent.” Unbelievable.

In an era where safety comes first and flagrant fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness are examined under a microscope, players do well to play within the rules and within themselves and not let their emotions get the best of them, especially when it comes to inflicting injury on another player. But OBJR doesn’t see it that way.  

After the game, Beckham defended himself.

“We are out there playing football,” he said. “We are competing. You are a competitor. I’m a competitor. We are always going to go at it.”

Wow. “Go at it” he says. Slamming your head into another player is called targeting or spearing, and once they called it head hunting. Can somebody say “Knucklehead!?”

Not surprisingly, this is not the first time OBJR has been fined for this type of behavior. In fact, this is the FOURTH, count it, fourth time Beckham has been suspended or fined in his short career for violent acts or temper tantrums. In 2014, he was fined $10,000 for kicking Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree in a brawl-filled game in St. Louis. The same month, he was fined $11,025 for taking off his helmet and throwing it to the turf during a prolonged protest of a late tackle out of bounds. Early this season, Beckham was fined $8,681 for throwing a punch at Buffalo Bills safety Duke Williams.

So what can we learn? Or, more pointedly, what should Mr. Beckham learn?  He is 23 years old; old enough to know better and yet young enough not to know what he doesn’t know.  And he doesn’t know how to behave like a professional. He’s substituted macho chauvinism for proper professionalism and is behaving badly like so many of his other young and unbridled stud athletes these days. Jahlil Okafor, take note (https://godandsports.net/2015/12/02/jahlil-okafors-rookie-mistakes/). 

So let’s just hope and pray that his pride is humbled before his haughty, high mindedness costs him more than fines and one game suspensions.

Jahlil Okafor’s Rookie Mistakes

Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor was the third round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He went to Duke University where he won the NCAA National Championship. He is a high priced, highly touted rookie who will go higher and farther if he learns from his recent rookie mistakes.

Okafor’s had a mess of a month. On the court, his team was winless, 0-18, until last night. Off the court, he’s recently made some miscues and mistakes which have been exposing and embarrassing. And for his recent involvement in a street fight in Boston, Jahlil has been suspended for two games effective immediately.

Okafor, who will turn 20 on December 15th, was caught on video engaging in a brawl with a man outside a Boston nightclub in the early-morning hours after losing to the Celtics after LEADING by 11 late in the game. The victim filed a report with the Boston Police Department, and police have urged any other possible victims to come forward. The videos released by TMZ appear to show two separate scuffles.

It is now reported that Okafor was involved in two altercations leaving nightclubs, the most recent after a loss in Boston that saw TMZ release two videos detailing Okafor punching out hecklers. He also was stopped on a bridge by police last month driving 108mph in a zone where 40 mph is considered reckless.

Last Sunday, Okafor tweeted that “I own my choices” and he “doesn’t want to be a distraction for my team” going forward. He went on to say that

“I hold myself to a higher standard than anyone else ever could and I’m not proud of some of my decisions over the last few months,” Okafor wrote. “I own my choices both personally and now publicly. At this point I am cooperating and respecting the process I have to go through.

Going forward I don’t want to be a distraction for my team and am grateful for the support and guidance those close to me are giving. I am 100 percent focused on my responsibility to the league, my teammates and fans.”

He called the Boston punching incident “dumb” and “something I’m embarrassed about.”

As for the Philadelphia 76ers, the team released this statement:

“Jahlil is a very important part of our organization and our future. While we are disappointed with his recent actions, we have faith in him as a valued member of the Sixers. We will provide the necessary resources to support him on his journey and will do our part to help him succeed both on and off the court.”

On the court, Jahlil has experienced basketball success. Despite the fact that his team is now at the bottom of the barrel, he has a promising future. And off of the court, Jahlil has experienced extreme exigency with his mother and exciting expectancy with his father.

Jahlil’s mother, Dacresha Lanett Benton, died when he was 9 years old as the result of a collapsed lung. Jahlil moved to Chicago to live with his father, and Jahlil’s story became two stories, connected: the story of a boy turning to his father to learn to become a man, and the story of a father whose wandering life – a life of mistakes and trouble and unfulfilled potential, a life cast in the shadow of his own mother passing away at a young age – was set straight when he realized that, now, he was all his son had. “Without Jah,” Chucky Okafor told me simply, “I’d probably be dead or in jail.”

After Jahlil’s mother died, the father came to save the son. It turns out the son saved the father, too. 

So what can we learn from Jahlil’s life and his recent letdowns? Disappointments and downers and difficulties can and must be overcome. Unforced errors are messes of our own making which can be controlled. And we can control them. The tragic death of a loved one, especially your mom at an early age, can be traumatic and even catastrophic. But it need not be cataclysmic. We have the innate, God given ability to bounce back and bound forward, if only we limit and learn from the “rookie” mistakes we make along the way.