Dr. Larry Nassar and the Mayhem at Michigan State

Mark Dantonio

 It’s all so sad. It’s all so heart breaking and heart-rending. Misuse is abuse, and abuse of any kind is wrong. It’s actually sin. And sin, when it’s is finished, brings forth death.

Abuse is iniquity at the lowest level. And we just witnessed another case of abuse in sports. “Michigan State professor and doctor for the American gymnastics team, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday for multiple sex crimes, capping an extraordinary seven-day hearing that drew more than 150 young women to publicly confront him and speak of their abuse.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who had opened her courtroom to the young women, including several prominent Olympic athletes, bluntly made clear that Dr. Nassar, 54, was likely to die in prison.”

The Bible is right, for is speaks of what happened to Nassar:

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15, New Living Translation

 And if Nassar’s crimes weren’t bad enough, it has now come to light that members of the Michigan State football and basketball teams are accused of sexual misconduct. 

Here’s the story from ESPN:

“The Michigan State football program did not report three instances of sexual assault and three incidents of physical violence, according to a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines. Outside the Lines reports that at least 16 Michigan State football players have been named in accusations of rape or violence against women since Dantonio took over in 2007.

The report seems to contradict head coach Mark Dantonio’s assertion that there had only been two incidents of sexual assault during his 11-year tenure as head coach.

“We had one incident that involved three people. We had another incident that involved one. We have 120 players usually on our football team,” Dantonio told reporters after four players were kicked off the team and expelled from the university for sexual assault earlier this year.

The details come as part of OTL’s scathing report which details a culture of sexual assault within Michigan State’s football and basketball programs. The university’s athletic department has been in headlines for its mishandling of the Larry Nassar case; Nassar was a faculty member at the university for decades and sexually abused multiple students under the guise of medical treatment during his time there.

According to the OTL report, many accusations of sexual assault were handled by the athletic department, then headed by Mark Hollis, who resigned Friday amid the Nassar fallout. In one instance, Dantonio reportedly handled a sexual assault case by telling the player to talk to his mother about what he did.

The athletic department’s efforts to keep sexual assaults in-house were apparently pretty extensive. When ESPN requested police reports and records for every football and basketball player from ten universities, Michigan State tried to block out the players’ names. ESPN then successfully sued Michigan State for that move, and the names were released.” https://www.si.com/college-football/2018/01/26/michigan-state-football-sexual-assaults-mark-dantonio

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State football coach, said he will not resign following an ESPN report that the school mishandled or ignored allegations of sexual assault against members of the team. Dantonio also said he would not resign, and was there to “look the people” who instigated the reports “in the eye.” https://www.tmj4.com/news/national/spartan-head-coach-mark-dantonio-responds-to-espn-report-about-sex-abuse-at-msu

Wisconsin v Michigan State
EAST LANSING, MI – JANUARY 26: Michigan State Spartans head football coach Mark Dantonio speaks to the media at a press conference before the Michigan State Spartans and Wisconsin Badgers basketball game at Breslin Center on January 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State is facing criticism for its handling of sexual assault accusations on campus. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

“…any accusations of my handling of any complaints of sexual assault individually are completely false,” Dantonio said during the press conference. “Every incident reported in that article was documented either by the police or by the Michigan State Title IX office. I’ve always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with the cases of sexual assault.”

Punishment for crime is only right. I just hope that what happened at Penn State does not happen at Michigan State. Joe Paterno was vilified for what he did and did not know of Jerry Sandusky’s abusive behavior, and it sent him to an early grave. Let’s hope that the truth will overcome a rush to judgement at Michigan State.

Save The Best For Last

Bobby Knight and indiana_

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes ’round the moon
Just when I thought a chance had passed
You go and save the best for last.

Impossibilities, yes, but then again, we believe in miracles.

And sometimes teams go unbeaten and sometimes winning streaks go unbroken as the best team of the season goes into the final weekend looking for lore and longing for more. The last time a college team went undefeated was 1976. Bobby Knight took his Indiana Hoosiers to the title and a perfect season.

“Save The Best for Last.” The song sung by Vanessa Williams is considered her signature.  And if the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament story pans out the way wishful and wistful fans furtively feign, the best basketball of the season will indeed have been saved for last.

But first things first. This is a Final Four; emphasis on FOUR. And so the favorite son’s not home yet.  Kentucky will need to be more than lucky to defeat Wisconsin, and if Duke can dash Michigan State, we’ll have the final folks are hankering and hunkering for.

Saving the best for last is more than proverbial; it’s theological. When I was young and my mother cooked all the meals, my younger sister Anne would eat everything on her plate and save what she didn’t like for last. Her strategy was to hopefully not have to eat that vegetable because if she saved it for last, it would be cold and tasteless. This was long before microwaves, and sometimes, but not all of the time, Anne managed to manipulate my mother out of eating those blessed Brussel sprouts or bleeding beets.

On the other hand, my method was to look over my plate and pick out the one thing I liked best. Once I had determined that, I proceeded to eat, but I saved the best for last. And that’s what God does. And that’s what we should do in life. The following is borrowed from Eamonn Brennan, Sports reporter for ESPN:

“The final weekend of the 2015 NCAA tournament appears to have been ordained by the basketball gods. And they said, let there be dream matchups, and there were dream matchups. And they saw that it was good.

The lone surprise, the one lightweight — Michigan State — qualifies only in relative terms. Because Michigan State has saved it’s best basketball for last. Oh, sure, you remember Selection Sunday. Oh, how you mocked the careless analysts. They would talk about all of the reasons why this Michigan State team wasn’t very good, or they’d skip over those entirely, but they’d always end with a hoary old cliche: ‘Then again, never count out Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament.’

If ever there was a year to do exactly that, it was this one. The Spartans may have pushed Wisconsin to overtime in the Big Ten tournament title game; they may have even deserved to win. But they’d also been merely OK for most of the three months preceding it, matching each step forward with at least a half-step backward. These undermanned, talent-drained Spartans lost to Texas Southern at home in December, and sure, they got better. But they still finished sixth in a soft Big Ten in points allowed per possession, and fourth on the offensive end.

Naturally, in three straight March games, Michigan State dropped a onetime national title co-favorite (Virginia), the Big 12’s best defensive team sporting its conference player of the year (Oklahoma; Buddy Hield) and, on Sunday, in a heart-pounding overtime thriller, a surging, talented team brilliantly coached by one of the game’s grandmasters (Lousiville, Rick Pitino). Last season, when the Spartans were loaded, with seniors who were the only class in Tom Izzo’s career to never get to a Final Four — that was supposed to be the run. And now look. You’ll never mock the cliche again.

Once you accept that Izzo somehow just pulled off his greatest tourney trick ever, the temptation to pencil Duke in to Monday night’s national title game wanes — though only slightly. Michigan State came together at the right time. It seems, though, with the Spartans that happens nearly every March.

Now, Duke could go toe-to-toe with Kentucky. But before we find out, the Blue Devils have the small matter of an insanely hot Michigan State. And, by the way, the Wildcats have to get past the mother of all Final Four draws: Fellow No. 1-seed Wisconsin.

Two stars, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, have the Wisconsin Badgers back in another Final Four. Why did Dekker and Kaminsky eschew the NBA? To spend another year with friends, sure, but also because of the pain. A year ago, they had Kentucky beat, if only barely, when Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison sank that deep and downright spooky three pointer. Every day since, Wisconsin has been single-mindedly focused on returning to the Final Four — and, if need be, repaying the Wildcats once there.

Now they have their chance.

Of course, these are not last year’s Wildcats. Last year’s Wildcats muddled through a mess of a campaign before flipping some transcendent switch in March. This year’s Wildcats have never flipped that switch off. They’re undefeated, and maybe you’ve heard something about that. But of course you have, because from the moment the Harrisons and Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson (and more) all said they were coming back for another season, Calipari has stood above college basketball like a conquering general: surveying, deploying, dominating. His players, as he keeps saying, are his reinforcements: tanks coming down over the hill. It is, in case you hadn’t heard, 38-0 — two away from 40, two steps from immortality.

There has been only one question worth asking about the 2014-15 season: Who could possibly stop the Wildcats? The answers have always been halting and hedging. But they’ve always been consistent, too.

Wisconsin. And Duke. And just maybe, just maybe, Michigan State. Two of these teams stand in the way of the perfect season for Kentucky. If the Wildcats want those last two wins — and they very much do — they’re going to have to earn them. How epic is that?” http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/tournament/2015/story/_/id/12584844/an-epic-end-ncaa-tournament-awaits-final-four 

So save the best for last. Don’t eat up and woof down the desert before you earn the right to. That is how it was in John Chapter 2 when Jesus performed His first miracle. When Christ changed the water into wine at the wedding banquet, he taught us a valuable lesson. The master questioned why the bridegroom chose to save the best of the wine to serve last. We know that Jesus changed the water into wine, and this teaches us to do and save and be our best both early on and late in the game. Because the best is always better when saved for last.

Michigan State Has Hope!

 NCAA Michigan St Louisville Basketball

Hope. It’s a great four letter word. With it we win; without it we lose. With hope we can succeed; without hope we will fail. With hope, we’re destined; without hope we’re doomed. With hope we just might make it; without hope, we don’t stand a chance. Just ask Job of the Bible. At one point, he wondered where his hope was.

Hope is a powerful thing. Its power and its potency and its potential are positively peculiar indeed. The power of hope lies in its ability to keep a drowning man afloat. The potency of hope lies in its capacity to keep a dying man alive. The potential of hope lies in its capability to keep a despondent man’s mind properly aligned. In essence, hope keeps you alive and alert and watchful and wistful. Hope keeps you on board and on key and in tune with what God has intended for you now and down the road.

Hope in sports keeps players playing and coaches coaching. Hope gets you through a long, grueling practice and through a tough, tight game. When you’re weary and when you’re worn, the hope of a win gets you through. The hope of an expected end keeps us all moving and marching and going forward and gaining ground onward. Hope springs eternal, and that is why we always must have hope.

Hope is the earnest expectation of things to come. Hope is the engagement ring. Hope is the down payment on the unbuilt house. Hope is the leave request for the summer vacation. Without hope, we’re done; kaput; finished; D.O.A. – a.k.a., dead on arrival. But with hope, we have a chance. Albeit, it may be a slim, outside, longshot of a chance, but it’s still a chance.

Michigan State is in the Final Four, along with Wisconsin, Duke, and the presumptive champion, Kentucky. And nobody, and I mean nobody, had Michigan State in the Final Four, at least not this year’s Final Four. A month ago they weren’t that good or this good. But that’s what hope does. It gives us a spark and a spur and a surge and a splurge of adrenaline that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Only a faithful few Tom Izzo fans had Michigan State going this far in the Tournament. And fewer who picked them would admit that they had any faith, or dare I say any hope, that they would be on the verge of something big. But don’t you think for one minute that the Spartans don’t think and hope and expect to win.

Michigan State has hope. After all, they have Tom Izzo, and Tom Izzo is a great coach. And they have Travis Trice, who is a believer, and in his post game interview, he gave credit to God for the victory. I love it. And it’s still March, and in March there is methodical madness. And the Madness of March, strange as it may seem, gives hope to each and every gamer and dreamer out there. That includes Michigan State, and me and you too.

travis-trice-matt-costello-denzel-valentine-ncaa-basketball-ncaa-tournament-east-regional-oklahoma-vs-michigan-state-850x560

So don’t lose hope. Don’t lose your hope. Make sure you keep her close by. And if you lose your hope, have someone look for her for you, because if you can’t see her, someone else who cares about you can.

 

Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?

Job 17:15, NIV

Make Every Possession Count

Michigan State 2014

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12, RSV

Every possession counts. Slam dunks are a sure thing and lay ups are usually automatic. Mid range jump-shots that are “good looks” are acceptable and three-pointers from way back beyond the arc are good when they go. The point is, every possession should be prized and every trip down the floor should be treasured. Just ask Harvard.

Harvard is a brainy school with some brawny scholars that can really play some ball. Their coach Tommy Amaker has got them to the point where they play hard and they play smart. I mean they can really play the game. They came back from 16 points down in the second half only to lose to Michigan State.  It was a heart breaker. 

Harvard felt like they belonged in the Sweet 16 and they feel like they belong in the same conversation with other elite college basketball programs like Michigan State.  They’re right on both counts, but the Sweet 16 just wasn’t meant to be. Not this year.  Unfortunately, down the stretch, they didn’t make every possession count.

Harvard did make every possession count, but only for half of the second half. Up by two with about 8 minutes to play, Harvard took their first lead of the game, 62-60, and it felt as if the little guy would score one for all of the other little guys and pull off an upset for the ages. But it wasn’t meant to be.   Somehow, once the Spartans lost the lead, they started playing better. Go figure.

Unfortunately for Harvard, their leery lead lasted a lean 18 seconds; just 18 seconds. The rally that raised their hopes and dashed their fears ran of gas.  And the thing that got them the lead slipped right out of their hands – they outscored and out hustled and outplayed Michigan State because they made every possession count.

Michigan State, down by two, was on the ropes and in so doing had raised the hopes of the Harvard faithful. But Michigan State mustered all of the mental metal they had and put together a rally of their own. From that point onward the Spartans made every possession count. A three pointer here, an inside pass and a lay-up there, and then another three pointer from way beyond the arc, and low and behold, the favorite put together an 8-0 run and was back up and back out of trouble. 

Harvard and Michigan State gave us a game to remember. So remember that every possession counts. Every word we whisper and every whim we wonder, our sayings and our doings, our actions and our articulations, they all count. It all matters. Every idle word we speak and every errant sound we sputter is heard in Heaven and etched in eternity. And that’s how God deals with us.

God doesn’t waste words or toy with time. God doesn’t waste possessions.  God redeems the time and he wants us to do the same. We may not be perfect, but as the old saints say, we should be perfectly striving. So let’s make every possession count, all during the game and especially down the stretch. In life that means all day every day and especially at “crunch times.”  Let’s not throw away our days or fritter away our ways; let’s make every word and every act and every deed and every discussion meaningful. Because in the end, it all adds up.