Don’t Blow The Lead

Today I watched my University of Maryland Terrapins play the Michigan State Wolverines on national television. To my joy and surprise, the unranked Terps jumped out to an 8-0 lead forcing beleaguered Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo to call an early timeout. It looked good for my Terps the entire first half as they had ’em on their heels for a full twenty minutes. Maryland went to the locker room with 13 point lead as they lead 37 – 24 over No. 6 Michigan State at intermission.

And that’s when the bottom fell out.

Young teams generally struggle to hold big leads. They know how to get leads, but they don’t know how to keep them. And such was the case with Maryland today.

So let’s learn another life lesson. Don’t blow the lead. Don’t spend every dime you make. Or worse yet, don’t spend money you don’t have. Better still, saving money is better than spending it. You never know when a rainy day will come. Fight to keep what meager cushion you sit on and hold on to what you have with dear life.

So don’t blow the lead. Don’t get careless and live carefree just because things are gong well right now. Protect your investments, your interests and the ones you love. Because there is an enemy that would love to derail you and ultimately destroy you if you don’t protect the lead.

The Terps won’t be going to the Big Dance if they continue to play like they did today. Like some of us, they fumbled and floundered away opportunity after opportunity until the joy they started with was gone. So don’t blow the lead. God has been too good to us for us to squander away what He has given us. Let’s hold onto our faith and build up our hope on things eternal and love like there’s no tomorrow.

We’ve come too far to turn back now. So don’t turn back or go back or inadvertently give back the blessings bestowed upon you. The the victory has already been won. We just need to hold on.

Terps Topple Texas 51 – 41: a.k.a., Why We Love College Football!

Fear the Turtle

My Maryland Terrapins beat the Texas Longhorns in a shootout, 51 -41! Who saw that comin’? Texas was supposed to blow out and beat up and beat down my alma mater, but Maryland outscored them and out bested them and outlasted them in an early season shocker that reverberated all across college football from sea to shining sea.

So here’s to my Terps!  They pulled an upset for the ages, and hopefully they can build on this momentous win. And that’s the truth for all of us; big wins give us all hope and faith and confidence and courage. When we see our teams, and even someone else’s team, pull off the unthinkable and the almost impossible, it gives us a shot in the arm and a pat on the pants.

A shot in the arm is an expression derived from the invigorating effect of injecting drugs.  And a big win is a welcome dose of prescriptive medicine for what ails us. A shot is of course US slang for an injection, either of a narcotic or medicinal drug, and means a stimulus or impetus.

So thank God and thank you Maryland Terrapins for the inspiration and the motivation and the medication of the shot that the win over Texas gave us.

Terps Upset Hoyas 76 -75!

trimble-turgeon

I just watched my University of Maryland Men’s Basketball team come from behind to defeat Georgetown 76-75 in one of the most exciting and exhilarating and excruciating comeback wins ever. They played on the Hoya’s home court, the Verizon Center in D.C.,  in front of a raucous, partisan co-ed crowd. But no worries. With Melo Trimble breaking in the freshmen Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, the Terps did not quit.

Maryland was down by 11 with one minute remaining. Yet the once in charge, haughty and once heady Hoyas literally lost it and made one mistake after another; and Maryland capitalized and converted when it mattered most. The Terps got a big – no, a HUGE win; one that they would have lost not long ago.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told a sports reporter earlier today that the Terps have a ways to go. I watched the entire game, and yes they do. They’re young and youthful and patchy and scratchy. But I’ll take ‘em because they’re my Terps.

They say that a win is a win is a win; that’s true most of the time. But sometimes, some wins are bigger than others. Let’s just say that this comeback win over Georgetown tonight was bigger than life as it will certainly speed up that growth process quite a bit.

It’s great that Maryland and Georgetown are playing again. And it’s even better that my Terps won tonight, when all game they weren’t playing their best. But down the stretch and in the end they found some zest and pulled out an amazing and awesome win.

I told my wife that Maryland is not that good – but they’re not that bad either.

The Final Four and Basketball Body Language

Nova-Final-Four

I love taking and critiquing a good photograph, especially a sports photograph. A really good photo must be formed and framed, fashioned and formatted. Not surprisingly, the photos I choose for each blog are as important and as the blog itself. I agonize and scrutinize dozens of stock photos to get just the right one for each blog. The pictures and the prose go hand in hand.

In the first photo, both hands are raised and the eyes are ablaze (or should be) and the winning Villanova teammate is celebrating a big win over mighty Kansas. It’s a picture of positive body language. Nuff said.

Sul_Trimb_

The next photo, showing two of my Maryland Terrapins, is a classic lesson in negative basketball body language. You don’t have to know the final score to know that these two didn’t win. You didn’t even have to watch the game to know that their team didn’t move on. You just have to watch and study the body language.

Rasheed Sulaimon, the player on the left, is moving slowly, the shoulder on the left slightly lower than the shoulder on the right. Melo Trimble, his partner in crime, is also moving slowly as he sulks and saunters his way off of the court and out of the competition for the National Title. Both heads are hung and all four shoulders have none of the bounce or buoyancy that they had just minutes before. Both player’s bodies are slumped like they’ve been dumped and they’re wilted and faded like an old flower that has faded. Both players seem empty and dry, without direction and with simply no words left to mention.

How different will the body language be for the winners of tonight’s Final Four games? Either North Carolina (my pick) or Syracuse, Oklahoma or Villanova will be laughing and leaping and running and dancing and shouting and screaming.  There will be joy and gladness and rejoicing and yes, shear utter madness.

Winners and losers have different body language. And these two languages are as far as the east is from the west, and as far apart as night is from day, and as sunshine is from rain, and as the dead of winter is from the high heat of summer.

And so the lesson is this: don’t let the roller coaster emotions of March Madness get the best of you. Don’t let your body dictate your language.  Yes you can be elated or deflated, up or down, jubilant or jettisoned, but you don’t have to let these emotions drive the train. Yes the winners will be glad, and yes the losers will be sad, but the seasoned veterans will be able to take it all in and eventually be moderate regardless of the final score.

And in life, we should be too.

The Pain Of Loss

Sul_Trimb_

I just lost my mom. “Loss” is the conventional, politically correct term you use when a loved one or friend passes away. My mom was sick and she died on March 8th, right in the middle of March Madness. So this March, the madness of March was more maddening for me for so many days in so many ways and on so many levels. So that’s why I haven’t been writing or posting for a while.

A loss hurts. A loss burns and bruises and even barks and bites. A loss can break and bend and twist and curve and swerve and nerve your emotions and affections like nothing else can.

For Christians, when someone we know dies, our loved one is not “lost” per se; it’s just that their presence is lost; they’re physically dead and gone to us. And there’s nothing we can do to bring them back. But they’re not lost as if we can’t find them, because we know where they are. However, it’s still a loss of their face and their embrace and their voice and their visits and their laugh and their love.  

While it does not compare — not hardly – the University of Maryland Basketball Team lost. Actually, my team won and lost. They won 27 games, but they lost 9. They began the season 15-1 and finished 14-8, but in March they were 5-3 and they finished the season a woeful 5-6, dating back to that mind bending, nerve numbing, unexplainable, inexplicable loss at lowly Minnesota on February 18th and the home loss to Wisconsin on February 13th.

According to Joshua Needleman of the Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s student run newspaper, “The sentiment for much of the season was when — not if — the Terps started clicking, they’d be unstoppable. They stormed to a 15-1 start even while working through some kinks.”

“Yet in an odd twist, the Terps didn’t get better or wiser over time — like my mom — or like that bottle of Chardonnay residing untouched in the cellar for years. They slowly fell apart, each loss sapping more and more of the fan base’s confidence. There always seemed to be something going awry, a new question that needed an answer.”

In another excellent article written by Alex Kirshner of the TestudoTimes, Kirshner writes “Maryland’s basketball team existed in a weird space this year. The Terps entered the season as a popular national title pick, and they remained so well into February. Even this March, plenty of people thought they had it in them. In the days leading up to the Terps’ season-ending loss to Kansas in the Sweet 16, I’d come around to expecting Maryland to beat the NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed. The Terps had a tantalizing glow about them, even when they weren’t their best.

The Terps wound up winning three times as many games as they lost, finishing 27-9. That’s really good for most programs, and it’s really good for Maryland. The Terps made their first Sweet 16 since 2003, which is quite an achievement. But in the end, why did the season seem so unsuccessful?”

 That’s a question that begs an answer. As with all of the other teams that lost in the NCAA Tournament, we have the hope of next season, and the high expectations of seeing Maryland players go on to the NBA and doing well (but if the underclassmen just came back for one more run!)

With all loses, we must look back, reminisce and recall to mind the mercies of the Lord. We must savor the good and sift through and sift out the bad. My mom was sick — I mean really sick — for the last six months of her life. I watched as she withered away, and the loss of her health and her strength was as hurtful as the loss of her presence.

But the grandkids and my sisters and I have the legacy of her love, many, many, meaningful memories and the wonderful well wishes and the sweet scented sentiments of our family and friends that will carry us till we see her again one day.

Slip Out Of The Slump

Melo In Slump

Maryland Terrapins Basketball: How Can Melo Trimble Get Out Of His Slump?

Melo Trimble is in trouble. Big trouble. Deep trouble. Trouble trouble. He’s in danger with a dilemma and a difficulty that he doesn’t seem to know how to fix. He can’t hit the side of a barn and his team needs him. The Terps desperately need their superman, super star, All American point guard to break out of his slump and put on that superman suit and start acting like a super, Super Man and quit acting like a marshmallow Clarke Kent.

Maryland needs Melo to make big shots and hit clutch shots in big games (and small games too, for that matter). The Terps need Melo to lead them and guide them and steer them in the right direction if they are to be anywhere near the great team we know they can be. There’s plenty of basketball left this season, and from here on out and down the stretch, no game is too small and no team is too insignificant. The fact that the Minnesota Golden Gophers were 0-13 in conference play before last night meant nothing. It’s that simple.

Melo is turning the ball over and making bad decisions and just not looking like the Melo Trimble we’ve all come to know and love. It’s sad to watch. It makes me mad to watch. But I’ll be glad to watch Melo march right out of this slump just in time for the Big Ten Tournament and March Madness.

It’s been a while since Melo has played to his potential. In the last two games, first against Wisconsin (AT HOME!) and then last night against Minnesota, Trimble was abysmal.  As I sat and watched in horror, with the game on the line, Trimble turned the ball over three possessions in a row.  First he had the ball stolen from him, then he threw up an anemic looking air ball, and THEN he dribbled the baseline and tried to tightrope the end line but instead went out of bounds.  My, my, my. Game, set match Minnesota.

What’s worst is that he’s lost his touch. Melo can’t hit a shot and can’t knock down a three and can’t stroke a jumper. It’s awful. And he looks awful. Something MUST wrong. Is it physical? Mental? Emotional? What is it? The coaches and the fans and the Maryland faithful are all stumped about the cause of the slump.

If you’ve ever slouched into a slump or been stuck in a rut or pitched into a ditch, you may know a little something about how to get in a funk. But it’s not getting in that we need help with; it’s getting out. Getting in is much easier than getting out, and that’s when we need a helping hand.

Spiritually speaking, we’ve all been in a slump. Long ones and short ones and dry ones and wry ones and dreary ones and weary ones. No two slumps are ever alike, but we’ve all been there. But the good news is that a slump is never eternal. Remember, setbacks are only setups for a comeback. Weeping only endures for a night. Joy is promised to come in the morning. Hallelujah!

During a slump, the key is to recognize that you are where you are. Don’t waste time blaming and complaining. You’re in a slump. Acknowledge it. But is that where you want to be? Of course not! So then you must take the proper and necessary steps to stop the bleeding and start the healing.

So, if you’ve got a good suggestion, please beep him or buzz him or text him or tweet him. Call or contact or page or petition, but by all means, if you’ve got an antidote for what ails my Terps and Mr. Melo, pray tell, please do speak up.

Stone Is A Diamond In The Rough

 

Diamond Stone
Maryland center Diamond Stone stands on the court in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland Eastern Shore, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

How do you explain away a boneheaded, blockheaded, blunder of a blooper? Temporary insanity? Out of body experience? Or do you just use Flip Wilson’s famous line: “the devil made me do it!” Diamond Stone needs all of these and some to explain his actions in this past Saturday’s BiG 10 Conference game against Wisconsin.

Diamond Stone is a McDonald’s All American. Diamond Stone won four straight High School State Championships back in Wisconsin. (Yes he’s from Wisconsin, so how ironic is it that this gaff came against Wisconsin?) Diamond Stone was one of the most sought after basketball recruits in the Country, and he chose to come to the University of Maryland because he wanted to win a national Championship. And yet with slip ups and hiccups like the one he pulled against the Badgers, his home state team, the only thing he’ll win is an asterisk in annals of college also-rans and could-have-beens.

Maryland center Diamond Stone has been suspended for Thursday’s game against Minnesota after the freshman big man shoved Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown’s head to the floor late in the first half of his team’s 70-57 loss on Saturday. Let me put it another way: Stone, the diamond that his name says he is, slammed another player’s head into the floor. INTO THE FLOOR!  And he wasn’t kicked out of the game. He was lucky to be suspended for just one game. The school made the decision, and it was supported by the Big Ten.

Stone, who scored 10 points and grabbed one rebound in the loss, was issued a contact dead ball technical foul but was not tossed from the game. But he should have been called for a Flagrant II, and kicked out of the contest.

“Diamond’s conduct during Saturday’s game was a poor representation of the standards that we have established as a program at the University of Maryland,” Coach Turgeon said.” I have talked with Diamond and he realizes he made a mistake. He felt very badly about what happened and will learn from this experience. I want to sincerely apologize to Vitto Brown and Greg Gard for what transpired Saturday.”

For his part, Stone did issue an apology, although it was a generic, cliché, cookie cutter, uninspired and unmoving canned and carefully scripted, almost sardonic statement. 

Unfortunately, there’s no excuse for Stone’s faux pas. None. There’s absolutely no excusing what he did. He slipped up and messed up and now he’s got to fess up and face up to the fact that you can’t keep dancing when the music stops playing. You can’t march to the beat of your own drum and get away with garbage like that. We all get emotional from time to time. If we didn’t, especially during the heat of a moment, someone might need to check our pulse. But the life lesson here is that you should NEVER let your emotions get the best of you. Never.

So back to Stone, who is a Diamond in the rough. Diamond needs some polishing. And quickly. He’s a kid with a bright future but he could have a dark past if he pulls another stunt like this again. He did something that we all agree was reprehensible and unacceptable. The kid made a mistake. Now hopefully he’ll “learn from this” and grow.

But before we throw Stone under the proverbial bus, we all have committed dumb fouls and made stupid mistakes and wished we hadn’t lost our heads when we blew our cool. I get it. So let’s just hope that Diamond chalks this one up as a “rookie” mistake that should never happen again so he can go ahead and move ahead and look ahead to what should be a positive and promising  career.