Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Prediction

Well, it's time for the prediction for the Super Bowl. I'll be short and sweet. I don't like Pittsburgh. I'm not going to root for Pittsburgh, and I don't pick a team I can't root for. So that in of itself turns me to Arizona. Plus, the Cardinals are an NFC West team. I know I wasn't on the bandwagon before but I'm willing to admit that I'm willing to get back on now. So because of that (and the high explosive offense that the Cards have), I'm going to go with the Cards for the win.

Cardinals over Steelers 34-21

MVP: Kurt Warner

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Honor, Respect, Competition and Girls' High School Basketball

I thought I'd weigh in on this even though it's been a couple of weeks (blame it on schoolwork). Most people know of the high school girls' basketball game that took place in Dallas that saw the Covenant School of Dallas defeat Dallas Academy by the score of 100-0.

The school later issued this statement: "It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition." It was signed by head of the school and the head of the school board. The coach of the team, disagreed with the statement saying the following: "In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Web site, I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed. We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity." The coach was subsequently fired for his remarks.

Here's my thoughts...I do not agree with the coach in issuing a statement like that after the school had issued theirs. As an employee of the school, he is under their authority and in this case should have submitted to them.

I do, however, agree with the sentiment of his statement. If both teams were playing with all that they had, then you can't fault either school. We are called as followers to honor Christ with what we do and to do our best. The girls from Covenant shouldn't be made to feel like they weren't being Christlike by doing their best. The same goes from the girls at Dallas Academy.

This is a rare occurance in sports but as a coach or a leader, you want to encourage those you are leading to do their best but in such a manner that is encouraging and uplifting to others. When that happens, it helps to point people to Jesus which is the ultimate goal.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reflections on Tony Dungy

Unfortunately with class last week, I was unable to blog about this when it happened. But now that I have time, I wanted to look at and reflect on Tony Dungy. He retired this past week and ended a coaching career that was successful in a lot of ways. He lead two teams to the playoffs (Tampa Bay and Indianapolis) for many years and won a Super Bowl just a couple of years ago.

But what stood out to me was his integrity and his faith. He was not one of those kind of coaches who was loud and brash. He was a very quiet coach but who was still able to get the best out of his players. He was vocal about his faith even when it was tested. When his son committed suicide, he was able to get through that hard time through is faith in Christ. He told others that was how he was dealing with the sudden loss of his son. I haven't had a chance to read his book "Quiet Strength" but I hope to at some point.

Tony Dungy is a man who loves Jesus, loves his family and did a good job at what he did. He is a quality character and he will be missed in football circles.

Friday, January 16, 2009

2009 Championship Weekend Predictions

It has been a long week of classes at seminary. So I'm tired and so this will be a quick predictions:

NFC Championship: Eagles over Cardinals 34-31
AFC Championship: Steelers over Ravens 31-3

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pacman and Second Chances

It seems like only yesterday I was making a similar post like this (it actually was about ten months ago). But it seems like after hearing what I heard yesterday, it's prompted me to write again on the subject of Adam "Pacman" Jones, the now ex-Dallas Cowboys DB. He was cut by the team (who traded for him last offseason, then subsequently got suspended for a couple of games in the middle of the season and is now under allegations involving an incident a few years ago at an Atlanta (yes you can guess) strip club.

Jones and his lawyer were on the CBS NFL pregame show to talk about that and his off the field issues. Now granted, he did say in the piece that he is dealing with alcohol problem, going to AA meetings and seeing a counselor. But when asked by host James Brown about strip clubs, Jones' response was this: "Strip clubs are just like any other club."

Let that sink in for a moment...."Strip clubs are like any other club." Hmmm, I'm no rocket scientist but I'm pretty sure that a strip club is not just like any other club. It kind of says so in the name. What doesn't make it like any other club is the 'strip' part of it. When he said that I laughed (not really the proper response I know but first reaction) and then I just shook my head. Here is a young guy (he's younger than me at 25) who has all the talent in the world. He has been blessed with athletic ability that not too many people have. He has been given chances in a league that is hard to get a job in. And yet, he has done the things that he's done.

It's an object lesson in two ways. One, it should be a reminder that we are no different that Pacman. We are all given talent in some way by God. And we don't use it like we should and squander it because we live for ourselves and not for Him. Yet, in his mercy and compassion, we are able to have a second chance (and third, and fourth) because of Jesus and the work He did on the cross. In having a relationship with Jesus, we can get our act together and use the gifts we've been given properly and to our fullest potential. Two, it's a prime example of showing love and forgiveness to others. Yes, what Pacman has done is wrong and he will have to live with the consequences of those actions, but we are called to forgive one another. I hope that there are people in his life now (if not I hope some will come his way soon) that will love on him and show mercy and forgiveness.

I don't think Pacman is too far gone. If I can be saved, he can be saved. I'm no better than he is. I'm just a sinner saved from myself by the grace of God. I hope that Pacman will turn his life around. We'll see how the next few months and years play out. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of Pacman...

Friday, January 9, 2009

2009 Divisional Round Weekend Predictions

It's about time for the second round of the NFL Playoffs. Last weekend was not a good predicting week. I went 1-3 with the lone win coming from an overtime win with San Diego. I will say in defense, I was really considering Arizona but didn't. If I had, I would've went 2-2, but nevertheless I didn't. However, this week I've got a good feeling. So let's get to the picks:

Game 1 on Saturday features my team, the Tennessee Titans squaring off against the Baltimore Ravens. This game has gotten a lot of attention, mainly about the past. It was eight years ago that these two teams squared off in a similar fashion. It was the divisional round, the Titans had the #1 seed and the Ravens won the game and went on to the Super Bowl. For some strange reason, the national media seems to think that game happened last year or even last week. I hate to break it to them but it didn't. It wasn't even the last playoff matchup these two teams had. That took place in 2003 with the Titans beating the Ravens. The two squared off earlier this season with the Titans getting the victory despite not playing their best football. The Ravens have a top tier defense and a solid running game. However, I'm not sold on Joe Flacco as a playoff quarterback. The Titans may be without Kevin Mawae, their starting center but his replacement is capable of getting the job done. The Titans defense along with solid play from the running game this time around. The national media likes history, here's a historical stat I found interesting. All time, #6 seeds are 1-10 against #1 seeds in the playoffs (the one win was the Steelers in 2005). Chalk up sweet redemption for the Titans.

Titans over Ravens 24-10

Game 2 sees the Arizona Cardinals vs. the Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals came off an impressive win over the Falcons in their Wild Card game. The defense got key turnovers and the running game with took off. The offense is high powered though there is a question mark about the health of WR Anquan Boldin, who is a game time decision. The Cards had a hard time this season traveling east to play teams. That could play a role. The Panthers had the week off to rest and get ready. They have a QB who's played in a Super Bowl (Jake Delhomme) as well. The also have a 1-2 punch at RB with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Their defense is solid and their coach (John Fox) is a quality coach. This will be a good matchup. And though I'd like to see the Cards in the NFC Championship game, I just can't pick them. Close game but edge goes to the Panthers.

Panthers over Cardinals 27-24

Game 1 on Sunday features the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants against division rival Philadelphia Eagles. This has the makings of a typical NFC East barnburner. The Giants come in off the bye rested and ready. They have a great running attack with Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw (aka Earth, Wind and Fire) and solid QB play from Eli Manning. They also have a solid defense. But they are prone to lapses where they don't play up to their hype. The Eagles come soaring in after a big win last week in Minnesota. They of course still have Donovan McNabb and that defense. The question is always there about their running game. Since these teams know each other so well, it's very much a toss up. I think for me the deciding factor is momentum. The Eagles have it I think and the Giants really don't. Fly Eagles Fly, they get the win.

Eagles over Giants 17-10

The final divisional round game will be the San Diego Chargers vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. This to me is the hardest game for me to pick. I really don't know. The Chargers come in having been in playoff mode for over a month now. They won a tough game against the Colts in overtime. The health of L.T. is of big concern for the Chargers. Probably all indications are that he won't play which means Darren Sproles will more than likely get the start. This may factor into the special teams as that would mean less Sproles on returns. The Steelers have their defense which is one of the top defenses. The game is in Pittsburgh which would favor the cold weathered Steelers over the warm weather Chargers. However, the running game that the Steelers are used to isn't what it used to be. Out of all the playoff teams left, they are the worst at running the ball. Also of concern is QB Ben Roethlesberger who's coming off of a concussion. He should play but that could be something to look at. These two teams squared off earlier in the season with the Steelers winning 11-10. I think it'll be close but I think that the Chargers will win because like the Giants, I'm not sold on these Steelers.

Chargers over Steelers 14-13

Good luck to everyone and Go Titans!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sports Analogy: "The Backup Quarterback"

I shared this analogy with my small group in my church last month. It was one that I thought of when our small group leader asked the question "What has God taught you lately?"

Here's the analogy: I was spending the last year (2007) a starting quarterback on a team that wasn't successful. My contract was ending at the end of the year and I knew that it was time for me to move on. So I signed with a different team in another city. However, I went from being a starting quarterback to being the backup quarterback. I was not the one who was ultimately responsible. I was the one with the clipboard and the headset. But the team I came to was successful and was a winning team. And I was able to get excited and find joy again after being on a team that wasn't as successful. Also, as a "veteran", I've been able to share my experiences and advice to the "young starter" who's leading the team. I'm able to help him grow and through that help the team be even more successful. All the while, I'm still preparing knowing that at sometime I'll get a starting opportunity again and that can be at any moment.

It was for the best that I left Seattle. Even though I still love the city and the people, things just weren't working out being with the church plant I was with. Coming to Kansas City and being at Fellowship of Grace has been refreshing and renewing for me. Things are on the upswing and I'm excited to see how things will turn out. Sometimes a starter needs to get a view from the sidelines in order to better handle situations when you do get back on the field.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 Wild Card Weekend Predictions

As per tradition, here are my predictions for Wild Card Weekend:

The first game is Atlanta vs. Arizona. This is the most interesting matchup out of the four games. Atlanta made a huge turnaround from last season. They have the Offensive Rookie of the Year in QB Matt Ryan and the one-two punch of RBs with Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood. They have a solid defense that is very opportunistic. However, this is their first time in the playoffs in a few years so there might be some anxiety, especially with a rookie QB. Arizona is hosting their first playoff game in a really, really long time. They have an explosive offense led by former MVP Kurt Warner and the exciting trio of WRs which includes Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston. However, they have been in a slump the last few weeks and haven't been in sync. This will be a close game but I think that Atlanta will get the W.

Falcons over Cardinals 34-31

The second game on Saturday is Indianapolis vs. San Diego. Indy is coming into the playoffs on a huge roll, winning nine games in a row. They again have the league MVP in QB Peyton Manning and have the usual cast of characters on offense. Their weakness again could be their defense which seems to play up or play down depending on the opponent. The Chargers have L.T., Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates along with a winning streak of their own to get into the playoffs. Their weakness has been their defense and inconsistent play earlier in the year. These two teams played in the regular season with Indy winning with a last second field goal. They also met last season in the playoffs with the Chargers knocking off the then defending champs in the divisional round. The X-factor will be RB/KR Darren Sproles. He will be the difference in a Chargers win.

Chargers over Colts 27-17

The third wild card matchup is Baltimore vs. Miami. The Ravens have their usual staunch defense along with the tough running game with Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain. They are also led by a rookie QB in Joe Flacco. That could also be their weakness as he has shown at times this season to be a little flappable. The Dolphins have made an incredible turnaround from 1-15 to a division win and the playoffs. They are led by Comeback Player of the year in QB Chad Pennington, RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and a no-name defense. The weakness is their lack of playoff experience together as it has been several years since they made the playoffs. This one is a tough one to pick, but I'm going with the feel good story.

Dolphins over Ravens 24-10

The final wild card matchup is Philadelphia vs. Minnesota. Philly made the playoffs thanks to some help in the final week. They still have QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook and a defense that can give people fits. However, they are still one dimensional in the pass and if they don't get a little more balanced, it could be a short stay in the playoffs. Minnesota has a great running attack with RBs Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor and a stifling defense. However, they don't have the greatest QB play with Tavaris Jackson. I think this will be a smash mouth type of game that will also be unexpectedly low scoring. I think Minnesota will try and dominate the time of possession with the run game. It will be a squeaker but I'm going with the Vikes at home.

Vikings over Eagles 17-10

I know that my picks are for the most part going against the experts. So either I'll be really right or really wrong. Either way it ought to be interesting :)

Reflecting on the Buffalo Bulls and their Bowl Game

I thought a great way to start the new year off with this blog was to reflect on a college football team about to play in a bowl game. This team is the Buffalo Bulls. Their story is one that has been shared recently on ESPN but I thought I'd chime in a little on it.

The University of Buffalo (in Buffalo, NY) is "playing" in their second ever bowl game today against the University of Connecticut. The reason why playing is in quotation marks is because they didn't play in their first bowl game some fifty years ago. The Tangerine Bowl officials at the time didn't want an integrated team to play in their bowl and the Bulls had two African-American players on their team. The coaches left the decision up to the players and the players unamiously voted to not play in the game as a show of support for their teammates.

This season's team, lead by Coach Turner Gill, won the MAC championship (which included beating once undefeated Ball State) to secure a bowl opportunity. In a show of respect, this year's squad invited the 1958 squad to come with them to their bowl game since they were not able to go to their game.

I think this is a tremendous story and one that reflects the good work that went on. It was ahead of its time and showed that even in an era of racism, there was progress that was ahead of its time. I hope the Bulls do well today and as they take the field, they remember the past and the team that came before them.

ESPN did a great piece on the 1958 team. Here's a clip of it from their Outside the Lines piece they did a few months back: