About miltonhooper

I feel compelled to write. It's just something I do. I have always heard that "everything happens for a reason". I feel like I write for a reason.

Irv Cross: Pioneer and A Gentleman

My early memories of watching the National Football League (NFL) on Sundays often involved the cast of NFL Today. They were the experts on analyzing NFL teams and players. Of the cast on NFL Today, Irv Cross was the very definition of class. He was a true professional which is honestly lacking with today’s NFL shows.

Irvin Acie Cross passed away on Sunday.

Irv Cross was the first African American sports analyst on national television. He joined CBS in 1971 and worked with the network until 1994.

Cross was a professional football player in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1961-1965. He was selected for the Pro Bowl twice. In 1966 he was traded the Los Angeles Rams where he played for three seasons. He finished his NFL career with the Eagles in 1969.

At his cornerback position, Cross had 22 interceptions during his career for 258 yards and scored two touchdowns. He also had 14 fumble recoveries.

During his playing career, Cross did drive-time sports reports in Philadelphia before doing weekend sportscasts. In 1971 he became a sports analyst for CBS. In 1975, Cross joined Brent Musburger and Phyllis George on NFL Today.

I recall Cross as being a professional and classy reporter. He was never gimmicky or tried to make any report about himself. Many of today’s sports reporter personalities could learn from Cross. He was a no nonsense reporter who you knew you could trust.

Here’s a clip of Cross from NFL Today.

Cross left broadcasting and later served as athletic director at Idaho State University and then was the director of athletics at Macalester College. He went on to become the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota until May 2010. He returned to football commentary for a local FOX station in St. Paul.

Cross received Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2009. He was the first Black recipient of the annual award, which seeks to recognize longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.

In 2018, he was diagnosed with dementia which was thought to be due to concussions he had received during his NFL career.

Cross was a pioneer in his day but he was also a gentleman. There will never be another like him.

My Favorite Bible Verse

I have had Christian influence in my life and I have heard others talk about their favorite Bible verses. Most will say that their favorite verse is John 3:16 which is probably the most popular Bible verse. There are several others that people will point to as their favorites.

When I think about mine, I always seem to go back to Romans 8:38-39 which says:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To me, it is always comforting to know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. One of the most common prayers I pray is that God never gives up on me. There are times I fail and don’t really function well in Christian things but I am glad to know that God still loves me and that He doesn’t give up on me.

We have all sinned. No one is perfect. We mess up. It’s impossible to live a perfect life in an imperfect world. If perfection was the requirement, it would be a waste of time. God’s love makes the difference.

I like the fact that nothing can separate us from God’s love because, honestly, sometimes I feel pretty far away. I wish I could say that I always have a consistent prayer life or feel like I’m walking with God everyday. I’m just not always on it. It’s nice to know that nothing has to separate us.

I like these verses in the Amplified Version:

For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I have no doubt about this and neither should you. When you feel at your lowest point and you think that God has given up on you, these verses prove otherwise. God will be as close as you let Him be. Yep, we mess up and have seasons in our lives when we stray but God is eager and waiting to be there again.

I’ll be honest with you, there was a time in my life when I questioned everything about my life. Even though I was going to church every Sunday and working in the church, I was completely lost in direction. I asked God if there was something seriously wrong with me. I was supposed to be close to God but I certainly wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t until I spent a week at a monastery that I discovered that God hadn’t left me, He was there for me in the silence of the monastery. When I removed all the noise and clutter of my life, I found Him there. He hadn’t left me. I was the one who had left. I found my way back to God and learned He was still with me. During that week, He referred me back to Romans 8:38-39 and that hasn’t left me.

If you’re feeling lost and separated from God, consider removing the noise and clutter in your life. God didn’t separate Himself from you, you separated yourself from Him. If you make the effort for God, He will be there for you.

Everyone has their own way and path. You will have to find it for yourself but realize that NOTHING can separate God’s love for you. He covered all the obstacles and excuses. Have no doubt that you could ever be separated from His love.

What is wrong with the Nashville Predators?

At the time I am writing this, the Nashville Predators are tied at the bottom of the National Hockey League (NHL) Central Division.

It is sad how fall they have fallen. It once was fun to watch this scrappy team but now it has become quite painful. They are definitely not the same team that captivated the Music City during their Stanley Cup run in 2017.

So what’s wrong?

You really can’t point to one thing but a combination of things that have rendered the Predators to the bottom of the NHL.

#1 – Puck handling is awful

Too many crucial turnovers and inability to control the puck have often created scoring chances for the other team. Someone should tally which players are turning the puck over the most and send them packing. It does no good to be a good skater if you can’t hold onto the damn puck.

#2 – Power play is weak

This is a glaring weakness. The Predators are currently 21st in the league which isn’t something to brag about. For over two seasons management has been aware of the problem but have yet to find the answer. Passing the puck 6-7 times and losing the puck is maddening.

#3 – Goalkeeping problems

Everyone needs to get over the emotional attachment to Pekka Rinne and bring in a someone else. I know we are all attached to Rinne but it’s time to make a major change in net and it isn’t Juuse Saros. It’s time to make the change.

#4 – John Hynes is not the answer

I am still puzzled over the decision to replace John Laviolette with John Hynes. He was not a proven winner and he’s not winning here either. Dumb move.

It’s time to break sentimental ties with players and make some hard decisions. If the players aren’t getting the job done, they need to be replaced. The Predators are no longer a Stanley Cup caliber team. They have fallen to the bottom. If Predators’ General Manager David Poile is as good as everyone says he is then he needs to work his magic and make the changes now instead of later.

I used to look forward to watching Predator games but now I have come to dread them because they are painful to watch. There is no consistency in their play and something needs to change.

Carman…the Elvis of Christian Music

This past week the Christian music world lost a legend. The artist known as “Carman” finally lost his health battles which were complicated due to cancer.

For most of my life in the church, Carman dominated my Christian music playlist. He was very different and always got the message out through his music. I always referred to him as the Elvis of Christian music. Certainly in the 1990s and 2000s, Carman was a household name.

Carman won six Dove Awards which is the Christian music version of the Grammys. In fact, he was actually nominated for four Grammys and sold over 10 million records. It is believed that he holds the record for the largest single Christian concert in history in 1993 with over 55,000 in South Africa. He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2018.

Even with his battles with cancer, Carman was still performing in concerts up until his recent illness.

The thing that made Carman different was his ability to perform in different styles of music. He could perform in rock, country, pop and hip hop. I had the opportunity to attend one of his concerts and it was amazing. He never charged admission but opted for people to give an offering.

Carman took advantage of the popularity of music videos by making his own and being relevant to the younger generation at the time. During the time when I was a youth group leader, Carman’s songs often played a major part in skits and other presentations.

Some of my favorite Carman songs are:

  • The Champion
  • Lazarus Come Forth
  • This Blood
  • Lord of all
  • Great God
  • The Courtroom
  • Jesus is the Lamb
  • Faith Enough

Although I didn’t agree with his politics and was deeply disappointed by his endorsements, I can’t deny the fact that his non-political music over the decades inspired me.

Best Keyboards for iPad/iPhone (for me)

Over the past year I have had a problem. An obsession. I have been on a quest to find the perfect keyboards for my iPad and iPhone.

Yes, I know they each come with their own on-screen keyboards where you can thumb-type or peck on them but sometimes I need a REAL keyboard to type something without having to figure out where my thumbs or fingers are.

After many, many trials with various keyboards and keyboard cases over the past year or so, I have finally settled on the best keyboard solutions for my iPad and iPhone devices. I have had quite a quest in my search for the perfect keyboards. I am very picky about it and I want it to do what I want it to do without too much sacrifice.

Let’s start with my iPhone.

My pick: Logitech keys-to-go keyboard

This keyboard is perhaps the easiest to throw in your backpack or purse. It weighs next to nothing and if it gets dirty or something spills on it, you can simply clean it off. The keyboard is very well designed and although it is small, you won’t feel cramped when typing. It’s also a very quiet keyboard. You won’t drive people crazy with clicking on the keyboard while typing.

The only negatives to it are that there are no backlit keys and bottom can slide around on flat surfaces. This hasn’t been a major issue and the benefits outweigh the negatives.

If you want to go minimalistic, take this keyboard with your iPhone. For more information about this keyboard click here.

Now, for the iPad.

This one took a while for me, I tried several that came really close. Brydge and Zagg had some very good keyboards. They both offer some good options to turn the iPad into an alternative laptop.

The keyboard option that decided it for me was one that I should have tried first. It is the Apple Smart Keyboard. Yep, the one that Apple makes for it. I resisted jumping on yet another Apple product accessory – mostly because they are usually expensive – but after trying others I found the Smart Keyboard at a good price on eBay and decided to try it.

What made my decision on Apple’s Smart Keyboard?

First, it is lightweight. It doesn’t add any weight to the iPad. It also easily attaches/detaches from the iPad or folds so I can use the iPad when I want it to be a tablet. I did buy a back cover for my iPad to compliment it so now it is fully protected. The back cover also has a holder for my Apple Pencil as well. So, now I feel like I have the right combination for me. The one thing that I thought would be a deal breaker was that I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to use the Smart Keyboard on my lap. I was wrong. In fact, I am typing on my lap now. It really checked my boxes of expectations in a keyboard. The only thing it doesn’t have is a backlit keyboard but I have not found that to be a problem. I should know where all the keys are anyway. I never have to look at my keys anyway so the added backlight feature isn’t a deal breaker for me.

I really, really like this combination now. So much that I don’t have to search for any other keyboards or keyboard cases. Another positive about the Smart Keyboard is that it connects via the iPad’s smart connector and does not need to be charged or connected through a Bluetooth connection. Once you are connected, you are ready to type.

One thing to tell you about this keyboard – it is pricey – especially if you get it from Apple. Shop around. That’s what I did and I found one for half the price. The price is largely the reason I didn’t try this keyboard first.

Click here for more information on the Apple Smart Keyboard.

I also told you about the back cover which is made to work with the Smart Keyboard. Click here for information on it.

Take it from someone who is totally into tech gadgets and had thoroughly researched this issue. For me, these keyboards are perfect for me. If you are looking for the right keyboards, try these first.

Obscure Leagues: Fan Controlled Football League

Johnny Manziel is playing professional football again.

Say what?

This news caught my eye over the weekend.

Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M basically fell off of the football map after stints in the National Football League, Canadian Football League and Alliance of American Football.

He is now playing again in the Fan Controlled Football League.

The Fan Controlled what?

The Fan Controlled Football League (FCFL) is an indoor professional football league which was created in 2017 and the first sports league controlled by fans. It’s like a live version of a video game. The league’s first season began this month with all four teams playing their games over six weeks at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Georgia to limit COVID-19 issues.

This concept began by an organization called “Project Franchise” created a fan-controlled team named the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the Indoor Football League in 2017. A mobile app was created with a subscription service for fans to call plays during a live game. The experiment worked although the team finished 5-11.

So how does this really work?

Games are televised on the gaming network Twitch. There is real time play calling where fans have the option to run or pass when their team is on offense. When the option is pick, play options are selected and voted on. The top vote winner will be the play that is used.

Games are played indoors with seven players on each team. There is no kicking, punts or special teams. Teams start at their own 10-yard line and drive 40 yards for a score. Extra points are a one-on-one battle between a wide receiver and defensive back.

It’s definitely different.

In addition to Johnny Manziel, other recognizable names are invested in the league. Marshawn Lynch, Mike Tyson and Richard Sherman are owners in the four-team league. The teams are definitely like video game teams with the names Zappers, Wild Aces, Beasts and Glacier Boyz.

For more information about the league, visit https://www.fcf.io/

Manziel rushed for a touchdown for his Zappers’ team but lost to the Beast 48-44 in the season opener.

Johnny Manziel returns to professional football

Minor League Mash Up Coming in 2021

Did you see the latest about Major League Baseball’s realignment of minor league baseball? It’s a mess.

There is no more Southern League, Pacific Coast League or American Association. All the traditional has been scrapped in the name of “streamlining” the minor leagues into a regional setup.`

There were fourteen leagues in MLB’s farm system but now the minor league system is spread out in a massive realignment. Leagues have been replaced by tiers and regional alignments. It’s going to be a mess.

MLB claims this will allow for higher salaries, better facilities and create geographical rivalries.

The four new levels will be known as Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A with the lower three of those levels split into three regional leagues, the Triple-A level remains at just two leagues. Several teams were either bumped up a level or dropped down and three previously independent-league clubs have been invited and are now affiliated with Major League clubs.

For example, my local Nashville Sounds which had been a member of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) is now grouped in the Southeast Division of Triple-A East.

Here is a graphic which shows the new alignment for the 2021 season:

Unfortunately with the fruit basket turnover of the minor leagues, 42 teams were cut from the realignment. This includes teams in the Pioneer, Appalachian and most of the New York-Penn League. These teams will be forced to go independent, join a collegiate summer league or disband.

With COVID-19 disrupting minor league baseball last season, it is certain that this new realignment plan will definitely make things much different as baseball takes the field this spring.

When Your Christianity Is Punched In The Gut

Punched in the gut.

That’s how I felt recently when I discovered that my favorite Christian music artist had written and performed highly inappropriate song and posted it on YouTube.

I can’t describe how I felt.

In recent years, many other Christians have fallen from the respect I had for them. I know that you are supposed to look to God and not man but it still stings all the same.

I do the only thing I know to do – I write about it.

We have endured a crazy four years where we have all been divided. People have picked their sides. Preachers, prophets and singers have showed us their political endorsements over the past year which have further divided believers.

People will disappoint you. What do you do?

Regroup and remind yourself to look to God and not man.

The Bible tells us this.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:8)

Here’s something that is hard to admit to ourselves. We have disappointed others ourselves at some point in our lives too.

Ouch! That’s difficult to admit.

The fact is that we are all human. We fail.

When people disappoint us we have to hit the reset button. Renew our minds and re-examine our expectations of people.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

If we were completely honest with ourselves, it is easier for us to put our faith in people than God because we can’t see God or relate to Him like we do everyone else. It really makes it difficult for us to follow someone we can’t see or someone who doesn’t talk to us. I’m just being honest. That’s why we get drawn into putting our faith in people.

We get lazy. It takes some serious spiritual discipline and work to keep our focus on God. Maintaining a relationship with Him takes work. It sure would make things easier if God related to us like we do others. It is what it is.

It’s still okay to have people who you respect but we have to be careful that our respect doesn’t distract our focus from God. Don’t allow people to be a surrogate for your own personal relationship with God.

The punch in my gut will eventually go away as it served its purpose as a personal spiritual wake up call. Focus on the message more than the messenger.

Obscure Leagues: National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL)

Women have made significant strides in the sport of hockey. Olympic competitions have been the highlight of the sport for women with some intense games and rivalries. It is only natural that women would have a professional league of their own. The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) was started in 2015 and currently has six teams:

  • Buffalo Beauts
  • Boston Pride
  • Connecticut Whale
  • Metropolitan Riveters
  • Minnesota Whitecaps
  • Toronto Six

The NWHL had planned a 60-game schedule for the 2020-2021 season; however, due to COVID restrictions, the league changed with playing a limited five-game schedule in a bubble environment in Lake Placid, New York. The semifinals and championship game were to be played on the NBCSN network last weekend but two teams had issues with positive COVID-19 tests which forced the league to postpone the season.

While the National Hockey League (NHL) as the Stanley Cup for the league’s champion, the NWHL presents the Isobel Cup to their champions The Isobel Cup is named after Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy who was the daughter of Lord Frederick Stanley.

Isobel Cup Champions

  • 2015-2016 Boston Pride
  • 2016-2017 Buffalo Beauts
  • 2017-2018 Metropolitan Riveters
  • 2018-2019 Minnesota Whitecaps
  • 2019-2020 Canceled due to COVID-19
  • 2020-2021 Postponed

The Minnesota Whitecaps are the defending Isobel Cup champions from the 2019 season. The 2020 Isobel Cup final between Boston and Minnesota was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minnesota and Boston are the only teams who have partnerships with their NHL counterparts.

Before abruptly ending the 2021 season, the leading scorer was Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Toronto). Kaleigh Fratkin (Boston) lead the league with the most points. The top goaltender was Sonjia Shelly (Metropolitan).

If you would like more information about the league, visit their website at www.nwhl.zone

“You’re Gonna Be A Preacher”

Years ago, there was a precious 90-year-old lady who would always say to me: “You’re gonna be a preacher.” Somehow she had it in her mind that I was going to be a preacher.

I recently heard someone I grew up with who told how he was called to preach when he was 18 years old. He was the son of a preacher and he accepted that calling and is still preaching today.

People had always assumed that I would become a preacher since my grandfather and my dad were preachers. Early in my life I felt the pressure of following in that path but it never happened for me. There were times that I felt like a failure or that something was wrong with me because I didn’t have that “calling” to preach. It was finally liberating to realize to that the call to preach isn’t something that is hereditary, it is something that God does and there was nothing wrong with me. It is true that many of the preacher’s kids I grew up with in the church became preachers themselves. Growing up in that environment can prepare you for it but it isn’t like growing up with your father being a plumber or doctor.

There is a lot that goes on with being called to preach. It is much more than standing up behind a pulpit and giving a sermon. The call to preach goes much deeper after delivering the sermon.

Oh, I tried it. There was a time in my life when I was floundering and didn’t know which direction I should go so I tried to do the preaching but it just didn’t come natural for me. I tried to emulate what I had known. I studied, prayed and tried to get direction from God. I came from a Pentecostal background so doing the preaching thing and all that goes with that just didn’t feel right for me. I fell flat. I feel bad for people in the congregation who had to endure the torture of me attempting to preach. I also never grasped the part with speaking in tongues. I believe in the Holy Spirit but I don’t believe that’s all He’s about.

I have to give my dad credit. He dad never pressured me to follow in his footsteps. He never wanted me to be a preacher. I asked him about this again while he was on his deathbed. He assured me that it never bothered him that I never became a preacher like him. It certainly wasn’t the glamorous life some people think when they watch the TV evangelists. My dad never had a multi-million dollar ministry. He never even had a “big” church in our cultish denomination. There were some times that my dad had to work a second job just to be able to support us and the church. I suppose the reason God never called me to preach was that I was jaded negatively toward the ministry. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I just never developed the personality for being a preacher.

The story of how my dad was “called to preach” was pretty bizarre in itself.

When my dad was in his 20s, felt the call to preach but he was hesitant. My mother had grown up as a preacher’s kid and did NOT want to be a preacher’s wife. Dad said that He prayed that God would use my mother as a sign of confirmation that God was calling him to preach. One night in a church service he said that the Holy Ghost moved and people started speaking in tongues (remember this is the Pentecostal stuff going on). My mother started speaking in tongues and somehow gave Dad confirmation. She had this thing when she was “in the spirit” that she would speak in some kind of tongues and walk to the Bible and turn it to some passage and point it out or give a word or two in English. I’m not clear what exactly happened but whatever she did while under the Pentecostal influence of the Holy Ghost she provided the confirmation that he needed. My dad accepted the call to preach and would proceed to minister to churches in Georgia and North Carolina for the next 40 years. Although my mother aided in the call, she was miserable being a preacher’s wife.

As I said earlier, I had a time of seeking direction about the call to preach and tried to force the issue. The calling to preach never came. I wasn’t a failure. The obvious answer was that preaching was not God’s purpose for me. God has used me in a different way. Mostly through writing. There are times I feel inspired and the words flow through me. I am sure that’s how it feels for preachers. Unfortunately I don’t allow myself enough opportunities to become inspired to “write” a sermon or “preach” through my writing. Ministry comes in many different ways. Standing behind a pulpit or preaching loud or speaking in tongues isn’t me.

You have to have the heart for being a preacher. I know a few who do and they do it because they love God and love people. They don’t do it to get reach or to “have a ministry”. I immediately think of my friend Jay when I write this. He is a pastor of a small church in Georgia and he loves the people there. He has the perfect personality for it.

It is challenging to have that heart for people because people can be difficult. I remember when I used to greet people as they arrived for church, some would have the spirit of the devil on them when they walked in the door. One fussed at me because something was wrong with the carpet, another complained to me about the pastor and another was not happy that I didn’t start the church service on time because they HAD to leave a 12 o’clock.

I stopped being a greeter.

So, you see that the calling to preach requires a lot more after you step down from the pulpit.

If you think you are being called to preach, you’d better be sure about it. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. You’d better have nerves of steel and not easily be offended because I guarantee that you will have plenty of opportunities to be offended.

No, I have never become a preacher but that doesn’t make me any less useful to God. God needs more people who are just good ambassadors for Him in whatever they do. There are too many so-called Christians out there who are embarrassing God. It would serve Him much better to have good people living in the world than more people preaching on a stage.