Can The Predators Dethrone The Penguins?

Here we are.   The Stanley Cup final.  I never imagined that the Nashville Predators would be here.  It’s an amazing time to live in the Music City.  The Predators have exceeded all expectations.  Swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.  Eliminated the St. Louis Blues in six.  Then out hustled the Anaheim Ducks in six physical games.  The Predators have not trailed in any of their playoff series so far.  

So how will they do against the Pittsburgh Penguins?

The Penguins are overwhelming favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.  They have the experience with having won four cups in their history.  They have a superstar in Sidney Crosby.  The Penguins have dispatched of the Columbus Bluejackets in five games, Washington Capitals in seven and the Ottawa Senators in seven. 

I think it’s going to be difficult for the Predators to defeat the Penguins.  This series might really show how much Ryan Johansen’s injury will hurt the Predators’ matchups with the Penguins.  

The Predators still have a problem with shot selection.  They make too many passes looking to set up the perfect shot.  They also have too many breakdowns on the defensive end which an experienced championship team like the Penguins could exploit.  

The one wildcard in all of this is Pekka Rinne.  He has been the best Predators’ player in several games.  It will depend which Pekka shows up in the final as to how successful the Predators will be in competing with the Penguins.  

I do not think the Predators have enough to overcome the Penguins.  Although I would love to see the Music City to win the Stanley Cup, realistically I think the Penguins will repeat in five games.  

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Can You Be A Believer And Not Attend Church?

The answer to this question is not as easy as you would think.  It is a different answer depending on who you are and what you need.  The avid churchgoer would answer this question with a resounding NO and back up their argument with the verse “Forsake not the gathering yourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25) along with other facts to support that answer.  The people who either aren’t regulars or even attend church at all will answer that they don’t need church or some story about how they were hurt by the church. 

So what is the answer?  What do you want the answer to be?  Are you waiting to pounce on my own answer to contradict it to line it up with the answer you want it to be?

Consider this….why is church important if you attend or not so if you don’t attend?

In my own personal experience, I attended church regularly for years.  Yes, I was one of those who some would say “cut their teeth on the church pews” although I always hated that reference.  It would bother me greatly if I ever missed a single church service.  Going to church was engrained into me so much so that going to church seemed to gauge my relationship with God.  Going to church was religious more than relationship.  It even got to the point where I was miserable and often left church feeling worst than when I got there.  

I guess you can figure out my answer.  I do not attend church now.  I will give some of you a moment to gasp and shake your head in disbelief.  

Don’t worry.  I’m okay and my relationship with God is strong.  

If you attend church faithfully I do not discourage it.  Everybody is different.  I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t be going to church.  That’s something between you and God.  Let’s not tune out from this article now and pass judgement on either side.  I have heard the sermons before about not being a spiritual Lone Ranger and how much we need the church.  I understand that completely.  

Some people need to go to the church building and be a part of a bigger group. That’s the way that they stay accountable and encouraged.  There’s no problem with that at all.  The problem is when we use church attendance as a barometer on how close we are to God.  Some act as if God is keeping roll for some heavenly spiritual attendance award.  I know.  I was there and I have done that in the past.  

I will admit to you that not attending requires someone with strong self discipline.  I’m not the model of self discipline but I have been able to maintain my personal relationship with God without attending church.  Certainly, it is hard to keep it up on your own.  When you are basically on your own, you have to do like David did and encourage yourself.  (1 Samuel 30:6). To stay spiritually in synch you have to keep communication open with daily prayer.  When you fail to pray you are setting up for failure.   In this time of technology and social media, there are many things available to help keep you spiritually sharp.  If you need to listen to a sermon, you can subscribe to a podcast or access a library of sermons.  If you need uplifting spiritual music, you have that available too.  If you need to be with a group of believers, you can do that online or meet with people in your life who are also believers.  

Church attendance is important but it isn’t a sin NOT to attend either.  I won’t say that I will never attend church again in the future.  I just don’t foresee myself ever being part of a church at this time in my life.   I grew up as a preacher’s kid and had been a part of the church for most of my life and have seen the good, the bad and a lot of the ugly about church.  Some might say that I am burnt out.  I would disagree with that but people will think what they want to think.  The turning point for me was a week I spent  in a monastery.  It was something that spiritually opened a new world for me.  Instead of the loud, Pentecostal environment I had been a part of, I learned the importance of being quiet and reverence of silence before God.  It was something I needed and gave me a better understanding of God than I had ever had before.   

That’s just me.  I’m not saying it is the same for you.  I know many pastors who genuinely care about people and have churches because they want to help people in their relationship with God.  

So, as you can see, the answer to this question is very objective.  It depends upon your need as a believer.  We all have to work out our own way in this life.  

Friday Flashback: American Football Association

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Football at Memorial Day weekend?  In the summer of 1981 I became a fan of the short-lived Jacksonville Firebirds of the American Football Association (AFA).   The Firebirds were a part of a minor league which played in the summer – outdoors – before the United States Football League (USFL) or Arena Football were even in existence.

The AFA lasted from 1978 through 1983.   As you can imagine, the league went through several franchises and, with the exception of a few teams, most were unstable.  Most of the teams were located in the Southeastern United States and never intended to compete with the National Football League (NFL) which was one of the reasons they played a summer schedule.  Players were paid one percent of gross gate revenue, which basically meant minimum wage.    The season opened Memorial Day weekend and ended in late August.

Former Washington Redskins’ quarterback Billy Kilmer was the league’s commissioner in 1981 and only served as commissioner for one season.

Some of the leagues most successful teams were the Alabama Magic, Jacksonville Firebirds, Carolina Chargers, San Antonio Charros, Virginia Hunters, Shreveport Steamers, West Virginia Rockets and Chicago Fire.

The Firebirds initially drew big crowds to the Gator Bowl but the instability of the league eventually caused the crowds to dwindle as well as the lack of appeal of summer football.  The Firebirds were sold and renamed to the Sunbirds in their last season as well as attempts to move their home games out of the Gator Bowl.

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The most notable players that played in the league were former University of Florida star Don Gaffney who played for the Firebirds and Jerry Golsteyn was originally drafted by the New York Giants in 1977,  played quarterback for the Orlando Americans and later as backup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The league stumbled along during most of its years of existence until finally surrendering the summer to the United States Football League (USFL).

What Are We Doing With The Dash?

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I just finished reading the obituary for one of my aunts who passed away earlier today.  As most of us do, I looked at the dates of her life.  Date of birth and Date of death.  In the middle is where all of us are at now.  The dash.

What are we doing with the dash?   That’s our present.   We have already been born and we don’t know what the date we will finish with.   We only have right now to live.   Are we making the best of it?

Life is full of unknowns.  We can make plans but somehow something or someone happens that changes the course of what we had thought our life was headed.

When I left home in 1982 just a few weeks after graduation, I would have never imagined I would be doing the job I am doing now in Nashville, Tennessee.

The dash.

Some people live in one place their entire life while others move from place to place.  Life is full of adventures and unexpected happenings along the way.  Time and chance happen to all of us.  Decisions determine the course of our lives but the good and bad ones.  When we make good decisions life seems good and we think everything is right with the world.  When we make bad decisions and think we have really screwed up our lives, we really haven’t.  The important thing is to adjust to the course.  Much like our GPS maps do when we make a wrong turn or going in the wrong direction.  We adjust our course to get on the right road.

It’s easy to get down on ourselves when we think life hasn’t worked out the way we wanted.  We all have dreams but sometimes we never achieve those things we dreamt about.  Does that mean we have wasted our lives?  Absolutely not.  Does that mean we can’t have a happy life?  No, it doesn’t.

Live the dash.   Live right now.

When I left home I was intent on making the military my career but after eight years I made the decision to leave active duty and pursue other things.  I went through several twists and turns before I have ended up here today in Nashville, Tennessee.  I am happier than I could have ever imagined.

It isn’t about a job.  It was certainly not about money or plans.   It is about the dash.  The now.  While I am not particularly fond of working to pay the bills, it is a necessity and someone has to be the responsible one.   But, even in doing this, you can still live a good life.  I don’t like bills, owing the IRS or dealing with incompetent people but I make the choice of whether or not that affects my happiness.

How are you spending your dash? Does your life reflect who you really are? Do you fill the hours in your day with people and things that make you smile? If not, is there one small thing you could change to move in that direction?

You know the date you were born.  Don’t obsessed over the ending date.  Look at the dash.  What are you doing with that?  The dash is what you will be remembered by the most.

 

Obscure Sports Report

American Flag Football League (AFFL) – This is a new start-up league which plans to hold a pilot game next month in San Jose to feature its new 7-on-7 style of flag football.  The league is looking for eight league-owned teams to start playing in 2018.  Former NFL Quarterback Michael Vick is expected to play in the pilot game.  The league will be unique in the ways it attempts to use technology during the game.

American Hockey League (AHL) – Both the Eastern and Western Conference finals are tied at 1-1.  In the East, the Providence Bruins evened the series with the Syracuse Crunch with a 2-1 win in overtime.  The San Jose Barracuda tied up their series on Sunday with a 4-2 win over Grand Rapids.

American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) – The leading goal scorers after Week 8 are:

  1. Jay Froude (Dallas) 33
  2. Caleb Denecour (Austin) 32
  3. Jeremy Langdon (Jacksonville) 31
  4. Jackson Stearns (San Jose) 30
  5. Anthony Davis (Detroit) 28

Arena Football League (AFL) – The Tampa Bay Storm defeated the Washington Valor 53-47 on Saturday in Tampa.  Storm WR Joe Hills led the team with 123 yards and three touchdowns including the game winning score with three seconds remaining.  With the win, the Storm (5-1) keeps pace with the undefeated Philadelphia Soul (6-0).  The Soul defeated the Cleveland Gladiators 64-46 as WR Darius Reynolds had seven catches for 85 yards and three touchdowns.

CAN-AM Indoor Football League (CAN AM) – The East Division championship which was originally scheduled to be played between the Vermont Bucks and Boston Blaze has been changed to the Bucks playing the Central Penn Chargers.  The change is reported to be due to the merger with the American Arena League.

Champions Indoor Football League (CIFL) –  Tucker Milliken was successful on a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give the Omaha Beef at 42-39 won over the West Michigan Ironmen.  The Beef trailed 39-32 late in the fourth quarter when Skyler Scott scored on a 5-yard touchdown run.  On the next possession, Omaha defensive back Paul Robinson picked off a pass and returned it to the Ironman 6-yard line to set up Milliken’s game winning field goal.  The Beef will host the Sioux City Bandits this weekend.

ECHL – The Colorado Eagles and Manchester-South Carolina winner will meet in the Kelly Cup final.  Manchester forced a seventh game with a decisive 5-1 win over South Carolina on Monday.

Gridiron Developmental Football League (GDFL) – The nation’s largest semi-pro football league kicked off the 2017 season as the defending champion Oklahoma Thunder defeated the Mississippi Road Warriors 14-8.   In a shocker, the Chattanooga Eagles used a ball control offense along with stingy defense to upset the Georgia Crush 8-6.

Indoor Football League (IFL) – The Iowa Barnstormers (10-2) extended its winning streak to eight straight after a 50-47 win over the Wichita Falls Nighthawks (9-3).  Kicker Kenton Chun connected on an 18-yard field goal to give the Barnstormers the lead.  The Nighthawks missed a chance to tie the game on their possession as they missed a field goal try when time expired.

Major League Lacrosse (MLL) – Chazz Woodson scored the game-winning goal five minutes into the overtime period as he led the Florida Launch to a 9-8 win over the Rochester Rattlers on Saturday.   The Launch got their second win of the season while the Rattlers dropped to 2-3.  The Denver Outlaws remain atop of the MLL with a 4-0 record.

Major League Soccer (MLS) – The Chicago Fire was named the MLS Team-of-the-week after three straight wins including shutouts against the Colorado Rapids (3-0) and D.C. United (1-0).   The Fire has climbed within five points of Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference.   Sporting Kansas City continues to lead the Western Conference by three points.

National Arena League (NAL) – The Columbus Lions attacked and destroyed the Dayton/Atlanta Wolfpack 77-0 before a record crowd of 6,425 on Military Appreciation Night.  The onslaught started in the 2nd quarter, as the Lions offense got on track, and the vaunted “Black Shirt” defense systematically attacked the Pack offense series after series, creating turnovers, sacks, and locking down any attempts to advance the football passed midfield. The offense got on track as well with 4 TD passes by Darren Daniel, two to standout Tristan Purifoy, and two more to Greg Hollinger, who suited up in place of Durron Neal who is attending a CFL tryout. Joe Marshall added a 1 yd. TD plunge to make the score 39-0 at halftime.

North American Soccer League (NASL) – Miami FC defeated Indy Eleven 3-2 to maintain the top spot in the standings while the Jacksonville Armada FC lost a key game to North Carolina FC 3-1.   The league plays a spring and fall season.

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) – Barcelona has approved a developmental plan to add a team to the league.  It will be the first European club to have a team in an American league.

Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) – The Minnesota Lynx (3-0) and Los Angeles Sparks (2-0) are the only undefeated teams in the league.  Sylvia Fowles led the Lynx with 27 points and Maya Moore added 21 in an 89-87 win over the Dallas Wings.  Elena Delle Donne scored 27 points to lead the Sparks to a 99-89 win over the Washington Mystics.

United Soccer League (USL) – The Tampa Bay Rowdies cruised into the next round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-0 win over the Jacksonville Armada U23s at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida.   The U.S. Open Cup is a tournament featuring teams from all levels of the American soccer system regardless of league.  The Rowdies will play either Miami FC or the South Florida Surf in the next round on May 31st.

United States Hockey League (USHL) – Chicago Steel defeated the Sioux City in overtime to capture their first Clark Cup championship in team history.  Tyler Gratton scored the game winner 11:30 into overtime.

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Nashville Is Hockey Tonkin’

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I just went to the Predators’ team store at Bridgestone Arena during my lunch break to purchase Western Conference Champion T-Shirts.  Sold out.   The store was packed.  I have been before during my lunch break and have been the only one in the store.  A television camera crew was outside interviewing random fans leaving the store.

The Music City is fully infected with Predators’ fever.

The Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks last night 6-3 to win the Western Conference title and advance to the Stanley Cup final against either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators.  A sold-out, standing room crowd watched inside the arena and another 6,000 fans watched in a park near the arena.

It is exciting to be in a city that is excited about their sports team.  It doesn’t hurt to be a winning team and playing for a championship either.

The Nashville Predators sold out every home game for the first time this season which is a rarity and in addition to that, for a team that is mostly in a Southern market.    It’s hard to imagine now that just 10 years ago the Predators were close to being sold and moved to Hamilton, Ontario.  Fortunately, the team found local ownership and stayed in the city.   Hockey wasn’t really the first choice in the beginning.   A group was actually was trying to lure the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to move to Nashville.

So for the first time in their history, the Nashville Predators will be playing in the Stanley Cup final.  The only other time that a Nashville pro sports team played in a final was in 1999 when the Tennessee Titans played their first season in Nashville and lost in the Super Bowl to the St. Louis Rams 23-16.

It would be nice to watch the Stanley Cup final in person but the running price right now for a seat in the “nosebleed” section is currently $727.   Prime seats in the center ice, second row are going for $15,000.  Unbelievable.   More than likely I will be one of those in the park watching on the big screens with other fans not able afford or willing to pay those prices for tickets.

Hockey in Nashville?   Yep.  You wouldn’t think it would be a “thang” here.   Most people in the South only think of football, baseball and NASCAR.  What’s a hockey?  Why are they skatin’ on ice?

Yeah, it’s an amazing thing to witness here.  Somehow it works.  The capital of country music is now the capital of hockey.

Stanley Cup Final Schedule:

  •  Game 1 – Monday, May 29th:  Nashville at Pittsburgh or Ottawa
  • Game 2 – Wednesday, May 31st: Nashville at Pittsburgh or Ottawa
  • Game 3 – Saturday, June 3rd: Pittsburgh or Ottawa at Nashville
  • Game 4 – Monday, June 5th: Pittsburgh or Ottawa at Nashville
  • Game 5 – Thursday, June 8th:  Nashville at Pittsburgh or Ottawa (if necessary)
  • Game 6 – Sunday, June 11th:  Pittsburgh or Ottawa at Nashville (if necessary)
  • Game 7 – Wednesday, June 14th:  Nashville at Pittsburgh or Ottawa (if necessary)

 

Swarm and Rush To Meet In NLL Final

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The Georgia Swarm and defending National Lacrosse League (NLL) champions Saskatchewan Rush will square off in the Champions Cup.   The Swarm swarmed the Toronto Rock with a strong defensive effort holding the Rock below double-digits in scoring for the second game in a row.  Shayne Jackson had three goals and two assists for the Swarm.  Goalie Mike Poulin was awesome in goal blocking 42 shots and finished with a 9 goals against average.  With the win, the Swarm swept Toronto in two games for the Eastern Division title.

The Saskatchewan Rush scored two goals early in the fourth quarter to pull in front of the Colorado Mammoths and held on for a 11-10 win in front of the home crowd of 14,025.  The Rush completed the sweep of the Mammoths.

Division Finals

  • Georgia Swarm defeated Toronto Rock 11-8, 13-9
  • Saskatchewan Rush defeated Colorado Mammoths 18-9, 11-10

Here is the schedule of the Champions Cup final:

  • Game 1 – Sunday, June 4 (5:05 pm ET) Saskatchewan at Georgia
  • Game 2 – Saturday, June 10 (9:30 pm ET) Georgia at Saskatchewan
  • Game 3 – Sunday, June 18 (5:05 pm ET) Saskatchewan at Georgia (if necessary)

In their only meeting of the season, the Swarm defeated the Rush 18-10 at home on January  7th.

The Swarm are appearing in their first final.   The Rush captured the crown last season when they swept the Buffalo Bandits 11-9 and 11-10.

The Swarm, which calls Infinite Energy Center in Duluth near Atlanta home, will be the second Atlanta team this year to play in a championship.