Flyers-Rangers: NHL Playoffs: Game 7

When it comes to sports excitement, few things can match what is about to take place in the NHL opening round between our beloved Philadelphia Flyers and the rival New York Rangers.

Game 7 elicits all sorts of images, all involving the drama of an entire season of hard work by players, and often just as hard rooting by fans, coming down to one single game. You win, your season continues. Lose, it’s all over in heart-breaking fashion.

Here in America, Major League Baseball is joined by both the NHL and NBA in deciding the majority of it’s important playoff series with a best-of-7 games format. Teams play one another, alternating home fields, rinks, and courts, until one or the other team has won four times. The most exciting of these series leave the combatants tied at 3 games each, leading to a decisive, winner-take-all 7th game.

That’s where the Flyers and Rangers find themselves tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers hard-fought victory by a 5-2 score last night at the Wells Fargo Center evened up the series at 3-3, forcing this decisive game between these longtime rivals who, despite playing in the same division, incredibly have not met in the playoffs for 17 long years.

The Flyers-Rangers series has become known as “Broadway vs Broad Street” during the nearly 40 years that the two franchise have been divisional rivals. The Rangers are one of the NHL’s ‘Original 6‘ teams, having been around since the league’s inception. The Flyers came along in the first expansion back in 1967. They have met 10 previous times in the post-season, with Philly winning the last three times and now holding a 6-4 advantage.

For Flyers fans, the biggest of these previous meetings between the two clubs was also the only other one to go a full 7 games, the very first one all the way back in 1974. The Flyers and Rangers met that season in the semi-finals, with the winner of that decisive 7th game set to move into the Stanley Cup Finals against Boston. The Flyers would prevail in a dramatic 4-3 game that would send them on to the Finals, where they ultimately would win their first-ever Stanley Cup.

The teams would also play a decisive playoff game in the 1986 playoffs. That was the season in which the Flyers tragically had lost young all-star goalie Pelle Lindbergh in a drunk-driving auto accident. With Lindbergh gone, the Flyers rallied behind backup goalie Bob Froese and won their division anyway. The playoff meeting with the Rangers was a best-of-5 divisional semi-final, and the two teams pushed to a decisive 5th game which the Rangers dominated by 5-2 to take the series.

The last meeting in 1997 was important in that it came in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the teams again as back in 1974 fighting to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The series was a marquee matchup between the Flyers, led by young superstar Eric Lindros, and the Rangers, led by veteran legend Wayne Gretzky. The Flyers would win this one by an easy 4-1 to take the series, but would be swept in the Finals by Detroit.

Two years ago, on January 2nd, 2012, the two teams met in another NHL centerpiece game, the 2012 NHL Winter Classic. Played outdoors at Citizens Bank Park, the Rangers prevailed in a 3-2 game. Perhaps just as entertaining, especially for the fans, was the 3-1 victory for the Flyers in the “Alumni Game” featuring an outstanding performance by 66-year old Flyers goaltending legend Bernie Parent.

Whether it has been Bobby Clarke vs Brad Park in 1974, or Mark Howe vs John Vanbiesbrouck in 1986, or Eric Lindros vs Wayne Gretzky in 1997, the Flyers-Rangers battles have often been important, highlighted by the ever-present Philly-New York rivalry born of the two cities passionate fans living less than a hundred miles and less than a 2-hour drive from one another.

Tonight, it will be Game 7 of the 2014 NHL Playoffs opening round. One team will emerge victorious and advance to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the next round, taking a step forward in the battle for the Stanley Cup. For the loser, the season will end abruptly. They will pack up and head home tomorrow. We don’t know which team that will be, but we do already know the picture of how it will all end: as is unique to the NHL, it will end with the Flyers and Rangers shaking hands at center ice.

What is a Saint, and Who Goes to Heaven?

This past weekend, the Catholic Church enjoyed a rare celebration of the canonization of two of it’s former leaders, John XXIII (pictured) and John Paul II. In the ceremony, both men were recognized and publicly proclaimed as saints.

We understand that sainthood for an individual bestows upon them some special designation and title, but do you really understand what makes someone a saint?

Have you ever considered the question for yourself: could I be a saint? Could someone you know, or have known, in your life be a saint?

The answer to that question leads to an even bigger one, so let’s answer it quickly and get on to that bigger question. Yes, you may be a saint. Yes, you may have known saints during your life, personally and intimately. In fact, I am quite sure that every single human life is touched by saints on a regular basis.

The difference between those formally proclaimed as a “saint” by the Church and the ones that most of us encounter in our daily lives is in the process of formal recognition and proclamation, as well as the degree in which they served God during their lifetime.

Canonization recognizes that a particular individual lived life with an exceptional degree of holiness, and is thus worthy of higher honor, emulation, and veneration.

In Catholic as well as in Orthodox teaching, any Christian in heaven is actually considered to be a saint. So yes, you indeed can one day be a saint, and many whom you have loved were and are indeed saints.

What we know about those who are canonized is that careful scrutinizing of their lives revealed their holiness, and we are assured that these individuals are indeed in heaven, and thus closer to God. Their prayers on our behalf will surely reach His ears.

And there is the rub. We are now assured that both John XXIII and John Paul II are indeed in heaven, with the Lord. We know this about every other person ever formally canonized as a saint. But do we know this about our loved ones? Are we assured for ourselves that we will indeed one day also be in heaven with the Lord, living in glory as a saint?

Is every Pope who ever served the Church now living as a saint in heaven? That seems hardly likely, given any understanding of history. We know for sure that some are, but some just as likely are not. The same can be said of our own loved ones.

An honest answer to that question by any considerate person has to be “no”, there no such guarantees. Most importantly, an examination of the path to heaven, and thus the path to sainthood, leaves us with a simple but difficult truth to accept: we have no way of truly knowing for sure whether, or which among them, our loved ones actually are in heaven.

Just last May, Pope Francis restated a very emphatic position of the Church, that all people have been redeemed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, not just Christians. This includes atheists, radical Islamists, Jews, agnostics, cafeteria Catholics, Buddhists. Everyone. Whatever spiritual or religious label you can place upon another person or yourself. Or none. You have been redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ.

However, as the Pope went on to explain, whomever you are, whatever you personally believe, you must do good. In Francis’ own words: “The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart, do good and do not do evil. All of us.

Francis was challenged on the issue of atheists, and further responded: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, with the Blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!” Pressed on the atheists, he continued: “Even the atheists. Everyone!” Francis is simply restating an ages old Christian doctrine. As stated by Saint Paul in his ‘First Letter to Timothy’: Jesus gave himself “as a ransom for all.

Our entry into heaven will ultimately be judged upon what we knew and what we did with that knowledge. Those who know of Jesus Christ, but choose to reject Him and live a life filled with sin have a difficult path. Those who know Him, claim to believe and follow Him, but live their lives in a manner frequently inconsistent with those alleged beliefs tred on unstable ground.

The most sure way to heaven is to accept the gift of Jesus Christ, of his sacrifice on your behalf, to believe in Him, and to then do good in your life in that knowledge. Do good as Jesus did good. Simply doing good without such belief is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. It makes your path that much more difficult.

What we must be willing to accept is that we simply do not know, and have no way of knowing while on this earth, what our loved ones did with their own lives before they left us. We do not know what they truly believed in their hearts. We do not know exactly what they did with their lives in action. We do not know what they did with their sin.

Catholic teaching tells us that sin has a life of it’s own, and may have bad effects even after the sinner repents. Such repentance includes not just sorrow at having sinned, and a desire to be free of the spiritual and emotional burdens it has created, but also true repentance includes a desire to repair the damage done by one’s sins. Whether you confessed and repented or not, what have you done to repair the damage done by your sins?

Right now, at this stage of your existence, you can do two things. First, you can change your own life. If you are reading this article, then you are aware of Jesus Christ. Accept his sacrifice on the cross for your sins. Acknowledge his love for you. Embrace your own cross. Confess your sins, do repentance, change your life, do good. Pray for your deceased loved ones, that they may reach heaven, since you do not know their ultimate fate.

We can use the lives of those who have been canonized, those such as Saint John XXIII and John Paul II, as an example of how to live our own lives. They are truly saints, with God in heaven. They not only talked the talk while here on earth, but they walked the walk. It is important that you do both, talk and walk properly in your life. That is the path most likely to lead you to heaven, to achieve your own sainthood. God bless you on your journey.

What’s Wrong With Donald Sterling?

For those who may have been hiding in a cave, or vacationing out in the woods, and not had access to public information over the last few days, the picture on the left and comments regarding same have been causing quite a controversy.

While the title of this article is “What’s Wrong With Donald Sterling?“, Mr. Sterling himself is not even in that picture. It is actually a picture of basketball legend and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson, surrounded on the left by Rachel Rodriguez and on the right by V. Stiviano.

Ms. Stiviano happens to be the ex-girlfriend of a very wealthy 81-year old man, and that old man is the Donald Sterling in question. He is the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA, and he was none too pleased, despite having a decades-long friendship with Magic, to learn that Stiviano had posted this picture to her Instagram account.

Now for those of you still behind the times, Instagram is yet another social media site, a place where folks post up pictures. What makes Instagram unique is that it has a variety of editing tools to give your photos a unique look and feel, such as the old-time look you might find in boardwalk 1800’s-era pics, or turning color pics into black and white. The site also allows you to share the pics easily to other social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Stiviano apparently had the pic snapped months ago at a 2013 Dodgers game, but just recently posted it to her Instragram, along with another of her posing with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, also a black man. Apparently a friend of Sterling saw the pictures and told him about them. This prompted Sterling to confront Stiviano in a conversation that was recorded by her, in which he demonstrated quite obviously the answer to the question posed by this article.

What’s wrong with Donald Sterling? The answer is fairly easy: he is a racist. We are talking separate drinking fountains, separate bathrooms, have them sit in the back of the bus racist. Because while publicly he has glad-handed black people, donated larges sums of money to black charities, and even received awards from black organizations, deep in his heart he simply feels they are inferior. Why else would he make the comments that he made to Stiviano?

In the conversation, Sterling asks “Why are you taking pictures with minorities?” When Stiviano, of black Latino heritage herself, questions this concern, Sterling replies “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo…broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” He goes on to say that she doesn’t have to “..have yourself with, walking with black people” and specifically states that he doesn’t want her bringing Johnson to the Clippers games as well.

Besides the obvious problems with these statements, they are completely ironic, as Sterling has owned the Clippers since 1981, and the overwhelming majority of the team’s players over those three decades have been black players. In fact, the NBA itself, in which he is one of only a few dozen owners, features blacks as an overwhelming majority of it’s overall player base. So Sterling has had no problem with employing blacks, or making money from the performance of black athletes.

Of course, Sterling, through others (he has not publicly responded himself yet) is circling the wagons. He alleges that Stiviano embezzled nearly $2 million from him during the relationship, that she stated she would “get even” with him, and of course there is the whole matter of her taping this conversation to begin with.

Sterling, by the way, is married. Has been for 50 years. His wife filed a lawsuit in March which states that Stiviano met Sterling at the 2010 Super Bowl and began having an affair with him. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mrs. Sterling alleges in her suit that he used community property to buy Stiviano “a 2012 Ferrari, two Bentleys and a 2013 Range Rover“, worth over half a million dollars all together. The suit also alleges that he gave Stiviano nearly $2 million to purchase a duplex near the Beverly Center, a major LA shopping mall, last year, and has provided her with nearly a quarter of a million dollars in upkeep and living expenses.

As the relationship between Sterling and Stiviano has apparently finally begun unwinding in recent months, there have been a series of lawsuits and public comments. Who knows the nature of the relationship between Sterling and Stiviano behind closed doors? However, anyone with two eyes and half a brain can take a look at the old man worth a fortune, the 20-something bikini model, and add it up to the typical gold digger getting whatever she can from a rich, old man. And also, a rich old man getting whatever he can from a bikini model thanks to his wealth. It’s a very old story.

However, while much is wrong with Donald Sterling using his wealth in this manner, and much is wrong with V. Stiviano using her feminine charms in this manner, those are basically character flaws. The problem that has emerged thanks to the recording is a deeper one, the problem of racism.

That any human being, wealthy or not, has a problem with their close friends, even their intimate relationship partners, simply being seen in public, posing for innocent pictures, posting those on social media, and in general simply associating with members of any minority racial, ethnic, or religious community is appalling.

Why would Donald Sterling, or anyone else of that matter, care at all that V. Stiviano or any other human being is posing for pictures at a ball game with a black celebrity, an Asian fan, a Hispanic ballplayer, or any other human being who is from any non-white background?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am far from naive. We all have our prejudices. We all have our faults. But if you ever see a friend or family member hanging out with someone of another race, posting pictures with friends of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, or engaging in a relationship with someone of another race and actually feel something offensive inside, then the problem is with you, not with them.

And this problem is not going to go away simply with a bunch of lectures from public figures, or with any amount of blog articles. It is going to lessen only when the great majority of people in every single race, ethnicity, and religion stop looking at others with a label, and start looking at each person as an individual human being.

What’s wrong with Donald Sterling? Frankly, a lot of things. But most certainly that he is a racist. And guess what? News flash: he is far from the only one out here. And that number does not only include whites, it includes members of every racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual background that you can name. Judge Donald Sterling properly, as he deserves. And then when you are done, take a moment, and take an honest look at yourself as well.

Book Review: Killing Jesus

A few months ago, I finished reading Bill O’Reilly‘s outstanding work “Killing Lincoln” about the assassination of the 16th President of the United States and the events surrounding and leading up to that event.

The book was so well written and informative that it inspired me to purchase for my Kindle his other two similar books: “Killing Kennedy“, about the assassination of our 35th President of the US, and “Killing Jesus“, about the events surrounding our Lord’s death.

I held off actually reading “Killing Jesus” until this time of year, the time surrounding those actual events. Today is Holy Thursday, when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Tomorrow is Good Friday, when he was nailed to a cross and died for our sins. And then, of course, Sunday is Easter, when he rose again.

But O’Reilly does the subject a most honorable turn. Despite his own Roman Catholic upbringing, and that of his co-writer, Martin Dugard, he does not approach the matter of Jesus’ death, and all of the events leading up to that event, from a religious or spiritual standpoint. Instead, as with Lincoln and Kennedy, he takes a purely historical look at the events.

O’Reilly and Dugard have taken the telling of these types of important events, the untimely murder of the most important figures in history, and made them completely accessible at every level. They do this with an almost conversational tone to the story-telling, mixing in the necessary known and verifiable facts with other discernible information based on the times of the events.

The end result, in “Killing Jesus” (and “Killing Lincoln“, for that matter) is a book that is well written, easily understood, and that stands on it’s own as an important new resource for anyone that has any interest in the topic. And who can say that they have any interest in human history without being interested in Jesus?

Whether you are one of the billions on the planet who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, who came to free us all from our sins, as I believe, or you are a complete atheist, one thing that you cannot deny and remain credible is that Jesus did indeed live, and that his teaching has indeed had a profound effect on human history.

As O’Reilly puts it in his introductory ‘Note to Readers’:
To say that Jesus of Nazareth was the most influential man who ever lived is almost trite. Nearly two thousand years after he was brutally executed by Roman soldiers, more than 2.2 billion human beings attempt to follow his teachings and believe he is God: That includes 77 percent of the U.S. population, according to a Gallup Poll. The teachings of Jesus have shaped the world and continue to do so.

I am in the midst of reading this book now, at Easter time, and should be finished over the weekend itself. I can already say that I highly recommend it to true believers, as well as to simple fans of history. It is, at the very least, a great story of an important world figure who lived during a most interesting time for humanity – the Roman Empire era.

I have a number of books lined up for reading on my Kindle once finished this excellent read. After his treatments of Lincoln and Jesus, I am absolutely now looking forward to reading the Kennedy book. That sound like a great one to put off, however, for the fall, as the 51st anniversary of JFK’s own assassination rolls around come November.

Miniumum Wage: Be Careful What You Wish For…You Just Might Get It

Democrats, led by President Obama, are trying to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour up to $10.10 per hour. Many Republicans have come out against such an increase.

Efforts such as raising the minimum wage are attempted, not to help the poor or middle-class, but to wage (pun intended) a continuing political and ideological war within the United States of America. It’s not about compassion. It’s about power, plain and simple.

Democrats believe that their continued, traditional use of buzzwords and terms such as “living wage”, “fairness”, and “equity” will keep certain segments of the population voting their way in elections. They count on it to keep them in power. Their main carrot to garner and control these votes is the oldest in the book: they pay for them.

Many people want, and a surprising number of people even expect, something for nothing. They feel that government owes them something, including money, food, medicine, transportation, and much more, with nothing expected in return. This is the mentality behind the support for a raise in the minimum wage.

Now supporters of that effort will try to sell you that such an increase will help everyone. That minimum wage earners are helped by making more money. And other workers will then have their own wages also raised to keep them ahead of these entry-level and lesser-skilled workers.

Frankly, that is a farce. What does indeed happen when wages are artificially, forcibly increased is that companies cut back and/or raise prices. They hire fewer people, meaning less opportunity. They raise prices on their goods, meaning more money out of the pockets of those who just had their wages artificially raised.

No company is just going to accept any increase, be it in forced wage increases, greater taxes, or anything else, without eventually passing that increase on to it’s customers. Forcing wages up artificially means that we will all pay more. Meanwhile, fewer jobs will be available for that lesser skilled workforce.

President Obama and his Dem cronies will try to tell you that the minimum wage needs to be raised to $10.10 per hour in order for Americans to meet their vision of a certain standard of living. They say that it will be good for everyone. But they ignore a fundamental flaw in their argument.

If $10.10 per hour is good for Americans, why not $11 per hour? Why not $15 per hour? Heck, why not a minimum wage of $25 per hour? If minimum wage workers earned much more, wouldn’t they spend more, helping the economy more? Why is $10.10 just right?

They stop at $10.10 per hour because it is a figure at which their own studies have shown that business will take the increase with a minimum of job cutbacks. There will still be cutbacks, layoffs, and other ramifications. But they will be minimal when compared to the expected political gain of tens of millions flocking to the polls on the Dems behalf.

Meanwhile, back at the minimum wage worker home, many of those actual workers will be losing their jobs, rather than ever seeing that increase. Companies will simply make due with fewer employees. Sure, some workers pay will increase. But how does that help the individuals trying to get a start, or supplement an income, or pay for school books, who once had a $7 per hour job and now have none?

When Democrats pass programs that increase handouts, giveaways, and other “benefits”, their supporters seem to think that it will be the “wealthy corporations”, the “rich”, the “well off”, who will be paying. But what the Dem politicians, labor leaders, and others will never tell them is the truth.

The truth is that every time the government spends more money, something has to give, and that something will be a hit to every single consumer and American worker’s pocketbook. Every time the government forces economic sanctions on the economy, something has to give, and that something is usually jobs.

Every family is hurt by increased prices, higher taxes, fewer jobs. Those are the ultimate prices of forcing changes on the American economy such as an increase in the minimum wage.

Now, am I against people making more money? Absolutely not. Stay in school. Don’t waste your life. Be willing to work hard for minimal pay when young. Get more education, in a field where opportunities are expected to be available. Be flexible in life, willing to go where the opportunities are located. Do not depend longterm on a minimum wage job as the primary source of income for you and/or your family and expect to support cable TV, cellphones, and restaurants.

Minimum wage jobs were not created for, and have never been intended as, the primary lifetime career of the principle wage earner in a family. They were intended for young people just starting out in the work force, for retirees looking to supplement pensions, for management trainees looking to gain boots-on-the-ground experience.

If the federal minimum wage is raised, it will result in fewer jobs, greater unemployment. It will result in higher prices to those who do indeed get to keep their job with that increased wage. Those who want the minimum wage raised should be very, very careful. They just might get what they want. That is going to be very different than what they believe, and what they are being sold by lying politicians.