Book Review: “Pujols: More Than the Game” by Tim Ellsworth and Scott Lamb

In a day when heroes seem hard to find in the sports world, in the words of ESPN college football personality Lee Corso, Tim Ellsworth and Scott Lamb say, “Not so fast my friend” in their biography of three-time National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols, Pujols: More Than the Game.

Beginning with his humble beginnings in the Dominican Republic, the authors chronicle Pujols’s migration to America and to the game of baseball, which, as Ellsworth and Lamb point out, is the real religion of Pujols’s native land. But the book is more than a history of his life and his baseball career, although the baseball fan will not be disappointed by how much of the sport is discussed. Beyond that, however, the authors set out to show that Pujols is more than just the guy we see nightly on SportsCenter from April to October. He is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many athletes appeal to God, but all too often their lives don’t match up with those emotional acclamations of praise to the Creator. Pujols is different. Being led to the Lord by, Deidre, the woman who would become his wife, Pujols approaches the Christian faith like he approaches the game of baseball: all out. From seeking out ways to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with teammates to showing uncustomary concern for injured players (and even fans) to starting a foundation with his wife to express their faith in helping people, particularly those with Down Syndrome and orphans in the DR, Pujols is shown by the authors to be someone who is an authentic Christian.

Much like the Scriptures do not attempt to hide the faults of heroes of the faith like Abraham, Moses, David, or Peter, Ellsworth and Lamb do not attempt to hide the faults of the man nicknamed “The Machine.” Pujols is a sinner saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. At the risk of repeating a cliched bumper sticker, Pujols is not perfect, just forgiven, and that clearly has had ramifications for the way he has lived his life.

Baseball fans rightly lament the fact so many “heroes” of the game have fallen in what has been dubbed “the steroid era.” Pujols has always denied using these drugs and no one has ever brought forth any accusations with any meat on the bones. The authors make a case why we should trust Pujols, with few of their reasons based on the lack of evidence, but most based on how his faith in Jesus Christ is clearly demonstrated in his life.

At the end of the book this reader is thankful that it really seems when Pujols says, “Don’t be afraid to believe in me,” we know that is based on his own personal faith in Christ, and we can believe.

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Rooney’s bicycle as good a goal as you’ll see

If you haven’t seen this on SportsCenter yet, here is one of the best goals you’ll ever see. Wayne Rooney with a bicycle kick on a ball in by Nani to give Manchester United a 2-1 lead over in-town rivals Manchester City today at Old Trafford. The win practically eliminates Man City from any meaningful hope of winning the Premier League, and maintains Man U’s nice little cushion over Arsenal.

If you haven’t seen this on SportsCenter yet, here is one of the best goals you’ll ever see. Wayne Rooney with a bicycle kick on a ball in by Nani to give Manchester United a 2-1 lead over in-town rivals Manchester City today at Old Trafford. The win practically eliminates Man City from any meaningful hope of winning the Premier League, and maintains Man U’s nice little cushion over Arsenal.

NOTE: I had a video attached but apparently the Premier League isn’t too keen on YouTube highlights. Find the video. It’s worth it.

Best teams not to win it all… plus my Super Bowl pick

I haven’t blessed you with a sports post in a while, but was inspired tonight by the NFL Network’s presentation of the “Top 10 Teams That Didn’t Win the Super Bowl.” This is right up my alley. I like debates. I like the Super Bowl. I like “What if” arguments. I like trying to figure out who the best really is. So what I’m going to do is give you my list of the best ten teams that didn’t win the Super Bowl. This will include Super Bowl losers and others that came short of making the big game. Then, a quick critique of the NFL Network’s list. Then, finally, my Super Bowl pick, which I’m sure you are just dying to see.

I haven’t blessed you with a sports post in a while, but was inspired tonight by the NFL Network’s presentation of the “Top 10 Teams That Didn’t Win the Super Bowl.” This is right up my alley. I like debates. I like the Super Bowl. I like “What if” arguments. I like trying to figure out who the best really is. So what I’m going to do is give you my list of the best ten teams that didn’t win the Super Bowl. This will include Super Bowl losers and others that came short of making the big game. Then, a quick critique of the NFL Network’s list. Then, finally, my Super Bowl pick, which I’m sure you are just dying to see.

10. 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) – I know. How can I even bother to rank a team that lost five games and even started off 1-4? Here’s how? They were the two-time defending champions and opened the year with a loss to rival Oakland in Oakland. They lost to the Patriots, who should’ve been in the AFC Championship Game that year, and also at Minnesota, which would go to the Super Bowl. The Steelers ended up winning their last nine regular season games and blew out the Colts 40-14 in the playoffs. But they had to go back to Oakland for the AFC Championship with Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier both sidelined, and they lost. But the “Steel Curtain” had it’s best year in 1976, ranking first in least points (138, less than ten per game) and least yards allowed. If they had been healthy at the end they might have three-peated. They had a bumpy start to the year, but they are still one of the ten best teams not to win the Super Bowl. Continue reading “Best teams not to win it all… plus my Super Bowl pick”

The 20 best NFL players ever

I love rankings. I’m a sucker for them. So when The NFL Network began airing a series on the Top 100 Greatest NFL Players of All Time I was in. The series has been very good thus far, perhaps only falling short of the America’s Game series and the old Super Bowl highlight shows up until the mid-80s. Ten players are covered each week and they are “introduced” by someone else, like a celebrity, a former or current player or coach, or perhaps even a personality from another sport. It serves as a good introduction to some of the old players for fans today who are not students of the sport’s history.

There are two episodes remaining. Twenty players to go. You can see the list as it stands right here. Later on you’ll be to click there and, presumably, see if what I’m about to do is close to right.

Here is who I think the NFL Network is going to deem the top 20 players of all time. I feel pretty confident that the twenty I have here are the ones they’ll reveal. I’ve listed them in the order I think they’ll reveal them. Comments are free. Continue reading “The 20 best NFL players ever”

The greatest team of the Super Bowl era is…

File this under “Things I do while the two oldest children are playing nicely and Liz has the two little ones at the doctor.” Today I browsed over to whatifsports.com and decided to do something a little insane; namely, try to figure out who the greatest pro football team of the Super Bowl era was.

I took the 44 Super Bowl champions and split them into four 11-team divisions. The winners of Super Bowls I-XI were one, XII-XXII another, XXIII-XXXIII a third, and XXXIV-XLIV the fourth. Each team played a double round-robin, with each team getting a home game against a division opponent. I did this by plugging them into simulated matchups on the web site, so an objective source picked all of the winners. Then, the top three finishers in each division made it to the playoffs. Division winners got an automatic top four seed in the playoffs and a first round bye. The eight second and third place finishers faced off in the first round. Finally, the two last teams met. What happened? Who’s the greatest team? Read on and find out… Continue reading “The greatest team of the Super Bowl era is…”

The Five Dumbest Rules in Sports

I love sports, but no sport is perfect in its rules and definitely not in how it enforces its rules. Here are my thoughts on the five dumbest rules in sports. What are yours?

5. NFL’s tuck rule – I can’t stand the Raiders, but that was a fumble.

4. Shootouts in soccer – Penalty kicks are great for drama and should be a part of normal game play, but deciding the winner of a big game with a part of the game where the goalkeeper is at such a disadvantage is ridiculous. Play the 15 minute periods of extra time, then go into sudden death, or as it was called during the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, the “golden goal.”

3. NFL’s End Zone and Sideline Reception rules – I submit to you Calvin Johnson’s “non-catch” from Week 1 against the Bears less than two weeks ago. Did he have possession of the ball? Was he down and did he have possession of the ball? Was the ball across the plane of the goal line? Yes, yes, and yes. Just a dumb rule all around.

2. College football’s down by nothing – In the NFL if you make a great play but happen to hit the ground, without getting downed by contact, you can get up and keep going. In college football you can make a great catch in space, but if your knee just so happens to kiss a blade of grass you are down. How many more game breaking plays would there be if this stupid rule were changed to match the NFL’s rule, that you have to be downed by contact?

1. NFL Overtime – I really don’t care that they’ve changed it so that both teams get possession now. It’s better than sudden death, it amounts to being “sudden death or the first team to five points” but it’s still dumb. I say play an entire fifth quarter and if it’s a tie, then that’s what it is. Obviously, in the playoffs, after the first overtime you could do sudden death, but that wouldn’t be a problem. I think America’s supposed disdain for ties that has brought about the current system(s) has taken a bit of strategy away from the game, to its detriment.