Are You Ready For Some Futbol?

The English Premier League has started up once again and it’s time to see who will be the best England has to offer this year. The regular season kicked off on August 16 and so far, eight teams have come away with victories on their first fixture. The biggest upset of the weekend was Swansea City taking down Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford. It was not a good start for new United coach Louis Van Gaal. It was Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea who broke the hearts of United fans. After this devastating loss, we will have to see if Gaal’s team can bounce back Sunday against Sunderland.

One of the most recent transfers coming to the Premier League this year is Italian youngster Mario Balotelli. The spontaneous striker will be leaving AC Milan and joining Liverpool, a team that already has a superstar forward in Daniel Sturridge, who was second in goals last season with 21. Balotelli won’t play in the big match-up this Monday against Manchester City, but he will definitely be ready to play August 30 against Stoke City. This will be the 24-year-old’s second stint in the Premier League, after playing for Manchester City from 2010-2013, scoring 20 goals in 54 appearances. Last season, Balotelli scored 26 goals in just 43 appearances. Liverpool fans hope that he will bring even more success to a team that finished second last year in the league behind Manchester City.

Speaking of Manchester City, the former league leaders will look to continue their success on the pitch with superstars like Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, and Sergio Aguero. All three of those players were in the top six last year in scoring. Manager Manuel Pellegrini did a great job in his first season with the team last year and if he continues to coach them the way he has, this team will continue to find success. With most of their star players returning, this looks like the team to beat this year once again.

In his first season as manager, Manuel Pellegrini led Manchester City to the league title with a record of 27-6-5. Credit: www.independent.co.uk
In his first season as manager, Manuel Pellegrini led Manchester City to the league title with a record of 27-6-5.
Credit: http://www.independent.co.uk

As for Arsenal, they could not find a way to finish out strong last season. With a chance to win the league last year, they dropped below Chelsea and Liverpool, but played well enough to move past Everton and finished fourth in the league. Now more pressure has been added on to this team with rumors of superstar midfielder Jack Wilshere being transfer listed. He is a remarkable young talent with a lot of promise. If Arsenal loses him, it will continue to tarnish their reputation as a selling club rather than a buying club, which is what you need to be in order to win in the big leagues. Arsenal will face Everton tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.

Favorites have already been picked for this season and teams are focusing in on their targets. There will be joy and there will be heartbreaks. But that’s just soccer.

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Christian Athlete of the Week: Jason Witten

Although I am not a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I am a fan of Jason Witten and what he does off the field. The 32-year-old tight end has had a spectacular career in the NFL and is one of the most reliable players on the Cowboys’ offense. Witten is not only a good player on the field, but a good person off of it. The Cowboys’ all-time receptions leader launched the SCORE Foundation to provide support and assistance for families and individuals affected by domestic violence. His Christian faith is a strong part of his life and he shares more about it in this video:

Witten started out as a young man from Vienna, Virginia who loved football. He played at the University of Tennessee and became a prolific pass catcher after starting out as defensive end his freshman year. Witten was drafted in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, but didn’t start until 2004 where he caught 87 passes for 980 yards and six touchdowns. It was clear afterwards that Witten was going to be a special player.

He has had four 1,000 yard seasons and holds the NFL-record for most catches by a tight end in a single season when he caught 110 back in 2012. Witten currently has 879 receptions for 9,799 yards and 52 touchdowns. After 11 years in the league, Witten feels like he can still produce.

Witten’s story and background is also something worth mentioning. His father was an alcoholic and Witten’s mom decided to move herself and her three sons out of the house and into her parents’ house in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Through his grandparents, Witten learned about Christ and during a Fellowship of Christian Athletes retreat in Nashville, Witten ended up giving his life to Christ.

“That’s when I understood what life is all about,” Witten said. (Credit: FCA.org)

David Shivers, the Dallas Cowboys’ chaplain and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, talked about Witten’s demeanor when he’s not playing football.

“Jason is a solid, well-grounded, godly man,” said Shivers. “He loves people and loves the Lord and has the desire to honor Jesus with his skills on and off the field.”

Although Witten is not very public with his faith as well as other athletes, he lets his actions do the talking for him. He has put up great numbers and continues to serve his local community with great love and passion for those around him. I respect this man very much and that’s hard for me to say about a Cowboys’ player. 

 

Kevin Love is Traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers

The NBA got a lot more interesting after a big trade earlier this morning. The Minnesota Timberwolves sent All-Star Power Forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in an exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a 2015 1st-round pick. It looks like the Cavaliers are looking to win now rather than try to build a franchise team by trading away two of their first overall picks. Wiggins was this year’s first overall pick and was looking to be an apprentice under the mentorship of King James. However, LeBron James is looking for another ring, meaning that Wiggins is out of the picture. Wiggins will have a lot of fun developing with Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio, who is rising as a dynamic play-maker in the NBA.

As for Anthony Bennett, he looked like a bust last year so his departure wasn’t much of a surprise. It looks like the Cavaliers do not have the patience to watch him develop into a great player. Now this guy will definitely get a shot in Minnesota, seeing that Kevin Love was their only talented big man on the roster.

Speaking of Love, he will enjoy great success in Cleveland. The Cavaliers have an established backcourt with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Their small forward position is firmly in place with the return of King James and with the “Lovely” trade they made with the T-Wolves, their front court is taken care of. This blockbuster trade must have every team in the Eastern Conference shaking in their Air Jordans. With three All-Stars on one team (Irving, James and Love) it’s the Big Three all over again. This time it’s up north. LeBron will be a happy man moving forward into this season and Wiggins will have the opportunity to prove to everyone that he’s a superstar in Minnesota without having to stand in the shadow of a future Hall-of-Famer.

MLS All-Stars Defeat Bayern Munich

Last night, the best players the MLS had to offer took on Bayern Munich at Providence Park in Portland. The result was a 2-1 win by the All-Stars, taking down one of the best German club teams. Bayern scored the first goal when Robert Lewandowski scored a curving beauty from 20 yards out. But from there, the All-Stars took over the game. The MLS’ defense held strong and allowed their offense to score their first goal in the 51st minute. The league’s leading goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips made it level at 1-1 with a 20-yard strike of his own. Then, U.S. legend Landon Donovan scored a goal in the 70th minute to take the lead for the All-Stars. It was Donovan’s sixth MLS All-Star goal and his 14th straight All-Star appearance. His six goals are now most by any MLS player in an All-Star game. He also plans to retire from the world of soccer at the end of the MLS season. He had a tremendous career and will be known as one of the greatest American soccer players to ever play the game.

The ending of the All-Star game had everyone talking. After the MLS All-Stars had won, Bayern Munich’s manager, Pep Guardiola refused to shake hands with the MLS All-Star coach Caleb Porter. Instead, Coach Pep gave Coach Porter a little finger wag and that was the end of it. Apparently, Guardiola was mad about how physical the All-Stars were playing in the game and making hard, unnecessary tackles. Oh well, I know a sore loser when I see one. Just learn to accept how the game played out and move on. That’s all I have to say about that.

The MLS regular season picks up this Friday when Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy take on the San Jose Earthquakes at 10:30 p.m. Five more games will be played on Saturday and an additional three on Sunday. Week 24 of the MLS season is underway and teams are still fighting for that final playoff spot.

Paul George Injury Leaves Questions in Eastern Conference

After Paul George suffered that devastating leg injury that will keep him out for next season, the Indiana Pacers lost a valuable member of their squad. Without George, there is little hope for the Pacers’ title hopes in 2015. Although this may not take them out of the postseason just yet, let’s look at some threatening teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a favorite simply because they have LeBron James. Not only that, but they also have an All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving and a future superstar in Andrew Wiggins. However, their front court could be their ultimate downfall. The main reason why James was so successful in Miami was because he had Chris Bosh pulling in rebounds and giving him extra chances. Last year’s number one draft pick Anthony Bennett was a huge disappointment, but he is the best option for next season’s starting forward position. For center, they have Anderson Varejao and Brendan Haywood, but they are old veterans that can be reliable in all 82 games next season. Tristan Thompson would make a good fit at the power forward spot and Dion Waiters will make a great back-court player that could compliment both Irving and James. It’s mostly wait-and-see at this point for the Cavaliers.

LeBron James' return to Cleveland gives the Cavaliers the best chance for a title run next year. Credit: www.cleveland.com
LeBron James’ return to Cleveland gives the Cavaliers the best chance for a title run next year.
Credit: http://www.cleveland.com

The Chicago Bulls look to be the favorite in the East as well. They have an established coaching staff that knows how to win with low-caliber players, but this year, they get Derrick Rose back…again. If Rose can stay healthy, this Bulls team will be Cleveland’s main competition in the Central Division. They signed Pau Gasol in free agency and landed Doug McDermott in the NBA Draft. All of the pieces are there with Joakim Noah coming off a terrific year, winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. Guys like Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Ronnie Brewer will also aid Rose in chasing that elusive NBA Finals, somewhere they haven’t been since Michael Jordan led the way many years ago.

Derrick Rose looks for a breakout year. The last time he played a full season, he won the MVP averaging 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Credit: pagesix.com
Derrick Rose looks for a breakout year. The last time he played a full season, he won the MVP averaging 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Credit: pagesix.com

With the Pacers, Cavaliers and Bulls fighting for the Central Division, let’s take a look at some other potentially threatening teams in the East. The New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors will be battling for the Atlantic Division. Carmelo Anthony’s decision to return to New York will definitely give them a chance. Phil Jackson looks to make this team a consistent winner in the East and will have to go through the upstart Raptors in order to get there. The Raptors finished last season with the 3-seed in the East with a surprising 48-34 record. They did better than the Brooklyn Nets who landed a tight 44-38 finish. Coach Lionel Hollins will try to make his new Nets team a title contender this year. If he can’t get them that good in a short amount of time, the Knicks and Raptors will dominate this division.

The two most surprising teams last year were the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats. Both finished with more than 42 wins, which is saying a lot for both of these franchises. The back-court combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal will definitely keep the Wizards in the championship race, but their front court will have to play consistently well in order to compete in the division. The Bobcats are now back to being called the Hornets and hopefully this rejuvenated team will make more surprises this year. With the Miami Heat losing some firepower because of the whole Decision 2.0 fiasco, the Southeast Division is wide open for the taking. Even the Atlanta Hawks are contenders after making the playoffs last year with a losing record. You can never count out everyone  in that division. Unless you’re the Orlando Magic.

The Eastern Conference will definitely be more interesting this year and a lot more competitive. Unfortunately for the Pacers, their chance at a title shot is dampened with the George injury. Hopefully they can learn some lessons from Chicago on how to make the playoffs without your superstar player.

Christian Athlete of the Week: James Jones

James Jones is another one of those great rags-to-riches stories. Throughout his childhood, Jones had to rely on homeless shelters in San Jose, California for food and clothing. When he was seven years old, he met his father for the first time. Unfortunately, Jones’ father was a drug addict and refused to pay child support. From the age of eight to fourteen, Jones grew up in homeless shelters with his mother and sister. He was also surrounded by people who abused drugs and stole money. His future was very limited and not very assuring. At the age of 13, Jones and his mother were evicted from their one-bedroom apartment. All Jones had was a backpack and a basketball. Luckily, Jones’ mother was a beacon of hope for this young man’s life.

 

Jones’ mother, Janet, took her two children, Desiree and James, to a shelter when she couldn’t stay at a friend’s or relative’s house. The Jones family lived in shelters four times, sometimes for five months at a time. Jones moved so much as a child he went to seven different elementary schools. He sometimes took special education courses to keep up academically. While Jones was at school, his mother would take the bus to work and they would meet back at the homeless shelter every night. This went on for what seemed like an eternity.

“I saw how strong my mother was just to keep on,” Jones said. “She worked so hard with nothing. She tried to get a job here, a job there. I saw how hard she worked. I would never let my mother down. I would do anything to make her happy, and what made her happy was me going to school and staying out of trouble.” (Credit: JSOnline.com)

As a young boy, Jones was tempted to do things he knew God wouldn’t want him to do. Living in a bad neighborhood, Jones made friends with thugs, drug dealers and burglars. Somehow someway, Jones held strong to his mother’s beliefs and he stuck close to her rather than falling prey to the ways of the world.

After Jones went to go live with his grandmother during high school, his athletic talents were presented on display. He was one of the best players on the Gunderson High School basketball team, but his play at wide receiver, quarterback and safety on the football team was what the college prospects were really impressed with. The athletic high school superstar went to San Jose State University where he caught 125 passes for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns in 35 games.

From there, Jones was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft.  He was a part of the Packer’s Super Bowl winning team and back on March 17, he signed a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders. His past did not determine his future as he held strong to his faith and believed in the hope of God through seeing his mother and what she accomplished.

Now, Jones has decided to help out the ones who used to be in his position. He partners with a homeless shelter in Green Bay called Freedom House. For the past four years, Jones has donated to this shelter and has provided for those in need. He also helps out disadvantaged children through his other foundation “Love Jones for Kids.”

Jones’ story proves that everyone can make it. No matter where you come from and no matter what kind of environment you grew up in, you can escape it through the power of Jesus Christ. Jones knows that God doesn’t put any obstacle in his path that he can’t handle. Jones was able to escape poverty and is now making millions in the NFL. It just goes to show that as long as you put your faith in God, He will bless you in due time.