By DERON SNYDER
Praise is what Bishop William Murphy III does.
But it hasn’t always come easy.
There were days when he didn’t want to wake up. Nights when he wondered if he’d ever see his children again. Moments when he figured he was worth more to his family dead than alive.
But he soon realized that God’s presence is the safest place to be, and praising Him is the quickest route to that destination. He found his way back after remembering that “if you worship Him in spirit and truth, He’ll never deny you.”
That sentiment led Bishop Murphy to write “Praise is What I Do,” which became an international anthem in 2001 and catapulted him to the forefront of gospel music. It turns out that one of his darkest moments created inspiration for the song.
“I got divorced,” he said shortly before his Father’s Day concert at First Baptist Church of Glenarden (Md.), (where he had to sit at times due to knee surgery following a recent car accident). “My wife left me and took my two sons. … I had pretty much convinced myself – or the devil had talked me into believing – that my ministry was over. Nobody wanted to hear me preach or sing anymore.
“I said to God, ‘Maybe I can go back to school and try to get a job or do something and I’ll figure out a way to survive and support my two sons,’” he said. “And one day in worship, trying to find my way back from a devastating season and just in God’s presence, I finally accepted the fact that praise is what I do and I couldn’t go get a 9-to-5. I tried and it didn’t work.
“Praise is what I do and that became my mantra. It became my heart’s cry.”
Bishop Murphy’s heart could’ve been stopped in the womb. Born to unmarried teenagers, a 15-year-old mother and a 17-year-old father who didn’t get along, he easily could have become another statistic. But his mother carried the pregnancy to term. His father – like his father before him – went on to become a pastor.
By DERON SNYDER
Life is better with options and it couldn’t be much better for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. They wrested control and leverage from management in an industry where labor typically has little.
Pro athletes in major team sports have no say in choosing their first employer, as 60 young men will experience firsthand Thursday night in the NBA Draft. They often play no role in deciding if and where they’re traded. They’re expected to treat loyalty as a two-way street, though teams can erect “Do Not Enter” signs at any point, especially in the twilight of a career.
Don’t get me wrong; I’d sign up for that deal in a heartbeat. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Americans with bachelor’s degrees can expect $2.1 million in earnings during their working life.
So, yes, being a pro athlete for even a few years would be awesome.
Being in James’ or Anthony’s position would be even sweeter.
By exercising the early-out option in their contracts with Miami and New York, respectively, James and Anthony essentially become assistant general managers any for interested teams. They will ask questions and their opinions will carry weight with teams that are anxious to sign them.
Which other free agents are you pursuing? Which veterans are you retaining? Which players are you dangling as trade bait?
Special bonus question for the Lakers: Who’s going to be the coach?
Some observers grumble about players having that much influence. But it’s called “star power” for a reason. Keeping them happy – whether it’s James and Anthony, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout or Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III – can go a long way toward keeping them in your uniform.
While I love the fact that James and Anthony took charge of their own destiny, another aspect of their decision is equally appealing.
The NBA offseason became a lot more interesting, filled with drama, suspense and intrigue that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Imagine how dull it would be if James and Anthony turned down their shot at free agency.
By DERON SNYDER
Every 48 months, certain events produce a fever-like rise in interest among the general populace.
Olympiads create passionate enthusiasts of figure skating, swimming and track & field. Presidential elections lead to exponential increases in the number of people enthralled by politics. Leap years send people scurrying for primers on numerology and the Gregorian calendar.
And the World Cup generates extraordinary affection for soccer.
For four weeks (even with the inevitable dip when the United States is eliminated), headers, corner kicks and equalizers are mentioned in a high percentage of sports conversations. Folks who don’t know the difference between yellow cards and green cards become temporary soccer buffs every four years, like clockwork.
I am one. And I am not ashamed.
Diehard fans know the biggest international stars and the most-promising domestic players. They follow the English Premier League, the Champions League and Major League Soccer. They can hold in-depth discussion on different styles of play and tactical strategies, including the pros and cons of using solo attackers versus a duo.
That’s not the case for Johnny-come-latelies and Mary-just-got-heres. We embrace “the beautiful game” momentarily and then proceed with our soccer-free lives until the next World Cup rolls around.
But even with that lack of background and knowledge, our emotional deposits can match any true believer.
By DERON SNYDER
One of my best memories in more than 25 years as a journalist has nothing to do with the Super Bowls, World Series or NCAA tournaments that I’ve been privileged to cover.
It doesn’t involve the Rose, Sugar, Orange or Fiesta bowls. It isn’t the Kentucky Derby, NBA All-Star Game or PGA events with Tiger Woods. It didn’t take place at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium.
All of those were tremendous, unforgettable experiences. But another recollection that stands out is going to Tony Gwynn’s house.
I was in San Diego on assignment for USA Today Baseball Weekly in the mid-90s. Gwynn wasn’t the subject of my story but an incredible opportunity presented itself via a friend, veteran Southern Cal journalist Brad Turner, who was at the ballpark. A San Diego State alum like Gwynn, Turner was buddies with the eight-time batting champion.
He asked if I was interested in accompanying him to Gwynn’s house that evening. Duh, of course! He got Gwynn’s OK and I was there several hours later. I met Gwynn’s lovely wife, Alicia, marveled at his impressive memorabilia collection and engaged in a leisurely conversation with one of baseball’s greatest hitters ever. It made for a nice story.
I can’t remember if he dipped tobacco that evening.
Now that he’s dead from oral cancer at 54, I wish baseball had banned the practice during his 20-year Hall of Fame career.
Baseball took small steps but came up short when it signed its current labor agreement with the players’ union in 2011. The measures were largely cosmetic, mandating that smokeless tobacco be kept out of view from fans and TV cameras. That’s why we no longer see those easy-to-distinguish cans in back pockets.
But when it came to banning the product altogether – which has been the case in the minor leagues since 1993 – the union objected. Instead, it agreed to mandatory oral exams during spring training, as well as an extensive education campaign and cessation support system.
I can imagine how some of those exams go:
By DERON SNYDER
In the end, R.C. Buford was way better than Pat Riley. Their matchup was more lopsided than the last three games in the NBA Finals.
Riley would win soundly in a popularity contest. Many NBA fans don’t know what Buford does for a living and most couldn’t identify him in a lineup.
He didn’t play for the legendary Adolph Rupp at Kentucky or come off the bench (and guard Jerry West in practice) for the Los Angeles Lakers. He didn’t coach the “Showtime” Lakers to four NBA titles or lead the New York Knicks to their first Finals’ in two decades.
And he certainly didn’t build the Miami Heat into a championship team, first by drafting Dwyane Wade and trading for Shaquille O’Neal, later by luring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach to join Wade.
While Riley was becoming a fashion icon and celebrity coach-turned-executive, Buford was working his way up the San Antonio Spurs organization. He went from assistant coach to head scout to director of scouting to vice president/assistant GM before being elevated to general manager in July 2002.
His handiwork was on display again Sunday night, as the Spurs routed Miami for the third consecutive game and won the club’s fifth NBA title. San Antonio outscored Miami 322-265 in the series, exposing the Heat as a surprisingly thin, limited and poorly-constructed team.
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive
By DERON SNYDER
The NCAA that we’ve come to know and despise is in critical condition with a prognosis that suggests the end is near.
The equivalent of flesh-eating bacteria are close to devouring the body from within. Outside, it is suffering injury from a series of blows that ultimately could be fatal.
External attacks include the trial in Ed O’Bannon’s class-action antitrust lawsuit, which enters day four Thursday in Oakland. Just as those proceeding got underway, the NCAA announced a settlement to pay $20 million to current and former college athletes who sued in a lower-profile case involving their likenesses in video games.
Organizations such as the National College Players Association also pose great harm. The NCPA has led a series of reforms to improve student-athletes’ rights and benefits since 2001, but the biggest victory yet could be on the horizon.
Northwestern is appealing a National Labor Relations Board regional ruling that the school’s scholarship players have the right to unionize; the full NLRB will hear the appeal later this year.
Even if the full board overturns the decision – or even if a majority of the team voted not to unionize when secret ballots were cast in April – damage has been done and the issue will continue to simmer on back burners.
But the greatest threat to the NCAA as we know it could come from its own members.
By DERON SNYDER
Four months into his new job, commissioner Adam Silver has kept his cool a lot better than AT&T Center in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Neither Donald Sterling nor faulty a circuit breaker has cramped Silver’s style.
His first Finals news conference, prior to Game 2, was much like his first major press conference six weeks earlier. Both can serve as case studies in crisis management, handling a disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner and fallout from San Antonio’s Game 1 victory in oppressive conditions.
The issues are no way similar in long-term impact and consequences. Donald Sterling is more like a massive hurricane compared to the solitary lightning bolt of “Heat-gate.” But they represent the biggest flashes in Silver’s brief stint and isn’t looking for new candidates anytime soon.
LeBron James’ severe cramps in the opener hijacked the Finals’ storyline for three days. “I’m glad that this isn’t single elimination,” Silver said.
“… I would say that [the lack of AC] is certainly not one of my prouder moments in my short tenure as commissioner so far, but it’s the nature of this game. There always are going to be human and mechanical errors and it’s unfortunate.”
However, all of the crazy talk about a Spurs’ conspiracy and James being a wimp didn’t topple the Clippers from atop Silver’s to-do list. The first two questions dealt with the team’s pending sale to Steve Balmer and pending litigation by Sterling. Silver responded to 22 queries overall and 14 involved the Clippers.
By DERON SNYDER
America loves an underdog, right?
Ha! Not in the Miami Heat’s case.
That’s right, Vegas has established the Spurs as slight betting favorites in the NBA Finals, which begin Thursday in San Antonio. But according to an ESPN poll, the entire nation outside of Florida is rooting against LeBron James & Co.
No real surprise in that finding. But I have never fully understood the copious amounts of Heat-hate or the considerable depth of those passions. They have always struck me as disproportionate reactions to whatever offense Miami committed.
I get it if you don’t love the Heat.
But loathe the Heat? Surely that’s undeserved.
We’re not talking about the Boston Celtics, New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys, flagship franchises that earned their disfavor over several decades of prominence and dominance. The Heat is just 26 years old and didn’t reach its first Finals until 2006. Miami returned to the field in the next four seasons, making three first-round exits and missing the playoffs altogether in 2008.
Dwayne Wade was a good guy back then, catapulting into our consciousness as the unheralded star who led Marquette to the 2003 Final Four. Miami drafted him fifth overall – behind James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh (sorry for the painful reminder, Detroit fans) – and he quickly became one of the league’s most popular players. He had the NBA’s best-selling jersey for a couple of seasons while teaming with Shaquille O’Neal for a title in 2006.
But now Wade is Robin to a Batman who’s viewed as equal parts super villain and superhero.
James is a conundrum, much like the Heat. They are arguably the league’s most disliked player and team, respectively. Judging by polls, journalists, social media, friends & family and assorted anecdotes, nothing but enmity exists for James and Miami outside of the Sunshine State.
Yet, he just topped the NBA’s most-popular jersey list for the sixth time. And the Heat just repeated as No. 1 in best-selling team merchandise.
Former NBA ref Tim Donaghy
By DERON SNYDER
The term “suspension of disbelief” usually refers to works of fiction. We’re expected to shelve any concerns about the plausibility of novels, movies and plays, in order to engage with the art form and enjoy the experience.
Pro wrestling is a perfect example. Fans – at least the sane ones – accept the fact that it’s not real.
But when the subject is major sports, we must suspend a different sort of disbelief.
We thwart suggestions that proceedings aren’t on the up-and-up. We reject the notion that league officials manipulate outcomes for the sake of bigger markets and better ratings. We discount the idea that referees and umpires bend contests one way or the other for personal financial gain.
At least that’s how most of us like to consider the multibillion-dollar sports industry.
Everyone else – especially the conspiracy theorist – believes we’re incredibly naïve.
We shudder at the thought that skeptics might be right and a recent New York Times investigation makes us wonder. Thankfully, the sport in question is “only” soccer, plagued by corruption for years and not nearly as popular in the U.S. as football, baseball and basketball.
But the NYT’s detailed look at match fixing prior to the last World Cup shows how easily professional gamblers can dictate what happens if they get their hooks in people.