The Kansas Jayhawks Wouldn’t Give Up – The Affirmation Spot for Tuesday April 9, 2008

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Mario Chalmers Rains a DreamWhat makes sports so compelling for so many people is that it mirrors the drama of life. Last night’s Mens’ NCAA National Baskeball Championship Game was just such a drama. With all the symmetry and irony of a greek tragedy, the Kansas Jayhawks captured their third national title.

The game – 20 years to the day of Kansas’ last national championship – featured two  well-respected coaches vying for their first national championship. Two men whose coaching careers started as assistants at Kansas under Larry Brown – the last coach to lead Kansas to the promise land.

The game featured an array of future NBA stars who no doubt will battle many more times over the coming years at the pro level. In the end, it would be decided by the team willing and able to face its own worst demons. For KU, who would take the big shot when it counted? For Memphis, would free throws finally be their undoing?

The game featured two teams trying to prove they belonged among the elite. The Jayhawks trying exorcise the ghosts of tournaments past and Memphis trying to earn the respect granted to BCS conference winners.

The game went back and forth for most of the evening. Memphis took an early 9-3 lead, but Kansas stormed back and held a five point lead at halftime 33-28.

The first 10 minutes of the second half see-sawed back and forth, but then Memphis freshman phenom Derek Rose took over. Rose poured in 11 points over a 2 minute span to help Memphis extend its lead to nine points.

The clock read 2:12 to play and the score read Memphis 61 Kansas 52. A lifetime memory was about to be created for one team and for all the world it looked like it would be Memphis. History was preparing to crown the Tigers national champions.

But over in the KU huddle, 15 people dressed in the road blue uniforms had not given up. Great moments are only possible when people refuse to give up. The Jayhawks were not giving up. They were not planning concession speeches. They were plotting a comeback.

Over the next 2:02 Kansas whittled away making several key shots and forcing Memphis to face its arch nemisis – the free throw line. Despite all its success this year, Memphis entered the NCAA tournament third to last in the country in free throw shooting. It had been talked about throughout the tournament as a possible Achilles heel, but the Tigers had overcome their weakness and made it a strength.

However, with the eyes of the nation now watching, the Tigers missed four of five free throws down the stretch and that opened the door for Jayhawk history.

Meanwhile, Kansas had an answer for its demon -who would take the big shot – and his name was Mario Chalmers. 

KU inbounded the ball with 10.8 seconds remaining and trailing 63-60. Guard Sherron Collins worked up the right side of the court and found teammate Mario Chalmers. Moving to his left beyond the three-point line, Chalmers turned, planted, and launched a 20-foot jump shot for the ages. The shot sailed through the basket with a sweet swish.

The game was tied and headed to overtime, but the game was over. The momentum of destiny was now comfortably perched on the Jayhawks’ shoulders as they completed the 75-68 victory with a dominating overtime period.

All very nice, you say, but it’s just a game. It’s a game, but it’s life too. We often find ourselves down nine with time running out. When we do we are faced with a choice. A choice to put ourselves on the line and try or simply concede that circumstances have beaten us.

Not every effort is rewarded with victory. Not every comeback is glorious or successful. Yet this is sure. Every great moment is created by someone’s refusal to give up.

 
Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

You never know which failure to give up contains the nugget of gold. You just have to keep trying to find out. For Mario Chalmers and the Kansas Jayhawks, the nugget of gold was a national championship.

 

Be peaceful Be positive Be prosperous!

Ray  

 

 

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KU Affirmations Defeat Cinderella Davidson – The Affirmation Spot for Monday March 31, 2008

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“Life is good. Things are going my way. The people around me are noticing a difference in me and I am noticing a difference in myself.” (repeats 3 times)

“Life is good. Things are going your way. The people around you are noticing a difference in you and you are noticing a difference in yourself.” (repeats 3 times)

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Jayhawks UnstoppableThe power of affirmation turned out to be slightly stronger than the magic of Cinderella Sunday afternoon in Detroit. The Kansas Jayhawks defeated 2008’s Cinderella Davidson 59-57.

As reported in the Kansas City Star, KU coach Bill Self has been delivering a powerful affirmation to his team: “You are unstoppable!”

In an outstanding article titled For KU’s Bill Self, This Moment is Everything, Kansas City Star writer Joe Posnanski wrote:

“To understand how much today’s NCAA Tournament game means to Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, you first have to understand this: Every single day, in one way or another, he tells his players that they are unstoppable.

Every day. Sometimes he yells it during practice. Sometimes he tells them in the locker room before the game. Sometimes he announces it on a bus ride. Sometimes he just pulls a player aside, wraps an arm around the player’s shoulder, whispers it in his ear. Always, though, the message remains.

You cannot be stopped. You cannot be blocked out. You cannot be screened. You are too strong. You are too tough. You are too fast. You have come too far. You have worked too hard. You have sacrificed too much.

You are unstoppable!”

In a year when the NCAA tournament’s big shots wound up on top of the heap, this tournament was not without its incarnation of Cinderella. Tiny Davidson College came into Sunday’s game against the Kansas Jayhawks with 25 straight victories and consecutive victories over “major conference” champions Georgetown and Wisconsin.

For most of the game Sunday, it looked as if Cinderella might punch her ticket to next week’s Final Four in San Antonio. A host sharp shooters led by tournament phenom Stephen Curry and a tenacious defense kept the top-seeded Jayhawks baffled and off balance all afternoon.

Kansas was sparked by senior Sasha Kaun who scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds. At times, Kaun seemed to be the one Jayhawk really willing to mix it up with the scrappy Davidson team. 

In the end, the Jayhawk nation was forced to hold its collective breath while Davidson’s Jason Richards launched a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. The shot was wide left and KU survived its toughest challenge of the tournament. 

Kansas became the fourth and final #1 seed to advance to next weekend’s Final Four – a first since the NCAA began seeding teams in 1979. #1 seeds UCLA, North Carolina, and Memphis all comfortably advanced to college basketball’s biggest weekend. That set the scene for perhaps the most history-rich Final Four ever assembled.

Kansas coach Bill Self, who had led Kansas, Illinois, and Tulsa to a combined five Elite Eight appearances without a Final Four appearance, finally cleared that hurdle Sunday and reached the Final Four.

At least for another week, Self and his team are, indeed, unstoppable!

You’re unstoppable too! It doesn’t mean you always win or that you are perfect, but you have within you a tremendous power to aspire to and be more than you are. As Bill Self says, “You have worked too hard. You have sacrificed too much. YOU are unstoppable!”

Be positive Be peaceful Be prosperous!

Ray

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Rock Chalk, Jayhawk. KU! – The Affirmation Spot for Friday January 4, 2008

Today’s affirmation is:

“My ability to believe is the only limit on my success.”

mangino_orange_bowl.jpgIn one of the great rags to riches sports stories of the year, the Kansas Jayhawk football team completed a storybook 12-1 season last night with a 24-21 “upset” over perennial power Virginia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl.

 The story is truly inspirational. It about a group of under-recruited players who came together as a team and created something greater than the sum of its parts.

As a proud KU grad, I normally have to wait for basketball season to have something to cheer about. Not since 1969 had KU even played a football game in January or in a major bowl. Never  in 100+ years of football had the school won 11 games in a season. Never had a KU team made it to a BCS bowl game.

2007 was different. The Jayhawks began the season with big blowouts over lesser opponents. Many criticized the non-conference schedule as soft and it took the poll voters time to believe in this team. I understand because it took me until last night to really finally believe in them.

Surely, many thought, they will start losing when they reach Big 12 play. Only the Jayhawks kept rolling along. Piling up win after win against teams used to counting KU as a sure victory on their schedule. “Well,” the non-believers argued, “they didn’t have to play Oklahoma, Texas, or Texas Tech.” True enough. The KU schedule benefited from not having to play these teams.

The problem with all this naysaying is that many KU fans can remember when there were no sure wins on the football schedule. They played “lesser” opponents and struggled or lost to them. A game against KU was an opportunity to pad the statistics for the Nebraskas, K-States, Oklahomas, and Texas’ of the world.

This year the Jayhawks beat K-State for the third time in four years after 11 straight losses. They pummeled Nebraska 73-39 in a game that surely sealed the fate of Nebraska coach Bill Callahan.

Sixth year coach Mark Mangino was simply following the game plan of mentor and former Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder. Play the games your scheduled to play and win them. Beginning in 1989, Snyder created another Kansas football miracle when he took the lowliest football program in college football history – K-State – and turned them into perennial contenders for Big 8, Big 12, and even national titles.

And now the student has achieved something similar down the road in Lawrence. There is another Kansas college football miracle in the making.

One word characterizes this year’s KU team – BELIEF. They believed in themselves and each other when no one else did. The pollsters did not believe. The media did not believe. Even many KU fans, myself included, were slow to believe.

But Coach Mangino, his coaches, and the players never stopped believing in themselves. That is the key to every success we ever have in life. Every great endeavor attracts a chorus of naysayers telling us it cannot be done. If you undertake an endeavor, you can count on it. As long as WE BELIEVE, anything is possible.

Afterall, people told the Wright Brothers they would never fly. People said TV was a fad. People said we could never go to the moon. People said KU could not beat a team like Virginia Tech. People are often wrong, but our belief that we can acheive some goal is never wrong.

As you begin to pursue your goals in 2008, you may encounter the naysayers. When you do remember the KU football team and keep believing.

Be peaceful Be prosperous.

Ray

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