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Lightning quick... Christmas mutterings

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By Jeff Mayfield

[DEC. 20, 2004]  The Lincoln Railers are off to another quick start that is a textbook example of precisely following the Alexander plan.

And what is the plan?

Outwork every other team in the offseason. Do more than any other team is willing to do in the preseason (like how many teams are willing to do two-a-days and start at 6 a.m.? I know my coach wasn't). Put together a time-consuming Thanksgiving tournament that is a lot of work but will demonstrate all we need to work on, while probably guaranteeing us a few wins because we're already ahead of the competition.

That, my friends, is how you get a leg up on your opponents and give yourself a chance to perennially win 20 games.

With two more victories this past weekend, over Taylorville and Decatur, Lincoln closes out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule somewhere in the vicinity of 8-1 and 3-0.

Next up for Lincoln is the Holiday Classic in Bloomington-Normal.

Lynx finish first half in good shape too

The Lincoln Lynx finished the first half of their schedule in pretty good shape as well. They will take an outstanding 12-2 mark into 2005. A mature club with fantastic balance lends credence to the fact that this team could do some real damage come postseason time. Memo to the community: Get out and see this team!

Lady Railers coming on strong

The Lincoln Lady Railers handled Chatham-Glenwood 70-56 to even their record at 5-5 and, better yet, improved their conference mark to 4-1. Coach Anne Stoltzenburg's club has weathered the loss of Megan Hoffert and is playing some inspired ball right now. Get out and support these Lady Railers.

Illinois STILL No. 1

I am quite sure that I would never get tired of writing that, saying it or even thinking it… I hope the Illini join me in that resolve. After Illinois' 93-56 thrashing of Valparaiso, the whole event turned into a love fest. All five starters scored in double figures for the third time this season.

The game was an excellent tuneup for the Missouri game on Wednesday night in St. Louis. IF Missouri EVER wanted a chance at some national recognition, it will come in the form of the Braggin' Rights contest held at the Savvis Center. The confident fans are already promising no problems. Rumor is that many Mizzou fans can't even stomach the possibilities and have sold their tickets for a king's ransom.

All I know is that basketball is a funny game. Sometimes your shots don't fall and the other team can't miss. Sometimes a game will have an abundance of "interesting" calls. And sometimes things just don't go your way… I just hope that Wednesday night is not one of those times. I won't speak for all Illini fans but only for myself. My own personal Christmas holiday is a LOT more enjoyable when Illinois wins this game. Enough said.

ISU rolls on without Alexander

The Redbird Express rolled into Chicago Saturday afternoon and rolled out with an impressive 73-67 road victory over Loyola-Chicago. The victory takes their record now to 8-2 before opening Valley play at SIU… Who came up with this game as the start to the league schedule? Not to mention its date on the calendar… I just don't get it.

Lincoln's Gregg Alexander suffered an untimely ankle sprain before making the trip, and the Redbirds were forced to win without him… and they did just that. Some sources indicated that Gregg might be out for as much as two weeks… which is a blow considering how well Alexander has been playing of late.

Cardinals finally make a move… but, was it the right one?

The LDN now knows that the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Oakland A's ace Mark Mulder in exchange for Danny Haren, Kiko Calero and minor leaguer Daric Barton. Had they made this deal last year and given themselves a legitimate chance of winning the world title, I would've really liked this deal. As it now stands, after losing Renteria, Womack, Matheny, Williams and potentially some more, I'm just wondering if the deal is worth it. I say that because Haren and Calero were really pitching well at the end of last season; Mulder was not. I hope he was just tired and or burned out and that a change of scenery will turn him into a 20-25-game winner. Mulder is only 27 (for comparison's sake, Randy Johnson is 41) and comes into the deal with a lifetime record of 81-42 and a 3.92 ERA. He's got a year and an option left on his contract, so hopefully it will work out for all parties concerned.

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I still don't know what the Birds are gonna do for a shortstop, a second baseman and a leadoff hitter… The problem is I don't think St. Louis knows either.

No word on any Cub transactions this morning except rumors flying of Baltimore's interest in Sammy Sosa.

Colts still finding ways to win

Watching the slugfest between the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts was ugly on several fronts. However, Peyton Manning and his mates found yet another way to put a game away and win again. The only question left is: Will they be able to do it during the playoffs?

The Bears and Rams are done, so just stick a fork in them.

Non-sports item… Why I love Christmas so much… the reason for the season…

I know that there are a lot of skeptics, agnostics and even a few atheists out there. But one of the reasons that I love Christmas so much and why it inspires me as much as anything to make my life count is because of the many fulfilled prophecies surrounding the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. Hundreds of years before he was even born, people who didn't know him or weren't related to him predicted the events that happened in his life. They didn't just guess, and the events cannot be chalked up to mere coincidence. The more I study them, the more I'm amazed. Perhaps that's what the Creator envisioned for those who will meditate and contemplate God himself becoming flesh.

As a small gift to you loyal readers, I have included a sampling of those prophecies to help you reflect on the importance of this celebration. I bid all of you and all your families a most blessed Christmas.

  • Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

  • Matthew 1:22-23: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' -- which means, 'God with us.'

  • Micah 5:2: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

  • Matthew 2:1: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.

  • Jeremiah 31:15: This is what the Lord says: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.'

  • Matthew 2:16-18: When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'

  • Hosea 11:1: When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

  • Matthew 2:14-15: So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'

Have a GREAT Christmas, everyone!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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