Monday, March 24, 2014

An ARMY Of One

The NCAA basketball tournaments, for both men and women, puts the spotlight on coaches for better or worse. This is from April 13, 2006, is about one who died way too young.

It was one of the great stories of the recent NCAA basketball tournaments. Brother and sister Jamie and Maggie Dixon led their respective teams, Pittsburgh and ARMY, into the field of 64 on the men's and women's sides of the brackets. Apparently, this is the first time in college basketball history that siblings of different genders have done so in the same year. Pitt was expected to make the tourney, ARMY was not. Maggie Dixon took the job of coaching the ARMY women's squad, her first head appointment, only in October upon the sudden resignation of Sherri-Abbey Nowatzki. A standout collegiate player at the University of San Diego, Maggie Dixon had only four years experience as an assistant at DePaul University before landing on the banks of the Hudson River at West Point. Overcoming a slow 5-7 start, the Black Knights rallied to finish the year at 20-11, earning Dixon 'Coach of the Year' honors in her league. Capping one of the great coaching jobs in recent memory, Dixon led her team to its first ever NCAA berth by winning the Patriot League tournament. "Maggie Mania,'' they called the media buzz accompanying ARMY's march into uncharted post season play. The season ended abruptly in a first round match up with perennial power Tennessee but the ARMY women's team remained one of the feel-good stories of the season. The dream turned tragic last Thursday when Maggie Dixon collapsed and died of complications from an enlarged heart and valve problems. Her burial will be tomorrow on the grounds of West Point, an extremely rare honor for civilians. Maggie Dixon was only twenty-eight years old.

There was another news item that caught my eye yesterday. A female teacher in Tennessee was convicted last year of having a sexual affair with a thirteen year old male student. After being released early from a nine month prison sentence, the teacher was re-arrested on Wednesday for contacting the boy through a website, a violation of her probation. I would not say I knew the young lady but I knew who she was and I coached against her. Her high school had a storied basketball tradition, winning numerous state championships, and she was a star player there. Her arrest landed her all over the national news, following what seems to be a rash of such incidents. Like Maggie Dixon, she is twenty-eight years old.

What a contrast of two lives! One was at its peak, at least professionally, when it was unexpectedly snuffed out. The other is about as far in the mire as you can sink. The two graduated from high school the same year, were both talented enough to play collegiately, and each chose education as a career. One's accomplishments brought glory to her institution and the other's has brought shame. One will be remembered as a inspiration to a hallowed, prestigious institution and the other will be recalled as a registered sex offender. I know tears were shed during Maggie Dixon's memorial service. I imagine tears have also been shed as family, friends, teammates, and colleagues try to comprehend why a beautiful young woman would throw her life away in pursuit of a boy half her age. The contrast between the two lives cannot be more stark. But, there is another difference as well. Only one can still change. As long as we breathe, we can alter the direction of our lives if it requires a course correction. The most vile of sinners still has a chance. If you are typing this or reading this, your name is on the list. The world concentrates on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ this Easter weekend. He died for you and me, the bad and the not-so-bad, the Jew and the Gentile, for basketball coaches and sex offenders. It's not too late. Sin and death do not discriminate - they pursue all of us. There is only one who has conquered both. Sin and death are calling our names... but so is Jesus.

Applicable quote of the day:
"You at West Point have established an example for the rest of the nation. Here, people measure each other in terms of merit, heart, and will- not creed or sex or color or national origin..."
President George Bush (Commencement Address, June of 1991)

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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