Saturday, January 02, 2010

Shirtless In Knoxville

It has been a bizarre week in college athletics if you are a fan. The most recent flare up came in Knoxville, Tennessee where four members of the 14th ranked Volunteer basketball team have been arrested and subsequently suspended from the squad. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is devastated and has publicly apologized. I have had players get in trouble, although not to that extent, but I know it is heartbreaking and embarrassing. The following, from January 23, 2007, is about Bruce Pearl in happier days.

I'm no Bruce Pearl fan. The men's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee has always struck me as being abrasive and perhaps a bit obnoxious. With his garish orange outfits and non-stop badgering of referees, Pearl has become a lightning rod for criticism in the tradition rich Southeastern Conference during his first few years with the VOLS. In his defense, Stanley Asumnu, one of our basketball players at Westbury Christian School, was coached by Pearl and really enjoyed the experience. But to my way of thinking, a little bit of Bruce Pearl goes a very long way. My view of the man, however, changed somewhat today. This morning on the ESPN website, there was a story, accompanied by color pictures, of the Volunteer coach. Last evening, as the Tennessee women's team played top ranked Duke in Knoxville, Bruce Pearl was in the front row of a sold out Thompson-Boling Arena. But he wasn't in a suit or the warmups that many coaches prefer. No, last night, Bruce Pearl went shirtless to support the Lady Vols. He painted his chest bright orange, punctuated with a white V from shoulder to navel, and led the student cheering section in rooting on the UT women's team. I saw him on an interview and I was impressed that he came off as a genuine person who simply wanted to be a part of the culture of the university. Because of his stature, much was made of his public display of the school colors. Most institution employees would have gone unnoticed. Bruce Pearl will never just blend in.

This is what I like about what Bruce Pearl did. Most big name coaches are too image conscious to ever pull off a stunt like his body art public exhibition. It would be beneath them to mingle among the youngsters and cheer like crazy with a television audience peeking in on a humorous attempt at school spirit. I take it Coach Pearl is not particularly concerned with that line of reasoning. You don't think the Tennessee women's team and coaching staff loved his backing of their squad in such a visible manner? On top of that, I would guess some young men being recruited by Pearl to don the UT orange next season would also take notice that their prospective coach isn't afraid to act like a kid at times to show some love to his school. I wish more of us were like Bruce Pearl and not be so influenced of what others might think. People have always been attracted to great enthusiasm in leaders. Jesus made statements like,
"let your light shine before men," and "a city on a hill cannot be hidden." Coach Pearl was certainly shining and NOT hidden. He risked being viewed as silly for a man in his position. King David was ridiculed by his wife, Michal, for the way he cheered the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem but David was not swayed by her protests:
"I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this and I will be humiliated in my own eyes." (2nd Samuel 6:21-22)
Who do you believe God was pleased with, Michal with her sense of decorum or David with his unabashed love for the symbol of the Mighty One? David proved his love by his actions, immune to the barbs of his estranged spouse. Bruce Pearl did the same thing in Knoxville. Even though Tennessee fell to Duke by a 74-70 tally, he made an impact that will reverberate throughout college basketball. One man's humiliation is another man's honor. Bruce Pearl honored his university last night.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I could probably make an Armani suit look bad. It's not a very pretty look. When I wear my orange coat, I look like an orange barrel on the highway."
Bruce Pearl/ University of Tennessee Men's Basketball Coach

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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