Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Understudy

March Madness is only eight weeks away! We know that John the Baptist willingly giving up the glory to his cousin who just happened to be Jesus. It had to be tough when John became famous before Jesus and had his own fanatical followers. Below, from March 23, 2009, is a story of a basketball player who took one for the team just like a certain wilderness preacher who ate locusts and honey two thousand years ago.

We made it through the first weekend of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. There have been a few close calls but the #1-3 seeds in all four brackets have survived, meaning the inviting committee did an excellent job of bracketology. In classes today, I let my students pick which team of those remaining in the Sweet Sixteen they believe will be crowned champion in two weeks. The majority of the kids chose one of two teams- Pitt or North Carolina. They always ask me who I want to win. My answer is that I don't care. I favor underdogs (I think that's an oxymoron) and I like the so-called Cinderella schools who are given little chance. This year, I do have a favorite player, though. Ironically, he was one of my least liked just last season. For the past three years, Greg Paulus was the starting point guard for the Duke Blue Devils. Duke is akin to the Yankees in baseball and Notre Dame in college football- fans love to hate them. As a freshman, sophomore, and junior, Paulus was on the floor for the tip off. But before the beginning of this campaign, Duke's legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski made the decision that the Blue Devils would be better with sophomore Nolan Smith running the show. Entering his senior season, Paulus assumed a seat on the bench. As I watched Duke play on Saturday, I looked to see how this young man reacted to becoming a substitute. If I did not know better, I would have assumed he was a freshman walk-on, just deliriously grateful to be included on the squad. He led the cheers on the bench, he sprinted to the huddle for timeouts, and he was giving instructions to the younger player who has supplanted him. In Duke's 74-69 victory over the Texas Longhorns, Greg Paulus played two minutes. But, that's not an accurate measure of his value; as a coach, I know he has been instrumental in his team's success. His demotion is the kind of scenario which causes rifts and schisms and Duke has had neither. Hand it to the Duke coaching staff, too. They did what was best for the team even though it meant relegating a three year regular to spotty minutes. That's why they are successful. and apparently, Greg Paulus has been listening the past four years.

Jesus made a big deal about our serving and putting others first. That 'last shall be first' stuff sounds good on paper...but it's hard when the drama is carried out on national television and on Internet message boards. In the 'me before team' atmosphere that permeates athletics on all levels, one kid has it right. Role reversals can be excruciating if you were the one on top who now has the vantage point of looking up. Like I said, I don't really care who wins it all this year but I hope Greg Paulus has a few shining moments on the court itself. And when his career comes to an end, I bet he'll make a tremendous coach. He's already a wonderful example.

Applicable quote of the ady:
"There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed."
Woodrow Wilson

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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