Monday, April 04, 2016

The Answer

I have to admit I had never heard of Dennis Clifford last night when I saw a blurb somewhere on the Internet about him. It took me to a link with a short article and a less than two minute film clip in which he answered a single question. Maybe I should back up a bit. Dennis Clifford was a senior basketball player on the Boston College Eagles this year. Apparently they were not good in 2015-2016, going 7-25 including 0-19 in the brutal Atlantic Coast Conference. As I really don't follow college hoops anymore, you could have told me they were 25-7 and I would have bought it. No March Madness or even the Miss Congeniality event, the NIT, for BC or their starting center. Dennis and his coach, Jim Christian, were in the press room after the Eagles suffered a twenty point loss to Florida State in the first round of the ACC tournament, ending the season and his career. The off screen reporter asked a simple question to the seven footer:
"Cliff, what are you going to take away as your best memory of playing basketball at Boston College?" 
There was a pause, an excruciatingly long pause and Dennis dropped his head. When he finally lifted it up, you could tell he'd teared up and this was his reply:
"Going out to eat."
The clip cut away to the coach who lavished praised on Dennis and his teammates who had endured an agonizingly tough year in terms of wins and losses. I came away with the impression that Dennis Clifford was one terrific young man, the kind every coach wants on his team. And that the end was something he was not quite prepared to face.

I don't blame the reporter for the question, a seemingly innocuous one. But highlighting his five years at BC, including a medical redshirt season, in a sentence is a tall order for a young man who may have just played his last competitive basketball game. He's 24 and had some injury issues but I would guess the NBA was not on his mind at that moment. I initially saw the clip with a short article in which I thought the writer took a cheap shot or two at the lack of perceived depth in the four word answer. But I liked many of the comments which defended the young man and what he had to say, or maybe even what he did not. In the long run, I think he gave the perfect answer.

I was blessed to play on some very good teams and some with poor records. I've coached teams with very good records and some without. But what you take away is not the scores or the trophies, at least I didn't. The relationships from being on a close knit team is akin to family in a way you might not understand unless you've been through it multiple times. Team camps. Bus rides. Rough practices. Hurt feelings.Comeback wins. Heart breaking defeats. But always with teammates and coaches who see past the tip of the iceberg which the public dissects. Going out to eat brings back memories for me of Major Wallaby's and Kobe's Steaks and a snowball fight in a Chili's in Colorado Springs, and the McDonald's in Tifton, Georgia and Po' Eds in Valdosta, all the way back to Paul's Supper Club in St. Paul, Nebraska. I could go on but it would be at the risk of boring you.

Do you remember what Jesus told his apostles when He shared the final Passover with the Twelve? In Luke 22:15, the Savior made this statement: 
I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer."
He didn't say it to the 5000 who dined on loaves and fishes or the good folks at the wedding in Cana. He reserved that thought for the ones who had walked the same road, endured the same mocking, shared the same fears, fought amongst each other, seen miracles and their own weaknesses. It's part of our human desire for fellowship. We eat together at birthdays and weddings and funerals. We eat at holidays and numberless special occasions we come up with just to enjoy this life God gave us. And we eat together as a team, pre-game and post game, after practices and on the bus. Dennis Clifford was absolutely right but regretfully, not everyone can understand his wealth of wisdom, condensed into only five syllables. But I will guarantee you this. His teammates understood him perfectly. And so did I.

To watch the remarkable clip of Dennis Clifford, click or copy/paste the link below:

Applicable quote of the day # 1:
No one wants to quit when he's losing and no one wants to quit when he's winning. 
Richard Petty

Applicable quote of the day # 2:
Losing feels worse than winning feels good. 

Vin Scully

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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