For the past two years I have won the NCAA basketball brackets in staff here at Marble. Needless to say, there was not a three-peat this season. My brackets began falling apart the very first round when Mercer beat Duke. It went downhill from there. I had Arizona winning it all in a close game over Louisville. So much for my brackets.
This is the first time a seven seed has ever played an eight seed for a national title. For those not entirely familiar with NCAA language, there are four regional tournaments. The winner of each goes onto the Final Four. The winner of that is the national champion. Do the math. Four regionals were seeded the same. Connecticut was a number seven seed in its regional. That means that in the minds of those who designed the tournament, each regional had six teams better than Connecticut. It was considered to be no better than the twenty-fifth most talented men’s team in the nation. And yet, when the final horn sounded, it went home with the title
Was Connecticut the best men’s college team in America? By talent, probably not. By record, certainly not. By almost any standards, they seemed like a good team but not really a great one. Their women’s team (which also won this year’s national championship) was one of the greatest ever to take the court. Maybe the greatest. But the men’s team, not really. And yet, those young men won it all. Congratulations on that magnificent achievement! And, thanks for reminding us of some important lessons for faithful living.
First of all, when David sets his mind to it and gives 100%, he can still knock off Goliath.
I think one of the most important books I ever read to my children when they were small was “The Little Engine That Could.” If we think we can, as often as not we will. Mind over matter, you know. When we make up our minds on a goal and pursue it intelligently and energetically, to use the image Jesus used, mountains can be moved. How does the Bible put it? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Second, Connecticut has a marvelous young coach. The players listened to him, followed his instructions, and pulled off an accomplishment that would have made King David proud. You and I have a marvelous Coach. That Coach’s instructions are in a playbook we call The Bible. When we listen and follow instructions, personal victory is within our reach.
Third, teamwork is as important as individual stardom. Kentucky had a houseful of marquis players. Connecticut really only had one, but what they did possess was teamwork. Each of them contributed to a greater goal. The picture that jumps to my mind is church. In a church we all contribute what we can, not seeking to be a star. You bring one talent, I bring another, someone else brings something different. And when we put them all together, a congregation becomes a formidable team. Paul refers to that in both Romans and Corinthians when he writes about “a variety of gifts but the same Spirit” and how different parts of the body bring disparate abilities to a unified end.
Finally, in my mind an important lesson was that we don’t have to be flawless to be faithful. We don’t have to be perfect to be successful. We do the best we can, offer that up to God, and wonderful things happen. We may have experienced bumps in the road, some losses here and there, but God can still lead us to heights and accomplishments we never dreamed possible.
Congratulations to UCONN! I hope my guys at Duke were paying close attention.