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Unexpected Wins (Musings of a Tennessee Fan)

February 23rd, 2010

A huge book project.  Traveling or speaking almost every weekend (including the upcoming one).  A scourge of female runny noses flowing like the widow’s oil . . . gross, eh?  Try being the daddy and husband who wipes them constantly . . . well, I don’t really wipe Laura’s nose, but who’s counting.

These are just a few reasons for my lack of a blog in the past week and a half.  Not that you asked, but I’m a paranoid freak of nature who constantly feels the need to explain myself.  Consider this my digital therapy and you my grossly underpaid psychiatrist.  Hey, just like Bill Murray in one of my favorite movies, What About Bob?, don’t be surprised if I show up on your doorstep one day!

My time away has been fruitful and if there’s one thing I’ve tried not to miss, it’s the University of Tennessee Men’s basketball team.  I watch every game . . . every year.  One of the best gifts my wife every gave me were tickets a few years back to watch UT dominate Florida at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

In fact, Laura’s fanhood matches mine dribble-for-dribble.  She screams with me at the television and spouts off the players’ stats just milliseconds before the commentators.  I can’t even begin to tell you how attractive this is, but that’s another story for another blog.  All of my jealous male readers understand . . . I’m living the dream, boys!

This season has been anything but predictable. Sidebar: if you’re not a sports fan or a basketball fan, this promises to still be relevant and hopefully enjoyable for you, so don’t go bailing on me . . . bear down and grind it out, soldier! Umm, and we’re back.  Tennessee started the season out in the top ten in the nation.  Four starting seniors were returning on a team who’s visited the Sweet Sixteen on multiple occasions under Bruce Pearl’s short coaching tenure.

Then, on New Year’s Day . . . whamo!  The headline hit my computer screen . . . and my heart . . . like a proverbial ton of poop-laden bricks.  (Sorry, I just spoke at a youth retreat last weekend and right now “poop” seems more apropos than usual.)  Our main star and three other players were pulled over on a routine stop and were caught with marijuana and illegal firearms.  Nice.

The media blitzkrieg descended upon Tennessee with all of the fury of the famed Red Baron (the pilot, not the pizza).  To make a long story short, our “star” was thrown off the team and the other three players were suspended.  This was basically the same week that Lane Kiffin sleazily kicked Tennessee in the shin on his way to USC with every recruit he could con into going with him down the long path that leads to destruction . . . so to speak.  It was a banner week for Tennessee athletics.  I buried my head in my pillow and hummed myself to sleep to the tune of my old Alma Mater.  Laura gingerly laid an orange flag across my sunken shoulders as my dog, Brutus, played a moving rendition of Taps in the background . . . he’s very talented.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that Tennessee was hosting the number one Kansas Jayhawks the next week?  Hmmm, yeah.  We all prepared for a epic lashing of William Wallace proportions.  But then a strange thing happened: no one let the remaining players, most of them walk-ons and underclassmen, in on the fact that they should roll over and die.  In one of the most emotional and courageous games I’ve ever seen, that ragtag group of undermanned players handed Kansas their only loss of the season (to date.)  Laura and I were more than slightly excited . . . shoot, we almost painted the dog orange out of excitement!

Two days ago, Tennessee won their twentieth game of the season.  Twenty wins is the unofficial benchmark stat of success for a college basketball team.  They haven’t beaten everybody.  They haven’t won every game.  But they morphed and adapted to seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Not to wax cheesy or anything (which again sounds kind of gross), but I think that our spiritual lives could get a little shot in the arm from embracing the observations of this season so far.  If you look at the stats and the opponents you are facing, all odds are usually against you.  Depression. Divorce.  Death.  Disillusionment.

But hey (as they say), that’s why you play the game!  You don’t have to lose just because life and the world have pre-published your obituary.  A good coach might tell you to look inward and find the strength to win.  Yeah, not me.  Look inward?  You’re the one who’s confused!  That’s like asking a cheeseburger how to lower your cholesterol.

It’s simple.  Look upward.  Don’t stop hoping.  Don’t stop dreaming.  Don’t stop playing.  No matter how many players or fans you may lose, your team is still stacked if God is the “center” of your existence.  (Again, I feel very cheesy right now, but let’s go with it.)

Maybe I should just let scripture speak: “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”  (Romans 8:312 NLT)

Go God!

Go you!

Oh, and Go Vols!


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