Is it just me, or did we just see the Easter Story re-enacted during the Louisville/Duke game on Sunday?
Christian parents around the world lovingly take their children to church and celebrate the Lenten season in the hopes that their children will eventually understand the story of Jesus Christ and the gift of Salvation that he gave to humankind. The religious story is simple: he died so that "we" can live on with a rich spiritual life on earth and in Heaven.
The story is simple, but complex. As an adult I am puzzled and sometimes lose the meaning. Other times, I am humbled by what I have achieved and feel guilty that someone who went before me sacrificed everything for me. WOW! A lot to wrap your head around. We have our son in Confirmation class at our Church with other 12-year-old boys and girls trying to further understand our faith and the gift that they are given. Most days I do wonder what rattles inside that 12-year-old mop of sandy blonde hair. I think the story of Salvation might be more than he can tackle intellectually at the moment. He is caught at the age in between appreciating what chocolate candy the Easter Bunny has left and understanding the greater meaning of the Resurrection. Not to mention that it is spring turkey season in Texas, so all matter of reason has completely left.
If you are a March Madness fan, I am sure you are aware of the play in the game, I'm talking about. We all watched in shock and horror at the young Louisville player, Kevin Ware, as he went to the ground. The play was every parent's nightmare. He did not receive a hard foul, or a charge, or an accidental play where someone got hurt. The young man was giving the game all he had. He simply came down the wrong way and twisted and broke bones. The big 6'2" 175 lb player looked very small lying on the court. His teammates fell on their knees in their own pain for their teammate.
As the camera panned around the arena, fans from both teams were emotional. They had witnessed something truly horrid, but profound. Both coaches tried to make sense of the tragedy. Obviously the team had to re-group and recover. The announcers paused between their own tears to say they had never witnessed anything so gruesome. The only calm person in the entire building seemed to be the injured player himself, Kevin Ware. I am sure no one was more shocked and in pain than Kevin. As his teammates came by as he was taken off the court by stretcher, he told them, per a report from his teammate and friend, Chane Behanan, "Don't worry about me. I will be OK. Just go and play. Win the game".
A sentiment like that will bring any person to the verge of tears. It was like Washington Redskin quarterback Joe Theisman (who sustained a career-ending compound fracture to his leg during a Monday Night Football game years ago) meets "The Gipper" (Ronald Reagan's defining acting role as he told his football team to go out to win the game for him as he was dying). Somehow, on this day, it was just more. This poor athlete, through no fault of his own, had been severely injured. People who came with expectations saw him crumble as a mortal man. He had enough courage and faith in his team to say, go on without me, I will be there, and you will win.
You know what? Louisville did win! Even their women's basketball team did the impossible, defeating supposedly unstoppable Baylor . (Stings, but I understand). I understand the metaphor and meaning. I was humbled just to have witnessed the event in High Definition.
To me the true miracle of the day came later that Easter night. In between hanging out with friends, fishing, and playing pick-up basketball, he stopped for a minute and quietly asked if I had seen "the game." "Of course," I said. He mentioned that he and his friends had seen parts, and he was worried for Kevin Ware. Had I heard anything? From what I gathered, my hardened and crusty crew of young men may even have shed a tear and paused for a moment of inner reflection. My son asked "How did it happen, how was he so calm? How could he be concerned more about his team? Would I do that, too?"
There you have it! Easter 101 for the 12-year-olds. No chocolate bunny needed. Message received. I am so sorry, Kevin Ware. May you heal quickly and return as good as new. If you are asking "Why? Why me?" you are now bigger than any game played. You are a symbol of Hope and Sacrifice and greater things than one self. There are so many life lessons to be learned through sports. You just have to get in to the game!