Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Juxtaposition, Part 2

Here is another link...

There are some games in which cheering for the other side feels better than winning.
by Rick Reilly

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.


It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.


Juxtaposition, Part 1

Here's a link to the following story, but I'm putting it here too...
Juxtaposition implies at least two, I know, but the second will be tomorrow.
A Texas high school girls basketball team on the winning end of a 100-0 game has a case of blowout remorse.

Now officials from The Covenant School say they are trying to do the right thing by seeking a forfeit and apologizing for the margin of victory.

"It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened," Kyle Queal, the head of the school, said in a statement, adding the forfeit was requested because "a victory without honor is a great loss."

The private Christian school defeated Dallas Academy last week. Covenant was up 59-0 at halftime.

A parent who attended the game told The Associated Press that Covenant continued to make 3-pointers -- even in the fourth quarter. She praised the Covenant players but said spectators and an assistant coach were cheering wildly as their team edged closer to 100 points.

"I think the bad judgment was in the full-court press and the 3-point shots," said Renee Peloza, whose daughter plays for Dallas Academy. "At some point, they should have backed off."

Dallas Academy coach Jeremy Civello told The Dallas Morning News that the game turned into a "layup drill," with the opposing team's guards waiting to steal the ball and drive to the basket. Covenant scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and "finally eased up when they got to 100 with about four minutes left," he said.

Dallas Academy has eight girls on its varsity team and about 20 girls in its high school. It is winless over the last four seasons. The academy boasts of its small class sizes and specializes in teaching students struggling with "learning differences," such as short attention spans or dyslexia.

There is no mercy rule in girls basketball that shortens the game or permits the clock to continue running when scores become lopsided. There is, however, "a golden rule" that should have applied in this contest, said Edd Burleson, the director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. Both schools are members of this association, which oversees private school athletics in Texas.

"On a personal note, I told the coach of the losing team how much I admire their girls for continuing to compete against all odds," Burleson said. "They showed much more character than the coach that allowed that score to get out of hand. It's up to the coach to control the outcome."

In the statement on the Covenant Web site, Queal said the game "does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition. We humbly apologize for our actions and seek the forgiveness of Dallas Academy, TAPPS and our community."

Covenant coach Micah Grimes did not immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Queal said school officials met with Dallas Academy officials to apologize and praised "each member of the Dallas Academy Varsity Girls Basketball team for their strength, composure and fortitude in a game in which they clearly emerged the winner."

Civello said he appreciated the gesture and has accepted the apology "with no ill feelings."

At a shootaround Thursday, several Dallas Academy players said they were frustrated during the game but felt it was a learning opportunity. They also said they are excited about some of the attention they are receiving from the loss, including an invitation from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to see an NBA game from his suite.

"Even if you are losing, you might as well keep playing," said Shelby Hyatt, a freshman on the team. "Keep trying, and it's going to be OK."

Peloza said the coach and other parents praised the Dallas Academy girls afterward for limiting Covenant to 12 points in the fourth quarter. She added that neither her daughter nor her teammates seemed to dwell on the loss.

"Somewhere during that game they got caught up in the moment," Peloza said of the Covenant players, fans and coaches. "Our girls just moved on. That's the happy part of the story."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lost, Season 5

It began last night.
2 episodes
Because you Left
The Lie

It was worth the wait. I hope its also worth the anticipation. There are going to be huge moments this year.

My favourite moment to chew on from last night is that John Locke has to die to save the island and the people on it.

This and reasons like that are why I continue to be enthralled by Lost. The possibilities and reasons are endless but the redemption story is so strong all through the show that it makes my little brain spin. Call me what you will. I see a parable for our times. I see a glimpse into the heart of the true story, the one all other stories have their best fulfillment in.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A brighter day shines for all of us now!

Its only the first day of Mr Obama's presidency, but already things are looking up.

The sun rose a few minutes earlier today!

Thank you Mr. Obama.

Hope, Springs, Eternal.

I'm watching the hype leading up to Barack Obama's inauguration as I type this. The common person on the street can not help but feel hope. Things can't get worse. "This guy can't do worse than the last guy did". "He has a huge job ahead of him, but he can do it." "History in the Making" the CNN screen says. This is a hopeful statement in itself. Do they know that things will be better under Obama? No. Does everyone want it to be better though? Of course. "It's going to be overwhelming." Oprah Winfrey has already called him America's best President... that was before the inauguration even!

The tremendous timing of this, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day can't be overlooked. They reality of the animosity, the alienation, the sadness, the hope, the joy that lives in the hearts of many Americans, of all colours, can not be overlooked. In about 25 minutes, I'm going to play the inauguration for a group of 11-14 year olds, some of whom won't care. Some who will be curious. Some will be overwhelmed by the political speak, some by the celebrity. Some will not understand that this is about hope, about dreams, about history and the future.

There are a few times in your life that you have to remember. Many recall the assassination of JFK. Many more recall the horror of space shuttle tragedies or September 11th. Not too many have the hype ahead of time that this event has. How many million showed up in Washington this day? Why? Can the man live up to the hype? Not likely.

However, the immensity of our times, of the heart of the people around us is reflected in the human response, even worship, at this time. People need a saviour, a leader. Many facebook postings today called Mr. Obama something along the lines of "President of the World". We all need hope. Sometimes the hype shows our desperation.

Hope is the word of the year, as far as I can tell. Maybe the word of our lives?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

May Peace, Joy and Love (of the Father) follow you through this year.

I hope you noticed it with you last year too, but that's another post.