Yesterday, I had to get tires for my Prius – wire was showing, and my wife drives it an hour to work; I could certainly not allow her to drive a dangerous car. But, I had a problem: My beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats were playing for the championship in the SEC Tournament. To say that I’m a Kentucky fan would be like saying the Pope is Catholic, a gross understatement. What was I going to do?
Well, I thought I’d ask the kind folks at Goodyear to put their TV on ESPN – they don’t get ESPN, I was told. It was on to Plan B: Watching the game on the ESPN app on my iPhone. Fortunately, Sprint has excellent LTE coverage in the Roanoke Valley, and I had no problem watching the game.
I was as calm as a cucumber during most all of the game. The Cats and Aggies went to overtime, and I showed no emotion at all. The Cats would get a few points ahead, and the Aggies would make a run. Near the end of overtime, Jamal Murray made a 3-point jumper which secured a victory for my Cats. I forgot I was in public, and pumped my fist and yelled, “YES!” Everyone in the store turned to look at me. I apologized, but everyone was laughing and said not to worry about it.
I was born and raised a Wildcat. My mom’s mother was a rapid fan and screamed and yelled and jumped and hollered nearly as much as I do; whenever there’s a good game, my 17 year-old and I will look at each other and say, “Nannie would have loved this.” She loved a good Kentucky game and there were even UK flower arrangements at her funeral.
As a Kentucky fan, I expect perfection. A couple years ago, I was calling for John Calipari’s head because the team had lost so many games – then he led them to the Championship Game in the Final Four, and I shut my mouth. Last year, the Cats had a perfect season before falling to Wisconsin in the Final Four. This year the team seems to be coming together when it matters most.
As much as I love the Cats and as much as I want them to win every game, the reality is that they lose some. I’ll never forget that Christian Laettner shot a few years ago (how can I, the sports stations love showing that shot!). Last year I was confident that my team would go 40-0 and win the National Championship, but it wasn’t to be. That’s okay – after all, it’s only a game.
In life, you have some peaks when it seems you cannot lose. You get the promotion you’ve wanted for so long. You’re married to the person of your dreams. You’re living in the best subdivision in the best part of town. Your children bring home perfect grades and are stars on the basketball team.
But, sometimes you lose in life. You have to replace tires you can’t afford because you’re between working and drawing Social Security Disability. Your marriage is falling apart. Your children embarrass you too deeply for words. The company is downsizing and you get a pink slip. The doctor says it’s cancer and he doesn’t think there’s much he can do.
The good news is that through Jesus we can win in the end. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats cannot give me the victory which really matters; Jesus can. He’ll give me victory over illness and death when I gain my new body in the resurrection. He’ll give me victory over disappointment through His promise to walk beside me. He’ll give me victory over financial worries, for He’ll feed and clothe me as He does the sparrows. He’ll give me victory over sin by redeeming my soul and taking me to heaven where no temptation or sin can touch me.
I really do hope that Kentucky can go all the way this year – several analysts do have them picked for the Final Four. But, no matter the outcome of March Madness, I know that with Jesus I’m always on the winning team.