Plenty of Bright Spots
May 17, 2023
What a week. I didn’t follow NCAA basketball much this year despite a surprisingly good season by my Pittsburgh Panthers. Picked to finish last in the ACC (again) this year, they came whisper close to winning the ACC outright. Their prize? A play-in spot in the “First Four” on Tuesday in the mini tournament held annually in Dayton, Ohio ahead of the legendary Thursday/Friday matchups. Dayton is two hours east of Indianapolis, so when my brother David, who lives in Pittsburgh, suggested that we meet in Dayton for the play-in game, I was up for it.
I contacted my recent Purdue-grad son who also loves everything Pittsburgh, maybe because his dad does (good son), and he was up for the trip. JP and I drove the long way to Dayton through Cincy so I could stop by a jobsite at Amazon Air to make a few minor adjustments to one of our installations and headed up to Dayton from there.
It was a bright spot in my week to get to spend some time with JP one on one. We didn’t have to talk the entire time for it to be special. It was just good to process a few things along the way. He did remind me that the “Child Raising” portion of my life was over and the chips will fall where they fall. I suppose as long as I pay for the tickets, dinner, and offer a ride, I’ll continue to get a “yes” when I ask if he’s interested in joining me on an outing.
Another bright spot was dinner in Covington KY. At first, we thought we’d picked a dud of a spot, but this hole in the wall blew us away. The two-man tiny little Bar-B-Que joint “Sous Vided” my brisket. It was insanely good. I asked the owner where he learned his mad skills and he said he learned them from “The Culinary School of his Grandmas Wooden Spoon.” I’m thinking James Beard nominee or better yet, Michelin Star.
Pitt won the game and went on to win their first-round game, as well. An earlier than desired exit against a hot Xavier team finished off their NCAA dreams. Speaking of finished dreams, Purdue’s historic loss reminds us again that with a good leader, it only takes a vision and determination to shoot down a Goliath.
Coach Tobin Anderson of FDU believed his team could beat Purdue and his parting locker room words were, “The more I see Purdue play, the more I think we can beat them. Let’s go out and shock the world.” What a vision and a challenge to lay at the feet of his young athletes.
When a young David went to bring food to his brothers on the front line in a Biblical battle against the Philistines, David was shocked to see the best of their soldiers trembling with fear over a single opposing soldier named Goliath. I mean, wasn’t his team representing good against evil? With no hesitation, David approached the commanders and asked for their permission to take on Goliath.
You know what happened. A perfect stone placement to the temple of the giant from the slingshot David used against predators as a shepherd boy in the field took down Goliath and gave victory to his team and the national championship from a 16 seed.
See, we spend our entire lives in preparation for the tournament of life. We have opening round games against enemies of our families, second round games against opponents of our businesses, third round games against attacks on our health and wealth, and sometimes our character. All our lives, our circumstances prepare us for the final round should we get the opportunity to play in that game.
Heaven forbid we tap out before the Monday night game. Legendary coaches like Jimmy Valvano live in our minds forever, not because he had a loaded team that won a national championship, no, it was because his confidence, passion and love for his team penetrated the very soul of the young men he put on the floor and together, they did what was improbable.
Many tears flow during NCAA March Madness, and I am not a sucker for tears from an entitled team that can sign any recruit yet experiences an early exit without getting to add another banner to their many previous championship banners. The tears that get me are the ones that represent happiness and appreciation. Nothing speaks greater volumes about the impact a coach can have on an athlete than Arkansas coach Eric Musselman and Davante Davis, a guard on his Sweet 16 team.
After the game, Musselman was being interviewed beside Davante Davis when he told the interviewer that he considers Davante one of his sons and that he loved him. Davis replied, “I love you too, coach.” That was just too much. When Davis was asked a question, he broke down in tears, certainly not because of the win, but because of the validation of a relationship that they have poured into daily that defies all odds and was fearlessly and publicly proclaimed.
Sadly, the influencers in our world today only want us to be reminded of how different we are, not how alike we are. Davis and Musselman are nothing alike from age to race to a plethora of things. Where they are alike in is their common goal of hard work resulting in success and also removing barriers. You don’t have to look very closely to see that many of our young students have moved away from having thoughts and ideas of their own. You can literally spend days on YouTube watching pathetic, plagiarized thoughts bellowed from entitled students who have never missed a meal, never lived without an unlimited phone plan, never had a job, or drive late model cars around campus.
Davante Davis is a breath of fresh air to me. He represented a strength in his interview that gives me hope. Fortunately, Davis isn’t alone. There are many young people today who buck the trend and reject handing their minds and their educations over to others. Remember the old theory that the “jocks” were the dumb ones? I think we may have gotten that backwards. Once Pitt was out, I rooted for Davante Davis and his Razorbacks to take the top prize. (We will know by the time this issue delivered.)
There are plenty of bright spots out in this world today; we need not look very far for the inspiration to take on an unsurmountable challenge. As I drove to Cincy on my way to Dayton with JP the other day, I was reminded of a little town called Milan, Indiana.
Milan is the real “Hickory” from the movie Hoosiers. This unlikely little school took on and won the challenge of a no-class state basketball championship. They faced far worse odds than even a 16 vs 1 in today’s NCAA. The Milan student athletes believed, their coach believed, and their community believed, as well.
What community do you allow access to your thinking on a day-to-day basis? What do you allow to pour into your mind? Does it help or hinder your goals for yourself, your family, and your organization?
Milan is also a reminder for my son of a huge disappointment. His high school was even smaller than Milan, and during his senior year, JP was on par to reestablish the state record for touchdown passes. A victory in the first round of sectionals against Milan, in Milan, would have made that a near certainty. But life is not always charmed and an uncharacteristic night of multiple interceptions for our quarterback ended JP’s shot at a state record. The stories don’t always end like we want them to, but we learn from the experience.
Chin up everyone! We get new brackets next year. Hail to Pitt! (H2P)