The Game Knows

The game knows. It just somehow knows. There is something out there much bigger than us that grasps it all. Consequently, we don’t get what we want, but we do get what the game feels we deserve. The game is not concerned about scoreboards and standings, but about the lessons and growth along the way. The Game really does know. It rewards the prepared. We can’t fool it. It knows who deserves to be rewarded, and it will do so accordingly.

Whether it is football, baseball, or the game of life, the game knows. If we respect the game the way it’s supposed to be treated, play the right way, the game will reward us – but not always on our timeframe or in the ways we expect. It will do so as it sees fit.

I have often told the story about my high school quarterback who was all-state and heavily recruited. He signed to go to Pitt and play football. The next week, a high school guy named Dan Marino signed to attend Pitt. My friend didn’t play quarterback at Pitt. He flipped to playing Free Safety and the following year, Tom Flynn signed to play football at Pitt. Tom was also a special player going on to play for five years in the NFL. My friend lettered all four years of his college football career, obtained a degree in Dentistry, and went on to have an outstanding dental practice.

It is important to have grit, determination, and perseverance to make it happen. One of the great gifts of the game is learning how to fail and move forward. Life and the game are a lot alike. Before the Civil War and all the success and fame it brought him, Ulysses S. Grant experienced a long chain of setbacks and financial difficulties. He washed up in St. Louis, selling firewood for a living — a long, hard fall for a graduate of West Point. An army buddy found him and was aghast. “Great God, Grant, what are you doing?” he asked. Grant’s answer was simple: “I am solving the problem of poverty.”

We can work hard, listen to coaching, focus on our role, yet not start or play very little. We can think, now’s my chance but that is not for us to say. In the 1990’s, the Mia Hamm era, the UNC Women’s Soccer Team went 97-1-1 with multiple NCAA Championships. They had a team rule to not run up scores on opponents, no 10 goal victories. Included on those teams was a dominant High School soccer player, Rye Johnson, who played just a mere 100 minutes over 4 years. In one game, with her parents in the stands, Rye beats the defenders and has a wide-open shot to score – in a 9-0 game. She turns her hips and shoots wide left. She never scored a goal in college. Decades later she is still remembered at UNC for what she did, way more so than if she had scored that goal.

Don’t worry who is watching, the game knows. The turning point in the 1971 World Series was Game 3. The Pirates were down two games to none in a best of seven series and were holding a precarious 2-1 lead going into the fifth inning. To lead off the inning, Roberto Clemente tapped a ball back to the pitcher, Mike Cuellar. Most players do not even bother running out such weak hits. Cuellar casually went to his right to field the ball, as he turned to throw, he saw Clemente at full speed barreling toward first base. Cuellar hurried his throw and pulled the first baseman off the base. This error allowed Clemente to be on base. Pirates left fielder Willie Stargell then drew a walk and first baseman Bob Robertson hit a home run, putting the Pirates ahead by the final score of 5-1. The Pirates went on to win three of the next four games, winning the series. On a play that usually is an easy out, Clemente expended every bit of speed he had to get to first base. That hustle changed the momentum of the game, and possibly of the World Series.

Public perception keeps a scorecard, scoring us on how well we are living our lives. The game keeps a different scorecard. It isn’t the job title, how big the home, what brand clothes we wear, or how many toys we own. The game wants to know if we are solid spouses, parents, mentors, citizens, Christians? How we handle life’s ups and downs, do we love others, do we serve, are we using the gifts God gives us to better His kingdom?

There is the juxtapose of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel. Two people dealt two different hands. Jonathan, by all logic and standards, should have been dealt David’s hand. He was the heir apparent. But being king was never his role to play. And he was happy. His joy wasn’t sapped. He even celebrated the one who would be king. He was aware of the larger picture.

The game knowing is reflected in St. Paul’s discourse of Many Parts in One Body found in his letter to the Romans (12:3-8). Instead of being defined by the hierarchy of roles, we as Christians are free to see the many and varied elements throughout daily life. To assist us, God has distributed a variety of gifts to the fellowship of believers. Everyone has some gift that can be used for the benefit of the community. We must recognize our gifts, ascribed by faith and grace, are not instruments of self-importance or reflect the quality of our faith. Rather, the gifts challenge us to faithfully serve others.

The game is not myopic, and neither is God’s plan for us. There is something much bigger that grasps it all. We need to expand our perspective beyond things closest to us and see the eternal divine plan. God knows.

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