Suffering Humiliating Losses

women's basketball_2009_free-throwIn my playing and coaching days, I’ve had my share of humiliating losses. A handful pop into mind without any effort. There was the college basketball game I played in against our arch rivals. At 5’6” I was my team’s center, going up against a girl who was 6’1” or 6’2”. As I recall, the final score was 72-12.

Of course, the losses I’m talking about weren’t on a big stage with millions of people watching. In fact, there are probably more people who learned about the humiliating loss I just mentioned from reading this blog post than from watching in the stands that day.

Not so for my poor Denver Broncos who suffered one of the all time humiliating losses yesterday in the Super Bowl. After having set records for points scored and touch down passes in a season, they managed only eight points.

Tim Tebow could have added to his reasons for being glad he doesn’t have a contract (see Super Bowl commercials), that he doesn’t have to deal with humiliating Denver or Jet losses. (See Denver’s 2011 round two game against New England and New Jersey’s entire 2012 season.)

In some ways, all teams, except the champion Seattle Seahawks, suffered humiliating losses since they either didn’t make the playoffs or ended their season on a loss. Oakland, for example, suffered a humiliating season, as did the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets didn’t do much better, and Buffalo is . . . well, Buffalo—always promising and improved, but rarely reaching the playoffs.

But the playoff teams, from New Orleans and San Francisco to New England and Kansas City, all ended in a bitter loss that will stick with them throughout the off season.

Be that as it may, losing from the first snap in the Super Bowl has got to be a record. I wonder what the Christians on the Broncos are thinking. What does God want them to learn from this experience?

I know when I was playing and losing, I was mostly happy just because I enjoyed being on the court. I never intended to play college basketball. We didn’t have a team in my freshman or sophomore year, and most of us had no experience other than p. e. We had coaches that specialized in softball, so we weren’t getting a great deal of instruction. The point being, I was having fun even when we lost. The humiliating loss was harder to take, but I could say at the end that I tried my best and certainly none of us quit.

As a coach, the humiliating losses were ones that surprised me. I thought we were going to play better and didn’t.

There were some other really lopsided losses, but those were in a tournament when my high school freshmen went up against stronger, older teams, and it was clear we were over matched and probably should never have been put in the tournament in the first place. Those were easier to take, especially when the opponents started giving my girls pointers right there on the court during the game! 😉

I remember one coach when I was coaching middle school who used a full court press even when her team was up by thirty points. Those losses didn’t feel humiliating as much as infuriating. Their coach then wondered why the team she faced in the playoffs went into a ball-control stall (we didn’t play with a shot clock) even though they were down by fifteen points. None of the other coaches had trouble understanding. That other team was doing their best to avoid a humiliating loss. They could take a loss because the opponent was better. They just didn’t want to lose by thirty points or more.

Here’s what I take from blowout losses: they may or may not be humiliating. Whether they are or not depends on why you’re playing, who’s watching, how much effort you gave.

For the Christian, I think it’s key to keep in mind that we are always to be playing (or working) for God, that He is the one who is watching, that He is the one who will strengthen our weakness (in other words, when we’ve done our best, God can turn our effort into whatever success He wishes).

First, we are to serve God. Ephesians 6:7 says, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” This was not addressed to athletes but to “slaves,” those in the Greek culture who were indentured servants to work at the behest of their masters. But the masters weren’t to be the ones these Christians worked for. God was the one for whom they worked.

Paul elaborated in his letter to the Colossians:

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (3:22-24)

There you have it in a nutshell. Our efforts should not be for the applause of people but because we revere our King eternal. He’s the one watching and He’s the one supplying the strength. And this is true for us work-a-day folks as much as it is for athletes.

Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 6:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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