I felt a little helpless, watching as the coach explained why he’d been cashiered.
I kept thinking: This is a decent man…and he works hard…and people respect him. He’s exactly the kind of guy you’d want leading your favorite college basketball program.
Except for one little thing: the won-loss record.
So yeah, in case you missed the news: Jim Crews is out as head coach of the Saint Louis University men’s basketball team – just two seasons after he’d led my beloved Billikens to a second consecutive conference championship.
Could it really be just two years ago – when we Billiken fans felt like we were on top of the college basketball world? When our home court thundered and rocked with cheers…as the league’s biggest rivals came to town?
Alas, the wheels came off – big time – in the ensuing months for the Billkens. They went from first-to-worst in the A-10 last year…and followed it up with a bottom-feeder finish this season. So it’s “Thanks for the memories, Jim…but time for SLU to move on.”
Watching the coach’s final press conference yesterday, I realized that I felt deeply conflicted: As much as I admired his demeanor, I knew in my heart that I also want the Billikens to win—regularly. A coach can’t just be a great guy…a model teacher, husband and friend. He has to produce. That’s life in the big leagues.
Of course, such a perspective reveals a value system that’s out-of-balance on the part of the college sports fan. Perhaps seriously so. (And yeah, I’m working on that particular defect of character.)
It’s also potentially a teaching moment – as I discovered when I heard the gospel at Mass this morning. In the passage, we find the people gathered around Jesus in the temple area, like perplexed sports fans trying to understand a coach’s fall from grace.
‘We know where [Jesus] is from,’ they said. ‘But when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.’
The people obviously know something about Jesus. But they certainly don’t know everything – a fact that seems to frustrate the Lord:
So Jesus cried out…and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
We’re forever looking for simple solutions to the problems that confront us. Jesus seems to be telling us that we still have a lot to learn – and a long way to go – in our knowledge of the Holy One. It’s a thought that’s echoed in today’s first reading from the book of Wisdom:
These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
Beware of snap judgments and ingrained habits of thinking, Jesus seems to be telling us. You may think you know me, but you don’t fully understand. You would be wise to keep your minds and hearts open…for the new things I seek to do in you.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.