Sunday, January 2, 2011
New Year’s Day 1977 saw the University of Arkansas Razorback football team square off against Oklahoma’s Number One Sooner’s. Arkansas went into that game a three-touch-down underdog. They managed to win the game, but the lesson they learned involved much more than a mere football game. They discovered that availability was the most important ability in each player’s arsenal of life.
Facing that huge challenge, the “Hogs” knew “all” the reasons they could not win. Rule violations compounded their problems with the benching of three starters. Injury sidelined another. With game preparation going badly, Coach Lou Holtz gathered his team together and told his men “we’ve had seven of the worst days of practice that have ever been.”
Holtz admitted “all anybody has talked about is that we’ve lost four of our players.” He then asked his players to share with him the reasons why they could not win. After listening to their comments, he asked his team--tell me why we can win.
He then went on to add “in my family, when someone has done well, we try to make that person feel special. We let him decide what we eat for dinner and what we talk about.
“But,” Holtz admitted, “the best part comes when everybody in the room, one by one, tells that person something that is sincere and genuine. You say how much that person means to you, how much he has done to help you with your algebra, what a pretty dress she is wearing.”
“But, you must be sincere,” he reminded them, as he asked his team to do the same.
A big offensive lineman led the way by congratulating his defensive team for being nationally ranked all year. Another player confided how much it meant to him knowing that field-goal kicker, Steve Little, was the best in the country.
Eventually, Roland Sales confessed, “You know I haven’t practiced well, because I haven’t felt well. But I want each of you to know,” added Sales, “what a tremendous thrill it will be for me to play this game.”
“I’ve never started in a game as a running back,” Sales admitted, “and playing with people as fine as you means more to me than anything else in my life.”
Intimate feelings soon transformed an underdog team into an invincible family and two nights later they went out and kicked off to Number One Oklahoma.
Oklahoma began by fumbling. Arkansas quarterback, Ron Calcagni, ran for eight yards on a keeper. The second play saw the young, inexperienced Roland Sales run for the score.
Late in the first quarter Sales ran again. He gained 38-yards behind spine-tingling blocking and the rest of the game became anticlimactic: almost breathless.
I sat glued to my TV as underdog-Arkansas humiliated Oklahoma’s highly favored Sooners in full view of sixty million stunned viewers. Oklahoma’s best effort was 230 yards. Roland Sales set an individual Orange Bowl record of 225 yards rushing--scoring two touchdowns.
The coach's unscheduled team-meeting with the Razorbacks had blended his discouraged underdogs into a “team” that beat all the odds. They won the Orange Bowl; they achieved an all-time great victory, and they learned a life-long lesson.
When faced with insurmountable circumstances, the Arkansas football team learned one of life’s most valuable lessons--the most direct route to a great achievement often results when facing an oversized challenge.
The most direct route to achieving success is most often found hidden in the wrappings of the most difficult obstacles. Paul learned this lesson long before boys played football. In following Jesus, Paul discovered “can” succeeds more often than “can’t,” and concluded, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13, NASV, emphasis added).
Nine-year-old Houston Bever memorized and recited this verse in the Children’s Day program at his father’s church. Years later Pastor Bever described that experience to his own congregation. “Reciting it verbatim, I stood on the platform wearing knee britches and button shoes--a scared calf--wide-eyed--bushy-headed. I never forgot the message.”
“I can” is a giant, unbending he stands,
There’s strength in his arms; there’s skill in his hands,
To the powers of evil he will not bow,
For to the cause of right he has made his vow.
“I can’t” is a sluggard, too lazy to work,
From duty shrinks, every task he will shirk.
No bread on his board, no meal in his bag,
His house is a ruin, his coat is a rag.
As an adult, Bever later wrote in his church newsletter, “I am not afraid of tomorrow for I have seen yesterday and I love today.”
By making ourselves available, we give ourselves an opportunity to achieve everything God strengthens us to do. A wise person will include the Divine in the daily and 2011 offers 525,600 minutes for investing in another of God’s prime opportunities.
From Warner’s World, we are