Why doesn’t anyone want to be ranked #1? For five straight weeks (Duke-twice, Louisville, Michigan, and Indiana) the number one ranked team in men’s college basketball has been knocked off. Listen to commentators, studio analysts, journalists, and yes, bloggers and you get the idea that these teams lost intentionally. Why didn’t Michigan foul Wisconsin’s Ben Brust? Why didn’t Wisconsin foul Michigan’s Tim Hardaway, Jr.? Why did Indiana switch on Illinois’ last-second inbound play? Why did that guy miss the free throw shot? Why didn’t the coach make a substitution? You have to love the commentary, but it’s a little silly isn’t it? Second guess all you want, but even when we make the best possible decisions, the outcome may still not be what we want.
It really is a silly debate – of course coaches are trying to win and of course, players are trying to play defense and make shots. I don’t know many that are trying to lose. So, why is it so difficult for teams to stay #1? Here are a few possibilities:
2. Mishandling Pressure: pressure from the attention, pressure from being in a new role, pressure from supporters, pressure from self can lead to poor performance.
3. Fatigue: Length of season, travel challenges, off the court demands can leave a team primed for the upset.
4. Long Term Focus: While each game has value, teams may be focusing on the learning process and preparing season-ending goals.
5. Decision-Making: Strategy, game adjustments, execution, and fast-paced reactions impact every game.
Effective coaches who stress the journey of a season, rather than game by game success, still coach to win each game. Many times in the critical moments of games, players make mistakes and coaches make mistakes – even when making the right decisions! You see, we can plan, teach, and prepare for decisions, but we still have to play the game. And even when we choose wisely, the outcome may not be what we intended. It’s one more reason why basketball is so exciting, so revealing, and so easily applied to life!
It’s important for each of us to remember that we live in an imperfect world and the human condition requires us to deal with imperfection. Even when we make the right decisions, bad things can still happen. You can plan and prepare. You can get more education. You can surround yourself with good influences – but you can’t control everything. In the end, the quality of life, often comes down to decisions we make and how we respond to the outcomes. I’m not a fan, but philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “Life is the sum of all your choices.” Make more good decisions than bad decisions and life should work out well – Should! If nothing else, by understanding some of the foes, like Haste, Anger, Apathy, Desperation, and Alcohol that get in the way of good decisions, we can learn to handle the difficult moments of life.
Paul also understood the human condition as he wrote (Romans 7:15):
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do.
Even as we plan and strive to make better decisions, sometimes we just fail – but when we realize that Jesus offers us His love and grace we become free to deal with the ups and downs, the good decisions and bad, of this world. And since we can trust God’s assurances in His word, we can also trust Him when He encourages us through Solomon in the Book of Proverbs to seek wisdom and knowledge. When we grow in wisdom, we will make good decisions in this life and as Solomon reminds us (Proverbs 4:7):
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
My prayer for each of us is that we receive the free gift of a future with God in heaven, but while we live in this life, that we learn to make better decisions by trusting the wisdom He makes available to each of us!