To the uninitiated, it’s difficult to explain what happens each year at the Concordia Invitational Tournament. Many of you might be skeptical when I tell you that the intensity and passion of play rivals the high school state championship games and NCAA postseason games that I’ve been involved in, but it’s true. Year in, year out we witness the highest level of competition at the CIT, even though all four teams on the men’s side this year are battling through .500 or lower seasons! It’s difficult to explain. It helps to know the ties and connections between schools, teams, participants, and fans, but quite simply you have to experience it. I’ll try to clue you in, but to understand it, you have to experience it.
BASKETBALL – The Big Time?
After a hard-fought 68-64 loss to Concordia Nebraska in the championship, the Bulldogs celebrated at the middle of our floor. Last year we did the same thing on their floor! The rivalries are intense, as many of the fans and participants have multiple connections to the teams. Families are often split with alums and students who attended different schools. High school classmates and fellow church members are often wearing different colors, but in the end, all of us sit down to wrap up the tournament with a short devotion, worship song, and prayer. It unifies us, despite the intense competition we just took part in. This year, though, I was unsettled by a closing comment that suggested that for one brief weekend, our athletes get to feel the “big time.”
The intensity and the passion certainly match the big time of college athletics, but in my coaching opinion, the big time is not created by the circumstances surrounding a couple of games between rivals and sister schools. To me, just getting to play college basketball is big time. We don’t need to tell our athletes that for one short weekend they’re big time. That puts all the focus on the exterior things like hyped-up student sections and fired-up alums. You can be big-time in whatever situation you play. Each time players step on the court they can determine if they’re going to be big time by the passion and intensity they’re willing to bring. That’s what makes you big time!
A few years back when I was recruiting at the Division I level, we talked to an all-state player from Indiana who told us she wasn’t interested because she was going “big time.” We were coming off a conference championship and our program’s first NCAA tournament win, but we weren’t big time enough for her. At the same time, we were bombarded with requests from hard-working, passionate players who just wanted a shot at Division I, thinking that it was the holy grail of big time college basketball. I remember advising some of them that there’s nothing wrong with trying to play at the highest level, however, you can still have a “big-time” experience playing Division II or Division III. You see, big time is all about giving everything you have to compete in whatever situation you find yourself. The external things shouldn’t matter. You determine if you’re big time by your approach.
LIFE – The big time requires focus.
The problem with the concept of “big time,” is that far too many of us compare our life situations to those of other people, rather than focusing on our own. Too many of us fall victim to the old “grass being greener” saying, rather than embracing the concept of watering the grass we have. Things in life don’t always meet the society’s standard of big time. My checking account certainly isn’t big time, nor is my social calendar. My clothes aren’t big time and I certainly could drop a few pounds, and big time abs probably aren’t in my future. Do you know what is big time for me? Helping my son figure out a way to stay out of major league debt as he works his way through college, listening to my daughter as she sorts through the demands of her high school activities to identify her life passion, and teaching my youngest son to learn what it means to eat right as he takes on high school athletics next year. Being a Dad is the big time! Not for one weekend every year, but for a lifetime. That’s one of the reasons I love the group that Tony Dungy is involved with called All Pro Dad. It helps me stay focused on what truly is the big time in my life.
FAITH – The real big time.
Playing in big time games and even striving to be a great Dad, though, pale in significance to the big time available to each of us. Jesus offers each of us forgiveness for our sins and a true purpose for this life. Whether you play D-III basketball, play in the NCAA tournament, or the NBA, Jesus makes you big time. Unfortunately, many of us will twist that up as well. If I’m not careful, it becomes so easy to listen to Satan’s lies telling me I’m not big time enough for God. After all, God doesn’t speak to me through a burning bush or blind my sight. He hasn’t favored me with a grand ministry or mission opportunity and he hasn’t blessed me with extraordinary skills or finances. Yet Jesus considers me to be just as significant as Moses or Paul or that guy in church who is the nicest and most generous man I know. Jesus makes us all big time and all I have to do is take a closer look at my life, my circumstances and my relationship with Him and I’ll see it:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you . . . (2 Corinthians 13:5)
As you look at your own story, I think you’ll see that you’re big time, too!