As I flew home last night with our team from Puerto Rico, I was asked “Coach, are you going to write about our trip on 3 Point Wisdom?” In fact, I had been hoping for some inspiration during our four-day trip for the Puerto Rico Basketball Classico, but after losing our first game I wasn’t in much of a writing mood, especially since the most powerful thought I was having was a complaint. Who wants to whine or complain when you get to experience a new culture, great food, and 80 degree weather on the beach? But as I prepared myself for this week’s celebration of Jesus’ birth, I found the complaint I was having was also reminding me of the truth we find through faith in the birth of that baby over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem.
BASKETBALL – The Line
As we prepared for our first game in the Classic, the tournament organizers arranged for us to practice at a local YMCA in San Juan, which is fairly typical for this type of tournament. It adds flavor to the experience as you play at the grass-roots level with no air conditioning in a dusty recreation league gym. As we practiced though, the floor had two lines for 3-point shooting – one at the NCAA college level distance and one a foot farther out at the international distance. As we practiced, our players asked which line we were using and since we were playing NCAA sanctioned games, we logically thought it would have to be the normal, NCAA-required distance. That was until we showed up at Ruben Rodríguez Coliseum, home of the Bayamon Vacqueras, and saw just one painted line, the international 3-point line. As coaches, we chose to ignore the line knowing that we have some really good shooters who have deep range, but then questioned ourselves as our normally 42% long-range shooting team made just one three in the first half against Salisbury University and went 4 of 16 for the game, which turned out to be a one-point loss in a defensive struggle influenced greatly by the 3-point line. To be fair, the game was a defensive war against a team ranked in the Top 25 for Division III with referees who were not NCAA officials, but there’s no doubt that a part of our game we rely on was hindered. Thankfully, we adjusted well and bounced back to make 14 of 28 in our second game to easily defeat Randolph University from Virginia.
My complaint for the tournament organizers? If you’re going to host NCAA-sanctioned and countable games, NCAA rules should be enforced. Both teams we played, as well as all the teams we watched, were not prepared for the international line and struggled with the distance. Either tells us up front or do what has to be done to put down a temporary line. Changing a standard like a 3-point line affects outcomes and can affect the fortunes of a team battling for post-season consideration. OK, that’s my rant. Our guys helped me out by making the adjustment in the second game without us having to adjust our philosophy.
LIFE – Changing Standards
Unfortunately, changing standards is commonplace in today’s world, especially when we allow the world around us to set them. Just think about how the standard for personal success and the myth of an affordable college education have changed throughout this generation or think about how our standards of morality have fluctuated. Politics have changed our definition of life, the definition of marriage, and even have reinterpreted our nation’s founding principles and beliefs. And scientists seem to give us contradictory revelations on a weekly basis about global warming, the origin of the universe, and the balance of good cholesterol and bad cholesterol – how much fat you should eat and how many carbs you can have. The standards just keep changing. The only way to deal with that effectively is to identify consistent standards that won’t fluctuate or change – a tough task for us all!
FAITH – The Christmas Standard
God’s message for me during the celebration my family will have as we remember the birth of Jesus is about standards that will never change. Even though our culture continues to adjust the standards of Christmas and blurring the true meaning of what we celebrate, God’s plan remains. Through faith, I believe that God’s commandments and God’s love never change. All of us will fall short of the standard required to be with Him in heaven when this world ends and that’s why we need a Savior. The line doesn’t move. There’s nothing you can do to adjust or to be better prepared for a different standard. That little baby in the manager, though, allows each of us to meet the standard. That innocent baby takes on the sin, the shortcomings, and the failings of each of us and through the death he will experience, allows each of us to meet God’s standard:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
Our standards often change like a 3-point line, but God’s standard will never change. Jesus did not come as the babe in the manger to show us we don’t measure up. He comes to meet the standard for us. Find joy, peace, and comfort in confidence as we celebrate the true standards of Christmas!