by C.A. Phillips
Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. Exodus 3:7-8 (NLT)
Rodney Dangerfield was one of the most iconic comedians of the 70’s and 80’s. His trademark line, “I get no respect,” is mimicked to this day. And, it’s an appropriate moniker for the topic of much debate this week: Cinderallas being left out of the Big Dance.
Yes, it’s March Madness – that time of year when college basketball takes center stage in the sports world. It’s the truest – and most entertaining – test (in my humble opinion) to determine the unequivocal national champion in any sport. You’ve got to put together a string of six wins over three weekends against the very best teams in America. It’s a tall order no matter how dominant your team has been that season. In fact, only THREE overall No. 1 seeds have gone on to win the title over the past 15 years.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the tournament happens in the early rounds, when the “little guys” are matched up against the Goliaths of college hoops. I think back on teams like Valparaiso, St. Joseph’s, Davidson, and Virginia Commonwealth, who each have tasted the sweetness of upset victories through the years. And, who could forget UMBC – the only No. 16 seed to off a No. 1 – stunning Virginia in 2018?
As much as we love to see the underdog get their shot in the tourney, I heard earlier this week that only two of the 34 at-large bids came from small or mid-major conferences: Belmont (Nashville, TN) and Nevada. There are several smaller schools who automatically qualified by virtue of winning their season-ending conference tournament: Vermont, Liberty, Montana, Gardner-Webb, Northeastern, Northern Kentucky, Iona, North Carolina Central, Bradley, Fairleigh Dickinson, Murray State, Colgate, Wofford, Abilene Christian, Prairie View A&M, North Dakota State, Georgia State, and St. Mary’s.
But, what happens when a clear No. 1 from a mid-major conference gets upset in the season ending tournament? Often times, that team, despite compiling a record of 29-5, winds up getting left out, because the committee only allots one spot for that particular conference, in order to give a “big dog” – who may have a record of 19-15 – a spot instead. The mentality is that the top teams from the smaller conferences wouldn’t stand a chance with season-long schedules against teams from the most powerful conferences. But, this isn’t the regular season. It’s the Big Dance!
Do we really believe a 19-15 team is going to win this thing? If not, give the little guy the chance!
Throughout Scripture, we see the world doing the same thing to the little guy. He’s disregarded. Seen as inferior.
Look at Joseph. Gideon. Moses. David. Rahab. Elijah. Daniel. And many more!
Each of these heroes of the faith were, in some form or fashion, severely handicapped against the odds they faced. But, God chose them. In fact, God chose to use them in and through their weakness so He would be glorified.
So, if you ever feel like the odds are stacked against you, remember you have Someone in your corner to help you persevere and overcome the obstacles you face. When God is called upon, He responds…and He rescues.
C.A. Phillips is a lifelong sports enthusiast and youth baseball coach, and currently serves as the Communications Pastor and Director of Men’s Groups at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Ga. He lives in Kennesaw with his wife, Amy, and his two sons, Chaz and Chandler.
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