Friday, March 28, 2014

Helping the Other Team Win?

Philippians 2:4 says, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” When was the last time you chose second place to help someone else win?

Something extremely unusual happened in 2008 at a softball game played by Western Oregon and Central Washington University. At stake was a bid to the NCAA’s Division II playoffs. “Never in my life had I seen anything like it,” said Central Washington Coach Gary Frederick. “It was just unbelievable.”

Central Washington was leading 2-1, when Western Oregon sent one of their worst hitters to the plate. Five-foot-two-inch Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run in her entire life, but this day would be different. Against all odds, Sara hit a pitch over the center field fence for an apparent three-run home run. All she had to do was run around the bases.

But when Tucholsky got to first base, she collapsed on the base path, having torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee. Her injury made it impossible to finish rounding the bases, which meant she would not be credited with the only homer in her lifetime.

The rules prohibited her teammates from helping her around the bases. If they touched her, she would be called out. As Sara lay on the ground, the first basemen from the opposing team, Mallory Holtman, asked the umpire if the rules also disallowed the other team from carrying her around the bases. The umpire said nothing in the rulebook prohibited the opposing team from helping her.

Holtman asked a teammate to lend her a hand. The two of them picked up Tucholsky and resumed her homerun walk, pausing at each base to allow her to touch the bag with her uninjured leg. By helping her complete her home run, they were also risking losing the ballgame, which would keep them from going to the playoffs.

“We started laughing when we touched second base,” Holtman said. “I looked up and saw the entire Western Oregon team in tears.” Tucholsky said, “My whole team was crying. Everybody in the stands was crying. My coach was crying.” The Central Washington players ignored their goal of winning and going to the playoffs so they could help their injured opponent.

Western Oregon went on to win the game 4-2. By helping their opponent win, Central Washington was eliminated from the playoffs. Some things are more important than winning ball games. When you deny yourself to help another person, it brings a smile to God’s face. When was the last time you chose to take second place? (Slaying Your Giants by Kent Crockett, Hendrickson Publishers 2013, pp.112-113).
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