It was the University of West Virginia vs. University of Texas men’s basketball game, February 20, 2021. Both teams were highly ranked, so it promised to be a good—and tight—game. But TX pulled 18 points ahead in the first half and was still up 10 points at halftime.
In the second half, though, two TX players got into it with each other. Apparently, the one guy didn’t think his teammate was working hard enough. It got ugly and went on for some time. From that point on, WV climbed all the way up—and won by 2 points in a nail biter.
That took me back to the 1990s, when I first began attending games at our kids’ high school. We were a division II school, but played some big, scary division I teams. When such teams came onto the floor for pregame warmups, you could feel our crowd cringing and silently thinking, Uh-oh.
I recall several games that went like this:
The other team would leave us in the dust from the get-go. The score would suddenly be 18–2 or something. But no matter our guys’ failures, they never turned on each other. You could hear the seniors continuing to say, “We’re all right. Let’s go.” (If they did instruct each other, it must’ve been a whisper in the ear. I never saw an angry or frustrated outburst.) Our score would begin to creep up. As we got close to catching up, the opposition would begin to panic and make mistakes … and yell at each other. Shouting things like, “C’mon, man! You shoulda had that!” Our guys would just calmly keep working, take over, and win. It was astonishing—and fun!
I came to believe that the team camaraderie, encouragement, and support were worth 10 points in any given game. During one stretch our team was undefeated for an entire season and into the next.
Back to the WV and TX game: No one can say for sure that the infighting was the reason for the loss, but it surely contributed. Interestingly, a couple of days later, TX won in overtime against the University of Kansas. And one of the guys who had been in the earlier fight was named the player of that game. I had to wonder whether he was trying to make up for the trouble he’d previously caused.
Can’t help thinking of this teamwork attitude as relates to the church—both locally and worldwide. Yes, we Christians need to hold each other accountable. And there are ways to do that. But for the little foibles that are bound to happen, simply because we’re human, what if we just patted our teammate on the back and said, “We’re all right. Let’s go.”