Get excited all you college basketball fans! It’s that time of year again known as March Madness, when the top colleges from around the country compete in a 68 team tournament to be crowned the NCAA Division I Basketball Champion. In my opinion, it is the favorite three weeks of the year for all those basketball junkies. By the time this blog is posted, the first and second rounds will have been completed. There will already have been upsets and game winning shots. Maybe this will have been the year a #16 seed upsets a #1 seed. Hmmm….probably not.
It’s not all that uncommon, though, for a #15 seed to upset a #2 seed during the opening round. Back in 2012 both Missouri University and Duke, who were #2 seeds, lost to #15 seeds North Dakota State and Lehigh, respectively. And in 2013 #15 seed Florida Gulf Coast won their first two games and made it to the Sweet 16.
Unless it’s your team I don’t know of a single person that does not cheer on the underdog. Everyone loves an underdog story. We all love those high seeds going deep into the tournament.
Just two years ago #8 Kentucky played #7 Connecticut in the finals. It was the highest combined seed total in the history of the NCAA championship games. Very seldom do all four #1 seeds make it to the Final Four. And this year, with the four #1 seeds having a combined total of 23 losses, which is also a tournament record, I don’t see that happening as well. But who knows? Anything could happen. That’s why it’s called March Madness.
As I mentioned, everyone loves an underdog. It’s exciting to see or hear about a team or player that is supposed to get crushed by their opponent, but come out on top. I’m sure some of you even have stories about a team you’ve played for or coached that was an underdog that came out on top. How about in 2006 when the Appalachian State University football team, an NAIA school, visited the Wolverines of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Michigan even paid Appalachian State a large amount of money to play them, just so they could beat up on them and tune their game before the conference season started. Well, joke was on them, because they got beat outright by Appalachian.
One of my fondest memories of an underdog story I was involved in was my senior year in high school. My swimming and diving team qualified for the state meet, but was a long shot at winning. Vegas odds probably would have had us at 100 to 1 to win. But lo and behold! All swimmers swam personal bests, and we ended up winning my school’s first ever state title. It was an incredible experience!
When I think of Christians, we are all underdogs in our faith life. We are at times placed at the bottom of the pecking order. We are made fun of, shown no respect, and constantly ridiculed. Joseph in the Bible was an underdog. David was most definitely an underdog. And let’s not forget about Jesus when He walked the face of the earth. Being a Christian in prison, I know I’m an underdog. I’ve been laughed at, questioned, and even called names. But it doesn’t stop me from doing what God wants me to do – and that is to get the Word out, witness, and spread God’s love to all those who do not know Him.
To be honest, I love being the underdog. I love achieving the impossible. I love trying to do something that others say will never happen or occur. Before coming to prison, I didn’t know what it would be like in regards to being a Christian on a compound where there is so much hatred and sin. I didn’t even know if I could openly declare my faith. But God has been on my side through this whole ordeal and He has helped me to lead others to Christ and to proclaim His name above all names. Yes, in this world, every day, I am an underdog. But I know I’m on top and a favorite when it comes to entering God’s kingdom!
Most mornings Seymour is perched amidst a mushroom-shaped tree, overlooking the sidewalk, whistling his three-beat tune to all onlookers and those who pass by on their way to work or to the chow hall. It’s a cheerful little tune that can brighten one’s day.
Seymour is a bird, a mockingbird to be exact. And Seymour is the name that the group of people I hang out with and I have decided to call him. During the morning hours he watches from about ten feet off the ground on the same branch on the same tree, singing to everyone his good morning tune. He’s a happy little fella. It’s like he says hello to us by nodding his head, and then whistles away. We politely respond by saying, “Good morning, Seymour,” and continue on our way. If we are lucky enough, at lunch time, he’ll be out on his perch again, looking over the hundreds of inmates, whistling his little tune. He’s like the compound pet. Well, to some of us that is. And we can always count on him to say hello on those sunny mornings.
I guess being in prison really puts into perspective all the little things in life that I never took time to notice. Before prison, I cannot even remember the last time I would take time to listen to a bird, let alone respond to it with a hello. The small things in life like walking barefoot through the grass, looking up at the clouds, watching the sunrise and sunset, the smell of rain, watching a thunderstorm are things I notice now. Coming to prison definitely makes me appreciate life at a whole other level of thinking, and in a good way.
How often do you notice the small things in life? Have you ever responded to a bird when it whistles at you or even took time to listen? Have you watched a bird go after a worm in the ground? Do you notice the clouds moving above you? Do you take a whiff of newly mowed grass? Do you notice the flowers blooming around you? Do you look closely at a spider’s web? God puts these small things in life for a reason. I know we don’t always see them, but they are there for us to appreciate. I encourage each of you to look around, to open up your eyes and ears, and notice those small things that God puts in your life. You just might appreciate life a little more. Plus, it will more than likely cause you to slow down your hectic pace a bit and might even put a smile on your face. And that’s always nice to see!