Saturday, March 17, 2018

Five Smooth Stones

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:40

I always have extra batteries available in March. For the remote control. For March Madness. Especially for the first round of March Madness. I record some of the “more significant” games and then find myself channel flipping as the others are played. Last night I flipped the channel and saw that UMBC had a double-digit lead over top-ranked Virginia…in the second half.

It was early in the second half, so my money was still on Virginia to wake up and pull away. So I flipped the channel again to TCU-Syracuse. But that UMBC-Virginia score was showing at the top of the screen and UMBC was still hanging on to a sizeable lead. I had to flip back to that game.

My wife was sitting there surfing on her iPad, glancing at the television from time to time. Making conversation she looked up and asked, “Is that TCU in the white jerseys?”.

I slowly replied, sort of Jimmy Stewart-ish, “Uh No….no..uh..that’s Virginia…and they are losing to UMBC”.

“Who’s UMBC?”, her eyes turning back to her iPAd.

Sports nut that I am, I am supposed to know these things.

My wife began to speculate. Are they from Missouri? Michigan? British Columbia? British Columbia…seriously?

I clicked on the “info” button and discovered that UMBC was the University of Maryland- Baltimore County. I then answered her question as though this was common knowledge that every sports fan should know. She looked up just before I exited the information pop-up screen and called me out for cheating.

I have to admit it. I had no clue who UMBC was. I pay no attention to 16 seeded teams unless they are from one of the many places I have lived in my wandering life. I’ve never lived in Maryland. Apparently the University of Virginia Men’s basketball team was not paying attention either.

As I watched UMBC, The Retrievers, pull away and beat mighty Virginia 74-54; the story of David and Goliath immediately came to my mind. And I’m sure that story will be attached to UMBC by many writers, bloggers and tweeters. But, the complete story as reported in the Seventeenth Chapter of 1 Samuel notes that David chose “five smooth stones” for his confrontation with Goliath.

UMBC had five smooth stones plus some guys on the bench and a pretty good coach. Jarius Lyles was the smoothest of the stones and the one that really brought down Goliath with 28 points, 23 in the second half. (And, interestingly enough, Jarius gives us another Bible reference. Jesus brought his daughter back to life. This is all just too good, isn’t it?)

But some stories really are too good to not be true. I feel bad for UVA, but UMBC’s monumental upset, the first time a 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed, is a classic feel good story. With all of the NCAA cheating scandals, paying players under the table, shoe deals and other shenanigans; for this one night five smooth stones from an unexpected and mostly unknown place made college sports history and in a good way. The Retrievers brought us back to the best college sports has to offer. And it was glorious.

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