Sunday, February 1, 2009

I See... Sunday's Victory

In commemoration of Super Bowl Sunday, I offer this story about another type of victory enjoyed on Sunday.

Many years ago, our young family was struggling to find opportunities for our son to participate in neighborhood sports leagues that did not have Sunday practices and games. I found it personally inspirational that as he grew up, his most vocal complaint about the whole sports-on-Sunday thing was not “why can't we play sports on Sunday?” but “why does everybody have to schedule events on Sunday?”

I soon realized the only way to insure that Brian would not be asked to play on Sunday was to coach his team myself. On the surface, it didn’t seem that difficult; although I wasn’t a basketball expert, I loved watching the game and working with kids that age. With the coaching assistance of our priest quorum’s resident basketball fanatics, and some careful task management, I would squeeze some time out of my busy bishop and work schedule.

The team progressed far beyond our wildest dreams. The boys worked hard, learned skills, played unselfishly as a team and had a lot of fun with each other on their way to 16 straight wins, all on Friday and Saturday nights. Our success, however, brought us a more thorny problem; every championship game in the history of the league had been played on Sunday!

After days of heartfelt prayer and pondering, I decided the right thing to do was to quietly approach league officials and politely ask them to hold the final game on Saturday instead of Sunday. Without trying too sound presumptuous, I contacted one of the league chairmen and explained my plight. First, I pointed out that with our undefeated season so far, it was a distinct possibility that we would be one of the final two teams that would make it through the tournament brackets and play in the championship game that traditionally had been played on Sunday. Then, with a silent pleading prayer in my heart, I introduced to him, with all the quiet nerve and guts I could muster, that it was part of our deeply-held religious beliefs to honor the Savior by not playing sports on Sunday. Furthermore, I shared with him the concern that it would not be fair to the other 9 boys on the team who trained and played so hard, as well as their parents who supported them, to play in the final game without their two coaches and their leading scorer (my son). My prayers were partially answered at this time when the chairman, much to my surprise, seemed to be sympathetic and promised to raise my concerns at the next planning meeting. My hope was tempered, however, by broken promises made to us before the season began that Brian could play in one of the more advanced leagues without having to try out on Sunday.

I waited for the moment of truth all week. My hopes and emotions swung wildly between despair, potential elation, and utter resignation. If permission wasn’t granted, how could I break the depressing news to Brian and the rest of the team? What message would I send to the rest of the non-member boys and their parents by walking away from the team in its final championship game, and taking the assistant coach and Brian with me? Would I appear to be a selfish religious fanatic? Could I really expect the entire league to change their traditional final game schedule just for us, when there was no guarantee that we would even make it to the finals?

I was not spiritually prepared for the answer to my prayers that surfaced at the coaches meeting the following Tuesday evening. 40-50 coaches from all the leagues, including league chairmen, had been called together to discuss the post-season tournament schedule. My personal anticipation and despair was almost overwhelming as they began at the front of the room to pass out the schedule, complete with playoff brackets and game dates; I had made a tactical mistake and sat in the back of the room, which made the waiting even more unbearable. My despair was instantly transfigured into gratified shock and excited relief when I viewed the official game dates and saw that the final games for all six leagues was on Sunday, except for the 5/6 grade boys: SATURDAY AT 12 NOON. I wept inside.

After a few brief moments of reviewing the schedule, the head director of all the leagues conducting the meeting remarked, “we had a request to hold one of the final championship games on Saturday instead of Sunday. Mr. Tait, would you like to say something about this?” I timidly rose from my seat in the back of the school cafeteria and clearly explained my dilemma. I rehearsed to them what I had shared with one of the league chairmen a few weeks ago; that it was an important part of my faith to keep the Sabbath Day holy by not playing sports on Sunday, that I wanted to set an example for my son by living what I believed, and that I would be truly grateful if the last game could be scheduled on another day. I ended my brief remarks with “ Does anyone have a problem with this? Can we agree on this?”

Coaches replied to my query with a supportive chorus of reverently nodding heads and whispers of “yes” from several corners of the room. The head director ended discussion of the issue with a good-natured humorous challenge in a semi-southern drawl, acknowledging our successful season so far: “Well… Mr. Tait…, I don’t think you’re goin’ to hafta worry about that final game- I hear that everyone is gunnin’ for ya!”

I’m glad he ended with that remark; we used it to inspire the team to endure four close tournament games, including one double-overtime marathon. The final was particularly satisfying because they had to come from behind to win. As it ended, and all our boys danced around the gym with unbridled joy, I was easily able to convince myself that the more memorable, lasting victory would be celebrated the next day when I was in church and at home with the gospel and my family.

2 comments:

  1. Uncle Richard, thank you for that story. I really liked it! It gives hope that people out there are willing to accommodate if you just ask.

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  2. AWESOME! Thanks for your integrity and honor to live what you believe. Living in the South it is such a difficult position for we LDS parents having to limit the opportunities for our kids when it comes to Sunday play. Everyone goes to Church (it seems) but then heads out to tennis soccer and especially baseball tournaments. My 9 year old got picked for the all star soccer team last season. We declined participating since Sunday play was involved. The team went on to win the SC state title in their age group. We have no doubt that we made the best choice, but hated to miss such a great opportunity. It was humbling for him to see all of his friends in the paper celebrating but he kept a great attitude! It has been hard with the younger kids but I'm sure will be MUCH harder come high school aged sports. Thanks for addressing this sensitive area. Lisa in Beaufort, SC

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