A BETTER WAY
There is one you know. I
better way I mean. When faced with the choices life
sometimes forces us to make, in most all situations we only
see “yes” or “no.” Most of us – especially men - tend to
see things as “go” or “no,” “on” or “off,” “black” or
“white.” So many times however, there is a better way – a
higher path that is more powerful than all other choices
On Friday night, the kid won the game almost
single-handedly. He lifted the entire team up on his small
shoulders and carried them all to a place they had never
been – a better place inside themselves. He helped them see
they were more than they knew. He ran his heart out that
night, and if he threw an interception, he bounced right
back filling the air with perfect spirals, and eventually,
the unthinkable happened. Victory! The team repaid his
valiant efforts by carrying him off the field on their
shoulders. What a memory that time still is in my mind.
The night we watched a young man completely surpass himself
like some modern day warrior in the battles of long ago.
The next day his world would came crashing down.
His dad was one of the most successful men in our small
town. The next morning in coffee shops, cafes, and around
old barn stoves, the talk of the young man’s heroics took a
back seat to the stunning news of his dad’s business
collapse. This family had a palatial mansion – with bar
stools in the indoor swimming pool! Yet, so went the
gossip, their water and electricity would cease to flow
within the week. The cut-off notices were on the kitchen
table. Now the young warrior would be called not to save
the game…but to save his family.
His dad was so despondent he talked openly of taking
his life. Our hero quietly left the house, and spent the
day searching out small business owners in the community.
He asked each one not for pity or charity, but for a job.
Finally, one agreed. The young man then went to the coach
and explained he must miss one day of practice. The coach
listened, then responded, “If you miss practice, you will
not play Friday night.” The boy accepted the coach’s
decision and left. That’s where I came in. I went to see
In bumbling and stumbling fashion, I tried to offer
some reasons why this approach might not be in the best
interest of the young player or the team. The coach was
less than pleased.
“If I don’t have discipline, I have nothing,” he said
“But maybe this time, in this situation, there may be
“I don’t need some parent telling me how to do
my job!” he snapped.
“I don’t mean to be doing that,” I said. “This is not
about my son. This boy is trying to save his
“I don’t tell you how to do your job!” he repeated, his
voice now loud.
And the young man missed practice, and he didn’t play
on Friday night. And the team didn’t win another game for
the remainder of the season.
Hold that thought.
Years before the incident I just described happened,
there was another coach faced with precisely the same
events. This other coach was just beginning his career when
a young player came into his office and said, “Coach, I have
to miss practice.”
“Why?” asked the coach.
“Because,” the young player said, “my daddy is a
sharecropper. The cotton is ready. He can’t get the crop
in by himself. He’s too old. He’s sacrificed everything
for me to come to this school and for me to play football.
When I got on the bus to come here, he said, ‘All our hopes
are riding on you.’ My daddy can’t get that crop in without
me. So, I’m sorry, but I have to miss practice.”
The coach said nothing, and the young man left.
The next day, as the old man and his son prepared to
gather the crop, they noticed a cloud of dust on the
horizon. Shortly, they realized the dust was being produced
from a long line of cars, all of which made their way to the
farm and then stopped. From those cars emerged the entire
Grambling football team, complete with coach Eddie Robinson
at the front of the line. The coach who had suspended
football practice and asked his players if they would help
one of their own in his time of need. All the players
agreed to go.
Coach Eddie Robinson became a
legend at Grambling, and it’s easy to see why.
The other coach never won much, and eventually left the
profession…and it’s easy to see why.
-- Michael Johnson