The Philosophy of Coach Cal

I’m a life-long UK basketball fan. Through the good years and the bad years, the ups and downs, nearly undefeated seasons and the rather defeated seasons, I’ve been there. Even though I don’t get to watch as many games as I used to, and no longer have those sweet season tickets of my childhood years (they are way too expensive now), I am still a fan of the team, but I have become an even bigger fan of Coach John Calipari.

It is fair to say that Coach Cal is a divisive figure in college hoops. Some love him, some think he’s crooked, some think his talent would better serve a used car dealership, and others think he hung the moon. I am not competent to comment on any of these characterizations of the man, but I do think that some of the philosophy he utters is timeless, important, and preaches really well.

Today, as I was surfing Twitter and reading about yesterday’s game against Vanderbilt, I came across this video of Cal telling a story about his NBA years when his team was about to go up against the Utah Jazz and Karl Malone, and Keith Van Horn says “I don’t think I can guard Karl Malone.” Cal says to him “I don’t think you can either.” Cal goes on to tell Van Horn that Karl will probably score 30 points on him, but then he tells Van Horn that his job is to go out and score 32 points on Malone.

In our Christian life our job is not to fix the world by ourselves, or to guard the Karl Malone’s (no offence to him, he’s a great player) against whom we have no defense, or to remake the rules of the game in our own image. Our job is to go out there and add more goodness and compassion and kindness in the world. There are obstacles in this world that will seek openings to knock us down or take from the world instead of add, but we who bear the name of Christ are called to add.

In the Episcopal Church’s service for Holy Baptism there are five questions in the baptismal covenant about living the Christian life. My favorite says “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Our question today as we are moving towards Lent, and really our question every day, is, “Will we strive?” Will we get up when we’ve been knocked down? Will we go out there to try to score more for love than for hate today? Will we give everything that God has given us for a more just world and to bring about God’s dream?

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