How To Turn Tragedy into Triumph

UofL.DukeI’ve watched a lot of college basketball games. But none like the one Sunday evening between the University of Louisville and Duke.

It was the most shocking moment I’ve ever seen on a basketball court.  It literally sucked the energy out of the arena as 35, 657 fans who were wildly cheering one moment sat in stunned silence the next. 

With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Louisville guard, Kevin Ware ran and lunged to contest a 3-pointer by Duke’s Tyler Thornton.  He landed awkwardly and his lower right leg snapped.

Immediately everyone knew this was bad. Thornton put his hand over his mouth and turned away in horror.

The Louisville players and coaches were visibly shaken. Russ Smith was sobbing uncontrollably, as he buried his face in his jersey.  Wayne Blackshear was lying on the court crying.  Forward Chane Behanan was standing at the free-throw line.  Doubled-over.  Physically shaking.  Coach Rick Pitino was wiping away tears from his face as he looked down at his fallen player.

“I went over and I was going to help him,” Pitino said. “Then I saw what it was and literally almost threw up.”  The bone was protruding six inches through the flesh.

“It was pretty traumatizing,” Cardinals forward Stephan Van Treese said. “I had to turn my head.”

After medical personnel carried Ware out on a stretcher, and nearly a ten minute stoppage in play, the game resumed.  But what would happen?  How would the players react?

What occurred on that basketball court in Indianapolis serves as a life lesson as we face trials and tragedy.  We saw genuine care and compassion for an injured player.  But there are at least three other lessons we can learn.

(1) Courage to continue.  It seemed almost surreal when the referee signaled for the game to resume.  Admittedly play was a little shaky as the half finished.  And even as the second half began.  But Louisville persevered.  They didn’t give up or quit.  They dug deep and found the courage and resolve to resume play at a high level.  They broke open a close game and won by 22 points.

But isn’t that a metaphor for life? Bad things happen.  Set backs occur. Sickness.  Injury.  Even death.  We’re left speechless.  Where do we turn what do we do?

It’s a cliche’ almost to the point of being trite.  But it’s true.  “Life goes on.”  It did for the Louisville Cardinals in spite of the loss of a key player.  It must for us when we face adversity.

(2) Unselfishness.  This wasn’t completely apparent during the stoppage of play, but as Ware lay there injured and helpless, he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself.  He was thinking about his team. He told Coach Pitino, “I’ll be ok. Just win the game.”  Then he asked for his teammates to come over so he could talk to them.

Star guard Peyton Siva related, “He told us countless times: ‘Just go win this game for me. Just go win this game. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. Just go win this game.’ I don’t know how he did it. I don’t know how he got strength to do it, but he told us to go out there and win.”

I really don’t know much about Kevin Ware, but I know in that moment of pain and agony, he demonstrated an uncharacteristic unselfishness.  No playing the victim card.  No feeling sorry for self.  No pity-party.

How much better would our world be, if we could all learn that lesson?  And apply it!

         (3) Ability to Refocus.  Admittedly it was tough to concentrate after witnessing such a gruesome injury to a fellow teammate.  But they did.  The players regained their focus.  And centered their attention on the game.

When life throws something unexpected our way, it diverts our attention. Blurs ours vision.  And obscures our focus.  But the task at hand demands we refocus.  Responsibilities cannot be neglected.  Obligations must be met.  Even in times of great anguish.

What happened Sunday is a testimony to the human heart. To the God-breathed spirit within us all.  The apostle Paul often used sport analogies in Scripture to speak of the need for self-discipline, dedication and desire in fighting the good fight of faith.  That game teaches us how to turn tragedy into triumph as we run the Christian race.

Or as Jesus expressed it in the parable of the unjust steward, some times “the sons of light” can learn valuable lessons from “the sons of this world.”  Sunday was one of those times.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Adversity, Life, Trials, Victory

5 responses to “How To Turn Tragedy into Triumph

  1. Great post, Ken. The ability to focus is so critical in getting through those traumatic times.


  2. Shared this with my husband and sons. Thanks again!


  3. Bill Hood

    Another hearty AMEN! Some do not get past the “selfish” instant as quickly as others, but the “getting past” and refocusing is the key. This is where caring brethren demonstrate their “value” in the game we share, called life.


  4. Pingback: Weekly Recap: March 27-April 1 | ThePreachersWord

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