From my perspective, the three of us were the core of the team. We were also the best of friends. John’s parents were missionaries to Taiwan, and they were home on furlough, so they were very well known and respected in our church. My dad was a deacon and taught adult Sunday school, and my mom sang in the choir and taught Sunday school for the little kids, so we were high profile in the church. At least, that was my perspective.
We played an entire season and didn’t win a single game. Well, I think we had one victory, thanks to a forfeit by a team that didn’t show up for a game. One evening, I don’t recall whether it was a Sunday evening or a Wednesday evening, the coaches recognized the team in church, and presented three trophies. I just knew, hands down, the three trophies would go to John, Mike, and me. There was an MVP trophy, a trophy for good sportsmanship, and a coaches’ trophy for the player that the coaches felt was an outstanding leader on the team. I wondered which one would go to John, which one would go to Mike, and which would go to me. From my perspective, any one of us would have qualified for any of the trophies.
As I recall, the first trophy went to a kid whose name I don’t even remember. His nickname was Grasshopper, and I think he only came to church during the baseball season. He was a scrawny little kid who lived in the projects across the street from the church, but played with heart and had a great sense of humor. I think he received the MVP trophy, which I thought was odd. As the coaches were getting ready to present the sportsmanship trophy, John leaned over and told me he thought I would get it. Then the coaches called John’s name and presented him with the trophy. True to form, John returned to his seat and told me that I should have gotten that one. Now there was one trophy left, and as I was getting ready to stand up and receive the accolades of the crowd, the coaches called my brother’s name. Now Mike deserved the trophy because he was a leader on the team and a real team player. He had played most of the games behind the plate, wearing catcher’s gear in the Memphis summer heat, and never complained. I was happy for him, but I was astonished that I had not received a trophy. I sat there thinking that maybe there was one more, perhaps an honorable mention, or best left-handed pitcher trophy or something, but that was it. The presentations were done.
Through my high school and college years, I continued to compete in sports. I was pretty good at racquetball, and played intramural doubles in college. My partner and I made it to the school finals and lost the championship match. There was no trophy for second place.
When my two boys started playing baseball and basketball, everyone that played received a trophy. It was meaningless to them, because they understood that they didn’t have to earn it. Those trophies looked nice, but became as disposable as used batteries. They were merely mementos, and had no real meaning.
The Bible tells us that we will be rewarded with crowns when we get to heaven. I was reading in James chapter 1 recently, and verse 12 was the inspiration for this story. It says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” I’m past the point of earning trophies in this life. But God has promised a crown to me if I remain steadfast in Him!