So Michael has been telling me for a while that I should write for his blog.
I have resisted up to this point, but have finally given in. I’m far from a smooth or professional writer and I often don’t even find myself to be very interesting. And I don’t know when or how often I’ll write, or about what. So, we’ll see how this goes. All the years of doing this have certainly made Michael a popular guy.
How bad can it be? 🙂
Just the other night and just up the road from me, a high school basketball coach in the heat of the moment head-butted and knocked down a referee. As is so often the case nowadays, the incident was caught on video. The coach, who is also a teacher at the school, has been placed on administrative leave. I imagine this will not end well for him and he soon will be permanently out of a job and will struggle to gain another one in the same field.
This brings to mind one of my favorite sports movies, Hoosiers, which is actually based on a true story. Many of you may already be familiar with the story, but if not, this is the real-short synopsis. A failed college basketball coach, Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman), gets another chance to coach at a small insular town and high school in Indiana. Despite much initial resistance from players, parents, and town-folk alike, the coach ends up leading the team to the state championship. As the movie plays on, the truth is revealed that the reason he previously failed at his college coaching job was that he once hit one of his own players.
In the head-butting incident and the story of Norman Dale, I see a few parallels at play here around things that get discussed at this blog:
1. Although it can be a double-edged sword, the advent of the internet and especially social media has given a voice to some victims who previously were shamed and/or intimidated into silence. While this head-butting incident probably would have had enough public witnesses to bring the case to justice, the existence of multiple videos along with their proliferation on the internet should assure this man will not be able to weasel out of what he did.
2. Once the man receives his punishment, at what point do we give him another chance? He will be stained with this black mark for the rest of his life. It will not be easy for him. I do not know this man at all and so I have no idea what his character is like and if he has any other questionable or flat-out wrong incidents on his coaching and/or teaching record. I don’t know how truly repentant the man may or may not be following all the fall-out that will come. In a church context, if this man repents he should be restored. But restored to what? Certainly fellowship. What if he were a teacher and coach at the church’s school? Should he be allowed to teach and/or coach again there? If not there, then anywhere else? What if he were a pastor? Would this incident be grounds for removal? And if so, how and when should he be restored? To me, these shouldn’t all be easy questions to answer. For some the answers are easy and obvious. Not that I am the arbiter of categorizing all things that should be hard or easy, but I truly wonder about those who always seem to have the answer to the many circumstances I find difficult to discern.
3. It happened well before the internet and pretty much even before television, but Norman Dale was seemingly rightly brought to justice for hitting one of his own players. Although it didn’t happen in Dale’s situation, it was easier back in his day to cover up something like this. Even though it is harder to do so today, things still do get covered up. What is mind boggling, however, most especially in the Christian realm, is when there is substantial evidence and proof of appreciable wrongdoing and yet there are those who will continue to support the wrongdoers despite the lack of repentance and reformation. Gospel for Asia and Mark Driscoll are a couple recent and obvious examples that come to mind.
4. Although not explicitly shown or stated in the movie, it would appear that Norman Dale was repentant and reformed from his past. He apparently had only one friend, at least at the start of the movie, who was willing to give him a second chance. Dale was successful in his second chance. Success is not guaranteed in second chances, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be granted. There are many different circumstances in life (but not necessarily all) where God would have us to give second chances. But shouldn’t there first at least be some signs of repentance and/or reformation?