The player-coach may be on the endangered species list — the giant panda of the sports world — or maybe not. But such a creature is a rarity in sports history.
Two of the most noteworthy player-coaches are Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Frank Chance. Chance won two World Series with the Chicago Cubs as a player-manager and Russell won 11 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, including two as a player-coach.
But is either the best player-coach ever?
Chance’s nickname was the “Peerless Leader,” and Hall of Fame manager John McGraw praised Chance for his leadership: “He was a great player … but in addition he was a great leader because he asked no man to take any chance that he would not take himself and because he had the power to instill enthusiasm even in a losing cause.”
Player-coaches can take such chances because they’re actually on the field, competing in games and in practices, unlike conventional coaches. In light of this, is Jesus of Nazareth the best player-coach ever?
He didn’t sit comfortably in the owner’s luxury box or stay on the sidelines in the coach’s zone, but instead entered the fray — becoming a player-coach via the incarnation in the most profound way, even running suicides with us.
Yet Good Friday seemed to be a losing cause for Jesus.
His followers affirm that Jesus is the ultimate “Peerless Leader,” but the irony is that His leadership didn’t instill enthusiasm on that darkest day. In fact, before He was executed, his disciples fled, leaving Him alone.
However, Good Friday was the prelude to Easter Sunday — and the power of Jesus’ resurrection instilled such amazing enthusiasm in the wake of Friday’s losing cause that the Church remains inspired 20 centuries later. Further, Easter has paved the way for the new-creation start that humans yearn for.
Not everyone agrees on the remedy for the human condition, yet virtually all honest observers agree that something is askew with human beings. History bears this out — and so do countless songs. Here are two that have enjoyed wide radio circulation in the 21st century:
From “Broken” — by Lifehouse
I’m falling apart, I’m barely breathing
With a broken heart that’s still beating.
From “Fix You” — by Coldplay
When you try your best, but you don’t succeed …
Stuck in reverse. …
Could it be worse? …
And I will try to fix you.
These songs resonate with older songs and letters — penned in the first century and earlier — that have likewise enjoyed wide circulation. Yes, the Scriptures and modern songwriters describe the human condition in similar fashion.
The Bible identifies the remedy as the One who is the Peerless Fixer — Jesus. As the best player-coach ever, He is on our side and by our side and in our side.
Yes, “in” our side — the place in the body where the heart is located, for the human heart is the crux of the issue.
Pep Guardiola coached Lionel Messi, arguably the world’s best soccer player, at Barcelona. After giving a fellow coach some advice, Guardiola started to walk away but turned around and added, “By the way, get a Messi in your side.”
Yes, “side” is soccer-speak for team, yet the human body definition of “side” dovetails with a one-word revision of Guardiola’s quote: “By the way, get a Jesus in your side.”
According to the New Testament, He is the only one who can mend the mess of the human heart.
— Bruce Deckert
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