Note: This post also featured on Huffington Post Sports.
With a staggering array of domestic and global crises, President Obama took a few minutes on ESPN to fill out his NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket. Many on Fox News chastised him, even though he encouraged sports fans to donate to relief efforts in Japan.
Obama was reminding us to dream. Life goes on.
Why do we get caught up in athletics if it isn't to dream? To tap into that part of us that transcends our perceived physical and mental limitations, or to cheer those who excel at levels beyond our grasp. We celebrate the game. We celebrate the dream. We celebrate life.
Last night, Demonte Harper lived his Coach Donnie Tyndall's dream, and Kenneth Faried blocked a last second shot to deliver a stunning upset as tiny Morehead State beat perennial powerhouse Louisville. John Branch of the New York Times writes:
In the restless, dark hours before the game between his 13th-seeded Eagles and No. 4 Louisville, a pair of teams from opposite ends of Kentucky basketball royalty, Tyndall could not sleep. His mind flashed forward to the possibilities. If the deficit is one or two, he told himself in the still of the night, the senior guard Demonte Harper is shooting a 3.
Tyndall shared that vision during a timeout. Morehead State trailed, 61-59, with 23 seconds left. But Harper was 0 for 5 from the 3-point line. It was the junior Terrance Hill, 5 for 6, who had unexpectedly kept the Eagles aloft in the second half. No matter. Tyndall followed his head and his heart.
“He said, ‘I know exactly where I’m going to,’ ” Harper recalled. “I’m going to put it right in your hands, Demonte. I don’t want you to drive it to the hole. I want you to pull up and win the game off a 3-pointer.”
When Harper took the floor, he allowed himself to dream of when he was a child, playing imaginary games with the clock ticking down. And down. And down. Swish.
Harper’s shot from well beyond the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left gave Morehead State the lead that held up.
“I think when we told him what we did in the huddle, it gave him an incredible amount of confidence to go make his play,” Tyndall said. “To his credit, he did.”
Of course he did. With confidence in his coach's dream, and a chance to live the buzzer-beater dreams of his youth, Harper showed us again people can rise above odds, fears, limitations, and lowered expectations.
Kenneth Faried, Harper's teammate who blocked Louisville's last shot, knows a thing or two about rising above limitations others put on him. ESPN's Dana O'Neil wrote a heartfelt profile of Faried, detailing his childhood in rough and tumble Newark, New Jersey; a story familiar to many young men in the tournament. But Faried's story has an unexpected twist; a lesbian mother and her spouse of ten years. His talents and success, in part, are a testament for many gay parents devoted to their children, against obstacles placed in their way by people who claim moral superiority on "Family Values." O'Neil writes:
And then 10 years ago, his mother introduced Faried to Manasin Copeland, the woman that would become her wife.
"I think people have an aura about them and the first time I met her, I thought, 'I like this lady," Faried said. "And when they got married, that showed me what commitment is all about, that there are people out there that can commit, even though for them it really has been the worst of times. I look at them, what they've been through and I think, 'Wow. That's amazing.' They're amazing to me."
O'Neil details the tragedies over which Faried's family has triumphed. They continue to see through darkness to the dream, and their love holds the family together.
Last week, in the wake of Japan's earthquake and tsunami, I wrote about prayer and meditation in times of tragedy. Featured all week on Huffington Post's Religion page, the comments section was filled with doubters and snark. They demanded proof.
When so much of what passes for religion in the world is about political control, it is completely understandable why people are so dismissive. But the inner journey I wrote about strengthens people in the face of tragedy, and leads them to do good works. It is the same connection Coach Donnie Tyndall had to his vision the night before an against-all-odds game. It is the same spirit that allowed Demonte Harper to tap into youthful fantasies and make them real. It is the same intangible but undying love, that emboldens Kenneth Faried's family and makes him, Harper and Morehead State, household names today.
The proof we are connected to something greater than just our limited idea of self is all around us. We just have to open our hearts to see it.
These are challenging times filled with change and transition. Tragedies call us to rethink our relationship to earth and one another. We are reminded of the power of nature and that technology's promise is coupled with dangers that demand a level of responsibility and accountability far beyond a quarterly dividend report. We see people uniting when governments and corporations fail, or use the public trust to usurp power and deceive.
We are witnessing the eternal story that is the irrepressible human spirit.
With all that is happening, we are reminded from the ashes of old ways, new will emerge. We are reminded to dream, to play, to give, to love. In our dreams and visions, prayers and meditations, lay tremendous potential. We must all do the hard work required to make that potential real.