One reader of the humble ramblings was a bit confused by a recent declaration of my affection for the Baylor Bears. They thought I was an Ohio State Buckeye fan. I am. I am also a diehard Cleveland Browns and Texas Rangers fan. I have a nearly unlimited capacity for suffering.
I proudly proclaim that I am an Ohio State fan by birth. I was born forty-five miles due south of the Horseshoe. For pagans the Horseshoe is the magnificent Ohio Stadium nestled on the banks of the Olentangy River in Columbus, Ohio. I have been an Ohio State fan since I can remember. If I became a Buckeye by birth then I guess I became a Baylor Bear by checkbook. Eldest son Matt became the first Bear. He was followed by brothers Scott and Brett.
If I had given this much money to any other Baptist organization I would have a little plaque on a building somewhere.
In Loving Memory of Dave Burchett’s Retirement Fund that sacrificed itself for three undergrad degrees.
But something happened during those often painful check writing sessions. I fell in love with Baylor University. I even became an alumni by choice, an award that Baylor probably would like to have back. I love what Baylor has done for my sons. All of them have grown in wisdom and stature in, of all places; Waco, Texas. I love the atmosphere and the values that the administration unashamedly proclaims. I wrote a piece defending Baylor when they told coeds they could not pose in the Big 12 issue of a men’s magazine. Baylor is very clear about who they are and what they believe. If you want to get “nekkid” in a magazine you have eleven other choices in the Big 12. Baylor is based on Christian values. If you go there you know that fact and they do not hide that under a bushel basket. How refreshing.
Several years ago a tragedy in the men’s basketball program sullied the university and their athletic reputation. Player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by a teammate and that led to a series of revelations that included cheating, deception, lying and coverups. The basketball program was nearly dismantled by sanctions and penalties. Many wondered if the program could ever recover from such a devastating series of events.
Coach Kim Mulkey’s Lady Bears started the healing process in earnest with an amazing run to the National Championship. But on the men’s side the question was daunting. Who would take on a rebuilding job that Nehemiah might have turned down? Enter a golly gee young coach named Scott Drew from a school known as Valpo. Hardcore basketball fans knew all about the Drew family and Valparaiso University. Coach Homer Drew had built the politically incorrectly named Crusaders into a mid-major power. They became a national darling when son Bryce Drew made a miracle shot in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. His son Scott was an assistant on that team. Scott Drew had taken over an established program at Valpo. Drew could refine his skills in a safe environment with helpful input from his Dad. So when Baylor came calling the smart thing to do would be to politely ask to be placed on their no call list.
Thank God Scott Drew did not do the smart thing. For reasons only he understands Drew took the job and brought his faith, charm, hard work, recruiting skills and unbridled optimism to the banks of the Brazos River. Knowing what the team has overcome is why this year’s Baylor team cracking the Top 25 and winning that amazing 5 overtime game on Wednesday against a ranked Texas A&M team is such a great story.
I am proud of Baylor and I am thrilled for the players who believed in Scott Drew’s dream. Stories like this are what make sports so great. Baylor basketball is a metaphor for the Christian journey. You can suffer catastrophic failure on that path but with faith and hope you can find redemption.
Grace always takes me by surprise. I am not conditioned by this world to expect acceptance when I have failed. I am conditioned to expect condemnation, shame, and rejection. But anytime I fail there is the Father God patiently and lovingly waiting for me to return. Like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God is waiting to race to greet us when we turn away from self and toward Him. There is no cleanup required. A heart of repentance is all that He asks. His grace is sufficient…and always amazing.
Baylor basketball is a great story of redemption, faith and hope. Isn’t it nice to have a good story for a change? Sic’em Bears!
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.