Keeping Perspective In The Big Time

Jerry Walls

The 1986 movie Hoosiers, based on actual events, is the story of how a tiny high school in Indiana, against all odds, won the state basketball championship. In the final game, the small country school, Hickory High, goes up against the big city school from South Bend. Hickory has only seven or eight players, their uniforms are rather plain and they cannot begin to match the height or athleticism of their opponents. It is David versus Goliath on the hardwood.

Hickory's coach is naturally concerned about how his players--most of whom he says have never even seen a building more than two stories tall--will react to the challenge of facing the Big Time. He addresses this concern in a memorable scene when his players enter the 15,000 seat arena where the game will be played for their pre-game practice. Clearly, they are daunted by the sheer size of the building, not to mention the thought of playing in front of so many fans. The coach asks one of the boys to hold a tape measure under the backboard and another to stretch it to the free throw line. "What is it?" he asks. "Fifteen feet," comes the reply. Then he asks one of the players to get on the shoulders of a team mate and hold the tape on the rim. Another is asked to measure the distance to the floor. "Ten feet," comes the answer. Looking his players squarely in the face, the coach states the obvious, "I think you will find this is the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory."

Grins appear all around and the ice is broken. Why? Because in the face of a new challenge greater than any they ever dreamed they would face, they were reminded that some things were the same. These things which were familiar were not incidental but were at the very heart of the game. In terms of the game, it was more significant that the free throw line remained at 15 feet than that 15,000 fans would be in the seats.

When we face intimidating new challenges it is important to keep in mind the constants which apply in every challenge, large or small. The challenge of change is easier to negotiate if we keep clearly in mind what does not change. Keeping timeless truths in focus is like being reminded that the rim in a large arena is still 10 feet high.

Back to the movie. After his players move on to the locker rooms to dress for practice, the coach surveys the arena and remarks to his assistant, "It IS big!"

Yes, coach, but you already put that in perspective for us.

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