Some of you know I am a HUGE University of Louisville fan. Since the late 1970’s, I have followed the Cardinals of UL. This has been a banner season for UL because they were accepted into the ACC, won the Sugar BCS Bowl over #3 ranked Florida (huge underdog to the Gators), won a diving national championship, have a top 20 baseball & softball team, are in the Final Four in both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, and more: a very successful year! I have never been more proud to be a diehard University of Louisville Cardinal fan but not for the reasons listed above!
It’s been fun watching parts of March Madness this year and no other moment impacted me greater ever than this year’s injury to Kevin Ware, a UL basketball guard who has really been improving and has been a key contributor to the team’s recent success (14 wins in a row).
27 years after the Cards beat the Duke Blue Devils for their last national championship, the Cards again played Duke on March 31, 2013, in an Elite 8 game where the winner gets to the coveted “Final Four” in nearby Atlanta. This rematch was over-matched by an injury that occurred to Kevin Ware with approximately 6:30 remaining in the first half. Kevin routinely jumped to block a 3 point shot and landed awkwardly on his right leg. The leg snapped in two places (you could hear it snap even through the tv) and it was easily the most gruesome injury ever witnessed in a college basketball game. There was almost a 10 minute delay they carried him out on a stretcher with his leg dangling at the shin – a place where it is not supposed to dangle. It reminded many of the Joe Theisman injury in the 1980’s.
As a fan of the Cards, I know these players very well through interviews, stories, media coverage, etc. None of these guys really knew what to do and how to react. They couldn’t pull Kevin up because of his leg. The bone was sticking out several inches (which could be seen on tv) and many guys on the bench reportedly vomited. Coach Pitino said he nearly vomited and all of the players on the court were lying on the court, crying, and agonizing for their dear teammate.
One young man, Peyton Siva, a co-captain led the guys on the court in a huddled prayer. Siva is upfront about his Christian faith and thanked “Jesus” recently in an interview after a game. Not “God” in a generic way but “Jesus” in a specific way!
Luke Hancock, the other co-captain, overcame his nausea and ran to Ware. He patted him on the chest and prayed for Ware silently. It was like a war scene in a movie – very surreal.
Ware was yelling at the guys who were crying and telling them to go win the game. He was not concerned about his injury but knew he had “to be strong” for them to be able to compete and win (which they did)! He is a competitor and knew his injury could cost them the game, mentally and physically. The last few minutes of the first half were amazing to watch with my family as we were crying for these guys, especially Ware, and basketball didn’t seem to be all that important anymore.
There are so many lessons to be learned from this event. Ware is now back in Louisville reunited with the team and headed to Atlanta where he played high school basketball. He is still an integral part of the team. His interview can be seen in part at this link:
The biggest life lesson to me is the reminder of our frailties and need for Christ. This healthy young man could have lost his life with this injury had he experienced an infection, etc. I think we all tend to live life as though tomorrow is promised to us and that is not the way to live. We don’t need to be morbid about it but this life could end at any moment for ANY of us. Then, we will meet Our Maker who will judge us and send us to one of two places: heaven or hell. Eternity awaits us and we are all potentially one breath away.
Psalm 90 reminds us of our frailties just as Kevin Ware’s injury did on March 31, 2013. Psalm 90:10 also reminds us that the typical person has only 70-80 years to live:
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Thanks to Kevin Ware, who handled this situation in a grace-filled way and it was evident that God’s Hand was upon him, we are reminded of our frailty and need for Christ. Indeed, a family member who is only a year older than I has been diagnosed with cancer and is battling that now and we are privileged to pray for her. The hope for all of us is that this is not our home and that those of us trusting in Jesus Christ alone have heaven to look forward to one day. And that day WILL come for all of us whether we acknowledge it or not. Despite our frailties and fears, let’s live our lives with gusto and zeal for Christ in the time He has given us!
-Mark (a bigger fan of Kevin Ware and UL Athletics now than ever before)