Dr. Brett Younger: A warm spot for benchwarmers

Sitting on the bench has a lousy reputation, but it's undeserved.  Motivational speakers encourage us to "Get off the bench!  Get into the game!"  How do they not understand that if we're on the bench it's not by choice?  Our decision is whether to sit on the bench or quit the team.  Who decided that picking on the people on the bench is fair?

My son is a senior on the varsity basketball team at Parkview High School.  Making the team with my genes is no small accomplishment.  Parkview has 2700 students.  Caleb is 5'7" and a reasonable speed in a sport that rewards tall and fast.  He's pretty good.  Last year on the junior varsity he started several games.  Whenever he made a great play I felt like I was cheering for someone else's child.  He's a smart player who hustles, but it's finally caught up with him that he can't dunk.  His game takes place several feet below the rim.

We're now parents who bring a book.  When our team wins or loses by twenty we happily watch our son play the last three minutes, but when I look at Caleb on the bench I couldn't be more proud.  He claims he's there to hold up the team GPA, but he knows how to sit on the bench.  He listens during time outs.  He fist bumps players coming back to the bench.  He is appropriately despondent when his team loses.  "That's my boy" means more this year.  My son has never seemed more like a chip off the old block.

I spent some of the best hours of my life on the bench.  My first bench was in little league baseball.  I sat next to Coach Harbour who was like a gracious uncle taking care of his myopic nephew.  I was on the bench, in part, because I couldn't judge a fly ball.  Anything ten feet off the ground was an adventure.  I was a blind squirrel trying to catch a nut with a glove.

Baseball benches are good because they're in a dugout, which is like a really cool clubhouse, except we were allowed to spit on the floor.  Most of us spit sunflower seeds, but a few of the twelve-year-olds chewed tobacco (it was Mississippi).  Bench warmers had important responsibilities like arranging the bats in order by size.  We were the ones who shouted at the opposing team's hitters, "Hey batter batter."  The bench was a great place from which to enjoy a game.

I would have sat on the bench during junior high football if Coach Buse had allowed benches.  He felt strongly that players who weren't in the game should stand.  I didn't like football, but every male without a doctor's excuse was expected to be on the team (it was Mississippi).  I enjoyed the pep rallies and the bus ride to the games.  My one attempt at dipping snuff was on the football bus.  It was particularly good that I didn't play that night.

I was a second string wide receiver on a team that had no pass plays.  I prayed for the first string wide receiver to stay healthy.  The other team invariably included large, violent young men who enjoyed hitting smaller people.  Coach Buse seemed angry that I weighed 120 pounds.  He made Bear Bryant look soft.

My last bench was in the gym.  For most, basketball was a way to kill time between football and spring football (it was Mississippi), but I love basketball.  I was better at hoops, but by my last year I had a place on the bench with my short, slow friends.  Coach Coggins was encouraging, "That was a fine idea, Brett.  If you were Pistol Pete Maravich you might have pulled it off."  He forgave me for being 5'7". 

Caleb is an excellent bench warmer.  We enjoyed it when my son got to play every game, but it's easy to be happy when you're getting to play.  Sitting on the bench is the real test of character.   Some who could be sitting on the bench decided it was too hard and quit.  Caleb could have chosen to make it to all the meetings of the Latin Club.

God doesn't just love the tall and fast.  God understands that most of us spend a significant amount of time on the bench.  Some of the best Christians in the sanctuary never sit on the platform.  Some of the most dedicated choir members never get to sing a solo.  Some of the most loving followers of Jesus aren't on the cover of Baptists Today.  Some of God's favorite players sit on the bench.

Caleb Younger, #12 - Making His Parents Proud

[Taken with permission from Brett's blog, Peculiar Preacher.]