Was God’s Bracket about to be busted?

Maybe its not the right week to post a something with this title, but I always have, “it was predestined” to fall back on. I watched bits and pieces of the NCAA tournament yesterday. There were two games that stood out. The Notre Dame/Stephen F. Austin and the Texas A & M/Northern Iowa games had strange finishes. In both games improbable comebacks put Power Five Conference teams into the Sweet Sixteen.

The Aggies and Northern Iowa game was particularly crazy. The Aggies made up 11 points in 44 seconds to send the game (which they eventually won) to overtime. This game was interesting to me because it was Northern Iowa who sent my Longhorns packing on a 50 foot shot for a last second win on Friday night. Those of you who read yesterday’s post know the Aggie’s coach had commented on the shot as a “Grace of God” thing. Those of us on the other side of the lost didn’t feel like it was so graceful. The Northern Iowa fans were appropriately ecstatic at the end of the Friday night win and I’ll bet there was a feeling that they were on there way to big things because “it was their destiny.” Fast forward to Sunday night and Northern Iowa’s loss of a key player at just the wrong moment with 44 seconds left in the game. I think life is full of these moments. We are on top one minute and in the dumpster the next. Is it a learning experience or just a random walk? Those of you who commented yesterday started a lively discussion. I’m happy if you want to talk Predestination or March Madness.

Oh yeah, the Notre Dame game ended with an improbable put back basket by a Notre Dame player who had been inserted in the lineup for defensive purposes. The winning goal was the only basket he scored. After the game Mike Bray, Notre Dame’s coach addressed his team in the locker room and reminded them of a bitter last second loss last season in the NCAA tourney. He exclaimed something like “after last year’s loss and this game today, I think its our DESTINY to win the championship. Well, maybe so. Notre Dame may have a favored spot in God’s bracket. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

“Just pray,” he said. “Pray it doesn’t happen to you because that’s the grace of God when you make a shot like that.”

The title is a quote from Coach Billy Kennedy of the Texas A & M Basketball team that plays in the round of 32 today in the NCAA Basketball Tourney. Austin American Statesman March 20, 2016.

The truth is that it did happen to the Texas Basketball Team and me (a big fan). Those on the winning side celebrate. Those on the losing side might ask if it truly was because of God’s grace. “What did I do to deserve this?” The gospel according to Kennedy is not in the Bible. We are left to look to the Bible itself to determine if a gut-wrenching last second loss on a half-court shot has something to do with God. When I started this blog I said I’m no expert on the Bible, but I sure am interested in the concept of predestination. Predestination is mentioned in several places and ways in the Bible. I wrote the novel Morgan’s Point to explore the meaning of how predestination might change our view of free will. I am working on a sequel called Anahuac that explores coincidence, free will and predestination in the administration of human justice. Truth is I see way to many coincidences in the world to believe that they are “only a coincidence.” I have no answers and that’s where you come in. Tell me what you think and pray. Pray that its not God’s will that a mid-major hits a half-court shot to bust your tournament bracket and send your team home early.

The President visits Weird Town

Last Friday, the President of the United States visited Austin, my town that is struggling to stay “weird.” He made a presentation to the assorted techies in town for the SXSW extravaganza at the Long Center. I’m back from a lengthy winter visit to D.C. and within walking distance of the Long Center. The weather was great and I was curious to see something that is commonplace in D.C. happen in the middle of my little city.

The President in Austin, for those of us of a certain age, is not so unusual. Lyndon Johnson popped up everywhere when he was Vice-President. As President he was still visible albeit mostly at a distance. For a year I served breakfast to President Johnson’s daughter, Linda. Before you get any crazy ideas, understand that I was a lowly server on the food line at Kinsolving Dormitory on the University of Texas campus. Our fleeting visits continued after I left the food service industry to become a librarian in University’s Newspaper Collection in a tiny corner of the basement of the Tower. Each day there were newspapers from all over the world to be sorted and placed in display racks. It was the only place on campus that a wide array of daily newspapers, usually a day old before they reached us could be accessed by students and faculty members. Fortunately for my studies few people even knew it was there. Normally I spent an hour working and three hours in blissful isolation studying my law books.

You can imagine my shock when one afternoon a serious looking man in a suit proceeded through the door with a young woman whom I immediately recognized. Suddenly I was talking to a Secret Service Agent and then to the President’s daughter. “Yes, I can get you copies of the Washington Post, yes the N.Y Times too, Chicago Tribune, yes, Dallas Morning News, check. Please have a seat an I will bring them right to you.” I said with what was probably a slightly trembling voice. After her initial visit it became a much more relaxed setting. I was often amused to hear Ms. Johnson hurling a forceful invective toward some reporter in a distance place who had said something nasty about her father. Age and perspective has given me a better sense of what it was like for her. It was her dad for God’s sake.

Those memories receded and once again I found myself standing behind the rope line along Riverside Drive across from the Long Center. I remembered an amazing coincidence. Before Lady Bird Johnson did wonders to beautify the downtown lake front in Austin there was a large open field behind where I stood. One Sunday morning in 1964 I traveled to the 7-11 to buy a Sunday paper. On the way down Riverside Drive I was surprised as a single black Lincoln Continental roared up from behind and passed me. The solid looking vehicle veered off the road, jumped the curb and raced across the the vacant field where a large helicopter was prepared to take off. Lyndon Johnson jumped out of the Lincoln, climbed in the helicopter and was gone so quickly I was scarcely sure I believed my eyes. My memory of that day was interrupted by a cacophony of police motorcycles roaring to life behind me. Vehicles from across the street at the Long Center were moving. The crowd that included a black man with a microphone decrying the murder of black men and the woman and her companion carrying a huge white cross, whom a moment before had been shouting to “do God’s will” were drown out by the crowd’s shouts and applause. The twin Presidential cars made it hard to make out which car held the President. It did not matter. For a moment we had been part of the pomp and circumstance of the Presidency. I never tire of seeing history unfold. Get out an take a look. It will amaze you.