More than basketball
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Have you ever seen the resolution of conflict celebrated live on television, with millions of others also watching in amazement?
That's how I viewed just one incident in the closing stages of the US basketball eastern conference championship when Philadelphia coach Larry Brown interlocked his well-dressed arms with the tatooed arms of his star player Allen Iverson, despite their exchange of verbal abuse and threats for much of the season. Iverson hugged back with a huge grin across his dripping face.
The 76ers knew that continuing dissension would weaken their already slim chances of breaking the Los Angeles Lakers' 19-game winning streak, but didn't know what to do about it until, under the thoughtful guidance of owner Pat Croce, the two men crossed a chasm of hostility and miscommunication just in time to win the first game of the NBA finals in L.A.
The Lakers, too, saw a significant conflict resolved between two players, which made them such a power in the latter part of the season and in the finals.
For many fans, these reconciliations were doubly sweet. It showed that team harmony is not just a stale cliche, and that it's possible to bring together the league's generations and cultures.
Animosity seems to be everywhere - not only in sports all the way down to Little League baseball, but on factory floors, in neighborhoods, classrooms, and families. I've had my share of it, yet always found that learning about the divine control that God holds over all His creation helps to defuse the tension and can bring quick and effective healing.
Once a colleague and I were competing for a senior post in television. We had worked together in radio for many years, and this development seriously threatened a cordial friendship.
He got the job, and the first thing he did was to call me in to his posh new office and warn me that he required my respect and full cooperation. His imperiousness shook me to the core, but I was able to make a quick decision that was among the best I made in my many years with that corporation: "Be still!" This was from a Bible passage I've always loved: "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). In other words, subdue human reaction and recognize that God is the only power present.
Instantly, I knew that although insecurity and ambition seemed to be dominating our conversation, these were being generated by a false and uncontested sense of God's creation. Our true selfhood - that of both of us in that room - came from God. Our real nature was spiritual, reflecting the nature and undeniable presence of God, divine Love, in which qualities like humility and unselfishness have divine authority and are in control.
I'd done enough sports broadcasting to understand the importance of pulling together as a team and insulating oneself from personal reaction - even self-destruction - by holding in thought the greatest good for all. I knew that with God's help I could be a quiet support for unity, and that God would allow no frustrations that might slow down or impair my own scoring potential for the good of all.
This was the buildup to the moment when I had to cross my own chasm of hostility and miscommunication - without blaming either of us - and let Love take over.
I looked my new boss in the eye and said, "You know that you will always have my full support, and I'd bust a gut to make sure we remain the finest broadcasting organization in the country!" He held out his hand. I grasped it firmly, smiled at him, and left his office.
We "played" cooperatively and successfully together on that team for three months, after which I was promoted to a post of equal seniority in radio! - and he was the first to congratulate me. We now live in different countries, but our friendship has never been closer.
Reconciliation has a wonderful way of releasing the true potential in opponents. Is it any surprise that Larry Brown was named the NBA's coach of the year, and Allen Iverson the league's most valuable player.
The ideas in this article are explored more fully in the Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor