‘I Can’t Believe We Lost to That Trash’

By Al Perrotta Published on September 18, 2016

When I was home last week I got a chance to catch my nephew’s soccer game. Though Dan’s a principal at Grace Christian Academy of Maryland in La Plata, he still can’t resist coaching. A Dan-coached game is always a ticket worth buying. He’s definitely inherited the Perrotta heart-on-the-sleeve, intense sports passion, and cuts a colorful demonstrative figure on the sideline. “C’mon, ref,” he bellows when one of his players is arm-tackled to the ground, “this isn’t rugby!”

But there’s something else about watching a Dan-coached team. Regardless of the sport, regardless of the school he’s at, regardless of the sex of the athletes, Dan’s teams always play with heart, grace and determination up to, and beyond, the final whistle. When up they don’t boast or coast, when down they don’t get frustrated or discouraged. They keep together and keep pushing.

I saw a playoff basketball game where his young girls were playing a powerhouse championship team with a front line all over six-feet tall. Being a short guy myself I know well how frustrating basketball is when surrounded by giants. But his girls kept taking it to the amazons. Running, hustling, driving. Had they been better at free throws they may well have taken the game.

I saw a tournament lacrosse game where the opponents were not only bigger and older and part of a club rather than community team, but also played in a league where the play was much more aggressive. Dan’s girls were getting pounded into the dirt and having the dirt rubbed in their faces. Yet they did not stop or give up. Dan’s daughter, I remember, somehow scored from her stomach after being knocked to the ground.

On Facebook, I am always reading how this team or that of his came back from behind to win, or held on to a slim lead, or defeated teams that were supposed to beat them. Which gets to the game I saw.

Grace

I arrived at the match late. The setting was on GCA’s home field in Southern Maryland, a pitch so bumpy and patchy it had “ankle sprain” painted all over it. This was not the manicured blankets of grass you find at many Washington suburban schools.

I could see from the scoreboard the Knights were up 1-0 at the start of the second half. Then I saw the other team. To my unskilled eye, their ball handling looked wonderful. Seemed they were doing with their feet what Globetrotters do with their hands. Certainly they were older, bigger. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “This could get ugly.” But try as they did, they were constantly thwarted by the Knight’s defense, hustle and a brilliant game by the goalie. If the Knights were feeling the pressure, they didn’t show it. They kept playing their game and keeping their cool, even as the other team was mauling their star player, mouthing foul language and growing increasingly frustrated.

Uncle Al was not as cool.

The game ended 1-0. Dan’s team had pulled off the upset. The other team seemed to slump and stomp off the field. (I’m not judging. I used to be the same way, usually for about 10 seconds, until sportsmanship would kick in or at least an image of Hoverdale’s ice cream.) However, some players on the losing team didn’t let go. As Dan went to shake hands with the opposing team’s coach he heard a player say, “I can’t believe we lost to that trash.”

That stung. Been hearing Southern Maryland talked about as “trash” since I was a little boy. And hearing these young, hard-playing, clean-playing Christian young men dismissed as “trash” broke my heart.

Dan shared with them the insult, and along the sidelines was turning the slur into a lesson about love and togetherness. As an uncle, it was beautiful and inspiring to watch how his players responded. They listened. They know Dan loves them like his own children, believes in them, would die for them. They were learning that truly, through Christ all things are possible. Even beating teams that on paper they had no business beating.

The young men then recited, one-by-one, verse-by-verse, a passage of Scripture Dan had given the team to guide them through the season. It’s 2 Samuel 28-37, whereby David thanks God for preparing him for battle. It begins, “You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.”

In Good Company

“I can’t believe we lost to that trash.” The line has hung with me since. Where have I heard that before? It’s what the Pharisees and the Scribes must have said about Jesus’ disciples. This uneducated ragtag gaggle of fishermen and outcasts from the Palestinian equivalent of Southern Maryland were spreading the Good News and thousands upon thousands were coming to Christ. Thousands upon thousands were being won over despite the authority’s best efforts. Imagine their slumping and stalking. “I can’t believe we lost to that Galilean trash.”

Come to think of it, that’s what Satan must have said on Resurrection Sunday. Jesus, the Son of the Most High God, had become the lowest of the low. Flesh and bone, captured and meek, flogged and scourged until he was little more than road kill, scraped up and tossed into a tomb. And yet He rose. He won. He snatched the keys to death and scored the greatest of victories for any willing to join the team. “I can’t believe I lost to that trash,” Satan must have said as he stood at the empty tomb. Yeah, Satan, you did lose. Big time.

The Good News

These days the secular progressive culture looks down on humble men and women of faith. We’re being trashed daily by the haughty. A candidate for President thinks those who believe in natural marriage and two distinct sexes are “deplorable.” In other areas of the world Christians are being crumpled up and tossed in graves. Yet, souls are still being won, sickness is being healed, light is still being brought to dark places. The “wise” are being confounded. Against the pressure, defenders of life and Scripture bend, but aren’t breaking. You, followers of Christ, are holding strong, holding together, holding onto love and the promises of God.

It’s a bumpy, patchy field we’re on. But He gave a wide space for our steps, and our “feet did not slip.”

What the world calls trash, He calls his “treasure.” And no earthly weapon can stand against it. The upset victory is ours.

Al and Dan Perrotta - 320

The author (right) with his nephew Dan Perrotta, after Dan’s Grace Christian Academy of Maryland scored an upset soccer victory September 7, 2016.

 

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