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STORY: Slaves to Distraction

The Wreckers were five young ballers that played mean game.  They were kings of their local court and there was not a middle school team in their league that could beat the five of them.  When the high school team wanted a run for their money, they would challenge the wreckers for a showdown.

The Wreckers had grown up together, playing on their neighborhood’s court for hours and hours every day.  They each had one dream in their life.  It was the same dream. Their ultimate goal in life was to be a Georgia Bulldog basket ball player.

The Wreckers got their name by a misunderstanding.  Their dream was to lead the Bulldogs to a record-winning season.  Whenever one of them wanted to encourage another one to keep up the hustle, they would call out to each other, “Just for the RECORD!” When people heard this from the side lines, they often thought they were saying the self praise of: “Just for the Wreckers.”

Each of the wreckers ate, breathed and sneezed everything bulldog.  They knew that the Georgia State team was built around teamwork, perseverance, hard work, sacrifice and sportsmanship.  They lived this out every day, in the way they practiced, studied, had respect for their classmates and for each other.  But it was all for the sake of the dream- just for the record.

When they entered high school, the coach wasn’t very good.  He knew the Wreckers would dominate the league and bring his team glory, so he didn’t try very hard.  He would show up late for practice eating potato chips.  he would let the teams play pickup games  instead of drilling while he talked with the parents.  People stayed after school to watch the pickup games and watch the Wreckers perform.  The coach knew that this made him look good.

The Wreckers soon realized important people were coming to watch them.  They realized that everybody loved to see them dominate, and ball-hog and take risky shots.  They didn’t have to work hard to be highly praised and admired.

Antoine, the unspoken leader of the Wreckers went to his coach one day, asking if they could do some drills to hone their ball-handling skills.  The coach said, “Antoine, you have no problem with ball handling. You’re the best one out there.”

Antoine responded, “But coach, I’m not as good as the bulldogs yet.”

The coach laughed and said, “Who you trying to impress?  There’s nobody from the bulldogs here.  Go have some fun.”

Antoine walked away discouraged.  He looked up and down the court at the Wreckers playing circles around the others.  Laughing came from the stands.  The other players were looking hatefully at the Wreckers because they were always humiliated.

That night after practice Antoine invited each of the Wreckers to stay afterwards to do some drills.  But one by one they turned him down.  Kanai’s excuse was a party.  Tyreke looked over at a pretty girl eye-ing him from the stands and said he had to meet up with someone.  Joshua said he was going to the party and after that he had a world of warcraft game scheduled.  Terence, who was closest to Antoine said he had a test he should study for after the party and hesitated.

Antoine whispered, “For the record, Terence.”

Terence looked at the other players talking about how much fun the party was going to be because the parents were out of town and it was on the roof of an apartment building.  He looked at Antoine and said, “I guess I can show up a little later to the party.  Let’s hit the hoops.”

And as the other players were leaving Antoine and Terence started their half hour of intense drilling.  They pushed hard.  Terence fell asleep at the party and Antoine got there after everyone had already left.

It got worse and worse like this.  Even though Antoine did extra drills most days, it was hard to motivate himself when the others found girls, or partying or video games more important.  Terence stayed after to practice with him sometimes but one thing had entered his life that was severely holding him back.

“What are you doing, Terence?” Antoine saw Terence smoking one day as he walked out of the school.

“I’m just really stressed, man.” Terence said.

“Well that will just make things worse.” Antoine punted the basketball under his arm into the parking lot.

“Woah! what’s wrong, man?” Terence didn’t see Antoine get frustrated very often.

“I thought we were in this together.  But look at you. You’re an idiot. Smoking your chances to be a bulldog away.  And the others.  Have they totally lost the dream?” Antoine was practically yelling at Terence.

“Calm down, dude.  It’s ok.  They’ve just found other stuff they like doing.”

“Are you telling me that because they’ve found other fun stuff to do that makes it ok to not be what we were built to be and dreamed of doing since we were little kids?  It’s like. . . ” Antoine dropped his bookbag and lifted his hands, trying to think of a good word.  “. . . it’s like you guys are slaves to these things.”

“Don’t worry about it, Anoine.  They are fun things.  There’s nothing wrong with girls, and video games and smoking isn’t that bad, man.  I can still run just about as far as I could before.”

“That’s not true and you know it.  Look at yourself in the mirror, tonight, Terence, like we used to do, and remind yourself what we live for.  And then look how you’re spending all your time.”  Antoine picked up his book bag and went into the parking lot to retrieve his basketball.

The Wreckers still did pretty well and when their senior year started, they were slated to win most of their games and probably place in the state tournament.  They were the pride of the school.  They were the most popular kids in school.   But the things that came with popularity became what they ate, drank and lived.  They no longer sneezed bulldog, but instead they sneezed whatever everyone else did.

There was a new player that came out for the team that year.  His name was Jereme.  He was quiet and nobody knew where he moved in from.  He was a pretty good baller but nothing flashy.  He acted a bit differently than the others too.  Even though the wreckers would plow through an opponent and dunk in his face, Jereme would take the more difficult path and dribble around the opponent with skill and he’d always help someone up who had fallen down.

One day Antoine came to school a little early so he could checkout the weight room for his second semester lifting class.  He saw Jereme finishing a workout.  He was exhausted and sweating as he finished up his last set.  Antoine caught him on his way out and asked him, “Why are you in here?”

Jereme replied, between his breaths, “sometimes i get myself out of bed before dawn just to prove to myself i still can.”

Antoine thought about that the whole day.  He watched the old Wreckers doing what was easy and fun.  They didn’t do anything hard anymore.  He asked himself, “What do i need to prove to myself that i can still do?” For the last month, Antoine had stopped drilling after practice- he didn’t need to do it in order to still dominate at this school.  But after he heard what Jereme said, he decided to stay after to drill the next day.  As Jereme was walking out of practice, he saw him.  Jereme asked if he wanted someone to throw him the balls.  Antoine smiled and nodded.  They stayed after for an hour.  Jereme just kept feeding Antoine the balls until Antoine was laying on the ground from fatigue.

This happened most nights.  Sometimes Jereme drilled with him but much of the time he just retrieved Antoine’s shots so that Antoine could get more shots in.

“Why are you doing this for me?” Antoine asked Jereme one time after Jereme had fed Antoine the ball until he had made 20 three-point shots in a row.

“That’s what a Bulldog does for a teammate.” Jereme replied.

“What?” Antoine was caught off guard.  “What are you talking about, man?”

Jereme smiled and said, “I’m a bulldog.  I didn’t make the team but i’m the coach’s son and he said I would be most valuable to the team by scouting out new recruits in high schools.  I had heard about the Wreckers and i thought that there might be a chance that you guys could be bulldogs someday.  I came to see if you have what it takes."

Antoine turned and started to walk away. “I didn’t know that.  And i didn’t know you’re a liar either.  You just cain’t mess around with stuff like that to me.”

Terence said, “don’t i act like a bulldog?  Is there anything about me that’s not like a bulldog?  Of all people, you should know, Antoine.  It’s all for the record, man.”

Antoine turned back to him.  ” How’d you know that?”

“I’ve watched you guys play since when you used to say it the right way.  I remember those days.”

“So why haven’t you told us about this before?”

“I wanted to see who had the sacrifice that it takes.”

“Sacrifice?  Like the extra work it takes, right?”

“Yeah, but it’s more than that.  Your friends have found things that they aren’t willing to give up for the game, for the dream.  Despite knowing the dream, they’re like slaves to their desires.”

The next day Antoine told the Wreckers about Jereme’s secret.  None of them believed him.  He told Jereme of his frustration with his Wrecker boys.

Jereme said, “Only the true Bulldogs recognize other bulldogs.”

Antoine was able to convince Terence to hang out with he and Jereme a little bit more (though Terence wasn’t totally convinced that Jereme was telling the truth about being a Bulldog.)  But the more that Terence hung out with them, the more he found himself wanting to quit smoking.  He also ended up hanging out with Antoine and Jereme practicing and talking about the future and studying more often than the others who were stuck with their parties and video games.

Well, the state tournament came and went and the the wreckers’ performance was less than lustrous.  Antoine had to pretty much carry his team.  He scored school scoring and passing records but it was not enough to give their team the victory.

And when it was over no one was recruited to the bulldogs, except for Antoine.  A letter came from the head coach of the Bulldogs, mentioning how much of a Bulldog he had seen in Antoine.  But Terence, the only other one with a successful story, went on to start a successful business based on the morals of the Georgia state work ethic: hard work and respect.

Antoine went on to score records in his four years with the Bulldogs, just like was his dream.  And became quite a celebrity.  But he was not driven by fame or women or fortune.  He gave up all those things that he knew could hold him back from his dreams.  After Georgia State, Antoine had modified his dreams.  Part of the dream came from what he saw in his friend Terence.  Antoine sacrificed those things that he knew could enslave him (because he saw them enslave his friends), and keep him from his goal.  His goal was to be a person with indestructible perseverance for whatever he put his mind to, and at the same time to treat every person with endless respect.  And that way the vision of the Bulldog lasted long past his college days.

And whenever he or Terence were discouraged and needed motivation to keep going.  They made sure to send a text message or an email to say, “Don’t lose hope my friend. . . Remember, it’s just for the Wreckers.”

(John 8:33-41)

Raw Spoon

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