It was just after a long day at school that Eli had decided that he had more than enough algebra, literature, and chemistry, and it was time to hit the road.
He stopped by his locker and tossed his books on the top shelf, put on his rain jacket and headed for the rear door of the school. Bobby, headed the same way, tapped him on the back and asked’ “You goin’ straight home?”
Eli returned; “Yeah, why? The response was; “I was thinking you might want to do a few laps on the track with me… get the kinks out. Besides, I always like to run with someone I can beat.”
This was often the tone of their conversations on the field and in the gym.
With that, there was a rush to the playing field where there were other boys… And surprisingly, a couple of girls in running gear chatting their way around the course.
Eli looked up, feeling assured of no rain drops, shed his jacket as Bobby took off full- bore; thinking to have the edge on at least the first lap.
Realizing that the warm up was the smarter part of the run, he jogged along for almost a lap… When Bobby zipped by taunting him with; “What did I tell you?”
Eli dropped the clutch and shifted into high gear and came up on Bobby’s shoulder with ; ” You wish!” as a response.
It went on for several laps until Eli left him totally in the dust.
They both, after a five lap sprint, arm over the other’s shoulders, collapsed on the bench.
There was a man standing there who came up and introduced himself; ” I’m Rob Finch; who are you boys?” They introduced themselves, curious as to why it mattered.
“You guys ever time yourselves in the quarter mile?”
Bobby spoke up right away; “Yes Sir…. I did a 6:20 once!”
And you Eli?” Rob asked. “About 5:30 came the reply… but I was in new track shoes, on a very good day, and probably in a tail wind.”
Coach continued; “Well, all that I can say is I like your energy and style… not to mention your lap times, if they are accurate. You see I am a coach at Douglas High, and always looking for a few good men. Are you graduating?” Bobby said yes. Eli said; “If I can get past Chemistry !”
What’s your sport? Football, baseball…..track?” Eli returned; “We don’t do football at Central Christian.”
Coach said: “What’s the problem……God not into football?”
Eli said , perturbed by the question: “No, if he prefers anything, He likes us to be the best we can be at whatever we do.”
Seeing that it was a poor joke, and Eli was calling him on it, he came back; “Sorry that was in bad taste, and actually I coach both football and soccer.”
Well, because this is supposed to be a short story… I will forward to a stage in the Auditorium, four years later at the Championship Banquet. We find the same characters there; Eli, Bobby, players and Coach…. among hundreds of parents and fans filling the halls with applause and cheers.
The sign above the podium declared; “State Soccer Champions 2024”
When they arrived at the time for presentation of “The Best Player Award”, Eli was invited to the stage as the winner for the second year in a row.
The Coach was the presenter and he started; “I can remember over four years ago when Eli was just a whipper-snapper (and for those who do not know what that is); It’s a young boy who had tremendous potential…. But amazingly, not only for athletics of all kinds, but as a teacher of an old Coach, an important lesson.”
“As Eli would say…”God does not prefer athletes…. or anyone. Just people who show what they have become as the best of what He intended. Life is not about football or soccer or whatever; It is about putting in the work to make His will happen.”
Eli added with a smile, taking the microphone saying; ” If you need proof ( and those who knew me when, would agree) that God can do anything; He got me through Chemistry and down the road to where I am today…. but still with a long way to go to arrive at His destination.”
He raised the trophy high and shouted “This trophy is His!”
If we were to listen carefully, we would surely hear a Voice say;
“Forget the trophy Eli !…..Your message will do just fine”
And, the Coach, also feeling God’s presence, said to the crowd; “Will you all join me in an Amen?”
The response echoed thru the who building…..Ahhh…….men!
God smiled at that…….. and even thought about loving football.