LDS World: Thank you, Jimmer

Published: Sunday, April 3 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

We spend a lot of time in the LDS Church focusing on the need to become educated, informed individuals. We are taught, “The glory of God is intelligence.”

Nothing wrong with that! I’m all about education because knowing is one of the few things that we take with us when we leave this life. The benefits of working hard to become educated, wise individuals are clearly specified in scripture: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the Resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19). Pretty powerful promise!

Nevertheless, we can’t dismiss all else that blesses our lives, brings us joy and improves us as individuals. And we can’t dismiss the need for relaxation and enjoyment in life. One of our great blessings is that of a physical body, and our bodies not only allow us to have experiences, both physical and spiritual, that are crucial in preparing us for eternity, but they can bring us great joy.

I count my physical body one of God’s best gifts to me. I have played sports throughout my life and love all the things my body not only allows me to do but is capable of doing.

There is another aspect of physical performance that can bless our lives and bring us joy. I may never ski down a mountain slope at 70 mph or play the violin or sing like an angel. However, I can enjoy and be blessed by the talents of others. To see a magnificent painting, to listen to a gifted singer, to watch a superb athlete, uplifts me and brings me joy.

For this reason, this column is a shout-out to Jimmer Fredette and all the joy he brought to so many people this basketball season and during his college career.

I freely admit that I am biased. Of all the sports I played, basketball did, and still does, have my heart. I love the game. I spent countless hours, when young, doing drills to improve my skills and many more hours on the court playing the game. In college, the first of three knee injuries, each requiring surgery, convinced me my life was over. What does one do after basketball?

Obviously there are many, so many, other things to do — there is life after basketball — but there is also the pleasure of watching others play the game and play it well.

To watch Jimmer perform, to understand the dedication, the time, the effort, the tenacity and the confidence that had to be developed to play at such a level, sure impressed me. And it doesn’t hurt that he is a personable guy. He speaks freely of his faith, he is polite and he loves to praise his teammates — and rightly so because basketball is a team sport.

I certainly am leery of this world’s obsession with sports. Too much time is wasted incessantly watching athletic contest after athletic contest. Worse yet is listening or watching sports pundits endlessly discuss different games, athletes and their performances, all the while offering up an incredible amount of useless, inane trivia. Worst of all is watching "bracket selections," "seedings" or “the draft,” whatever draft it is. I mean, really, come on. 

Nevertheless, you’ve got to marvel at someone who worked hard to develop his talents and his craft, whose quirky little court smile and bold fist pumps tell his passion for the game.

Keep in mind that there are great lessons to be learned from sports, some from watching, but especially from playing. First, “Life ain’t fair.” Sometimes the refs make the right call, sometimes they don’t — play on. You experience the joy of winning; you experience the agony of defeat. Sometimes you play; sometimes you sit the bench. You learn to work with a variety of personalities. You learn to take your licks. You learn to get back up. You learn how to deal with adversity, how to face pressure. You learn how to work through injuries and disappointments. You learn the value of hard work — of pushing yourself beyond your supposed limits. You learn discipline. You make friends. You learn about teamwork, about taking responsibility, about trusting others. You get to feel the jitters each time you face the challenge of performing, but you don’t let them stop you. The list goes on and on, and the lessons from athletics can, if we act appropriately, prepare us for the challenges of life.

It was quite the show watching Jimmer drive and weave his way to the bucket for an “and one,” score insanely long 3-pointers, drain clutch free throws, make clever passes, get up after being hammered, encourage fellow players on the court, call for the ball, give credit to coaches and teammates, and smile and wave to the crowd. Thank you, Jimmer! Thank you for the enjoyment you brought to so many lives.

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