Already, the annual excitement of college and high school basketball’s March Madness has me on edge.

I love this time of year. Two basketball teams that I’ve never seen on TV could be playing against each other, and I get into that game like I’m sitting on the sidelines.

College basketball league championships have been ongoing this week and will continue throughout next week. The NCAA Tournament brackets will officially be penciled in on Sunday night. But there are many games to play between now and then.

I stayed up to watch Oakland (Mich.) University play in the Horizon League semifinal game against Northern Kentucky. Oakland is coached by Defiance High School graduate Greg Kampe, who started his 35th season at the university this season and has more than 600 career victories.

Oakland lost.

Last night, I watched Wright State University — the school where my daughter has her bachelor’s degree — play Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League championship game.

Wright State lost.

As a high school basketball official, I haven’t been able to watch much college basketball, but after watching Oakland and Wright State games, it’s probably a good thing.

I tend to get fired up when watching games, and when the team I’m rooting for crumbles, ... well, I may say a few things out loud. My wife has a constant phrase when she’s in the same room as the game plays on from the TV screen: “They can’t hear you.”

It’s good they can’t hear me. But I know that I don’t get as upset as some people, though. I read Twitter. I see the comments. Unfortunately, people publicly complain about coaching, players and game officials.

From my own experience, after refereeing a game recently, my buddy and I went to a restaurant out of town and met a couple of other guys. After chowing down a plate full of mozzarella sticks, we got up to leave. A fan of the winning team was also in this restaurant and as we were walking out, he stood up — holding his beer next to his smiling wife and, I assume, their two small children — and said loudly to us “next time, call a fair game.”

We continued on as he was still talking ... loudly. And as we walked out, my buddy glanced back into the window. Mr. Loudmouth fan managed to walk to the window and showcased the double-barrel bird — that means raising both his middle fingers — toward us.

Onward to home we went.

I am amazed sometimes at the antics of some people both in public and online. All of us — at some point in time — need a transformation. In a way, we all are transformed throughout our lives. We go from high school to college. We become more mature, then we are employed and are transformed again. Some of us gain a spouse and are transformed again. We then have children, and are transformed again. Then we become empty-nesters and are transformed. Next up is grandparenting. Again, transformation.

Imagine how Peter, John and James felt, standing on top of the mountain, watching Jesus become transfigured before them (Luke, Ch. 9). If you really pause and think about that experience, can you feel the awe? Imagine their conversation with each other as they walked down the hill in amazement. No doubt those three had some sort of transformation at that time.

Basketball is great, in my opinion. As I’ve told many people, I could have the worst day, but when I lace up my black shoes and walk on the basketball floor in the evening, I feel like a kid again. But it doesn’t define me: a Christian man who wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

What defines you?

In one of his greatest phrases spoken, Paul told the people of Philemon five great words: “Stand firm in the Lord.”

Now that’s a transformation worth talking about for all of us.

Mark Froelich 2018
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