“Spot Players,” Subs and Coming Off the Bench

“ Spot Players,” Subs and Coming Off the Bench

My brother Dan and I were reminiscing the other day about Dan’s high school basketball career. My brother’s role on the team was to be the “spot man.” Dan’s defensive skills were modest at best and he was not known for the spring in his legs or his speed, so he was not a first stringer. But man, the kid could shoot. Give Dan a clear shot and it was good for two points. So, when the team was down a couple of points and needed a shot in the arm, the coach would call on Dan. Invariably, he would oblige  SWISH!  A basket for our team.

Our conversation got me thinking about the roles we play in our lives, Few of us are called to wear the mantle of super stars, whether it is in politics or sports or the entertainment business. We are destined to be bit players in life’s drama. We may as well face it; our demise when it comes will not grab headlines in the media. Headlines are reserved for the JFK’s or Martin Luther King’s or the Brad Pitt’s of our day.

Yet, like a spot player on the basketball court or a bit player in a movie, the parts we play are important. I recall a high school teacher saying to me “You have a gift for writing. Use it.” I doubt if he remembers the moment when he said that to a boy struggling with his own self-esteem and how much that mattered to me.

On another occasion, a “spot player” entered my life in the person of an older Afro-American woman. I was grabbing a pizza at Union Station waiting for the train. The tables were all taken so I asked a young man if he would mind sharing his table. He agreed and just before we began scarffing down our pizzas, the black lady asked if she could join us. “Sure no problem,” we said. But before we could began to eat, the lady, a complete stranger, asked us to wait a moment. Spreading out three paper napkins in front of us, she bowed her head and said a prayer. We waited politely until she finished. Then she turned to us and said with a warm smile, “Gentlemen, now we can dine.”

I was impressed by the way this lady turned the prosaic act of downing a pizza into something sacred. She went out of her way to share this meal with a couple of people she had never met and would probably never see again. She, as it were, came off the bench to teach us a valuable insight, one that has stayed with me all my life. She had her moment with a couple of strangers and played the role to perfection.

As the years have gone by I have come to believe that the Divine Director has a role for us to play. The world is still in the process of creation and we are in the cast. For most of us, we have only a bit part but, as any good director will tell you, bit parts done well can make or break a production. Spot players can win a game.