The following excerpt is from an interview of Brian Scalabrine after the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals.
Reporter: “How was it for you, watching from the sideline not able to play even one little second in the Finals. Was that hard?”
Scalabrine: “Why would you think that’s funny? I’ll tell you, it’s not that difficult to do, because guess what, maybe now you can say I didn’t say play a second, but in five years, you guys are going to forget. In ten years, I’ll still be a champ. In twenty years, I’ll tell my kids I probably started, and in thirty years, I’ll probably tell them I got the MVP, so I’m really not too worried about.”
Between his pasty skin, curly red hair, and thick headband, Scalabrine looks more like the guy at the YMCA than an NBA player. Add his sense of humor, and he became a fan favorite despite seldom playing. At the end of lopsided games, the entire stadium would chant for Scalabrine to entice the coach to put him in. Once, he even got MVP chants from an opposing crowd.
All of this led fans to think he’s bad at basketball. He received so much trash-talk from random fans that he agreed to a play in a one-on-one tournament against fans – he crushed everyone. And obviously so. He played in the NBA for 11 seasons. Anyone who understands the skill it takes to be an NBA player knows they have no chance against even the worst NBA player. Ignorance is the only way for a fan to think they could beat him.
In the same way, being ignorant is the only way we can think we can earn salvation by being a good person. Listen to what Paul says about the Jewish people who tried to earn righteousness by obeying the law.
“For being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Romans 10:2
Moses at the burning bush; Isaiah’s vision of the throne room; Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration. – they all caught glimpses of God’s glory and they all responded in fear. Angels’ first words were always “fear not”. The word holy means to be set apart, and when we see God in His glory, we instinctively know God is holy and righteous in a way we could never attain. Ignorance of God’s righteousness and holiness is the only way for us to think we can attain that same righteousness.
So how could an honest basketball fan think he could beat an NBA player, even if it’s the worst NBA player? Surely we all have enough self-awareness to realize this folly. But then again, I know some kids who are convinced they’ll make it to the NBA or NFL. Slim though they are, there’s a chance a kid will grow into a professional athlete – somebody is going be the next superstar. But as kids grow up and those slim odds become slimmer, hope turns to ignorance, and ignorance turns to willful ignorance.
Paul charges some of us with ignorance of God’s righteousness – is that also a willful ignorance?