Posts Tagged ‘Lionel Messi’

FAST Blast: The Best Player-Coach Ever — Part 3


Related Posts
The Best Player-Coach Ever?
The Best Player-Coach Ever — Part 2

A condensed version of this post appeared on Sports Spectrum


THE PLAYER-COACH may be on the endangered species list — the giant panda of the sports world — or maybe not. But such a creature is a rarity in sports history.

For the uninitiated, let’s define terms: A player-coach holds both playing and coaching duties for a sports team at the same time.

Two of the most noteworthy player-coaches are Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Frank Chance. Two previous blog posts (see the links above) addressed some of their accomplishments in light of this question: Who is the best player-coach ever? Let’s explore this topic further.

Chance won two World Series with the Chicago Cubs as a player-manager, baseball’s version of player-coach, and Russell won 11 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, including two as a player-coach.

Chance’s nickname was the “Peerless Leader” — and Hall of Fame manager John McGraw was among those who praised Chance for his leadership: “He was a great player … but in addition he was a great leader because he asked no man to take any chance that he would not take himself and because he had the power to instill enthusiasm even in a losing cause.”

A previous blog post noted and discussed the “asked no man to take any chance” facet of McGraw’s quote, but in that post I didn’t include the segment of the quote italicized above.

The gist of my previous post is this: Player-coaches can take such chances because they’re actually on the field, competing in games and in practices, unlike conventional coaches. In light of this, is Jesus of Nazareth the best player-coach ever?

Jesus didn’t sit comfortably in the owner’s luxury box or stay on the sidelines in the coach’s zone, but instead entered the fray … becoming a player-coach via the incarnation in the most profound way, even running suicide sprints with us.


Let’s examine the italicized part of John McGraw’s quote on Frank Chance — “he was a great leader … because he had the power to instill enthusiasm even in a losing cause.”

Good Friday was a losing cause for Jesus of Nazareth — or so it seemed to His friends and disciples.

His followers affirm that Jesus is the ultimate “Peerless Leader” … yet the irony is that his leadership didn’t inspire or instill enthusiasm on that darkest day. In fact, before He was arrested and executed, his disciples fled, leaving Him alone — although several followers, mostly courageous women, did show up to witness His death.

Yet the New Testament declares that Good Friday was the prelude to Easter Sunday — and the power of Jesus’ resurrection instilled such amazing enthusiasm in the wake of Friday’s losing cause that the Church remains inspired here in the 21st century. Further, Easter has paved the way for the decisive new-creation start that humans yearn for.

Here’s a song lyric that reflects the sentiment of Jesus’ followers — “on that awful tree, that’s where our celebration starts for eternity.”

If you’re one of those followers, you might be musing in awe at the wonder of Easter, moved to gratitude at the cost and worth of God’s intervention on behalf of the human race.

If you’re an agnostic or atheist, or simply a skeptic, you might be musing in a stew of incredulity: What on earth are you talking about — a dead man coming back to life? Nonsense!

I have numerous questions about life and faith and the Christian worldview. But as far as I can see, every worldview has nonsensical elements that are open to question.

Atheists believe the cosmos came about by chance, apart from a Creator … so the design and order we observe in the universe is merely random … and thus the uniqueness that makes human beings human also occurred by sheer chance.

Doesn’t this sound like nonsense? Or at least questionable?

Many pantheists, including Hindus and some New Age mystics, believe in reincarnation — that human beings, depending on their karma, are recycled after death as other life forms.

This also sounds like nonsense. Doesn’t it? At the very least, it’s open to debate.

By the way, I’m attempting to look at these worldview issues as fairly as possible. The multiple chances offered by reincarnation certainly sound appealing, and I’ve felt atheistic often enough — which means I’ve felt often enough that God isn’t there.

Paradoxically, that puts me in good biblical company with psalmists, prophets and the like. Still, to take the next step — or make the next leap — and embrace atheism, asserting dogmatically that a Creator doesn’t exist, flies in the face of ample intelligent-design evidence.


Pick any faith or philosophy or worldview, and we can pick out an aspect of it that is — or seems to be — nonsense. Across the board, it appears to me, each system has nonsensical notions.

The question is this: Which version of nonsense is actually true?

Let’s agree on this: People don’t universally agree on the answer to the ultimate truth question. Likewise, not everyone agrees on the remedy for the human condition, yet virtually all honest observers acknowledge that something is askew with human beings. True, everyone has the capacity for heroic good … but also for horrific evil. And between the two extremes we have myriad rough edges.

Human history bears this out over and over again — and so do countless songs.

Look at these lyrics:

From “I Go Blind” — sung by Hootie & The Blowfish
In the morning I get up
And I try to feel alive, but I can’t.
I don’t know what it is,
Something in me just won’t give me a chance.

From “Bring Me To Life” — sung by Evanescence
Wake me up inside — wake me up inside.
Call my name and save me from the dark.
Bid my blood to run before I come undone.
Save me from the nothing I’ve become.

From “Be My Escape” — sung by Relient K
I gotta get outta here,
I’m stuck inside this rut that I fell into by mistake.
I gotta get outta here,
And I’m begging you, I’m begging you, I’m begging you to be my escape.

From “Broken” — sung by Lifehouse
I am damaged at best
Like you’ve already figured out.
I’m falling apart, I’m barely breathing
With a broken heart that’s still beating.

From “Fix You” — sung by Coldplay
When you try your best, but you don’t succeed.
When you get what you want but not what you need.
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep,
Stuck in reverse.
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace.
When you love someone but it goes to waste,
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home and ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.


The broken human condition — including a broken heart — that needs to be fixed … described by five songs that have enjoyed abundant radio circulation in the 20th and 21st centuries.

These songs resonate with older songs and letters — penned in the first century and the centuries prior — that have likewise enjoyed wide circulation. Yes, the Old and New Testament Scriptures and modern songwriters describe the human condition in similar fashion.

The Scriptures, of course, identify the remedy as the One who is both the fix and the Fixer — Jesus of Nazareth. As the best player-coach ever, He is on our side and by our side and in our side.

Yes, in our side — the place in the body where the heart is located, for the human heart is the crux of the issue.

Soccer manager Pep Guardiola coached Lionel Messi, arguably the world’s best player, at Barcelona. After giving a fellow coach advice about managing a team, Guardiola started to walk away, but then turned around and added, “By the way, get a Messi in your side.”

Yes, side is soccer-speak for team, yet the human-body definition of side dovetails with a one-Word revision of Guardiola’s quote: “By the way, get a Jesus in your side.”

For He is the only One who can mend the mess of the human heart, per the New Testament.

If today’s songwriters and the Scriptures are right about the necessity of a fix for the human condition, arguably the most crucial question facing each of us is this: Who will I enlist as the player-coach to fix my side?

© Bruce William Deckert 2018


FAST Blast: The Best Player-Coach Ever — Bill Russell or a First-Century Superstar?


HALL OF FAMER BILL RUSSELL won 11 NBA championships, all with the Boston Celtics. He was a five-time league MVP. Old-school basketball fans are familiar with the incredible exploits of the legendary center.

What’s lesser-known is this: For the last two titles in that amazing stretch — in 1968 and 1969 — Russell was Boston’s player-coach. Further, he was the first African-American coach in the NBA, according to

After the ’69 title, Russell retired on top, riding off into the proverbial sunset. In 1980, he was voted the “Greatest Player in the History of the NBA” by the Professional Basketball Writers Association. Since then, Michael Jordan and perhaps LeBron James have laid claim to that lofty honor, although some still say that Russell is the NBA’s best ever.

What’s indisputable is that Russell has the most championships as a player in NBA history. And two came while he was also the coach.

The concept of player-coach is intriguing — even more so when we consider the bedrock reality of the Christian faith: God incarnate. The cornerstone of the Christian worldview is that God entered the arena of human history. But once in the arena, he didn’t sit in a VIP seat or stand on the sideline as a coach. Rather, he joined the fray on the field of play, essentially as a player-coach.


I grew up in the Church, so I’m no stranger to this notion. At the same time, I’ve wrestled with questions — mainly, whether the Christian faith is true. By the way, I have the same question about every other faith, philosophy and worldview: Are any of them true? Or is truth so elusive in this life that it’s beyond discovery?

Jesus of Nazareth is the ultimate player-coach proclaimed by the Christian faith, the pivotal figure in human history, according to the biblical record. He says that truth can be known because He can be known, and He is the Person most worth knowing, and He is the embodiment of truth — again, according to the biblical record.

His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection are the three most essential events known to humankind, and they’ve resulted in what the human heart longs for, the new start of a new creation — yes, according to the biblical record.

Yet how can we know the biblical record, penned by ancient writers, is actually historical? In fact, given the congenital tendency of human nature to fib, fabricate and otherwise falsify, how can we know that any written record — whether ancient or modern — is historical and true?

Let’s revisit these existential and postmodern questions in a moment. But first let’s look at some quotes of record — as reported by 21st-century writers — about the fine art of coaching in the context of our player-coach discussion.


Conchita Martinez, who won the 1994 Wimbledon title, coached tennis star Garbine Muguruza during her run to the Wimbledon title in 2017. During the tournament, Muguruza said of her coach:

“She’s helping me to deal with the stress — it’s a long tournament. She knows how to prepare, how to train … having her by my side gives me confidence.”

“Having her by my side…” Sound familiar? Jesus is described in the gospels as “Immanuel, God with us” — the player-coach who knows how to prepare and train because he’s been there. The player-coach who is on our side.

Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is working to complete his college degree in criminal justice and has forged a close friendship with judge Donald R. Zuidmulder, who has served as a life coach for the former Pro Bowler. Says Clinton-Dix: “He’s kind of like my second grandfather. It’s definitely a blessing to have him on my side.”

Notice the theme? Here’s another quote in the same ballpark…

Soccer manager Pep Guardiola, who coaches Manchester City, was previously the manager at Barcelona. Another coach, Stuart Pearce, once visited Guardiola at Barcelona. Says Pearce: “He gave me a great insight into how to be a good manager. As we said goodbye and walked away, he turned around and said, ‘By the way, get a Messi in your side.'”

FYI, American fans: “side” means “team” — and of course “Messi” refers to Lionel Messi, who is regarded as the best player in the game today … by Barcelona supporters, anyway. Real Madrid fans say this designation belongs to Cristiano Ronaldo. Among soccer fans worldwide, the general consensus is that the debate about who holds the best-player title begins and ends with these two luminaries.


“Get a Messi in your side,” Pep Guardiola advises his fellow soccer coaches. Or, if the NBA is your league of choice, get Bill Russell on your team as your player-coach.

Biblical writers advise something similar — get Jesus of Nazareth by your side, on your side, and in your side.

He’s the epitome of every stellar player and player-coach in the universe. He’s the only person — the quintessential Person — who can raise your game so your endgame is knowing Him as the author of life and thus becoming the best person you can be. Apart from Him, New Testament writers say, we’re left with the worst we can be … in the worst-case scenario, forever.

Jesus is the way we can ultimately become the shining stars we were meant to be … forever.

As He declares in the gospel of John: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” A controversial statement in a postmodern world? Perhaps — but the key question is this: Does it reflect reality? In other words, is it true? Which brings us back to the existential question regarding how we can know what’s truly true and historically accurate.

C.S. Lewis, the noted British writer and scholar, connects the question to the issue of authority:

“Don’t be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you’ve been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority.

“I believe there is such a place as New York. I haven’t seen it myself. I couldn’t prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority — because the scientists say so.

“Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.” — from Mere Christianity

So authority and trust go hand in hand. No one can avoid the issue — scientists, theologians, historians, journalists and sports fans alike … plus everyone else across the spectrum of disciplines and worldviews.

By the way, I have this on good authority: The best player-coach is the best Person to have on your side.

Related Post — The Best Player-Coach Ever, Part 2

© Bruce William Deckert 2018