Alexander the Great conquered Persia, but broke down and wept because his troops were
too exhausted to push on to India. Hugo Grotius, the father of modern international law,
said at the last, "I have accomplished nothing worthwhile in my life." John
Quincy Adams, sixth President of the U.S.--not a Lincoln, perhaps, but a decent
leader--wrote in his diary: "My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and
in ceaseless rejected prayers that something would be the result of my existence
beneficial to my species." Robert Louis Stevenson wrote words that continue to
delight and enrich our lives, and yet what did he write for his epitaph? "Here lies
one who meant well, who tried a little, and failed much." Cecil Rhodes opened up
Africa and established an empire, but what were his dying words? "So little done, so
much to do."
Donald McCullough, "The Pitfalls of Positive
Thinking", Christian Times, September 6, 1985.
It was a case of now-you-win-it, now-you-don't. That's what people remember about
1972's gold medal game -- how the USA celebrated victory only to watch in horror as the
Soviets won the second time around. The Soviets had control of the game from the opening
tip until the furious final seconds. They led 26-21 at half time and 38-28 with 10 minutes
to play. Then the USA began to chip away. With less than 40 seconds left, Jim Forbes made
a 20-foot jump shot to cut the deficit to 49-48. Here's what happened in the chaotic final
10 seconds -- or to be precise, 13 seconds, since those last three were played twice: 10
seconds to go -- Tom McMillen blocks a jumper by soon-to-be- hero Aleksandr Belov. The
ball bounces back to Belov, who quickly tries to pass it back to mid-court. 07 -- Doug
Collins intercepts the pass and dashes for the other basket with Zurab Sakandelidze in
pursuit. 03 -- Sakandelidze tackles Collins rather than give him the winning lay up,
ramming Collins into the basket support. Collins gets up woozily, walks to the free-throw
line and makes both shots as Soviet coach Vladimir Kondrashkin prematurely tries to signal
time out USA 50, USSR 49.
The Soviets inbound the ball; two seconds elapse while their coach continues
frantically to signal time out. 01 -- The referees, one from Bulgaria, the other from
Brazil, stop play to check the commotion. The Soviets inbound with one second left. A pass
glances off Belov's hand and caroms harmlessly off the backboard. 00 -- The horn sounds
and USA players celebrate the hard-fought victory. Final score: 50-49 USA. Only it wasn't
final. Enter Great Britain's R. William Jones, secretary general of the International
Amateur Basketball Federation (FIBA), the organization that governs international amateur
basketball. Technically, he had no authority to intervene in an Olympic game. But he ruled
international basketball with an iron hand, and when Jones ordered three seconds restored,
apparently to honor the Soviets' attempt to call a timeout, game officials acquiesced.
Under international rules of the time, the Soviets were not entitled to a time out.
"I think Jones thought he could avoid controversy by giving them the time out,"
says Bill Wall of Amateur Basketball Association/USA. "Instead he created it. I just
think he never thought they'd score." USA coach Henry Iba says one of the referees
suggested he pull his team off the court. "But walking away with your tail between
your legs is not the American way," Iba says. As it was, the Soviets appear -- on
tape replay -- to commit at least three infractions on the winning play. 03 -- With three
seconds back on the clock, McMillen prepares to defend against the inbound pass. But the
official moves him to the foul line. The Soviets launch a court-length inbound pass. But
the player throwing it steps on the end line just before he released it. Violation No. 1.
Belov shoulder-blocks two USA defenders, Forbes and Kevin Joyce and they sprawl to the
court as Belov catches the ball. Violation No. 2. Belov shuffles his pivot foot as he sets
himself to lay in the winning basket. Violation no. 3. The shot banks in and the Soviets
take the court for a victory dance similar to the USA's frolic of moments before, USSR 51,
USA 50. The USA files a protest that is rejected (Italy and Puerto Rico side with the USA;
Hungary, Poland and Cuba do not). Iba was doubly robbed: A pickpocket lifted $370 from him
as he signed the protest papers.
Sir Alexander Mackenzie is a Canadian hero. An early fur trader and explorer, he
accomplished a magnificent feat when he led an expedition across Canada from Fort
Chippewyan on Lake Athabasca to the Pacific Ocean. His incredible journey was completed in
1793, 11 years before Lewis and Clark began their famous expedition to the west.
Mackenzie's earlier attempt in 1789, however, had been a major disappointment. His
explorers had set out in an effort to find a water route to the Pacific. The valiant group
followed a mighty river (now named the Mackenzie) with high hopes, paddling furiously amid
great danger. Unfortunately, it didn't empty into the Pacific, but into the Arctic Ocean.
In his diary, Mackenzie called it the "River of Disappointment."
July 1, 1990.
In 1858 the Illinois legislature--using an obscure statute--sent Stephen A. Douglas to
the U.S. Senate instead of Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln had won the popular vote.
When a sympathetic friend asked Lincoln how he felt, he said, "Like the boy who
stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh."
Early missionaries to the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific received their mail
once a year when the sailing boat made its rounds of the South Pacific. On one occasion
the boat was one day ahead of schedule, and the missionaries were off on a neighboring
island. The captain left the mail with the Marshallese people while he attended to matters
of getting stores of water and provisions. At last the Marshallese were in possession of
what the missionaries sopke about so often and aparently cherished so much. The people
examined the mail to find out what was so attractive about it. They concluded that it must
be good to eat, and so they proceeded to tear all the letters into tiny bits and cook
them. However, they didn't taste very good, and the Marshallese were still puzzled about
the missionaries' strange interest in mail when they returned to find their year's
correspondence made into mush.
Adapted from Eugene A. Nida's Customs and Cultures:
Anthropology for Christian Missions, pp. 5-6.
Early in my career as a doctor I went to see a patient who was coming out of
anesthesia. Far off church chimes sounded. "I must be in heaven," the woman
murmured. Then she saw me. "No, I can't be," she said. "There's Dr.
Lenore Campbell, M.D., in Medical Economics.
The year was 1920. The scene was the examining board for selecting missionaries.
Standing before the board was a young man named Oswald Smith. One dream dominated his
heart. He wanted to be a missionary. Over and over again, he prayed, "Lord, I want to
go as a missionary for you. Open a door of service for me." Now, at last, his prayer
would be answered. When the examination was over, the board turned Oswald Smith down. He
did not meet their qualifications. He failed the test. Oswald Smith had set his direction,
but now life gave him a detour. What would he do? As Oswald Smith prayed, God planted
another idea in his heart. If he could not go as a missionary, he would build a church
which could send out missionaries. And that is what he did. Oswald Smith pastored The
People's Church in Toronto, Canada, which sent out more missionaries than any other church
at that time. Oswald Smith brought God into the situation, and God transformed his detour
into a main thoroughfare of service.
Brian L. Harbour, Rising Above the Crowd.