Archive for February, 2011

A Taste of Heaven



   Photo Courtesy: Laura Barnand

Yesterdayon the hallowed flats of what is the Georgia Institute of Technology inside the Bill Moore Tennis Center I witnessed/experienced a taste of what heaven must be like.  For 23 long years the University of Georgia men’s tennis team had not lost a match to the Men of Georgia Tech.  23 years is a long time to oppressed by any other…especialy if that other is them dawgs of Georgia.  This last moment of joy for the Yellow Jackets against the dawgs came in 1988, when current men’s and women’s coaches, Kenny Thorne and Brian Shelton were senior’s on the team.  I was 8 years of age then, just as a point of reference.  The match was a battle.  The dawgs struck first taking the doubles point (1-0 gawga).  In singles, The mighty men of the flats struck back beginning on court two with Juan Spear making light work of his dawg foe.  The dawgs countered with a win on court three against Tech’s #3 man Eliot Potvin.  Tech broke back, at #1 where Guillermo Gomez fought off a mistake ridden first set to find his groove and a straight set win.  The dawgs would not go away however, as they would take #4 singles from the Yellow Jackets andKevin King in three sets.  Georgia Tech would be dealt a big blow here, but it would be the last they would incur.  On court 5, Magin “the machine” Ortiga played like gravity.  He wore, and wore, and wore, his opponent down with ball after ball after ball.  Magin would seemingly not miss, and we defiantly would not lose.  Score…3-3!  Now to Dean O’ Brien.  A South African who transferred last year from Tennessee Tech to Georgia Tech.  Only this week did he replace a fellow teammate in the lineup.  Prior to the match, as the two players were standing, facing one another, they looked more the part of professional boxers than tennis players.  Each man in his corner bouncing, jumping, focused eye-ball to eye-ball.  This would foretell much of what was to transpire.  Deano (as he is most affectionately known) would drop a tough first set 6-4.  Both teams hopes of a victory hung in the balance of these two young man and the racquets they wielded.  Deano turned it up in the second set, taking it by the score of 6-3.  The deciding match was all nodded up.  Georgia and Georgia Tech would come down to one match and one final set.  The set was a battle at every level, both players competing, failing, rising up, making, missing, but competing for each point, and every single ball.  Deano would have his chances to break deep in the third, up 0-40, his opponent would hold strong.  Deano would battle back, down 4-5, serving, Deano, would save two match points from his opponent to win the game and tie things up at 5-5.  Perhaps the shot, or point of the match came on a match point during that 4-5 game.  Deano serving, misses his first, and then comes back with what looked like another first or close to it which surprised the heck of Georgia’s #6.  Deano, full of confidence and smelling blood, would break his opponent for the second straight time with relative ease.  Now, the match was clearly in his hands.  Serving to beat Georgia.  Serving for the win for his team.  Serving to become a forever Georgia Tech tennis legend.  Deano stayed relaxed, stayed focused, and stayed aggressive.  His opponent got tight, missed on two occasions, and then Deano was serving for it all.  23 years of frustration were about to come off the racquet of one Dean O” Brien.  Dean’s serve would be placed by his dawg opponent properly into the middle of the net…and alas the celebration had begun.  Players both current and former rushed the court.  Fans stood and cheered frantically for their beloved yellow jackets.  I watched all of Dean’s match up in the coach’s office with Head women’s coach Brian Shelton, and women’s assistant Allison Silverio.  The moment the match concluded, I high-fived and hugged coach Shelton and said I gotta get down there with those guys.  I hugged the guys.  I was in attendance their freshman year at Georgia when we were beaten so badly and quickly by the dawgs, Coach Thorne practiced the team on UGA’s courts for a few more hours.  That was now a distant memory, but a reminder about how far we had come.   I then went hugged men’s assistant Aljosa Piric.  Then, my last embrace was for the head man himself, Coach Kenny Thorne.  I don’t remember exactly what I said to him, I was just so happy for him.  And when I looked in his eyes and I surveyed his face, I saw 23 years of frustration gone.  I saw a man who was overjoyed, and loving every ounce of the moment.  I stepped back to gaze over the crown of several hundred.  The GT contingency were all on their feet cheering for their brave warriors.  It was a gesture of appreciation for the show these boys put on for all in attendance to see.  I stepped even a little further back and just enjoyed a panoramic view of the GT fans, coaches, and players.  No one was sad, no one was angry, no one was hurt.  Everyone wearing gold a white was euphoric with joy.  At that moment there were no burdens (like tests to take), no worries (like more tests to take), no troubles (you know tests and stuff), just jubilation.  I thought this must be what heaven is like.  No worries, no burdens, no suffering, no sadness, only joy and love all of the time without ceasing or end.  If that had occurred in heaven, the after party of the match would still be going strong.  But, as great as this was, it was only a sip, a taste of heaven.  If heaven is a constant and unlimited refill of the big gulp fountain drink at 7-11, this was just one sip from that cup of joy.  Oh what a sip it was though, one that will linger on the lips of the Tech players and fans for many days to come.  And if wins in tennis matches can bring us thus much joy, imagine how much more we will enjoy heaven and the very presence of Christ.  If heaven is better in every than what we experience on Saturday, then count me in as one who can’t wait to know joy like that, and peace like that, and freedom from burdens like that, and love that will cause us to sing and dance and smile forever.  Praise God there is a heaven…and we will love it there!

Revelation 21:3-5 (English Standard Version)

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”


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