Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
– James 1:12 (NIV)
Faith in 'The Final Season'
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
- It’s an incredible story.
The Norway Tigers, a high school baseball team in Norway, Iowa (population 586), had already won 19 state baseball championships. Baseball was the heart of the small town, and to play for the team was considered an honor. Several players from Norway went on to play in the major leagues.
What was the secret to their success?
Their coach, Jim Van Scoyoc, knew the value of hard work. He pushed the team to always do their best when they stepped out on the field. His system worked. Repeatedly, the team faced off against schools much bigger than themselves, and they walked away as winners.
But Norway’s players never expected to face such an uphill battle as the one they faced as they prepared for their twentieth trip to the state championships. The upcoming film, The Final Season, chronicles their journey.
In 1991, the Norway School Board decided to merge the school with another nearby high school. The decision meant that Norway’s students would be absorbed into the larger school, and the long tradition of Norway baseball would come to an end. That year would be the team’s final season.
As an additional blow, the school board refused to renew the contract of the team’s beloved coach Scoyoc (portrayed by Powers Boothe). Instead, they replaced him with Kent Stock (Sean Astin), a former girls’ volleyball coach, to lead the team in their final season.
The decision devastated not only the Norway players, but the entire town. Business owners and local merchants who would normally close their shops to watch the team’s games lost faith that Norway could win another championship under such dire circumstances. The players, too, gave up any hope of winning.
It wasn’t until their new coach reminded them of their core values that they found the strength to persevere. Coach Stock was convinced that their final season was not merely about the outcome of the game. It was about something that ran much deeper than baseball.
“How do you want to be remembered?” he asked the team.
For Coach Stock that final season was not about whether they won or lost, but it was about “playing the game right.”
The film illustrates the value of perseverance and doing what you know is right, even when the reward may not be immediate.
Veteran actor Powers Boothe described the game of baseball as “a metaphor for life.”
He said he was attracted to the role of Coach Scoyoc because his son plays varsity baseball, and Boothe has coached him since he was 6-years-old. The actor also said he appreciated the fact that the film was clean and family friendly, and he identified with the characters’ small town roots.
“It was great for me to get back into the heart of what I think this country is, which is small towns,” Boothe said. “Most of us come from small towns and those values, which are the strength of our nation.”
He said he enjoyed playing the admirable Coach Jim Van Scoyoc because the coach was such a role model for his team. Scoyoc still lives in Norway, and he met with the movie’s cast during filming.
“I asked him one time, ‘How did you sustain this over so many years and get these kids to work this hard?’” Boothe said.
“He said, ‘Hey, they’re all farm boys. They know what work is. They know what discipline is. So I just tried to make them believe in themselves and teach them the game.’”
“I think we all look back over our past,” Boothe said, “and there has been a coach, or a teacher, or somebody, if we are fortunate, that made us believe in ourselves and take that next step toward potential success.”
For Boothe one such source of inspiration was his parents. As a farm boy himself and raised in a small town in West Texas, Boothe said it was his faith and the strong work ethic that his parents instilled in him that have helped him pursue his dreams. He hopes the film will inspire others to pursue theirs as well.
“We are a nation of hope and dreams,” Boothe said. “And if you work at it, you can not only pursue your dreams, but you might be able to reach them.”
The players of Norway knew this too. The strength of their team stemmed from how hard they worked on the fundamentals. The time they spent practicing the basics paid off for them on game days. In the heat of the moment, with bases loaded, they were able to perform well because the fundamentals of the game had become second nature.
As Christians, we would do well to approach our faith the same way. In fact, I think the game of baseball portrayed in this film illustrates several principles that we can practice in relation to our spiritual lives.
First, we should spend time practicing the fundamentals. Spending time with God in prayer, studying His Word, and memorizing Scripture may seem like elementary things but they are crucial if we are to live out our faith.
God’s Word and His promises should be hidden so deep in our hearts that they become a part of our very beings. Then when the Goliaths of our lives show up, the weapons we need to defeat them will be ingrained in us.
Secondly, we should persevere even when times are tough. As the coach instructed his baseball players, their final season was about doing the right thing, and playing the game right, regardless of the outcome. We may not see the rewards of our faith immediately, but we press on knowing that we are having an eternal impact. How do we want our lives to be remembered?
Thirdly, we should remember that we are a team. As we persevere and live out our faith, we will encourage others to do the same. We have the ability to be an encouragement to those around us. When others face uphill battles, they do not do so alone. Just as Norway’s players relied on each other for success, our brothers and sisters in Christ are relying on us to help bear their burdens through prayer as well as by helping in more tangible ways.
And lastly, we must always keep in mind that we are being watched by others. We not only set an example for people by the way we live our lives, but we know the One they need so desperately. Are we pointing them toward Him by how we live?
One of the best lines from the film is an observation from Coach Scoyoc about baseball: “It’s the only game on earth where the object is to get home,” he tells Coach Kent Stock.
As Christians, we know where our home is. If we have a relationship with Christ, we know that He is preparing a home for us in Heaven where we will live forever. Our futures are secure. But what about the time we have between now and when we go home?
Norway’s players could look back on their final season and know that they gave it their all. They played the game the best way they knew how.
I hope that when we look back on the final season of our lives we will feel the same way.
Are you living in a way that makes a difference?
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More articles by Belinda Elliott on CBN.com
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