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Thrills and agonies

Victories and defeats spanned the globe in an eventful February 

Thrills and agonies

David Wise with his wife and kids. (Lee Jin-man/AP)

Many of our older readers remember this introduction to a sports anthology television show that ran from 1961 to 1998 on Saturday afternoons: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport … the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat. … This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports.”

Feb. 14-27 brought a wide world of victory and agony. The death of 99-year-old Billy Graham after a long, God-glorifying life. The murder at a Florida high school of teens just starting out in life. At one end of Asia, the Syrian government’s bombing of young and old. At the other end, the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Let’s start with the thrill of victory and those who kept it in perspective. The U.S. women’s hockey team won an Olympic gold medal. Star Gigi Marvin said God is more important than gold: “In today’s news cycle, who wins the gold medal is old news after 24 hours.” Nevada youth pastor and freestyle skier David Wise won a gold medal in the halfpipe, a curved structure used in extreme sports. Some athletes in those competitions have a curvy reputation for extreme partying as well—but married, Christian, clean-living Wise leads “an alternative lifestyle,” according to NBC.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

U.S. women’s ice hockey team (Gigi Marvin in back with flag). (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Meanwhile, skeleton sledder Katie Uhlaender didn’t earn a medal, but noticed in the stands her estranged mother Karen, whom she had neither seen nor spoken with in four years. They had a reunion: Katie said “that she’s here, showing me all of the love she has, that is huge. … I’m looking forward to building from there.” Two years ago figure skaters Chris Knierim and Alexa Scimeca-Knierim wed, but Alexa faced a potentially deadly gastrointestinal condition. This year the pair helped Team USA earn bronze in team figure skating, and after the Olympics the Knierims had a belated honeymoon.

American Olympians who weren’t honeymooning came home at February’s end to a country divided on gun control. Many journalists and legislators who favor tighter rules politicized the 17 deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A few pointed out massive mishandling of warnings and tips by the FBI and local law enforcement and offered profiles in self-preservation: At least one armed Broward County deputy, and maybe three others, waited outside the school instead of trying to save lives.

Reporters did best when they told personal stories. The Los Angeles Times told how football coach Aaron Feis had commented on Facebook about his young daughter, “I’m blessed.” On Valentine’s Day he died after jumping Christ-like in front of students to shield them from bullets. The New York Times told how 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff was at the top of her soccer game in a 1-0 victory on Feb. 13. “I was so proud of her,” her mother said. “I told her it was the best game of her life.” The next day Alyssa was dead.

Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

A memorial for Peter Wang. (Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images)

The Miami Herald reported that 15-year-old Peter Wang, a member of the high school’s ROTC program, was last seen alive wearing his gray uniform with black stripes as he held open the door so others could escape. Peter won’t fulfill his dream of going to the U.S. Military Academy, but West Point on Feb. 20 posthumously accepted him for its class of 2025.

Might any victory for life emerge from this agony? Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan offered a proposal worth contemplating: “On gun law, Republicans oppose banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, the one the Parkland shooter used. … Democrats oppose banning late-term abortion. … The idea: Trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure.”

If this misery leaves you depressed and doubting, watch on YouTube a 1969 discussion between Woody Allen and Billy Graham. Without self-righteousness Graham emphasized God’s righteousness and His standards for us. He laughed at Allen, laughed at himself, and jumped in when an audience member asked Allen, “Do you think you could ever make a good minister?” Graham said Allen could, because “some of the greatest ministers of history have been some of the greatest sinners in history.” Our obituary in this issue has much more about Graham.

Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP

Eastern Ghouta, Syria. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

Maybe dozens of great ministers will emerge in sin-filled Syria, where the Assad government went on a killing spree in Eastern Ghouta, an area adjacent to Damascus that has held out. Think of federal forces in Chicago dropping big bombs on Wheaton, or Los Angeles pouring it on Pasadena. The prophet Elisha in Chapter 8 of 2 Kings wept more than 2,800 years ago when he saw that Syrian king-to-be Hazael would rip open pregnant women and bash out the brains of babies. As it was in those B.C. years it still is today, sin without end—for now. But the name Elisha means, “My God is salvation.” That means the thrill of victory will come.

Lord, have mercy.

 —with Olympics reporting by Ray Hacke

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


  • HELMUT & JANET ...
    Posted: Mon, 03/12/2018 06:04 pm

    On David Wise leading "an alternative lifestyle." What a hoot! Who would da thunk it?