No. 714



In any game, regardless of the sport, have you ever known of a coach who wanted his team to lose? To be honest I hadn’t, until a few weeks ago when I was having lunch with Ken Hatfield, former coach of the Arkansas Razorback football team. Ken was in town to be the keynote speaker for our fifth annual Awards Ceremony when our bookcase project committee presents 50 more personalized bookcases to children in low-income families. On this day, several of us took him to lunch at a popular local restaurant. Ken grew up in Helena, Ark. He was an outstanding athlete and played a number of sports, including basketball, where he helped his team win a state championship.
During our time together, he told this true story. He is a little younger than I am, but back in our day teams would travel to out-of-town games on a yellow school bus and there would usually be three games: junior boys or girls and the two senior teams. On this trip, Helena was playing teams from Clarksdale, Miss., which was across the Mississippi River from his town. This was before a bridge had been built linking the two communities, and the Helena school bus had to cross the river on a ferry. I might add, even starting early, playing three games sometimes took you well into the night.
At the end of the last game (the senior boys,) the game Ken was playing in, Helena was two points behind with only 30 seconds to go. The coach told them, “Just as soon as you get the ball across the center line, shoot.” Well, they did and Helena lost the game. Later, one of the players asked the coach, “We could have tied the game, so why did you tell us to shoot from the center line?” The coach replied, “If we had tied the game, we would have gone into overtime and that meant we would have missed the last ferry back across the river. I didn’t want to spend the night on the bank of the Mississippi River in a school bus with all of you kids.” So in this case, here was a coach who actually wanted his team to lose.
Ken Hatfield turned out to be a man of genuine character. A friend told another true story about him that came from one of the games when Arkansas was playing the University of Texas, and the Longhorns showed no mercy that day. During the game, the father of a Texas player was in the stands and suffered a heart attack. They rushed him to the hospital, but he had to stay several days before he could travel back home. The son stayed with him and, rather than have him miss a week of practice during the middle of the season, with permission from his coach, Ken had him work out with the Razorbacks.
When it became time for the father to return home, the commercial airlines would not permit him to travel on their flights. Ken then chartered a private plane and returned the player and his father back home. That is just the kind of man he is. To be sure, there are lots of great people in this world, but we don’t hear about most of them. On the other hand, what is truly sad for me are the thousands, maybe millions, of people who never experience the joy of serving or helping others, but are bent on selfish ambition, getting all they can.
The other day there was an article in our local paper about the hundreds of important political jobs that are yet unfilled, because those in contention would have to go through the scrutiny and embarrassment of trying to get confirmed. This reminded me of a verse in the Bible found in Numbers “Be careful, your sins will find you out.”
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)