Christians of the world have a special incentive to wake up early on Easter Sunday. Many attend sunrise worship services to commemorate the resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ.
But on Easter 10 years ago, Brownwood residents had another reason to start their day before dawn.
For one thing, it was the earliest in the year Easter was being observed in nearly a century. The last time Easter fell on March 23 was in 1913, and the next time will not be until 2160.
But there was more — much more. Never mind that it was the final weekend of spring break, and that schools in the area had not yet returned to finish up the second semester.
Good Samaritan Ministries was holding an Easter luncheon as a fund-raiser that day. What was even more exceptional that Sunday was the fact that the NCAA Division III champion Howard Payne University Lady Jackets were returning from Holland, Michigan. A day earlier, the team had captured the national title with a convincing 68-54 victory over Messiah College from Pennsylvania.
It was the 33rd win in a season for a Lady Jackets team that never once experienced “the agony of defeat.” That inspired — and inspiration is the only way to describe it — for Bulletin sports editor Derrick Stuckly to come up with the headline “Perfect Swarm.”
If I have to explain why that in itself is perfect, you just aren’t with the program.
In his Facebook post last week showing the HPU team with the trophy, Derrick described covering that tournament and the Lady Jackets’ national championship as “the highlight of my career.” That’s a little disappointing personally, because I had hoped working with me might be the highlight of his career. But that’s OK, I’ll settle for second place. Or third. Or who’s keeping score, anyway?
Of course, Easter falls on different Sundays each year, depending on factors that mostly depend on when the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the first day of spring falls. It happened that a week ago on the championship’s 10th anniversary, Derrick — as well as the Howard Payne Athletics Department — remembered the occasion by posting the defining photograph Derrick took of the team hoisting the championship trophy right after the game in Michigan.
For my part, I was still toiling as editor of the Bulletin, and word of the Lady Jackets’ achievement had already gone to press in Sunday morning’s newspaper. The news was being distributed near and far. Sadly, I was relegated to staying behind when the chartered aircraft took off for the national tournament. My schedule on Easter Sunday, the day after the title game, was to go to church services, race out to Brownwood Regional Airport to greet the returning flight, and then enjoy lunch at the Good Samaritan benefit while also taking photos there.
After church, I went to the airport directly to meet the airplane, only to learn that it had made a stop in Arkansas to refuel. Fearing that I might miss lunch (and a chance to take photos) at the benefit, I returned to town. Derrick was on the plane and had the arrival covered, but I was a fan too.
However, I almost missed it.
Well, nobody’s perfect. Nobody, that is, except for the 2008 Howard Payne University Lady Jackets. They went 33-0, and it will not soon be forgotten by their many fans who cheered them.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.