It’s a season the entire world anticipates every two years: the Olympic Games. This year’s rendition of the Winter Olympics, known as PyeongChang 2018, will open on February 9th in South Korea and continue through February 25th. Many people can recite amazing stories of the world’s greatest athletes performing and setting records at the Olympic Games of the past, but few know the story of the Mormon Yankees. The film Spirit of the Game tells this team’s ennobling story.
When 20-year-old Delyle Condie leaves to serve his LDS mission in Melbourne, Australia, he leaves behind a promising basketball career and a cancelled engagement.
Fun fact: In the film, Elder Condie travels by boat with an Elder Groberg who says he will be disembarking in Tonga. Elder Condie’s reply that Tonga “sounds like heaven” is a dead giveaway that this Elder Groberg is actually the main character of another movie called The Other Side of Heaven.
Discouraged by the lack of interest in the message he’s out to share, Elder Condie begins to feel that his mission is pointless. Everyone is too busy talking about the upcoming summer Olympics in Melbourne to listen to him talk about his church. But people do notice these Mormon boys for something else: their talent for basketball.
Ken Watson, the coach of Australia’s first Olympic basketball team, knows his team is in trouble. Afraid that they’ll be thrashed, he can only hope for a miracle. He decides that that miracle is the Mormon missionaries that he’s seen play some great basketball. While the Mission President at first is reluctant to let the Elders focus on anything but missionary work, a message from Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City leads to the formation of a basketball team of missionaries.
Elder Condie is put in charge of this Mormon Yankee team. The missionaries’ charge, in addition to preaching the Gospel, is to show the Australian team what it means to play basketball. In addition to helping train and coach the Australians, the Mormon Yankees go on to play other countries’ teams in exhibition games. The Mormon Yankees’ games and dedication light a spark in Australians, Americans, and people everywhere who flock to the story of these LDS boys who know how to play some ball.
Before you watch the athletes in the PyeongChang 2018, take the chance to watch Spirit of the Game. Its lessons about finding connections with people, changing hearts, and working hard for a good cause can help each of us in our missionary efforts and daily lives. From now on, you may think of the Gospel every time you shoot a basket.
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