I would like to meet the Mad Ant. You probably never heard of Ron Howard, unless you happen to live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. That’s where Mr. Howard plays for a second-tier league of professional basketball players on a team known as the Mad Ants. (L. Jenkins, SI 4.28.14) The National Basketball Association (“NBA”) has a Development League (“D League”) where “really good but not quite good enough” basketball players learn the professional game, hoping to one day be noticed by the NBA. Mr. Howard has been called up a to the NBA a bit, but mostly he has spent his young working life as a D League Mad Ant. He and his wife and children live at Concordia Theological Seminary and run summer camps, lead toy drives at Christmas, volunteer at a food bank and mentor kids. All while spending the basketball season playing NBA-level basketball as an Ant.
We have become nearly numb to the numbers. Young men in their late teens or early twenties being chosen by a professional basketball team to begin a life’s work that will earn them millions of dollars before they are 35 years old. The numbers are so big that to most of the top draft picks it seems like they are being paid with Monopoly money as they take it and spend lavishly on houses and cars and lots of life’s frills and thrills. And for a few young men, twenty to thirty of them in any given year, life as a top draft pick will be grand. Unless they get injured. Unless they have a bad attitude toward practice. Unless…unless. And for a very, very few, less than a dozen in a dozen years, life will be like living a dream, men with names like Jordan, Dr. J, Wilt the Stilt, Kareem, Lebron, Kobe. But for many, their young careers end with them forgotten and alone.
When you are a Mad Ant and a Mad Ant’s wife, as is Reesha Howard, you can dream of being a top draft pick, but you might become Mr. and Mrs. Mad Ant. What do you pray for when you are married with children and living the life of a Mad Ant? “We used to pray for Ron to make it to the NBA, but now I realize that’ so foolish,” Mrs. Mad Ant explains. “We just thank God for allowing him to do what he loves. I never wanted to be one of those Basketball Wives anyway. We’ve gotten so much more out of being here. We’ve gotten a real home.”
Ah, to learn the value of winning life’s bigger prizes. It is good to learn this early. You see, in life’s draft, the real winners are people like the Howards, Ants with a real home.