Jesus Christ Joined Our Team — Funeral Homily for Russell “Russ” Dachel, 73

There are many humorous stories about Russ. He loved to leave you with a smile, a smile on your face and a smile on his. So today, I would like to share with you the funniest story I’ve heard about him, and I believe Russ will be amused at its retelling. It happened over forty years ago. Some of the finer details are uncertain, but an eyewitness who was there confirms that the broad strokes of this story are true.

Once, in the second half of the 1970’s, Russ was officiating at a junior high school basketball game; Eau Claire Memorial versus Eau Claire North. The young men on both sides were giving it their all, and so was Russ. His friend Jim, a former coach who was at the game, tells me that Russ was a good official. Russ had refereed games before, and would go on to ref games after, but this game won him some local fame.

In one telling, Memorial had the ball and dribbled it down court. On this possession, Russ the Ref was the back official, standing nearest to the empty backcourt. Suddenly, a North player stole the ball and made a fast break for the unguarded basket. As the young man went in for what he, both teams, and all the spectators in the bleachers expected to be a routine lay-up, they witnessed something rarely—if ever—seen since James Naismith invented basketball in 1891.

Recall that Russ loves sports. He’s intensely competitive, he hates to lose, and always gives one hundred percent. On this occasion, it seems that Russ got so wrapped-up into the action that he forgot what he was supposed to be doing. As that young man drove to the basket, Russ’ instincts kicked in. Despite not being tall, his feet leaped from the floor to an impressive height, and with his up-raised hand, Russell the Muscle blocked the shot. His friend Jim recalls it was “The Defensive Play of the Game.” Everybody laughed and Russ wanted to disappear, but “change of possession” was signaled and the game went on. A referee becoming a player in the game is against the rules in that setting, but Jesus Christ does something similar to this in our most important story.

Our fallen human race was up against sin and death, the devil and his demons, and we were sure to be beaten. In our wounded condition we could never win on our own. But the Son of God did not wish to merely be our judge, which would guarantee our total defeat. Jesus Christ entered the game on our side, divinity joined humanity. He gave his all, one hundred percent, as someone who hates to lose. And if we die with him who died for us, we shall also live with him. And if we persevere in the struggle before us we shall also reign with him.

Because of the importance of his Catholic Faith, Russ was dedicated to Holy Mass here each Sunday, sitting in his pew near the confessional. He said, “I have to go to church. I feel better when I do.” He felt that way because Jesus Christ is here. As you pray today for Russ’ soul, if you’ve been away from Jesus Christ, I ask you to resolve to get back on his bench and to strive on his side in the contest of life with all your heart, that you may share in his great victory.

One Response to “Jesus Christ Joined Our Team — Funeral Homily for Russell “Russ” Dachel, 73”

  1. pussywillowpress Says:

    Love it!

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