During football season in 2003, on a weekend where the debate over who’s number one reached a fever pitch in college football, an unassuming, previously unknown man from Natchez, Mississippi, answered the question for everyone. Coach Pete Carroll was saying USC was clearly number one. Kansas State was celebrating because they’d beaten number one and LSU was excited because they would probably get to play for number one in the Sugar Bowl.
It was during half time of the LSU/Georgia game, on national television, and the Dr. Pepper Company was hosting a promotion called the Dr. Pepper “Throw for Dough.” The lucky winner who got to throw for the dough was Chuck Bartlett, a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Natchez, MS.
Chuck had read about the contest on the back of a Diet Dr. Pepper can and was selected to be one of ten finalists to meet in Atlanta for the chance to win $1 million. After winning the preliminary round on December 5, he made it to game day where he had to throw footballs into a giant Dr. Pepper can on the goal line.
“Every Sunday we have the opportunity to declare who’s really number one in our lives.”
Here were the rules: The contestant would get up to ten throws in a thirty-second time period. Five would be from the five-yard line. Five would be from the ten-yard line. For each successful throw into the giant, blowup Dr. Pepper can, the contestant would win $10,000.00. There was also a bonus ball from the thirty-yard line. If the contestant was successful, the Dr. Pepper Company would add a zero to the contestant’s previous total.
The time clock was set and Mr. Bartlett moved to the five-yard line where he made the first two throws for $20,000.00. He missed his third, but made his fourth and fifth for a total of $40,000.00. Unfortunately, he missed his sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth throws from the ten-yard line.
As time ran out, he made his way to the thirty-yard line for the final bonus throw. If he made this final throw, he would win $400,000.00. Mr. Bartlett stepped back and exhaled as he lofted the football up into the air. A packed stadium, as well as millions watching on TV, held their collective breath as the ball sailed from the thirty to the twenty to the ten to the five and into the middle of the hole in the Dr. Pepper can. The crowd went crazy and Chuck Bartlett, who had never played football in his life, pointed to Heaven and said, “Thank you, God!”
He dropped to one knee, pointed to Heaven again and said, “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!” The reporters in the booth shared their amazement as the instant replay of Chuck Bartlett’s final throw was shown again on TV. On the field, Bartlett’s wife, Sheri, made her way to her husband who was fighting back tears.
Jill Arrington, a reporter for CBS, said, “Congratulations, Chuck. It’s time for the check.” John Clarke, the chief advertising officer for Dr. Pepper gave it to him and Chuck held it over his head and said, “Thanks, Jesus!” Then, Jill said, “Chuck, you’re here with your wife, Sheri. You were pretty calm out there and the bonus ball is all that counts. What were you thinking?” Chuck answered instantly, “That Jesus Christ gives me all the strength I need to do whatever I need.”
“Alright, Chuck,” Jill continued. “What are you going to do with that cash?” Chuck answered confidently, “Well, first of all, we’re going to tithe to our church and we’ve got several Christian missionary charities we’re planning to give to.” With that statement, Chuck Bartlett let the whole world know Who was number One.
You and I will probably never have the opportunity to throw footballs into a giant blow up Dr. Pepper can during half-time of a major college football game. However, every Sunday we have the opportunity to declare who’s really number one in our lives … when we give!
So who’s number one in your life?
© 2016. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.