Monday, August 10, 2009

For the Love of the Game...

I *LOVE* football! Especially college football. To me, there's not much I can do that's more fun than sitting in a stadium w/ thousands of fans screaming & listening to the band & roaring @ 1st downs & picks & fumbles & TDs & such.

Dad was a Bama fan; Mom, a Bama grad. Papa--Mom's Daddy--was ordered by his Dr. to stop listening to Bama games on the radio for the sake of his heart. My 1st several football games involved the Crimson Tide, including the game that Coach Bryant called the best game he ever saw: a 1-point loss to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. I was on campus for the last three years of the man's amazing 25-year run. Attended his funeral, even. So, yeah...I love " Football!"

In the last 20 years, I've watched a BUNCH of USM games, & plan to keep watching more. My plan is to see all of the home games this year, as I did last year. Several years back, James & I rolled up to Memphis to watch USM crush Pitt in the Liberty Bowl. Loved it! I had Ryan McKee & Tumbo Abanikanda in class a couple of summers ago. I've also had a bunch of other players through the years. Was in Tuscaloosa for Favre's miraculous off-the-bench W. And for some other USM Ws.

In recent years, I've watched a number of UM & MSU games in Oxford & Starkville. Saw the Rebs come mighty close to beating the Gators a couple of years ago. Saw Eli & co win some biggies. James & I went to the Cotton Bowl last January & watched the Rebs DESTROY the vaunted Tx Tech Red Raiders. Loved it! In Starkville, I watched Tim Couch throw for over 400 yards...and lose to the Dogs. Watched the Dogs beat my Tide. And lose to them. Both places are fun places to watch a game.

I've watched games from the pressboxes at Florida Field in Gainesville and at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. I've watched in torrential rainstorms...and in 100+ degree heat...and in freezing cold weather. God help me, I absolutely love watching the game!

Which leads to the point of this post. (Finally!)

Are we really going to define our lives by which bunch of 18-22 year olds defeats the other bunch of 18-22 year olds on a given Saturday?

Will the outcome of a football game define our friendships?

Our mood for the entire next week?

Our love for--and hatred for--particular institutions of higher learning?

Our conversational content & edge?

Our witness to the world (if we are Christians)?


Make no mistake: I hope my guys go 12-0, win the SEC championship, and become the latest SEC team to win the national championship. (I do not predict this, but it'd be nice...and I *do* predict that the Tide will be mighty good this Fall) Also, know that I have, in fact, allowed the outcome of a football game to affect all of those things listed above, to my great shame.

But for crying out loud...a little perspective, please!! Regardless of the outcome of a particular football game, here are some things that are true:

--God is still on His throne

--Jesus is still coming back

--I am loved and redeemed by my Lord
("My chains are gone...I've been set God my Savior's ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy rains, unending love, Amazing Grace!")

--Lisa still loves me

--I still have two children who are absolute joys & treasures

--my degrees from the U. of Alabama are still intact

--as is my job that I love @ WCU

--God has blessed me with MANY wonderful friends who love in deed, & not just in word

--I'm still--incredibly--cancer-free at this moment

--The beaches of NW FL are still there in all of their majestic, breathtaking beauty

--ditto the Colorado Rockies

I have friends who are Ole Miss grads. MSU grads. USM grads. UF grads. Ohio State grads. LSU grads. Tx Tech grads. Even Auburn grads! Each of these are treasured friendships that have been indispensable to me this last year & a half particularly.

Here's my challenge as a new college football season approaches. Enjoy the stew out of the games. Cheer for your team. Agonize over the bad spots, turnovers, penalties,...But DO NOT let a football game's outcome define your existence...your friendships & the way you deal w/ those friends...your mood (Piglet when your team wins, Eeyore when yours loses)...your conversations...your prayer life...the way you sing at church (or not)... In other words, make it a goal this Fall to move beyond the typical "my team's great/your team sucks" approach to college football fan-dom.

I dare you to find something positive about the OTHER team & its coaches & its fans. For example...
Gator fans--are you aware that OU QB Sam Bradford is a very committed Christian who takes his faith seriously & is involved in ministry off the field just like your man Tebow?
OU fans, are you aware that UT QB Colt McCoy is outspoken about his Christian faith just like your man Sam is?
Fellow Bama fans, are you aware that Auburn has a center for sports ministry (don't know exact title) where sports chaplains are trained that was started by the hated former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville?
USM & MSU fans, are you aware that Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt speaks of his faith & desire to impact others with it? (I've heard him do this with my own ears!)
Non-USM fans, are you aware that USM Coach Larry Fedora does the same & has been seen attending church at my church?
Michigan fans, are you aware that OSU LB James Laurinaitis is a deeply committed Christian who speaks often to student groups about it?
Bama-hating fans, are you aware that the late Paul "Bear" Bryant established a scholarship fund for children of Bama players that has fully funded the education of several hundred young men & women most of whom never set foot on a football field? And that the hated Bama coach Nick Saban has donated a very large pot of $$ to fund academic scholarships for non-football players?

Such stories are just a sample of one of the primary things that I love about college football.

My own church staff has USM grads/fans, Ole Miss grads/fans, MSU grads/fans, WCU grads, Ohio St. fans, U of TX fans, KY fans...and yet they are of one accord, by & large.

EVERY school has its share of...*searches for kind word*...idiot fans. Every single one. My challenge to us all is to not add to that number this Fall.

When's kickoff? I can't wait...

p.s. - Hold me to account on my points here, please!


Anonymous said...

Mike- I also adore college football. I love everything about it. I think my mom was close to having me in the parking lot of Jordan-Hare Stadium. I admit to getting caught up in the rivalry (specially my home state one!!), but there are many Bama players I love- I love, love, love when you see a college player mature into a wonderful man on and off the field. I love the things you mentioned. I have many memories with my family, friends, and others at football games. I still get teary at Auburn games when they have different players, coaches, and students read the Auburn Creed on the jumbotron at Auburn(if you haven't heard it, go read it sometime!)The eagle flying arounf the stadium!! It was also an honor when I got to meet Jay Barker! I can't wait, either! I also remember WAYYYY back in 94 when Southern Miss beat LSU at LSU. That is one of my best USM memories ever! I could go on and on! It is hard to keep it in perspective at times! You can do the same for me as far as the perspective and God on the throne part!!
Christy G

Judi McQueen said...

Thank you for reminding all of us what the real game of life is all about. You continue to encourage my walk with Christ and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post Mike. As you know, I love college football as well. So much so that I have been watching some of the replays that they have been showing lately. I know that's bad--my husband hasn't even been interested in that.
You also know that I love my bulldogs and have so many friends who are fans of many other schools. What a reminder this was for me about keeping this in perspective! I definitely fall in that category of letting it ruin my day, week, or even create an argument with my husband. How ridiculous!!
Can't wait to see you at some games!!
Praying for you and Lisa this week! Nothing to worry about since Anne is in God's country though! Ha! You know I couldn't resist. Much love!
Gina Boykin