...by which I mean Football Season!! I can't wait!
(Note: I really enjoy watching all sports--with the possible exception of curling, which is easily the most bizarre sports spectacle ever--but there's just something about football that trips my trigger, God help me.)
I love the game. My preference is a smothering, hard-hitting defense combined with a pro-set, power running offense, but I just love the game. I love it at most any level, from NFL to college to HS & jr. high.
But as much as I love football, football season brings out the absolute worst in a considerable portion of society. And it has done so in me as well over the years. I *hope* & *pray* that I've gotten better in recent years..
Precisely NOTHING that matters ultimately will be determined by the actions of a bunch of large, strong, fast, 18- to 23-year-old guys running into each other at high rates of speed for 3-4 hours at a time. (Nor, for that matter, will anything ultimate be determined by the actions of any high-school football players. Or any NFL players) It's a game. A game. A GAME. One that I happen to really enjoy watching live or on TV...but still a game.
To my fellow Christians, I offer the same challenge that I offer myself every year: PLEASE, let's consider the reputation of our Lord & of the Gospel as we move into rabid-cheering time.
An absolutely haunting question that came to me a few years back: Would you rather your team win, or would you rather others become more interested in the teachings of Christ because of how you conduct yourself during football season? (Yeah, I didn't like the question either; haven't been able to get past it though.) EVERY football fan genuinely believes that it's the OTHER school's fans who are jerks, but not "us." With all the love I can muster, I'm telling you: t's "us" too, whomever "us" is for you...
Just so you know: my alma mater, for whose teams I have ferverently cheered since I was a toddler, is once again highly ranked pre-season, & is expected to have a good season. My alma mater's cross-state rival won it all last year, including a great comeback from a serious 2nd-half deficit in my school's stadium. Did I want my team to win? Absolutely! Was I able to congratulate my friends who support that cross-state rival? Yes I was. (I'm making progress...*smile*)
But what about the local school's team, you ask? I've been at every single home game for the past few years, and will be again this year, Lord willing. What about the other two major teams in the state? Been to games at both, and enjoy doing so, & hope to do so again this year.
Here's how the challenge plays out in mmbeachbum's life this coming football season: By the grace of God, I will do no public/online "woofing" if my team wins a particular game, nor whining if they don't. I'm going to be proud of them, win or lose, as I have for as long as I can remember. I will always be proud of the degrees I have from there, which explain why my tag is the "Crimson Tide" tag available in MS. But I'm praying to be able to display grace toward others, win or lose. Excuses & gloating are out. Including the ever-popular "Well, see, they started it...there was that incident back in 1937 (or whenever)...so it's justified." With all the love I can muster: No, it's NOT justified. It's a GAME, for crying out loud!
Also by the grace of God, I will enjoy watching teams other than my alma mater's team (OK, that's pretty easy for a devout lover of the game like myself), and will encourage fans of the other teams as I'm able. FWIW, in my closet right now are shirts & hats from AL (of course), USM, Ole Miss, & MSU. All will be worn as I'm able to attend games at those places this year. And when I go to games at those schools' stadiums, I will enjoy those games and will enjoy the traditions each place has. I will refuse to publicly badmouth anyone's coach, recognizing that every single D1 football coach in America knows more about football than I do. (Or than you do...)
So, it's possible that I've gotten to the point in my spiritual journey where I can cheer for my school's team without cheering against or badmouthing the opponent. I've seen this trait in a couple of friends of mine, and long to have it consistently myself. I'm also going to actively enjoy watching games--including once again the big 3 MS universities--without having to become a jerk for or against any other team. And without having to hammer anyone about their own allegiances. (Yep...I've been hammered about mine for 22 years now since moving to MS; especially so when we won it all a couple of seasons ago. Receiving the verbal abuse isn't fun. But perhaps I'm reaching the point where I will no longer have to fire back. I'm still a work in progress, but there is actual progress...*smile*)
Strap 'em up, boys! It's football season! I can't wait!
p.s. - Alabama's first opponent is Kent State U., which is cool for a couple of reasons. 1) One of Kent St.'s football alums is...*drum roll*...former defensive back Nick Saban, who is now the HC at Alabama. 2) Kent St.'s team has been in Tuscaloosa this week, working alongside Bama's team doing some home rebuilding projects in town from last April's devastating tornado. The two teams worked alongside each other several weeks ago also. THAT, ladies & gents, is FAR more significant & cool than the outcome of Saturday's game!