Roll Tide and Hook ’em Horns: Thoughts on Football

So today’s post was going to be more theological musings about what it means to be malcontent, specifically relating to one’s personal spirituality, but in light of last night’s BCS championship game and several Facebook debates I’ve been tracking, I feel that football is a more appropriate subject. Don’t worry, I’m not about to attempt the “football is life” metaphor. That one’s too easy and it’s been done way too many times before. No, what I want to talk about today is how stupid football makes us. I want to examine how we become enraged over the actions of a player, team or coach and how we hang our hopes on the success of a group of men we probably have never met.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy a good game of football. And living as I do in the state of Alabama, I’m practically required to enjoy Alabama football (which I openly admit that I do), though Jon Acuff keeps telling me I’m required to like Tim Tebow. I cheer for the Chicago Bears (even though they never win), and I’ll scream my head off for the Samford Bulldogs, but a very wise man once told me to “leave it on the field.” Coach Vega knew what he was talking about. Win, lose or draw, everything is played out between those sidelines (or hedges, if you’re a UGA fan). What you do on the bench (or in the stands, or on your couch) doesn’t matter one single iota. You can scream, cuss, stomp around and throw helmets, but it’s what you do on the turf that really counts. And when you’ve done all you can, you leave it there. Hindsight is 20/20, and no amount of indignation or wounded pride can reverse a mistake made in a game. When those sixty minutes are over, so is the game. When the outcome is decided, whoever wins, you leave it there. All that aggression and passion belongs on the field, not in our daily lives.

If that’s what the athletes do, why can’t we as fans? Why are we, days later, still analyzing the key plays, still arguing about bad calls, still getting mad about our team’s loss, or getting even more upset when someone criticizes our team’s win. And trust me, I’ve seen this in spades following the game last night, and it’s starting to make me sick. Can you please, please listen when I tell you this? It’s a GAME. I know it’s fun to watch and I know you enjoy cheering on your team, I do too, but when it comes right down to it, those sixty minutes of football mean nothing outside of themselves. When you stand before God one day, is he going to ask you “Catch that crazy BCS championship game 25 years ago?” No. What He’s going to care about are more tangible things. Did you love your neighbors, even though they were *gasp* Auburn fans? Did you feed the poor and defend the widows and orphans, or did you spend all your money on upgrading your big screen to an even bigger screen? Were you in the world and not of it, or were you just as worldly as anyone else?

But what really upsets me the most is the misplaced passions. Over the past 24 hours, I have witnessed virulent debates on Facebook as to whether or not Alabama deserved the championship. Regardless of my stance on that question, may I remind you that this was a game? It was played for 60 hard, sweaty minutes by two very good football teams. Yeah, someone lost, but that’s the way these things go; a football game can’t have two winners. But it’s such an insignificant little thing to risk losing friends over. Ten years from now, would you rather be happy that you won that debate by shouting obscenities and insulting the game play of the Texas Longhorns, or would you rather still have a good friend who may view the world in a slightly different way. It may be the fact that I’m weird, but I’d pick the friend. I like friends. They’re much more tangible than memories of a game.

In the end, I guess I’m not as Southern as I thought. I’ve dare to raise a hand against the mighty institution of college football. So call me a hater, or a jerk. Tell me I’m taking all the fun out of the sport; do whatever you want. I really don’t care at this point. Just as long as it stops you from arguing about a simple game.

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