I Don’t Hate Football

So this weekend was the big kickoff, no pun intended, of the 2013 college football season. This is a big deal to most people living in Alabama. I can remember growing up, if I wanted to eat and sleep inside, I’d better be present and accounted for, and pulling for the Crimson Tide on game days. In all honesty, it was more entertaining to watch my father and my brother watching the game on television, than to watch the game myself. All that screaming, cheering and pounding the floor…

No one planned anything, I mean anything, during game times. I can remember one poor girl, she must have moved here from somewhere else, planned her wedding during the Alabama vs. Auburn football game. You would have thought she had kicked a blind puppy on live television for all the outrage that caused. Bless her heart.

My kids grew up outside of this hubaloo. They grew up in North Carolina where basketball was the craze, but since we didn’t live near Duke or Carolina, we were able to avoid most of that clamor.  So when we moved back to Birmingham, I finally saw through other eyes what all this football mania looked like from the outside. In case you’re wondering… its lunacy.

My youngest was in third grade when we moved back to Birmingham. On his first day of school, he came home and asked me this. “Who are we for?” Not really paying attention, I answered, “Huh?”

So he asked again. “Who are we for?” Then it dawned on me. It was the only thing that really mattered, after all. The kids at school wanted to know if my third grader who had just moved to Alabama a few days prior, was going to root for Alabama or Auburn. So I told him, “Just say Alabama, it’ll make your life easier.”

I’d like to believe that it wasn’t all that bad during my childhood, but it was. Fans weren’t only for their team, they were adamantly against the other team. I knew of families that were divided on the issue, and during certain games couldn’t even watch the game together. I witnessed two good friends come to blows over the result of one Alabama vs. Auburn game.

As with everything else, the only thing that has changed with regard to the fans, is the commercialization of fandom. You can pretty much buy any item you want emblazoned with your particular team’s logo on it. I can’t really blame the manufacturer of these items, if opportunity is knocking…

The most ridiculous thing of that nature I have seen are large crosses intended to hang upon the front door of the home, painted in team colors. As if Jesus has picked a side. Come on, now. Really? Has it come down to this? I’m sorry, but that’s just in poor taste. Jesus bore the sins of the world on that cross, can we not cheapen it by tagging it with a team logo?

Here in the Bible belt, we love Jesus. But if we are honest, some of us love football more. I know it’s harsh to put it so bluntly, but if we are really, really honest, we know its true. At the end of every football season, many fans go into mourning. They begin counting down the days until the next season starts. Do we really sit on the edge of our seats that way for the return of Christ?

When our favorite team takes the field, or scores a touchdown, we jump to our feet, screaming and clapping. We don’t care what the people around us think of our enthusiasm. But what about at church on Sunday? Doesn’t Jesus deserve more enthusiasm? I understand that lots of Hail Mary plays have saved a game, but never has one saved you. Jesus did that, by sacrificing himself, and taking upon himself the sins of the world. Once and for all.

This summer, at our church’s student conference called Motion, one of the speakers, John Gray, shared a statement about this very thing. He couldn’t have said it to a more appropriate audience.

“I will not cheer for a football team that does not know me, and remain silent about the God who made me.”

I really don’t hate football, although it likely sounds as if I do. I just think we have to be careful of anything we elevate above the level it deserves. We must be careful that we do not skew our priorities, and allow our attentions and affections to be directed inappropriately. God certainly doesn’t mind if we have a little harmless fun over a game, as long as we don’t allow it to distract us from our mission. Our mission is to love Him, serve Him, and share Him… with enthusiasm!

So what do you think?

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