Alright, I want to set the record straight right now that I was planning this blog whether the Royals won or lost last night. This is by no means me trying to spin something positive out of a sour feeling festering in my belly. Had they won, I’d be writing about the same topic from a different light. Now with all that said and done, I must confess that I truly feel amazed at my Royals success this postseason. Coming back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit in the Wildcard game? Sweeping the best teams in the American League? Taking the World Series champion Giants all the way down to game seven? Are you kidding me??? What fan in Kansas City would have predicted this unfathomable success? To Ned Yost and the boys, to all those fans out there who have kept the faith since 1985, I tip my hat to you. You have to admit that it was a heck of a ride.
Here’s the thing … Had this happened to me ten years ago, I wouldn’t be doing so well. It was back then that my favorite team losing sent me spiraling into a depression that would sometimes last days. Heck, even weeks! I’ll never forget the night my fiancé (now my wife) came over to spend the night at my condo when my beloved Kansas Jayhawks had their over-50 game home court winning streak snapped by a last minute dagger of a three-pointer drilled by Texas A&M’s Acie Law. I screamed in agony, sprinted out of the room, face-planted on my bed, and molded my entire being to the comfort that was my bed, hoping it would somehow wipe clean the agony. I know, rather pathetic. My fiancé, unsure of how to treat this situation,–keep in mind this was her first time ever watching a sporting event with me–tenderly approached me about 10 minutes later.
“Honey?” she gently probed.
“Yeah,” my muffled groan was barely audible from my face smooshed into the pillow.
It very much resembled that scene from the movie Kindergarten Cop where Arnold Schwarzenegger mutters, “They’re horrible.” (Yes, you are not hallucinating. I did just find a way to quote Kindergarten Cop in my blog). Back to the scene.
“I don’t really know what I should be doing. Help me out here.”
You’re talking about a gal whose one sports experience was playing softball in 2nd grade a few eons ago. She admitted that she spent more time in right field picking the dandelions than she did playing ball.
“You did right, honey. Just give me my space.”
My wife saw this scene all too many times in the first years of our relationship. She kept telling me over and over again that these sporting events should have no affect on my mood. I kept telling her that she just didn’t understand. That my competitive nature wouldn’t allow me to do such a thing. You’re talking about a guy who competed in sports his entire life. I even competed against my brothers with crazy games my mom made up like keeping my room clean and manners at the dinner table. I once swatted my 2nd grade YouthFriend’s shot on the basketball court into the playground dirt like Dikembe Mutombo. I was the epitome of competition!
Alright, so being competitive is alright to a certain extent, but when it becomes everything for you, when it becomes your idol, that is when God has a problem. It took me years to realize that. Go back to the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20: 3 states, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Some of you might be saying that cheering for a team unconditionally is not a God. Sulking over a loss is not a God. After all, we’re not molding golden calves or anything, right? Wrong. Isaiah 46: 5 calls us out by asking, “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?”
Is something in your life taking the place of God? Sticking with sports, maybe staying up late to watch the game last night wearied you enough that you forgot to pray. (My exhaustion caused me to give the nod to my wife to pray for us). Did you sleep that extra 30 minutes, skipping out on your quiet time with God? Are you going to work crabby today, mubling things like, “Stupid, Madison Bumgarner!” That used to be me. I’d stew for days. The world around me was certainly susceptible to the venom I spat. Steer clear of that crazy guy. Look out! Do you know what Christ would say about that old me? I know it is cliché, but He’d probably smile at me tenderly, put His hand on my shoulder and say, “It’s just a game.”
Just a game? You don’t understand, Jesus! I mean, Alex Gordon was 90-feet from tying the game! The World Series was ours to win! It’s been so long, Lord!
At this point, He’d probably pat me on the back a few times and tell me to take a walk with Him. He might lecture me like this.
“My son, do you not realize that God is jealous for you? Why are you letting sports get in the way of His relationship with you? Can you tell me the last five teams that won the World Series?”
I stumble on that one, but manage to get out, “Well, I know the Giants have won three of the last five. They don’t deserve another one!”
Christ smiles at me shaking His head. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
My head sinks. He had to pull out 2 Corinthians 4: 18 on me, didn’t He! I am speechless. He continues the lecture.
“God gave you sports for enjoyment. Why are you not enjoying yourself? It is not sports that are wrong. What is wrong is that you have put sports above God.”
I look into Christ’s watering, tear-filled eyes and see Him pleading with me.
“My precious child, your reward in heaven means so much more than anything here on earth.”
Is there anything in your life that is more important than God right now? Is any outside force making you feel miserable? Maybe it is that student in your 5th hour class that continually shouts out, “Caca!” (That is the Hispanic equivalent to the word poop, and yes, that was one of my students last year!) Maybe it is a disgruntled colleague that brings you down. Maybe it is a bad evaluation you had from your boss, a crazy parent, or even a mountain of synthesis essays laying on your desk, mocking you, saying, “Mwah, mwah, mwah! You will never finish grading me!” All these things are trivial. They are meaningless compared to the reward that shall be yours in heaven. Did you catch that verse above? Things on earth are temporary. They collect dust and decay, but our reward in heaven? That, my friend, is eternal.
I’ll be sure and pass this on to my 16 year old son. He was upstairs stomping around, slamming things, and I’m sure was blinded by his agony to the point of not being able to study for a math test which needed lots of prep. I hope it doesn’t take him until he’s your age to accept the truth you’ve so beautifully penned.
I hope your son finds a benefit. At least his temper tantrum came when he was only 16. The one I spoke of above came when I was 30!