The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Football, God and Country

It was quite a weekend for this one football fan. First of all, Navy beat Army for the tenth straight year, far better than the record during my four years at the Naval Academy. We beat Army once during that period (thanks largely to Roger Staubach), lost twice and tied once. Those were the days when ties were still permitted.

Over the years I've celebrated many Navy wins and suffered through not quite so many losses, but I enjoyed every game, largely because of my only brother, Jeff. Jeff graduated from West Point with the class of 1962, while I graduated from Annapolis with the class of 1967. As you might imagine the Army-Navy game was always an exciting time in our family. Our parents feigned neutrality, although both were not so secret Army fans. Jeff was, after all, the older son and habits are hard to break. I suspect it also had something to do with Dad being an Army colonel.

My dad and brother (1947)
Jeff and I would bet on the game only occasionally, and usually for something insignificant like a beer at our next meeting. But every year the loser would traditionally call the winner immediately after the game to offer congratulations. It's a tradition that finally stopped last year. Jeff, you see, died in January 2010 and since then the game simply hasn't been the same for me. Oh, I still watch it and root for Navy, but knowing there will be no phone call has brought real sadness to the day. It has also taught me that my love for my brother was really the primary reason this annual football game still had any significant meaning for me.

Another game I enjoyed was the the New England Patriots' win (barely) over the Washington Redskins this afternoon. The Pats keep winning thanks to their explosive offense led by Tom Brady, and despite their almost non-existent defense led seemingly by nobody. Should they get past the Steelers and make it to the Super Bowl to face the Packers, it just might turn out to be the most offensive Super Bowl ever. I am, however, not so much of a fan that I will hold my breath in expectation.

And then there's Tim Tebow, the miracle-working quarterback of the Denver Broncos. I really like this young man, not only because he openly displays his faith, but because he also lives it. This is, after all, what we as Christians are called to do. We are commanded to live our faith, to make disciples of all nations, to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. And Mr. Tebow seems to do it all. To my knowledge nobody, even among those who apparently despise him, have seriously questioned the reality of this man's faith.

Unlike Tim Tebow, far too many Christians prefer to keep their faith private, hiding it under a bushel basket, pleading that for them their Christian faith is something "personal". In truth, they are among the great mass of lukewarm Christians who are ashamed of their faith and ashamed of Jesus Christ. They fear having to defend their faith in a world hostile to the gospel message. I would encourage them to follow Tim Tebow's example lest they hear those dreaded words of judgment, "Depart from me..."

Of course, a lot of folks disagree with Mr. Tebow because their only belief is that religion has no place in the public square, much less on the football field. These are the same folks who want to ban any expression of religious faith from our society, especially if the faith in question is Christian. No more Christmas crèche displays, no prayer in school, no Bibles in military hospitals, no Jesus Christ anywhere outside a church building. I can't help but wonder: Would we hear complaints about Tim Tebow's public displays of faith if he were a Muslim?

Because they despise this young man, his critics find themselves confused about the remarkable success he has experienced since becoming Denver's starting quarterback. Every week they keep running out of excuses: the game was an anomaly; the opponent's defense was horrible; Tim Tebow was extremely lucky; there was a full moon. (I heard that one today on ESPN.) Certainly he's not the most skilled quarterback in the league, but it seems to me his success can be attributed to his exceptional leadership skills, his ability to inspire his teammates, his desire to win, and his overall positive attitude. Such things are contagious and have apparently infected his teammates. It will be interesting to see how he and his team perform against the Patriots next week.

As I said earlier, I really like this young man. May his tribe increase.

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