About Me

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I’m from New York but my driver’s license lists that my address is Ohio. My passport has a number of stamps in it. I’m the youngest of six, yet oldest son. I have a number after my initials, but not my name. I like music. I drink coffee at all times of the day. I am a follower of Jesus. I own my own business. I watch bonus features on DVD’s. For four months each year my wife and I are the same age. “I pledge allegiance to a country without borders, without politicians.” I am an ordained pastor. I’ve eaten raw horse meat. I’m fifteen inches taller than my wife, but I look up to her. I still prefer buying CDs to downloading music. I’m a night owl, who doesn’t mind getting up early. I like to shop, and my wife doesn’t. I like to play games. I moved to another country nine days after my wedding. I sometimes quote random lyrics. I believe in miracles. I prefer desktops to laptops. I like listening to audio books. I listen to hockey games on the internet. I have five sons. I'm living life mid sentence.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Is It Just a Game?

It’s just a game.  There is some truth to that statement.  But, the statement can also miss out on some truth as well. 

Sports, like many things in life, can be used for good or for bad.  It can help build character, or it can be an avenue by which one’s lack of character is revealed.  Sports can teach teamwork, or they can lead to pride and self-absorption.  Sports can teach us that just because we are not good at one thing, we may do well in another.  Sports can be used to drive a wedge in families, or they can be used to bring families closer together.

As a youth I learned many important life lessons through sports.  As a youth I joined a soccer team, where I would participate for the following three years.  I was not gifted as a soccer player.  I was overweight, slow, short, and lacking motivation.  My coach pushed me hard, and from day one through the end of my time on the team, I improved.  My improvement wasn’t the miracle story of rags to riches.  It wasn’t the lost and found.  It was that of the 17th member out of 17 on the team my first year, to the 12th member out of 12 on the team my final year.  Yes, my skills improved.  Yes, my running improved-whereas I could not beat a tortoise in a footrace in year one, I barely beat them in the same race in year 3.  I lacked the drive, the skills and the qualities necessary to make a good soccer player.  In my final year playing, I had some resentment towards my coach.  I was the 12th person on a team that fielded 11.  On a few occasions, when a teammate had to come off of the field, I was not put in—we simply played down a body.  Over the years I realized that Coach K was teaching me lessons that would be valuable in life.  I put in a moderate amount of work, expecting to see miraculous results—which I never saw.  The mantra “you can do anything you put your mind to” is false, and boy did I find that out.  No matter how hard a person who stops growing at 4’ 9” tries, they will never slam dunk.  And that’s OK.  They may be good at something else, like I discovered I was at tennis, but they aren’t cut out for the NBA.

As a child I started to follow sports.  I often had the game playing on the radio as I sorted my sports cards, played sports with the neighbor kids, or played with Legos.  At the time I thought it was “just sports”, but looking back I can see some valuable lessons I learned through following sports.

I remember watching my hometown Buffalo Bills have the chance to win Superbowl 25.  All they had to do was kick a field goal, with 8 seconds to go, and it was theirs.  And the kick sailed wide right.  Yes, one player kicked the ball, but the team was quick to point out that it wasn’t his fault they lost.  The other 52 men on the team were quick to point out all the small, at the time, missed opportunities that cost them the game.  That showed me character and teamwork.  It wasn’t Norwood vs. the Giants.  It was the 53 man roster of the Bills that played the Giants.  And even in defeat, the Bills showed class. 

Something else I learned from the Buffalo Bills’ four consecutive Superbowl losses, came with Superbowl 27 completely out of hand score wise.   The Bills were going to lose their third straight Superbowl.  And when the ball was fumbled, and Leon Lett was running it back for a touchdown, a wide receiver for the Bills sprinted nearly the length of the field and knocked the ball out of the hands of Lett before he scored.  Two lessons I learned on that play were, don’t celebrate before you’ve scored, and give it your all until the clock says the game is finished.

Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around my father and I going to sporting events together.  It didn’t happen often, but to this day I can vividly remember those times—going back nearly 30 years.  My father will watch sports, if they are on, but I wouldn’t say he is big into them.  But I was.  And he demonstrated love by building a bridge using the avenue of sports. 
Yesterday I was listening to a sports station out of Cleveland when U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown called in.  In talking about the pending game 7 of the World Series, he talked about how sports defy logic.  Watching a team win doesn’t change your status in life.  Watching a team win doesn’t make you more money.  Watching a team win doesn’t change your occupational status, or socio-economic status.  Yet there is something special about watching your team win.  When it comes to cheering for your team, fandom alone can unite a diverse crowd.  As a lifelong Buffalo Sabres fan, when I see someone in Ohio wearing a Sabres hat I don’t ask them their religion, citizenship status, political affiliation, or so forth.  I see a kindred spirit.  While we may not be able to relate about other aspects of life, we can relate to the ups and downs that following the team have produced. 

As a follower of Jesus, my hope ultimately rests in Him.  But that doesn’t mean all other hope is wrong.  I hope that as my boys grow up they will follow Jesus.  I hope they will find love, just as I have found love.  I hope they will have good health.  And, if they choose to follow sports, I hope they will get to experience what it feels like to have your team win the championship. 

Five times in my 38 years the Bills or Sabres had the opportunity to become champions, and five times they came up short.  As a teen, during the Bills drive, you think that more opportunities will come right around the corner.  Yet, following the four consecutive Superbowl losses, the Bills made the playoffs a couple times with little success.  And then the era ended, and so did their winning.  Currently the Bills have the longest playoff drought of any team in the NFL.  And yet I still hope they will win it all someday.

As a fan, I’ve seen the teams I cheer for make it to so close to the pinnacle, yet come up short.  And I’ve seen the teams I cheer for spend their “40 years” in the wilderness.  I think it’s OK to hope in regards to sports, and I know it’s OK to learn the hard lessons of failure in sports.  We were created as complex beings.  Not all emotions are logical.  Not everything has to “spiritual” and not everything that isn’t “spiritual” is wrong.  At the end of the day, if my boys choose to follow sports, I hope they will learn life lessons through them, I hope it will help to build character for them, and I hope they will enjoy the experience—win or lose.  And, if their team ever becomes the champion, I hope they savor the moment.  After all, that moment may literally be a once in a lifetime moment for them.  So, cherish the moments.  Learn the life lessons.  And remember that while it’s just a game, that game can bring people closer together, teach important lessons, and give glimmers of hope.