Yesterday afternoon, I went to a football game. It wasn’t just any football game either. It was one of the best playoff games ever. It was like a track meet as both teams seemed to score at will. The game was intense to say the least! The home town crowd (Phoenix Cardinals) was interesting to watch during the 3 1/2 hour battle with the visitors (Green Bay Packers). Let me make a few observations.
First of all the atmosphere was electric from the very start of the game. People wore their team colors, many of them with a wide variety of expressions including hats, shirts, sombreros, face paint, body paint (one guy who really should have kept his shirt on) and more. Towels were handed out to fans as they came into the stadium so we could wave them in support of our team while distracting and discouraging the opposing team.
In fact, there was so much energy in the building that the noise was deafening. I am not sure why they even allocated seats to us since we barely used them the entire game. When we scored twice in the first six minutes, the place went berserk. We were high-fiving each other as if we were best friends while throwing popcorn on the packer fans.
As the game wore on however, it became apparent that this was going to be a dogfight. And yet through the third quarter, it looked like our team still had the game in hand. But, the fourth quarter proved the opposite. The “enemy” came back with a vengeance and by the time the score became knotted at 45 points each, a sense of impending doom seemed to ripple through the crowd.
But, we still had time and their defense seemed unable to stop our offense, so down the field we marched. With only a few seconds left, it looked like we would win for sure. Our kicker only had a short field goal to win the game. Seemed like a gimme. But, when he shanked the kick wide left, the emotional air went out of the stadium like a helium balloon the next day after a party. Overtime!
When the opposing team won the toss and got the kick, the crowd “felt” like our season was over. But, then the miraculous happened! First, they had a penalty on a play and were backed up deeper into their end of the field. And then, “the play!” The quarterback dropped back to pass, his arm was hit, the ball bounced off a couple of players and settled in the arms of the linebacker who promptly ran the ball across the goal line. Touchdown! We won!
After that, pandemonium broke loose! People were hugging and kissing and slapping hands and yelling and screaming! It was crazy! We didn’t even know each other and yet we were joined together for those moments of celebration. We didn’t want to leave! We wanted to savor the moment. And that camaraderie continued as we exited the stadium and remained… until we got into our vehicles at least, and even there, we were much more willing to give our “brothers and sisters” a break!
Hmmm… what does this have to say to me? It reminded me once more that we really do have a whole lot more brotherhood and sisterhood than we realize. At the core, God created us to connect with each other. We rarely do that but he gave us the capacity to do that. For a few fleeting hours at a ballgame, we are in touch with our original design as family. But, it is tough to make it last.
That is why the church becomes critical. If we function like we are supposed to, the world will see it. We will help them catch it not just when their favorite team is playing and winning. We can show them it can be something permanent. So, get your towel ready, paint your face, and let’s show ‘em how to make it last!