Yesterday, John and I went to the Navy vs. University of South Alabama (USA) football game. It was exciting – Navy ensured the win in the last 40 seconds of the game. From my perspective, the USA fans and game officials could not have been nicer to us. And, the Navy fans could not have been more cordial throughout the game.
It was fun to watch the officials respond to the Navy crowd. There is a tradition that when Navy scores points, midshipmen run to the end zone and do as many push-ups as Navy has points. As this wasn’t possible, a couple of Navy alumni did push ups against the front rail of the stands. The officials didn’t notice this activity until the second half and then they watched, loved it and told others on the field what was going on. At the end of the game, when the USA school song was sung, the Navy crowd faced the USA fans and stood quietly and respectfully. As the Navy team and fans sang “Navy Blue and Gold,” the officials who had enjoyed the push-up demonstrations, looked in awe as the Navy fans remained in the stands (that were still full 10 minutes after the game was over), sang their school song, cheered the competitors and then conducted an orderly progression to the parking lot.
I am hoping for such good behavior at the game we will be watching (on television) today: the University of Florida vs Florida State University (FSU) game. (John completed his first masters’ degree at Florida and I completed my doctorate at FSU. It’s a game that we watch every year and one of us will be disappointed at the results.)
I know that I am stating the obvious, but college football fans and players do not always demonstrate good sportsmanship.
College football is big here in the South. Like basketball in the Midwest, you can find stores empty on big game days. There are parties and football pools and stores run sales of school-related clothing. College football brings people together. But, it can also divide them too.
So, as we gather together around the big screen TV this year to cheer on our favorite team, what are we teaching the next generation? Or, in other words, does my faith shine even when I am cheering on my Noles? Our activities as fans merit review. Do our words, our actions, our emotions reflect good sportsmanship or are we cheering for the wrong reasons?
I liked what the baseball great, Mickey Mantle, said: “After I hit a home run I had a habit of running the bases with my head down. I figured the pitcher already felt bad enough without me showing him up rounding the bases.
OK, it’s time to put the chili on and get ready for the game.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)