I was 9 years old and I had just been captivated by the miracle working prowess of Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Roger Staubach. I had witnessed him rescue a plodding football team out of a Minnesota muck, and “hail-mary” my beloved team to victory in an NFC divisional playoff game.
Now, it was a few weeks later and the Cowboys were facing the team of the 1970’s, the Pittsburgh Steelers with all of their Hall of Famers. The rebuilding Cowboys with their “dirty dozen” rookies were not even supposed to play in this game. Nevertheless, I was emotionally and, might I say, spiritually invested in their unexpected success. Of course, as NFL Films often reminds us in their documentaries, ultimate success was not obtained this day by my football team and Roger Staubach fell one miracle short of a championship.
I am sure at the time that many fans, while disappointed, were able to reflect on the 1975 football season with a sense of pride and admiration, but as a 9 year old boy, it was not so easy for me, for my captivation had birthed expectation. In short, I had been enthralled by the sports miracle, and when another Staubach miracle fell short in the Super Bowl, I couldn’t soothe the pain with the proper reflection. As it became apparent the Cowboys would lose this game, I began to cry. I was crushed in the moment. My dad, either realizing the absurdity of a 9 year old boy crying over a football game, or as a means of hiding his own tears, sent me to my room and scolded me for taking the loss so hard.
Since then, there has followed 34 years of elations and disappointments while following the journeys of our local sports teams. Everything seemed to come full circle last night in game 6 of the World Series as my beloved Texas Rangers came with one strike of winning it all. Twice, in fact, they came within one strike only to fall prey to a Staubach-esque comeback to the St.Louis Cardinals. The disappointment I felt at game’s end is nothing like I ever felt in all my years of watching sports, but unlike my childhood experience I did not cry even though I wanted to. Perhaps my heart is too hard, or maybe I’ve experienced too much disappointment to be taken by surprise. After watching my team becoming immortalized in the wrong way last night, I have to say that in that moment, I once again was crushed.
Now it’s the morning after, and God’s mercies are new even for sports fans like me. With the proper perspective, I realize I witnessed one of the greatest games in World Series.
It is a realization that sports, while they are to be enjoyed, should never be joy. It is time, I feel, to step back and reflect on what all of last evening’s tense moments, rapid heartbeat inducing, and eventual crushing of spirit have taught me.
I am thankful today because of God’s grace through the consistent Gospel-centered preaching of the Village Church I receive each week, and the community of faith I am experiencing, that I can withstand anything that would try to crush my spirit ultimately. With grace-filled perspective, I see all too clearly that if I embrace this temporal world too tightly, I will fall as flat as the house built on sand. It’s not just the entertainments like sports, art, and music that I should not build my happiness on, but it’s everything that is temporal like career, money, marriage, parenthood, philanthropy, and anything else one can conceive of as being of utmost importance in this world. Everything created is temporal, but it’s also a gift from the Creator, not as a foundation for joy, but as a pointer to the only true Joy.
In the aftermath of disappointment, I am convinced that God gave sports as a gift to us. Its value as a gift however is not derived from its joy making capacities, but rather from its utter inability to sustain joy. Sports, like all temporal creations, are meant to show us that it is itself a dead end and there is only one person where Joy thrives and derives.
Holding on too tight to the temporal will eventually crush your spirit, but holding on the One who was crushed, body, soul, and spirit will provide you with the only foundation that can stand up to an ever increasing Joy that never fades and never disappoints.