Posts Tagged ‘football’

Is it selfish to complain? Only if it’s also selfish to be happy

December 15, 2014
My son Townshend and I enjoyed this recent Georgia Tech victory, over Clemson.

My son Townshend and I enjoyed this recent Georgia Tech victory over Clemson.

I’m almost embarrassed to say how happy I was a couple of weeks ago when my beloved alma mater, the Georgia Institute of Technology, defeated its in-state SEC rival to win the Governor’s Cup. I say I’m almost embarrassed because of course it’s unwise to let a group of 18-22 year-olds affect my happiness to such a great extent. So the voice of reason within said, “Act like you’ve done it before, Brent.” And we have done it before, although our current losing streak had been five years.

Still, the next day at church I disappointed a few Tech fans who wanted me to gloat. But it’s not my style. Act like you’ve done it before, Brent.

Happiness from sports is a zero-sum game. One team’s happiness from winning always comes at the expense of the other team’s misery from losing. Since we Tech fans, unfortunately, are much smaller in number than University of Georgia fans, our team’s victory in this game inflicts a disproportionate amount of pain on our state. Not that I mind!

Predictably, this pain was reflected in my Facebook feed that afternoon. One clergy acquaintance posted that he was tempted to complain about so many things regarding his team’s performance and the coaching decisions but decided not to—which is probably for the best. But I gently disagreed with the reason he gave for not complaining: all the “real” suffering in the world, from ISIS’s campaign of terror against Christians to parents in his church who are grieving the death of a child.

I replied, “Yes, but by that standard what right do any of us ever have to complain about anything?” Football is trivial relative to the scale of suffering in the world—as are most things that occupy our time and give meaning to our lives. Yet, my clergy friend and I both spend money on our respective teams’ games and merchandise. Why do we do that when that same money could go to help relieve suffering in the world? Why do we even spend time watching football games when we could more productively spend that time working for justice in the world?

Do you see the problem with my friend’s logic?

If we can’t complain about “little things”—for the sake of what other people are dealing with—then we can’t complain, period. Because no matter what we’re going through on a particular day, there are always at least tens or hundreds of thousands of people who are going through something much worse.

Moreover, if we can’t complain about little things then, by all means, we can’t let ourselves be happy with little things, either! For example, how can we be happy with presents that we receive on Christmas Day when so many people around the world have nothing, or next to it? How is our happiness not selfish? How can any of us be happy until God finally balances the scales of justice in Final Judgment?

Obviously this is not a Christian disposition. For one thing, God’s Word is filled with righteous complaining and complainers. God seems O.K. with that, even as he also tells us repeatedly and emphatically to rejoice in all circumstances—no matter how favorable or unfavorable, how significant or insignificant.

God gives us gifts—even like football, which I’ve blogged and preached about before—and he wants us to enjoy them.

More reason to hate the Saints

March 5, 2012

Assistant coach Gregg Williams, right, administered the bounty program.

As if this Falcons fan needed any extra incentive to hate the New Orleans Saints, we learned last week that over the past three years Saints players and at least one coach were involved in creating and financing a bounty system for injuring opponents’ players. Moreover, Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis knew about it but did nothing to stop it.

The system paid $1,500 for knocking a player out of a game and $1,000 for when an opponent was carted off the field, with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs. According to one person who has seen the full N.F.L. report, the defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player who knocked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the National Football Conference championship game in January 2010. Favre was injured after taking repeated hard hits, but he was able to finish the game, which the Saints won to advance to the Super Bowl.

There’s a perfectly good theological word to describe this behavior: evil. Shame on the 27 players who were involved (many of whom are likely professing Christians). Shame on coaches and officials who looked the other way.

These bounties only reinforce football’s increasingly bad reputation. Football isn’t a gladiator contest. And, just speaking practically, behavior like this will change the game for the worse. The NFL (and soon college?) has already effectively taken away kickoff returns as a meaningful part of the game for fear of injury or concussion.

Cool new Facebook feature

August 13, 2011

… but also kind of depressing. It goes to prove that I am a person of great faith.

As we approach another season, “Go Jackets, anyway!”