Monday, January 22, 2007

It's Just A Game

"It's just a game." That's often heard after an athletic competition. And it's usually uttered morosely by fans of the losing team. I thought a lot about that phrase this past week as our beloved Colts were heading into the AFC championship to meet their dreaded nemesis, the New England Patriots. In the Indianapolis environs, the game took on almost mythic overtones. People wore Colts blue to work, attended pep rallies, and asked questions. Could the Colts beat the Patriots in the playoffs? They never had before. And the Patriots often seemed to rise up like a phoenix out of the ashes of almost certain defeat in earlier games only to win. Could the nice Midwesterners finish first? Was it our time? And that was the real question -- "our time." As if we were going out their on the field to lay our bodies on the goal line. Or would we be saying, come Monday morning, "Well, it's just a game."

But the Colts did win. They did what had never been done before and came from 18 points down to win the game in the last minute. Suddenly they were headed for the Super Bowl. And we wouldn't have to mope and call our friends in New England and mumble, "It's only a game." At least that's how I felt until -- until the post-game press conference.

While meeting with the press, the Colt's coach Tony Dungy, in response to a question, replied that "The Lord has been testing us." He didn't just say it once. The subtle implication was that God must have been on the Colts side. That caused me to sit up and mumble, "It's just a game." It was a great game, to be sure. Thrilling with all sorts of crazy goings-on (linemen scoring three touchdowns?!), but I doubt that God was really on anybody's side. Because it's just a game -- it's not Darfur, the Mideast, Iraq, the slums of a major city, a ramshackle hut in Appalachia, or any place else where life is no game, it's a battle for survival, where God's beloved are hurting and dying. Could God really care about the outcome of a football game more than these other things?

Now I know Tony Dungy is a man of deep faith. And I think he meant that God was teaching the Colts some important lessons through the difficulties that life had handed them. At least that's what I chose to think he meant. And I would concur. God can teach us through all the stuff of life -- good, bad, ugly, beautiful.

It's just a game -- but, boy, am I glad the Colts won!


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