Yesterday one of “my” teams had their best game in many years, taking the number one team in the country to the final buzzer before falling short by one basket. I do not watch these games, my heart gets to racing and I get overly agitated by all the nail-biting fast-paced speed of the game. I have always been this way, preferring the slower pace of football and other sports to what I consider the frenetic pace of basketball. So I didn’t watch the actual game, only an online “game cast” which gives a sort of virtual play-by-play. I knew it was close and watched my phone as it slowly updated the score. There was a lag of course, so it was probably over before I knew the outcome. I could tell by how quiet my Facebook feed had suddenly gotten that the game was over.
One of my Facebook friends wrote something like, “That was a great game, they really game that other team a real scare.” “A scare only counts if you win the game,” I commented sourly, “Then added ‘Go _____ Team!'” essentially rooting for a different team who I am also pulling for in the tournament. A little while later I got a text from another friend, “Your team got close,” he said, intending to compliment them to me, as if that was some consolation. “Close only counts in horseshoes,” I crabbed, “I’m glad I didn’t watch it.” Almost as soon as I’d sent my reply I got hold of myself, chiding myself to get my act together and act like I had some sense. I deleted my cranky posts from Facebook, and while I couldn’t take back the text I’m sure the person who sent it understood my irritability. I didn’t.
Over the years I have worked really hard not to allow myself to be as deeply affected by the outcome of sports contests. I used to get sad, angry, depressed when my favorite teams would lose, particularly in high-stakes championship games. While I rarely went to extremes in my behavior, I was a bit embarrassed at the depth of my reaction. Over time I have come to recognize much of what is behind my reactions to the wins and losses, the fortunes and misfortunes of my teams over the years. But understanding has not always meant that I no longer react, unfortunately I still do. I have learned, therefore, not to watch anything that is likely to upset the tenuous peace I have made with myself. At least, however, I am a true fan.
I am not one of those people who is excited and devoted when their team is winning but who abandons them when they’re not. If I were to list some of the teams I root for you’d understand this, but that is not the purpose of this post.
In the contemplation of these 40 days, particularly this day and through the rest of this week I am thinking about what happened to Jesus. Whether one considers him savior, teacher, prophet, the Son of God, a highly significant and influential historical figure, or simply a fellow human being who suffered unimaginable things even though he was innocent of any wrongdoing, it is hard to be indifferent about him. So imagine him riding his donkey through a city where the streets are lined with cheering, adoring fans. “We love you, Jesus,” they call out, tossing flowers and palm fronds in front of him as he passes, and people crowding around to celebrate this king of kings. And then, like true fair weather fans, in just a few short days they’re turning on him, literally handing him over like some common criminal.
Everyone loves a winner, until something happens and their luck changes or their streak ends, their body fails them, their voice changes, they blow out a knee, they make bad choices, and then everyone abandons them. Jesus did none of these things and yet when he fell into trouble, his followers scattered like the proverbial rats off a sinking ship. Only a precious few attempted to remain by his side during his ordeal. Was it that they realized that this king was only human and deserved the support of his comrades?
I am a little ashamed of myself for my crankiness toward the young people who exerted such tremendous effort and poise during a very tough loss on a national stage. They had already beaten the odds to have come as far as they did. Victory was almost theirs, but in the end, they turned out to be human, not the gladiators we fans sometimes wish for them to be. This journey of 40 days is teaching me a lot about myself, some good, some challenging. At the end of the day it is all for the good, and I am blessed and better for it. And so it is.