Watching the Cowboy's game yesterday was a dream come true for me.
I've watched that team play through the good (Super Bowls of the 90's) and the bad (Steve Pelleur, Quincy Carter, and even Ryan Leaf, for Pete's sake! And at least we beat the Redskins during that 1-15 year.). Believe it or not, I almost teared up when the 'Boys lined up to receive the opening kick off. It really was a dream of mine to watch the Cowboys play in person, and I can now scratch that one off my bucket list.
I heard more than my fair share of smack talk leading up to the game. You can't help it living in Houston Texans country like I do. Several of the jokes I heard actually made me crack up:
Matt Schaub calls Tony Romo and says, "Knock. Knock."
Romo: Who's there?
Romo: Owen who?
Schaub: O and 3 baby! "click"
What do Billy Graham and the Dallas Cowboys have in common?
Answer: They both can make 50,000 people stand up and say, "Jesus Christ."
What's the difference between 0-2 and 2-0?
Answer: About 250 miles on I-45.
It was with no small amount of pleasure that I witnessed the Cowboys' 27-13 beatdown of the Houston Texans. And, boy, did I want to gloat!!!
I did, in some small manner posting the following to my Facebook status:
Matt Shaub calls Tony Romo, "Knock. Knock."...Oh, I'm sorry. That joke doesn't work anymore.
But honestly, I can't bring myself to do any more than that. There is something within me that forbids my talking any other smack.
Perhaps it's my own playing of sports that doesn't allow me to do so. I knew very well the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I knew what it was like to open my mouth and trash talk only to have those words shoved down my throat by a better, more disciplined, or hungrier opponent. I know very well that you can be riding on cloud 9 one day only to be drug through the garbage a week later. And I know that even in defeat, you give your all. The last thing you want is someone rubbing your nose in it after you've given everything you have. It simply motivates you to beat the tar out of someone the next time you have the opportunity. And, sadly, it raises a good deal of anger within you.
In my estimation, such anger isn't productive, especially in sports. For heaven's sake, these are games we are talking about. Games that people are PLAYING!!! They are not life and death affairs. They are incredible ways to teach us about life, but they should be relegated to PLAYING and TEACHING. Nothing more.
I am glad of the lessons in sportsmanship that I learned during my years playing football, basketball, and running track. When I wason the field, I learned that my opponent had a name, a face, and a life, just like I did. I learned that he/she is capable of pain, frustration, and anger. I learned that he/she wants to win as badly as me. I was cut from the same mold, and I learned to respect him/her. Therefore, when a play was in full motion, I did everything legal to win--in football terms, I tried to knock the crap out of my opponent--yet, when the whistle blew, I extended my hand in friendship and helped the other off his back (and more than once, my opponent did the same for me after laying me out). I learned to play within the rules, and I learned to celebrate the abilities of all parties involved. I may have hated it when someone scored a touchdown on my team, but I respect the abilities of that person and team who scored.
Likewise, I learned to deal with adversity. I learned to pick myself up when my team lost. I learned that sometimes you meet someone who is just better than you are--whose physical abilities simply overwhelm you. However, I learned that no matter how much better someone was than I physically, I would not allow someone to have more heart than me. I would leave everything on the field of play and give it my best. If I gave it my best and still lost, I learned to have no shame. In sports, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. And, honestly, there are more losers when it is all said and done because only one team gets to be champion. Some would say that this isn't fair, but I would argue, it's life. One must learn to deal with it and face the fact that one will not always be the best at what one is.
I apply this in my daily life day in and day out. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am not the best pastor out there. I am not the best preacher. I am not the best at visiting the sick and shut in. I am not the best administrator. There are others who are far more capable than I. I give them credit. I wish them well. Yet, I am comfortable within my own abilities. I don't need to be another Billy Graham. I don't need to lead a mega-church. I'm called to be me. Period.
Perhaps I will be "successful" in what I do. I'm more concerned that I am faithful. I've seen plenty of pastors whose congregations have grown and plenty of pastors whose congregations have shrunk, but I will not talks smack to them. You never know when the shoe will be on the other foot. Instead, I try to build up my colleagues--even those with whom I disagree. I may need encouragement myself one day.
Yesterday, once the game was in hand, a couple of younger men sitting behind us wearing Cowboys jerseys began to talk smack to the Texans fans. They were annoying as hell. Part of me was not exactly proud to be a Cowboys fan at that moment.
After they finally left, my wife turned to one of the Texans fans and said, "I'm sorry about those guys. They really don't represent true Cowboys fans."
The lady looked at my wife and said, "Don't worry. They're just punks."
The difference between sportsmanship and being a punk. One of them seems more appropriate and sets a better example. Where do you fall?