Do we want to win this bad?
I admit, I’m not only fairly certain that Lance Armstrong cheated, but I have been for quite some time. However, I am seeing a large number of sports writers and others who are asking the question, “does it matter?” Seemingly they are not asking whether it matters if Armstrong cheated or not but whether it matters to the legions of supporters that all of the evidence seems to indict him.
I am often accused of being cynical, probably accurately so. Fine, I’ll take my cynicism if you will be willing to admit that part of many people’s paradigms are built upon emulating “successful” people. If the claim is that I see negative because I want people to fail – not true, but a claim nonetheless – then those who ardently support public figures when they fail claiming some sort of conspiracy theory, must be willing to accept that their paradigm is built upon admiring “successful” people.
I am afraid that too often we see our heroes, our role models, as being larger than life and we willfully overlook their faults so that we can strive for their results. We want the same success that they have. If we are truthful we might would agree that we even desire the adoration that they receive. In a very true sense we also want to be rewarded for our hard work and we see these individuals as having achieved that reward.
Does anyone remember that this is the same Lance Armstrong who divorced the wife who nursed him through cancer? Have we forgotten that this is the same “humble” guy who left a no-name individual to pursue Cheryl Crow, a noted singer who’s connections probably furthered Armstrong’s attempts to raise money? Are we willing to overlook these shortcomings and then pretend that this guy would never cheat?
The indicators are there. Professional riders are now slower than they were in Armstrong’s heyday – an event almost unheard of in the world of professional sports today. Armstrong doesn’t stop defending himself until a multitude of his former teammates – not 2 or 3 but 10 (!) stand ready to speak against him.
So what do we do? Do we not have hero’s? Do we not have individuals that we look up to? Do we discard all of the “good” that Armstrong did?
For the sake of the argument let’s begin with the last. I have spent a lot of time in Matthew 5-7 over the last few months. Either we believe that God can and will provide, or we seek to produce what we desire on our own. Armstrong has certainly given and raised much money to fight the disease of cancer. As a believer who cares for individuals I am thankful that he has been a giving person. As a believer who trusts in a Sovereign God I would say as Mordecai said to Esther, “relief and deliverance will arise from some other place.” (Esther 4)
Yes, we can and should look up to individuals. In fact the Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth that they should imitate him – as he imitated Christ. We should be able to define whether those we admire are followers of Christ. If they are not then we should be greatly restrictive in the respect and admiration that we have for them. If we will examine our motives for such admiration I believe we will see that much of it is self serving.
I believe we can have heroes but I believe that we must recognize them as individuals with failings, lusts, and a fallen sinful nature just as we are. Don’t build them up to be something that will harm you if they fall. Be willing to examine and record the weaknesses in their life. Not so that you will have an advantage over them but so you are able to better notice the weaknesses in your life. Be honest, beginning with yourself
And the next time you are reaching for the LIVESTRONG bracelet, pause, and remember what some have done to achieve where they are. Then remember the words of the Apostle Paul: 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3
Lessons from a football game
Part 1: Acting Like a Coach
Most of the times when I write it is because something about a particular situation has caused me to think. It is my sincere desire that I not necessarily pass judgment, there are many more qualified than I to do such, but rather that I comment on those things which cause me to pause in my actions. For this reason I purposefully ignore most public events (Georgia/Florida excepted) and instead choose to deal with things in my personal life that I observe.
I had a chance a few days ago to watch a football game played between two 9 & 10 year old teams. I worked the chains on the sideline of the visiting team and therefore was able to hear almost every conversation that the coaches had with the players and with themselves. This seemed to be a typical youth team with their “head coach” and numerous parent “helpers/advisers” on the sideline.
The coach also didn’t seem to be unique and this is what makes this story even more atrocious. Before I go into his actions during the game I must digress to help you see the point of the story. When I have the time I read Gregg Easterbrook’s weekly column at ESPN.com, entitled Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Easterbrook writes about football from a decidedly different viewpoint than most of ESPN’s commentators and columnists, many times with a view towards safety and sportsmanship which is direct contradiction to the former players that ESPN primarily employs. One of Easterbrook’s pet complaints is against coaches who set things up so that the blame falls on the players and not the coach. (BTW, Tim Couch, of Fox Sports, has written a fairly interesting column concerning Tebow and John Fox) In fact Easterbrook proposes, on an almost weekly basis that you must be able to shift blame to become a “successful” coach.
I had to learn this lesson the hard way myself. A few years ago while coaching my daughter-who-shall-remain-unnamed-here on a basketball team I saw this same problem in myself. In a close game in which we had a great chance to win this “child” fouled out. The rules of the league are unique in that this player would be allowed in following the end of the current period. The problem was that we needed points in that period and now our best chance of scoring those points was sitting on the bench. We had no offense, and as I implored the girls to do something I grew more and more frustrated with their inability to do anything. Later that week it hit home that I should have planned for this event. This “child” had fouled out before and to some degree I should have prepared the other players for the fact that things could change at any moment.
Back to the story. On each of his teams first three possessions the coach changed his offensive starters. On each of his possessions following his changing of players he was penalized for having too many players on the field. Each time he threw his hands up in exasperation and loudly berated the kids for messing up. Since I was on his sideline I pointed out to the parents on the sidelines that they should be encouraged that their kids were playing for someone who was sure to be a success as a coach as he was yet to make a mistake. Several of the parents laughed but most didn’t seem to understand what I was saying. For the sake of time let’s just say that the rest of the game continued much in the same way. If the opposing team had a large gain then it was the fault of individual players because he had called the right team for just that play.
Later that night, I began to think about how many times I act just like this coach in my behavior; at church, at home, and just in general. If something at church doesn’t go the way that I planned or hoped then certainly someone else must have contributed to the problem. In fact I think this is a problem that is especially pressing on pastors and those in a position of leadership. If you doubt me on this then I have one question: When is the last time you heard someone in authority say sincerely that they were wrong or that they didn’t know how to answer or deal with a particular situation? If you haven’t been around me too much then I would just have to say that those times have been too few and too far apart in their happening.
Work isn’t the only place that I have this problem. I usually deal with this same issue in my home. After all we all know that kids, especially teens, are airheaded and hardheaded so shouldn’t they bear most of the blame? When is the last time that we looked into the eyes of our kids and said, “I blew it.”
The most depressing thing about this coach’s actions was the impact that it had upon his players. Most of them became discouraged, a few became angry, but they all kept playing. In an indirect way I confronted this coach after the game (the subject of another article) and I can assure you that he felt what he did was right. If he had been asked for a measurement of his “success,” he may have pointed to the fact that his players were still present; and that he wasn’t accosted by any of their parents on the way to his vehicle. Sadly, the measurement of his success will not be known until many years down the road.
When will the result of our actions be known if we act like this coach? Let’s be honest with our family, our friends, and those we come into contact with. Feeling right in the moment isn’t worth the trail of debris that we will leave behind if we don’t become humble people.
But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Matthew 23:11-13
This is my obligatory Georgia Florida post for the year. I must admit that for whatever reason the luster of this game just doesn’t quite appeal to me this year as it has in the past. As a Georgia fan it was easy to draw the ire of the Florida afflicted with a few jabs at Tebow or Urban. This year is different because even the Florida fans aren’t quite sure about their new coach; at least to the point that they are ready to vehemently defend him. As for Georgia fans too many of them desire for their coach to be gone and many of them probably wouldn’t mind losing this game if it meant that Mark Richt would be out at the end of the year.
Therefore I have decided to look at the reasons that a fan from each team would want their team to lose. I understand that generally this is not the case but this year seems to be a special situation. (Please disregard the word special it has a tendency to confuse Florida fans)
5 Reasons Florida fans hope they lose
#5 They don’t want to face LSU or Alabama again. With a combined loss of 79 – 21 the Gators are a little weary of any team not in the Eastern time zone.
#4 They are already wondering if their new coach, Will Muschamp, is not really Ron Zook on steroids. Watch the rage there, Willy, it’s a dead giveaway. For those who have forgotten Zook never defeated a ranked team in the Wetlands of G-ville.
#3 Deep in their hearts every Florida fan wants to see Muschamp’s meltdown if Georgia reenacts the scene from 2007. Urban spent a year preparing his revenge, and Florida fans would see this as a great way to gauge Mr. Muschamp.
#2 The true Florida fans who understand the tradition and lore of SEC football do not want to see the SEC East represented by a man wearing clown pants or a clown wearing a blue shirt.
#1 A true Florida fan wouldn’t mind losing in a down year in hopes that it would help Mark Richt keep his job. Seriously, Mark’s records at Georgia are spectacular but his record against Florida is a measly 2 – 8.
5 Reasons Georgia fans hope they lose
#5 They really just don’t want to hear Florida fans whine. A Florida fan that loses is a cross between a Miami Hurricane fan (belligerent, arrogant, and wanting to fight) and a Tennessee Volunteer fan (tears, tears, remembrances of past years, Smokey, and more tears).
#4 Georgia fans are supremely excited about the possibility of Ron Zook 2 hanging around for a while. Keeping Zook 2 around has to be worth throwing a game, right? This is especially true if you take in the record over the last two decades.
#3 It would be supremely amusing to watch Nick Saban or Les Miles attempt to score 70 points against the Gators in the SEC championship.
#2 Maybe this would inspire Georgia to end the series being played at Florida Field b.
#1 Maybe this would end the Mark Richt era at Georgia. I hear, and feel the pain of Georgia fans who feel as if nothing good is happening but I personally do not want to see Richt go. Does he need to fire an assistant or two? Sure, and I would feel no pain if he sent Bobbo and Grantham to the circus to practice their mime show. However, the quality of the coach that Georgia has cannot be equaled by the vast majority of coaches that are coaching college football.
As for me, well, if Florida loses then it has been a good day.
Since college football starts this week AND due to the fact that I will be making a foray back into the land of Excuseville (as Central Florida will soon be known absent Spurrier, Meyer, and Tebow) I thought to help folks remember the true spirit of football I would put up an old post. Many blessings on all college fans and may the Gators lose by 5o this week. Go Dawgs, Go Noles, and buzz on you little itsy bitsy bees of Tech. By the way does anyone know if it is true that Tech has tried to play a Prep-only schedule?
A Game For the Ages: Georgia – Florida Commentary
Weird numbers you say?
How about some more?
Yes, they have to do with football and anyone with even a passing interest in college football could easily discern what they mean. The first two sets of numbers depict the season record for both Florida and Georgia this year as they get set for this Saturday’s rivalry game. To many out there who would call themselves football fans they may be confused as to why this game would be important with such paltry numbers by both sides. A short trip down memory lane should serve to remind them of the other two sets of numbers.
The year was 1966 and Florida, led by their hotshot quarterback, Steve Spurrier, came into this game ready to clinch their first SEC title. Spurrier was on his way to winning the Heisman and the Georgia game almost seemed an afterthought. Alas, victory was not to be his as he threw three interceptions and Georgia went on to win the game. Spurrier lost his chance to win a championship as a player and Florida did not win their first championship until twenty- five years later in the third year with their new coach, Steve Spurrier. As a coach Spurrier certainly sought and received his revenge as his teams beat Georgia in eleven out of twelve games.
The year was 2002 and with Spurrier gone the Bulldog nation felt as if there was a chance they could finally win a game against Florida. Georgia entered the game ranked #4 in the nation and sporting an 8-0 record. Florida entered the game at 5-3 with the enigmatic Ron Zook in charge. Florida won the game and Georgia finished the season winning the SEC but unable to play for the national title due to their one loss.
Nothing tells the story of Gator fans “issues” more than the fact that most are absolutely uninterested in discussing the series as a whole. Instead they choose to look at the past 19 years in which Florida has won an impressive 16 games. They accuse the Georgia fans who point to the decades of the 70’s and 80’s as living in the past and unwilling to face reality. They talk of Tebow and Grossman (!?) forgetting that during the three games that Herschel played against Florida that he tallied up over 600 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns, never losing.
As they meet again this Saturday each fan – Bulldog and Gator – have some thoughts churning in their mind. As a slight diversion I thought we would peek into each of their minds and see what is happening. I am especially able to do this due to the fact that I spent 19 years living in the very heart of Gator country and was surrounded by their fans and understand the peculiar psychology that makes up a Gator fan. As a Bulldog supporter and a resident of Georgia for the past 12 years I am able to glimpse into the makeup of the Bulldog faithful.
“Whew, at least if we lose this year we can claim it wasn’t really a bad loss. Everyone already knows our team stinks – we lost to Mississippi State.”
“We can always tell those old Bulldog fans that Tebow was great and you just can’t replace a legend …as long as they don’t remember how good we said we were going to be with Brantley.”
“How many have we won in a row?”
“Will God listen if I pray for the Gators?”
“If I’m not Catholic can I say a Hail Mary?”
“What shirt did I wear last year?”
“You know the Bulldog fans are going to bring up the overall record, again. What can I say? I don’t know how to count to 48.”
“We never lose in the Swamp. We should play this game in the Swamp. Wait … isn’t that where we played LSU and Miss State?”
“If we lose can we just skip the South Carolina game?”
“I really don’t care this year, we’re rebuilding.”
“I really don’t care this year; football is such a small part of my life.”
“I really don’t care this year, Urban has been sick and he’ll be back next year with a vengeance.”
“I really don’t care this year, I really don’t care this year, I really don’t care this year.”
“Whew, at least if we lose this year nobody will make fun of us – we lost to Colorado.”
“What!?! Florida lost to Mississippi State … there goes the Colorado excuse.”
“It would be nice to have one player like Herschel again.”
“When is God going to shut up those Gator fans.”
“How many Gator fans are praying this week?”
“Can we play the Gators in the Swamp this year?”
“How many field goals is Mark Richt going to kick on Saturday?”
“Wow, we would have only needed 3 field goals against Florida two weeks ago.”
“It’s going to be a stinky season if we can’t beat Florida; as usual, Tech isn’t even on the map anymore.”
“Can we play Florida twice instead of playing Auburn – they have the same colors.”
Once again this is all said in fun – from a Georgia perspective. As this Saturday’s game rolls around other duties and needs will once again prohibit me from watching the game but there is no doubt where my desire lies. However, as a fan of the real team from Florida, Florida State, I also have another game to look forward to in a month. It is my desire that everyone has an enjoyable Saturday and that the Bulldogs win by 50.