Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Super Bowl

Today is the biggest day for pro football, the Super Bowl. It is supposed to represent the best teams that play for the championship. Fans for both teams are all expressing their dedication for their team in some very creative ways. Facebook, Twitter, and the media are full of enthusiastic support for their teams. Support for your team is a great part of sports at every level; however, there seems to be more and more times where coaches, player, and fans are going to extreme with unsporting behavior. Often you see articles that talk about fights among players and spectators. There have even been times where players and spectators have killed the referees.

There is an increase in the philosophy to win at all cost is ok. There have been many examples of teams or individuals that have adopted the win at all cost idea. For the past few weeks we have seen an example where the New England Patriots football team decided to cheat by using deflated balls to help them win. Sporting events sometimes bring out the worst in teams and spectators. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France wins as one of many athletes that have been found to use illegal performance enhancing drugs.

We have seen the same attitude in business and the personal lives of many people that have left investors penniless and the guilty receiving prison sentences. The Center for Conflict Dynamics shares some of the problems with those who adopt this philosophy:

“When people feel that others are trying to get their way – no matter what – they often become defensive.  They tend not to buy in to the outcome and are not helpful to its implementation.  So winning at all costs can actually hurt the results and, at the same time, it can jeopardize relationships.  People don’t like to have their interests neglected, and when someone ignores them because they are so focused on getting their own way, relationships can be damaged.  This is particularly problematic when the relationships extend between interdependent people who really need each others’ help now and in the future.” (“The Problem with Trying to Win at All Costs”)

Fortunately the win at all cost mentality is in the minority and we have many more examples of teams, and individuals that show great sportsmanship. In a girls softball game last spring between Eckerd College and Florida Southern College an Eckerd College player hit an over the fence home run but as she rounded first base her knee buckled and she could not run anymore. A couple of the Florida Southern players picked her up and carried her around the rest of the bases to home plate to complete the home run. One of the players that carried the injured runner commented:

“It was a bomb. There was no way that she didn’t deserve (the home run),”Oglevie said.

“As soon as she hit first base and her team couldn’t help her anymore, she was just absolutely sobbing. She literally couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. I was like, ‘There’s no way this girl isn’t gonna make it home.’ “ (“College softball players carry injured opponent around bases”)

The 2014 Winter Olympics had many great examples of athletes that showed tremendous sportsmanship, one of them was Tora Bright, the Australian snowboarder. Speaking of Tora’s example Bishop Gary Stevenson had this to say:

Torah Bright in the half-pipe competition dazzled the world as she finished a virtually flawless run culminating in a backside rodeo 720. However, even more impressive and surprising to the world was the way she reached out and demonstrated Christlike love to her competitors. She noticed that American snowboarder Kelly Clark, who had a bad first run in her final round, appeared to be nervous about her second run. “She gave me a hug,” Clark recalls. “She just held me until I actually calmed down enough and I slowed my breathing. It was good to have a hug from a friend.” Kelly Clark would later join Torah on the winners’ podium as a bronze medalist.
When asked about this unusual act of kindness toward her opponent, which could have put her own silver medal at risk, Torah simply said, “I am a competitor—I want to do my best—but I want my fellow competitors to do their best, too.” (“Your Four Minutes”)
I have participated in several team sports as well as individual sports. I know what it is like to be benched in basketball or baseball when my performance was not what the coach knew it should be. I also experienced times as a cross-country runner that was one of the best runners in the county and used to leading most races. During my final meet as a senior I was one of the favorites to win the county championship race. There was only one runner in the county that had beaten me. Our races together ended up with one beating the other depending on the race. In this race I had decided to play it safe and let him lead and kept a comfortable second place within his draft. I knew I could out sprint him at the end and win the race. The course was two laps around a golf course and the first time coming around to the start had me in second place just where I wanted to be. As we came down a hill and we were about to climb up the next hill, I tripped and fell. Because of the lost momentum by the time I got to the top of the hill I was in thirteenth place and was not able to get back up to the front. It was a disappointing finish for me.

When we do not put forth our best efforts in practices it is not likely that we will succeed when the games are close or the races are challenging. We have coaches that want us to succeed and reach our potential. In team sports they also have to know the strengths and weakness of the opponents when preparing for the next game. Sometimes we get upset when we don’t get the amount of playing time we think we deserve, but the coaches know what is best for the team and we need to trust their judgment to send in the right players and call the right plays during the game.

Our experience here in mortality can be compared to the super bowl. There are two teams; the Lord’s team and the opponents are Satan and his army. Unlike most sporting events, the outcome of this contest is already known. The Lord and his team will be victorious and Satan and his followers will be defeated and cast out. This is not a time where we want to be benched for sub par performance or do not want to be cut from the team for violating the team rules. The head coach is the Lord Jesus Christ and he is counting on every member of his team to give their best effort and leave it all on the court. There is a hymn titled “Whose on the Lord’s Side?” the first verse and chorus state:

Who's on the Lord's side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who's on the Lord's side? Who?
We wage no common war,
Cope with no common foe.
The enemy's awake;
Who's on the Lord's side? Who?

Who's on the Lord's side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who's on the Lord's side? Who?
(“Who’s on the Lord Side?”, LDS Hymn Book, #260)

The Lord knows all of the plays that Satan will use and is ready with his offense and defensive plays. He will not be surprised by anything the opponents will do to win. The opponents will use any means they can to win, but their fate is sure and in the end they will lose. Which team are we on? If we are not prepared to do everything the Lord requires of us to be on his team we risk being traded to the other team. That is not something we want to have happen. We must show up everyday to practice and be ready to run the daily drills (prayer, scripture study, obedience and service to others) so that when we are called by the coach to enter the game we will be ready and prepared. Along the way we need to be ready to help others who fallen and need to be picked up and carried around the bases or give a hug to someone that is down and almost out.

By doing these things we show that we are on the Lord’s team and prepared to do all we can when asked by our coach and make it life's "Super Bowl". We also can have the confidence in knowing that we are on the winning team and will be victorious in the most important contest ever played. The prize for this contest is not a trophy, or financial success, it is eternal life with our families, God and Jesus Christ. 

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