Give the Devils their due.
Usually our favorite sport teams are bequeathed to us from parents or that cool uncle we look up to. This was certainly true for me. I was a die hard Cowboys, Braves, and Trail Blazers fan for years. I had jerseys and everything, even flags that hung from my ceiling. It was cool. I was cool. In college though, I realized I didn’t follow any sport team religiously and that needed to change in order for me to be a man. So, I started searching for teams that I could follow, and yell at the TV when they were losing. You know, typical Saturday afternoon behavior. Then, one day, I stumbled upon a team that changed my life! Just kidding, not quite that epic, but I do like them, and that team is the Duke Blue Devils.
What started as a need for manly validation, turned into a love affair with a prestigious east coast school I’ve never been to. I started following Duke a few years ago when they were approaching March Madness. (This is the road to declaring the national champion, for those of you who don’t know, and it happens in March…and it is maddening.) Coach Krzyewski was doing his usual pregame prep for his team, and then he had them do something I’d never seen before. Each player and the coaching staff, signed their names at center court of Cameron stadium in Durham. Coach K told his team: this is our home and we are not going to be beat in our house; we are going to fight and we are going to win. I remember watching the teams warmup and right before tip off, the camera irises in on center court and you could see the signatures of team members made with permanent marker. Immediately, I was a fan.
The autograph gesture made me think about pride, confidence, and protecting what has been given to you. I loved the analogy for my life. A year ago my wife and I were hanging out in downtown San Diego in the Gaslamp district. It’s full of trendy shops and nice restaurants. We were walking down a street with a lots of bars, and a Chargers game happened to be on TV. People were going crazy for the Chargers. The Chargers eventually won the game, and it seemed like the street came alive with people cheering, dancing, and ordering more alcohol. It was a party. Some guy in ghetto mobile with hydrolics even drove down the street and waved a Chargers flag from his window, all the while blasting Jay Z from his stereo. I wanted to become a Chargers fan.
I think one of the reasons we like sports as much as we do is because it gives us an identity. We can now associate with people and share a common bond, which is the team or love of the game. Passionately, we root for our team, stand up for our team, and a lot of the time our emotions fluctuate with a the changing score board. It’s awesome. I like the take Coach K had with the Blue Devils years ago. They needed to win to survive, and they were going to play their hearts out.
It’s interesting that Jesus talks about winning in the gospels. Moreover, he talks about how He will win. I wonder what the apostles were thinking when Jesus spoke to them at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16). Jesus told his followers that day, that the gates of hell will not overcome his church. That is a bold statement. That is not just a promise to win a title or have the best record, that is definitive “I Will Not Fail.” Jesus’ words were the start of a movement, a revelation that God is at work to change everything, and no opponent will hinder the advancement of his will. As Jesus spoke to his followers that day, I wonder if they wrote their names on the ground. I wonder if they understood victory was coming.