Those who know me and my husband are aware that sports has become part of my life over the past 22 years. For someone raised pretty much to denigrate all sports -- neither participating nor observing, I am surprised and sometimes even delighted at my interest.
Take this weekend, for example. We watched the Army/Navy game yesterday afternoon. It was an engagement of epic proportions. This was a game unlike any other, largely because of the two teams playing. One of the announcers made the distinction clear when he observed that for the men on both teams playing football was the easiest thing any of them did. They were not essentially hired to play ball the way is seems some college players are; they are, in fact, students first -- good students, students who happen to play football.
I didn't want either team to lose. But, I rooted for Navy since a former parishioner is a student at Annapolis. It was a heart-breaker for Army. At the end, despite the dejection on one side of the field and the jubilation on the other, all the players stayed on the field for both schools' alma maters. The Navy coach sought out the Army quarterback. Opposing players spoke to each other. There was dignity both in winning and in losing.
Although Tal doesn't follow professional football with the same energy he does at the collegiate level, we did watch the New Orleans Saints go up against the New York Giants this afternoon. In the fourth quarter with the game out of reach Saints #8, Drew Brees, was sacked -- make that flattened -- by Giants #72, Osi Umeyiora. I think it was the only sack Brees took, but that's not what made me take note. No, it was #72 stopping and helping #8 up. No posturing. No gloating. No celebration. Two men on the field of play.
I know not all games go the way of these two and I know collegiate and professional athletes can be crude, vindictive and childish. What I witnessed during these two games gave me a vision of how people can be with each other.
I am left wondering why it is nowadays that seems required an opponent be an enemy, to be belittled and disparaged. Why is it we seem to have to cast as evil people with whom we do not agree, people we simply dislike, people we don't understand? Is is possible to disagree, not to like, not to understand and still to stay in relationship?
While our government and our churches say an emphatic "no" to that question, football this weekend has hinted at a quiet but hopeful "yes."
At the end of the day, I am grateful for this quiet lesson.