The Father, The Son and the Touchdown Jesus Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments
When my son was a toddler, we were driving down the road one day when he spotted something. He pointed to a football stadium, “Look Mommy, church!” I said, “No, that’s a football stadium.” Then I paused, “…which is kind of the same thing.”
The reason it’s cliché is because it’s true: In the South, football is a religion. We rear our children with stories of the 12 Disciples who followed Jesus around the Holy Land right along with tales of die-hard fans who follow their teams to games around the SEC in RVs.
From time to time, folks get a little confused. There’s a group in Alabama who think one day the trumpets will sound, the clouds will part and Bear Bryant will take the faithful home to Glory. A small group of Florida fans are certain Tim Tebow is the Word made flesh to dwell among us.
It’s no wonder, really that football, and specifically college football, is so easily confused with church. The smells and bells are nearly the same.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8
College football is played on Saturday. It has the good manners to keep its schedule away from the Lord’s Day. This gives those who still practice a faith other than pigskin a chance to keep both in their lives without feeling they’ve betrayed their true religion. No one ever speaks of which one is more important.
A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry… Ecclesiastes 10:19
Many rural churches hold “dinner on the grounds.” Except for a funeral, this is the best food you will ever eat. Southern Christian women will put out a spread, potluck style, for all to enjoy. There is usually fried chicken, devilled eggs and homemade ice cream. It almost always requires a nap. In football terms, we call this tailgating.
This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. Leviticus 16:3-4
When a priest makes his way to the Holy of Holies, he best be wearing the proper outfit and animals to burn. When a sorority girl or fraternity boy enters The Grove, if they’ve had any home training at all, she’s in fall’s latest fashions, and he’s got some sort of carcass to grill. Failure to be dressed properly or feed your guests may not result in sudden death physically, but socially, it could put a person’s future options for dating on life support.
And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Revelation 4:1
God gave John the Revelator a vision of the end times in a dream. He was shown epic battles of good vs. evil. This is heady stuff. Lots of writers would like to believe they have also been shown signs by God. Occasionally, after a particularly tough season, a historic loss or an implosion of Biblical proportions, some sports writer will believe he’s “had a dream.” Unfortunately, it will not be the stuff of scripture.
He’ll make wild predictions, speculate on the futures of coaches and players, and stir pots that are best left alone. He’ll all but sell the program to China to pay off the trade debt, but he will almost certainly be full of malarkey.
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed… Matthew 24:6
In Biblical times, travelers from distant lands brought news from afar. Their news was unreliable at best, but never seemed to stop the Chicken Littles of the time from fretting. In 2012, we call these Internet message boards.
When someone has a “reliable source” that depends your best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend hearing from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl seeing Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors, they are not in the know. New coaches are not sending signals through the television by what color tie they wear. Recruits’ Twitter feeds are not coded messages. Eating a chicken sandwich for lunch does not indicate he’s committing to South Carolina. But that doesn’t stop folks from hoping, dreaming and praying they have finally figured “it” out, whatever it may be.
They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Romans 9:4
When all outsiders know about Southern football is bonfires, Hog calls, cowbells or Rocky Top, it can be difficult to understand the loyalty to the sport. If that’s all they see, they’ve missed the point. It’s about community.
It’s about my mother who dressed me in all red and explained in the same voice she used to explain math problems (which was totally no nonsense and direct), “That’s Texas. We don’t like Texas.” It’s about the elderly ladies who won’t start their prayer meetings until the game is over, or rush to finish, depending on kick off time. It’s about teaching my son referee signals while wearing a team jersey when he was only two years old.
It’s a community that has history and future. Its fans are a family, whose only demand is that you pay attention and care about your team. There’s a commitment to excellence, but a loyalty beyond wins and losses.
Community isn’t easy to come by. It’s harder to maintain. It requires a life-long commitment to sustain. It needs historians, storytellers jokers and trainers. It needs people with something to invest, who are often undervalued in other parts of their lives. In other words, it needs Southerners. And we report for duty every Fall.
Kerri Jackson Case was a Razorback Belle for Danny Ford. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, son and two untrainable dogs. She calls the Hogs, but has been known to entertain football fans of all varieties at watch parties. You can follow her unremarkable, but wildly entertaining life at DamnYouLittleRock.com.
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