A few days ago I found myself driving north to San Francisco to go to a football game. As you pull into the Candlestick stadium parking lot, it feels as if you’re entering another country full of very patriotic citizens. There were flags waving, people walking to and fro eating the food of their “country” and more than once we had to slam on the brakes so as to not run over a football or beer bottle, coveted currency in this country.
We parked our car and got out our food and joined the thousands around us. When the time came to to watch the game we joined a flow of red and gold surging towards the gates. Once through we found our seats and chatted before the game.
The National Anthem was sung and the coin was flipped. From that point on everyone around me became nothing more than shouts, high fives, and the occasional expletive. People were really into the game. It was as if loss would’ve fundamentally shaken these people’s values. The 49ers were more than a team for which they cheered, the 49ers were in essence an extension of the fans themselves.
The other week I met some people at a friend’s house to watch the 49ers play (I’ve encountered a lot of football recently) and after the game we had a celebratory dinner where the wife of the house expressed how the feelings and conversation around the table would be quite different had the 49ers not beat the 3/4 length pants off of the Packers. Apparently the husband of the household was like my Candlestick brethren in that the 49ers were apart of him.
I’ve come to understand that people like this really believe in football, to them it is something more than what happens on the field. The pain of a loss extends far longer than the five minute postgame interviews. I sometimes feel like God works the same way. For example, when I really believe He will answer my prayer exactly as I asked it like a genie would, and then the day comes and things don’t quite pan out. I imagine my feelings in those times can be compared to those of the the 49er fans after a tough loss.
I feel let down, as if God wasn’t playing hard enough on the field, or He didn’t have His head in the game. I wonder what could’ve been. Maybe I would’ve made the game winning catch and we’d all be celebrating now. But then I realize how God isn’t like sports. How with Him, when the Super Bowl comes, the odds are terrible stacked in His favor, actually there aren’t even any odds, the game’s been played and it’s been won. All those times that I feel like He’s let me down have only taught me lessons and shown me where I’ve dropped the ball or where I’ve missed the tackle; and how He’s been there all the time not throwing the passes that I wanted, but the ones that I needed.
I’ve come to realize it’s easy to be a fair weather fan, harder to be a true fan, and far more harder to be a player. It takes time, practice, and even pain to become a competitive player; but when you win the Super Bowl, all the fair weather fans and even the true fans are left ringless, while those who took the risk, joined the team and put out the effort, through wins and losses, get to celebrate.