Oh Lord, Help Us Win

“If you make every game a life and death proposition, you’re going to have problems. For one thing, you’ll be dead a lot.” – Dean Smith, former UNC Basketball Coach

I’m watching the UNC-Duke basketball game tonight (as an alumnus of the University of North Carolina, I have to add “go heels”). It got me thinking about some message boards I read years ago and a number of conversations I’ve had with other Christian sports fans.

We have a bad habit of conflating wills – ours and God’s. We all want our teams to win, and that’s OK. What I find interesting is how often we equate things that we want with the will of God. It’s not overt, and certainly not theological, but somewhere down in the depths of our sub-consciousness we believe that God is on our side in sporting contests. We see it (again, subconsciously) as a blessing from the Lord when we win, and somehow unfair or even punishment when we lose.

I’ve known people who pray for earnestly for their team to win, even talk of organizing prayer meetings for a particularly big game. I’ve also known people who looked at a loss as a reprisal for some moral failure on their part earlier in the day.

The first of these is a bit silly. One can rest assured there are just as many Christians pulling for the other team – are we fighting prayer battles with each other to see who wins? Don’t get me wrong, I pray and talk to God about all kinds of things that will come up in the day ahead – even saying “oh yeah, the game’s tonight”. He knows I want my team to win (though I don’t mind telling Him). But I pray more earnestly that the game doesn’t rule my emotions and my mood – life is bigger than this and we have important work left ahead of us.

The later issue is a little more disturbing though. To somehow equate the fortunes of athletic teams and the emotions of millions of fans as subject to your moral success of failure is massively self-centered. Not everything is about you (or me).

Now, in the final analysis I imagine everybody will deny ever feeling any of these ups and downs or theologically untenable contrivances. That’s OK, you know who you are.

UNC’s up 34-26 with 3:22 to go in the first half. Hope we win.

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