I was reminded yesterday that even when your team loses, you can still enjoy a winning weekend.
My brother-in-law, Jon Kingdon, is a scout for the Oakland Raiders. Our family loves and admires him, but because of our affinity for the hometown Denver Broncos, there’s always been a fair amount of teasing between us. (For non-football fans, the Broncos/Raiders rivalry is legendary and dates back to the 1960s. In fact, the Broncos and Raiders have met on Monday Night Football more often than any other matchup in MNF history.)
As it was, the Raiders came to town this weekend to play the Broncos. Jon invited me to bring the Raiders’ devotion for some of the Christians on the team this past Saturday night. (I had to keep that quiet in the halls here at Focus!) It was fun to meet a few of the players and some of the coaches. During our time, we talked about drawing closer to God during times of adversity.
Nobody has an easy life, but trying to navigate the world of professional football as a Christian carries its own set of challenges. We talked about some of them, from trying to keep perspective and ego in check to balancing family life given the attendant temptations of a high profile profession.
We had a terrific time of fellowship together, ended the evening and I headed back to our home in Colorado Springs. The next day, thanks to Jon, all four of us (me, Jean, Trent and Troy) were invited back up to the game. But what a dilemma. Could the boys still wear Broncos gear, even though we were using free Raiders’ tickets and sitting with some of the team’s families? Jon was gracious and let the boys follow their hearts and wear the orange and blue. We were even able to stand along the sideline during the pre-game warm ups.
The impressions made on my two boys were memorable. They marveled at just how big, fast and strong the players are. I have to admit – some of Dad’s high school football career may have lost some if its luster yesterday afternoon!
Troy’s favorite player is the Broncos’ cornerback, Champ Bailey. Champ warmed up about 5 feet from Troy, and boy was he excited. It’s neat to see that glimmer of appreciation in your child’s eyes, especially when it reminds you of your childhood and a similar admiration you had for professional athletes. Kids need heroes of all kinds, on and off the gridiron.
Then it was time for the game. Four Air Force jets came screaming over the stadium following the National Anthem. It was a thunderous and powerful moment. The Broncos kicked off and within six minutes, the Raiders were ahead 21-0.
What happened? Could it have been my devotional?! I don’t think so – the Raiders weren’t being forced to deal with too much adversity. Denver never recovered.
As the Raiders poured on the points and the Broncos faithful grew more irritated, Jon and I exchanged some good-natured ribbing via text messaging, me from my seat and he from a booth high above field level. The Dalys were initially nervous about cheering in a section populated by Raider fans, but it soon became clear there wouldn’t be too much to cheer about from a Broncos perspective.
We decided to head home early. As we walked out, just the four of us on the lonely road adjacent to Invesco Field at Mile High, the four Air Force pilots were walking into the game. We thanked them for the flyover, telling them it was the highlight of the day. They returned the greeting and rushed in to catch what was left of the disappointing 59-14 Broncos loss.
If you pick up a Colorado newspaper or tune in to a sports report on local television or radio today, you’ll read, hear or see words like “ugly”, “collapse” and “debacle” attached to yesterday’s game. Some are even calling for the team to fire coach Josh McDaniels.
As for me, when I look back on yesterday, I don’t see the loss or feel the bitterness. Instead, I see in my mind the happy smiles of two boys who, for an hour or so, came within a few feet of the National Football League. I see two boys who will long remember a great day out with Mom and Dad, but quickly forget the score of the game.
I wonder how much of life is really like that? How often do we get so caught up in the short-term impact and forget the long-term effect? Are you enjoying what you’re doing as a family? Are you enjoying the “journey,” or are you so focused on your destination that you barely appreciate the view along the way?
All in all, a tough day for the Denver Broncos – but a great day for the boys, Jean and me.