SOUDER: Are you ready for some football?

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Pariticipation can change perspective

By Chuck Souder

A couple of weeks ago you could have learned a lot about a person by asking them a simple question: “I was watching the news today and was wondering, do you think they’ll reach a deal?”

Now some people who follow the political scene would’ve likely assumed you were talking about the debt-ceiling debate going on in Congress at the time, and answered accordingly.

Others, however, who primarily get their news not from CNN or FOX but from stations starting with the letters ESPN, would have understood you to be asking about the NFL lockout and the likelihood that there would be a season this fall.

(Possibly some of these people might have thought you were talking about the NBA, which is also facing a contract dispute; but seriously, no one really cares about the NBA, do they?)

Fortunately for football fans (and, I suppose, political observers), a deal was reached in both arenas –the government is able to continue borrowing its way into oblivion, and of vastly more importance to sports fans, the NFL season will begin as scheduled.

In just a couple of weeks, Hank Williams Jr.’s familiar query of “Are you ready for some football?” will once again ring out across the airwaves.

This was especially important to my 10-year-old son, Chase, who over the past couple of years has developed an intense interest in the game.

After putting him off the year before, last year I relented, and we entered the all-consuming realm of fantasy football. It has been said that pro football consists of thousands of men who desperately need exercise watching 22 men who desperately need rest, but the world of fantasy football requires much more work to simply be a spectator.

For the uninitiated, fantasy football gives arm-chair quarterbacks the opportunity to pick his own team- – and then compete statistically against others who have done the same thing. And because most people pick a quarterback from one team, running backs from another and receivers, tight ends, kickers and defenses from still different teams – and your opponent for the week has done the same – fantasy football gives the football enthusiast a reason to cheer (one way or the other) for almost every game.

So now, at our house, instead of just watching the Colts game and then moving on toother activities, my son and I are forced to watch each and every game. Imagine how excited this makes my wife (and millions of other women) throughout the football season!

This year, however, the question of “Are you ready for some football?” is taking on a whole new meaning at our house.

Don’t misunderstand, we are still excited about the upcoming NFL season and are preparing our invitations for our fantasy league. But in addition to that, Chase isplaying for the first time. Because many of the other boys his age have already been playing for two or three years, he is a bit behind the learning curve. It’s not that he doesn’t know football, it’s just that he’s never really experienced before.

And there is a big difference.

It’s one thing to know about all the NFL players – their positions, teams and stats – and to cheer them on from the comfort of your couch on a Sunday afternoon. But it’s quite another thing to put on pads and a helmet and go into the 90-degree weather and play.

Last Sunday was his team’s first opportunity to practice with their equipment. And although they just wore their shoulder pads and helmets for a short while to try to get used to them, it was a really hot day, and by the time the coach told the boys to take off their helmets and get a drink, most of them were dragging.

As Chase came over to get a drink, I asked him how things were going. Without a hint of humor he said, “I think I might need to seriously reconsider my options.”

From the looks on their faces, I think several of the other boys were thinking the same thing.

And though he resolutely went back out to practice, Chase was beginning to understand a key truth: It is one thing to know about football, but it’s quite another thing to know football on a personal level.

I think the same could be said for many of us who identify ourselves as Christians.

Like my son and football, many people know a lot about God. They can quote John 3:16, sing all the words toAmazing Grace(the first verse, anyway), and tell the Christmas and Easter stories from memory.

They maybe even know about Noah’s flood, David and Goliath, and that Joshua “fit the battle of Jericho.” Unfortunately, for many people, their knowledge stops there – as simply things they know about God.

The incredible thing about Christianity is that it doesn’t just offer a way to knowabout God, but it provides a way to actuallyknow in a personal way.

This is what the Christmas story is all about – God becoming a man so that he could make himself known to us. Most of the world’s religions purport to provide a way to know about.

But, through the life (and death, burial and resurrection) of Jesus, God has provided a way for us to truly know.

And as my son is finding out, knowing – whether football or God – is a whole different ballgame.


Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org.