football and grace

You know the roar, the red, the band’s precision. You know the goose-bumping effect of the tunnel walk. Memorial Stadium pulsing in preparation for a Husker game is something–once you’ve experienced it–that you know deeply. If you’re a fan, you know it like it’s a part of you, or maybe you’re somehow a part of it. Fan or not, you know the parking and driving nightmare that Lincoln can be on Saturdays in the fall.
Unfortunately, you also probably know “that fan.”
The fan can be recognized by loud offensive language that only subsides when the team is winning. Somehow a great run or a favorable score quiets this person. On more than one occasion I’ve sat in my red thinking, “I wish that fan would just leave, so we could enjoy the game.” I must also confess that I’ve imagined how it might feel to chuck my water bottle in this person’s direction.
Recently Bo Pelini was in the press for throwing his own verbal “water bottle” with some vocabulary that was, um, less than creative.
When I first heard the story, I thought he would be fired within the week, and I couldn’t help noting, “Good ole’ Dr. Tom would never talk or behave like that.” This controversy over our Big Red-in-the-face coach didn’t end with a firing as I first suspected. I was tired of hearing about it as my husband flipped the channel to ESPN late that week. I cringed, waiting for the negative onslaught as Nebraska came up, but one commentator’s slow tone and positive notes caught my attention.
“The Nebraska game will be one to watch this week. The Nebraska fans are going to rally behind Coach Pelini. It’s going to be something to see.”
It is news when controversy becomes convergence. In Coach Osborne’s formal comments he didn’t condone Pelini’s actions, but he did give numerous reasons for forgiveness; he showed a form of grace. God’s forgiveness and grace goes further, bowls us over without condition, without hope for future victory, and without note of “Team Jack” type good works.
Grace says, we’re part of God’s team, period.
The church in Macedonia was faced with its own controversy in my church’s reading from last Sunday, 2 Corinthians 8:1-3. The troubles were “pushing them to the very limit.” The pressure, instead of breaking them, brought about the unexpected. It left them helping the poor–reaching out instead of turning in. As we face trials in life–even deeper than those associated with the human things we hold close like Big Red football, a spouse, family, a career–those trials have the potential to break us but also the potential to reveal the real us, as God provides grace for the moment.

*Thanksgiving is a day of food and football in my family.  Whatever your day may bring, I’m thankful for your reading eyes in this space where I am so thankful to write.  Happy Thanksgiving.