On January 1, 1968, I listened to my first University of Tennessee Vols football broadcast. I will never forget the excitement of the Orange Bowl. The Vols rallied from a 19 to 0 deficit in the second half, behind the incredible play of quarterback, Dewey “Swamp Rat” Warren. This great comeback left Tennessee with the opportunity for a game winning field goal with seconds left. The Vols ultimately missed the field goal and lost a heart-breaker, but I was hooked as a Vols football fan. Growing up in East Tennessee, I have great memories of “Rocky Top” and radio broadcaster John Ward’s memorable voice shouting “Touchdown Tennessee.”
Being a Vols fan has also taught me some great spiritual lessons. Here are seven faith lessons I have learned as a football fan.
- There is a contagious excitement when a crowd is joined by a common passion. I have felt the stadium almost shake from the crowds at Neyland Stadium and the overflow of the fans’ excitement.
- People will step out of their comfort zone for something they love. Grown men will cheer, yell, paint themselves orange, and wave Pom Poms. No one seems to mind what others think when they back their favorite team.
- Time is not an issue when you really buy into a cause. Busy people arrive early in the morning to tailgate all day for an evening game, and no one is upset if it goes into overtime.
- Folks gladly invest money to that which has captured their heart. Season ticket holders lay out thousands of dollars to have the privilege of attending games, and university boosters donate millions of dollars to college athletic programs.
- People boldly wear the colors of that which they truly follow. Some of us are even brave enough to wear orange in the midst of the big blue state of Kentucky.
- We have no problem sharing with anyone who will listen about the team we follow. Strangely, no one seems to worry that it might offend someone who follows another.
- Our hearts break when the results are not what we had hoped. Some even mourn so much that it is hard to work on Monday.
As I reflect on all this, it causes me to ask, “Am I as passionate about Jesus as my favorite football team?” Do others sense a contagious excitement as I share about the place where I worship? Am I willing to step out of my comfort zone for sake of the Gospel? Has Jesus captured my time and wallet? Do I boldly reflect Christ? Does my heart break at the continued lostness of this world?
Football…just a game really. Jesus…we are talking about life and eternity. It really does matter who we follow.