As I was preparing to leave the church after our Christmas Eve services this past Friday, one of my church members came up and asked if I wanted his tickets to the Titans / Broncos game on Christmas night. Normally I probably would have said no in favor of family activities, but this year was a bit different. My nephew had gotten tickets and invited his mom and dad to join his girlfriend at the game. This totally changed our normal family traditions, so when Tony offered (reminding me that I never can get to a game on a Sunday) I took him up on the offer. It was a very generous gift –four tickets located on the goal line in the lower level.
So I went, joining my family members and a couple of friends of my nephew. The temperature was 23 degrees when the game started (and continued to drop through the game) but I had known what I was getting into, so I had dressed accordingly. The Titans have been decimated by injuries and aren’t playing much better than a college team, but we all knew that going in so the goal was to cheer them to not lose too badly.
I found myself watching the people as much as the game. I continue to try to figure out what leads people to drop several hundred dollars each Sunday to sit in a cold stadium to watch a game that you can see better on television than live. It’s easy as a preacher who finds himself in competition with attendance at games to take cheap shots at the NFL or the unfaithfulness of those who choose to participate in this experience, but to do so is to deny the power of this experience that leads folks to give both time and money to their obsession. Annie Savoy in the movie “Bull Durham” talks about the church of baseball, and in a similar way participation in a professional sport like attending an NFL game on a regular basis is to commit to the church of that sport.
It’s hard to know if last night’s crowd was “normal” since a Christmas Day game probably limits attendance a bit. The cool weather also changed the dynamics — there were a lot of young folks around who wanted to tough it out.
I was struck particularly by the amoung of macho, testerone filled attitude filling the stands. As you might imagine, it was a predominantly male crowd (although the women present were often the most vocal and publicly profane) and there was a lot of strutting going on. Of course, the sport of the night was seeing how many persons would wander around in sub-freezing weather without shirts and coats. But even those who chose to keep the work coveralls on maintained a certain attitude, a strong boundary that seemed to say “don’t ____ with me.”
It was an interesting experience and I will be posting later on some thoughts about my experience and the church.