The 2018 college football season will be yet another can’t miss spectacle this fall. People in this country can’t get enough football! There is something marvelous about 22 grown men lining up across from each other, 11 per side, in full pads ready to smash each other at high octane speeds that makes college football fans salivate. Why is that??
First, college football is the penultimate team game. All 11 players have to do their respective jobs on every play if it is to be properly executed. One lineman misses his block and it’s a three yard loss. One safety forgets an assignment, and suddenly the other team is taking it 60 yards to the house for a touchdown! The margin for error is small and the stakes are high.
Second, college football has never been better since the playoff was instituted five years ago. Teams have everything to play for every single week, and six or more teams are in the running going down to the closing weeks. A college football championship requires excellence, week in and week out. Your team has a bad day, too bad! Only the best survive. There are no consolation prizes for participation (unless you consider the Little Caesars Bowl a consolation?). It is a product of sport like no other. It has tradition, pageantry, pride, power…and greatness.
Now is all this pompous talk just another example of how much people crave to be great, or at least to be fans of greatness? And what type of greatness are we talking about here? Is it the “I’m better than you and I like it” greatness? The “too cool for school” greatness? The “ain’t nobody better than me” greatness?? If it is, look out my friends: that type of greatness stems from the pride of The Fall.
The Fall places a tendency in us to want to be better than another, at the expense of another. Fallen pride ends in an exclusivity that rejects those who don’t achieve the fame that comes with superficial greatness and all of its publicity. This sort of “greatness” puffs us up and strips us of our hunger to be truly great by way of cultivating a togetherness that works towards a common goal for the benefit of all.
Perhaps the true greatness we crave comes from a desire for unity, a want to come together, to play alongside one another, and to give our all for the flourishing of the whole. This is why the team-based nature of football is so attractive. Every player on every team absolutely needs one another to come together in order to succeed as a unit. No unity? No brotherhood? No championships.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to win, but what are our real motives? Is it excellence? Or dominance? Dominance says “You are not as good as me, and I’m going to put you in your place!” Excellence says “our victory is the product of great teamwork and it was an honor competing against you.”
As the season begins, I hope the greatness fans crave is one related to excellence and the joy of seeing their team play well as a unit over the insatiable and insidious desire to be better than other people. Dominance is the death of unity and of excellence. I suggest that we be excellent in our care for one another this college football season.
Soak it in and cheer on your team for the love of the game and the joy of fandom. May the greatness our teams achieve reflect our desire to build great communities where people help each other be excellent in their love and service of one another for the betterment of the whole. When that happens, everyone wins.
Image courtesy of FlickrCC user J. Griffin Stewart