“Bro – you gotta check your gear – the Packers got destroyed by the Niners! You must feel like a real loser cheering for them!” Up until that moment, I didn’t feel like a loser any more than I normally do, but as we all know, things can change in an instant.
I’m a proud son of Green Bay, WI, and I have plenty of Packers apparel in my wardrobe. The other day I was at the gym, and given my workout clothing rotation, it happened that I was wearing a Packers t-shirt and shorts – green and gold from head to toe. I was owning my allegiance to Titletown which, as someone living behind enemy lines in Boston, can be a lot of fun. If the Packers win, that is.
But these guys noticed me, and chose to make their remarks in light of a loss. The teasing was innocent enough, but the truth is, I did feel like a loser. Or, more accurately, they made me feel like a loser. After the exchange, I turned my music up and tried to disappear, anxious to get home and change.
When the Packers win, it’s the easiest thing in the world to walk tall and proud with their insignia on my chest. But, when they lose, it takes a little more energy to maintain allegiance. It means walking right into the heckling of other, more successful fans. It means putting myself in the crosshairs of others who delight in my losses as much as their victories. It means thinking twice about whether to put on the shirt at all.
The Super Bowl this year was fine. I’m happy for my friends who cheer for the Chiefs, and I guess I wanted them to win, given that the 49ers beat the Packers to play for the title. I like a good come-from-behind victory. The Shakira tongue-flick thing is big talk on the Interwebs. There was a Sabra hummus commercial that featured Jaleel White, Scary Spice, and Rick Flair. We hosted a nice party. I was with good people and ate pizza and wings. What more could I want?
I was wearing a Packers t-shirt at the party, and when people asked me who I was cheering for, I honestly told them: the Green Bay Packers. “But they’re not playing,” they would remind me. And still, that’s what I wanted.
I wanted the joy of cheering for my team, of having some skin in the game, of complaining about the lop-sided announcing of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck because it affronted a thing that I love. Of knowing that my boyhood – and, let’s face it – adulthood heroes were still in it.
But they weren’t. And, given that the NFL has enough problems that justify someone abandoning it all together, and that it’s hard to lose even when the Packers are generally good, two questions quietly bubbled to the surface. Why keep cheering at all? Why continue hoping for a win?
Just by looking at me, you may not know that I’m a Christian and that I love Jesus. The naked eye could more easily identify my love of the Packers than the Catholic Church. When it comes to my faith, I can easily hide. Like wearing a Chiefs or Patriots or 49ers t-shirt to the gym. And, truth be told, there are times when hiding feels like the better option. Like I said, it’s easy to be a Christian when we’re winning. The Catholic Church would be a lot different today if our recent history looked different. Sadly, we’ve hurt a lot of people who were cheering for us.
I’m not saying that I should don a massive cross around my neck at all times, wear a cassock or clerics every day, or stand on a street corner with a sign that reads “JESUS SAVES.” But I would do well to think and pray about how I live my faith out loud. I would do well to think of those times when, because it’s hard, I might not proclaim the Gospel as loudly as I want. Or, I might avoid a confrontation about faith because it’s not a confrontation I’ll walk away from unscathed.
It’s a brave thing to believe. But it takes more guts to make a profession of faith. Indeed, it may be easier to live in perfect harmony with the world if I keep my mouth shut. But for me, there’s too much at stake. I’m not going anywhere, because I wouldn’t know where else to go. To whom shall we go (Jn 6:68)? The love runs too deep, and the witness is too important.
It’s never easy to lose, but that’s no reason to quit. It’s never easy to love, either, but that’s no reason to step away from the effort. So, you can look for me out there trying. I’ll be the one in green and gold.
CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters