Listen up boys and girls, and all of us older adults too. There are lessons for all of us from Saturday’s game. Who would have thought the OU-Kansas game would garner so much attention? On Friday of last week I was watching a college football talk show (yes, I actually watch them) and someone was asking Paul Finebaum what Sunday’s headline would be. I’m thinking some upset, although with it being Cupcake Saturday there didn’t seem to be much likelihood of that happening. If the news were to be about Baker Mayfield, surely it would be about some record-breaking statistic. Well Baker Mayfield was the story and he is still the headline on Monday. Driving to my 6:30 AM hair appointment this morning, the radio buzz was still about “the incident.” So what are the take-homes from Saturday?
1. Baker Mayfield. Be better than that. Yes I know the Kansas captains disrespected you, I know there was a lot happening under those dog piles, and yes I cringed at that cheap shot that happened late in the second quarter. That should have been a targeting penalty. I get it and support that you always play with a good deal of emotion and moxie. And I also understand when you get all that adrenalin and testosterone flowing it’s hard to put on the brakes. But you are Baker Mayfield. You are the face of the Sooner Nation right now, the presumed winner of the Heisman Trophy, an award that is given for “pursing excellence with integrity.” A first round draft pick. You must be better. You are held to a higher standard than other players, especially the Kansas players. We love watching you play, but we are all a little concerned about your bad boy behavior. It’s time to grow up. Don’t be a Johnny Manziel, and you are getting dangerously close. Be a Manning. Be a J. J. Watt. Be a Tim Tebow. You must get used to having this big target on your back because it’s only going to get bigger. Do you think your first day at pro camp is going to be a group sing of Kum Ba Yah? Even your own teammates are going to try to knock that chip off your shoulder. Get used to it. By the way, thank you for your apologies. One can hope they are sincere.
2. Kansas. Do something about your football program! Right now your football team is the sacrificial lamb that allows you to play big boy basketball. If you are going to be Division 1 start acting like it. Put some money and effort into your program. I can only imagine how your players feel being the perennial joke of the Big 12. Everyone’s creampuff game. It’s easy to understand why they are so frustrated, why they resort to unsportsmanlike behavior. And also, please teach them good sportsmanship. One can hope that the refusal to shake hands didn’t come from the coach. Thank you Kansas players for the apologies. No more targeting!
3. Fans (including me). This is the hard one. Are we expecting too much from a bunch of college kids? We get so caught up in it all, and I’m the first one to proclaim how much fun college football is. Those of us who are big fans get caught up in a concept psychologist refer to as BIRG-ing. Basking In Reflected Glory. We say things like “We won!” or “We played a good game,” as if WE actually had something to do with it. When our team wins we feel great, but when we lose it feels bad. I have to admit; Saturday’s game left a bad taste in my mouth. It didn’t even feel like a win. Baker Mayfield has been my boy. But I had to put my cardboard Baker Mayfield in time out. He disappointed me.
So here is what God has been telling me. Our small group recently studied the book of Exodus, and the Ten Commandments. It struck me that my cardboard Baker Mayfield might be my graven image. While I don’t actually worship the Sooners or Baker Mayfield, am I giving them something that belongs to God? Has football become too important to me, too high on my list of priorities? Maybe football is not your obsession, but most of us could insert something else here. Instead of thanking God for our blessings, do we become too preoccupied with them, even to the point of worship? It can be sports heroes, celebrities, clothes, money, houses, career, politics, church buildings, prestige, and anything else that we ‘worship.” What captures our attention, our love, our time, and our money? Have I crossed some spiritual line here? I hope not. But this is where BIRG-ing becomes idolatry. If I am getting a sense of accomplishment, well-being, or self worth from my team or from any of the things mentioned above, I am committing idolatry. And God takes idolatry very seriously. The only reflected glory I should be basking in is the glory of Jesus Christ. He is my hero. I pray that I keep all my pastimes in their proper place. And I keep reminding myself that it’s just football. But oh my goodness it sure is fun!
You must not make for yourself an idol (graven image, KJV) of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. Exodus 20:4.
No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the LORD your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Isaiah 60:19