Friday, January 7, 2011

Biggest Regret of 2010:
Thoughts on Winning in Enemy Territory

As we walked out of FedEx field, home of the Washington Redskins, I realized something tremendously important. I love winning in enemy territory.

Mike, dressed in Eagles gear from head to toe and was jumping up and down, raising his arms, like well—the Birds he loves (the term of endearment anyone from Philly will call their NFL team). The weirdest thing about his antics was that he did it without a sound. For once, Mike was silent. Why? The Eagles squeaked out a victory 23-20 over the Redskins by a field goal in the final seconds of the game.

That very moment—one that took joke...10 years prior— crystallized a humble truth. Victory is sweet, but doing so on the road or when it’s unexpected is that much sweeter. I looked at Mike, who didn’t know what to do with himself, and thought about how many times I felt as he did in that instant. Notre Dame won at LSU in the fall of 1997. I had been called “Tiger Bait” by my students for well over a year. Tiger Stadium aka Death Valley had no hold over the Irish that day. Or one-year prior, my housemate Joy and I drove eight hours from Baton Rouge to Austin. We may have been overwhelmed by the sheer size of the University of Texas’ stadium, but not as much as we were by the surprise Irish win.

We don’t call it “home field advantage” without good reason. Victories on the road can be tough to obtain. But it can also be hard as a sports fan to get to those road games. And that is why my biggest sporting regret of 2010 is that I did not go to San Diego when the Giants won three out of four games in the pivotal series the weekend of September 9-12. The pennant race was heating up and the Giants were taking command.

I define a “sporting regret” as an event you had control over but chose not participate in or to attend. Due to my cross country team’s WCAL championship meet, I was not able to go to the Giants victory parade. As much as this is something I will regret for the rest of my life –not a subjective opinion but an objective fact-- I had no control over going or not. I could however have taken a cheap Southwest flight down to San Diego. I could have seen Brian Wilson seal the deal and put the Giants ahead by 2 games at that point. I didn’t. I didn’t plan ahead, I didn’t bite the bullet. And I regret it.
Supporting your team on the road means you are subject to hecklers and harassment. It means you have to be willing to take the taunting and the walk of shame should your team lose. And I say “bring it,” for if you win (or I should say your team wins), you feel that much more ownership over the feat that just played out. In enemy territory, fellow fans share a common and powerful connection. You are no longer strangers. You are all too ready to raise a tall one and recall, retell and relieve what just happened.

And I must concede that as a Catholic, I occasionally feel as though I live in enemy territory. At times, San Francisco feels all too secular. I am amazed and how often I am criticized for what the Catholic faith may ask of me. When this I have to remember that Jesus’ teachings were counter-cultural, even in His day. Being a Christian means I am asked to respond to the challenge and call of the Gospel. No one said it was ever going to be easy.

Last year, I made a resolution to “rub some dirt on it” when folks launched into an unsolicited criticism on what I hold as sacred. I am not the sole defender of the faith, nor do I want to be. I try to keep my faith front and center of my life. At times, this can be very difficult. Fortunately, my family members, friends and mentors nurture my faith and are willing to partake in the effort required to build it. Attacks on Christianity or complaints against the Catholic Church aren’t going away (I’ve had my own gripes!) so when they do occur, I hope to remember the wisdom of Romans 8:35-7 Victory is ours through Him who loves us.

In enemy territory or not, victory through the life, words and teaching of Jesus Christ allows me to share a powerful connection with others. In fact, through Christ we are no longer strangers. Every Sunday we recall, retell and relive the significance of His life. I’ll raise a tall one to that.

Photo Credits
'Skins Fan
Victory Parade
Christ Victor

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