Here in Music City, we get over 14 million visitors a year, many of which hope to grab that coveted ticket to the Bluebird, drink a beer at Tootsie’s, or walk the hallowed halls of The Ryman. Ironically, questions about visiting these places often rank second to the all-time number one question we get from out of town guests “Where can we watch the game Saturday?” The game they are referring to does not involve the Vols, Roll Tide or any SEC school as you would guess but instead The Ohio State University Football game.
Rather than throwing back “What? You are coming all the way here to watch the game?” I, of course, start searching for the best place for them to watch. Why? Because I want the same response when I travel to visit family and friends and the first question I ask is “Where is the nearest Catholic Church?”
“But Meg, that’s religion, this is football!” Another man’s word for religion? Maybe.
Growing up in Columbus Ohio amid these die-hard fans has contributed to my strength that makes me who I am in this world. Here are the three biggest reasons and the take-away that every Christian can adopt in virtue toward their own faith from those tough Buckeye fans.
1. Perseverance: Weather is not an excuse. It’s training.
I see people at the gym on the climbers with backpacks loaded up. They are prepping their bodies for the endurance of a great adventure, no doubt. When you live in Ohio and it snows two feet, that is NOT an excuse to miss anything. When my son played club soccer, this is literally a message we got after a huge snow storm:
“Soccer practice has been moved to the parking lot of the park because it has been shoveled.”
So do we cancel practice in 30 degree weather? No. Do we instead kick and run and fall on icy pavement surrounded by four feet of dirty black walls of snow? Yes. Yes we do, because if we didn’t the season would be over before it began.
Weather is no excuse for Ohioans. I remember leaving more than one sporting event hearing later reports of frostbite from the players and fans alike. Is it smart to watch a game in below-freezing temperatures? NO. Does it toughen you up? Heck yeah…Ohioans are extremely proud of their toughness.
It’s okay to be uncomfortable…
While in Chicago, some friends of mine attended a conference in which they heard a Sister of Charity who worked directly under St Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). While answering questions from the group, she spoke to our disordered cultural emphasis for comfort. She told that the sisters work in all kinds of environmental conditions and the attitude they have is
“When it’s hot we sweat. When it rains, we get wet.”
Upon hearing this, I considered how often I ask myself the question what I need to make myself more comfortable, when in truth what I need to is to stop thinking about my comfort and get busy helping some other person first obtain their own basic needs.
In their infancy, these small obstacles–being a little hot, cold, or wet–are all a distraction from more pressing concerns (not referring to extreme conditions of course.) As we mature spiritually, discomfort is an opportunity for training our hearts and minds to focus on Christ and things eternal.
2. Pilgrimage: Traveling is not an excuse…it’s a pilgrimage.
Even when traveling on a game day, most Buckeye fans don’t let change in time-zones affect their ability to see the team play and watch the “Best Damn Band in the Land,” perform script Ohio at half-time. OSU fans prioritize supporting their team no matter where they go. My cousins from California recently visited and brought all of their “gear” along, getting “gussied-up” for the win when they came to watch the game. Meanwhile, when we travel and I ask about the nearest Catholic church and mass times, I get some some funny looks. Church-goers should take this “time-zone” defense lesson from the Bucks.
The most profound experiences of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for our family have been when we were traveling.
Once we came into the church just before communion after driving all day through Florida and felt so bad we had missed so much of the mass that we didn’t go up for communion, but stayed and prayed in the pew. A man, who seemed to come out of nowhere, came up to us after mass and gave us a special blessed rosary. He said he felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to give it to us. As we marveled at what felt to be a “God Nod” of our attempt to make it to mass, we looked up to thank him and he was no where to be found.
At least four times over the years when traveling for spring break we were approached by the usher to bring up the gifts in the church we were visiting. As the head of the family, my husband is usually the one approached and it has made a positive impact on his faith. He feels very humbled and acknowledged by Christ in this special way and we always have a good giggle and shake our heads in disbelief as it is always been a different church to a different city. What an honor!
Rather than looking at going out of our way to get to mass when we are traveling, consider it an opportunity to cheer on the goodness that God has done for you, especially permitting a vacation or travel, which is a great privilege in itself. God sees the efforts and sacrifices you make to seek Him out in a different place and taking the attitude of a pilgrimages rather than a vacation–even if just for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass–is the least we can do for Him in between umbrella drinks ocean-side.
3. Loyalty: Fair-Weather Fans Don’t Always Have Winning Teams
Since the number of clear days in Ohio averages about 72 days a year, being a “fair-weather” fan is actually not much of an option for Buckeyes. While not at a loss for beauty–especially during football season when the maples are ablaze with color–the temperature for most football games is quite uncomfortable. Rather than be thrown down by cold weather, I am sure the sight of fans with that kind of serious endurance bolsters enthusiasm for the win.
How We Witness to Witnesses
My sister-in-law ask if she could travel to Nashville for a Hillsong United Concert. We made plans and bought tickets. As the concert began, it cooled off and poured rain relentlessly, which continued for the rest of the night. Unmoved by our wet chill, we stood in rain ponchos, arms lifted in praise and none of us complained ONCE. We had three teenagers and three adults and not one of us said a negative word for four straight hours of downpour and cold. I studied the the people around us who had the most peaceful expressions of contentment on their wet faces. No one left early. The band stopped just before their famous song “Oceans“–which of course, they saved for last–and proclaimed what a powerful witness the audience had been to them that evening in the cold pounding rain. Powerful.
If we want to be fans of a winning team, we need to remember that loyalty is a virtue, not just for sports, but in our relationships with God and His people. I am much more likely to work twice as hard for someone who I know will back me up whether I succeed or fail.
Fans such as these…
As I am watching the Buckeye fans shout their team on to victory in 38 degrees and pouring rain this Saturday before the Feast of Christ the King, it is my prayer that we will someday all be fans such as these for the Kingdom of God.