Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Ball has Two Sides

I have been competing in an ESPN College Football "Pick the Winner" competition. Each week ESPN selects 10 games. The contestants pick the teams they think will win, then rank them in order of confidence. So if a team your very confident will win, loses, you lose 10 points. If another game had you flipping the coin and you lose, you only lose one point. So it's important firstly that your picks are correct. BUT if they're not, you hope that you've put them low on your confidence ranking so you don't lose many points.

I've been doing well at this game this year. I've included a snapshot of my score that puts me inside the top 10% of competitors. But this week I messed up. My ranking slipped 20,000 places when my most confident pick (West Virginia) lost to Texas Tech. I also thought South Carolina would knock off LSU, and I lost another 4 points there.  So here's the lesson I learned...

Good football teams can play both sides of the ball. Before Saturday West Virginia was 5-0 and their quarterback, Seth Doege, had become a serious Heisman candidate. They had a high scoring offense that after only scoring 14 points against the Red Raiders still ranks 7th in the nation. The also still have the 3rd most passing yards nationally.

This team can score! In their first 5 games they cleared 40 points 4 times. They scored 70 points against Baylor just two weeks ago and 69 against Marshall to start the year. But that's only half the story.

I overlooked a crucial element to their game... they have no defense! West Virginia allowed Marshall to score 34. They only beat Maryland by 10. And in back-to-back weeks Texas and Baylor combined to score over 100 against the Mountaineers. So it's really no surprise that Texas Tech put up 49 against them.

West Virginia is a one trick pony. As soon as they ran into a decent defensive team who restricted their scoring, West Virginia had no response. If they can't outgun their opponents they can't win. It's really that simple.  Texas Tech has a decent defense. According to ESPN Tech's defense is ranked 17th nationally compared to West Virginia's ranking of 112.  So in hindsight... I should have seen it coming.

The frustrating thing is that I used this thinking in picking against LSU. The last couple of years I've viewed LSU as having a stout defense, but an almost nonexistent offense. Their continued success has continued to surprise me. Any time they play a solid defensive team I pick against them. It hasn't got me very far. They keep finding ways to win.

The Tigers rank 50th for scoring and 103rd for passing yards. Yet because their defense is ranked 8th and they only give up 14 points a game they're one of the most successful teams in the country! But after losing 21-0 to Alabama in last year's national championship game they discovered the importance of scoring points.

This is really a basic rule of life. "Strengths can easily become weaknesses." In grad school I was made to read a book titled "Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership" for one of my classes. It was an excellent book that "the personal characteristics that drive individuals to succeed and lead often have a shadow side that can cripple them once they become leaders and very often cause significant failure." (p13) For example, a person who is always available to help others, may be driven by a need for acceptance or approval from others, not really by a pure Christian love.

Many Christian leaders in large, growing churches have captured headlines when they've been exposed for moral failures. They had a great offense for God. They preached powerful lessons and impacted the lives of thousands. But they had a poor defense against the temptations of Satan.

When I look in Ephesians 6 at God's description of the armour he gives us I appreciate that he gives us both defense and offense. We have both the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and the shield of faith, which which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. It's our responsibility to keep working on both sides of the ball, not relying on our evangelistic fervor, or passive faith to get us to the victory line.

It just occurs to me. I wonder, if Paul was writing today in the US of A, would he stick with the analogy of armour, or would he refer to helmets and pads etc? Please leave a comment if you can think of some sporting equivalents to a suit of armour!

Here's an entertaining video on the Armour of God:

No comments:

Post a Comment