Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Overreaction Monday

The various hosts on ESPN Radio often use the term "Overreaction Monday" to describe the panic fans express as they digest a dismal performance by their team or key player over the weekend. The players, coaches, general managers should all be sacked! The season is doomed, they should trade their stars and build for the future!

Equally, the games, matches, plays of the weekend may have them over the moon and absolutely convinced that this is the year, the season, the opportunity they've been waiting a lifetime to see. The championship, premiership, moment in the sun will be there's when they're the last team standing. (After Round 1, Chip Kelly is the greatest coach ever and Michael Vick will lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the Promised Land in 2013!!!  Then they lost their next two games!)

This phenomena is particularly potent early in the year as fans (and media and coaches) attempt to grasp the potential of their team and players for the upcoming season. Week 1 every team is undefeated, but come Monday morning half the teams have a loss and the other half a win. One half begin second guessing all the off season player acquisitions and coaching moves. The other half are convinced their hiring and firing guys are geniuses.

Australian professional athletes have their own version of "Overreaction Monday" called "Mad Monday" which immediately follows the end of the regular season. Before the clubs have the chance to review the player list and delist or trade players, the players organize an end of season revelry that often gets out of hand. (Here's this year's 'mad' headline!) This custom is also overreaction as players overindulge in alcohol and in some cases assume, right or wrong, that this will be their last moment with these teammates.

Coaches beating each other up at a high school football game: OVERREACTION!  And the list of over passionate coaches, parents and players in youth sports could go on for a very long time.

I highlight these examples as a reminders of how often we all need to take a deep breath and consider the bigger picture before responding to specific events. When our families say or do something that surprises or shocks us, how often do we overreact? When things don't go our way on the job, do we overreact? Do we manage to keep perspective when something happens at church, or do we walk out the door at the smallest offense to find "the right fit for me"?

Jesus himself addresses this issue a couple of times. Overreaction Monday has been around for quite a long time! In Luke 9:51-55 a Samaritan village refused to give him a bed for the night. His disciples asked "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" (Wow, even the craziest football fans don't ask that question when they get mad at their team!) After pointing out their craziness, Jesus just walked on to another village and slept there.

In Matthew 13 Jesus told a parable about the devil planting weeds in God's field or kingdom. God's servants immediately wanted to pull out the weeds, but God said "No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Overreaction Monday makes for great radio. It's passionate. It's interesting. It's opinionated. But it's also lacking perspective. God wants us, both as winners and losers, to show grace. In our family, job, school, church disputes, He wants us to step back and consider the bigger picture. Don't you be the person escalating and extending hurt by overreacting to perceived wrong doing. Confirm your perceptions and then prayerfully consider an appropriate response.  

It's never our job to call down fire from heaven on anyone's head... not even on Overreaction Monday!!!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Trash Talk

The first week of the NFL season is in the books. And the trash talk has begun. I guess it's a lot easier to talk trash early in the season. There aren't many scoreboards for people to point at.

  • Seattle fans talking of buy bricks at the 49ers new stadium and inscribing them with phrases like "Go Hawks".
  • 49ers player Dixon posts a tweet calling Seattle the "She-Hawks".
  • Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, and some players accuse the NY Giants of faking injuries to give themselves a breather.
  • Then the Giants' player in question responds with a crack about Jerry Jones having his son-in-law clean his glasses.
  • All this talk about whether the Packers, and Clay Matthews in particular, are "targeting" Colin Kaepernick. Then in the game Matthews hits Kaepernick with a late tackle and the 49ers coach, Jim Harbough, describes it as a slap.
  • Matthews responded in a media conference describing himself as "an awesome player... not dirty". I don't know if that last comment was Matthews just defending himself or if he was also taking a shot at division rival Ndamukong Suh who the NFL fined $100,000 this week for a late tackle.
and this is just after Week 1!!

Christians face some interesting decisions when it comes to sledging or trash talk. In many ways it's fun and part of the game. Players participate to gain a psychological edge over the opponents (ior just because they don't like them). Fans join in because it's one way that we can participate in the competition between teams. We're not on the field, but we can sure talk big. But sometimes this kind of talk is destructive and unGodly.

I taught a class last night on idolatry. I was basing my lesson on the first chapter of Mark Driscoll's book, "Who Do You Think You Are?" He uses an acronym for the word IDOLS. Without rehashing the entire lesson, his thoughts on O relate to this topic of trash talking.

O stands for the idea that sometimes we make idols out of our connection to Others. This is very evident in sports when our sense of self-worth often increases when our team wins. We take pride because the team I happened to randomly choose to follow happened to win this week, or this year. Therefore I am better than you.

Driscoll makes this statement,

"While it is good to have community, we often turn this good thing into a bad thing by basing our identity on and idolizing our tribes. If you idolize your tribe, you will also demonize other tribes.

This past weekend also marked the first week of finals (playoffs) in AFL (Australia). I'm very happy to report that "my team" (Carlton) won. Making it even better was that Carlton only made the finals (playoffs) because traditional rival Essendon was eliminated from the finals by the league for their "supplements scandal". Then making the weekend even better is that Collingwood, the other traditional major rival of Carlton, lost! It's just a nice feeling.

It's so easy to get caught up in the roles the football culture imposes upon fans and rub their defeats and disappointments in the faces of Collingwood and Essendon supporters.

But I am so thankful for the example of my grandfather. I truly believe he rescued me from a life of fanaticism. He was a Collingwood supporter, but he is also one of the gentlest men I've known.

One weekend after his team had beaten mine in a huge game with finals implications I was still running on adrenaline (yes, just from watching it on TV) and really expecting him to act like crazy fans on TV and gloat about their victory. Instead, he just commented that it was good game and he knew how disappointing it was to lose that one.

The grace he gave to me completely took the wind out of my sails. I'm not saying that I always match his example. I still like to gloat at times. I mean, I now live near Buffalo where the Bills always lose. If I waited for them to win to say something...!!

By all means Christians should enjoy the banter that comes with supporting a sports team, but lets keep it lighthearted. Let's "Love our neighbours as ourselves". And let's remember that "A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fantasy Evangelism

Fantasy Sports are a huge part of the sports industry in the United States. Various estimates I read value the industry at $2-5 billion per year. Most of that is advertising revenue on the various fantasy sports websites. Fantasy sports have also taken off in Australia over the past few years as the US craze spreads internationally.

So I got to thinking about how churches could use fantasy sports that so many of our male members are involved in as an evangelistic tool.

I can't believe this is a real thing!!!!!!!
Australia may be a bit slow on the fantasy bandwagon, but we've been "tipping" winners for years. Usually there's money involved, unless it's a tipping competition run by a church leader!! In sharing these ideas I'm very dependent on the example of Barry Hume who's been doing this for years back in Tasmania.

Since the NFL is about to kickoff their season it seemed like a good time to throw this out there. So here are some suggestions for using Fantasy Football to connect with guys one the periphery of the church. The goal of each of these suggestions is to use sports as an excuse to get to know people better. You can use all these suggestions to strengthen bonds between members, and that's great, but it won't be evangelistic unless the unchurched are involved.

  1. Use your imagination when inviting people to your league. Perhaps the unchurched husband of your members would like to get involved. Have you met a guy at the local diner or coffee shop who might like to get involved?
  2. Make sure you have a draft party. I know most drafts can be done on the computer, but remember the goal is face-to-face time. So take the time to get together and write it out. It's more work, but it will be worth it. Maybe use the church building or even better for building relationships would be using someone's home.
  3. As commissioner work hard to keep the emails and online comments (trash talk) going throughout the year. It's so easy to just let the league run on auto pilot. Community will only be built through intentional interaction.
  4. Do you have a church Christmas party or special event you can invite the unchurched participants to attend?
  5. Develop a list of awards so everyone still has an interest in participating. 
    1. Have a vote for the most creative team name.
    2. Keep track of the biggest win by an underdog.
    3. Longest winning/losing streak.
    4. Highest and lowest weekly scores over the course of the year.
    5. Team with the most injuries.
    6. Team with the most single digit losses.
    7. Anything else you can think of.
  6. Have physical trophies for the winner, runner-up, and maybe consolation winner. This will provide continuity from year to year. You could even have a plaque somewhere in the church if you want to go all out.
  7. You MUST have an end of season awards night. Bring everyone together and eat lots of guy food.
  8. Plan to watch a final or the Superbowl together. Many people have standing plans for the Superbowl, but it could work great for an earlier playoff game. 
  9. NEVER have a league prayer meeting for your fantasy teams!!! Did I need to include that?
If you can apply most of these suggestions, there's a very high likelihood that you'll know these guys a lot better at the end of the season than the beginning. Only God knows where that relationship will go from there.

I'm always looking for additional ideas, so please leave a comment if you have any.