Tuesday, January 28, 2014

12th Man Fever

I have a confession to make.  It's a dark and uncomfortable secret that I've carried with me my whole life.  I know it will completely disgust some of you, but it's probably best if I just come right out and say it.  Okay (deep breath) here goes:  I am not much of a sports fan.

Whew!--glad that's out of the way.  Now, those of you still reading, hear me out for a minute.  After all, one can't just go around saying they're not a sports fan in this day and age without offering some sort of explanation.  I should clarify a couple of tings.  First, I do like playing sports.  I'm terrible at it, but it is fun for me.  Second, I like attending sporting events, particularly if I don't have to pay for it.  Being in the ball park or at the football or soccer game in the presence of all that energy, there's nothing like it.  What I don't understand is watching endless hours of games on TV, or worse, listening to endless hours of games on the radio, that really have very little value in the scheme of things.  It all seems like a lot of time and resources spent on something that is here and gone with very little impact on anything except possibly the wallet and the waistline.  I'm really not trying to be insulting.  I'm sure there are people who see my obsessions as wastes of time and money, too.  And that's cool.  They're wrong, but that's cool. ;)

But in spite of all that--I've caught the fever...and even cowbell can't cure it.

A variation on the "Go Hawks" wall spelled
out in 12 packs
I live in the Seattle area and, as I'm sure many of you know, our little football club has done pretty well for itself this year.  12th Man Fever has been everywhere around here all season long.  T-shirts, jerseys, hats, flags, tattoos, theme days at my kids' school, all sorts of things.  I went to Wal-Mart a few weeks ago and 12 packs of Pepsi products were stacked into a giant blue (Pepsi) wall with "Go Hawks" spelled out in green (7-Up) and Grey (Diet Pepsi).  It was really something, I must admit.  And then the Seahawks made it to the NFC Championship and things really went crazy:  I WATCHED THE GAME!!!

Not only did I watch it, but I found myself yelling at the TV--and when they won, I jumped up on my coffee table and yelled, "we're going to the Super Bowl!!!!!!"

So, what would cause me, the most apathetic non-sports fan in the history of non-sports fans do such a thing?  12th Man Fever.  I do believe it is contagious.  If you live around here, sooner or later, you're going to catch it.  It's a disease of Northwest Community.  This part of the country is divided by a lot of things:  urban and rural, left and right, it rains a lot so we spend a lot of time indoors rather than in community settings, union and non-union, pro-life and pro-choice, Starbucks and Tully's.  But, in spite of all those things and more, 12th Man Fever unites us all.  It reminds us that (to liberally paraphrase John Donne) "no Hawk is an island."  We are all connected to the whole:  the eleven men on the field and the single, massive entity called "The 12th Man," which exists everywhere Seahawks fans are found.

Yes, it is all wrapped up in one little buzzword:  "community."  We have varying beliefs, opinions, gifts, interests, social status, financial status, and political leanings, but we are one 12th Man.  Sounds an awful lot like Paul's descriptions of the Church in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4--one body, many members.  The Church is full of differences.  Here are a few examples translated into 12th Man terminology.

Some of our very loud hometown fans.
  • Worship:  some paint their faces half blue, half green and supply half of the 127dB level at the CLink (that's Century Link Field here in Seattle to the uninitiated).  Others quietly wear their Hawks t-shirt on the couch at home.

  • Theology:  some know every stat for every player dating back 50 years and every minor rule down to the smallest detail.  Others are glad there are refs and sportscasters who know all of that so they don't have to.

  • Fellowship:  Some love being in the presence of 65,000 fans (very, very loud fans).  Others prefer a small gathering of a few close friends.

  • Evangelism:  some appreciate the in your face style of Richard Sherman.  Others prefer the classy, humble approach of Russell Wilson.
Richard Sherman
Russell Wilson

Naturally, as the church, we are to be individual as well as one large entity or community.  If a region as diverse as the Pacific Northwest can find itself united around something that, in the scheme of things, is really not that important--search your feelings, you know it to be true--then surely, the Church that claims to be the Bride of Christ can unite around something that really does matter:  the Savior Jesus Christ Himself.

So, can we lay aside our petty bickering and focus on the things that really matter?  We will have differences of non-essential theology and practice and that isn't necessarily bad, but we need to keep perspective.  We must keep the essentials essential and the non-essentials non-essential.  Let's not confuse the two.  We may worship in different buildings with different styles of music, methods of baptism and communion and views on pre-destination, but we are ONE BRIDE of Christ.

So, even though I don't rise and fall by the season record of our local team, I am still happy to see "Go Hawks" spelled out in Pepsi products.  To see 12th Man flags flying from cars on those stupid little poles that attach tot he windows.  To see region wide "Blue Day" celebrated at school and work.  To see the 12th Man united in one voice "Go Hawks!"  My greatest hope is that the Bride of Christ will be as united as the 12th Man.
The 12th Man flag flying over the CLink.

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