The Winning Team

Ecclesiastes 7:3-4

In 2008, I watched as my beloved KU Jayhawks basketball team won their fifth national championship. Mario Chalmers sank a clutch three-point shot at the end of regulation against the heavily favored Memphis Tigers. Then in overtime, the Jayhawks put their foot on the accelerator and won the game 75-68.

Not surprisingly, I was elated when I watched Chalmers’ shot pass through the net, delighted that it didn’t rattle around and out like Kirk Heinrich’s similar opportunity five years earlier. But then, as the Tigers fell apart and the outcome became clear during the overtime, I had strange thoughts pass my mind. A couple of these valuable players were seniors and others, the heart of the team, would almost certainly jump to the NBA.

Before the victory was in the bag, I found myself getting down about the next season. That’s where my mind goes as I consider the proverbs in today’s slice of Ecclesiastes:

Grief is better than laughter,
for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad.
The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure.

Ecclesiastes 7:3-4

Eeyore Has It Right

Perhaps nothing illustrates the truth of these verses better than sports. Just a few years ago, in 2015, all of Kansas City went berserk when the Royals won the World Series. Today, a scant four years later, that victory seems like a fantasy story as the current crew is steaming toward another 100-loss season.

How many times have we seen crowd shots at sporting events with screaming teen boys holding up an index finger: “We’re number one. Woo!” Never mind that their currently winning team is a perennial loser, mired in a lackluster conference, and almost guaranteed to lose the next contest. These fools are having a great time ignoring reality and hanging out in the house of pleasure.

Of course this transcends sports. Every birth is a necessary prelude to a death. Every rise to dominance comes before a decline and defeat. The zenith of every career suggests the inevitable end of the same. Even someone who triumphantly assumes the office of U.S. President has to know that in eight years the keys to the White House will be handed to someone else.

Aside from the pyramids, pretty much nothing that is built lasts. For us to exult in the well-built career, the well-weeded garden, or the well-coiffed hair as if any of them might last forever is foolish.

Getting in Tune

If all of what I’ve said here is correct, if every good thing under the sun is truly going to decline and decay, then what is the sensible follower of Jesus to do? Let me be clear that while I suggested above that Eeyore has it right, I do not advocate his attitude.

When I pin my hopes to my favorite sports teams, I’m doomed to disappointment far too often. When I depend on a house or a job or another person or anything else under the sun, I am guaranteeing that my happiness, if it comes at all, will be temporary.

That doesn’t mean that I need to go around moping and failing to enjoy the moment. If the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl next year, I’ll celebrate like a madman, but I’ll keep in mind that it is only for the one year and means very little. I’ll know that in the midst of all that “yes” is the seed and root of a great deal of “no.”

We need to set our sights on the team whose winning streak will never end, whose players will never decline or depart, whose player-coach is always the MVP. Anything else is just a moment.

How to Ruin a Person

Give strong, talented, entitled young men a huge pile of money and endless streams of adulation, and what do you get? Apparently you get athletes behaving badly. Most recently, this has been my hometown football team’s jet-propelled receiver, Tyreek Hill. Back in March we learned that Hill was somehow involved in a domestic abuse investigation. As it turned out, his three-year-old son had a broken arm that seemed suspicious. Medical personnel, it turns out, have pretty good radar at distinguishing between a fall on the trampoline and an arm twisted too far.

Wednesday, the Johnson County, Kansas DA announced that no charges would be filed in this case. You could practically hear this guy trying to get the bad taste out of his mouth:

We have a heightened responsibility to protect those individuals (who can’t protect themselves), and so it bothers us when we see something that’s happened to a child like this and we can’t do anything about it.

If I understand the DA’s words properly, he was basically saying that he thinks somebody hurt this child, but when dad says mom didn’t do it and mom says dad didn’t do it, what are you going to do?

And then yesterday, the plot turned in a bizarre way. A recording, secretly made by “mom,” Hill’s apparently permanent fiancé and the boy’s mother, surfaced. Why would this woman release the recording now? Why would she give it to a local TV news reporter rather than law enforcement? Why, when it seems to include among a lot of really unpleasant stuff, her admitting to lying to investigators, would she release it at all? These are all questions that remain to be answered.

Of course, the experts who populate the Internet have already launched into full opinion-spewing. Some condemn the Chiefs for ever drafting Hill since he had issues while in college. Some think that they should immediately fire the man. Some think that nothing should happen. Some blame a thuggish culture in the NFL. Some blame the fiancé. A few are so short-sighted that they can only think about what this means to the team’s chances next year, thanking their lucky stars that the story broke before their fantasy draft.

But who’s thinking about a three-year-old little boy?

Who is thinking about a boy who is apparently afraid of his father’s discipline? Is it the mother who has stayed with a man whom she knew was abusive for years? Chiefs fans have offered token thoughts about the child before charging ahead to opine on the weightier matters of football.

To his credit, the Johnson County DA does seem to be thinking about the child.

What happens when we treat a game as if it were life and death? What happens when we place strong, talented young men onto a level that far exceeds their real significance? Sometimes nothing bad, but sometimes this is what happens. And what happens to the child of that twisted psyche? Perhaps he’ll be a professional athlete. We can only hope.

Winter Olympics Riddle

Why is it that NBC pays millions of dollars to broadcast the Winter Olympics? Obviously, they do it because millions of people will watch those same Olympics, enabling NBC to sell millions of dollars in advertising. So perhaps the real question is why millions of people will watch the games.

Why is it that every four years, people will get excited about watching sports that they don’t care a lick about for the following three years and eleven months? Who cares about downhill skiing, ski jumping, speed skating, and, of course, curling if there aren’t five rings and national anthems in the background? Even figure skating, which enjoys a fair following throughout the years, achieves far more attention when there’s an Olympiad–whatever that means–in the picture.

I don’t have an answer to this little ditty, and I haven’t been drawn in to these Olympics sufficiently to have learned anything new. Perhaps you have an answer.