CAN TEAM LOYALTY GO TOO FAR?

Football season has arrived. Millions of people are thrilled that it’s finally here. High school, college, and the NFL all bring out passionate fans. It’s no surprise, because few events in the U.S. are as thrilling as a stadium full of people cheering for their favorite team.

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-2-59-49-pm
Battle at Bristol sets college football attendance record at 156,990 on 9/10/16.

USA Today had a recent article about passionate college fans. Forbes has ranked the NFL’s Best Fans (Of course, Dallas Cowboys fans are the best). And if you’ve ever been to a Texas high school football game, you know that there are few things like the Friday night experience.

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-11-29-12-amPersonally, I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan my whole life. My first football memory as a kids was watching America’s Team with my dad in the 70’s. That’s where my loyalty began. It was nurtured over the years by getting autographs from Tony Dorsett, celebrating a 90’s dynasty with Aikman, Irvin, and Smith, but it has been challenged over the past 20 years.  Still, my hope springs eternal with the Cowboys each year, dreaming that this is year they win the Super Bowl.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-1-01-35-pm

There’s no doubt you’ve got teams you love. You probably have your favorite baseball team, soccer team, or hockey team. Like me and all other sports fans, your loyalty and love for the team has stayed true over the years. As fans, we’ve all done crazy and fun stuff to support our team, but it hasn’t been until this season that I’ve asked myself the question:

CAN TEAM LOYALTY EVER GO TOO FAR?

For our own benefit, this season let me encourage you to thoughtfully think through this question. Whether you’re a person of faith or not, I’m sure you’ve had that feeling after a game where you second guess yourself thinking, “Uh, I think I may have crossed the line.” So for our sanity this fall, let me offer some thoughts that will help keep things in perspective.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, while not talking about football season, does give us a principle that applies. He tells Christians to “put to death evil desire which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). To be clear Paul is not saying that desire itself is evil. In fact, desire can be quite good. One Psalmist says that God will give him the desires of his heart. Paul simply recognizes the possibility that desire can be evil when it goes too far or gets misplaced. A Christian by the name of Matthew Henry, who lived a long time ago, explains it this way:

“This is an inordinate love of present good and outward enjoyments, which proceeds from too high a value in the mind, puts upon too eager a pursuit, hinders the proper use and enjoyment of them, and creates anxious fear and immoderate sorrow for the loss of them. It is the giving of that love and regard to [things] which are due to God only.”*

You may need to go back and reread that paragraph again. It’s full of insight. As you reread, think about fans and football games.

Henry acknowledges that there is present good (e.g. the smell of tailgating, the roar of the crowd, the bonding with friends during games). There are outward enjoyments (e.g. touchdowns, interceptions, great plays by great players). He is not against enjoyments at all. What is so important is that he points out there is a possibility of inordinate love of these things. He admits some things can have too high a value in our minds. If these things have too high a value in our minds then it can actually hinder the enjoyment of them, create undue anxious fear, or lead to great sorrow for the loss of them.

This weekend, as you watch, let these insights be a mental filter for you. Remember, we watch sports for enjoyment, not because we are looking for another thing to worry about and not because we want to feel super mad or bad the day after. Only you (okay, maybe your spouse, too) can judge if your passion for your favorite team has turned into an inordinate love of things that are good. Make sure you enjoy football, not worship it. Worship is reserved for God. Let’s be sure to keep our highest affections for Him.

I heard my friend at work say this week that if someone is still reeling over a game after 24 hours then that fan has probably taken it too far. And if it is taken too far, then we lose the joy. Be sure to never lose the joy.

What about you? Share your comments about this subject. Is it possible for team loyalty to go too far? Have you ever taken your team support too far?

Go Cowboys!screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-1-06-31-pm

* Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2334). Peabody: Hendrickson.
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