Between the burgeoning popularity of soccer, fears of concussions, and various political and social controversies, football is having a tough time these days.
And yet, though decades have passed since I could fling around the pigskin, I cling to my fondness for the sport.
Try as I do to grasp the rules of soccer—and I still attend grandkids’ games regularly—I can’t get that excited about it.
Getting giddy over matches games that end 1-0 or in a tie just isn’t what I see as thrilling competition.
I would probably feel differently about it if I had grown up playing and watching soccer. But I didn’t. So, I don’t.
I discovered football in the second grade when a classmate invited me to join a pick-up game on the school playground.
Up to that point, the sport had been a meaningless jumble of white lines and funny poles along the sides of the field. Once I understood what was going on, I took to the field with joy and abandon.
It likely helped that I grew up in northwest Ohio, where Friday night football was—and remains—autumn’s pastime of choice. Not to mention watching or listening to Ohio State on Saturdays.
Then, to watch the greatest running back of all time on Sundays (Jim Brown) provided the icing on the cake.
As with all sports, I wasn’t any good. The guy who first invited me to play was so fast that trying to catch him was an exercise in futility.
Still, my parents could see how much I enjoyed the game. So, under the Christmas tree that December lay my first football uniform, shoulder pads and all.
Soon, I was on the phone to one of my best friends, Dave.
He also loved to play and agreed to come over so we could enjoy a game in my back yard. In several inches of snow.
How do only two guys play a game of football? One-on-one.
Whoever was on offense would pick up the ball and try to fake the other guy out, or plow straight into him and see how far we could advance before getting tackled.
My problem was, like the guy who first invited me to play, Dave was also much faster. He could easily dart away, leaving me grasping at handfuls of air or winding up chewing snow.
However, years later and 225 miles apart—instead of two blocks—we stay in touch to share our love for Ohio State and to commiserate over the fate of the Cleveland Browns.
Next Monday many people will dive under the Christmas tree, eager to see what toys, gadgets, gift cards, clothing or electronic games await them.
What they will discover is that the glitter, glamor, and hype of the season will quickly fade.
The toys will break or lose their appeal, the clothing will wear out, and the electronic games will quickly become obsolete.
Only the relationships formed and strengthened in the vicinity of the tree will endure.
As a wise man once said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Don’t find your treasure in things.