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Wide Left

By January 15, 2016 One Comment
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Fifty some seconds left in the game, down by one point. The ball is on the eight or nine yard line, it’s fourth down, and we have a kicker that’s great from 55 yards, erratic everywhere else. My first inclination was to go into the kitchen—I can’t watch! I’ll admit, it’s based on some silly superstition that they always do better when I’m not watching. On my way to the kitchen I stopped, turned back, and stood in front of the TV. “I’m going to own this,” I said to my buddy, a Packer’s fan who watches Viking’s games with me just to laugh. Snap, spot, kick… wide left. Way left. Game over.

It’s amazing how many people know that I’m a Vikings fan. This past week I’ve had so many people ask how I was doing, smiling big before they ask. To everyone’s surprise I’m ok with it. More than ok… I’m good with it. Yes, I’m disappointed. Yes, there was a twinge of ughness. I probably said some words I shouldn’t have… you’ll have to ask my wife. But in ten minutes I was ok. Call it maturity, call it middle age, whatever… this season I watched the Vikings differently. Yes, I got upset from time to time, but I’ve learned to embrace my team as the team that blows it. They’re usually in the game, they’ve got good players and coaches, they’re on the upswing, but they’re never going to win the big game. I’m ok with it. Why, you ask? Because most people don’t win the big game. For the majority of people life is full of possibility followed quickly by disappointment. Not a joyless disappointment, not catastrophic, it’s the type that makes the playoffs, plays a good game, and loses in the last second on some stupid missed field goal. How many of us have good, but not great, careers? How many of us if asked about our family life would say it’s good… maybe very good… but there’s always something that doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would. That’s ok… that’s life… that’s what it means to be human.

I used to feel sorry for my kids because I’ve imposed Vikings fandom on them. “Nothing but disappointment,” I’d say. I’ve changed my mind. I want them to BE Vikings fans for that very reason. You can call me a “negative Nellie” or a “Debbie downer” but you’re wrong—life is good, but it’s good because most of the time we don’t get what we want and we’re left to deal with it the best we can. There’s a great story about some first graders writing Blair Walsh, the kicker who missed the field goal, a letter this past week, giving him encouragement in the face of adversity. The teacher wanted to teach the kids about empathy. A great lesson… much more important than prideful victory.

So if you see me walking around with my old Viking stocking cap on my head the answer’s yes—I’m still wearing it. Not with pride, but with empathy. Skol!

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

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