Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Footblog #5: Beware the Underdog! (A Lesson in Humility)

I perched on the sofa, one foot on the floor and the other curled up underneath of me, ready to pounce at the television screen at any given moment. All week long, I'd heard from fans, friends, and fools how lousy of a team Akron was, how easily we would beat them, how simple of a schedule we had for the rest of the season. It's convenient and comfortable, sitting up on this high horse after beating Notre Dame and then going on to a team like Akron. Have you ever even heard of them!? Well, if you have, you'll know that before playing my Michigan Wolverines this past weekend, Akron had only won FOUR of their last THIRTY-EIGHT games. That means that, when playing, Akron wins less than 11% of the time. So, what are the odds they were going to even score against the great Wolverines? They should be happy -- no, they should be honored -- to even be playing in the Big House, which seats 107,501 people (not counting the people who aren't seated, which usually adds up to another thousand or two or three...). The population of the city of Akron isn't even twice that. Seriously.

So, imagine my disgust when they scored a field goal, because my Wolverines allowed them to get close enough to score a field goal. And then a touchdown. And then TWO MORE TOUCHDOWNS! I went from annoyance, to anger, to rage, to humiliation in just four fifteen-minute segments of play. Never mind that we won. Never mind that we outscored them in the end by a mere four points. Never mind that I wasn't at the game but I was screaming at the television like I was coaching the players myself (and, to be honest, coaching the coach...). Never mind that we were playing poorly and they were playing well. Never mind that their name is the Akron ZIPS! Just remember this simple phrase that lolled around inside my head, writhing and then churning and then spinning out of control:

We are better than they are in every way, and they're embarrassing us.

(Wow. Talk about haughty.)

Here are some things I didn't think about: 
The joy they must have felt at being the underdog and being able to score any points at all.
The thrill of being able to stop the offense of such a legendary team.
The elation at being able to wind their way through the Michigan defense in their own stadium.
The happiness they received from proving themselves more than just an underdog in front of over 100,000 fans of the opposing team.
The pride their coach must have felt in not only a game well-played, but a game-well played against a force to be reckoned with.

This is where it comes down to the old adage, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." And it comes down to the same adage in our own lives every day.

Are we going to play the game with such haughtiness that we allow ourselves to slip? That we look down on others as not being good enough? That we scoff at the efforts of anyone else because we're so prideful that we think we'll always come out on top no matter what? Are we just going to phone it in instead of giving it our all? Are we going to wallow in our arrogance every time something doesn't go the way we want or expect it to? If that's how we play, then we're in for a big surprise, and a great deal of humiliation eventually.

Or are we going to play with joy and excitement regardless of circumstances? Are we going to play with determination, endurance, and a drive to do everything the right way so that maybe, just maybe, we will be victorious in the end? Are we going to practice everyday, look at every new challenge as an opportunity to do our best, and jump into even the most frightening of circumstances with hope and faith?

"Do nothing from factional motives or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility, let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned not for his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus..." Philippians 2:3-5 [AMP]

Because, in the end, if we play the game the right way? Everyone wins. Even the underdog.

Stephanie Jean

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