20 May 2009

of gridiron and the not-so-vacuous void

There was a moment in February of 2004 when a tiny newspaper blurb from The Star, a South African newspaper, allowed me a previously unknown freedom. It read:

American Gridiron: New England 32 Carolina 29

I was living as a missionary in Johannesburg and, for the first time in my life, I had missed the SuperBowl. And then it hit me. I hadn’t really missed anything. Some steroid-enhanced guys in tight, shiny pants ran around chasing a ball and someone was declared winner when a backwards clock read all zeroes.

(Sure is silly when you put it that way…)

But it was true. I hadn’t missed a thing.

I began to reconsider a lot of things in those days.

I began to consider the identity that I had built around other people’s ability. I began to consider how I had sought transcendence in overpaid laundry rather than eternal surety. And, living in Africa, I began to consider that I didn’t need sports at all…especially not to the level that I had previously submitted my life to them.

As a result, I largely gave up the day-to-day following of sports.

The beauty of the process was in the freedom it delivered. Rather than possessing a void where sports once stood, the fullness of the other aspects of life crashed into fill the vacuous space, leaving me with a greater satisfaction than ever before.

I still enjoy sports. I read a columnist or two regularly, as I love reading and I love good writing. I watch soccer every now and then, as it transports me back to Africa and back to a place where I feel connected with my faraway friends.

But it is nice not to be owned anymore. All because of one little line in an African newspaper.

American Gridiron: New England 32 Carolina 29

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