Sports and the Narrative of Life

For those of you who do not live in the United States, last night the annual Superbowl was held pitting two top American football (many of us know that the real ‘football’ is what Americans term as ‘soccer’!) teams against each other for a showdown of skill, strength, and sometimes, just brute force. With players weighing in the upper 200 pound range just ask a physics major what that weight can do when used in full force. And we saw it in full force.

While not a football fan it seemed a good game; well-played and evenly matched – but someone always has to come out as the winner. It’s a given. That’s what this type of sports is – one team is the winner, surrounded by cameras and hordes of people, and the others? I’m never sure where the others go. Do they head back to the locker room for lecture or consolation from the coach? All I know is that they are absent – at that moment not even tabloid news cares about what they have to say. Their interviews take place after the team who has won has had their moment to shine. There will be no parade in their home cities or states. There will be no trophy. They are, for the time being, irrelevant.

I was discussing this with some friends recently and the conversation turned to how the sports field in many ways plays out the narrative of the human story. Over and over in the sports arena we see people falling; getting back up; scoring a point; getting ahead; falling behind; disciplining themselves to keep going. We watch team mates console and communicate; walk beside and go ahead; encourage and rebuke; but all for a single purpose – to play the game. Does not this beautifully reflect life? Life where we stumble and fall; we get ahead and then fall behind; we go through loss and we go through gain; we have moments when we shine and those when we are the ones in the locker room.

Just as theatre brings us along to watch the human story, so does sports work out the details of that story every time there is a game being played. Even as they are working this story out on the field, fans are in the stands fully emoting throughout the narrative. Watch the faces of the crowd and you know what’s going on in the field. It is the narrative of life and the team is bringing us along as bystanders and cheerleaders. With this in mind it’s no wonder that sports all over the world are so popular.

It’s a Monday morning and we are living out our narrative, our story of life. At any given moment we may feel as though we are winning or losing; falling behind or running ahead; encouraging or motivating someone who is walking life with us. Most of us will not be on the front page of newspapers as either winners or losers, but I am convinced that how we play the game matters far more than becoming a news story. Wherever you are in the narrative, whether shining or just plain tired, take heart that there’s a Coach for the game and an Author to the story who’s right there with you.

19 thoughts on “Sports and the Narrative of Life

  1. This is the only thing I’ve read related to football that I’ve really enjoyed reading…can ya tell I’m not into football :) Thanks for the story

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    1. Loved this comment! I’m not a football fan either….watch the Superbowl for the ads and company but secretly want to watch Downton Abbey while the game is going on. I just took a look at your blog which looks so fun – I too am a nurse by trade and other things by craft! I look forward to reading more. Thanks so much for coming by.

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  2. Trust you to begin on the football field and end with a strong message about the presence of God.
    One of the reasons I think we all like sports is because most of all are stumbling and muddling through life, some days we win but most days we struggle. In this daily struggle we need to see winners. winners give us hope, They give a strong if subconscious message to us that winning is do able. We thrive on that. That is also why we like the movies. The message is stronger there. The good guy wins in the end.
    Sports though are the reality. They are happening out there in front of our eyes, We are witness to the entire process. We are witness to the struggle and witness to the victory. If we have sided with the victors then the victory is ours too for we may not have played the game but we chose the team that won. That moves the victory to us too in many ways. A person may have had a rotten day or month or even a year but at the end of it, what do you know, the team he sided with, the team he chose to like, HIS TEAM WON! That makes him a winner by proxy if you please. He has something to celebrate. A vicarious victory but victory nonetheless.
    I am so tired today aching in every part of my body just want to sleep for a million years, has the story writer written in this pain for a purpose, or is it the result of my own foolishness. I think maybe a little of both. Will see how the story unfolds :)

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    1. All I know is the “Story Writer” loves you deeply! I agree with the vicarious piece of this that we take with us. That is powerful. And we are stumbling and muddling through life – not getting the ball even close to the goal many days.
      I had to laugh at your first line….even as I wrote the post I somehow knew you were going to catch that!

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  3. Here’s a podcast along these same lines that you’ll probably find interesting:
    http://www.radiolab.org/2011/aug/23/

    I imagine folks in your part of the world are sad about the loss last night. My favorite part of sports, though, is that there is always another season to look forward to (the mantra that allowed me to grow up as a red sox fan without slumping into depression every October…)!

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  4. You compare sports, as well as theatre, to life, and it made me think of an old pastor friend named Rob, who once refered to sports as a “soap opera”. I was insulted at first (being a sports fan and all) but realizing he too is a sports “enthusiast” thought about it and had to agree. Soap opera is a reflection of theatre which we agree is a reflection of life.

    Just a note on “enthusiast” – “fan” is short for “fanatic” and Rob was reserved enough to not want to wear that tag. One of the many things I have always respected him for.

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    1. I had no idea that fan was short for fanatic….ignorant of me to be sure!
      I like the word enthusiast very much. Interesting to refer to sports as a soap opera – I think I like referring to it as a narrative of life better!

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  5. This last part, especially, is relevant to the start of a new week, new day, new hour. It is an interesting comparison of life and sports. I think that really so many things in society are just reflections of what happens within the confines of our souls and personal lives. I loved this mom, it’s good to read this on a Monday.

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  6. Thanks, Marilyn for this Monday Morning Message! I just sat down to catch my breath after cutting your Dad’s hair and scrubbing the kitchen an bathroom floors. I have gotten to be pretty lazy in the housecleaning. Usually I just swiff around with a swiffer, and it’s dry before I’m finished so i can go and make a cup of tea to reward myself. But today I decided it was time to give it a real scrub with some powerful floor cleaner. And it’s still drying. Football is such a rough game that I have a hard time watching them pound each other, and how many got hurt last night? Too many. And sadly, the team that loses never seems to take any joy or get any credit for being second best! Too often the message we get about life is that you have to be No. 1 – nothing else counts. So step on whoever you have to in order to get ahead. I like to think that life should be much more about encouraging and helping others along, as you mention. We need to remember what Jesus said about leaders being servants to all the rest, and all of us looking out for those least able to look out for themselves. Dan sometimes teases me about how when you all were little and just beginning to play board games. I never let anyone lose – we had a first winner, a second winner, a third, and so on! I’m not sure I prepared you very well for life, but there were plenty of others out there to tell you when you were losing!

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    1. Umm Marilyn, (MOM) when are we meeting? Oh I absolutely love your comments. It is unbelievable how you mange to pack so much wisdom into them Child psychologists could write tomes and never be able to give such a simple piece of advice.
      With my own children I have realized that every child is a winner in a different way. Talent may be obvious or latent but it is always there, it is up to the parents to recognize it, nurture and protect it till it blooms and flourishes.
      I did not teach my children to be competitive, it did not matter if they won or not, just that they participated in as many things as possible, so they could be well rounded.
      Sports give us pleasure, teach us better co ordination, teach us team spirit, give our bodies exercise and make us more flexible. Isn’t that more than enough… why do we have to destroy all that is positive in it, by adding to it the stress of winning.
      The same goes for learning… learning should be only for the purpose of acquiring knowledge and wisdom and putting it all to the best use, to enable us to live fuller more fulfilling lives in every way.Tests and exams should be based on that and not on who knows more than who.
      As an Indian I so despair of our education system where parents are more competitive than the students and a point something percentage makes a difference to what kind of school, college or University one gets into.
      My husband used to love the races, sometimes two horses would fight it out only for one to beat the other by so little as a nose. The loser who gave it all he had but just did not probably have a longer nose, became unimportant. People who had backed him lost money. He lost his reputation. One horse was better in a race, what does that mean about the one that came second in by losing by a nose.Life is not unfair most of the time people are… people who do not wish to go into the depths of any situation.
      Did i digress? Maybe not.Waiting for your mail.

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      1. Your comments always make the conversation so much richer! I am behind on replying but several things struck me with this comment – your comments on despairing over the educational system in India, your comments on learning – I agree to the depths with that one. Recently I was describing my youngest to someone and said “He loves learning and hates school” I realized even as I was saying it how sad that is. And we know that wisdom has never come through book knowledge but through life lived abundantly – thanks for adding a rich depth to my little post.

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      2. Pari, how I would love to meet you! Of course it would have to be over a cup of chai, REAL chai, not the kind sold in tea bags here. I always look for your comments, and find them very insightful and thought-provoking. Thank you! And if God wills, we will surely meet someday. Blessings on you, and your family. Umm Marilyn (Although my firstborn is Edward, so I guess technically I am Umm Edward)

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    2. I didn’t remember what you used to do with the winning losing piece when we were little! I know that whenever Cliff played the game of Life with our kids there was always a first winner, second winner and so on. Great for that game especially.
      Thanks for the wisdom of this comment.

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  7. I love your interpretation of sports and its connection to life. I guess, I am especially appreciative since I am not a sports fanatic and this allows me to view sports from a new perspective. As always, I compliment you on your writing. Wishing you a lovely week, Petra

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    1. Petra – thank you for reading and commenting. I’m not a sports fan either….I think that’s why the conversation with the folks mentioned was so intriguing to me – I see more the flaws in sports. This post was a good exercise in seeing the good.

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