By now, most people know that I’m a football fan ~ specifically a New England Patriots fan, for which I receive very little support from the congregation! (No worries, it’s all good.) But Sunday I found myself in a quandary. Here’s Cam Newton, starting for the Patriots, and it’s not on TV. Here’s Tom Brady, starting for the Bucs, and it is.
Add to this the fact that the Raiders now play in Vegas, the Washington football team doesn’t have a name (it’s actually going by “Washington Football Team”), fan sounds are piped in, and in college football, there are not enough teams playing to fill all the bowl games, which should mean everybody gets in ~ even the teams that are playing 3-game seasons because everyone else cancelled on them.
Now back to the Patriots. I was born in Rhode Island and grew up in Connecticut, and the Patriots were generous enough to call themselves “New England” even though they played in Boston ~ so they earned the right to become my team, despite the fact that two New York teams were technically closer (but also technically played in New Jersey). Wow, I just realized how confusing this is.
Tony Eason and Steve Grogan were my early heroes, and while we did get to one Super Bowl, we lost to the Chicago Bears 46-10 (yes, “Da Bears”), and on top of that we had to watch years of Bears skits on Saturday Night Live and put up with the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” which was a poor dance but an even poorer rap song, not that you can tell from the expressions of the players in the video.
You are wondering if this has a point ~ it does. Midway through the day I emerged from my sports fan identity crisis with the help of a friend (a Jets fan, who knows all about this sort of problem). I decided that I am still a New England Patriots fan because that’s my team, even if they don’t win and even if I don’t like all the decisions they make, because we have history together and they call me their own even though I now live in New York, the home of the New Jersey team that beat them twice in the Super Bowl.
And then I realized something big. I feel the same way about my country and about my religion. I don’t like everything about the way our country is run, nor do I like everything about the way the United Methodist Church is run. For example, today I had to be on a 2-hour church Zoom call that started 5 minutes after the Brady game started. And yes, I DVRed the game and went on Zoom with all the other dutiful pastors, but no, I did not like it having to tape the game that I had been looking forward to for the entire pandemic!
This being said, I love the United Methodist Church and the United States of America, and I am proud to be a United Methodist and an American, and I will defend each even though we’re not in perfect agreement, because this is what families do, and what kind of person would I be if I were ungrateful for all the good years and all the blessings?
We may be going through an incredibly tough time right now, perhaps the hardest time of our lives, trying to figure out how things got so bad and if we’ll ever emerge. We’re confused, angry and scared, because a world in which Tom Brady plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a world turned upside down. We just wish things could go back to normal and we could win another Super Bowl, because 6 is not enough. Oh wait, did I say Patriots? I meant to say pandemic.
Let’s hold onto our allegiances: our friends, our families, our communities, our teams, our churches, our nation, the ties that bind. In a topsy-turvy world, they remind us of who we are and where our allegiances lie. Fans don’t always get what they want, but as the famous Mets saying goes, “You gotta believe!”