Saturday, as the news broke about the death of Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, I was unsure of how to react. One side of me wanted to smile, this was the side that hates the Raiders and wants to see misery in my opponent’s eyes, and the other side was sad. Sad because Al Davis had run his team into the ground and well, I wanted the Raiders to remain terrible. Now, the pessimist in me believes his departure from the Raiders might make the team I hate a more competitive franchise. The Raiders have been an inept franchise for a decade, but they haven’t always been that way.
For a long time the Raiders were winners, committed to excellence.
Al Davis cared for nothing more than winning. And I, like all Bronco fans, cared nothing for him and am pained by the above video, but I guess he did win some games. According to Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, Davis was devious, but would have taken it as a complement to be described as such. It is fair to say that hate him or love him (he does have a family) he was a driven man who helped shape the game of football.
He made the phrase, “Just win, Baby,” famous. But growing up as a Denver Bronco fan, I just wanted him to lose. For the last decade, if not a little more, that’s all the Raiders have been doing. And as bad as the Broncos have been for the last five years, it has been comforting to know that the Raiders have been worse, except when they beat my team.
Al Davis may have lived his life by his “Just win, Baby,” motto, even while his team was losing, but is life about winning? Football is just a game. Don’t get me wrong, I love sports. I’m very competitive and I believe if it is your job to play a game, you should do your best, but maybe there’s more to life than winning or losing.
I wonder if Davis defined his life by the wins and loses his team acquired on the field. I did not know him so I can’t guess if he lived for more than wins on the field. As a Bronco fan, competitively I hope he didn’t. That way he lived his last ten years in misery. But that’s just the Broncos fan in me, maybe I need to let God work on that area of my life.
But as a Christian, I hope he did live for something more than just wins. While, I admire his desire to win because I believe God wants us to give everything we do our all, I don’t believe life is just about winning.
What is life about then?
What if life was about losing? About giving instead of taking.
Matthew 5 reads like a list of objectives for weirdos. It is counter culture to the max. I mean, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” come on, who lives like that. Or how about, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” That doesn’t sound very competitive. You’re just going to get run over if you live like that. Or what about, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It’s like Jesus is telling people to be losers. Or is he just saying, be different and you’ll be noticed for what really matters.
Jesus wants people to stand out, which is why he says, “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” So if you are living like Jesus you are going to be noticed. You are going to be different and like salt you are going to add a flavor to whatever you shake it into. Did you know salt enhances the natural flavor of any food it’s added too? Maybe that’s what life’s about, enhancing the lives of the people we come into contact with.
What about “Just win, Baby”? That mentality seems to breed the eye for an eye mentality. If someone punches you, punch back, ’cause you just got to win. But Jesus says something different. He says, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your jacket also. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you . . . Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Fans, Jesus wants us to lose. To give more than what is asked from us. To love the Raiders? To pray for Al Davis and the Raider nation as they grieve their owner’s death.
Jesus commands us, and this isn’t just a command he is giving to Christians, this is for everyone out there, even Raiders and their fans, to love. Jesus says in Matthew 12 vrs 29-31, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.”
Ok Bronco fans, this is what our head coach is saying, “Love God and give him your all. Next love your opponents, even the Raiders, just as much as you love your Broncos.”
What is love though?
Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers. Love never fails.
Jesus wants me, a Bronco fan, to let go of all the hate I have for the Raiders. So what if Al Davis never payed my beloved former coach, Mike Shanahan. Life isn’t about money and I am sure Mike Shanahan has enough money and during his time with the Broncos he sure got the wins against the Raiders, as well as two Super Bowl wins for my team. I think if I am to mourn Al Davis, I have to be different.
So how does a Bronco fan mourn Al Davis? First, I stop trying to win at all costs (This is going to be difficult for me, ’cause I’ve been known to wish injuries on my least favorite players). And Secondly, I need to look at the bigger picture of life. Football isn’t just a fun diversion, remember how it helped restore hope to our nation after September 11th? Sports are important, but loving our neighbors is more important.
What would Tebow Do? Tim Tebow, the much debated quarterback for the Broncos, is a Christian who has made a name for himself by standing up for what he believes in. I believe he would go out and play the game with the talent God gave him, but also respect his opponents with a Christlike love. But that’s just a guess. I know Tebow’s not Jesus.
Neither was Al Davis. He was just a man (a neighbor), but a man created in God’s image. He may have just wanted to win and maybe that’s what created such a good rivalry between the Broncos and the Raiders, but life is bigger than the victories on the field. I can mourn Al Davis because he was one of God’s creation. I can mourn him because as a Christian I am called to be different, to see past the gridiron, and to love even him, my enemy.