How Does A Bronco Fan Mourn Al Davis

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.

Let’s Get Spiritual: Retreat from Facebook!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What to give up, what to give up, what to give up.  The other week I was reading my dad’s blog as I prepared to take the high school and middle school students at IAS off on the annual three day Spiritual Emphasis Retreat in Reu, Guatemala.  The retreat is a time where we step away from our regular classes and challenge our students to grow spiritually.  It is also a time to get to know the students on a more personal level.  I love everything about retreat, even all of the pranks that the kids like to play.  Anyway, my dad wanted to know what his readers were giving up for Lent.  Typically I only give up silly things for Lent, like lint or I give up on giving up things.  So, what makes this year different?  Spiritual Emphasis Retreat challenged me to take my time with God a little more seriously.  On Tuesday Mr. McNabb (The school’s director who has no relation to Donavan McNabb) challenged all of the students to be salt and light.

Fun fact there are 14,000 known uses for salt and one of the most interesting is that it has to be present in all Jewish sacrificial offerings.  When Jews fast for God they do not give up salt because you cannot give up God, so they continually add God to their lives.

So, I felt challenged to give something up for Lent.  I wanted to feel challenged in my daily life and see how God added himself back into it.  But what to give up, what to give up, what to give up?

As I finished reading my dad’s blog all of the high schoolers and middle schoolers boarded big chicken busses that would take us down to Reu for the retreat.  As we bounded down the Pan-American Highway, sometimes passing slower moving cars when no sane person would pass, I committed myself to leading my students by good examples.  My hope was that they would see God in me, through my actions.  The theme for our time in Reu was New Beginnings.  I believe it’s hard to start anew if I first don’t give up something old.  How can God speak into my life if I am too busy with the daily routine or worrying about who’s commented on my Facebook wall.

And so I tried to put aside thoughts of Facebook, man I hope they like my current status, and tried to enjoy the best thing about retreat; life with out distractions.  Spiritual Emphasis Retreat is a real time to focus on God because, besides all of the blackberries my students have, we are away from it all.  And on this retreat I really felt like we came together as one and did not let our normal everyday routines and addictions hinder us.  I mean it was a challenge at times because I just wanted to know if my little sister was on Facebookchat so I could talk to her.

Fortunately, I really enjoyed leading discussion groups with Hugo, Luis Pe, Oscar, Lenin, Jose Pab, Sani, and Kain.  I’ve taught most of these boys for the last three years and so some of our discussions were very deep.  Like who’s hotter Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz.  No wait–that was an argument I had with two grown men.  The boys and I talked about our choices and how they affect our lives.  They wanted to know why I have chosen to wait to have sex until marriage and that led into their thoughts on abortion and the responsibilities of being a teen father.  I might not have had all of the answers, but what I tried to tell them is, we all make choices and we must live with the consequences.  I challenged them to be the men God created them to be, which I believe means not backing down from the difficulties life throws at us.

And so how can I expect them to face the big challenges in life if I am not even facing the smaller challenges.  As retreat went by and maybe because I wasn’t getting any sleep (you try to stop six 14 and 15 year old boys from sneaking out of the room to go prank and manage to attain a wink of sleep as well) I felt God challenging me to give up something that I knew would be difficult to live with out; Facebook.  As funny as it sounds it’s a big part of my life and as I write this I am five days into my fast and it’s been difficult.

On Thursday, the second day of retreat, Miss Cromwell, the school’s principal, spoke about how media affects our lives.  Two years ago none of the students had blackberries or iPhones, now they are constantly connected.  I found myself in several conversations about what our lives would be like if we were not on Facebook.

I remember my life before Facebook and now I check it every day.  It has ingrained itself into my existence.  Like James Cameron it directs my daily schedule, yet my life is no Avatar.  I am a real human being who wakes up everyday and checks Facebook; my online life.  I fill my free time flipping through photo albums on Facebook, constantly friending and defriending, liking and commenting, chatting and thinking up witty statuses for people to comment on.  Facebook is a powerful form of media, it might even be how you found this blog.  Media as a whole influences everyone in many different ways, not all of them bad (my blog), but I am not sure I want Facebook to have the influence it has on me.  I do not want to live my life online.

At dinner on the second night I was sitting with Ale, Sharom, Dani, and Gaby.  We were talking about media and the importance of tuning out some of the lies it tries to sell us, what we should look like and what we should buy, and the importance of placing God at the center of our lives.  Right then and there I decided I needed to take a fast from Facebook, and what better time to do it than Lent.  How can I challenge my students to place God first in their lives if I am not willing to do so myself?  Only Ale took me up on my idea of giving up Facebook for Lent.  I am excited for both of us.

Retreat ended and we all went back to our normal lives, but I hope that the little break from normality stirs a desire for change in each of my student’s lives.  I do not know if they have decided to use Lent as a greater retreat and a time to focus on God, but I hope, even if they don’t give anything up, that they do start to add God into their lives in a greater quantity.

Even though we all are now back and in our separate homes and disconnected from each other (not a bad thing, I am enjoying not having to room with 6 high school boys) I hope what God accomplished on retreat keeps us connected on a spiritual level.  I hope my retreat from Facebook helps me realize more of what God has for me.

The worst thing, for me, about retreats is that they end and I go home and have to spend time alone.  Giving up Facebook has only magnified that feeling.  Right now I feel disconnected.  I will publish this blog and it will appear on Facebook, but I wont be able to log onto Facebook to tell people to go read it.  I can only hope people do.  Maybe that is the kind of faith God wants me to have.  He will keep me connected to him no matter what.  My life doesn’t have to be lived online to be connected to those around me.  And so I hope I am able to add a little faith into my disconnected life, which I am now living apart from Facebook.