Musing on Moss returning to Minnesota: The Joy of the Return

For readers of the blog it should be no secret that this writer is a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. Yesterday was a day that had most Vikings fans feeling good.  It is the day that Randy Moss came home.  Sure, Randy Moss can and will display a selfish attitude.  Yet, when he is motivated he is a wide receiver like no other.  Yesterday’s trade is one that brought feelings of happiness and hope.  The season looked to be headed in the direction of failed expectations, to one of excitement and a desire to see how things play out. The trade was one that uplifted the fan base.

In thinking about the Randy Moss homecoming, thoughts go to how God reacts when we come home.  Each of us at one point or another go our own selfish ways. We leave God’s path and go our own way.  Yet, God always provides a way of return.  When anyone who has been away from God returns, it is a time of great joy and elation.  This is true for all. Each step of return and repentance brings elation and joy.  And unlike the return of Randy Moss, the end result is no.  When anyone returns to God, the victory is already assured.

Musings from a “Christian” Vikings Fan on Eve of NFC Championship Game

This is a public confession. I am a Vikings Fan and I enjoy football. One thing about being a Vikings fan is that there is a long history of failure in Championship games. The four Super-bowl failures were still when I was young and personally do not remember much of those games. The first game of memory is the Dallas-Vikings game. At that time, I had divided allegiance because I liked Tom Landry. So I do not have the same angst over the Drew Pearson catch as a young boy, I rooted for both teams. However, the infatuation with the Cowboys faded and the connection to the Minnesota Vikings grew as I grew up into a man. The 1987 loss to the Washington Redskins is memorable. I still shake my head over Darren Nelson dropping the ball. The 1999 NCF Championship loss to the Atlanta Falcons is a bitter memory, was actually in attendance of that game. The 41-0 loss to the Giants in 2001 is less of a memory, as was in Brazil at the time. It is a long history of championship futility. It is to the point where Vikings fans almost really expect the worst. Recently I have had conversations with people who already have a loss in mind. In thinking about the game there are generally a few responses found in Vikings fans. The responses even are similar to reactions people experience in other life circumstances. It is worthwhile to a take a look at some common responses.

Expecting the Negative: This can really be a form of learned helplessness, or hopelessness. However, more often the view is if expect the negative there will be no disappointment when if the results are a loss and be even more pleased if they win. Such an approach is miserable in the end. Rather than taking time to enjoy, the focus is on that which is negative.

Engage in superstitious behaviors: Fans do this all the time. Fans engage in an endless array of superstitious behaviors. (Feel free to read my blog article on the dynamics of superstitions.) It is very easy to fall into thinking that if your team wins when you do any behavior consistently, that it was all about that behavior. The reality is nothing we say or do impacts the results. Sadly, Christians also take a superstitious approach to prayer regarding competitive events. There is even a viewpoint that can occur that God’s favor rests more on players of one team or another. Today, there are people who profess Jesus as Lord on all football teams, so any victory can result in God being glorified.

Apprehension and Anxiety: Watching competitive sports when you have an emotional attachment can result in fear and apprehension that the worst will happen. This is different than expecting the negative. Expecting the negative is a form of resignation. This reaction is more about the worries and fears related to the “what ifs.”

Overly optimistic: This response is one that many suffer. It is trusting entirely that the team will be successful regardless. It fails to take into account any of the strengths and weakness, but rather just looks toward success. Sometimes it seems like there a current that if the positive outcome gets repeated enough, it has to happen that way.

Simple fan engagement: This kind of response is one of trying to stay in the moment and enjoy the competition. Feel good about the success and bad about the failures. It is simply staying engaged at the level of what is occurring and moving forward.

Generally, the wisest reaction is to engage in simple engagement. Be aware of the past, be aware of the risks and concerns, but simply enjoy the game as it is. Now on a related and similar note, it is also interesting to look at the reactions the competitors can have that may be related.

Defeatist: This can be the belief that already defeated before start the game. It results in poor performance and results that reinforce the attitude.

Afraid to lose: This attitude in a player results in reactive game play and more often can result in increased mistakes. If you play afraid to lose, you most likely lose. This seems to be the case with the 1998 Vikings in the 1999 Championship game.

Overconfident: This attitude is one where there is no realistic evaluation of opponents abilities and over-evaluation of own talents. The overconfident are filled with pride and are ripe for a fall.

Disengaged: This attitude is similar to defeatist but different in that there is simply a failure to be emotionally engaged in the game. In competition, if there is emotional disengagement, performance can suffer. Emotions can impact play.

Emotionally dependent: For players with this attitude, they need the emotional reactions in order to perform well. Such play can be inconsistent as emotions ebb and flow.

Confidently prepared: This attitude is the type you want to see, being confident in own strength but prepared for what is come. This involves both knowing self and knowing opponent. This involves trusting your plan but being able to adapt to what happens unexpectedly. Having such a mindset can lead toward success, but does not guarantee it.

Both in terms of fans response and in terms of player response we can learn a lot about approach to life. It ultimately is about being realistically engaged in the moment with full awareness of the truth. It involves making preparation and being clear headed about what is to come. As a Christian and serving God, need to be engaged in the moment and not dependent on feelings. Also need to be confidently prepared, which means growing in knowledge of God and His love and His ways. There is no greater confidence than confidence in God. And all the staying in the moment is but nothing if Jesus is not the center of the moments. Feel free to take time and examine yourself, ask God to reveal any attitude or focus that needs changing.

Cultural Commentary: Favre signing with Vikings- Symbolic of Hope and Conciliation

Symbol of Hope and Conciliation

Symbol of Hope and Conciliation

This writer enjoys watching the sport of football. I live in the Twin Cities and the team I root for as a fan is the Minnesota Vikings. The ongoing saga of whether Brett Favre would or wouldn’t sign with the Vikings was a drawn out soap opera with the fans hope that if he signs, perhaps he can guide the team to the promised land of the Super Bowl and a long desired and lacked Championship. His finally signing with the Vikings generated two things among Vikings fans, Hope and Ambivalence. As already stated, the hope is a competent and Hall of Fame Quarterback is the only piece missing for a championship run. The ambivalence comes from the fact that Brett Favre was a member of the enemy for sixteen years. He was the focal point of the team Vikings fans hate the most and care more about whether we win or lose. It is hard to root for one who was once considered the enemy.

The reader may respond with a thought such as “That is well and good and pretty straight forward. So what.” Or “Since this is a blog focusing on Christianity, Life, and Culture what on earth does Favre to do with anything other than drawing hits.” Well, football in general is a game that is rich with symbolism that can be used to illustrate matters of success, faith, and development. The latest result of the saga that is Brett Favre’s career is no different. Clearly there is the nature of hope. We want to hope, we desire hope, we want to feel good. We affiliate with a team for reasons such as proximity and the results impact our mood and culture. Brett Favre brings hope to a community that there is a chance for better. A chance that the desire for the team we cheer for to achieve ultimate success. Yet, there is much more to success than Brett Favre being a successful, healthy Quarterback. Yet, the hope is strong.

A rather harder concept to grasp is that of conciliation. There are fans that do not embrace the hope because of the fact they still consider Brett Favre the enemy. He won the Superbowl and had much success with the Green Bay Packers. Success that is both envied and disdained. Yet, now their past key star player is now a member of the Minnesota Viking. Yet, there is something within us that will struggle to accept the one who was an enemy now being a key part of the team. It does not sit well emotionally, leading to ambivalence.

Now the truth is the hope represented in Brett Favre is fleeting and temporary. The Minnesota Vikings may succeed, they may fail, and they may be mediocre. The hope may be well founded or prove to be false. Brett Favre after all is a human with limitations and it takes more the Brett Favre to achieve success. As a Christian though, I know that hope that does not disappoint exists. This hope is found in the person of Jesus the Messiah. This hope is found in the message of the Gospel that it is not about being “good enough” to be in relationship with the Creator of the Universe, but rather accepting the gift of redemption and turning from self. The true hope rests in that which lasts for eternity, not for a fleeting moment such as winning a championship. I hope Brett Favre and the Vikings win it all, yet their success or lack of success will have nothing to do with my eternal prospects. It will not impact my source of peace or joy, unless I focus on self and not on the certainty of Jesus.

The harder concept to grasp is the concept of conciliation. It is difficult to accept that Brett Favre is no longer considered an enemy. It is difficult to cheer for one that used to jeer. It actually is rather surreal to see Brett Favre in the purple and gold. Yet, each one of us at one point or another was an enemy of God. Each of us had to make a choice to sign on, and to turn from our past enmity. Now for some people the choice comes easily. It is a decision simply known to be right. Other people may hem and haw and have difficulty turning from self and joining God’s team. Many simply reject the offer to join the team TJ Houshmandzadeh. Now some people readily rejoice over Brett Favre joining the Vikings, others simply have stronger reactions. In thinking about the conciliation Vikings fans face with Brett Favre, my mind goes to the Apostle Paul. He was a man who was clearly an enemy to the Church. He killed many, many people. Yet, God transformed this man from a murderous zealot to a key Apostle who served to spread the Gospel and was used to write the majority of the New Testament text. So when I think of Brett Favre as a Minnesota Viking, it serves as a picture of each of our coming to peace with God once we accept the offer of salvation through Jesus the Messiah and turn from our way, to God’s way.

Hopefully you find these thoughts to be helpful and challenging. In order to reach conciliation from God it is never too late. The Hope of that does not fail that is found in what Jesus did to remove the enmity and establish peace with God. I am grateful I am able to join God’s team. On God’s team there is no fleeting reward but eternal. The hope is sure and sound. So if you are not yet signed up to be in God’s team and kingdom, please consider the possibility.