It's a sports fan's dream time of year. Baseball playoffs. NFL and college football. NHL. Nextel Cup. Even the NBA preseason and college hoops right around the corner. It's enough to make the ESPN family of networks blow up like a feasting tick. And me, being a man... well, I love it.
I'm not trying to sound sexist because I know there are plenty of women who enjoy sports. There are plenty of men who just don't get into a lot of stick and ball activities also. But for the most part, sports are for men for the simple reason that it is a base language for men of all ages.
For example, there have been many times when I've been in a situation to carry on conversation with men I don't know well. Of course when they find out I'm a pastor, a nervous sweat starts to flow down the nape of the neck of the average guy. So I easily move to Man Language -- sports.
"Did you catch the Notre Dame game last weekend? Some game, huh?"
Now both of us may not have seen any more of that game than the score in the newspaper the next day, but chances are it will begin a conversation which could last as long as necessary (usually until our wives come back into the room). It's a starting point, at the very least. At most it's common ground... a base which the two of us can share.
There are a lot of men who won't give me the time of day when it comes to "any of that God stuff," but if I want to discuss the race last Sunday or the best NFL defense ever (the 1985 Bears, if you must know), then these guys will act like my long-lost relatives. It's a comfort thing. It's non-threatening. It becomes a common language.
I've noticed it with my boys as well. Sure they will talk to me about other things, but we really connect when we talk sports. Their opinion is no better than mine, as our fantasy football team performances clearly show! They appreciate my years of experience plopped on the couch in front of the Game of the Week, and I appreciate their desire to know everything about the game. We can always talk sports. Specifically at our house, it's NFL football, IndyCar racing and occasionally Major League Baseball. Then there's always the teams the boys play for. Sharing a common love for a game, for sports. It was the same with my Dad and myself. My Grandpa too. Sometimes the only thing I could even talk to my Grandpa about was his Dodgers. It was a common language.
Why is it that Christianity cannot be a common language? Maybe because it makes people nervous. Too many strongly held opinions. But then again, have you ever tried to get a Packers fan and a Bears fan to civilly discuss which franchise is better? Hint: put on fireproof underwear and a suit of armor first. Sports fans have strong opinions, but we're not warned to avoid discussing politics, religion and sports, are we?
But people shy away from talking about their faith or lack thereof. I think part of it could be the lack of one vital piece of equipment -- a scoreboard. It isn't obvious enough who the "winners" are. The Christians don't look different enough. We don't intrigue the unbelievers. Our lives don't show the joy we supposedly feel inside. Far too often, there is no proof that we're any better off for showing up in a church building every Sunday morning. We know we're saved, we know we are filled by the Holy Spirit, we know we are to be serving our Master, but our actions make us look like the people who live for material gain and instant pleasure.
Sports is a common language for men. We assume that the other guy has at least a passing interest in sports, but we can't assume that the other person has any kind of interest or even tolerance for Christianity. Christianity isn't a common language because most people rarely see it practiced.
Funny. Jesus said that His disciples would be easy to pick out. We are to be the ones who stand out because of the way we love each other. How sad that we spend our time incognito.