Wherever I went as the local minister, I always coached sports. Football was the ‘biggy’. In Waycross, Georgia we had a Pee Wee team. Those were the earth shattering times of my early days. Our team was the Quarterman Elementary School and our inveterate enemies were the rich and powerful William Heights Indians. Whoever won that contest had bragging rights for the year. While there were other teams in the league, we were the ones who traditionally fought it out for the title. By the way, we did have two problems on the team that year. The center was ticklish and the quarterback stuttered.
We lost a final game to William Heights (1952), but we still managed to place a number of players on the all-star squad. This was the big game of the season and played under lights. It attracted some 300 fans; about 275 more than attended our afternoon affairs.
Two things happened during the game that was uniquely human. As the clock wound down to less than a minute the bench was cleared on both sides of the field. One youngster, who was extremely small for his age was put in as right tackle. He was a spunky little kid with a lot of zip and enthusiasm and that alone won him a spot on the all-star team.
As the signals were called and the line set, he reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt and spread it lavishly on his face and shoulders. After two running plays, the gun sounded and the game was over. The young gladiator came to the sidelines and excitedly proclaimed, “I didn’t make any tackles coach but I did jump on the pile twice.”
Now more than 50 years later, I recalled the incident that reflects the humanity in us all. Football season is upon us. The clear cold autumn air calls us together for the battles ahead and the all important ‘Turkey-Day’ event. I have played it, called it, coached it and watched it. Why is it, with the kick-off we jump to our feet and scream like a bunch of wild Indians? What is there about us that causes every fan to live vicariously for the next hour? All of us can’t carry the ball or make that crunching tackle behind the line on the quarterback.
When I played football I was an end, guard and tackle. I sat on the end of the bench, guarding the water bucket and tackled any player who tried to get some. Our one purpose as a team was victory. “You can’t win every game”, the coach said, and I thought, “Why not?”
The apostle Paul could have well written about a football team when he penned, “For by one Spirit were we all immersed into one body” (all football payers have to sign up). “For the body is not one member but many” (the average football team may carry as many as 50 players. Only 11 grace the field at any one time).
“If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand; I am not of the body. Is it therefore not of the body?” The quarterback’s hand receives the ball, but without the feet he would be no use at all. “But now has God set the members, every one of them in the body as it pleases him”. The team must have unity and the coach arranges the formation and the plan of attack, starting positions and who fills them. Paul goes on to show that some members of the body (team) that we think are less ‘honorable’ (or less important) are keys to winning.. The running back would have no chance at all if those in the ‘trenches’ did not pave the way and opening the holes in the line for him.
The one thing I could not tolerate as a coach was a blabber-mouth running back who thought his role was the most important on the team. Paul struck that attitude down when he wrote, “For the body is not one member but many.”
When you see our beloved Tigers take the field, look at the starting lineup and remember those on the bench. Look at the center, guards and tackles that form the front line. Watch the ends that may snatch a ball out of the air, coming at 40 miles an hours. Look at the defense as they shut down the opponents and keep them from our goal line.
The conclusion is simple, “That there be no schism (clash, discord, division) in the body.” We all win or lose together. That’s the bottom line. Read the whole Biblical story in I Corinthians 12:12-31.
A famous quarterback for UCLA was asked by a reporter, “You’re a million dollar quarterback. Why do you hold the ball for the extra point kicker?” His reply was straight and simple. “If I didn’t hold the ball, sir, it would fall over”.
The Apostle Paul’s conclusion was simple also. “For by one Spirit were we all immersed (baptized) into one body, that whether we be Jew or Gentile, whether we be bond or free; we have been all made to drink into one spirit. . . now we are the body of Christ and members one of another” (I Corinthians 12:13, 27).
“Hut, Hut, Hut.”