Football is back.
I know, I know, depending on where you stand those three words can make your heart race – or your eyes roll. It can seem like a waste of time, a whole lot to do about nothing, entertainment for the masses… I get it. But watch this and tell me it’s not beautiful:
It’s not a game video, or a highlight package to make sure a high school kid gets noticed. Those few seconds were a practice clip. Practice. For those of us who call Ohio home, football is not just a cultural custom but a rhythm of life, a way of being. Let me share five things that I see when I watch college football:
1. I see young men who practice discipline — in mind and body — every day.
Athletes pour thousands of hours into their craft — in the weight room, in the film room, in the dining room, on the field, and yes… even in the classroom. Amateurs practice till they get it right; the elite practice until they can’t get it wrong. Athletes’ dedication to discipline inspires me to train my body (through fitness and nutrition) and my mind (through intellectual studies like philosophy) so that I may be of greater service to others.
2. I see young men who play for each other and know the importance of teamwork.
These players desire to master their respective positions through unwavering attention to detail and maximum effort. More importantly, they are keenly aware that they play a team-game, and if they don’t play for each other, they won’t find much success on the field. Teamwork like this inspires me to excel at being me, and becoming a thriving contributor to my community and to the world.
3. I see young men who have learned how to attend to the moment.
These young athletes are doing much more than simply rehearsing plays as the coaches expect them to. Rather, they harness their well-honed faculties to attend to whatever play is at hand. These athletes, consciously or not, must be keenly aware of the sacredness and sacrament or mystery of the present moment, or else they won’t make plays. If their attention is someplace else, they drop the ball, or miss the tackle. But when teammates know their individual assignments, and each player is attentive to the moment at hand, the team excels and the fans go: “WOW”! This attention to the moment inspires me to focus on the sacred mission before me — right here and now — and to give it my all, moment by moment, day by day.
4. I see young men who are dedicated to human development.
Coaches who develop their players the right way, ensure that those players live in gratitude, and develop the strength of character to never forget the needs of others. Players with a strong character realize that goodness in life goes far beyond the game. As a result they are sure to take the extra time to excel not just in football but also in their studies and in life.
A great example is the story of the Buckeyes long-snapper, Bryce Haynes, who graduate with a degree in biology and a GPA over 3.5. On top of studying pre-med, Bryce went on a medical mission trip to Ghana to serve the poor. He was touched by the “incredible” joy the people shared despite their poor health and material poverty.1 Once again, I take inspiration from athletes like these, who strive for excellence and continually work to further develop all of their talents — not just as a football player, but as people who wants to do good in the world.
5. I see in athletes an important reminder to never forget the story of where I come from.
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, my friends and family called me Eman. My Grandma Joan was the first to teach me how to throw a baseball when I was nine years old. Her interest in sports, especially the Ohio State Buckeyes, heightened my interest in following what I now can only describe as a phenomenon of pure fanaticism. I am very grateful to my Grandma Joan for her amazing revelations.
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I believe I can become elite at being me through a life lived with devotion, discipline, and dedication. Football reminds me of the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “You are not made for comfort; you are made for greatness.”
By striving to be the greatest version of myself, I can try to contribute to the good of the world by my dedication. And just as the Buckeyes cannot succeed without playing in unison, we cannot have true peace without working together for the peace we so ardently desire. Indeed, the fundamental grounding of all being, of everything that is, is One.
And so we, too, are called to be one. As a people united, we can do wonderful things for each other and for our world. If we play together like the Buckeyes do as a team2 we will do great things as one. If we clear our minds and live life “as hard as we can, as long as we can” in doing good for one another, there is no telling what our world will look like twenty years from now.
But you can be sure of one thing: you’ll find angels and saints of heaven jumping around and cheering, just like a scarlet crowd in the Horse Shoe on a football Saturday in Columbus.
Title Image, “OSU vs. IU” by Flickr user Adam Schweigert, is available here.
“Ohio state football spring game” by Flickr user Paula R. Lively, is available here.