Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The NFL and I!

I have recently been called out by two friends regarding my continued viewing of NFL games. People who know me, know I am an avid Kansas City Chiefs fan. In fact, I have been for many years since meeting Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier.

You may also know as of this writing the Chiefs are 5-0, making them the only undefeated team in the NFL. This is not something that has happened very often and is quite exciting for me.

Now many people are boycotting the NFL and I support them and applaud them for doing so if that is what they choose to do. I understand their motives. There are some things I have decided to boycott as well that have affected my life for doing so. NFL viewership has decreased sizably in the past few weeks as has their attendance. Again, I applaud those who are exercising their rights to make that kind of impact.

I will not even get into the discussion as to why these people are kneeling. I feel that if they truly want to protest and draw attention to their concern of racial inequality that is certainly fine and their right to do so. I just feel this is not the vehicle by which to do that. But that is as far as I'm going with that.

The reason these two friends called me out is because they both know how patriotic I am and how sappy I get when I hear any song about America. 

Here is something they may not know. I have stood at events for YEARS and shed tears, bit my lip, fostered my anger and even confronted disrespectful people. For years while I am standing there with my hand over my heart, fully erect in my stance and with tears in my eyes I have seen kids play, teens scoff and adults laugh and talk and eat and dink the whole time the anthem played. It makes me seethe. I didn't boycott the NCAA or professional sports because of the fans lack of respect.

I even had to research military protocol before because I saw men in uniform who were not covering their hearts or even saluting. I learned there is protocol I knew nothing of in the military and standard procedure that is their own show of respect and honor.

On August 17th of this year Northeastern High School was playing D. H. Conley (it was a Thursday night because of predicted rain on Friday) I was doing yard work that evening in my yard from which I can hear the game being announced at every home game. I was weed eating when I heard the national anthem begin. It wasn't the band because it was the first game of the season and I don't think school had even started yet. It was a recording.

I immediately stopped what I was doing and went to full attention. Holding my weed eater in my left hand and covering my heart with my right hand, I stood in my drive way facing the school. Tear in my eye, I begin to wonder what my neighbors must think but really didn't care. I listened to a beautiful rendition of the anthem that I later found out was a Whitney Houston recording.

Some times I stand up in my own living room and cross my heart for the anthem.

The flag, oh my goodness how I love my flag. I display American flags in my yard very often. Several years ago I began a little tradition on Memorial Day. I buy several flags and I visit the cemetery. I put a flag my daddy's grave and my father-in-law's grave and then I just walk around and look for random veteran markers. I don't go to the veteran's memorial section where there are already hundreds of flags, I go where there are no flags. I place American flags all over the cemetery and no one sees me. I go alone and I am often crying as I place the flag at a grave.

So, yes, I can see why someone might question my continuing to watch football on TV. But here is something you will not, can not question. You can not question my allegiance to my country, my anthem, my flag and fellow Americans who helped secure my freedom. 

Now, I run through the emotions when I see the way some of these football players act. I have lots of feelings about what they are doing. But let's use my team as an example. Last Sunday, as I understand it by looking up how our players reacted during the anthem, I found that two of them remained seated.

There are typically 53 dressed out players on the field. If two remain seated, than fifty one are standing some crossing their hearts some just standing still. I get to choose whether to boycott the two or appreciate and honor the 51. 

There are good men out there who do not feel the way the small group does. Why should I hold against the vast majority of my players what the small amount does?

God Bless the players and staff that remain standing and respect the anthem, the flag and this country.

The difficult thing here is whether or not I have offended anyone at all for watching and celebrating my team play. I am even willing to stop watching if I receive a significant response saying people are offended. I would rather miss the game and show you my heart of Christ than to offend you over some worldly pleasure like football.

Remember there are some good Christian men out there on many of the teams who are doing all they can to share their faith with their fellow players. May I encourage you to join them in prayer that God may touch hard hearts because of obedient and loving servants who happen to play football for a living.

God Bless you all!


robyn said...

Pastor, I love and respect you from the bottom of my heart, and I think you know that. I certainly AM NOT offended in the least at your decision. If anyone knows you, then of course they know your love of your country.
Im not even sure I am as patriotic as you are by any stretch of the imagination.
I have not just boycotted football,I have chosen at this time to completely give up the love of the game. Not because of the few that chose not to stand. But for the league that allowed them to do so, and still get paid for it. They will start standing again, but only because the league sees the money it cost them. Not for the reason of respect for our country.
Im proud of you for being the man/Pastor you are and I tjank you for that.

Jeffery Russell said...

James! Thanks so much for helping me sort out and prayerfully sort out my feelings about this God bless you for your timely and well-thought-out, godly words of wisdom!