I grew up in an Irish Catholic family where three things happened on Sunday- Mass in the morning, Sunday dinner at noon, and Sunday night football which started with the pre-game festivities around 5 pm.
I grew up in Connecticut, so the New England Patriots were our favorite team.
During the football season, Mom would usually forego the Sunday dinner obligation in order to get ready for the football gatherings with friends. We grew up in a great neighborhood with close friends who became family through the years. Everyone brought a dish to share and whatever they wanted to drink.
We started with hot and cold appetizers, and dinner, and finished off with dessert.
These Sunday gatherings with family and friends are one of my favorite memories.
While I tried to like watching the game, I honestly just got bored with all the starts and stops. I enjoyed watching my older sister play high school sports; she was an amazing athlete. I played field hockey in high school for three years and I enjoyed the faster pace of that game on and off the field. But truth be told, sports just wasn’t my thing.
People are my thing.
I have always liked connecting with people- sharing stories, laughter, and having a good time. Our Sunday night gatherings were more about building relationships and sharing good food than about watching the game on television (although my older siblings and friends might disagree).
And since people are my thing, I enjoyed listening to the pre and post-game interviews because that’s where we heard the stories of players’ lives and history and the families that were so proud of their loved one’s achievements.
Those interviews were also the place where players would reveal their faith.
Even as a young child and into my teenage years, I loved hearing players giving honor to the Lord and thanking God for the blessings of family, and a career that enabled them to play a game they loved. These players, rather than acting like modern gods, honored God with their lives and livelihood.
I have been inspired by the athletes who live and display their faith on and off the field. When messages were popping up on my phone to “pray for Damar”, I turned to Google to find out who was the person inspiring everyone- even people who don’t express belief in God- to pray.
When I watched the video clip of Damar Hamlin’s collapse and read the articles, I was moved to tears. I believe a miracle occurred on the 50-yard line while millions of people watched in the stadium and in homes across the nation.
The first miracle was one of skilled medical intervention from trained emergency personnel who were able to restart Hamlin’s heart and transfer him safely to the hospital where he was intubated and stabilized in hopes that his body could heal.
But an even greater miracle happened on the field as the NFL dropped to its knees in prayer for Hamlin. An organization that years prior supported players to “take a knee” as a sign of protesting racial injustice while frowning on players’ public demonstrations of prayer, now led their teams to kneel in prayer for Hamlin.
Hamlin certainly is making a remarkable recovery, even if his doctors shy from using the term “miracle”. I would say when an ESPN commentator goes off script to pray for Hamlin on television — and wasn’t fired — that’s nothing short of a miracle.
These are the stories and witnesses that get my attention directed to the football field and inspire me to hope. While we know that Hamlin still has a road ahead of him to recovery, he has certainly made tremendous progress thus far.
I can’t help but wonder if for such a time as this, God is becoming more visible to more people in more tangible ways. I would certainly rather see demonstrations of prayer on a football field than a bizarre display of demons dancing on a stage at the Grammy’s.
We need more stories of hope and inspiration to get us through the ups and downs of life.
If praying for miracles is the future direction for ESPN and the NFL, I might just become a fan.
Go, God, go!
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