I just got back from a luncheon with our local college football booster’s club. We had two speakers, and they were a real study in contrasts.
First up was the football coach himself, who’s mired in a nightmarish losing streak (nine straight games against Division 1 opponents): The calls for him to lose his job are mounting. He’s still plenty determined and fiery as he does his best to keep players and fans motivated. Even so, it’s obvious that he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The second speaker was the basketball coach, whose season is about to get under way. His team is riding a wave of good feeling, buoyed by exciting recruits who are joining a solid core of veterans, and the fans can’t wait to see the season start. This coach was lighthearted, peppy, funny: He’s clearly enjoying the game, and enjoying life.
Such are the ups and downs of coaching big-time sports at a big-time school. Two years ago, the coach’s roles were reversed. The football team surprised everyone by going to the Rose Bowl, and the coach was a local hero. The basketball team slid downhill, and fans grumbled that the coach had to go. And so it goes, pretty much everywhere.
When things are going badly, I always feel sympathy for the coaches and their families. I also feel revulsion for many of the fans — not the ones who are merely dissatisfied (that’s legit), but the ones who gripe in a spirit that shows no regard for what the coaches and players are going through. I’m especially bugged to see that spirit among people in church. When they’re talking sports, some of them don’t seem to feel bound by Christian charity.
When times are tough, I’d love to see more people give the coaches a pick-me-up. And of course, the principle applies to every part of life besides sports. So let’s play Barnabas. Look around and see who needs some encouragement. Odds are you won’t have to look far. Odds also are that the simplest pick-me-up will mean a lot to them. A little encouragement goes a long way.