The Universe of Fandom

It was January 28, 1996.  The Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX, at Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona.  I was a died-in-the-wool, cut me and I will bleed black and gold, Steeler fan.  I was so excited for the big game. 


My entire family had been on the edge of our seats, all through the playoffs.  We even joined the local Moose Lodge.  This allowed us to enjoy the games together, with refreshments and a big screen.  I still have a picture of my one-year old daughter, McKenzie, all dressed up in a homemade Steeler outfit.   


Well, that wasn’t our year.  The Cowboys beat the Steelers 27-17.  It was a sad day in the Miller household.


Yet, that pain and the bitter taste of defeat paled in comparison to what I experienced in the weeks following that Super Bowl.  Neil O’Donnell, the Steelers starting quarterback, moved to the New York Jets, for a big wad of cash.  And Bam Morris, the Steelers starting running back, was arrested on drug chargers. 


It was in that moment that I realized that I had allowed a sports team to consume my life.  There’s nothing wrong with cheering on your favorite team.  There’s nothing even wrong with being disappointed when your team loses the big game.  Yet, there’s something very wrong when your life, your mood, your plans and your finances all orbit the universe of fandom for your favorite sporting team. 


That is where I found myself.  Bleeding black and gold.  And, because of the events following that Super Bowl loss, I realized that the black and gold is only a business.  A business designed to win football games, in order to entertain the masses.  The players weren’t in it for me, for the team or for the city.  And the team wasn’t in it for me, the players or for the city.  Everyone was in it for the personal fame and fortune that could be had in the NFL. 


Am I still a Steeler fan?  I sure am.  But if you cut me now, I’ll bleed red.  I enjoy being a fan.  But I will never again orbit the universe of fandom like I once did.  Thank you, Neil O’Donnell, and Bam Morris for showing me the truth.  For it has truly set me free.


I share this story to make a point.  Not about the NFL or the business of sports in our world.  I share this story because of the human propensity to overlook, look away from or even condone negative realities. 


We all do this in the spirit of loyalty.  Loyalty to a team, to a political party, to a family tradition, to a nationality or even to a culture.  The loyalty that is found in the universe of fandom. 


Us humans are able to overlook, look away from or even condone a great deal, because we are fans.  We hold onto that which we have been taught and, because of that teaching, we hold onto that which we have always loved.  To that which connects us to our past, our families and our communities. 


The good news: This isn’t a negative quality of humanity.  This is a positive attribute of humans, who have been created in the image of God.  The bad news: If left unchecked, our focus can and will get skewed.  Which will prevent us from truly experiencing reality.         


Us humans tend to narrowly define the terms of our relationships.  These narrowly defined terms give us an out, when it comes to our chosen perspectives on reality.  I was willing to overlook, look away from and condone the business side of the NFL, in order to be a fan of the Steelers.  I was willing to live on the collective memories of an entire city rallying around a team and a team staying loyal to a city.  Even though, this was merely my chosen perspective of reality.


Did other players, before Neil O’Donnell, leave the Steelers in order to get paid big money somewhere else? Yes.  Did other players, before Bam Morris, get arrested on drug chargers?  Yes.  The difference was that now I knew it and it mattered to me. This combination forced me to make decisions, to go in new directions and to embrace the reality that was actually true.    


I allowed the actual reality, as opposed to my overlooked, looking away from and condoning reality, to enter my universe of fandom.  I had so narrowly defined the terms of my relationship with the Steelers, that before this, I hadn’t realized this reality.  Even though it had always been there.  I was holding on to that which I had been taught by my family, my friends and my city.  And that which I had created as my own version of reality. 


The same is true in your relationship with God.  All of us tend to narrowly define the terms of our faith.  We do this to give us an out from truly following God’s leading.  We overlook, look away from and even condone things that are taught and done, in the name of God.  We hold onto that which we have always known and thus have come to love and depend on.  To that which connects us to our past, our families and even our communities. 


We are comfortable living in these narrowly defined terms of our faith.  It’s what we have learned and have always done.  And after all, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.  Well, there’s a whole lot about this world and about those who claim to follow Jesus, that needs to be fixed.   


If you don’t come to terms with the fact that there is something askew, something that needs to be reconsidered, in your universe of fandom, you won’t grow in your faith.  Oh, and if you believe that nothing is askew in your universe of fandom, you have just identified your first perspective that needs to be reconsidered.   Honestly take a look at your life, what you believe and how that belief translates into your actions.  Take a look to see if you’re living your life as God has created you and called you to live your life. Or if you are living your life as your traditions, history, family, church and community have taught you to live your life.


What are the terms of your faith?  Is there something in your life, that you are over-looking, looking away from or even condoning?  Is there a reality that you aren’t aware of right now, as it pertains to God?  Is your perspective of the world, of God and of others skewed?  Is there any belief that you currently hold that you need to reconsider?    


The good news:  All of these questions need to be answered by everyone who will ever live.  The great news:  Now you know about it and you can do something about it!