I love watching the soccer games in Russia this week and I wonder what they can say to me about a transformed life. Are there perspectives open to me that can bring alive the events of the game and point to other realities?
The World Cup is about nations, people cheering for their countrymen. It’s about belonging to a group, and what a fine feeling that is. But what if the group was … everybody? We could cheer for all the great passes, shots and saves, no matter who made them. We could cheer for players who push the ball forward, launch lots of shots at the net, throw themselves through the air for a header, rather than those who play defensively, hanging back, not risking a pass in heavy traffic. I would like that.
I love watching the ball fly through the air. When a right-footed player curves a ball towards the goal, and it looks like it will miss to the right, but then tucks inside the post, it’s a thing of beauty. It makes me think of times when something I’m doing isn’t working out right but somehow providence intervenes and I’m being carried on the winds of goodness to a safe landing.
I love seeing the fans go crazy when their team scores – the ecstatic smiles, the hugging, the jumping up into the air. Especially little kids, maybe with painted faces, their eyes so wide with delight. What if we could have the same explosion of joy because we love each other – a celebration of including everyone in our human family? No one left out. What if a man or woman walks into the room and our immediate response is “You’re here! I’m so glad to see you”? That would be lovely.
Near the end of the Portugal – Uruguay game today, Edinson Cavani, who had scored both of Uruguay’s goals, fell to the ground, injured. Portugal’s Ronaldo, acknowledged by some as the best player in the world, helped Cavani limp off the field. What life is all about, I think. Fierce competitors, yes. Companions on the human journey, even more so.
And then there were the national anthems. It looked like every player on both teams held their head high and belted out the familiar lyrics. What if we all expressed ourselves that way, looking into the eyes of those around us and saying what was true, expressing ourselves without antagonism or a beating of the breast? That would be so fine.
Sport points to the truths of transcendence and community and love. May we have the eyes to see that winning and losing are pale shadows of what really matters.