I really know nothing about sports. I do not follow any sports either. Sure, I can watch a game, and I know sort of what is going on, but I do not really get it. Nor do I get particularly excited about sports. Instead I think that I should be more concerned with other things, more important things like foreign policy, the care and well being of my fellow person, the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, and delicious, delicious Hubig Pies. So, I wondered why I said yes to saying the prayer before the Hornets game last night.
I have prayed for them before, about a year ago. The whole process to me was fascinating. First, I arrived about two and half hours before the game started. Next, I practiced my 15 second, non God mentioning, non other team bashing "prayer." Then I waited, sitting court side watching both teams practice until the game was ready to begin. Dozens of people scurried around the arena making preparations, all very serious. It was neat to watch how they put together a game, but I did not give a whit about the game. So before the singing of the National Anthem, I walked to center court, did my prayer for the crowd, and went home. What was the point of staying and watching a game I did not care about from the nosebleed section by myself?
The call came on Wednesday. They wanted me to come again and say the prayer. I thought about it. Would this be a waste of my time? I have so many other things to think about and worry about right now than some stupid basketball game. I said yes, prepared my "prayer," and I asked my 11 year old nephew to go with me.
Now I should tell you, that unlike his aunt, my nephew actually loves sports. Not that I am biased, but he is also really good at sports as well. It is a mystery to me, but somehow he got some really athletic genes (must be from the other side of his family). So, like I said, I asked him to go.
I picked him up about two and half hours before the game. I warned him that it might be really boring, and we could leave as soon as I was finished with the prayer. He shrugged, and said: "Okay." When we entered the arena, the players were practicing on the court. I watched my nephew's eyes light up. He asked if he could take a picture. I said yes.
We walked around the court and sat in the fancy front row seats, while he took pictures of the home team and the visiting team. He told me who the players were, groaning when I would say: "Who is Lamar Odom?" He said quietly to me: "This isn't as boring as I thought it would be. It isn't boring at all really."
It wasn't boring at all really. He was right. We went to the VIP cafeteria (which did nothing for him or me for that matter). He got to stand where the visiting team ran in right past him. I walked to center court and gave my prayer. Then we made our way to the highest section and watched the game.
As I sat there, smiling and clapping and watching that game with my nephew, it dawned on me that I had not thought at all about my worries. All I was concerned with was whether or not he was having fun, and soon enough his fun was infecting me. I thought I was doing something nice for him, and his joy did something wonderful for me.
It wasn't boring, it was cool even! I was so wrapped up in myself and my problems that I could have very easily missed this opportunity for joy. I still do not care about sports. I certainly have some theological/political questions why they feel the need to have a prayer before a game. I could have very easily said: "No way, too boring and not my theological cup of tea," but somehow being able to offer this to my nephew made the game amazing to me. Being able to share in his enthusiasm and joy, made me enthusiastic and joyful.
I got an opportunity to share something neat with someone I care about. How often does that happen? How often do we just push those opportunities aside because we are not all that interested or we have "more important" things to do? How often do we offer others a gift- maybe one we do not care about as much, but means the world to the other? Are we able to joy in another's joy, even if it is not our taste or style or interest? We do not often get to share in another's joy maybe because we are too caught up in trying to fulfill our own joy.
Well, I am not sure I will go to many more games, maybe if I get a free ticket or something, but I hope I get the opportunity again to offer joy to someone and get to share in it.