When I was a kid, once a year there was this very touching movie called Brian’s Song. (A quick sidebar for the kids..this is the “old” version with Lando Calrisian and the dude from Las Vegas in it). Weird thing was my friends and I always wanted to watch it together even though we had an uncomfortable moment of silence when Brian Piccolo died and we would turn our heads and act like we weren’t crying.
Because of this movie, I collected football cards for Piccolo and Gale Sayers, bought the book named after the movie, and an autobiography by Gale Sayers called, “I Am Third”. This was the saying Sayers lived by. It wasn’t an original motto, as he ripped it from the plaque on George Halas’ desk that said the same. The book was autobiographical and had a little coverage of his relationship with Piccolo. Before too long, it begins to center around the title.
The title is actually the third (ironic) line in a very short statement that goes like this:
God is first.
My family and friends are second.
I am third.
The devastation handed out by Katrina and now Rita (as I write this) always exposes the frailty of life, the brevity of this time we have on earth, as well as the charity of the American people (for the most part).
This was illuminated during the surreal period after 9-11. Many movies were shelved from release because noone really wanted to see violence, pain, and sometimes, inane laughter. It seemed like a long time before we laughed together when Letterman finally broke the ice, then SNL and then everyone slowly, and mildly began rebuilding the fabric of American life.
It was during this period when there was much discussion about sports, whether or not the games should be played, and whether they’d ever feel as important again. I heard these same discussions when the NFL opened their season this year. The rallying cry is, let them play!
Is that callous, cold, unfeeling, or maybe even selfish? I don’t believe so. You see every american seems to have a grain in them of that never say die spirit that our forefathers built this country on.
You see, we believe it when we’re told growing up that we can be anything we want. Backyards are filled everywhere with young Jeters, Vlades, Bradys, Kobes, Shaqs, and even TO’s.
I would not trade my time in the backyard where as Maravich or Reed I counted down the final seconds while hopefully draining the final shot. Or when I was Staubach dropping back for that flea flicker that would win the big one. Or when I was tossing the horsehide against the pitchback as a pitcher named Stottlemeyer.
So sports is simply a distraction that allows us to connect to each other, our teams, and our heroes. Especially during times of upheaval. I saw those Saints fans cheering their team’s opening game victory from the shelter. It offered distraction and connection to home.
That doesn’t mean that we should stop praying for those in peril, praising God for putting us in this great country, or giving our time and resources unselfishly as our brothers and sisters need. It just means, “Let them play!”
Over the years, I’ve reworked Coach Halas’ and Gale Sayer’s life motto to fit my outlook. Mine goes:
God is first
My family is second
My church is third
My friends are fourth
I am fifth
My job is sixth
Sports are seventh
Ok, let me let you in on something. Sports is really sixth, I just put it there in case my boss reads this. Shhhhh!