Grandma McGlone and a Letter from Denver

Last year my husband’s grandmother passed away. She had lived in Colorado most of her life and always cheered for the Broncos. After the funeral, the family went to Mile High where my brother-in-law completed a pass to my husband on the front steps of the stadium.

Throughout the fall, the family passed around via snail mail Grandma McGlone’s t-shirt. Everyone took turns wearing it for a Bronco victory.

So you might say…it’s in the blood, and has been for decades.

In September, David was catching up on sports headlines on ESPN and saw this story by Scott VanPelt (sorry for the clunkiness — I can’t get this to embed).

SVP: One big thing – ESPN Video

David saw a letter-writing routine to be in keeping with Paul’s exhortation to “encourage one another” in I Thessalonians 5. He was inspired to write some letters. He bought some stationery and stamps, and began the next week. Every morning he wrote a note of encouragement to someone in our church.

When he completed the entire church directory, before he began again, he decided to write a note to the guy who inspired him to do so in the first place. So he jotted a note to Peyton Manning, tracked down a generic Broncos address online, and sent it off.

Three weeks later, an envelope from the “Denver Broncos Training Facility” arrived in our mailbox. I saw it and my heart sunk — I was sure David’s note had been returned. Maybe he had the wrong address, or they sent a generic “thanks for the note” reply.

It turned out that Mr. Manning is just really prompt with replying to his mail.

Inside was an autographed picture of Peyton, inscribed with a handwritten note to David and the familiar signature.

So — pretty hard not to cheer for Peyton Manning last night, despite my eleven years in Charlotte. I’m certain the Panthers have many years of success ahead of them. But I’m really glad Peyton got to go out with a win.

We are Them. They are Us. (Part Two)

Duke_Blue_DevilsI awoke this morning to the general despair of the internet world. The whole world is morose, upset that the Duke Blue Devils have won another National Championship in basketball. Evil has triumphed once again.

I have been a casual fan of Duke since my childhood. I fell in love with Bobby Hurley and his scrappy way of pulling his team along in the early 90’s. Duke is not the kind of team that I’ll go go the mat for, like my home teams, but I generally like them and pull for them. There, I said it. I feel the same way about the Tarheels. It’s kind of nice rising above the rivalry and being able to say, “Hey, good job, everyone. You’re all quite good at this sport you love.”

I live in North Carolina, in a part of the state where you’d better be an alumnus to root for “that team.” The people I know here who are Duke fans wear it as a badge of honor, flaunting it and not caring about the Tarheels’ general disgust at them. Coach K is dirty, the Tarheels say. Duke is the snotty rich kids’ school. They pay the refs. They buy victories.

Over the weekend, I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 about Christian Laettner. It is called, unapologetically, “I Hate Christian Laettner,” because so many people did, and still do. You can even buy a t-shirt with the words on it. They showed “The Stomp” before “The Shot,” which I think my husband has cited approximately 35,000 times since I’ve met him as the reason Laettner never should have been in the game to make The Shot. (I agree, yes. I was never a Laettner fan.)

Laettner, for his part, is a good sport about the hate, and frequently takes pictures with fans or haters stomping on his chest. It’s part of his identity now, and he owns it with good humor.

Towards the end of the film, the narrators make the familiar point: Duke as a whole team is hated a great deal because they are successful. Like the Yankees, said the narrator. And…like the Patriots. Yup. That was the first time I heard a professional sports organization link the two. There it was. We are them. They are us.

We are Duke, too, in case you were wondering.

As a high school student, I went to the school that people loved to hate because of its success. It was the snotty rich kids’ school — not because we were rich, but because it was a private school — so people hated us. Then we won state titles, and people hated us more.

It’s no fun being on that side of things — being cast as the villain because you’ve had success. I find myself sympathizing with the Blue Devils more than ever now that the Patriots are in the same place. People hate Tom Brady because he’s good looking, married a supermodel, and is good at what he does. When other quarterbacks erupt on the field, they’re being “fiery” or “competitive.” When Brady does it, he’s being a jerk.

So Tarheels, and the rest of the world, lick your wounds and look towards next season. If your team has won enough, one day they will be the villains too.

We are Them. They are Us.

The past two weeks in the American sports world have been consumed with talk of DeflateGate: the finding by the NFL that 11 of 12 offensive footballs belonging to the New England Patriots were under inflated for their AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Despite the fact that the Colts would have lost the game if the Patriots were playing with a golf ball, it’s never good to see your home team under the cloud of suspicion.

I would much rather cheer for a team that doesn’t “play angles,” and Bill Belichick is known as a coach who excels at it. Playing angles is usually called “gamesmanship” in sports, and the lines are blurry. Who is eligible and who is not? How much time should the defense have to react? What is fair when you’re playing against a guy who is frequently thinking ten steps ahead of you and will push the envelope of legality every single time?

My position through the last few weeks of controversy has been this: Yes, I think there was some behavior here worth questioning. Yes, I still think the Patriots were the better team. But mostly, this is a huge story because people love to hate the Patriots.

Here’s what longtime New England fans have a hard time realizing:

We are them. And they are us.

We were raised to root for hapless teams who lost the game in the most heartbreaking way possible. And now they don’t. Now they win a lot of the time, and perhaps the most dominating of the franchises is the one in the league that celebrates itself for its parity.

More than anything, we were raised to HATE THE YANKEES.

I mean, it made me a little nauseous to go find that image up there on the website. Blech.

The Yankees are the worst. They just are. They just win all the time and wear all their World Series rings and their fans have annoying accents.

Now go back and substitute “Patriots” for “Yankees” and “SuperBowl” for “World Series.”

Do you see it? A little bit?

We are them. They are us.

I feel that if Yankees and Patriots fans, raised to hate one another, could grasp this truth, that world peace could be achieved in our time.

But let’s face it, it’ll probably just end up like this:

In Which I Scold Patriots Fans Whining About Tebow Becoming a Jet

THAT is an appealing title, isn’t it?!  Did you show up here just for the tongue-lashing?  Good for you.


Yesterday around one o’clock Eastern time, it was announced that Tim Tebow, beloved sports star to evangelical Christians everywhere, was leaving Denver for the New York Jets.  About the same time, a huge whine went up from New England.

Here’s why:  New England sports fans love to hate New York teams, and right behind the despised Yankees are the Jets.  J-E-T-S- mess, mess, mess.

But what a terrible conflict of interest for Tebow-lovers in New England!  Whatever can they do?!  Surely they cannot root for Tebow when he wears the hated green and white!

Well, actually, they can.  And they should.  Here’s why.

Our loyalties as sports fans should be dwarfed by our loyalties to Jesus.

Is she saying rooting for Tebow = rooting for Jesus?

Oh my no.  I hope you know me better than that by now.  Here’s what I am saying.

As Christians watching a sporting event we should rejoice at praiseworthy behavior regardless of where it occurs — whether it’s on our side of the line of scrimmage or theirs.  I’ve already talked about Tebow and what I like about him.  It’s not the grand gestures of “Tebowing,” it’s more for his attitude towards other players and his humility.  I appreciated the same thing in David Robinson when he was playing.  I find it admirable in Tony Dungy.  None of these men play for “my team,” but who cares?  God is being glorified in their behavior.  That has very little to do with field performance.

By the way, basketball fans, this applies to Duke and Carolina, too.

Brackets Everywhere!

If you’re interested in joining our March Madness group this year, leave me a comment.  I probably invited a good many of you yesterday.  If you’re having trouble making decisions as you fill out your bracket, you might want to try some of our methods.

Sweetness and Light

As you all know, I’m a sports fan and I love good sports writing.  David and I were pleased to be present at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony when Peter Gammons, longtime Red Sox writer, was honored.  Rick Reilly is also a favorite of us both.

One of my favorite sportswriters is Frank Deford, who is an NPR contributor.  His opinion pieces each week are called “Sweetness and Light,” and one recent story had me all choked up.  I know you’ll enjoy it, too.


Yes, he was a captain, but it was, you see, the first start of his college career. Cory had played a few minutes on the varsity as a freshman, never even scoring. But then, after that season, although he was only 18 years old, he suffered a major stroke. He was unable to walk for two weeks. His whole left side was paralyzed. He lost his memory, had seizures.

Read or listen to the whole thing at When There’s More to Winning Than Winning.

Review: An Incomplete and Inaccurate History of Sport

Since we just finished up football season on Sunday night, I thought this was as good a time as any to post this review of the book my husband put in my stocking at Christmas.

David gave me this book at Christmastime.  Actually, that is only true if you consider the week after Christmas to be “Christmastime.”  He bought it when he was returning a book I bought for him, which I gave him actually on the day called Christmas, along with the stocking stuffers I bought for him.  I still think he should have kept that book.  Oh well.

When he gave me this book during the week after Christmas, I ungratefully said, “oh, come on.  You bought this for yourself.”  He weakly replied, “No, honey, I started reading a bit in the store, and I think you’ll really like it.”  I appreciatively rolled my eyes.

To be fair, I have thought the author is funny when I’ve seen him on ESPN online, so OK.  I decided to give it a shot.

Two nights later, I was laying in bed reading and the bed was shaking because I was laughing so hard.  David was reading his other book that he bought instead of the book I bought him that he should have kept, and feeling quietly justified in buying this book for me.

To sum up:  Kenny Mayne is funny.

The book has illustrations drawn by his daughters, who have some understanding of sports, but not a lot.

He includes sad and thoughtful chapters about the death of his twin sons and people he grew up with.  This is a side of Kenny Mayne that I did not know existed.

But mostly it’s really, really funny.

If you’re not a sports fan, you may know Kenny Mayne from his ill-fated performance on “Dancing With the Stars.”  He recounts that experience in detail, including the following tidbit:

The night before our dance I attended maybe the greatest game in the history of college tackle football.  Texas beat USC on a last-minute touchdown by Vince Young. [Kelly’s commentary:  yes, that was the greatest game in college tackle football.]  I saw that part on TV.  I was sitting fifty-yard line for the greatest game anyone can remember but only for the first half.  I felt I needed to beat the traffic, get to my hotel, and be rested for my big dance performance. 

This was the worst decision in the history of sports.

So if you’re a sports fan, you should buy this book and read it.  If you’re not a sports fan but appreciate humorous writing, you should also read this book.  If you’re neither, you could read it and appreciate the hand-drawn pictures of flowers.

An Incomplete and Inaccurate History of Sport