by Brian McKay / @RealBrianMcKay
I’m a huge football fan. Specifically, I like the St. Louis Rams. Actually, ‘like’ is not a strong enough word. I love the Rams. I originally became a fan in 1998. Their logo – the ram’s horn on the helmet – was my reasoning. Affectionately, I called them the Swirls (don’t hate me…I was 5). Some people think I’m a bandwagon fan, since the Rams won their only championship (the name of which I will avoid so as to avoid the wrath of the NFL) in 1999. Truly, that was just a coincidence.
I will admit, however, that I wasn’t a big fan at that point. My dad and my brother had favorite teams, so I had mine. It wasn’t until around 2004 that I really began to follow the Rams. Marshall Faulk. Isaac Bruce. Torry Holt. Not Kurt Warner, he was gone at that point. Instead, I rooted for Marc Bulger. Anyway, I’m not just going to talk about my favorite team. I do have a point here.
As I grew to love football even more, I grew to hate certain teams as well. The New England Patriots? Hated ‘em. They stopped the Rams from winning another championship in 2001. The Seattle Seahawks? Hated ‘em. They’re in the Rams division and they have players that can be…let’s just say…irritating.
Throughout my life, though, there’s never been a team I’ve hated more than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The reason? Well, I think it goes back to the 1970s. My dad liked the Oakland Raiders, who had a huge rivalry with the Steelers back then. His dislike for the Steelers was passed down to me (I think it was the dominant trait, for all you biology people).
What’s my point? I’ve buried the lead really deep into this column. So, since you’ve stuck with me this far, I’ll tell you. I’ve truly felt hatred for some of these teams and their players. When the Patriots won their championship in 2004, I was so mad. I was an angry 11-year-old. The Patriots won, and I stood there at my student patrol post the next day, expressing my frustration (one of the names I called them wasn’t very nice). When the Steelers won the championship the next year, I felt the same. I walked around school, fuming. People talked about who should have won MVP, and I scoffed (I was an annoying pre-teen).
This isn’t just a pre-teen-Brian issue, though. Even at 21, I’ve noticed myself getting angry watching Richard Sherman (of the Seahawks) on TV. Like, straight up mad. It’s one thing to ‘dislike’ a team as a rival. When you start to hate the teams and their players, however, there is a huge issue.
We are called, as Christians, to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). We are called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). People who hate us, people who hurt us, people we disagree with, people we don’t know, people we do. And that includes football players that we don’t necessarily want to like. They’re still people, some of whom do not know Christ. We need to be praying for these players.
And we need to watch our anger. Especially as Christians. It’s easy for us to get upset over things that happen in this world, but when our responses are always fueled by anger, when will we show the love and grace of Christ?
I can’t act like I’m perfect. I still have to catch myself when I feel anger or hatred toward players. I’m going to get mad at a player because he plays against my favorite team? It’s a little silly when you actually think about it. Do I like the Patriots, Seahawks, or Steelers? Not particularly. But that’s as far as it should go.
Oh, and go Rams.
P.S. If you want to read more about the confluence of God and football, you can read Chad Gibbs’ book, aptly titled “God and Football.”
Brian McKay is the Humor Columnist of The Back Row. He graduated from Penn State Erie with a degree in Communication. Brian likes working with radio, web design, and blogging. He loves narwhals, pierogies, and football. You can contact Brian on Twitter at @RealBrianMcKay (he wants to see if anyone assumes he's famous) or at btmckay.com.