Football season has descended and we are firing up the 12th man in Seattle! The level of commitment that football fans demonstrate is awe-inspiring. In so many ways, the worship that happens inside the stadium is more intense than the worship we see in many churches. What is it about football that ignites her fans so intensely?

As I think about the question of the influence of football, a few thoughts come to mind.I think the words “tribalism” “consumerism”  &  “competitive-ism” sum up the questions of football’s powerful influence.

Humans are a tribal people. We click up and team up with people who are generally wired like ourselves. We rally around a common cause. We group up around ethnicity. We band together and fight for the protection of our tribes. This is normal and good. It creates a sense of personal and group identity which fills our need to belong somewhere. Football is a tribal game. A fan-base has a common enemy, common identity (team colors, mascot etc.) and common goals, to win! When we create tribes in this way, it unleashes a powerful group dynamic and we feel the power when we enter our tribal stadium.

Americans are a consumeristic people. This one is true, but has less positive attributes. Did you know that if the rest of the world consumed products at the same rate as Americans do, we would need 6 additional planets to produce all the goods that would be consumed. We buy into Madison Avenues branding and sell job convincing us of all the things we need to purchase. They  brilliantly tie their marketing into our tribalism, and the net result is a nation addicted to consuming. When you have bought in and invested in your tribe, your commitment level naturally increases with your financial buy-in.

We are competitive by nature. Football also unleashes the competitive gene within us. When our tribes enter the stadium, our adrenalin and endorphins go nuts, much like group blood lust in days gone by. While we have evolved somewhat, the drive to win, beat, destroy and demolish is always within us, and football creates the tribal, consumer and competitive trinity of identity that fills stadiums across the country. The competitive nature within is very powerful, never underestimate it. Many people live vicariously through their team,or favorite player to such a degree that each win, loss, hit, fumble or spectacular catch becomes theirs as well!

I’m sure there is a great study out there somewhere on the power of team sports, but in light of our fresh season of football, I think we can acknowledge that we enjoy it and  it’s time to start rooting for our particular tribe.

My greater hope tis that our faith would move beyond the football stadium and go beyond the commitment and intensity we see there. Maybe there is something here the church needs to learn eh? Or perhaps that is my consumeristic grid speaking!

Here are some great quotes about football to help you get a first down this week!

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Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.   ~Vince Lombardi 

Sectional football games have the glory and the despair of war, and when a Texas team takes the field against a foreign state, it is an army with banners.   ~John Steinbeck 

Pro football gave me a good sense of perspective to enter politics: I’d already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded and hung in effigy.   ~Jack Kemp

When I was playing for tips in college, I felt a fire in my soul. I had the same principle of focus that I had learned playing football.   ~Kenny Chesney 

Our goal was to win, to win a Super Bowl, but also to win in the right way, to be role models to our community, to represent Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and the National Football League.   ~Tony Dungy

“An atheist is a man who watches a Notre Dame – Southern Methodist University game and doesn’t care who wins.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.  ~Vince Lombardi

Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football.  ~John Heisman

Football is mesmerizing, because it’s a figurative war. You go in one direction till you get there, but you get there as a team, not as an individual. Players bond whether they’re black or white, much as soldiers do.  ~Oliver Stone

Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up — from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s OK You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.
~Vince Lombardi

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare.  They are consumed in twelve minutes.  Half-times take twelve minutes.  This is not coincidence.  ~Erma Bombeck

Football is not a contact sport.  It’s a collision sport.  Dancing is a good example of a contact sport.  ~Duffy Daugherty

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