Have fun with the game!
January 21, 2011
I haven’t made up my mind how much credit I should take personally for the Steelers beating the Ravens last weekend. I know — the Steelers didn’t beat the Ravens because I had a bet on the game. Though it probably didn’t hurt. I’d at least like to think that.
A few days before the Steelers-Ravens divisional playoff game, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore and I discussed a little wager on the upcoming game. We decided that Catholic Charities should come out a winner no matter the outcome. So I told the archbishop that if the Ravens won, I would make a personal contribution to Catholic Charities in Baltimore. If the Steelers won, he would make a contribution to our own local Catholic Charities. I figured it was worth the chance.
It was. As you know, the Steelers season continued on after last Saturday’s big win over the Ravens. Now it’s on to the Jets this weekend. After that, I fully expect a trip to the Super Bowl and a seventh ring for the Steelers. As a result of last weekend’s game, Archbishop O’Brien will be making a personal contribution to our local Catholic Charities to support all the good work that it does. As Archbishop O’Brien readily admits, if you have to lose a bet, that’s a pretty good place for the money to go.
I have to confess that I was less worried about losing a little money to a good cause than I was over a second codicil to our wager. I had no one to blame for this but myself. I had added to our wager that if the Ravens won, I would cheer for them in every game remaining while wearing their purple-and-black jersey.
Thanks to the great Steelers play, you won’t have to picture me this weekend cheering on the Ravens with a frown on my face. Instead, I’ll be able to enjoy the Steelers game with my team colors — and my dignity — in place.
The sun will still rise
It’s said that Art Rooney — “the Chief” and the granddaddy of the Pittsburgh Steelers — described a conversation he once had with Wellington Mara, the owner of the New York Giants. Both good Catholic men, Mara was saying that when the Giants lost on Sunday it only took him a two-block walk on Monday before he could feel how glum the city was over the loss. Rooney answered that all he had to do was open his front door.
We do invest a lot in our Steelers. There’s nothing wrong in that, as long as we keep it in perspective. Hard as it may seem to realize, the sun will come up the next morning and the world will go on turning if the Steelers lose this weekend. Football is football and life is life. We are looking for trouble if we can’t make that distinction.
God gives us so many mercies in this life, small gifts that can be moments of actual grace — when we can feel his pleasure in our creation. The serenity of a beach at sunset, the beauty of snow falling gently on an open field, a glass of wine with friends, a book that sets us to thinking, a movie that entertains us, a football team that inspires us.
But even these little mercies can be abused if we make too much of them. The serenity of a sunset or the beauty of falling snow is a reflection of God, not a replacement for God. A glass of wine holds the temptation of a lifetime of troubles if moderation fails us. And even a football team that inspires us can become an addiction that steals too much time — too much energy — from family and friends, and even from God himself, or whose success or failure becomes the barometer of how we approach the gift of a new day.
I know that the remaining days of winter will seem a little darker, a little gloomier if the Steelers don’t win a trip to the Super Bowl this weekend. But a game is just a game, and if they do lose pretty soon we will be talking about the upcoming draft and having fun with a new season.
Having fun — that’s the key phrase. Have fun with the game, enjoy our Steelers, but don’t let these things define us, don’t let them become such a passion that we lose perspective. The most important thing that came out of my bet with Archbishop O’Brien last weekend is that I had the opportunity to discover a wonderful Catholic charity in Baltimore. If the Steelers had lost, I was going to personally contribute to Our Daily Bread, a hot meal program that serves more than 250,000 meals each year to Baltimore’s hungry. I decided to make that contribution despite winning my wager.
While I sit here this weekend enjoying the fact that I’m not wearing a Ravens jersey, I should also take a moment to express my thanks. The doctors tell me that I am doing fine after my back surgery and, slowly but surely, I should be returning to the swing of things. Right now, I feel pretty good thanks to those good doctors and the care I received. But I also must thank all of you. The prayers, the Masses, the kind thoughts and the beautiful cards were simply overwhelming. I was able to confidently approach this surgery because I could feel your presence, feel your concern, feel your prayers — all of which are a reminder to me of how much I am in the palm of God’s hands and under the mantle of the Blessed Mother. Thank you so very much, and please be assured of my prayers for all of you.
When the doctors give me the go-ahead, I’ll be up and at it, ready to be with you once again full time. In the meantime, I think I’ll watch a little football. And not in a Ravens jersey.