You might have heard about a football game being played this Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I don’t think WWII received as much media attention as LSU vs. Alabama. It’s the latest manifestation of hyperbole.
Gary Danielson will be calling the game and was on the Dan Patrick show this morning. Dan asked him if the game could live up to the hype. Danielson’s response, “nope.” Well said, Gary.
I was a part of one of these 1 vs. 2 match ups back in ’96 when we beat Florida to advance to the national championship game, where we played against… Florida. The next Game of the Century. The college football world has seen quite a few Games of the Century since then.
Why are we so desperate for these moments? Why do we get sucked in to fabricated hype? We’re like Charlie Brown to the media’s Lucy, and she takes the ball away every time.
We yearn for purpose. We desire to be epic. Deep down we know there’s something significant to our existence, but most of us aren’t sure how to find it. So we take what culture serves, and this week it’s LSU vs. Alabama. We’re sitting at our friends house snacking on Cheetos, unaware that mom prepared a feast back at the house.
And just like Cheetos can never be truly satisfying, this football game won’t satisfy either. The clock keeps spinning. Your debt will still be there. Your spouse still won’t be a perfect person. Your job will still be the same. At best, the game’s a distraction from our real lives, and that’s the irony.
Our real lives are where our purpose is found. Not in the pseudo-epic of teenagers playing a game of tackle football.
Many of you play golf, and the game serves as a parable to my point. Why do so many men, and a few ladies, get totally wrapped up in playing? It’s the sophisticated man’s version of To Build a Fire – just man versus nature and man versus himself. It’s a never-ending pursuit of perfection. In spite of 96 average to poor shots, one drive, on the screws, that flies 300+ yards and lands in the middle of the fairway compels us, like the moon orbiting the Earth, to play another round. We refuse to be mastered by the game, we won’t give up or give in, we will be victorious!
But it’s a shadow. It’s a distraction, a chasing after the wind. We can never win. Lucy holds the ball, and we keep on kicking.
Countless hours are spent on the links, chasing the perfect round. All the while, marriages are falling apart, children are wayward, and culture’s on Clark Griswold’s sled sailing further into depravity.
It can be golf, fantasy football, the shop, hunting, working out, or anything else that we use to produce some sense of accomplishment or victory, that ultimately counts for absolutely nothing.
Why don’t more men strive for perfect marriages? Why are we content with our kids being disrespectful and lazy? Why do we accept mediocrity from ourselves at work? Why will we exchange authentic relationships for “drinking buddies?” Why do we keep eating life’s Cheetos?
What made the Samurai, the Knights of the Round Table, and the great military heroes of America’s past so special? They knew that a man must learn to control himself if he was to become a man worth anything at all. Character. Integrity. Valor. Chivalry. Commitment. Loyalty. Honor. Courage. These made a man, not his handicap or the fish mounted on the wall.
We’ve become cowards, and the thing we fear the most stares us in the mirror every day. We’ve lost the will to fight for real purpose, but to cover our cowardice, we work on our swing and boast of long drives.
For most of western history, the primary and most valued characteristic of manhood was self-mastery… A man who indulged in excessive eating, drinking, sleeping or sex – who failed to ‘rule himself’ – was considered unfit to rule his household, mush less a polity…
Maybe if I become president, then I’ll be fulfilled. Apparently not.
Career achievement, low handicaps, or sexual partners will not provide the sense of purpose and identity we yearn for. They simply cannot deliver.
I vividly remember being in the locker room after we dismantled Virginia Tech and won the 1999 National Championship. We reached the pinnacle, accomplished what no other team in history had ever done. It lasted about 30 minutes, and then Coach Bowden started talking about next year. It didn’t deliver.
Benjamin Franklin said,
If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth the reading or do things worth the writing.
You want to know what’s “worth the writing?”
Develop “self-mastery.” Stop hitting snooze. Put down the figurative, and literal, Cheetos. Pick a girl or guy and stand by them until you die, period. Invest in the next generation, be they your biological children or otherwise. Turn off the TV and read something, anything. Take a picture. Write a poem. Give your wife a massage. Write a note to a friend. Volunteer. Leave a legacy beyond orange fingerprints on the wall.
The game this Saturday will be fun. It’s three hours of good, old-fashioned competition. It should be well-played and exciting. But, when it’s over, it’s over. It won’t live up to the hype. The next Game of the Century is a few weeks away.
Don’t let your life be like one of those games. Don’t be most known for the time your spent on the golf course or at the gym. Conquer yourself in an area more important than keeping your club face closed. Conquer your tendency to tell little lies, to show up late, to get defense at criticism, to belittle with your speech, to complain, to let your eyes and thoughts go where they shouldn’t, etc.
A real man isn’t respected on the golf course. A real man is respected in the home.
I write this entirely to the man in the mirror. He looks at me every day and reminds me of my failures – my bad habits, my neglected responsibilities, my vices. He taunts me and tells me I won’t succeed.
Will I listen to his lies?
You shouldn’t either.