Three reasons to watch the UT-Alabama game.

(Even if neither is your team)

I stopped at a gas station earlier this week. While at the pump, I overheard a conversation between two gentlemen, one of whom was speaking (at length) about the upcoming Tennessee-Alabama football game. Interestingly, this gentleman’s tone wasn’t so much one of excitement as one of fervor. He didn’t mention good times to be had or great food to be eaten. Rather, with a number of expletives, he discussed his plans to watch the game on Saturday. He made it clear that he was going to see that game, even if it meant stopping and leaving right in the middle of the work he had to do.

He needed to see the game.

What is it about this game (and sports in general) that drives so many people to act with such intensity? What benefits come from it? Some of the reasons to watch and life lessons are clear. Others may not be so obvious, but are equally important.

Facing adversity

Everyone loves when their team wins. I have a lot of friends who are University of Tennessee fans. For those of you who don’t follow college football (or UT Football), suffice it to say that they went through some rough seasons (including disappointing records and multiple coaches) over the past several years. However, to the team’s credit, a bulk of their fans have remained loyal over the years, watching and going to the games through thick and through thin. (Many other fan bases are or have recently been in the same situation.)

As a result of their faithfulness, the fans are having the time of their lives this year. In fact, the team went undefeated for the first five games before losing a nail biter to Texas A&M last week.

Unfortunately, you can only ride the high so long. No sports team in history has always had a perfect record. At some point, things are not going to go the way you want them to go, and your team is going to lose.

It’s in these times that sports may be able to teach us a very important character trait: perseverance.

In life, bad things are going to happen.

You will lose a job.

You’ll experience divorce.

You will have to say goodbye to a loved one too soon.

As I write this, I think about friends and family struggling with all of these issues. They’ve faced these tough times after having good seasons in their lives. Their hearts are broken.

It’s so tempting to stop watching the game entirely when your team is doing poorly (especially for an extended period of time). It’s hard to bear the thought of another losing season. In life, you’ll hit rough patches and will struggle just to find the strength to get out of bed. The thought of doing life may seem overwhelming, or even pointless.

Don’t stay paralyzed by grief and fear.

Keep playing.

Keep watching.

Keep living.


It gets better.

That endurance in the difficult seasons makes you appreciate the winning ones that much more when they come.

And sooner or later, they will come.

Living with differences

If you’re reading this, chances are you live in Tennessee. Interestingly enough, the college football-watching demographic here is extremely diversified. Off the top of my head, I can think of people I know who support Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi State, LSU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and just about any other well-known college-football program.

While this mix of fan bases can lead to teasing on social media and some relatively harmless exchanges in person, I’m both surprised and impressed by the civility that people show towards their friends from a rival fan base, given the emotional investment that so many place in the games. While we all love our teams and think they should always win, we don’t burn bridges or disown others when their team beats ours.

If fans from opposing teams can still be friends, maybe there is hope for discussion (and maybe, just maybe, even friendship) between people with differing views on politics … or on faith.

It makes me wonder…

It’s why there’s hope that there may be a tomorrow where we can learn to resolve our differences without destroying relationships, resorting to violence, or tearing each other apart. A tomorrow where someone can disagree without being dissociated, and where they can hold to their ideas without either threatening or being threatened.

It’s why a guy who grew up as a part of Big Blue Nation can become friends with a Duke fan, and fall in love with a girl who thinks it’s great to be a Tennessee Vol.

What unites us is stronger than what divides us.

Success takes hard work. (And patience.)

Tennessee and Alabama are both having great seasons. However, they’ve both had to go through rebuilding periods over my lifetime. I remember the pre-Saban period. Alabama has not always been a powerhouse. That program took time to be rebuilt into the dynasty it has become today.

Likewise, Tennessee was at the peak of its glory in the late 90's, but then fell into the dark ages after the release of Phil Fulmer. With time, the program has likewise been rebuilt to compete with Alabama. This would’ve been unheard of just a few years ago.

Achieving success (or re-building it) takes time. If you have a dream, don’t plan for it to happen overnight. Just plan for it to happen. With patience, faith, and maybe some hard work, it will.

The UT-Alabama game is kicking off in just over an hour. All of my friends will be watching. Regardless of the outcome, they’ll keep on watching.

The game is always worth watching, and life is always worth living.

Keep moving forward.

Good things are ahead.

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