Recently, the weather throughout the Mid-South has been, shall we say, a bit harsh. Our neighbors to the west and north were devastated by tornadoes a few weeks ago. As a native of Western Kentucky, I am very familiar with most of the areas that were hit the hardest, and my heartfelt prayers go up for the hundreds that were affected by the destruction. Please keep those folks in your prayers, too.
Then came the bitter cold and snow storms, which brings me to our story. Our daughter-in-law, Whitney, posted a picture of the kids in their neighborhood near Nashville posing together in the snow. With all the snow and the layers of clothing to keep out the frigid air, it’s almost impossible to tell who’s who. Easy to recognize, however, is our almost 11-year-old, Grayson. He’s the only one with an orange toboggan on his head. The knit hat has a white Power T on the front. He’s also the only one holding a football. We missed the football at first glance. In fact, Sammie had to enlarge the picture with her thumb and pointer finger before I saw it.
The head gear and the football are testimonies to G.’s passion as a Vol fan who expects to play for the Tennessee Volunteers someday. His fervor for football has helped him learn how to discipline himself and focus on a goal (and often a goal line) as he studies the game and practices diligently.
When I was his age, I had only been to one college football game. My family was visiting my older brother, a student at the University of Kentucky, and I was actually more interested in the hairdo of the student in front of us in the stands. His hair was slicked back and pasted in place in a stylish “ducktail.”
Grayson has been to Knoxville’s Neyland Stadium so many times to see UT play that he could get a job there as an usher, if he was old enough, and if he could take his eyes off the game long enough to keep an eye on the fans.
He has also been to a few games at Nissan Stadium, in Nashville, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. He was sitting in the end zone bleachers of Nissan Stadium, near the spot when the Volunteers scored the winning touchdown in overtime at the Music City Bowl. That was the one that was taken away by poor officiating. G. could probably referee better than some of the professionals. Maybe he would be a better ref than usher. Anyway, he learned some important lessons that day. Life isn’t always fair. Also, games are usually decided by more than one play. If some other plays had been made, there wouldn’t have been a fourth and goal in overtime. They would have already won in regulation. They had a great season, but the Music City Bowl went in the record books as an “L” for Tennessee.
Disappointing? Absolutely - unless you’re a Purdue fan. Still - football is a game, and the game of football is only part of the big picture...the game of life. I am so glad that Grayson has committed his life to something greater than a sport. He has also committed his life to following Christ.
Being able to play for your favorite team is a great goal. For example, Dayne Davis from Bluff City has been a great addition to Tennessee’s O Line this year. It was my privilege to baptize Dayne when he was about the age Grayson is now. Hopefully, someday G. will follow in his footsteps and play at Tennessee. As so many others have done, Grayson could use sports as a platform where he can say, “First of all I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me the ability...”
Being a winner in the game of life takes a lifetime commitment. For all of us, that should be our passion, our goal. What a great goal!
--Steve Playl, columnist, college instructor, former pastor, and hospital chaplain can be email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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