Some thoughts on Boise State’s Loss to Nevada (from a Campus Ministry point of view).
I’ve been around football for years. I’ve been a part of many teams. But I can honestly say that I have never seen/experienced a loss quite like the Broncos loss to Nevada on November 26. So much at stake: A BCS game (possibly the championship), a conference championship, and an undefeated season. Then to lose in OT, even though there was every opportunity and amazing plays. I had trouble sleeping after the game, and came away with some observations.
SMALL PLAYS MATTER: One of the things that Nevada did well in the second half was run the draw or counter play (right up the middle) consistently for 3 or 4 yards. They couldn’t pass much, and had trouble running outside, but they could run right up the middle over and over again. This did several things—kept Boise State’s offense off the field, and made the BSU defense get tired. Boise State couldn’t maintain regular small plays in the second half (Four 3-and-outs) and it cost them dearly. Campus ministry has to have those small consistent steps forward, a little at a time. It needs those in relationships to students—intentionally connecting with respect and gentleness. It needs in prayer support—minutes every day praying for us and others like us. And it needs it in financial support—small, regular, consistent gifts. These givers are crucial to the life of a campus ministry and to a football team. Without the “small” plays, winning is very difficult.
BIG PLAYS MATTER: Boise State was in the game because of big plays. A 79-yard screen pass for a touchdown. A fifty-three-yard pass play with 2 seconds remaining. This gave the Broncos a prime opportunity to win the game. Big plays are the highlight reel, and get a lot of attention. And if a team is going to win, it has to make big plays. Big plays can provide amazing momentum. Campus Ministry needs big plays as well. It needs special times of prayer. It needs those momentum moments, events, or retreats that provide an extra OOMPH. When a student decides to repent and comes to know Christ personally is a big play momentum builder. And financially, campus ministries like Crosswalks need big plays. Donors who give large one-time gifts of $1,000 to $100,000+ (not that I’ve seen many of these) provide momentum and create an opportunity for us to win and stay in the game.
“ONE PLAY DOESN’T LOSE A GAME, BUT ONE PLAY CAN WIN A GAME.” This quote from Coach Petersen hits the nail on the head. Kicker Kyle Brotzman’s missed field goals didn’t lose the game—there are several factors that led to the loss. If he had made the first field goals, we would have won. I find this so true especially in ministry, relationships and evangelism. Being in the right place at the right time can spark a God moment that is amazing—a person moving toward Christ, and not away. And on the flip side—an inconsistent life will turn people away from Christ.
“THE MIGHTY BOISE HAS FALLEN.” These were the words of one of the ESPN announcers after the game. Although it is a complement to be called mighty, maybe the winning and the football team has played too mighty of a role in our lives. Dare I say that for some, Boise State football has become their god? As I live in the community of Boise, I’ve discovered the best time to go shopping or out to eat is during a Boise State football game--even more than going on a Sunday morning. Additional evidence is the money people spend on tickets, gear, and travel to and from games. I enjoy football, and think it is a great pass time. But I wonder how many struggling churches could use the money, the time, the effort, the energy that so many of us put into games. I’m praying that we can make the statement true about our own lives and hearts. “The mighty Boise has fallen in my heart, and made room for the living God.” (By the way, if you were planning on a trip to LA for the Rose bowl, our campus ministry would love to benefit with the money you would have spent on that trip. It would be a great way to express your desire to give God rule of your heart.)
MISSING THE MARK IS DEVASTATING. I can’t image Kyle Brotzman’s frustration and grief over missing those field goals. For some reasons, his kicks missed the mark. My heart goes out to him. More importantly, though, I hope I experience grief over missing the mark in my relationships with students, missing opportunities to love fearlessly, missing opportunities to give generously, and missing the mark on why God has called us to BSU. Gratefully, we get second (and third) chances.
TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED: Boise State was supposed to win. They were expected to win. I personally thought it was going to be a blow-out and that they would show everyone how awesome they are. Sports Illustrated’s Steward Mandel wrote, “Anyone who's followed this sport for any considerable length of time knows better than to assume the expected, though.” We can’t take a win for granted, making our expectation reality beforehand. Every moment needs to be lived. We can’t do that in relationships, either. Placing expectations on them they can’t fulfill. One of the ways to not take things for granted is to be grateful. I am grateful for so many people who have prayed and given to our ministry. I do not take you for granted. You are appreciated!
HOPE IS NOT LOST: Around town today, despite the holiday cheer, one could sense the doom from the game. People acted as if it was the end of the world—and I admit, I felt that way myself, for a little while. But as a follower of Christ, hope is not lost! As a campus minister, I don’t know what situations people are in that seem to lessen their hope. However, we have an awesome opportunity to bring hope, joy, peace and love into people’s lives in a long-lasting and real way.
So, hopefully my musings have challenged you somehow. I hope your heart is softened, and God is using this crazy Bronco loss into a way for you to be more like him.