Lessons from The U
As I am sitting here today I am wearing my “Miami U” tee shirt. I bought it when I lived in Miami back in the late 90s.
I first became aware of “The U” in the 80s when a group of trash-talking tough guys started beating up on traditional college football powers. I started seeing such “good guy” team as Penn State, Nebraska and, gasp, Notre Dame not only lose to the U but sometimes get trounced. Worse yet, after the beat-down, or sometimes during it, the Miami players strutted about and boasted. It was almost as if they saw 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties as a badge of honor. God, I hated them.
By the time I had moved to Miami the football team was under suspension. Scholarships were limited, producing less talented teams. Post-season play was out. The best recruits, seeking fame and eventually pro careers, no longer want to be there. The net result was that the worm had turned. Teams they used to destroy were beating them. Long-time rivals, like Florida State, lined up to hand them horrible beat-downs. It was ugly.
Miami’s ever-fickle sports fans turned their backs on the U. Their home games saw the stadium half-full at best. Often there were more fans for the visiting team in the seats at the crumbling old Orange Bowl. You were able to walk up to the stadium on game day and not only get tickets but get good seats. So I started watching, and eventually rooting for, Miami. I am not sure how it happened but a bunch of outmatched kids trying their best drew me in. So I bought the tee shirt.
A few years later, after I’d moved away, I put the tee shirt away. You see, the U had climbed back to the top. A restored powerhouse, they were always feared, always highly ranked. In one year they destroyed Nebraska for the National Championship. And the strutting and boasting had come back. Even after they started to slide down from the pinnacle of success they still were swaggering around, even getting into on-field brawls.
Then scandal hit and, again, they were missing bowl games and still might get other penalties. Along with this the team has returned to mediocre. Oddly enough they seem to have calmed down somewhat with the taunting too. So my shirt is out and I’m wearing it again.
Because it reminds me that being on top has its hazards. We Christians in America have long held a favored place. While I think the idea that America ever was a “Christian nation” is a bit absurd there is no question that, culturally, Christian values and practices used to be the norm. Those days are over. We now share the cultural stage with other religions, atheists, and people who don’t give a hoot about God one way or another. Values and practices we abhor are openly with us.
But the time for strutting and trash-talking about “taking back America” is over. Let’s live graciously, walk humbly, and talk gently. If we do, who knows? Maybe someday they will want to buy our tee shirt.