Upping My Game

Upping My Game: Character-Building 101

by Dale Reeves
Story Pastor


I’ll admit it. I love watching sports on TV. In the past, no doubt I have spent more time watching televised sports than I need to. I have missed watching lots of sports during the COVID-19 situation the past four months. But, to be honest, I haven’t missed it as much as I thought I would. I’ve moved on to other non-contact sports, such as jigsaw puzzle construction and backyard swatting of mosquitoes. Now, it seems that professional sports are gearing up to play again—in virtually empty stadiums and arenas. As has been true for many other phenomena the past few months, there has been no shortage of controversy regarding who will play, who will sit this season out, where the professional athletes and their families will stay, how much they will lose in revenue (both as leagues and as individual players), which mascot names are acceptable, and which are not, and which college sports will be more.

I have spent some time watching a few sports on TV I would not normally watch, such as professional arm wrestling and the American Cornhole championships. Have you watched either of these titanic struggles on TV? Each of the competitors are fiercely intense, but perhaps in different ways—especially when a large cash prize is on the line.

The Triathlon
I don’t know much about arm wrestling, but I understand the amount of preparation and mental toughness it takes to win in cornhole. It is an annual competition in our family that takes place every summer in Florida, in which the old guys (my brother-in-law Greg and me) are pitted against the young bucks (our three sons-in-law). Yes, it takes three of them to best us. (They would all vehemently disagree with me, but it’s my blog so I’m sticking with that story.) Keep in mind our nemeses are millennials, and you know what that means—they are used to participation trophies.

Each summer we go head-to-head as teams vying for the crown (or belt, as the case may be), going at each other on the sandy beaches in our three-sport triathlon—golf (actually just a putting competition); Kan Jam (a flying disc game); and cornhole (small bags filled with dried corn are tossed at an inclined wooden platform with a hole at one end). As we participate in said competitions over the course of a week in the sun, we get lots of interesting looks by passersby who are riding bikes or scooters—mainly because they’ve never seen a putting competition on the sand before.

The young bucks say there is way more trash talk coming from the mouths of the old guys, but I think that is a subjective opinion. There have been years in which the old guys have dominated, years in which we squeaked by the hair of our chinny chin chin—and then, there’s this year. Let me just say, it is 2020, and we all know this is an off year. The other day I said to Brian, the son-in-law of my brother-in-law, “Do you guys want to win today, or do you want to build some Christian character?”

Winning or Character Building?
Legendary manager for the Chicago Cubs, Leo Durocher, said this when he managed the Brooklyn Dodgers, as he was watching the opposing team come out of the dugout: “Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. But give me some scratching, diving, hungry ballplayers who came to kill you. That’s the kind of guy I want playing for me.”

Six-time NBA-championship-winning Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan said this: “There is no ‘I’ in team but there is in WIN.”

Sports should be about building team unity, sacrificing for one another for the good of the whole, coming together to accomplish something unique and “special,” as many coaches like to call it. But, all too often it’s just about winning, and egos often take over and make the game more about individual players’ popularity and success, rather than building up one another, persevering through adversity, and taking away life lessons that will endure long after the body can no longer handle the stresses and strains that accompany years of physical exertion.

God’s Word says this:
“So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus” (2 Peter 1:5-8, The Message).

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3, 4, NLT).

God knew I needed to up my game in the character-building department this year of 2020, and I am eternally grateful to the young bucks for giving me this gift. Can I ask you today, how is your character building going? In what ways is God refining you? As Greg and I lick our wounds and develop some character this summer, we are comforted with this thought: Lord willing, there’s always next year.

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