The Siren Song of Sports

I like sports.

Yes, that was out loud. Me. I. Like. Sports.

Loud, fast, violent sports. Football. Basketball. Even hockey, if it’s live (my poor old brain can’t follow the puck around the TV screen; nope, not even with the little yellow tracer thingy). From mid-August through early February, I don’t schedule things on Sunday afternoons, Monday nights if I can help it, and recently Thursdays have become a bit sketchy. Football’s on.

But if you’ve been under a rock or hiding in a cave in Uzbekistan, you might not know there’s a little thing called a ‘lock-out’ going on right now, and there’s no promise of an NFL season this year.

Once my tears dried and the neighbors stopped complaining about the wailing, I discovered an emptiness that begged to be filled. I stumbled on this little sport called ‘basketball’. (My rock was quite comfortable, thank you. It kept the rain off nicely.) I sat at Buffalo Wild Wings with my personal sports guru (it helps that he’s cute and I’m married to him), and experienced the finer points of a game I’d formerly scoffed at, mostly because it went too dang fast and I couldn’t follow all those feet.

Well. Let me tell you. The Miami Heat versus the Boston Celtics.

Oh, my.

Watching LeBron James play basketball is like watching Leonard Bernstein conduct the New York Philharmonic: it’s just – well, it’s just right. It’s the planets aligning, gas prices going down, and Congress getting anything truly productive done, all at the same time.

It’s how it was meant to be.

That guy, I tell you, was born to play basketball. Now don’t get all theological on me; I have no idea why God made anybody just to play basketball. But He did. Watching LeBron handle the ball is pure grace; it’s like his hands just instinctively know what to do with it.

I bet they do. I bet they always have. I bet, sometime early in his life, LeBron picked up a basketball, and it was like Laurel and Hardy, man. A match made in heaven.

So here’s a guy, spending his life doing the thing he was put on the planet to do, and it is gorgeous. Beautiful. Graceful. Spectacular. And I fell in love with yet another sport.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my fascination with sports has little to do with the actual sport, and more to do with the players themselves. I love – no, passionately adore watching people function as they were designed to function. It’s a great joy of mine to discover someone sitting in that sweet spot, and I’ll happily put other things aside just to appreciate it.

When my niece Rebekah was just a little tyke, she discovered a love for dance. I remember sitting in her recitals watching her; she had this smile on her face that could have lit Rockefeller Center at Christmas. The only time I saw that smile was when she was dancing. When Bekah put on her dance shoes, she slipped into that sweet spot of doing something she was put on the earth to do: dance. I was in love.

She’s now a glorious 16 year old, en pointe for the past few years. She’s looking at colleges, checking out who has the best dance program to fit her style and goals. She still dances multiple times a week, and if for some reason she can’t dance, she gets, well, a little weird. (You know it’s true, Boo. Sorry!)

Bekah was made to dance. To not do the thing she was designed to do is counterproductive at best; sin, at worst. To fight against who she was born to be would be exhausting. We would even, as objective bystanders, encourage her. Of course she should dance.

But what about us? You? Me? We’re not LeBron James (although if any of you are hiding such a talent, please call me. I’ll be your agent). We can’t do that.

No, probably not. But you do have something; you were put on this earth to do something unique, something with a flavor only you can bring.

Are there plenty of other basketball players? Absolutely. Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, Dirk (yeah, here in Dallas he only needs one name. Besides, I don’t want to send my spell-check into overload). But each of them brings something unique in their style of using their ability, something no one else on the planet can do.

That’s true of you and me, too. We might not be made to play basketball (dang it. I’ve seen the salaries) or football. Maybe we don’t conduct orchestras, or dance ballets or write novels or teach classes. Maybe we can’t preach or draw or cook.

But maybe we can.

What is that thing for you? What is the passion, the true love of yours? I bet sparks flew when LeBron picked up a basketball for the first time. I bet heaven sang when Shaun White got on a skateboard as a little guy. I bet the angels did a happy dance when Bono opened his mouth in front of a microphone.

Now, I’m not asking you what’s easy for you. None of those guys got to where they are by laying around, hoping it would work out. They all worked hard to get where they are. They fought for it.

No, I’m asking you what is the thing that when you do it, you feel more yourself than at any other time. Is it writing? Teaching? Painting? Taking care of people? Parenting? Maybe it’s music, or cooking. Or having people in your home. Or doing someone else’s hair.

But there’s something. Something you were put on the earth to do, something you were created for. We need for you to do it, whatever it is. You need to do it.

Discover it, if you haven’t already. Fight for it. Work at it. There’s a quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes that says, “Most people go to their grave with their music still inside them.” Songs unsung. Paintings unpainted. People un-counseled or un-doctored or un-fed because you weren’t living from your place of passion.

So this is why I love sports. LeBron and others like him are living out their passion, the thing that makes them tick, the thing they can’t not do. Is there any eternal significance to basketball? I don’t know (although to hear some Boston Celtics fans tell it, there absolutely is). But I strongly suspect there is eternal significance to being who you were created to be, and doing the thing you were created to do.

This doesn’t just apply to the young’uns, either. There’s no age limit on being who you were born to be. If you’re breathing, you’ve still got time. Make it count.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

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12 comments so far

  1. Joseph Louthan on

    You summed up the last four years of my life. Thank you!

  2. ofcolorandsuch on

    LOVE this, Nancy. So fitting for this season of my life. Thanks for writing this, and thereby, I suspect, doing one of the things YOU were born to do. I needed you to write that. You needed you to write that. So glad you did.

  3. Ineffable Jeff on

    You could teach The Kingdom Parable. Oh, wait… 😉 Truly wish I knew MY purpose. It could have been so many things as I was younger. But now, as I sit here, unless it’s playing poker, writing, or complaining about politics, I have a lot more searching to do. Good word, Nancy.

  4. ambergobers on

    (I’m fairly certain I typed this last night. Unless I dreamt about commenting on your blog, and that would be whole new level of odd.)
    You’re awesome. Photography used to be it. I think it’s writing sometimes. But there is something else. And it isn’t NOT seeing; and it isn’t NOT story. But it is bigger than both of those things. And each time, THAT ball finds my hands- it just feels right.

    Annnnyway. This is pretty fantastic and so are you. You- writing, well, it’s just right. It’s the planets aligning, gas prices going down, and Congress getting anything truly productive done, all at the same time 😉

  5. Minda on

    i like this. AND sports 🙂 and you. and this post. thanks for writing 😉

  6. Lynette on

    Great post, thx for the encouragement!

  7. Bonnie Billingsley on

    Absolutely right on!!! You could not have said it better!!! You live out this every day!!! Truly inspiring, for the rest of us, let’s go get at it!!! Whatever that it may be!!!

  8. Michelle Vargas Benami on

    This one is a homerun!!! (closet sports woman too here) Wow! Sharing on FB….my hubby and I were just talking about this last night after hearing a young woman sing, who is so ridiculously talented and gifted that it is IMPERATIVE that she flourish! We were talking about how we seem to live in a world that doesn’t always encourage individual talents, and some resort to being almost apologetic about being gifted. We ALL have a gift! We all need to let Him show it to us, and then we need to THRIVE in it! Heaven will do cartwheels when we do!
    Keep talking girl….you are on to something!!

  9. Ashley on

    You know, if it wasn’t for my cousin Amber, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this comment. If it was for me listening to my mother sing, (I would swear she sounds just like Wynona Judd, ask Amber), and her coaching me on how to sing, I wouldn’t feel a “pull” when you posted this. I’ve always wanted to be a singer, but that got put on hold when I had children, but who’s to say I can’t do it? Who’s to say I can’t be 40 and making a hit album? Thanks for the inspiration!

    • ambergobers on

      Ash- She does. And I love you. And I’m proud of you.

  10. Pam on

    Nancy, I love how you’ve described an aspect of being fully alive–finding the sweet spot of our unique, natural bent. It dovetails your “Sheroes” post about letting go of wrestling with who you’re not and resting in who you are. One of my favorite movie quotes ever (also sports-related) is in “Chariots of Fire” where Eric Liddell says, “I feel His pleasure when I run.” Keep writing!

  11. Jennifer on

    Thanks for your post, you are an amazing writer! Now I just need to figure out what I was made to do.


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