There are times when sport is more than a game, but instead is an epic struggle of will, when (et cetera, et cetera, macho inspiring things)… this Saturday was not exactly one of those times. It was instead a fun game of flag football with lots of Argosy friends, kids, and some awesome homemade iron-on shirts.
One of the men of our Argosy community, David, is a big brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program here in Austin. He got this wonderful idea of a way to hang out with his little brother, bless his community, and have a lot of fun by putting on a flag football game for his little brother and his friends. Little known fact: spreading the love of Christ through flag football is awesome.
He brought up the idea to our community and we instantly loved it and started making plans and preparing for the game. The thursday before the game we had a shirt making party, where Becca, our fearless iron leader, ironed on the mascots of each team to our shirts. We were now officially the Sharks and the Spartans. (When David asked his little brother what the shark logo should look like, reportedly he answered definitively, without a moments hesitation: “It should be a shark with a football in it’s mouth”.) One of our other more artistically gifted friends wrote all the numbers on the back of each shirt, in both sharpie and glitter glue. As we ran out of numbers, she asked me, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word numbers?”, and I answered “Spreadsheets”, not thinking she was actually asking me for a specific number, and without skipping a beat she wrote “Spreadsheets” in glitter glue on the back of a shirt. We had a good laugh for a few minutes that someone’s number would be “Spreadsheets”. That night of shirt making was an great way this simple common purpose brought us together as a community.
Saturday, the time of the big game had arrived. We piled into cars and drove out to the east Austin neighborhood of David’s little brother, where the grey overcast sky threatened rain, but instead just gave us a little bit of a chill. By the time we arrived, a sizable group of kids were gathered and ready to play. We handed out shirts and also got the field ready to play (read picking up the broken glass from bottles which littered the field). We got introduced to our teams, put on our flags, and painted our faces, ready for the football battle to commence.
My team, the sharks, was excited and ready to begin, but not so skillful when we started on offense. There was a disconnect between the idea that each of them wanted to catch a pass, but that for a pass to work, you need an offensive line to allow time for it to happen, but we tried valiantly none the less and even scored on our second or third drive I believe. However, on defense we were a blitzing machine, inducing a QB scramble on most plays. And though we disrupted many plays, the Spartans were successful and scored in the first half. We tried as best we could to get to know our kids and see how they worked together, but unsurprisingly, it was like herding cats to get any kind of cohesiveness happening (This is not to say we should have expected more, or that it wasn’t a lot of fun in the process).
Half time was called and we took a long break, stopping for coolers filled with both water and hot chocolate. It was also determined that each team needed to present a halftime show. The dominant Spartans came up with a coherent dance routine (a strangely seamless mixture of cartwheels, the “I whip my hair back and forth” dance, and a kick line), which I managed to capture on video:
Our group on the other hand, was not very excited about the possibility of a performance, so I took the lead, leading a dance chant thing that sounded something like “Put your coat on the ground, put your coat on the ground and do the shark attack, do the shark attack”, while galloping around and doing the shark attack move (which is essentially a renamed “gator chomp” move). This was both silly and very fun for me and my teammates, though no one got it on video, thankfully. It lifted our spirits I think and got us ready for to continue the game. The second half went about the same for us unfortunately, and despite our best efforts, including a potentially game tie-ing drive late at the end, the Spartans emerged victorious.
All told, we had a fun day and a great time with the kids. I believe it truly was a blessing for that community. It is a rough part of town, and given all sorts of instability in their neighborhood and home situations, these kids have to grow up fast. But for this one Saturday afternoon, they could just be kids and enjoy life, sport, friends, and God’s creation. This game was a way the restorative, joyful kingdom of God broke through in ordinary life, to make things better for these kids, and give us a way to serve them. My prayer is that we will continue to find ways to serve them and that through us being witnesses in our words and deeds to the love and grace of Christ in this world, that eternal change would be realized in the lives of these kids.