Saturday, April 16, 2011

Seven Reminders for Hockey Fans

TITLE: Seven Reminders for Hockey Fans
WRITTEN BY: Conrade Yap
Date: 16 April 2011

KEY POINT: Distinguish between passion and obsession; between the 'game of hockey' and the 'game of life.'

In India, people riot throughout the country if there is a power outage during a cricket game. In South America, citizens stomp out into the streets in violence when their favourite soccer team loses to their fierce rivals. In Central America, gangsters are prepared to kill if their national team loses. In Canada, whenever a major hockey event is staged, nothing else seems to matter.

Canada is a hockey nation. Politicians know it. Leaders are aware of it. Newscasters re-schedule their regular programming because if it. It is common to see people postpone activities that clash with a game. The fact is simple: Hockey wins, hands down. Mostly.

Some employers even have a television set turned on during a soccer game. For the rest of the world who wants to know why Canadians are so passionate about hockey, ask yourself about how World Cup Soccer has affected people in your country.

Canada is a strange place. They say that hockey is a religion, and they mean it. They let their passion show it. Rather than to fight it, I think it is important to be careful not to let obsession rule our heads. Hockey can be such an obsession that it threatens church programs too. I write this note so as to remind hockey fans who are also Church goers to cool it. Do not let passions turn into obsession. May the seven reminders below help keep our heads grounded in earthly realities, without turning them into unhealthy fantasies.

A) It’s Just a Game

In a game, there will be winners and losers. The rest of us are mere spectators. I assume that you my reader are most likely one of these many spectators. As that, spectators can cheer, even jeer, but that is all they can do to try to influence the result of the game. Most of the time, the battle is played out between the two competing teams that day.

It is just a game. It is not a game of life and death, so do not treat the game as if your whole life depends on it. Whether the team you support wins or not, life goes on for everybody. For it is simply just a game. When you are among friends, be ready to remind one another that "It's just a game." Otherwise, we become victims of our own emotions. If a hockey game becomes more than just a game, we have just punched our tickets for an emotional roller-coaster ride. If we win, we are happy. When we lose, watch how our emotions affect the rest of our day.

B) Temptations Lurk Behind Every Game

One of the things about obsessive behaviour is the willingness to sacrifice all other things for the sake of the game. One of the temptations behind every game is gambling. In Canada, gambling is allowed. Different teams are given gambling odds as a guide to the chances that a team will win or lose. Anything can become an opportunity for wager. For example, the odds of the Vancouver Canucks winning the Stanley Cup this year is 3/1. This means that for a $100 bet, if the Canucks wins, the winnings will be $300.

In Georgia, a woman left her 10 day old baby in her car while she goes gambling. (AP, 2 Sep 1997). In Illinois, a mother suffocated her 7 month old daughter so that she can claim a $200,000 life insurance payout to feed her gambling habit. News like these (AP, 23 Jan 1999)

It’s just a game. Yet, for some, a temptation can turn into a deadly obsession.

C) ‘HOCKEY! You Shall Have no hold on me”

The first commandment says this.
You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
This is a reminder that we do not worship any other gods but God alone. Israel was reminded over and over again who their God is. The moment they start looking away from God, marks the beginning of so many troubles. They complain for lack of food when their focus is on their daily needs (Exod 16:2-3). They whine and yearn for a return to Egyptian slavery when things do not seem to go their way (Numbers 14:4). Worse, they even created their own idols at the height of their impatience! (Exodus 32:4)

The moment the people gain a fixation on idols, they lose sight of God. In our modern world, many of these idols are not visible idols outside, but invisible affections inside. The hockey obsession is one of them. It turns one’s attention away from God. It distracts the disciple of Christ from the main tasks at hand. It becomes first priority unwittingly at the expense of God’s priorities.

Readers beware! Be bold and courageous to say: “Hockey! You shall have no hold on my affections or my attention.

D) Passion 'Yes!' Obsession 'No!'

We need passion in order to get things done well. Business people with passion will persevere on, despite the challenges of a competitive and challenging environment. Artists with passion will be prepared to even borrow money to sustain their love for the arts. Those with a passion for golf will invest in a good set of golf clubs, or even a golf club membership. Passion is good. We need it. It is good. When it becomes an obsession, it is not good. It is evil.

How then will we know distinguish between passion and obsession? I suppose the simplest way to make a distinction is that passion is constructive or creative. Obsession is destructive. Passion builds up. Obsession tears down. Passion considers the whole. Obsession considers only that one part. Both passion and obsession are similar emotions in terms of focus, but they differ in purpose and process. Simply put, passion considers all things, and construct something beautiful and meaningful out of it. Obsession takes all things, and consumes it for self toward its own destructive consequences.

Say yes to passion. No to obsession.

E) The Game of Life

Remind ourselves that while hockey is just a game, there is a far more significant ‘game of life.’ It helps us maintain a cool head. It keeps us from burning up with unhealthy feelings. Such feelings can often become destructive and wear us out. Let me list a few significant 'games':
  • The battle for souls.
  • The fight for justice.
  • The search for meaning.
  • The contention for truth;
  • The struggle for survival
Whenever one feels tempted toward obsessive behaviour, think of the bigger picture. A hockey game is only restricted within a small hockey rink. The game of life has a much bigger platform. A hockey game has only 3 periods of 20 minutes each. The game of life is practically ongoing, with almost unlimited periods.

F) Just Ask ‘Why?’

Sometimes, our emotions that surround a hockey game do not simply tell others what teams we support. They reveal a lot about ourselves. It is quite interesting to see men, while they are mostly quiet and soft-spoken, can turn out to be most boisterous during a hockey game. Why? Is it a psychological make-up? Is it one safe way to release pent-up frustrations accumulated over time? Perhaps.

Ask yourself: Will your presence do anything to change the result of the game? Will your support on the TV screen during the live broadcast change the players strategy? Will your cheers be heard amid the thousands of louder noises? Most likely, your cheer will be like a drop in the ocean. The star hockey players will not even hear or know that you are in the crowd.

Asking ‘why’ does not mean we become disinterested in what is going on in the game. It simply means we keep our own lives and priorities in their proper perspective. We use it as a rhetorical tool to guide our thoughts, to remind ourselves that a hockey game is nothing compared to the ones we love, the relationships we have, and the more important things in life.

G) If You Can be so passionate . . . .

This final part is meant for a particular group. It is written particularly to those who usually complain about boring Church services, about hypocritical behaviour in the Church, and whine about practically everything that goes on in the church. Such people say things like:

  • The church sermon is so boring;
  • The worship songs do not minister to me;
  • The whole church service is dry;
  • I’ve got no time for Church.
  • Why should I bother about the rest of the world? I can’t even handle my own world.

The strange thing is that, when they come to church, they appear lifeless and passionless. When it comes to hockey, they become a different creature altogether. These people have no lack of passion. They have no lack of emotion. They just have their priorities in other places.

What if their priorities become that of God’s? What if their sole passion is for the kingdom of God? What if their entire life is concentrated to obeying God, and to fulfill God’s desire for the spread of the gospel?

The world will certainly be changed. If church-going hockey fans can translate these hockey emotions into a passionate desire for God, and to make God known to all, this world will change for the better sooner than later. Enjoy the hockey game. Support your favourite team. However, to choose between the ‘game of hockey’ vs the ‘game of life,’ I pray that we will all know the difference.

Let me end with the words of the hymn for us to ponder and to reflect.

GIVE ME A PASSION (Herbert G. Tovey)
Give me a passion for souls, dear Lord,
A passion to save the lost;
O that Thy love were by all adored,
And welcomed at any cost. 
Jesus, I long, I long to be winningMen who are lost, and constantly sinning;O may this hour be one of beginningThe story of pardon to tell.

Though there are dangers untold and stern
Confronting me in the way,
Willingly still would I go, nor turn,
But trust Thee for grace each day.
How shall this passion for souls be mine?
Lord, make Thou the answer clear;
Help me to throw out the old life line
To those who are struggling near.


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