At this time of the year, it is easy to find proof of God in the world around us. He is in the Wal-Marts, paying off layaway balances for strangers. He is dropping off food supplies at the local shelter. He is visiting an elderly relative to provide some companionship. He is placing that string of lights at the top of your neighbor’s 40 foot evergreen in the front yard (I mean, how else do you get lights up that high without Divine intervention?). The Lord works in mysterious ways.
The year 2011 in sports had signs of God’s presence in our world on many occasions, and not just because of a few spectacular dunks, a couple of diving catches or physics-defying golf shots. On the team level, miracles happened this year and for me, a major theological truth was finally confirmed. I can now say with the certainty of physical proof that there is a God. Faith isn’t necessary. We need only to look at the 2011 major sports landscape. Nothing else can adequately explain this past year’s series of spiritual events on the playing fields and courts of America this year:
· The evil vice of gratuitous wealth was proven to be no match for the underrated Dallas Mavericks who took out LeBron and his posse in 6 games in the NBA Finals. Rarely does watching a team lose feel better than watching a team win, but the Miami Heat was a team that we loved to watch exit the court, heads bowed in recognition that there is a God, and it is not them.
· Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox advanced to the World Series. In fact, the mighty free spending Red Sox flamed out on the final day of the regular season to miss the playoffs completely. The Yankees managed to cruise into the post-season, only to be humbled by the Tigers in the first round. If Satan was still running the show on Earth, one of those large market, free spending juggernauts would have been playing in late October. Instead, we were treated to…
· The Cardinals win Game 6 of the World Series after coming back from 2 runs down and their final strike TWICE. Yes, we knew that there were baseball gods, but only the Big Guy Himself could have engineered such a stunning comeback for a city destined to have to suffer through the loss of their greatest player two months in the future.
· A small market team has the title in America’s Number One sport, pro football. The Green Bay Packers, led by the guy who thankfully is helping commentators everywhere forget a guy named Favre, were not the best team all season, but they were the best by the end of the final game. Only an Act of God could have pushed Brett Favre off the front pages, and an Act of God is what we got in the person of Aaron Rodgers.
· The Stanley Cup, hockey’s greatest prize, is back in the hands of an Original 6 franchise now that the Boston Bruins are reigning champions. The Cup is named for Lord Stanley, but it is clear that the one true Lord must have been between the pipes during Game 7 against Vancouver. No way Tim Thomas does that all by himself.
Of course, if there is a God and this we know from sports in 2011, there must be a devil that opposes all His good works. This is no time for rest, God, since evil still lurks in our imperfect sports world:
· Hockey’s greatest player, Sidney Crosby, may have played his last game at the age of 24 because of concussion syndrome.
· The Colts suffered through a dismal season without arguably the greatest quarterback of our generation, Peyton Manning, lining up under center. His multiple neck surgeries may rob us of a few more years of greatest in Indianapolis.
· Baseball’s greatest slugger in 2011, NL MVP Ryan Braun, will sit out the first 50 games in 2012 after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. The scourge of PEDs will not go away for the major leagues.
· Albert left for the money.
· Tiger can’t win.
· The NBA came back, and the Heat is favored.
I still believe that all the evidence from 2011 proves there is a God, but, if You are listening, please don’t give the naysayers any ammunition. Cure Crosby, heal Manning, and for the love of God, please keep Stephen Strasburg away from Yankee pinstripes in a few years.
When it comes to sports entertainment in 2011, my prayers were answered. For the rest of you, there’s always next year. I’m talking to you, Cub fans.