We are in the midst of a very special season of the year: College Football Bowl Season. Rarely do non-professional sports dominate American culture more than during the slew of college football bowl games that occur around Christmas and the New Year. As a college football fan, I have always enjoyed watching and attending bowl games regardless of who was playing. I’ve often observed bowl games as rather joyful experiences and filled with hope. Regardless of the trials and tribulations of the season, or if each team was playing in their most desired bowl game, teams and players always seem pretty jazzed to be playing in the game. They always give it their all and are dedicated to doing their best to bring home a victory. There are few more exciting opportunities for players than their moment on the national stage during this unique competition. They are fully and joyfully present in that moment and the rest of the world seems to disappear.
These games draw crowds and support from all over the country. Alumni, parents, and students always show up to these games regardless of how far away the game is. Though of the bowls hosted in California, I often observed that the seasonable warmth makes for a rather enticing winter trip! These games are filled with school and sport traditions. I often wonder if bowl games would have the same tradition and hope associated with them were they not found in this special time of year. The holiday season of Christmas and New Year’s Day are an ideal backdrop to bowl season. School is out of session, many workers are off, and each day is ripe with ritual and tradition. The college bowl season, particularly recently, has become a part of that holiday tradition. Many televisions throughout the county seem perpetually tuned in to each and every game. For me it’s not New Year’s Day without the Rose Bowl and its accompanying parade, filled with beauty and tradition.
Remaining fully present and rooting for a team is often a life-giving experience. No matter what the struggles and stresses of the day and season have been, there is often unparalleled joy when we see our team run out on the field or score a touchdown during their bowl game and final competition of the season. I once attended a bowl game in San Diego and was not a particular fan of either team. Yet I was overcome by the occasion and fully immersed myself in game. Each play, each touchdown, each kickoff kept my entire attention. I was in awe of this unique occasion.
These bowl games are also an opportunity to see these young athletes joyfully living out one of their God-given talents (not their only one). There’s a NCAA commercial that reminds sports fans that most college athletes will be “going pro” in a field other than athletics. College sports serves as just one way for theses student to express their gifts and really entrench themselves in human experience. It gives them the opportunity for creativity and expression, for problem solving and teamwork, for enjoyment and tradition. College bowl games provide them one more chance, one last opportunity to compete.
This year, as we watch with joy and anticipation, let us be open to the hopefulness and tradition that is playing out before our eyes. Let us be in awe of this special season. And let these games inspire wonder and awe the whole year through.