Finding humility on the football field

Published 9:00 pm Monday, October 23, 2017

It was a shocking upset! I’m talking about the recent loss of the powerful No.2 ranked football team in the country, Clemson to Syracuse 27-24. Even though Clemson’s quarterback, Kelly Bryant, was hurt, suffered a concussion and couldn’t play for the entire second half, Clemson’s loss was still unexpected. At the time of the loss, Clemson had the longest winning streak of Division 1 football teams in the country (11 games).

Upon watching the game and its outcome, however, the thing that struck me the most was the response of Clemson’s head football coach, Dabo Swinney, to the loss. In spite of what must have been a devastating disappointment to him, he displayed a noteworthy example of humility, sportsmanship and class. Immediately after the game, the camera showed him out at midfield hugging and congratulating the Syracuse coach on the upset win. I read somewhere else that later Swinney did the rare thing of going into the Syracuse locker room and congratulating the Syracuse players.

To me, Swinney displayed an example of humility that needs to be understood and emulated by all of us. It would not only make for better sports but better human beings and a better world as well. For the remainder of this article, let’s focus on humility.

Paul says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5). Thus, humility is the proper attitude both toward God and toward other members of the community. So Paul urges these Philippian believers to regard others as better than themselves. But this exhortation is not intended to encourage a false modesty or to downgrade self esteem on the part of these believers.

Rather, it is intended that these believers recognize the rights and achievements of others.

First, humility sees oneself realistically. Humility is not a groveling, self-despising spirit. As Max Lucado states it. “The humble heart does not say, ‘I can’t do anything.’ But states, “I don’t do everything. I know my part and am happy to do it.’ “

Personally, I think humility has to do with teamwork. It has to do with recognizing that we are part of a team. We have a part to play, and we are happy to do it.

Since this is football season and a number of us are thinking about football, let me share a “humility insight.”  Keep in mind that football players are ultimately judged by how many games their team wins, and not by how many individual sacks they made, or passes thrown, or passes received, or how many yards they ran. The spotlight is always on the team. Humility sees realistically.

Second, humility refrains from tooting one’s own horn. I read about a pastor who was voted the most humble pastor in America. His congregation gave him a medal that said, “To the most humble pastor in America.” Then they took it away from him on Sunday because he wore it.

Isn’t it wonderful to meet up with truly well-known people who don’t read their own press clippings. Jesus was hitting on this when he warned us not to sit at the “reserved table” for special guests at dinner parties. He warned us that if we sit too high we’ll be brought low. Humility refrains from tooting one’s own horn.

Third, humility celebrates the success of others. Paul writes in Romans, “Love one another with mutual affection; out-do one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). I’m not altogether sure why it is but sympathizing with the sorrow of others seems to be easier than celebrating the success of others. It probably has to do with the natural person within each of us clamoring for his/her recognition. But note Paul says, “…out-do one another in showing honor.” To be sure, this directive definitely has to do with celebrating the success of others or sharing the credit with others. This seemed and seems to be the Swinney style.

We have all seen or heard the old saying and its true, “There is no limit to the good a person can do if he/she is willing to let someone else take the credit.”

Finally, humility is not ashamed to do a slave’s task. Think of all the things Jesus could have taken while he was in the world. He could have conquered the world by force. God had given him all the power. He could have conquered the world by his ability to do the sensational. People always follow someone who can do magic. Or, he could have used  the power of bread in a world filled with hunger.

Previously, he had fed 5,000, then 4,000, and he could certainly do it again. But what did Jesus take as his method of conquering the world? As you recall, he took a towel. You see, he was not ashamed to do a slave’s task.

Now, it is critical to have Jesus in the right place.

Humility is not ashamed to do a slave’s task. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” admonished Paul.

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways.