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One of my best friends tells me that my one quirk, the part of my personality inconsistent with all the rest, is that I like football.  I don’t personally see this as a contradiction; maybe there are other things about me she doesn’t know.  My brother does not like football.  Or at least, though he may enjoy it, he sees it as an attack on the priorities of our nation, and more particularly, his family.  Sure, football is a great team game of hard work and strategy.  But people are obsessed, and paying millions of dollars to men who do nothing but feed our entertainment lust is unproductive.  “Hello!  What about Hollywood?”  My brother feels almost the same about movies.  Except that movies can communicate important messages, an aspect of entertainment rather lacking when it comes to sports. 

All the same, I see football as a sort of strategy class and people-watching session.  Living in Colorado, I became a fan of the Broncos when they were doing well enough to win back-to-back Superbowls.  And for several years afterwards, I stuck with them, engaging in the family ritual of changing into team colors after church and sitting down with pizza and a pop in front of the television to watch the came and coach from the couch.  I adopted the title of Morale Coach, wanting to encourage our players to play hard and to be good sports, not to fight or taunt or through tantrums.  Years of disappointing seasons and gloomy Sunday afternoons took their toll, so that I wasn’t sad when I committed to do a Bible study on Sundays during football. 

Fair weather fan?  I can justify that.  Last year was the worst, the Broncos harboring a team full of players who didn’t seem to want to win.  And if the players aren’t trying and don’t want to win, I’m not going to sacrifice my happiness cheering for them.  Much as I admire Coach Shanahan, I have to admit coaching ought to impact the attitude of the team – a team that had its share of personal trouble, losing a teammate in a dramatic drive-by shooting and generally being involved with a party crowd up to no good.  Still, one has to follow Mike Shanahan’s example of accepting the need for a new coach driving the Broncos. 

This season is a whole new ballgame.  A young coach named McDaniels came in and, holding his head high through some early controversy, established his game.  There’s a lot of new talent – or new to Denver – on this year’s lineup.  Our running backs aren’t signature Mike Shanahan anymore.  But our defense can play, our punter is good, and our offensive line is holding long enough for a no-name quarterback, Orton, to come through with his plays and make all of us rethink his place among the league’s quarterbacks.  Play has been clean, with few sloppy turnovers. 

I’m not saying the Broncos don’t have their weaknesses.  What I’m pointing at is energy.  The defense sees the ball coming towards them, and everyone around takes a lunge at it.  There’s no casual, “he’s not my man to cover” attitude, or wimpy shoves representing themselves as tackles.  On offense, when there’s no hope left of making the first down or of scoring that big run, the running back, Moreno, pushes for a few more opponent-dragging feet.  Introducing a creative new formation, called the Wild Horses, the offense has been willing to take risks, and capitalize on unexpected opportunities (read: deflected passes caught and run for big plays). 

The Broncos are 5-0, and it’s all about enthusiasm.  After the overtime win this Sunday, the coach took a leap into a celebration hug with one of his guys, a player I don’t recognize, a nobody – of whom the coach is proud, with whom the coach has rapport.  Everyone was slamming their fists into the air, jumping and yelling.  The last time the Broncos won their first 5 games, they won the Superbowl, and I became a fan.  This year, a fan is reborn. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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There is a game which I have never played, but for which I am an excellent cheerleader with approximately two games’ experience. Often I get it confused with Frisbee Golf, which is considerably more difficult. It is called Ultimate Frisbee. Those who practice this game have some nice moves and are excellent athletes. Amateurs can apparently have fun. Rules are not difficult to learn. By the end of the first game I watched, I had grasped the majority.

The object (about now you’re wondering what this has to do with an octopus, but let me tell this in my own good time) of the game is to throw the Frisbee across your goal to a teammate who must catch it behind the goal. In fact catching is pretty important in this game. If you drop the Frisbee, the other team receives possession. In sports this is called a turn over. (If my audience was less male, it would be impressed.) If the other team catches a Frisbee, this interception is also a turn over. When you have the Frisbee, your feet cannot move. You must throw it. The idea is to transfer the Frisbee to one of your teammates, but there is no additional penalty if you fail, beyond a turnover. Defense is to discourage the player with the Frisbee from throwing it to the player nearest you. If they do, make the player fail in his attempt to catch it, or catch it yourself. Remember this.

In Awana there are three or four teams playing the standard games. Teams are laid out on a square or triangle surrounding a circle. As a Game Director for Awana last year, I appreciate the hilarious fun of turning a two-team game into one for three or four teams. Such was also the adventure the Game Directors at Camp undertook with their version of Ultimate Frisbee. At Camp there are three teams (unless Purple wants to play, but they are usually busy photographing, making rules, and tending sprains and scrapes). So the wonderful invention was a triangular field for Ultimate Frisbee, in which each team’s goal was one cut-off corner of the triangle. In case of a dropped “Frisbee,” possession advanced to the next team in a cycle of three, which got a little confusing and I’m not sure – perhaps dishonest. It was definitely a possibility.

As amazing an innovation as turning this simple game into a three-sided carnival was compounded by the substitution of a real dead Octopus for a Frisbee. Let’s review rules. No kicking. No batting. No one person moving the object down the field in their hands. Generally a Frisbee glides gracefully through the air over heads to the next player, occasionally sent off course by a gentle breeze. With an Octopus, its rather different. It is hurled from one player to another, draping tentacles and slimy arms over heads, and covering the face and shoulders of any player unfortunate enough to catch the beast.

I was a junior high counselor at camp. A girl counselor for girl campers. In general girls don’t like dead things, or slimy, or fishy, or smelly. For example, several girls upon finding an Octopus in their hands stood there, staring at the blob, and screaming. They did not throw the mess into the air like a hot potato, or drop it on the ground and run. I think there is a poison in Octopus that takes away rational escape instinct. There was one of my girls who, while she may feel that way, had no trouble setting aside her doubts and attempting to win the game. One of my girls was more hesitant. And the third of my girls did not want to touch the Octopus. A responsibility of being a counselor is to encourage campers to participate in games. Apparently the tactic employed by my male co-counselors was to excel at the game and occasionally allow campers to participate. Don’t get me wrong. To a certain extent this is highly effective. Once proven that Octopus guts do not kill you if you touch them, campers are bolder to try. I had a different gift in encouraging kids to participate. It involved corralling, coaching, and taking them literally by the hand with the reassuring comment, “I don’t want to touch it either. We won’t have to. We’ll play defense.”

Here’s what you do. It is sort of like meeting an angry grizzly bear in a forest. You stand up tall and make yourself as big as possible by waving your arms. In this way you intercept sight lines between team players and you give the impression that whoever is behind you is off limits. An important thing to remember is position. You want to be between the possessor of the *deep breath* Octopus and their teammates or goal. You cannot stand far from the goal. One danger in playing defense is that if the possessor of the Octopus happens to, in spite of all your deterrence, throw the Octopus your way, you might get hit. You might have to move. I recommend moving.

So the game was going great and I had dragged my more reluctant clubbers into a defensive position when the Game Directors changed the rules. Girls got to sit out for a while. Watching, I had to observe that the campers had the hang of the game, and most of them were reluctantly becoming willing to handle the Octopus. But counselors, who in most cases were ten times faster and ten inches taller than campers, were monopolizing the game. Interrupting his enthusiastic refereeing of the game, I pointed this out to a Game Director. At which point the game changed and I rescued myself from further participation. See how smart I am?

By the time only girls were participating in this unique game, all but two or three of those in my charge were eagerly chasing and tossing the Octopus. Still my defensive buddy seemed to have forgotten the importance of position. She wandered in the middle of the field, distant from the action. There’s something to be said for staying far away from the horrible stench of dead Octopus. When you are out of the crowd, though, you are much more vulnerable to detection. In a few years she’ll learn to blend in a little. This year, the Game Director caught her. He had located a wayward bit of Octopus limb, and stuffed it into her hand. Again, the paralyzing of escape instincts took over, and she merely stared at the mushy tissue in her hand. Then she threw it down and ran towards the game, all fear surrendered.

And so my job was accomplished with help from the Game Director, with whom I was prepared to be quite indignant if there were bad results from his tortuous methods. He is a devious man, who will not disappoint in driving you to desperate things. His next move was to call for “only counselors” to play the horrific game, Ultimate Octopus.

You have to understand. There were only four on each team, and the field was huge. We were playing against fast people, real athletes, aggressive people. And I can usually catch, but I can’t throw. Not when surrounded by people. Not some soft, stringy object. But mere defense was no longer an option. Fortunately I’d already mastered a plan for defense when the other team had the Octopus. (Actually to be quite honest, another team, Green, swelled their ranks with high school counselors who were supposed to be elsewhere, and so in the counselor score, Red looked rather bad.) When we had possession, though, we had to score. I postured for the Octopus, trying to communicate that I was open and hesitantly willing. I’m sure my body language was like raising your hand but with a mostly bent elbow, so that if the teacher doesn’t really want to think you have something to say, she doesn’t have to call on you. Then it happened.

My teammates (I did not pay sufficient attention to which teammate that I could futurely attack him/her) threw me the Octopus. And I touched it. I caught it. And I threw it to another teammate, who didn’t catch it because actually I threw it in the direction of all sorts of counselors and caused a turnover in their favor. To be quite honest, at this stage the Octopus had been dropped enough that the only substance actually touching my skin was dirt. But I was brave, and so unsuccessful in my possession that I rid myself of the need to ever touch it again.

The end.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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