Last night at the Arena, while the Jazz and the Lakers were taking turns hitting big shots as the clock was winding down, I have to admit that I made a plea with divinity on behalf of the home team. You know, as if to suggest that God might actually care about the outcome of a basketball game.
Thing is, I think God does care about the outcomes of our sporting events, just not the way some people think. Not in a "Jesus willed the ball over the defender's outstretched hands and into the grasp of the All-Pro wide receiver who has an appointment to buy $20,000 earrings the next morning" kind of way. And not in a "the point guard once shot a guy outside a club because he owed him from an old track bet, so God made sure that he went 3-10 and committed eight turnovers in Game 5" type of way.
No, I think God cares about our sporting events the same way He cares about everything else we do in mortality. It's an opportunity to teach, to learn, and to respect our personal agency. It's an opportunity to see the fruits of hard work, to see the underdog overcome unfathomable odds, and to see that if the underdog doesn't overcome, that there is still something valuable to take from the effort.
I think sports are a great teaching tool, and a place to offer tender mercies. When I was a missionary in South Chicago, I didn't see a second of any of the Jazz-Bulls Finals games in the summer of '97, but I still felt awful to know they'd lost. But when I looked around at the area I was in, and what most of the people I was serving had to deal with day-to-day, I figured they needed the boost more than I did. Because regardless of whether you think it's stupid, sports can bring a community together.
Salt Lake needed it last night. Gratefully, we got it.