Huddling With Family

By Al Perrotta Published on November 23, 2017

If any image encapsulates this football season it has been the image of players “taking a knee.”

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I too will take a knee. In fact, I’ll take two. Not in protest, but in pure gratitude.

To pray to Almighty God and express thanks for the blessings He’s set before me this past year, and in particular this weekend.

For the first time in a couple decades I am getting to enjoy Thanksgiving with a gaggle of family members. How grateful I am for them. I have seen up close this year the destruction a dysfunctional, unloving family can have. Witnessed a loved one treated worse than a dog.

So in the embrace of my family, with the laughter, the warmth, the welcome, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. How thankful.

One of those running to hug me is my grand-nephew Dominic. And I mean running. How thankful for God’s miracles. Doctors at Johns Hopkins figured after his cancer surgery he’d at best be able to hobble around in a brace. The brace was gone in weeks. “Who needs a femoral nerve?” he says. All of us, according to science. But not to our God. How thankful.

Football With the Family

I’m also thankful to be able to watch football with the family. Some of my viewing kin weren’t even born the last time that happened. There’s something about watching sports with family members. You’ve always got the play-by-play person who doesn’t shut up, the color commentator quick with game insights, and the ones weighing in from the sidelines. In addition, you have to have the pacer. The one who constantly sits and gets up, sits and gets up.  

Best I can remember, my father and I never sat and watched a football game together. I do remember sitting and watching a game and him pacing back and forth behind me, anxious about how the game was going, agitated over the play-calling, angered over the calls. This from a guy who was otherwise rarely anxious, agitated or angered.

It’s funny to see the same triple-A in a daughter and grandsons. I suspect I will see it in at least one great-grandchild. Dad lives!!

Perhaps in your family you also have the conspiracy theorists. The refs — most likely paid by the Bilderbergs — truly have it for your team. 

Perhaps you have the superstitious. My sister is one of the most level-headed, easy-going people on the planet. Her husband is the definition of Slavic rationality. But when it comes to sports, I’ve been in New Orleans voodoo shops that are less superstitious than those two. Once season, she was convinced the Washington Capitals would lose if she didn’t watch the game live. He was convinced they’d lose if he watched the game live.

Could I be more grateful for this gang of mine? Could Roger Goodell fumble the NFL protests any worse?

Grace

I begged my nephew Dan to bring me swag from his school, Grace Christian Academy. He brought me much more. He shared a story that says a lot about where we are as a country, and where we must stand as believers in this divisive, spiteful age.

In addition to being an administrator, Dan coaches the soccer team. His Grace Knights were battling a rival school with a history of abusive language and actions. (I saw a game last year where the opposing coach called the Knights “white trash.”) This year, near the end of a tight game, a rival player who had already been given a warning for cussing the ref, shoved one of Dan’s players to the ground. Immediate red card. He was tossed out. The opposing coach screamed at the ref, “You’re a racist!”

Then he turned to Dan. “You’re a racist … and you’re whole team is racist!” (The Knights soccer team is half black with a few Asians, so the charge was not only horrific, it was idiotic.) The coach then pulled his team off the field and they left. (Pray for those players.)

Dan’s players, of course, were stunned, hurt. And concerned. How do you deal with being called a racist? Dan — who does have the Perrotta sports passion gene in abundance, and stalks the sidelines in a manner that would make Mike Ditka proud — was very calm.  “No way do I let myself be defined by someone else.” We are defined by Christ, he told his kids. End of story. Hit the showers. Several parents would call the next day to thank him. The lesson under fire had sunk in.

The Rest of the Story

I should tell you the rest of the story. A few weeks back the two teams met in the league championship game. The opposing coach came over to apologize. He blamed the game tension — and Donald Trump — for his behavior. But did apologize. Dan accepted.

I’d like to tell you Dan’s team won the game. That somehow several of the opposing team’s shots that were headed right for the goal took mysterious swerves away from the open net. That God was on the field for the Grace Academy Knights that day for their most stunning sports achievement in a dozen years. That God honored the team that held tight to Christ and forgave those who sinned against them.

Well, God did do all that. The battle is the Lord’s.

The reminder is awesome.  Even more awesome than the swag.

Prayer: Lord I pray safe travels as families gather for Thanksgiving. I pray a spirit of gratitude spreads across the nation like a tablecloth. I pray those families that have known division this year will find healing. I pray you bless and embrace those who do not experience the embrace of a family. I pray the nation will find unity, that we will clasp the hand of those next to us, regardless of color, sex, nationality or political inclinations, and express in one voice a gratitude for what we’ve received this year, and what we’ve been able to endure. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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  • Howard Rosenbaum

    The “sports gene” has never been a part of my DNA. My mildly dysfunctional upbringing was never infused w/the enthusiasm for a favorite teams success on the field. This Thanksgiving season as in all the others over the years has been bereft of that colorful & perhaps sometimes conflicted national pastime. My kids are further proof of that that near ubiquitous genes absence in my genetic code. Yet, I can easily grasp the value of the “huddle” Mr Perrotta alludes to. Seems that we would all do well to find our respective “huddles” as discordant & yet as congruent as they may seem to be. Regardless , I’m convinced that only those whose hearts have tasted of the depths of Gods mercy & grace can truly explore the near infinite profundity of what being thankful TRULY entails …

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