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Right now you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck does Romans Chapter 11 have to do with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning Super Bowl LV?” (As shown above.) Or for that matter, what does Romans 11 have to do with “Whatever happened to FSU football?” We’ll get back to that in a minute, but first…
Put it this way. For 30 years now I’ve been doing “novel” research. Research for a series of novels; three published already and one in the oven. The hero of the newest novel – call him “Nick*” – is a crazy-ass football fan. (Redundant?) This fan honestly thinks he can “help” his favorite sport teams win championships. And if this wacko’s theories are correct, he just helped his NFL-fave Tampa Bay Buccaneers win this past year’s Super Bowl LV. (BTW: “Nick” has been a Buc-fan ever since the early days, of “Buccaneer Bruce” and flaming orange team colors, shown above right.)
And just as an aside, Nick tries to “help” his teams by combining Daily Bible Reading with hard ritual-exercise “sacrifice,” described in the notes. (Not to mention living the good Christian Life.) And just in case you think that’s weird, you could say that all this started back with Moses at the Battle of Refidim. (See Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work*”)
To cut to the chase, Nick started out trying to help FSU football win championships. (Because he started law school there back in 1981.) And there were some, but lately things have gone downhill. And what seems to have happened is that FSU football’s recent string of extremely bad news has turned out to be Good News for Nick’s other favorite teams. And now for some explanation…
This post continues a theme set out in two recent posts. The first was “As a spiritual exercise,” from May 20, 2020. Then on October 4, 2020, I continued the theme in An unintended consequence – and ‘Victory O Lord!’ (All part of researching my novels.)
The first post describe the method – the hard “spiritual exercise” – that Nick used to help his favorite teams win championships. (Initially just FSU football, but later his list of favorite teams expanded.) And that first post described how – along the way – he learned lots of valuable spiritual lessons. (Since 1989 or so, as have I, in doing the research.) And like I said, the “Nick” novels* are about a “crazy-ass football fan” who keeps plugging away alone, trying to help his favorite teams:
As a Spiritual Exercise, in 1989 [Nick] started looking for new ways to “help” [his] favorite college team – Florida State University – win its first football national championship… At first it was a matter of finding the right ritual sacrifice, in the form of exercise, and especially aerobics…
But in time it also came to involve that Daily Bible Reading noted above. (Which he started in 1992. And FSU won its first national championship in 1993. You do the math.) And so – to make a long story short – you could say that my research for the novels also led to me creating this blog.
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As it turned out, Nick’s hard-exercise “ritual sacrifice” was a big part of his spiritual awakening. (And mine.) But daily Bible reading also became a big part of it. Along with “Living a Good Christian Life.” (Well, mostly… “He’s Still Working on Me.”) In the process, it led him – and me – to lots of spiritual insights. For example, insights into “how the original Children of Israel must have felt when they did all the right things – and yet ended up conquered and sent into exile.”
As noted, Nick started his Mystic Quest trying to help FSU football win National Championships. And there were a number of good years that followed, including three national championships and the FSU football dynasty. (14 consecutive finishes in the Top 4.*) But over the last several years, FSU football has hit rock bottom. The team has fallen on extremely hard times. Which you might say is the functional equivalent of ancient Israel’s being conquered and sent into Babylonian exile. (Illustrated below left; “By the Waters of Babylon We Wept.”)
In FSU’s case, their “football dynasty” ended in 2001. (They went 8-and-4 and ended up ranked #15.) There followed a roller-coaster-ride series of seasons, with a third national title in 2013. Then things really fell apart…
After consecutive 10-and-3 seasons in 2015 and 2016, FSU went 7-and-6, 5-and-7, 6-and-7, and – in 2020 – a miserable 3-and-6. (List of FSU football seasons – Wikipedia, and also ‘They’re in a deep, deep hole’ – Inside the 6-year unraveling of Florida State football.) All of which is a very sad story, and an extremely humiliating fall from grace.
But what was bad news for FSU football became very good news for the rest of Nick’s favorite teams. At least lately; over the last six months or so…
What may have happened is like what the Apostle Paul explained in Romans 11. We’ll get back to that in a minute as well, but again, what seems to have happened is that FSU’s “blessings” got transferred. Transferred away from them and on to some of his other favorite teams. (See a fuller list of of those expanded other-team blessings in the June 2018 post, “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth.)
And those blessings have come in a rush over the past six months or so. (That is, with Nick’s “favorite” Tampa Bay Lightning, L.A. Dodgers and Bucs all winning their respective championships, described below.)
Which could be another way of saying the suffering (or sacrifice) of some can lead to manifest blessings for others. (As one prime example, Google “Jesus suffering servant.”) Or it could be another way of saying that being “God’s Favorite Team” may not be all it’s cut out to be…
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In other words, the original Children of Israel found out – the hard way – that being “God’s Favorite” wasn’t all they thought it would be. One thing they learned was that it was “to vigor, not comfort” that they were called.* Which is another way of saying that being God’s Favorite involves a lot of hard discipline. Or as Luke put it (in 12:48), if you get a lot of blessings from God, He will expect a lot from you in return. (Paraphrased.) Then too, as it says in Hebrews 12:6, God disciplines those He loves. Which is fine when you can keep on the straight and narrow, but what happens when you mess up? That could be one big lesson from “Whatever happened to FSU football?”
Briefly, if you – or your favorite team – mess up, you may have to go through a period of chastening. For another, if you mess up spiritually, some of your blessings may get transferred to others; other people or other teams. Which leads to the thought, “More recently, there has been a slew of good news for Nick’s ‘other favorite teams.'”
One example – noted in unintended consequences – on September 28, 2020, Nick’s favorite NHL team – Tampa Bay Lightning – won its second Stanley Cup. Then on October 7, 2020, “his” Los Angeles Dodgers won the 2020 World Series. And third, on February 7, 2021, his favorite NFL team – the Buccaneers – won Super Bowl LV.
As to “what the heck happened to FSU football,” Nick has a theory. And it comes from Isaiah 66:4, “I will choose their punishments and bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen.” (In the NIV.)
Which is being interpreted: “Nick” first told his story* in 1994, right after FSU football won its first national championship. He described how the team was God’s Favorite, and that the 1993 national championship had been “preordained.” He put out ads in the Tallahassee papers and magazines covering FSU sports. He went on book tours , and in one such tour personally handed a copy of “Zen Football*” to Bobby Bowden.
The result? Nothing. Little or no response.
There was even one time when Nick’s wife put out a bunch of fliers on windshields at Governor’s Square Mall in Tallahassee. (At least until a not-unfriendly cop stopped her.) And pretty much the same thing happened when Nick published his second and third books, again claiming that FSU football was “God’s Favorite Team.” It was all of a lot of “I called, but no one answered.” (Like in Isaiah 66:4, noted above.)
But in all this there is some good news. (And not just for Nick’s other favorite sport teams.) For one thing, if Nick’s original theory is correct, FSU football hasn’t fallen completely from God’s grace. That’s where Romans 11 comes in. And specifically, Romans 11:11-12 (NIV):
Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
Which could be another way of saying that eventually – in the fullness of time – FSU football will again rise to prominence; back to championship level. In the meantime, there could be other positive benefits for FSU football fans during the “time of their exile.” For one thing, it was only during that Babylonian exile that the Old Testament as we know it came to be. (As I explained – VIS-À-VIS the how and why of that “collateral benefit” – in my April 2019 post, “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem.*”)
In other words, if it hadn’t been for the Babylonian Exile, there might have been no “finalized” Old Testament.* And without that Old Testament as we know it, it would have been difficult for Jesus to spread His message of salvation.
Which could be where my “Nick” novels come in. (Especially the newest “in the oven.”) It always seemed to Nick that when it comes to prospective converts to The Faith, college football fans were and are ripe for the picking. (And other sport fans as well.) In other words, when it comes to sport-fans, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” In further words, there are few people evangelizing specifically to sport fans.
Hmmm. I wonder if should write another “Nick” novel, this one proclaiming that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are “one of the newest ‘God’s Favorite Teams?'”
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The upper image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl – Image Results. With an article, “Super Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate victory as Tom Brady wins seventh title.” The reference in the caption is to Exodus 33:13, variously translated but in the English Standard Version, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. “
The “Bruce” image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneer Bruce – Image Results. And a word of explanation. Nick was a Tampa Bay fan first, but later went to law school at Florida State, in the early 1980s. (That was when the Bucs were really bad.) So his starting the ritual sacrifice to help FSU was just a matter of timing. FSU football seemed to offer a better chance of success.
Re: “Nick.” The novel-hero’s name is an homage to the fictional character created by Ernest Hemingway. That Nick was the “protagonist of two dozen short stories and vignettes written in the 1920s and 1930s.” See Nick Adams (character) – Wikipedia.
Re: The “Nick” novels. Only the newest “in the oven” novel will feature Nick, as described featuring a Third Person Narrative. The earlier novels used the First-person narrative, but I figured this “crazy-ass football fan’s” story could benefit from the style that offers “the most objective view of a story because neither the narrator nor the reader are participants.” (And actually that newest novel will use a combination of the two styles.)
Re: Nick’s hard ritual-exercise “sacrifice.” His routine has evolved over the years. When “he” lived in Florida in the 1990s the routine included (in the main) a series of three long jog-walks per week, usually afternoons after work. That meant juggling between waiting for the heat index to drop below 100 degrees, and trying to avoid the “clockwork regular” thunderstorms that came in summer afternoons. And those jog-walks sometimes included sprint sets, or using five-pound ankle weights. As Nick’s routine stands at the time of publication, it involves five hours per week of medium-intensity aerobics, two hours a week of high intensity aerobics, 49 minutes of yoga, and ten strength exercises. The “medium aerobics” can include kayaking, jog-walking or plain old walking, or timed calisthenics. The high-intensity aerobics include 30-minute sessions of stair-stepping, wearing a 30-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights. (And if you think that’s crazy, consider the Lightning, Dodgers and Buccaneers all winning their championships over the past six months or so.)
Re: “14 consecutive finishes in the Top 4.” In 1994 and 1995, FSU ended up ranked Number 5 in the Coaches Poll, but still ranked Number 4 in the Associated Press Poll. See Florida State football – Wikipedia. Note that starting in 2014 college football moved to the College Football Playoff rankings system. Unlike other polls, it’s “the only one that really matters,” since it determines the current four-team playoff.
Re: Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?” That’s from my companion blog. The Battle of Rephidim – or Refidim – was also noted in this blog’s On “God’s Favorite Team” – Part III, from October, 2014.
Re: “To vigor, not comfort.” An allusion to a quote from About the Blog:
Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement. . . Do not suppose from this that your new career [as a Christian] is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move. True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock. It is to vigour rather than comfort that you are called.
Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism, Ariel Press, 1914, at page 177.)
The full link is Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth Lyrics – Genius. For an audio version see For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield – YouTube.
Re: Book tours. One “virtual” site I discovered was TLC Book Tours, which it may behoove me to start using sometime soon.
Re: Nick’s first telling his story. In 1994 “he” published a book which he titled “Zen in the Art of College Football,” about the events leading up to FSU football’s 1993 national championship. He felt that at the time the method of choosing which two teams would play for a national championship “sounded a lot like Zen. A lot of double talk that really doesn’t make a lot of rational sense.” (Or words to that effect.)
Re: Romans 11. There’s a good analysis of this metaphor in Grafted in: An example from nature : The Simple Pastor. (Which by the way, features a great painting by Vincent van Gogh.) See also Acts of the Apostles – Wikipedia: “Luke–Acts is an attempt to answer a theological problem, namely how the Messiah of the Jews came to have an overwhelmingly non-Jewish church; the answer it provides is that the message of Christ was sent to the Gentiles because the Jews rejected it.” The “Jews rejected it” link has further information about Nick’s theory of “what happened to FSU football.” However, fitting “Acts of the Apostles” into the title of this post would have been exceedingly difficult.
Re: How and why the Babylonian exile shaped the Old Testament, from If I Forget Thee: “Professor Cynthia R. Chapman began by focusing on Psalm 137 as the story of how the final version of the Old Testament got made up by that Hebrew Remnant – those people in exile. In other words, something very good – the final version of the Old Testament – was the result of something very bad happening to ‘God’s Chosen People.’”
I.e., the Old Testament as we know it didn’t exist before 586 B.C., when the Exile started. Starting with executions during a post-siege “mop up” followed by a “death march” of 800 miles to Babylon. After those horrors – and the shame of this national disgrace – the Remnant of Israel compiled, edited and shaped their collected national stories into a “virtual library.” A library that connected them to their homeland.
Re: “Harvest is plentiful.” See Luke 10:2, and Matthew 9:35-38. And the lower image is courtesy of Harvest Plenty But Laborers Are Few – Image Results.