Why I’m a Sports Fan

prayerI always wanted a dad who took me to sports matches or games and who cheered me on from the sidelines. Unfortunately that was not in the cards of destiny for me. My mom bought me my first football pads and rented my uniform for little league. Being tall for my age and skinny there were few positions I could play well but my favorite was Wide Receiver. After weeks of practice and just a few days before our first game, the coach decided to have each of his players try out in each position. To me this made no sense, but to him and his staff it made perfect sense. After scoring a touchdown at WR, they tried me at Corner Back. Clueless about what to do they moved me to the line across from this guy three times my size in weight and about a foot taller than me. This was the practice where we were to earn our face masks. Up to this point every practice was played full contact with no face mask. The face mask was a privilege like a badge of honor. Once the ball was in play, I found myself on my back and everything was noisy. When I opened my eyes they had called for the field stretcher. My large friend across the line from me had knocked me out with his hit and broke my nose in the most terrific display of un-sportsman like contact they had ever seen. He earned his position on the line and I walked away from football never to play again.

Next, I tried baseball and played for Surplus and Salvage in Pensacola Florida. Having never tried to hit a ball or throw a baseball before, made my tenure in baseball rather short as well. I played one season, could not get the hang of it and quit. My mom was furious! She had spent a good bit of money for me to just start and then quit. It may have been helpful to at least watch more of the sport I was trying to play or have someone to practice with outside of the game.

As I got older, I thought about soccer but did not want to do all that running. Ironically, I then tried out for the track team in Middle School and made the team. So much for my form of reasoning. I did okay in the various meets but there was someone on our team that was always faster or more liked so they received all the attention. If I were only faster or from another country maybe that would get me some recognition, I thought. I was the alternate for the long jump, alternate for the 100 meter dash, 440 relay, 880 relay, 1 mile, and the hurdles. Finally, I settled for being the Statistician for the Middle School Football Team.

In 9th grade, I tried out for the basketball team with a buddy of mine. Tryouts seemed to last forever. Then one day out of nowhere, the list was released. My buddy made the team but I did not. I resolved myself to be a professional sports watcher or fan from that point on but my allegiances in teams were rather split.

My grandfather loved the Atlanta Braves so they became my baseball team. My step dad who joined the family when I was 9 years old liked the New York Giants and they took a whipping from some team called the San Francisco 49ners, so the Niners have been my team ever since. I figured I would stick with the teams that had numbers in their name and liked the 76ers as my basketball team. Back then they were pretty good.

When I started 5th grade in Mobile, Alabama, the first question I was asked was by another kid bigger than me and it was, “Are you Alabama or Auburn?” I answered Alabama and have been right for 35 years. Boxing was big when I was coming up and my three favorites were Evander Holyfield, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard.

Toward the end of 9th grade I was expelled for fighting. There is a lot to be said about staying in sports and staying out of trouble. At my new High School, I avoided sports all together and joined JROTC. I knew I wanted to go into the military after High School and one of the best decisions I have ever made was JROTC. They placed me in charge of the Physical Training team and finally, I found my niche. We traveled all over the South East competing in tournaments in Physical Fitness while the Drill Team Competed at the same location in Drill and Ceremonies. We won a few trophies and did reasonably well. The competitions all consisted of Physical Training Tests. When we competed against the Navy JROTCs it was by their standards, when the Marines it was by theirs (Chin ups…Ugggg!), and of course the Army standard of Pushups-Situps-2 mile run.

As the high school years went on, I excelled in all PT categories and held the record for my school for most pushups in 45 seconds. Back then I could do a whopping 80 pushups in 45 seconds. I also clocked my fastest 1 mile run at 5:17 and fastest 2 mile at 10:26. The 1 mile time was in practice for a competition and the 2 mile was in Auburn, Alabama at a meet. Some may think of those times as fast, but I assure you, they are not. The day I ran 10 minutes and 26 seconds in Auburn, I came in fourth overall. Crazy!

After high school, I never saw those same times again. My pushups, I kept well into my 40s.

sports_fans1So, why am I a sports fan? I like the individual effort and determination one must have in order to compete. In tandem with many of these events, I earned my black belt in Jujitsu and have played dozens of pickup tennis matches at the collegiate level with guys who played at or around a 3.5 level. Beyond all of this, sports, like the Army, is a great way to connect with people. There is nothing wrong with having fun, learning who people are through their actions and reactions, and getting dirty from playing. In our digitized world, I think we have forgotten how to play. At least those who play the sports we watch on T.V., still get it.

Now moving into my late 40s, I still cheer for all the teams I mentioned. I still engage in group sports with the various units I am assigned to, regardless of duty station. I still keep my body engaged in activity and use those times to build bridges with others, especially those I have yet to meet.

Finally, sports are a great deal like faith. The less you are engaged in activity, the more you atrophy. Have you ever noticed that word? Like adding the letter “A” to the word “Theist” (one who believes in God), it negates the act of the word. Therefore an “Atheist” is one who does not believe in God. So does “atrophy” mean you never get a trophy if you don’t believe in them? Obviously, it is a play on words but still applies. Faith like muscles has to be flexed, practiced, tried out and gotten dirty. No to mention, even the Apostle Paul knows that living this thing called the Christian life is like a race.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. – 1 Corinthians 9:24

And, again the author of Hebrews demonstrates both the cost, the purpose, and the reason for endurance for the race ahead of us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Are you a sports fan?

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.