I was born in Louisiana, and when you are born in Louisiana, the doctor holds you up and asks you if you are a Saints fan. If you say 'no' they drop you off at the Arkansas border. So as a dutiful native of the Bayou State I sat through literally decades of bad football. Remember, Saints fans were the original 'brown paper bag over the head' fans, and we were encouraged that, even if you had to hide your face, you still backed your team. So I watched the games and cheered for the players and was excited when they won, and discouraged when they lost. I spent a lot of time discouraged. I know of what I speak when I talk about team loyalty.
But one day, when I was maybe 14 or so, it struck me that although the team was headquartered in Louisiana, most of the players weren't natives. Here I was supporting what I perceived to be the 'local boys' when the truth is they were all carpetbaggers who wore my team's colors for a paycheck. Taking this even further, it wasn't my team, it was Tom Benson's team, and above that, the National Football League's team. They managed to extract years of loyalty to me out of the simple coincidence that they established a franchise of their business in the same vague geographical designation as my birth.
I mention this because college football season in the South is in full swing, and people who never attended, for example, the University of Georgia will deck themselves out in red and black, bark like dogs, and talk about what a good game 'they' played. Otherwise rational people will sit on their couch at home (after dressing up) and talk about how 'we' beat them when 'we' wasn't even at the game. My current residence is near the Florida-Georgia border so we have people that have lived in Georgia 99% of their life, but because they were born 10 minutes south of the border, proclaim themselves lifelong Florida fans. It's a little odd. They will drape their kids, who weren't born in Florida, in Florida colors and begin the inculcation of regionalistic tribalism.
People are, at their heart of hearts, tribal, in nature. Everybody wants to be part of something; they want to be part of a group. They want to be able to identify with something larger than themselves, and they will pay through the nose for the privilege. The great college rivalries, are , in essence , the exact same thing as warfare, but with less bloodshed (unless it's a Raiders game) and they are basically, no different than the great inter-tribe contests of the Incas or the Mayans. The dynamic is the same; my group can beat your group. People identify themselves with the group and glory in the accomplishments of the group whether or not they contributed anything to the 'victory'.
For the most part, this stuff is harmless escapism and good-natured fun. It gives people who aren't athletes somebody to cheer for, and I'm certain that's all good and well. Where I get a little confused is when people who claim to have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and claim to have passed from death unto life and claim to have had all their sins washed away and claim to have been placed in Jesus Christ show very little interest in identifying themselves with that particular tribe. People who will paint half of their face blue so they can sit at home and watch a millionaire play a child's game show no interest in bearing any sort of reproach for the one who suffered and died for them.
Shouldn't being part of that group, the blood-washed band, trump all other groups? Shouldn't the excitement over what Jesus has done make all these other team accomplishments seem silly by comparison? People will attend these games and be confrontational towards the opposition. They will wave signs and learn chants, knowing that those guys in the other colors aren't really their enemies,; it's just a game. Some of those same people will become oddly silent when it comes time to express opposition towards the very real enemies of their Saviour in a contest that is not a game.
Every year myself and a small group of dear friends attend the Georgia Florida game in Jacksonville. We stand outside the stadium and we preach and hold signs and try to tell people about Jesus. We get opposed by drunks, but that doesn't bother us. Drunks should be opposed to us. What does bother us (or more accurately, me) is that in a crowd of over 100,000 in and around the stadium, there will be, maybe 30 people standing up for Jesus. Maybe.
Even in our church, I can tell you, with a fair amount of certainly, who will be going and who will not, even this early on. I know who will probably take off work to be able to go and I know who wouldn't be caught dead with us. I'm not saying everybody has to do what we do, but if you pass up a chance to root for Jesus so that you can stay home, watch TV, dress in funny colors and root for nobody special, I'm not mad at you, I'm just very very confused.