I do it every year. I drink the Kool Aid. I buy into the hype. I jump on the train. I see a highlight; read a quote; and before I even know what I've done, I make a bold prediction.
I wanted it to be true this year. I wanted it to be true so bad. On faith alone we bought tickets to the UT vs FL game in Knoxville, even though they had lost 11 years in a row. And guess what? They didn't lose this year! They won in dramatic fashion. And the next week they won in even more dramatic fashion. A Hail Mary to end the game! Everything I had read was coming true. This was the year. The Kool Aid was cold cool and refreshing. The hype was real. The train had left the station and was motoring on.
But the wheels have fallen off the train. The Kool Aid is causing a lot of acid reflux and my once confident Facebook message has become a drunk text that I don't want to take credit for anymore. I put my faith in something that let me down.
Then this morning it was announced that Tennessee's stud running back, Jalen Hurd, was leaving the team. That stings as a fan. But I also have to tell my 6-year old that one of his favorite players isn't going to be playing anymore. When Lucas and I play imaginary football in the game room, he always tells me that I'm Josh Dobbs and he's Jalen Hurd. Then I'll pass him the ball and he will inexplicably score a touchdown. Every time. All 47 pounds of him.
There is danger in putting our faith in something or someone that can let us down. Tennessee seems to do it to me every year. Sports stars will retire or change teams or make a regrettable late night text, or be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our spouses will fail to live up to perfection. Our national leaders will make poor choices. Our jobs will make cutbacks. Our cars will fail to start. People and things will let us down.
The Bible warns us about who and what we put our trust in. As you can see, I have a hard time heeding that warning. I still fool myself into believing that the next pay raise or home purchase will bring fulfillment. That if I just get one national magazine spread to put in my portfolio that I will be a real designer. That if I take my wife on a fancy trip and post it to Instagram, it will prove we have a happy marriage.
The problem I've run into is that I keep pushing myself after these pursuits, and once the taste of Kool Aid has worn off from one, I'm off on the next pursuit. Nothing truly quenches. And then I'm brought back to the Bible's warning, and reading about the pursuits that do quench. Loving God. Loving others. Even if they don't love me back. Even if we don't vote for the same candidate. Even if we don't marry the same sex. Even if they don't fit into the cookie cutter mold I want them to.
So...I fell for it again. The idea that Tennessee was going to be great. Historic even. They aren't.
But...because we decided to head to Knoxville for the big game, we have memories as a family that we won't soon forget. Memories of the boys' first trip to Neyland Stadium. Cheering as loud as we could and hugging and high five-ing perfect strangers. Meeting a family from Florida at our hotel that teased Lucas about his UT shirt every time they saw him at breakfast for two mornings. Photos taken together. Laughs shared. A gassy car ride home.
And even though the news might sting a bit, Lucas and I will continue to play football in the game room. We might have to come up with another receiver for him to be, but it's just a name on a jersey. It's still him and me, making SportsCenter-worthy catches and throws. And that isn't contingent on Tennessee winning or losing. A ridiculous one handed catch (after we've tried it 15 times) is better than a million National Championships.