Written by Tim Strickland, Director of Christ in the Smokies
There is an analogy that men sometimes watch sports in order to stay surface and not go deeper in conversation… and I’m sure that may be the case in some instances. But who of us doesn’t sometimes want to be entertained and “stay surface”?
I have an argument that watching sports can also be relational—and perhaps even intentional. There is camaraderie and competition. You spend hours in a room with people you choose to be with. There’s conversation… probably some trash talk… joking around… loyalties… and taking a stand for something that seems important at the moment.
When you’re young, you’re most likely to follow your dad’s team. For many, Dad’s a hero then, right? You sit side by side, rooting for your team for hours on end. You cheer when plays go well, and he teaches you how to handle the disappointments. Dad teaches you how the game is played, and he tells you about the players.
There are human-interest stories for the players too. You learn about where they went to school, their background, and maybe some struggles they faced along the way. Maybe, just maybe, watching sports is a great jumping-off point for conversation—for sharing, winning ,and even losing together. It means time with Dad—and, for him, time with you.
At some point—maybe in high school, while looking at colleges, or as you begin to have more of your own ideas about life—you might choose your own team. I remember coming home from college one weekend, and while much in life had changed, Saturday college football had not. We’d end up in front of the TV—me pulling for my team, Dad pulling for his, and now us pulling for each other’s teams. You always pulled for each other, but your team came first. And every once in a while—if you found yourself looking at each other across the field, wearing different colors—that dynamic went to new levels.
That may sound “surface,” but in my case, there has been more to it. My dad was an Alabama fan for as long as he walked the planet. My fondness for Alabama continues to this day, but after attending NC State, I’m a Pack fan first. My dad always rooted for Alabama… and while they rarely played NC State, if they did, he cut me no slack—nor did I for him. It’s silly, but it brought us pleasure in the competition. It also brought us joy in knowing we were each other’s best cheerleaders, side by side, sharing parts of our lives.
The legacy continued with my son Taylor. He was an NC State fan until he reached high school and went to Florida State. My wife and I quickly purchased season tickets, because if Taylor loved them, then we loved them too. Sitting in Doak Campbell Stadium when NC State played FSU was a surreal and enjoyable moment for us, even though NC State lost that day. If it makes any sense, I was okay with FSU winning—and those of you who know me well, know I do not take to losing lightly. My dad drove to Tallahassee with us for a game as well, and he cheered for FSU all the way. There we were—three generations of men with their own favorites, but firmly planted behind each other. It mirrored our real lives.
So, I say, depth in any relationship is what you make of it—even when you’re just watching sports together. The hours we shared… the fun we had… the moments of bonding and being in each other’s company are not calculable. And maybe sometimes it’s that simple.
Looking for more?
Fathers and sons will find more simple pleasures to enjoy together at Christ in the Smokies Passage to Manhood Camp, as well as opportunities to dig deeper in their relationship and their faith. Click here to register for our 2022 camp.