Toronto FC, at one time one of Major League Soccer’s bright stars, has reached an embarrassing low. Starting the 2012 season with a league record of 0-8, the Toronto club has yet to get a win, or even a draw (tie), for any points on the season. The accompanying sense of frustration from the losing streak is one of the places where chaplains are often called to minister and speak into – sometimes with mixed results.
For some, the presence of a team chaplain, can represent a desire to meet holistic needs of the individuals that make up a team (players, coaches, staff, etc.). To others, the team chaplain can also represent something of a religious token where by superstitions and mythical beliefs get played out by players and staff alike. Or, there can be a mixture of both extremes and perceptions of a team chaplain amongst a team – much having to do with how well the chaplain represents himself, his work, and the nature of God to those that are being served.
No team likes to begin the season in a deep hole. And no team wants the dubious distinction of being one of the most ineffective or hapless teams of all time. Although, the Detroit Lions, at 0-16 in 2008 (the sum total of all league games for one season in the National Football League), will probably carry the distinction of being perhaps the worst team in modern sporting history for many years to come.
So a typical question that people ask is, “Does God really care?” (about sports, results, wins, etc.). Serving as a chaplain for a professional sport team for over 10 years, I have wrestled with this question often. What has been helpful for me is the example from the life and ministry of Saint Patrick. He would enter into a village and share the Good News of Jesus, and during the week he (and his team) would go out with the villagers and pray over and bless the streams (to produce fish) and for the fields (to produce crops) and for the woods (to produce game). Patrick realized that in praying for “our daily bread” involves how food gets put on the table. For the athlete, this means having success in their work, in their profession.
So while, 0-8 might be cause for alarm, for the chaplain – there is opportunity. There is an opportunity to pray for God’s provision (for all involved with a team or organization) and also for teaching people to understand more clearly the nature of God – His concern and care for us (our families, etc.) and the work we are called and gifted for.
May God bless the 8-0 and 0-8,
Rev. Brad Kenney