It’s amazing the difference at playing at home and on the road. The old adage is true: Home Sweet Home. As last night the Colorado Rapids, the team where I serve as chaplain, won their home opener in the last seconds of the game. The crowd was sent home with a frenzied excitement. The opposing team with a punch in the gut – going home empty. No points. Nothing to show for the trip and journey to Denver. Last week, it was the Rapids team that came home feeling like they had let something get away in a game that also ended 1-0, but with the Rapids on the bitter end of the scoreline.
So what makes home sweet? What makes it different from the road and what I shared last week and the challenges that exist? Let’s take a quick look at a few:
Home Sweet Home: Football
It’s no surprise that the home team has advantages. Whether it is not having to travel and change timezones or not living out of a suitcase in a hotel, the home side is more at ease and comfortable playing at home. The fans – when in full-voice can also be a tremendous advantage as they sing and cheer their team on to help inspire a victory. There are also the physical advantages, for the Rapids, Denver is a high-altitude city (5280 feet, a mile-high, above sea level) which often leaves opponents gasping for air. All of these advantages can make the football better and give better odds for the home side to win the game.
Home Sweet Home: Family
Home is also better because of family are there – now many players come from different countries or parts of North America, but those who have their own, young families have the joy of having their spouse or their child present at the game. For Rapids star Kevin Doyle, having his son Bennett roam around the stadium on game-day with a jersey that says “Daddy” and Doyle’s trademark #9 has special meaning and significance. But whether it is family that are in town, or parents or other family members that travel into watch a home game, players, coaches, and the like are always buoyed by the presence of family at home.
Home Sweet Home: Faith
The faith component for many is also affected at home – with the players for whom faith is important, the presence of time spent with the home chaplain can be a great advantage as well. While many of the chaplains around MLS are connected and do try to offer resources or prayer or a pre-game chapel for visiting teams, it is often dependent on the chaplain and visiting team’s travel schedule. For the home team, to take a moment to pray or to have a chaplain bless the team or give an encouraging word before hitting the field can be a special moment when the home team is reminded of their faith and how their vocation and work fit into the bigger picture.
Of course, when, as Christians, we speak of home – we know and understand that our vestiges of ‘home’ here on earth are merely temporary, they are not our true home. As the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:13-16) give us a special framework for understanding that our forefathers in the faith did not merely rest their eyes on the earthly and temporal home – they were looking, searching, and seeking for a country, a home – home sweet home – if you will, in that they ever had the hope of heaven and that eternal home set upon their hearts.
May we, too, never let our eyes rest upon our heavenly homes – whether we call those the houses we live in, the stadiums we play in, or the church buildings we worship in – these are not ‘home’ in the truest sense of the word. No, we are looking for, expecting, hoping for our true, eternal home.
Rev. Brad Kenney