Thursday, January 08, 2009

True Christian Spirit!

I have to take my hat off to Coach Hogan at Grapefine Faith Christian School

Speaking of football, as a kid growing up in a small town, I remember the excitement that preceded our high school’s home football games. I recall the sense of “oneness” within our community as all the store owners would display “spirit” banners and posters that said “Go Broncos” or “Beat Bonneville” in their windows urging support for “our team” on Friday night. It seemed the whole town would turn out for the game. I dreamed of what it would be like to be one of the players on the field with the whole town cheering you on. And, I experienced it.

High school football is big in America.

But I suppose there is no place where it is bigger than in Texas. Friday nights there are legend.

The fans scream; the stands are packed; cheerleaders with pom-poms jump and sway to the beat of the school band; parents yell encouragement (mostly); mom’s turn their eyes away when their little boys are crunched by the “bullies on the other team who didn’t really have to hit him that hard, did he?” and everybody joins in the chants and stomps their feet on the metal stands until you are sure they will collapse.

This is the frenzy of Texas high school football.

However, there is a football team in Texas that is a little different. When they play on Friday night, their stands are pretty much empty, no band, no cheerleaders, no mass of parents or townsfolk wearing the school colors and waving banners and flags. They take the field without anyone cheering them on. When they get a first down, there is no deafening surge from the stands. When they score a touchdown, which rarely happens, there is no wild celebration behind them…only the individual shouts of satisfaction that come from the 14 players and their coach and the 20 or so people that are sitting on their side of the field. All of it seems hollow and muffled in contrast to the tidal wave of roars and drums and chants that come from the opposing side.

They are the Tornadoes of the Gainesville State School, a fenced, maximum-security facility of the Texas Youth Commission. The young men who go to Gainesville State are there because they have made some major mistakes in their lives. But the players who are on the team are there because they have worked hard and have disciplined themselves to meet the “criteria” that gives them the privilege to leave the facility and play football on Friday nights—always an away game for them—always a home game for their opponents—and almost always a loss. They don’t have a weight program or training equipment or high-paid coaches and assistants. They don’t have a large pool of players to draw from. The school has 275 boys, but many are too old or too young or can’t or don’t meet the “criteria” to play. And they don’t have the support of a town and a mass of parents and family and reporters and bands and cheerleaders.

That is, until November 7th. Something changed. They played Grapevine Faith Christian School.

The way the Gainesville coach, Mark Williams, recounted it for me, it went something like this: Earlier in the week, he had received a call from Faith Christian coach, Kris Hogan, asking him if it would be okay if Faith formed a “spirit” line for his team when they ran on the field. Mark said, “Sure, that would be a real encouragement to the kids.” He thought that the line would consist of a couple of the JV cheerleaders, but when they took the field, there were a hundred people in it and it stretched to the 40-yard line, filled with Faith parents, fans and varsity cheerleaders, complete with a banner at the end for them to burst through that read “Go Tornadoes!”. And then, those parents and fans sat in the stands behind the Gainesville players and when the Tornadoes broke the huddle and went up to the line they could hear people cheering for them, by name. When they got a first down, “their” fans erupted...

Isn't this exemplary! Read the whole article from Del Tacket and also ESPN's story on this. Can you imagine the impact this had on not only the lives of all these young men, but also on the lives of their guards, their parents, and the rest of the world, as they look on!

HT: Dr. Dell Tackett: Truth Observed.