Monday Memo: Champions

Terry Walton



I was thinking...

What makes a champion? The Atlanta Braves have entered the baseball season described as a season to ‘defend their championship’. It is certainly a great marketing strategy to ‘defend as a champion’. It makes for good headlines, story lines and prognostications. Can the Braves repeat as World Series Champions? The odds are not favorable. Back-to-back World Series Championships haven’t occurred since those stinking Yankees did it three years in a row, 1998-2000. A lot of the proverbial ‘stars have to line up’ for repeat championships.

What makes a champion? How ‘bout those Dawgs! Can the Georgia Bulldogs repeat as the College Football Champions? Those stinking Alabama Crimson Tide Elephants have done it three times (some say four times, if you include 1925-1926). Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Army have the bragging rights for back-to-back college football championships. The odds are still against a repeat championship given the many years that college football has been played and the few that have done it back-to-back (relatively speaking).

What makes a champion? I have never had the privilege to be on a championship team. I’m not sure what that says about me. It might speak to bad luck or bad athletic skill. It just hasn’t been in the cards for me. Perhaps that is why I cheer so hard for my teams to be champions. The Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonels came close to being champions when I played for them at age 12. But Sigmond Buick beat us by one run in the playoff game. I was heartbroken.

What makes a champion? Is it all about the end results? I recently heard a volunteer coach ask his six-year-old baseball All-Star team after they lost a game, “Did you have fun?” Those precious six-year old’s shouted “YES!” To which the coach replied, “No you didn’t because you lost!” Is that the truth to what makes a champion? I hope not!

What makes a champion? Merriam-Webster defines ‘champion’ several ways. A) a winner of first prize or first place in competition. B) one that does battle for another’s rights or honor. Both of those definitions are very different. While I am not desiring to offer a play on words, I am thinking that the first definition often clouds the second definition. Why? Because in the first definition, there is ceremony, public celebration, and common joy. In the second, not so much… Yet in terms of life and the things that REALLY matter, this is very much a champion. By the way did you notice that this second definition sounds a lot like Jesus.

What makes a champion? Many people in and around Ukraine are champions. They fight for justice and not only for themselves but for others. Many people who ‘take to the streets’ to speak a communal voice about a social issue, whether it be racial justice, insulin cost, gun violence, sex trafficking or many other social ills are champions as they ‘champion’ a cause for a better tomorrow. Survivors of chronic disease of all kinds are champions too (I’m married to one). These kinds of champions sound a lot like Jesus, too.

What makes a champion? The Philistine giant named Goliath was proclaimed a ‘champion’ (1 Samuel 17) but only according to the above first definition. It was the second definition that caused him to fall on his face (quite literally). David, a shepherd boy, had the kind of faith in God that bred a courage to cast a small stone knocking Goliath off his feet. I ask you which was the greater champion. The answer seems obvious.

What makes a champion? One who sees a bigger picture in life. One who has such faith in God that they can courageously look beyond an ‘obvious circumstance’ and see a broader view, a greater way. One who looks beyond one game, one year, one trophy, one pennant. One who lives life championing for others as Jesus did. Those are the real champions among us. Thanks be to God for the champions!

Always Thinking…

The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

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