What kind of fan are we?
I’ve only watched a handful of professional football (soccer) games in my life, three of which have been watching my home team Bristol City play at their home ground Ashton Gate.
You don’t have to like or understand the game for you to appreciate what I mean when I say that Bristol City frequently disappoint their fans with poor play, and lackluster losses.
Like the year I sat anxiously watching as they squandered their only chance to enter the highest division in English football.
Of the three games I’ve watched in-person, I think they lost twice and managed a draw in the other. Not much to cheer about.
But it’s not all bleak, there have been periods of beautiful football, giant crushing and optimism.
Now I am not a die-hard Bristol City, or football fan, but I do want to share a general observation I’ve made about fans and how I believe we can learn a lesson for our marriages and families.
Games always commence the same way with a clean sheet and everything to dream, hope and play for. The fans are filled with optimism and the cheers are loud and constant, almost deafening as they reverberate around the stadium.
When the game goes in our teams favor, these chants get even louder and remain constant throughout the entire game. It’s very easy to be a loud and optimistic fan who cheers their heart out when our team is winning.
But what about when the game doesn’t go as planned or hoped? When our team falters and fails?
I have observed that conceding a goal quiets a stadium full of fans. When a team is really struggling and starts conceding multiple goals, I have seen crowds turn from cheering to booing and shouting abuse. I’ve even observed fans who simply choose to leave the stadium rather than stay the duration.
Now it’s one thing to be a fickle football fan, but what kind of fan are we in our own marriage and family?
It’s easy to cheer long and loud when our spouse or child seems to be succeeding, achieving, and meeting our expectations.
But what about when they concede, fall short or fail? Do we fall silent, start booing, or leave?
The irony in all of this is that when a team or person starts falling behind, it’s precisely the time they need us to cheer even louder, not less.
I am convinced that no team or person has ever been motivated by disappointed silence, or belligerent booing.
When we get married, we commit to be our spouses and children’s life long fans. Through all the wins and the losses.
No one is going to win all of the time. We all will lose some games in life. And it’s when our spouse or child is struggling, losing or failing that they need us to cheer them on all the more.
I remember several years ago watching Liverpool play AC Milan in the champions league final, (a major soccer tournament in Europe) the first half was a complete disaster for Liverpool. They entered the changing rooms at half-time 3-0 down.
Football isn’t a high scoring sport, and a 3-0 defeat by any measure is a pretty good beating.
But they came back out, the fans kept on cheering, and Liverpool almost miraculously turned it around! Taking the game to penalties, they eventually lifted the trophy as champions.
There will certainly be times when we feel like the game is over with our spouse or a particular child. But we must stay in the stands and keep cheering them on, trusting that even if the current game is lost, there will be other games to play in the future. Games that they will win!
When a spouse or child is battling with addiction, every period of sobriety is a game to cheer for! Some will be won, and others lost. But we must keep cheering.
When a spouse or child is battling with mental illness, we must cheer them on through the dark times and the sunshine.
When a child is struggling socially, academically or behaviorally, we must remain a constant fan!
When love feels gone, when tensions rise when stress increases, when finances are stretched, when dreams are crushed, when disappointment strikes, are we the kind of fan that stays and keeps on cheering and chanting?
There are already too many people booing, leaving and remaining silent. As parents, as spouses, and as children, we cannot afford to join this chorus, however bad the game of life may be going.
This doesn’t mean we stop offering advice, constructive feedback, and correction when required.
It means our spouse, children and parents should know that come what may, they can count on us to be there, even if we are the only ones left cheering in the stands.
So again, I ask myself, and ask you; what kind of fans are we?