Confessions of a Closet Buckeye

It’s confession time: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and have always been a big fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ football team. But in recent years I have found myself becoming a “closet” fan, especially during bowl games. There were years when the Buckeyes had very good seasons, only to completely embarrass themselves in their bowl games.

So this season I was pretty quiet about the Buckeyes when they played Alabama in the semifinals and then had a chance to play the Oregon Ducks for the national championship. Even after their impressive victory over Alabama, I fully expected them to lose to Oregon.

For days I heard Ohio State ridiculed by most sports gurus, not to mention many of my friends. Many people thought Ohio State was lucky even to make it into the final four. And Oregon certainly was too fast, too talented, too powerful, too experienced.

Sure enough, Oregon’s offense dominated the Buckeyes on their first drive. Wow, this could get pretty ugly, I thought.

But the Buckeyes quickly bounced back, and they dominated the Ducks most of the night after that. The final score was an amazing 42-20.

A strange thing happened after the Buckeyes finally won. I found myself wanting to tell everyone that I’m a Buckeye fan! I was ready to get my Ohio State sweatshirt out of mothballs and proudly wear it everywhere I went.

Yes, I was again proud to be a Buckeye. Everyone loves to be associated with a winner, and the Buckeyes’ losses in previous bowl games became a faint memory.

There is a spiritual application to my experience as an Ohio State fan. Countless Christians in the U.S. have become “closet disciples.” Like Peter, warming his hands by the fire before Jesus’ crucifixion, we aren’t so sure we want to admit which team we are on. Who wants to be associated with a loser?

If I had been convinced Ohio State would win, I would have boldly worn by Buckeye sweatshirt before the game. In the same way, if we are absolutely sure Jesus will ultimately come as the victorious Lord of all, we won’t be ashamed to acknowledge Him now as the One we love and serve.

OK, maybe God doesn’t play favorites with football teams. But He does play favorites with His children. If He is for us, who can be against us? If we recognize that fact, we’ll be bold and strong, knowing that our victorious Lord is with us in the huddles and the battles of our lives.