The nation seemed to let out a collective sigh of relief last weekend. Football was back. After months of predictions, polls, and talking heads, we were treated to actual football games.
Twelve. Straight. Hours.
As a campus minister at the University of Wisconsin, I eagerly awaited the showdown with #5 LSU for most of the summer (as did every single resident of Wisconsin). My excitement in the final minute of the game was short lived. It is hard to explain the elation of seeing someone like D’cota Dixon come down with the interception and then have that feeling suddenly dissipate after the vicious hit he absorbed left him head down in the dirt.
In a recent interview with a local station, Dixon describes the event:
“I just remember that I got up and I was extremely excited, extremely happy. I was just going to celebrate with my team. I was running towards the sidelines, looking at the sidelines and running over in that direction with my teammates and I didn’t even see him and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. That was all there was to that. It was ok though, I don’t have any hard feelings.”
That’s all there was to that. If you saw the game live you may have observed that ESPN announcers seemed to downplay the event. Twitter was not about to let it go unnoticed. In fact, if it was up to the world of social media, Josh Boutte, the 6-5, 346 pound linemen that laid out Dixon, would never see the field again. However, while the rest of the world was either under reacting or overreacting, something beautiful took place that not many people know about.
“He actually called me and apologized, which no one knows about. All these people on social media who have said all of these harsh mean things like ‘he should be banned from college football’ things like that and you know it’s just kind of sad because whether he meant to or not, in that type of situation, when you are playing in a high intense game like that and in a moment like that, a lot of people don’t know what’s going on. They don’t understand the intensity and the emotion that is going on as a player. That’s why I was not upset at all about the hit.
He apologized, he told me he didn’t think that I was down. He sounded very concerned. He was asking about my head and everything else. We actually ended up praying together. I prayed for him.
We are friends now. I have his number and he has my number.”
Who knows what motives ultimately drove these men to have this moment, but I do know that their interaction together illustrates what the gospel looks like when lived out. Their dialogue produced the aroma of redemption in a sports context, a post-game discussion manifesting the refreshing life of forgiveness promised in Christ.
And that is the beauty that sports can bring us. While the rest of the world is arguing over intentions and punishments, two men who understand the emotions of the game are able to connect, forgive, and move on.
I can’t wait for another Saturday of college football.
The 3 part interview with D’cota can be found at podcast.wwib.com.