There's nothing that compares to the experience of being in a giant stadium filled with passionate, like-minded people who are directing all their energy into one thing. In this case, I'm talking about the Cardinals playoff game I attended January 10th against the Packers. Everything is in sync—color (red), sound (collective cheering, groaning or silence), mirrored facial expressions and people slapping the hands of total strangers passing their aisle or sitting in their vicinity. The over-riding feeling? Unity. There is a "we" mentality.
Yes, there were the little specs of green and gold and the occasional guy with a giant wedge of cheese on his head who was out of sync with the rest of the crowd, but that was the exception. Most of the folks were there with one thing in mind; a win for their team— our team. We owned every mistake as though we had committed it and we embraced every successful play as if we were on the field in full gear. The fans were team members, not spectators, as we participated in a game that ended with a collective (record) score of 96 points.
Driving away, I could hear the deafening roar of that crowd (nearly half a mile from the stadium) even after the game had been over for several minutes. People didn't want the excitement of victory as such a shared experience to end.
Why is it that this happens only in sports? I know that there are other events (like political conventions or spiritual retreats) where like-minded people are passionate about one thing, but it's never as universal or as raw as a major game. With religion and politics, even within the same denomination or party there are microcosms of those who vary in thought and conviction. There's seldom that intense level of unbridled joy and support flowing in the same direction. Some hold back, some are luke-warm, others are over the moon.
Sadly this is true of life in general. You might think that because people have something in common, they'd be in full agreement and deeply enthusiastic. Not so. Gender? Women have widely varying opinions from each other and so do men. Age, race, religion, home town? Same thing applies.
I'm always a little surprised by the response mail to my newspaper column. One is wildly supportive and a kindred spirit. The next is full of venom and tells me how simple I am. These are mostly from people in my own community, so we obviously don't all agree based on geography. More stunning is email from my blog posts. These are supposedly people who see things from a similar world view (because most of them subscribe or at least visit often). Occasionally there is a nasty note about how wrong I am from inside the ranks. And that could be about the weather.
I know that in this life everyone will never stand together in full agreement, hold hands and sing Amazing Grace. I'm counting on heaven for that experience. I certainly don't have answers about why we can't all come together on more issues or why there seems to be an ease of passion when it comes to discord.
My point is that great unified passion does exist on earth and I've experienced it first-hand with gratitude and awe. It's a feeling that is difficult to duplicate or surpass. While I certainly wish it could consistently encompass areas of life other than sports, for now, I'll take what I can get and enjoy the afterglow. Thanks God!