Agree to Disagree

I make no bones about the fact that I am a Clemson fan. My blood is orange…but for my entire life I have always pulled for South Carolina when they are not playing Clemson. I love our state. South Carolina has been my home for 53 years and counting…and I love to see everything involving our state flourish.

Recently, during the flood in Columbia, it was heartwarming to see all the athletes from the University of South Carolina give their time, energy and muscle to help others. One day I even experienced Clemson students on fall break working with USC students. I absolutely loved it!

In light of Clemson’s recent success, and the fact that it was the day after the “Orange Bowl” win, I shared with some dear friends my sincere opinion about the football team. I expressed my thoughts on Swinney as being the best coach in the country and Deshaun as the best quarterback. “Silence” followed. I mentioned the silence the next day to my husband and he said, “Everyone doesn’t have to agree with you.” He was right. That is exactly what the “silence” communicated from sweet friends:) They disagreed….and it is ok to agree to disagree.

Pondering over the fact that the dear friends were USC fans made me conclude that their team loyalty may have had something to do with their silence. I reflected on my own statement and had to search my heart to “check in” with God to see if maybe I had been prideful. After some soul searching based on prayer and really NOT wanting to be “ONE OF THOSE FANS,” I have decided to be a little more careful about expressing my opinions, especially if I am not asked, in order to guard against being misunderstood as possibly “prideful” or “boastful.”

For the record…I base my opinion of great coaches and players…..not just by their performance on the field. They get quadruple points on my “scale” for their outspoken faith in Christ….and allowing their “actions to line up with their words!” Keeping his word as discussed in Matthew 5:37 with letting his yes be yes.

My opinion of Coach Swinney was elevated two years ago when I was able to hear him speak at an FCA dinner. As he started to share his heart, I took a video of him with my phone and have watched it many times since. From that time I have more closely observed and noted his actions on and off the field. From my observation, he lives his words. 🙂 Since Clemson’s increasing success, it has been heart warming to learn the “back stories” of who he has surrounded himself with which has played a huge part in solidifying my opinion of him being the best coach in college football. I will also have to say…any Coach that dances with his players and fans….gets triple points as well!

Having had three children play college athletics there are a few characteristics I have found to be important. If you are a parent of athletes and you value role models, you want coaches that walk their talk morally. Strong leadership is key. They don’t mind taking responsibility when things don’t go well. When things do go well, they shine the spotlight on others and also give God the glory! They are positive motivators.

You want a coach that looks for the good and has the greater good of the athlete in mind. One who cares about your student athlete way beyond their “production” on the sports field. All of these points make Dabo a parent’s dream for their kid. He is not only a great coach, he is a great husband, a great father, a great son and an exceptional role model. He loves Jesus and doesn’t mind taking the persecution that comes with that outspoken testimony.

I loved it when Dashaun was interviewed by ESPN the day before the Orange Bowl and was asked to describe Coach Swinney in one word. Deshaun didn’t hesitate. He immediately responded with, “A friend.” Wow! Just wow! As for Deshaun, his back story and the work he did with Habitat for Humanity way before he ever set foot on Clemson’s campus is so impressive and heartwarming. The fact that on the Sunday after the Orange Bowl he was in Gainesville, Georgia, in his home church, giving glory to God and having his church pray over him and his mother….makes my heart….sing.

I don’t know Deshaun very well but I have met him a few times. I have watched him off the field and I have been able to gather information about him from his fellow students. The more I learn, the more impressed I am. He is a very, very humble young man.

In speaking with a Carolina alumnus yesterday, who has the same “opinion grid” for coaches that I do, they said, “The one thing I hate about Dabo is that he is not the coach at South Carolina.” If you are a Carolina fan, don’t be offended. Remember, it is just an opinion.

As for the new coach at South Carolina, Coach Muschamp, I don’t know him at all but I am praying for him. He has a job that will influence many young men, parents and fans. As a lover of Jesus, our state and young athletes, I PRAY that he would be successful and the same kind of coach as Dabo..with the same priorities. Our young people need Godly men leading them not just at Clemson and at South Carolina, but all over the country. Men who set the tone and lead their lives in a way as to set a great example. Men we can all celebrate and point to their “inner life” that is “lived out loud!” Oh that we would have men who, like Paul, could say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).

I have no idea of the outcome of the National title. That, my friends, is in the “hands of God”. All outcomes are. But I celebrate the fact that, today, in the days that we live in, I can find God being glorified through athletics.

Wins and losses and fanship can be way too important in all of our lives.

This life is a “vapor,” a “mist,” compared to eternity. As a lover of Jesus, I celebrate a college coach…who takes his job as an opportunity to influence by action, showing their “Love for Jesus”. Dabo understands, even though he would tell you he is far from perfect and is just a man, that his actions may be the “first Bible” that someone reads.

Shouldn’t we all live like this as Christians? Unapologetic for our faith? Willing to be outspoken in our occupation?

May we follow the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in Hebrews and persevere to live out loud the race given to each of us. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

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