Bearing it — and grinning


By Les Linz

Super Bowl LV has come and gone with little fanfare.

The Kansas City Chiefs were chiefly absent, and since Tom Brady believed the admin’s account that deflation abounds, he didn’t attempt to supply his own.

Halftime was lackluster. No wardrobe malfunctions drew attention.

It was a strange season leading up to the “Big Game” a few weeks ago. All of the teams had their ups and downs, especially the Chicago Bears. They have been my favorite team since I was 4.

The Bears fan is unique. When you find the moniker in the dictionary, it says, “See also, masochist.”

This past season wasn’t as painful as some. The Bears were able to finish with an 8-8 record all the while managing to lose embarrassingly to the New Orleans Saints in a 21-9 wild card playoff game rout.

Difficult as that was to watch, I remember a Monday night game that wasn’t, a game that led to astonishing victory that helped save one man’s life.

I worked for the Chicagoland area bottled water company Hinckley and Schmitt at the time. My job was to set free trials. Delivering bottled water was a job reserved for those of greater stature.

I counted Will as a friend. To be sure, some co-workers spoke with me more than others, but as a rule, we all joked and scratched together as early and often as possible. I didn’t make any effort to hide how different I was from most. I had a personal Jesus relationship, and if they wanted to get my goat, they simply bragged on their own efforts. During my tenure, many came to believe in my Lord, but none as dramatically as Will.

One thing that could not be denied was our mutual love for the Bears. Together, they could do no wrong even when they did.

I asked the Lord one day what I could do to help penetrate Will’s hard outer shell. “Da Bears” was the answer.

We were talking Bear turkey one Monday afternoon when Will began commenting on the forthcoming Monday night football battle. I was espousing the virtues of Jesus as usual, and Will, also as usual, was not in the mood — more not in the mood that day than any other I’d ever seen him.

“All right!” he snapped, looking like there was about to be a fight that would see my head squished into a waiting empty 5-gallon jug.

“I tell you what. I’ll go to church next week if the Bears score 39 points tonight — fair enough?’ he asked.

“Fair enough,” I responded.

I watched the game in our basement that evening because I knew I would be making too much noise elsewhere in the house. The contest was exciting in its own right. No one had ever scored 39 points in a Monday night game, certainly not the Bears, and by the end of the first half, the score was Bears 23, opponents 0. Twenty-three points — the Bears never got a safety, yet there it was, after three full touchdowns.

The second half began almost immediately with a Bears touchdown, followed closely by another. All of a sudden, it was 37-0. And then the unthinkable happened. A safety. Thirty-nine to zero. I don’t even think my feet were on the floor anymore. Yet, with seconds to go, the Bears kicker had the unmitigated gall to send the pigskin through the uprights, scoring a final three points.

I had never been so crushed by a Bears win in my life. I stared at the television screen in disbelief, shaking my head. Satan had done it — he prevailed where I thought he couldn’t. It was a sad night.

The next day, I went to work amazed I didn’t drive off of the road. You can’t drive successfully when your head is down in your lap. When the guys came in from their routes, I dawdled over to Will.

“Hi,” he said cheerfully. I knew it. The ribbing was coming. He was justified.

“That was one great game, wasn’t it?” he asked cheerfully.

“Why, yes,” I said stammering.

“Look,” I continued disappointed, “you won that bet fair and square. Things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would. I know when I’m beat.”

Will sighed a long sigh.

“Hey, with you believing it would happen as much as you did, who am I not to go to church? Besides, they almost had it.”

Twenty years later, I learned he did in fact go to church that next Sunday, and he gave his heart to the one who gave his for him.

Twenty years later, while sitting in an adult Sunday school class that focused on discipleship, I found myself staring at a young man. I knew I recognized him but couldn’t remember from where. When they took attendance, he said his name.

He was the son, spitting image no less, of the man I wagered 20 years before. The son himself was a new believer, and his dad was a longtime friend of a church friend of mine. I got his number and called him up and had one of the most joyous reunions I can remember.

Do I recommend making such “wagers” on sports teams to help rescue those destined for a Christless hell? Only if the Lord prompts.

In the meantime, one thing is certain. That Monday night, the team lost their “Bad News Bears” nickname and exchanged it for, “Those Bearing the Good News.

(Excerpted in part from “Confessions of a Job Gypsy,” by Les Linz).

Les Linz of Seymour writes the “Humor: More or Les” column. For information about Linz, visit his author page. Send comments to [email protected].

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