Several days ago I sat at table with a half-dozen or so retired Mennonite ministers. At first the conversation was about the various Bible Schools and Seminaries each had attended, their respected professors and beloved colleagues. I was unusually quiet. That’s not my cup of tea. I had only one valued year as a student of Eastern Mennonite College through the generosity of Chester Wenger and Myron Augsburger. That is another story to be told at another time.
Soon the conversation of the pastors turned to football. I might have told a few stories about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and their great first draft pick, Lee Roy Selmon, resided in Tampa as a businessman. He was sometimes called the gentle giant. I still wasn’t a part of the enthusiastic conversation.
The pastors and their stories brought back a memory of my father. I recalled that during WWII about fifty percent of the young men of some large mid-western more liberal Mennonite communities entered military service. By contrast, only a small percentage of men from our much smaller, more conservative Mennonite community accepted military service.
I was among the almost 100 per cent of the young Mennonite men from our area who volunteered for Civilian Public Service as the alternative to military service. Why this disparity? My father believed he knew the answer: young men who engaged in the violence of football were easily drawn into the violence of war.
I was my father’s younger son, six years younger than my older brother. Playing alone, I bounced a rubber ball against the side of the house; threw a rubber ball as high as I could, and caught it on the way down. Alone, I explored the mysteries of the small stream that flowed through the woods that surrounded the garden land that sustained our small family.
I did play children’s games with my cousins, but I did not often play rougher games at school. Now in retirement my Joy and I play card games with other retirees every Friday afternoon at Greencroft. I am impressed with the difference between our simple games and football.
We often unite our knowledge and skill to help each other win, just the opposite of competing football teams. We talk to each other of the differences in Christian and non-Christian play.