Music City Miracle: Sport or Trascendent Experience?

“If I can’t outrun a placekicker, I don’t belong in the NFL.”

Kevin Dyson

I was present. There in the Club Section on the West side of the stadium looking down at the 2o yard line where it happened . . . right in front of me.  Really!   You can ask my son.  He was standing beside me.  Since that January day in 2000, I think I have talked with at least one million other people who claim to have been there.  But I really was.

We were almost out of hope, the clock was winding down on the Titan’s season in the Wild Card game which was our team’s last chance.  Only 16 seconds showed on the clock and the Buffalo Bills had just scored a field goal leaving them in the lead 16 to 15.  Following the kickoff, there was no option but to get out of bounds and hope against hope that a single play from scrimmage would generate the score needed to take the lead, win the game and move on in the playoffs.  But, there were only 16 seconds.  It would take a miracle.

The Bill’s kicker Steve Christie kicked off to Titans’ kickoff receiver Lorenzo Neal who (against all my shouting to the contrary) handed off the ball to Frank Wychek.  “No!!!!”  I shouted, “The sidelines, get to the sidelines and stop the clock.”  Then horrors of horrors, Wycheck passed the ball  to Kevin Dyson and the goal line was 75 yards away.  “No!!!! You can’t pass on a kickoff return.”  It seemed like an eternity passed while the crowd, first silent, then began to realize that Dyson was making his way down field with a phalanx of blockers in front of him. We erupted in a deafening roar as doctors, lawyers, bankers and factory workers began jumping up and down, hugging each other, crying, spilling their beer and just plain “loosing it”.  The mandatory official review of the play for a possible violation of NFL rules took another eternity.  Finally, the pass was ruled a lateral, the touchdown stood and the Titans were on their way to their first and only Super Bowl to end their season.

And I was there!  (Along with a million other of my closest friends.)

I’ve thought a lot about that day since January 8, 2000.  I have wondered how buttoned up business men and women could lose all sense of propriety in that setting.  I have wondered why church is more reserved and less transcendent than that moment.  I have asked myself why that experience was as transformational as the birth of a baby.  I have questioned my good judgment, my morality and even my sanity.

I need worry no more.  David Brooks made it all make sense today.  His New York Times column The Arena Culture was sent to me by my friend Dr. Eugene Regen and I don’t feel so guilty anymore.

Brooks points out that our increasingly secular culture has served to transform the religious experience into moments like the Music City Miracle.  Community can galvanize around an event like those last seconds of that playoff game in 2000.  Transcendence still lives because humanity needs it.  If religion can not provide transcendent experiences, people will find them, celebrate them and remember them for decades.  As Brooks writes, philosophers call this experience “whooshing up”.  We might find them at sporting spectacles, civil rights rallies or religious events.  The fact remains, we need them.  Our lives are given meaning through them.  Perspective is gained, exhilaration achieved and the Glorious Impossible becomes more real to us.

We can’t whoosh up individually.  It only happens in community.  Our highly individualized culture tries to convince us that whooshing up is unnecessary, unsophisticated and only enjoyed by the lowest forms of human life.

That’s simply not true.  Just ask the other million people with me and my son on the Club Level at Titans stadium that January 8 day in 2000.  We will never be the same.

When was the last time you “whooshed up”?

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