If a Tree Falls in the Woods

Added to the long list of things that are different during these Covid days is the way we watch NFL football games now. I saw Washington's thrilling season opener last weekend, and then the Las Vegas Raiders/ New Orleans Saints game last night. The players were there, giving it their all—and the sounds of the fans filled the air with enthusiasm, just as always. But every time the cameras pulled back to show the stands I was startled into reality: no one was there. The stadium was empty, and the roar of the crowd was but taped. Aerial shots revealed that the parking lot was empty, too.

I suppose it is hard to play up to the level that professional sports requires when you do not have the fans there to watch. You know the game, you have the skill, and you are still being paid a huge salary after all—but if there's no one there to watch, what's it all for?

The soundtrack is there to fool us, and those players, into believing that it's just like it always was. Without the din of it, the game would be punctuated by the sound of only so many crickets.

We are each more likely to rise to the occasion when we know that people are watching us. We want to give it our very best. And the cheers and words of encouragement from the stands get the adrenaline pumping like nothing else can.

I think that I am a better Christian when I am around other believers. I need the camaraderie and the shared goals. The songs we know by heart. The short-hand and insider talk that we use when speaking of our faith to familiar faces. One of the main reasons we have public, in-person worship services (as well as small group meetings) is so that we can draw strength from each other like that.

And if I know someone is watching me as I live that faith out, on the job or even inside my home, I try harder not to let them down. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses as we run our race. Christ-followers who have gone before, and the saints of the ages who are now in heaven, fill the stands and eat the hot dogs. We do not necessarily hear them cheering for us, but they are. Every time there is a great catch, or a first down near the goal, they spur us on. And when we fumble the ball or get caught in a personal foul, they are there then, too, doing the same to help pick us up.

Try to imagine that great roar in your head, if you can.

The home of the Las Vegas Raiders is beautiful Allegiant Stadium, just south of the Strip. Also known as the "Death Star,” it cost $2 billion to build and has 65,000 seats. It is fresh and clean. Crisp, natural Bermuda grass covers the field. Last night was its inaugural game—and the seats were empty. A game was being played, but there was no one there to see it.

There were die-hard fans just outside the gates, though. It will be a year before they can actually get inside to see a game, but they wanted the team to know that they were there, pulling for them anyway.

Maybe some of the cheering I heard on TV was coming from them.

I didn't stay up to watch the whole game. It was getting late and I had to get up early this morning. My big game is coming up next Sunday and I've got to start getting ready.

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