So many of my friends still give me a razzing over the fact that I maintain some “home town” allegiance to the Chicago Bears football team even though I have been living in Wisconsin for almost half of my life. Now, if you didn’t already know that, please bear in mind (no pun intended) that my “allegiance” –as it is in most competitive sports—is purely cosmetic. I really don’t follow sports teams quite the way I used to when I was younger. I do, however, try to avoid various “conflicts of opinion” with more serious sport fans when asked about my team loyalties. I simply respond that I am a soccer fan. In most cases that terminates the investigation and I am free to go about whatever business is at hand. I know, now that I have “outed” myself, my subterfuge may no longer prove possible. Time will tell; and now you know. But that’s not the point of this writing. It was merely a not-so-subtle way of writing about the World Cup and soccer madness in America.
Most of us Americans find it very difficult to follow soccer—much less to allow it to substitute for American football—which is for us what soccer is in Europe. But we did allow ourselves a few moments to revel in the international moment of soccer fever as the USA team made their way to near-glory at the World Cup Games in Brazil. The indomitable swagger of the United States raised its mighty prowess once again on the world stage in spite of so many set-backs in other more political arenas. There was once again a glimmer of the fact: “I believe—USA!”
One great personality seemed to rise from the Brazilian sports’ fields—Tim Howard, the indefatigable goalie of Team USA. His popularity has risen to such an extent that he is even considered for possible future political candidacy of one sort or another. Be that as it may, one thing did rise in his popular ascendency—he is a Christian! CNN led off with Howard’s Christian faith in its recent report on 10 little known things about the athlete. “Faith, the CNN story relates, is a key part of Howard’s life and shapes who he is.” Howard, himself, reported in a 2006 interview, that: “The most important thing in my life is Christ. He is more important to me than winning or losing or whether I am playing or not. Everything else is just a bonus.”
Howard, who was born in North Brunswick, New Jersey, played his first professional soccer match at age of 19 for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. He suffers from a neurological disorder known as Tourette’s syndrome, further characterized by physical and verbal tics. His life with the disease has often been chaotic and difficult. His grandmother was a source of strength and stability. Her sense of peace was so powerful, Tim relates, because it came from the Lord.
Tim Howard, like so many other public personalities, is affecting the world for good. He has played soccer for the world famous Manchester United Red Devils—the world’s most popular sports franchise boasting more than fifty million fans (larger than the entire population of England), for Everton in the Premier League, and the United States National Team at the 2010 and, of course, 2014 World Cup games.
Tim Howard uses his popularity as a soccer player to bring glory to God, not as a self-promotion of his own talents. In an interview with “Athletes in Action” Tim noted that his life with Tourette’s has not been easy. “But God,” he said, “has blessed me with the gift of athleticism as well. He has done some powerful things in my life through the combination of these two gifts. … He also has shown me ways to use my position as a professional athlete to encourage others with Tourette’s syndrome. Today, I am blessed to be living a dream. And yet, if it all went away tomorrow, I know I would still have peace. That probably sounds crazy to most people, but that’s the kind of peace Christ gives. It is rooted in His love, and it surpasses all understanding.”
Tim Howard has shown himself to be a valuable player in international soccer and a valuable model of Christian sportsmanship on the field of life. He chooses to make a difference in preference for helping others and specifically doing so by giving honor and glory to God. This is the message of the New Evangelization and the way every true believer scores the goal and gives God the glory!
Bring your best to Mass on Sunday!