I was born and raised in Dallas with four older brothers who were involved in every sport imaginable. From a very young age, I was in the crowd at every one of their basketball, football and baseball games as well as many track and field events where my brother, Chris dominated in discus and shot-put. I vividly remember standing on a sun-scorched field with grass that looked more like straw, peering through a chain link fence and feeling my spirit well up with the what would grow to become a deep respect, admiration and pride for my brother and for sports in general.
While I was getting sun burned and drinking a Dr. Pepper, my brother casually went over to the platform and picked up the discus. He took his stance and began methodically moving his muscular arms back and forth…back and forth, swirled his body around and then all at once, launched it across the flat Texas earth farther than anyone at our school – and the entire school district – had before. From that moment on, I was hooked. There were many more “moments” after that for me. One favorite memory for me was when my brother, who was a defensive lineman, caught a fumble and ran for a touch down in a big high school play off game. It was awesome to watch my brother delight in winning but it was even more awesome to observe him lose. He was a leader and always showed the best sportsmanlike conduct, on and off the field. He lost with dignity and I never saw him out of control or angry. He stayed focused and just did his best, all of the time. He even coached the Special Olympics in college and was a hero to those children and to our family as well. I fell in love with sports as a little girl because I was able to witness sports in this way.
I believe that those many years of driving hours out-of-town for a Friday night football game in the “middle-of-nowhereville” Texas, instilled in me a deep love of sports – especially football and basketball. But even more than that, seeing my brother Chris excel in football made me see the importance of being a part of a team and fighting for a common goal. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am intensely competitive and it is no wonder why. Being around my brothers made me want to try out for every sport out there so I did even if I wasn’t great at many of them. I was on the basketball, volleyball and track and field team all through middle school.
There were countless days growing up where my brother Chris and I would go out to our driveway and play “HORSE” or one on one. I don’t remember every detail about those days but I do remember that he taught me how to shoot a basketball, pitch a softball and throw a perfect spiral. When I began dating, I think most guys were taken back when I threw the football better than they did. It was something that I loved about being raised around boys.
I loved it so much that I tried out for the cheerleading squad when I was 15 just so that I could root for my brother. The year that I cheered my brother on from the sidelines of the football field are memories I will never forget. I loved being a part of the team in a small way and being able to see the victory through his eyes. I wanted that victory for him and for our team more than anything in the world. There is nothing like wanting victory at the last moments of the game… seeing the end in sight and pressing forward to attain it. I watched him play harder than he had ever played in his life so that his team could celebrate on a beautiful day in 1992 on the Baylor football field to become the State Champs. They had their moment and Chris will tell you that there is nothing else in the world like that feeling. I even decided to go to the college where he played football in a small town in Indiana called Anderson. He was one of the only students there from Texas so his nickname quickly became, “Big Tex.” When I got there naturally my nickname was, “Little Tex.” It was awesome watching his games in college, too.
I am now married to a man who eats, breathes and sleeps the Dallas Mavericks. He has watched every single Mavs game since he was a little boy. To put it in perspective, he was rooting for them in the 90’s…when they were the worst team in the league. Ryan is a true, die-hard, bleed blue fan. I have never seen anyone so committed to a team. He roots for them when they are having an amazing play-off run and when they are having a horrible season. He has never uttered a harsh word against them. When fair weather fans are angry if they lose a game, even after a 15 game winning streak and are talking trash about the Mavs, he commends them for how well they played and the heart and passion they show on the court each and every game. He says, “They will play better next game, you’ll see.” And you know what? They always do. No matter what they are doing – winning or losing – he believes in his team.
I keep waiting for him to get frustrated with them and say something like, “That’s it. They haven’t won a championship and no one believes they can, so why am I still believing?” But he doesn’t. He says the opposite, “I still believe no matter what. Someday they will get their trophy.” I know it may sound silly and trivial to some, but I want the Mavericks to win the championship this year, not only because there are a few of the last good guys in the NBA left on the Mavs team – amazing players who have played 10+ years of unbelievable basketball and have not gotten a ring yet who definitely deserve it – but I ultimately want the Mavs to win for selfish reasons. I want Ryan’s heart to be happy. I want him to see that his years of rooting his team on and believing in them was worth it. I want him to see HIS team feel the thrill of victory.
Ryan and I have been together since 2002 and I have not missed watching a Mavericks game since that year. That’s almost 750 games. And I have loved every minute. God knew what He was doing when he put us together. We schedule our lives around an NBA game schedule from November to June. I couldn’t imagine life any other way. Our love of the game has bonded Ryan and I together in a way that only sports can – rooting on your team together, dismissing the naysayers and “experts” who didn’t think the Mavs could beat the Lakers, talking sports stats every evening, high-fiving and fist bumping each other constantly and randomly breaking out into crazy, manic jumping and screaming as your team hoists up the final shot of the game – sweeping the two-time defending champs in the playoffs. We have even left some of our very rare date nights early so we wouldn’t miss a game. I know, we are pretty crazy. But we love it.
Today, after last night’s amazing Maverick victory over the Miami Heat, I was struck for the very first time with what Ryan’s unshakeable faith in his team is a picture of. Who doesn’t get discouraged after we do it wrong – over and over again? Who is on our team and by our side – encouraging us, lifting us up, and saying, “You will do better tomorrow, you’ll see.” God doesn’t give up on us – even if we are failing miserably. He has been watching us, loving on us every day of our lives and continues to root us on and cheer for us in our race to the finish. He may not like how we are doing things, he may not agree with the choices we have made, but he is consistently loving and faithful to us – just waiting for us to feel the thrill of victory in our lives through Him. We are in a race with a common goal set before us. Jesus finished the race and now we need to follow his lead. He has a purpose for our lives! Now that is something to get excited about!!
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Message)