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Life Unfolds as We Keep Watching the Score

When it comes to NFL football, all Jon Bois needs is the score.

Where someone else might check game highlights, their team’s place in the standings, or maybe even their fantasy numbers, Bois is mostly interested in the final score itself as a form of discovery.

American football points are scored in bunches of six, seven, three, or sometimes two. So you’ve probably heard of an NFL game ending 28-17, or 24-14. But you’ve never seen a team win a game 22-18 or 36-11 because those have never been recorded as official NFL final scores.

So Bois created a website to track scores never recorded in NFL history. Whenever one occurs, he calls it a “Scorigami,” a portmanteau of the words “score” and “origami,” which is the Japanese art of paper-folding. I got sucked into Bois’s unique sporting obsession in part because of how different it is from everything else in sports fandom. For Bois, every NFL game is an opportunity to see something truly new.

I’m more of an NBA guy, but I see the value of Scorigami as a form of low-stakes engagement. I get so invested in watching my Portland Trail Blazers that it’s nice sometimes to take a break from the competition of it. I found something similar with the NBA Wedgie Tracker. Unlike the unfortunate locker-room prank, a “wedgie” in basketball is when the ball becomes wedged between the rim and the backboard. The frantic rhythm of basketball is such that when the ball gets stuck like that, it’s kind of a comical break in the action. It’s like a moment of NBA slapstick.

Scorigami and NBA wedgies can help keep sports fans from getting too bogged down in the competition. Not that competition is inherently bad. Team-based competition can generate humility, growth, and increased capacity for cooperative performance. But when competition is the assumed posture for life, everything in life becomes a contest.

Too many people act like their faith in Christ is just another competition.

This is especially true in the church. While it’s good to be enthusiastic about the work of God, too many people act like their faith in Christ is just another competition. I shudder when I hear people talk about “winning souls,” as if evangelism is just another front in the culture war. It’s no wonder so many American churches have become locked in partisan tribalism. In these contexts, theology becomes less about finding a pathway to encounter the mystery of God and more about enforcing boundaries between ingroups and outgroups. When that happens, basic identity markers like the word “Christian” take on dangerous meanings they were never intended to convey (and don’t even get me started on “evangelical”).

If we’re serious about Jesus, we must admit that his peace does not come through vanquishing tribal foes.  Just because competition has become our default posture doesn’t mean it must remain that way. Significant, beautiful mysteries can unfold right before our eyes if we’re willing to spend less time trying to win and more time asking God for wisdom.

Bessel Van der Kolk writes about the lingering physiological effects of trauma in The Body Keeps the Score. In the global body of Christ, there is plenty of trauma to go around. Countless people made in God’s image are regularly assaulted by the three major evils Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. identified: racism, materialism, and militarism. Some of us resist any kind of historical tally of these evils because we’re under the assumption that to acknowledge these harms is to engage in divisive rhetoric. For these folks, it’s just easier not to keep score.

But what if looking at the score is part of our mission? When we pay attention to history, we gain context to anticipate the movements of God. Perhaps like Jon Bois, our mission is to find beauty in the unique unpredictability of our reality.

So if your favorite NFL team has already been eliminated from post-season play, you might still have a reason to watch the big game.

And maybe, if things break just right, we’ll see something we’ve never seen before. Besides the commercials, that is.

About the Author

  • Jelani Greenidge

    Jelani Greenidge is the missional storyteller for the Evangelical Covenant Church and ministers in and around Portland, Oregon, as a worship musician, cultural consultant, and stand-up comic.

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