It’s football time in Oklahoma, and Sooners and Cowboys fans alike have already been let down by the crimson & cream and the orange & black.
One coping mechanism has been to switch our focus to the forthcoming Oklahoma City Thunder season, which promises to be an exciting one. We even recently seen people on social media and t-shirts say the phrase, “In Russ We Trust,” referencing Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
This catchy phrases is, of course, a take-off of “In God We Trust,” which has been an American motto that appears on dollar bills and elsewhere. Blogs could be written about whether this phrase is sacrilegious or not. This is not one of those blog posts.
I want, instead, to focus on what the phrase says about our tendency to put our confidence, hopes and happiness in the hands of athletes and sports team.
To confess from the start, I am a huge sports fan. I get a lot of enjoyment (and pain) from the thrill of victory (and agony of defeat) from my Thunder, from my Sooners and other teams. I also like to play sports, and I encourage sports involvement for my own children (it’s good to play sports, not just be a couch-potato spectator).
Moreover, Russell Westbrook is my favorite Thunder player and favorite athlete. In fact, since the very beginning of the OKC Thunder franchise, number 0 has been my personal favorite player on the team. The tenacity, talent and drive of Russell Westbrook is truly exhilarating and inspiring to watch. From his first days on the team to today, Westbrook has become everyone’s favorite player.
That’s why, when he recently signed a 5 year, $200-million-plus contract with the Thunder, the “In Russ We Trust” motto reappeared. The problem with placing our happiness in the hands of an athlete is the same as when we place our happiness in the hands of any person.
We will get let down. In sports, like life, things won’t always go our way. And even if the Thunder can surmount a Chicago-Bulls-type run of NBA championships (which I’d love), the fun will eventually stop.
I have had to learn the hard way not to put my hope and happiness in sports. I have learned how to move off from stinging losses and disappointments. Sometimes this was by telling myself, “It’s only a game.” The more lasting resolve, though, has happened when I realize that in the grand scheme of human history, let alone eternity, sports is not as significant as I—as many of us—make it.
So this season, you will be able to find me cheering on the Thunder and number zero with great gusto. But you won’t find me saying, “In Russ We Trust.” Because I know that only God will never let us down (Psalm 146:3).