The Lesson in Marcus Lattimore Should be Learned by All Fans
I was raised in the Church (DadYouCrazy is a pastor) and raised to love College Football. My childhood memories of Vacation Bible Schools and Children’s Choirs (dad and mom forced my friends and me out of the yard and into the choir room every Wednesday night, scraped knees and all) are only surpassed in vividness by times spent huddled in front of the television, screaming at men I would never meet with physiques I couldn’t comprehend as my dad looked over his sermon preparations and did the same.
As I grew older and gained perspective the lines between faith and football became increasingly clear. One was the resting upon Christ for salvation and eternal life; the other was a pastime – albeit a glorious one. Faith provided a model for pursuing a God. Watching football provided an escape from the mundane and into the ultra-competitive (and extremely entertaining). Nonetheless, those lines are from time to time blurred in a manner so intentional so as to not be ignored. Saturday afternoon offered one of those instances.
The first thing that crossed my mind as South Carolina running-back Marcus Lattimore was brought to the turf by Tennessee linebacker Herman Lather and defensive back Eric Gordon was a thought I’d had hundreds of times while watching him play: He’s so hard to bring down. It always takes more than one man. The ball popped loose on the play, but if you’ve watched the hard-nosed runner before you knew that a fumble was unlikely, surely he was down. It wasn’t long before the camera panned back to Lattimore as he writhed in pain.
My second thought? No, not again. It had hardly been a year since Lattimore tore ligaments and cartilage in his left knee, and now he was holding what barely even resembled his mangled right knee. The replay was nothing less than gruesome, but even more disturbing than the image of his lower leg flopping around without restriction was the realization of how fleeting talent – even talent as rare as his – proves to be.
Last season South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier didn’t mince words when labeling Lattimore’s injury as the realization of the Gamecocks’ “Worst fear.” By all accounts this year’s injury is more substantial. The hyperextension of his right knee led to the tearing of several ligaments. In that moment lines between football and faith were also shredded.
In that moment football was put into perspective – not only for fans like me watching over-intently on their couches, but also for the players and fans in Williams-Brice Stadium. In one instant Marcus Lattimore had gone from the best running back in the nation and a medical success story to a hobbled young man in need of rescue…at least in football terms. And when you look at a man with so much talent wrapped into a combination of graceful feet, seemingly wide-screen vision and brute force as he lays on green grass unable to move, it’s hard not to recognize the need for an identity outside of the game of football.
If you watched as the training staff attended to Marcus and players from both teams kneeled in prayer, it was hard not to hurt for the twenty-year old kid who a nation was watching crumble both physically and emotionally. But, as a Believer it was even harder not to hope for something more for Marcus Lattimore, something outside of football.
I don’t know much about Marcus away from football – a sad truth that’s applicable to most of the sports stars I go to for entertainment, but I know that he has spoken repeatedly of trusting in God during his last recovery. I hope that he is finding that same genuine and unparalleled relief from this injury, the kind of relief that can only come from a merciful Father. And like the 71,500 others who have joined the “Pray for Marcus” Facebook page I am praying, but I’m praying for more than a mere physical recovery. I’m praying for him to find rest in the Savior. I’m praying for Marcus Lattimore’s spirit, not his leg.
While thousands of fans question why such a devastating injury (Spurrier is optimistic that Lattimore could return for the 2014 season and Lattimore is insisting he will do so) had to happen to such a hard-working physical specimen, Lattimore has a tremendous opportunity to express gratitude for what he has been given – life in Christ. And I hope that testimony rings loud and clear from the young man. I’m praying that it does. Because that testimony will make his return to the field all the more beautiful to watch.
I’m looking forward to watching Marcus Lattimore blur the lines between Faith and football once again on Saturday, September 30, 2014 – and I’m a Georgia fan!. I’m praying that happens.
That’s all I got/