What’s the Fun of Playing an Easy Team?

by | Sep 1, 2023 | Blog

Football season has begun for all age groups. Do you follow a football team? What is your favorite team? My two favorite teams are the ones two grandsons are members of in York, Maine. One of the boys suffered an arm bruise in the season’s first game and missed most of it. He was understandably disappointed.

I was not disappointed to learn about football at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York during the early 1890s. I’ve written the soon-to-be-published biography, A Modest But Crucial Hero, about a great-great uncle, George E. Stone. He attended the college from 1891-1895 and participated in sports. Intercollegiate sports were gaining momentum at that time.  Athletic activities started as extracurricular activities but eventually became intercollegiate. The college started its intercollegiate football in 1890.[i]  George was the team’s manager in 1894 when the team went 0-4.[ii] He took great interest in the game, had remarkable business acumen, and was popular among the students.[iii] He was also a Vice President of the Athletic Union that year.

George is wearing a suit and bow tie. Courtesy of Hamilton College Archives.

Anthony Petersen, a roommate, reported that George was not a graceful dancer, but he played tennis, baseball, and football intramurally. As a scholar, he might have been the valedictorian if he had not devoted himself to many other responsibilities on campus.[iv] He finished in the top five academically and became a Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society member.

I discovered in my research that George’s athletic experiences penetrated his thought processes. He attended Auburn Theological Seminary after Hamilton. He then served in the Persian Gulf with the Arabian Mission from 1898-1899. The Arabian Mission was a Christian missions organization founded to take the historic good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection to the heartland of Islam. George knew the Arabian peninsula was one of the toughest, if not the toughest, regions for missionary endeavors. He volunteered anyway.

George wrote to Hamilton College President M. Woolsey Stryker from Bahrain in early February 1899. He reflected on his college experience and gave an update on his grueling Arabic language training. A football metaphor captured his pleasure of living in Bahrain and playing on the spiritual field:

God willing, I want to live to see a touchdown made in Arabia for the Lord Jesus Christ and if I can’t carry the ball, I want to be in the interference.[v]

His optimism flourished with the great spiritual opportunity in Bahrain, Oman, and eventually throughout the Persian Gulf region:

It is a big task the Lord has set us at, but it must be He understands what He is going to do. Arabia has never had much share in the prayers of or even the thoughts of Christians. Islam has been dodged not attacked. When once it feels the strength of a Christ-like church, it will drop so suddenly as to make us wonder at our former fears. I don’t think I am deceived when I say this.[vi]

Realism tempered such optimism as seen in another sports metaphor used in a letter to his former college classmates, “Christianity will have no walk-over in Arabia, but what is the fun of playing an easy team?”[vii]

How do we answer George’s question, “What is the fun of playing an easy team?” I don’t like to lose, so bring on an easy team. I know one can have fun playing an easy team, making sport of younger players or less experienced ones. But if I’m honest with myself, the toughest teams bring out the most fulfilling efforts in competition.

What tough circumstances are you living with right now? Do you wish they were easier? Do you long to get over them? What fun is it having a pity party about them?  As George said above, God understands what He wants accomplished and when. Let’s trust God’s wisdom and rely upon his power to give the best effort in our tasks and service.

[i] www.hamilton.edu. “College History.” Accessed 1/9/2021. Football History and Records 12.5.2019 (PDF) – Hamilton College. https://athletics.hamilton.edu/documents/2020/10/19/Football_History_and_Records_12_5_2019.pdf. Accessed February 15, 2021.

[ii] Football History and Records 12.5.2019 (PDF) – Hamilton College.

[iii] Independent. February 14, 1894. p. 14.

[iv] Rev. A. N. Petersen. “In Memory of Rev. George E. Stone.” Hamilton Literary Magazine. 34.2. (November 1899): 101-02.

[v] Copy of letter to President Stryker. Courtesy of Hamilton College Archives.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Rev. A. N. Petersen. “In Memory of Rev. George E. Stone.” Hamilton Literary Magazine. November 1899. p. 104.





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