His very existence revolved around football. The day I moved in my townhouse, he stuck his head in the door and asked, while I stood amid the boxes, if I would like to play some football. When I would come home from work, in minutes he would be knocking at the door, asking if I could go throw the ball with him. If I couldn’t, he, without missing a beat, would ask if my son could play. My son was only 3 at the time! You would often see him playing with the neighborhood children. They all loved to play with “football dude”, as he allowed everyone to run with the ball or try to catch it. He would take time to teach them the finer points of the game and was always disappointed if they didn’t share his enthusiasm.

He just loved football. He played it, watched it, read about it, purchased video games related to it, listened to sports radio and frequently called in, particularly to talk about “Da Bears”. He was “football dude from Villa Park”!

But the highlight for him was every Sunday during football season. He had a week long ritual that would culminate with kickoff. The first part of each week was spent analyzing the previous week’s game. He would compile charts detailing the effectiveness of each play, compile statistics on each player and grade them himself. He would compare his results with those published in the papers. As the week went on he would compile information on the upcoming opponent. He looked at video tapes he had either personally taped or collected from other friends. Again he analyzed strengths and weaknesses, and using that information, he compiled a game plan. At the end of the week, he was studying the injury reports and analyzing the possible impact upon the game. Saturday was spent studying college players for the upcoming draft, focusing attention on the game at hand and preparing himself on home games for the journey to Soldier Field the next day. He would lay his clothes out, check the gas and other fluid levels of the car, prepare his food that he was taking, and make calls to anyone going with him to double check departure times and make sure they were as prepared as he was.

Of course, all through this process, “Football Dude” devoted his time sharing any and all of this information with anyone who would listen. He would even mail his game plan to the Chicago Bears coaches, in case he saw something they didn’t.

Sunday morning, he would get up early, read both the Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune for any last minute information and then head downtown for the game (He only subscribed to the Sun Times. I finally figured out why my Sunday Tribune was always in disarray when I had to leave for church earlier than usual one Sunday and caught him returning it.) He always arrived at the game early, never wanting to miss any warm-up time. Then the game was spent in active emotional outbursts, cheering, booing, screaming, arguing, and of course eating. You could always tell how the Bears fared on a given weekend without ever seeing a game. All you had to do was check out Football Dude’s demeanor. A win meant a glowing smile, a happy stride in his walk, and the desire to tell everyone he met about each and every play of the game. A loss was worse to him than a death in the family. He moped, lamented every individual Bear player by name, and cursed the Bear management for its very existence.

Even when the season was over, it didn’t end for football dude. After all, there was the NFL draft to prepare for, game plans to write and send to the coaches, radio shows to call, new friends with which to share his passion, and of course vacation to plan. He went to the same place every year; Bears preseason camp in Platteville, Wisconsin. I remember when he finally got a girl friend, we were elated. He would have to change! Then we found out she too was spending her vacation in Platteville with her new boyfriend and his compadres!

When we moved to New Jersey, there was little chance of seeing football dude again. Then, one day as a friend of mine and I were watching the Bears play, (it is a torture I still participate in – a requirement of misspent youth) we started laughing when the announcers started making fun of this fanatical fan. The camera focused in on this guy dressed head to toe in Bears paraphernalia. He was standing and screaming at the officials while everyone around him was trying to get as far away from him as possible. Imagine my surprise at seeing “Football Dude” on TV!

We all laugh at his fanaticism, but I wonder what a church full of people who would give the same worth to God that he gave to football would be like? Imagine even a single individual as sold out to Christ as he was to football, preparing for every corporate gathering with a 24/7 intensity similar to that exhibited by Football Dude. He epitomized worship! His whole being: his heart, his soul, his mind, his strength was devoted to one thing and one thing alone. His life was devoted to giving worth to football. Everyone who knew him knew what he loved. Can we say the same thing about ourselves?

Excerpt from Worship 101 Curriculum: We Shape Our Worship, Then Our Worship Shapes Us