CHIWCUP-CST-061714-01_47041339-621x414I found myself getting frustrated on my commute into work on Tuesday morning. All of the chatter on  sports talk radio was about how “lucky” Team USA was to defeat Ghana in the World Cup on Monday night, and about how poorly Team USA played. I must not have been watching the same game. I really thought I was though. First of all, do people realize that their beloved American team was not favored in this game? Ghana had knocked the U.S. (single-handedly) out of the last two World Cups, and odds were, they were going to send the U.S. well on their way to their third straight early exit.

It’s understandable that some American fans would think of Ghana as nothing more than a small speed bump in USA’s pool – the easy win before they have to play Portugal and Germany. After all the country of Ghana had to ration electricity for months so that they could gather dozens of people around 20″ TVs (the ones with “tubes”, remember those?). Our American sensibilities tell many of us that certainly there’s no way that Ghana can beat Team USA, even if history suggests otherwise.

Team USA scored within 40 seconds after the game started. In football, that would be like going up 14-0 in the first quarter. So, understandably, USA fans relaxed. However, Team USA was STILL the underdog and for the next 90 minutes, Ghana went full throttle – winning virtually every ball (because they were faster at every position on the field) and dictating tempo. Team USA was on their heels playing defense against a much quicker team for the entire game. On top of that, they lost arguably their two best players to injury in the first half. The Americans struggled and gutted out a 2-1 win…and they played great.

Are those two notions compatible? – playing great and struggling? Anyone listening to those guys ramble on the radio Tuesday Morning certainly wouldn’t think so. The expectation of some kind of dominance (over frankly a better team) is perplexing. It’s not unlike the expectation I as a believer can put on myself to “live right” and “perform at the highest level”. In reality, the most memorable and rootable moments of my life and the lives of my family and friends are the ones when we’ve been observed on our heels, playing defense, and fending off the onslaughts that come at us daily.

Thanks Team USA, for being a wonderful example of (and reminder of) what it means to struggle well.