Sports rivalries are great. As a fan of the Boston Red Sox, and the Boston Bruins, I have enjoyed (and cursed) two of the biggest rivalries in North American Sports. The Red Sox vs the Yankees and the Bruins vs. the Montreal Canadiens. I’ve been on the losing end of those rivalries way more than the winning side but it is always with extra interest that follow these events. One of the rivalries that doesn’t get as much coverage now as when it first began is the rivalry between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. You see the Ravens moved to Baltimore from Cleveland where they were also known as the Browns. The owner, Art Modell arranged a quick move out of Cleveland. The move was not popular with Cleveland and left the city without a franchise for 3 years. The NFL returned to Cleveland but the former Browns franchise has gone on to win 2 Super Bowls in the meantime. Since the teams are in the same division, they play each other 2 times per season. I would imagine that there are still some hard feeling about how it all went down.
However, let’s focus on happier times for the Browns, specifically the 1980 season when the team was known as the Kardiac Kids because of the number of close games they were in. 13 out of their 16 regular season games were decided in the final 2 minutes. The quarterback for the Kardiac Kids was Brian Sipe who would win the NFL MVP award for his season, where the Browns went 11-5 and won their division. They played a playoff game against the Raiders and were poised again to take the lead late in the 4th quarter but a Sipe interception ended the rally and sadly, their season.
For Sipe to win the MVP award that year was an outstanding feat. Sipe who had a had been drafted in the 13th round of the 1972 draft (pick #330 overall). He was on the practice squad for his first 2 seasons before becoming a spot starter in 1974. In 1976, he took over as the regular starting QB for the Browns and played reasonably well that season and the next one too, although it was shortened by a shoulder injury. Sipe would go on to play 125 games for Cleveland and still holds many of their all time passing records. He was named to the Browns Hall of Fame in 2002. He left the Browns to join the USFL and play for the New Jersey Generals.
In 2011, a book was released by 1980 Browns place kicker Don Cockroft chronicling the season and the time that has passed since. Check out some chapter previews here. One thing that I noticed is the number of players on the team that express faith in God – 9 are quoted talking about their faith on that web-site – including Brian Sipe. This article from Connection Magazine shares the story of Sipe choosing to become a Christian. It was his wife who thought they should start attending church during the final season of Sipe’s pro-football career with the Generals. He says “I had been raised going to church, but bailed out on that deal when I was in high school. Geri thought it would be good for us to start going to church as a family.” But while attending the church, the pastor challenged the depth of Sipe’s faith in God. Sipe admits “I lied to him in order to do the christening,”
Sipe and his wife began attending a couples Bible Study together and over the course of the study Sipe came to see that “God really started to work on me. I came to the conclusion that the Bible was the truth, and I had to do something about it.” What he did was to trust Jesus as his Savior.”
Here are my takeaways from Sipe’s Story:
1- Never Too Late – The Kardiac Kids made a habit of last minute comebacks in the 1980 season. They were involved in 13 games decided in the 4th quarter or overtime. They also lost their first 2 games and every season we hear how rare it is for a team to make the playoffs after losing their first 2 games. But they kept things close and more often than not, pulled out the win in the end. They gave their fans a reason to never give up. I’ve had people that have thought the same about me, too. I was not following God during most of my teenage years but I know that there were people that were praying for me and pouring God’s love out for me to see and experience. They had not given up on me and God won me over. Who can you be in prayer about? Do you have anyone in your life that seems like a lost cause, closed off to God and not interested in following Him? Keep praying for them and let God use you to share His love with them. I am grateful for those who loved me even thought I kept messing up and acting selfish. God used those friends to change my life. God is persistent and will give countless opportunities for them to meet Him. And as long as they are living, it is never too late for them to meet Him.
2- Forgiveness is always the best route – I wrote earlier about the issues between Cleveland and Art Modell and moving the Browns to Baltimore. It has made for an interesting side note in their history but honestly, doesn’t really seem to be a big deal anymore. And that is probably a good thing. I mean as mentioned I enjoy a good rivalry as much as anyone but when someone does hurt us, it is always best to forgive them and not wish them ill anymore. Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who make our lives hard. Is there anyone in your world that has caused you hurt or pain? Have you forgiven them? I promise that forgiveness is always the best choice to make.