We come now to the most depressing time of the year: the annual post-Superbowl, pre-baseball season sports drought. Oh, IU basketball used to hold some excitement for me. Even if you didn’t like Bob Knight (I did, mostly), it was still fun to turn on the telly and see if he was going to blow a jugular and fling a chair at the ref. The current Hoosier’s coach doesn’t yell. He whines. Say what you want about Bobby, but The General does more winning than whining, and I’d rather see him explode beside the court than watch the cream and crimson implode on the court - something they do far too frequently these days.
I suppose I could watch hockey. I’ve tried, really I have. As a hockey nut, my buddy Fred avoids this "seasonal slump." So freakish is his devotion that his picture was in The Detroit News kissing the Stanley Cup - a trophy that he claims is the most beautiful in all of sport. He even named his daughter, Yzabella, after the Detroit Red Wings team captain. Hockey fanatics (the abbreviation "fan" doesn’t suffice) are scary. They chuck octopusses on the floor - I mean ice - when their team wins, and they throw beer-soaked, sweat-stained hats at anyone who scores three goals; two practices that lack a certain . . . civility. And this coming from a football fan. The only reason I ever watched hockey was for the fights, and the networks started cutting away during the brawls. Where’s the fun in that.
This year, we have the Winter Olympics. I could get into that, especially if they brought back Tonya Harding and her billy-club wielding no-necked boyfriend. But, I’m guessing she couldn’t afford the flight to Torino. "Neck-car" revved up last week, but I refuse to define as "sport" something that the rest of us can do while talking on our cell phone, or eating a taco, or putting on our make-up - albeit more slowly.
All of this means that I am stuck between seasons, living life in the dull alphabet-soup sports world between the NFL and MLB.
It’s not just sports that are affected by the doldrums. Spiritually speaking, I’ve been there, too. The doldrums are what ancient mariners named the sea near the equator where the winds are calm and the heat stifling. Spiritually, the doldrums are "a spell of listlessness or despondency, a state of inactivity, stagnation, or slump." And, as I’ve said, I’ve been there. I’m betting you’ve been, too.
Your schedule gets crazy, and you miss your daily "connecting time" with God. Just a day here and there at first, then two days in a row, then three, then a week. Welcome to the doldrums. You make a habit of staying out late on Saturday night and arrive at church exhausted - so exhausted that you just go through the motions. No fresh wind. No fresh fire. Spiritually dead.
Have you been there? Are you there now?
When the old salts of the 18th and 19th century encountered the doldrums, they let down their rowboats and, with long ropes, towed their limp-sailed ships across the placid water in search of a breeze. It was work, but eventually, their sails billowed once more. When you and I are spiritually trapped in a silent, deadly calm, what can we do? We can return to the disciplines that previously made our sails swell - prayer, Bible reading, meditation, worship.
And then we wait.
For just as certainly as the return of pitchers and catchers to training camp heralds the coming of Major League Baseball and spring, fresh spiritual vitality awaits all who are disciplined enough to pursue it.