The town of Massillon is crazy about football. The guy who the Cleveland Browns are named after, the great Paul Brown, played and coached there. The stadium, which bears his name, seats twenty thousand. Newborn baby boys in the local hospital receive a football in the crib. The town boasts of 22 state championships in the sport.
But there is a large asterisk alongside this legacy of football greatness. None of their championships were won by a playoff format, where a host of teams play in a tournament and whittle their way down to the top two teams who square off for the title. All of their championships were decided by sports writers, who put their heads together at the end of the season… hypothesizing that the mighty Tigers were the best team. No tournament of top teams, no title game. It was just given to them.
That changed in 1972, when Ohio’s state football championship was played for on the field. Since then, Massillon has yet to win that game.
At the risk of losing close friends and relatives, I do think Massillon may have won all of those championships they were awarded had there been a playoff system. My Brother-in-law’s dad played on a Massillon team that allowed just six points all season! But the simple fact is this: They have zero championships won on the field in a title game.
Kinda taints the legacy, doesn’t it? I mean, yeah, they were good, really good. But do those 22 state championships really count?
The book of James is harsh. He’s a bit of a buzz-kill. I can think I’m a championship Christian. Then I read James 1:22 and I learn I’ve been deceiving myself about one aspect of following Jesus. Then I read James 2:10 that if I fall short in one area my whole walk is tainted.
Regarding Massillon, he’d say, “You can claim all the championships you want, but unless you prove it on the field . . . you deceive your yourself.”
I’ve never played a single down of organized football in my life. But I know that sometimes I need to be hit hard in order to hear the cold hard facts: I’m not as sweet as I think I am.
Don’t deceive yourself. Prove it on the field.