This morning I received a sweet and encouraging note from my mom. In the aftermath of the election results, she had been thinking about me. Specifically, about me and the Phoenix Suns.
I’ve been a Phoenix Suns fan for as long as I can remember. Unlike most Phoenicians, my family has a long history in the state. My great-grandfather opened the first nursery in Phoenix. My grandmother was born there, as was my dad, as was I. We left when I was a baby after my dad joined the Army JAG Corps. We moved frequently, including five years in Holland and Germany while I was in elementary school. One of my few touchstones to “the States” was sports, especially basketball. At the time the Suns were really good.
The ’93 Suns featured Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley, Danny Ainge, Kevin “KJ” Johnson, and my favorite player: “Thunder Dan” Majerle. My grandparents used to send newspaper clippings from the The Arizona Republic and VHS tapes of games. The one military TV channel (AFN) carried The George Michael Sports Machine every evening, which I watched devotedly, in addition to studiously reviewing box scores in The Stars & Stripes sports section.
The Suns won 62 games that season, best in the NBA and a franchise record. (Steve Nash would later lead the 2004-2005 team to tie that mark.) Eventually, we met Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the finals. Due to the time difference between Germany and Phoenix, I would wake up at 2:00 A.M. to watch each game. My dad would join me in the living room by the fourth quarter, watching as he strapped on his boots for work. In game six, in Phoenix, John Paxson hit a 3-point shot with just a few seconds to play to give Chicago the lead. When Horace Grant blocked Kevin Johnson’s last-second jumper, it was over. Bulls win 99-98.
In her email, my mom recalled how devastated I was that morning. She suggested that this early taste of defeat may have been a necessary bit of life training. Life is full of disappointment, loss, pain, almost all of which is more significant than sports. But the pain heals, and God’s purposes – which transcend our temporal experiences – move forward uninterrupted. She is right. I awoke this morning with a sense of peace. It surprised me. After all, yesterday was a crummy day to be a conservative. We lost the presidency, numerous opportunities in the Senate, and all four ballot initiatives on traditional marriage. The results could not have been much worse. But I went to sleep beside a wife who loves me, both of us firmly in the hands of a God who is still sovereign, still working.
The election matters. I am not sanguine about the future of our nation. The combination of unsustainable public spending and a disintegrating moral core among a mature citizenry will undo us. And though my life’s work may be devoted to “the reformation of manners” to borrow a term from Wilberforce, the state of my soul is not determined by the American electorate. That would be no different if Mitt Romney were president-elect. My home is elsewhere, a place with streets of gold, where the Suns never lose.