Always a Runner-Up
I have always loved watching, playing, coaching, reading or even just talking about sports. The goal of any sport, individual or team, is to become Champion.

In my experience, I rarely ever became one on the field or on the court. I had always been on teams that finished no better than 2nd, regardless of sport or teammates. I considered myself the best runner-up in the tri-state. Perhaps I was a Champion Runner-Up?

That changed In junior high school. I was fortunate enough to be Champion in three sports as our school teams dominated football, basketball and track. The Cincinnati Enquirer even came out and awarded our middle school a plaque recognizing the athletic achievement. We competed against 49 schools in track that spring, as a team we finished 1st in every meet. Between the three sports we were a combined 77-0.

In high school, we won league Championships here and there, mostly in football. But that is where my Champion labels began and ended. Even the teams I root for seem to have great seasons and always find a way to fall JUST short of becoming Champions.

Uncomfortable Message
A few years ago, I received a bracelet while at a convention. The message on the bracelet read “Be A Champion”.

At first, I saw it as a knick-knack thingy, a trinket, just a thing-a-ma-jig. A promotional freebie.

The very first day I put it on, it quickly became bothersome and uncomfortable. By lunch, I realized each time I washed my hands the bracelet would get wet on the inside of the band against my wrist and it simply would not dry until I removed the bracelet.

I also noticed, it would snag on things, get hung on door handles and other objects. Later in the year it would often get twisted up inside long sleeve shirts. It also got in the way while playing with my daughters, working out or even doing simple chores or yard work.

Sometime during the lulls of that first afternoon though, I found myself staring at it and focusing on the discomfort of it until I eventually pulled it off and set it on the desk. My wrist was red and irritated from wearing the new, not yet broken in, plastic band. The skin was itchy and I was really considering just throwing the band in the garbage can. I thought, “Well I’m not going to wear this. I’ll just take it off and give it to one of the girls when I get home.”

Why Wear It?
Champion… to me that word has always been associated with athletics. I understood the word had other implications, but until that day, I had never really focused on those meanings.

I sat there in those brief moments scratching at my wrist and staring irritably at the piece of plastic. I wondered why people even wear these (popular at the time) message bracelets. Some wore them for charity, some with inspirational quotes, some even just with teams they support.

I’ve never been labeled a Champion, but I’ve sought the title my entire existence. My life has always been about the effort of becoming Champion. I fail daily, multiple times over and over.

I really do want to be Champion though. I just make choices here and there, do things at times that are not what Champions do. I don’t want any more runner-ups, my storage bins from my youth are full of those. I want to be a Champion. The most important kind.

I want to be a Champion Husband.
Champion Father.
Champion Son.
Champion Brother.
Champion Friend.
Champion Teacher.
Champion Coach.
Champion Neighbor.
Champion Colleague.
I want to be a Champion Follower of Christ.

I gave my wrist one last good scratch. I stretched the band a few times in hopes of creating a bit more give, and then I placed it back on my arm. That moment, I committed to wearing it for one year, without removing it. No matter what. I wanted the constant reminder, even in those little moments where it’s easy to take the path of convenience, selfishness or temptation.

Become the Motto
Life is uncomfortable. Be a Champion.
Some days I want to quit. Be a Champion.
People make fun, gossip, talk behind my back. Be a Champion.
I am exhausted. Be a Champion.
I hate the situation. Be a Champion.
It isn’t fair to me. Be a Champion.
It would be easy to walk away. Be a Champion
Leave the mess for somebody else. Be a Champion.
I don’t have time to do them a favor. Be a Champion.
I don’t feel good. Be a Champion.
It wouldn’t be right to them, but it would be better for me. Be a Champion.
There is just too much going on right now. Be a Champion.
I could just hit snooze. Be a Champion.
If I don’t say anything, they won’t notice me. Be a Champion.
I can get away with it, nobody will ever know. Be a Champion.
I know I’m right and they are wrong. Be a Champion.
I’d love to give them a piece of my mind. Be a Champion.
Others make selfish choices that make it harder for me. Be a Champion.

As for any of us, my year was filled with lots of opportunities and decisions. That silly piece of plastic around my wrist was instrumental. I consider myself a good person, but I learned during those 365 days that I am easily tempted in many situations to take the path of least resistance, the one I’d benefit from but not others. If nothing else, the band stimulated reflection and thoughts about the impact of every single decision I make.

From insignificant decisions to big ones impacting my family, the bracelet was a constant reminder of a goal to be a Champion of life.

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