Three minutes and 20 seconds into added time. Manchester City were about to finish behind Manchester United. Their first change to win the English league title for 44 years was slipping away. Worse, their city rivals, Manchester United, were about to win it in their stead. Pain was etched on the faces of the City supporters. Many started to leave. Then to use a sporting cliché, “cometh the hour, cometh the man”, Sergio Aguero, goal. Manchester City were champions.
Where does this phrase come from? This idea that the hero will appear at the right time to save the day, or that when the time comes someone will step up and become the hero?
This is a sporting cliché, but it resonates with us. Could we live with the idea that there will be no hero? That when things are at their very darkest, no one steps in (well, as a Liverpool fan, I’ve witnessed that scenario a few too many times this season). That we are all standing by watching helplessly as everything goes to pot.
We look to heroes who promises that will lead us to better times. Just look at the euphoria of President Obama’s election victory. In France, President Hollande has promised to ease the European economic crisis without crushing austerity measures.
Interestingly, we see potential heroes fail, or at least fail to deliver on their promise all the time. For example, I don’t think that anyone, no matter what side they face politically, would deny that Obama has not delivered all that he promised in 2008. Similarly, Hollande may struggle to painlessly ease the French and the wider European debt crises.
But we still believe. We still hope. We may even pray.
Whether it’s a sporting event or the economy, we have seen glimpses in the past, or we have heard of past glories. City fans have heard of the glories of the 1960s. Great political leaders Churchill, Kennedy, Reagan, are remembered fondly (interestingly we only need their last names). But, we know these men were heroes with feet of clay. They may have provided leadership and ameliorated the situation for a time, but they never fixed it permanently, they never brought us to the promised land. Successful sporting teams come and go.
We long for someone to make sense of it all. To usher in a world of fairness and prosperity, free from pain and cruelty.
I researched the origins of the phrase – “cometh the hour, cometh the man” and, no, it’s not Shakespeare. There is no exact source for this phrase, but many place it origin to the New Testament of the Bible. In John’s gospel:
But the hour cometh, and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (i)
These are the words of Jesus, explaining that He, as God, has come to earth as a man, to die and build a bridge back to God - to save us all, for all time, if we’ll let Him. To begin the process of making all things new. All things just, all things perfect. Could it be true? Is this what we see when we see glimpses of heroism?
You may not think God exists, or that the Bible is from God, but think about why we have a longing for a hero, not just someone who can temporarily make a difference, but someone who can change the status quo? We seek heroes in sports, which, all things considered is not of much consequence in the scheme of things; or in politics, where we are mostly disappointed.
In these difficult times, as the U.S. prepares for a presidential election in November and the world awaits the London Olympics, we hope for heroes. We dream that “cometh the hour, cometh the man”. Consider that perhaps He has already come.
For those of you who have no idea who Manchester City or Manchester United are, here’s a clip of the Sergio Augero’s goal to win the English premier league.
(i) John 4:23 (King James Version).