Evangelicals & Sports
While it is very improbable my life fortunes would ever afford me the opportunity to own a major sport franchise if I did it would likely not ever win the title or even win on a consistent basis.
I would be the guy in favor of participants self-regulating themselves like golfers do in their sport. I would be the guy in the public-service announcement who confesses to his coach the ball was “off” him. I would be the coach who would encourage him to make the referee aware of the mistake. I know that is hokey and is not consistent with our culture but I am just the naive guy trying to live consistently with the Evangelical worldview.
It is most unfortunate one of the refrains in sport is “if you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying.” Sign stealing is a cherished art in sports. It is an accepted part of the competitive nature and to a certain extent many accept it as part of the lore of the sport.
Aside from the issues the major reason I would not succeed would be my refusal to have certain players on my team. I am not advocating for “Sunday School teachers” but I do believe there needs to be a level of sportsmanship attached to those who play their respective sports.
I am not even advocating a player would need to share my faith or even possess faith in any religious sense but they would have to possess a modicum of decency however the society might generally agree how this is defined. I am not necessarily talking about a football player helping a player up after being tackled but more along the lines of being a team-first type player. Someone who embraces the quality commonly associated with being a “professional”
Specifically I write with certain players in mind. I think of players like Odell Beckham of the New York football Giants. Beckham is all about himself and what suits him. If it does not suit him but hurts the team that oh well that is not his concern. Players like him and Terrell Owens are indicative of what is wrong with professional sports.
Additionally, no matter how competitive I am I would not condone my players taking illegal drugs to artificially impact their performance on the playing surface. I would be the first to remove a player at the first solid proof of illicit behavior. I think of what many suspected when Sammy Sosa was majestically hitting home runs for my beloved Chicago Cubs in the baseball steroids area. It defies logic to believe that Sammy Sosa head size grew naturally and he transformed his body at such a dramatic level with natural means. Pragmatism is even part of our rationale as sports fan. All we care about is the end result as opposed to going about the pursuit the right way.
I remember when Ryne Sandberg was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He spoke eloquently about him gaining entry into baseball immortality because he was committed to doing things the “right way” through the good old fashioned manner of ‘hard work.” The biblical sanctioned concept of hard work is a by-gone quality not in vogue today.
There was a time that pro athletes embraced the responsibility of being role models for young aspiring young men who grew wanting to be the next “Willie Mays” or “Johnny Unitas.” I acknowledge there is a legitimate conversation about the question of whether athletes should be considered role models but Charles Barkley withstanding it it inescapable that young impressionable minds will not be influenced (for the good or the bad) by professional athletes.
Since “theology matters” sports fall under the rubric of assessment for how it fits into the Evangelical worldview. There must be a standard that expresses fidelity to God even when participating in sporting event.
I often wonder how should understand how to pray and include God as we participate in sports. Since the Bible explicitly says to acknowledge God in all our ways I would expect the “all” to include sports.
Traits like humility and meekness must find it place within the sports culture. Evangelicals have always, and will always be part of the sports culture. Their platform gives them access to people to common person will never be able to speak. To whom much is given, much will be expected.
The Bible says God will not withhold any good thing from those who love Him. I expect sports in some fashion to be part of our experience in the Eternal State. While my puny mind cannot begin to contemplate how that will be lived out I expect the competition to be other-worldly and beyond our imagination. Yet, similarly I expect it to be consistent with many of the other Christian qualities the Bible continually extols like mercy, temperance, gentleness, kindness, etc. etc.
Since it is unlikely I will ever own a professional team I still believe it is important to filter these issues through the Christian Worldview. I believe sports are given to us by God to enjoy. There are a lot of positives that can be derived from participating in sports. I just believe it is important that sports be regulated by Christian values and principles.
The Odell Beckham’s of sports reflect the “Me-first” attitude our cultures celebrates and endorses. Evangelicals should be the first to adapt and promotes Christian virtue in sports.
I welcome your comments and admonish you to keep your hands to the plow!