Is football the worst sport ever?

Football Boy
So, it that a football old-timey boy has, or a watermelon? I think it’s a watermelon.

[Note: Due to the fact that I worked on this from a short draft I began back in November of 2014, the effective “date” of the post here on my blog is 11/28/2014, even though I wrote this on 6/3/2015. Rather than move it to the proper date, seeing how there are already comments and such, I’m just leaving it here it is. I think we’ll all survive, won’t we? — WGS]

So, is football the worst sport ever, and its industry the picture of sin-incarnate? Part of the world is wondering if it is, these days. But which part of the world you are talking about makes a difference.

If by “football” you mean “American football,” then, for all its vices–shared, paralleled, or “one upped” by many other sports–the answer seems to be “no.” The American public seems to be slowly moving past Deflategate and is waiting disinterestedly for the next scandal. But if by “football” you mean the same thing that virtually the entire rest of the world means by “football”–for us Americans, that would be “soccer”–then some are, indeed, wondering if the answer might be “yes.”

[Note for those non-Americans reading today’s post: My apologies for calling football “soccer” for the rest of this post. Since most of my visitors–folks in my congregations, et al.–are Americans, I’m going to go the route that makes the most sense for them. But, for what it’s worth, I do think that “football” is the better description of the sport!]

If you haven’t been keeping up with the scandals of FIFA these days (the international governing body for professional soccer), you’ve been missing out. I won’t try to summarize it all, but it is amazing how corrupt the sport is. The Wall Street Journal just published an interesting op-ed piece comparing FIFA to the Clinton family’s approach to politics. Here is my tweet of that (using the Twitter link below should solve any paywall problems, I think:

If you want to know more specifically about the FIFA scandal, just Google it.

But it brings to mind attacks I have seen on football as the sport somehow most deserving of attack as somehow inherently sinful and immoral that deserves special attention above all other sports. And I continually don’t get it, when there are so many other better targets, as this FIFA news helps to demonstrate. [And, please note: I don’t say this as a fan of football. I didn’t watch a single game last year — not even the Super Bowl. I say it as someone who is an anti-fan of poor logic and of abusing the Bible to try and convince others that one’s personal opinions and convictions are equivalent to God’s own judgment.]

I recognize that Mr. Herbert Armstrong had commented in the past on why he didn’t have football at Ambassador College, and his thoughts are still very instructive. They don’t unarguably lead one to conclude that football, let alone watching it on television, is inherently evil or sinful, though they do lay out important principles, whether one draws similar conclusions or not. And those few I have seen who try to use his words to say so not only abuse his statement but also tend to ignore all other evidence of his opinions on the matter to turn what he said into a much stronger, broader, and far-reaching statement than Mr. Armstrong intended, and one flatly contradicted by Mr. Armstrong’s repeated approval and endorsement of the Church’s energetic participation in the Rose Bowl Parade, which he didn’t see a problem with even in light of Romans 14:22. I’ve blogged about such abuses of Mr. Armstrong and others before (“Zombie ministers: How some abuse the dead”) and on this topic, specifically (actually, I think, in the “Will there be football in the Millennium?” blog post), so I don’t see a need to kick that dead horse any further. The point of whether or not watching football can be biblically established as inherently evil and sinful is unaffected by any of that–neither proven nor disproven. One is simply left to say that some individuals’ time would be better spent on using Scripture to examine themselves instead of trying to publicly canonize their own personal preferences.

The FIFA scandals seem, to me, to simply be a reminder that some perspective is needed. In the past I dug around (digged around? dig dug around?) trying to see if I should think of football as the preeminent example of sin in sports? Is it at some sort of pinnacle deserving of special condemnation above the others? After all, if it were simply the matters that Mr. Armstrong brought out, those are now represented in our day in a vast array of popular sports, and certainly not just professional football. If the focus on hate-ranting about football as a uniquely, inherently evil sport to play or watch were rooted in some sort of justifiable reality and not just some anti-football blogger’s weird personal obsession, then maybe there was something I was missing.

For instance, is football (remember, American football) the Most Sinful Sport Ever™ because of its attitude toward player concussions?

 

Frankly, that would be highly debatable. Actions and recent lawsuits have pressed the case so that actual studies are being done. There are some very good arguments that soccer needs similar studies as the anecdotal evidence keeps piling up that the sport may be just as a injurious in this regard. However, while football treats a possible concussion during the game as a big deal (game paused, doctors brought out, players evaluated and possibly removed), soccer is known for blowing it off, as displayed in hoopla during the last World Cup. As one article said, “[Q]uite frankly, soccer doesn’t really care about concussions.” (Though, hopefully, recent actions may mean that will finally change for soccer. Bring on the actuaries!)

Still, perhaps football might be the Most Sinful Sport Ever™ because of fatalities and injuries, overall.

Well, no, not there, either.

If we were to ban the most deadly sport in America for young people, that would be softball. Actually, we should ban boys’ gymnastics and water polo, as well, each of which have higher rates of mortality per participant among high school students than football does. But, really, softball is the killer—more than double the rates of mortality per player than even second-place water polo according to statistics gathered from 1982 through 2011.

And if we move from mortality to simply injuries, there are other competitors looking for the title, as well. The high school sport with the greatest rate of injury is cheerleading. And by the way, that’s not cheerleading in support of sports teams, such as football and basketball, but competitive cheerleading—that is, competitive cheerleading against other teams of cheerleaders.

Really, when you look at the stats, injuries are sort of all over the place. But at least in America, competitive cheerleading blows them all away. (Texas Aggies are smart enough not to have cheerleaders. We’d rather have our gals in the stands with us than on the field getting injured. Gig’em!)

Where there is a lot of money to be made, there is lack of regard for human health and safety. To claim that football has a lock on this vice would be weird.

So, maybe with all of the money in football, it qualifies as Most Sinful Sport Ever™ because of graft and corruption? After all, it would be foolish to think that Deflategate is the only shady thing that goes down in the NFL.

Still, as the FIFA scandals demonstrate (and have before today’s headlines), football is not only less than unique, it is probably far from the worst. If anyone thinls that football is the worst in this category, they don’t pay attention to news. And if people were to think football were somehow the worst, they aren’t good at  And they didn’t lose money to Pete Rose.

Perhaps attitude makes football stand out? I mean, you have to admit that there is a lot of carnal attitude on the faces of some of those guys after a tackle or a touchdown.

Yet, if that makes football inherently or uniquely evil or sinful, it would apply to—well—pretty much every major sport these days. Haven’t you seen the prideful, “I’m the king of the world and I’m going to bite your face off” look on the faces of other sports figures? Ever watch basketball? Soccer? Actually, ever watched tennis—or even golf?

Fans of football can be truly atrocious in their behavior, true. Maybe the sport uniquely inspires such sinful attitudes in those who follow it?

Well, no, it doesn’t. In America, we have no idea how carnal fans can get relative to some other sports. There is a reason they call them “soccer hooligans” [OK: (Non-American) football hooligans].

Then there are the cheerleaders. No doubt about it: professional football cheerleaders are undeniably inappropriately clad.

But if you think they’re the worst in football, you haven’t seen the cheerleaders they use, for instance, in professional basketball. [No, I’m not linking to pictures…]

The objection some seem to have about football that, perhaps, makes them feel deep down that it truly is the worst of the worst may be that it seems such a violent sport to them.

But is it, really? The hits are sometimes, maybe even often, rougher than they should be, to be sure. We already covered that, and inappropriate aggression is present in a lot of sports. I’ve blogged about illegal, shameful schemes to purposefully hurt other players, and they are just that: illegal and shameful. And, also, not unique to football. (Think Tonya Harding. Or pitchers taking out batters and the subsequent brawls.) But does it seem more “violent” because there is grappling, pushing, and tackling? Do the presence of those items make it somehow inherently, violently evil and sinful? Like wrestling?

(Did you follow the link? I know—that was mean. But fun. If you want to claim that grappling, pushing, and tackling is inherently, violently evil and sinful, take it up with Jacob and Jesus Christ in the resurrection.)

Really, do we have to ban all roughhousing in sport or play? As a father of four boys (and, as rumor has it, I, myself, am a male, as well), I can say that physical play—wrestling each other, etc.—even intensely physical play is rightly natural to being male. And I say “natural” in terms of God’s design, not “natural” as a euphemism for carnal. The fact that a sport includes physical contact simply can’t, in and of itself, make it inherently sinful.

Bad attitudes on display in that contact? Yes! That would be sinful! But then, it would be sinful in any sport, right? In fact, it would be sinful even if there were no physical contact, right? So, where does that leave us? Right! With football still not being inherently sinful and certainly not uniquely “more evil” than other sports.

The idea that rough-and-tumble play among friends will not be allowed in the Kingdom has no basis in Scripture. To quote verses about “violence” to say otherwise is to assume what one desires to prove and is a logical error of the novice. You would first have to prove that all such play is violence. Have fun with that. And, even if you were to succeed against all odds and rationality, far more sports and play would be condemned than football—once again not making it unique in some way as the sinniest sinful sport in civilization.

Actually, someone who is truly offended by real violence in sports has so many other targets to choose from, and worse offenders, indeed. Consider ice hockey. Who hasn’t heard this joke: “I went to a fight once, and a hockey game broke out”? There’s a reason for that joke. In fact, even if it is a matter of just picking on America, in North America the rules concerning actual, literal player-on-player violence in hockey are looser than just about everywhere else in the world. Fights are actually expected, and are part of what the fans want.

Really, it’s hard to justify picking on football as the pinnacle of “sports evil” in the area of violence. (And, again, simply quoting verses about “violence” assumes what one wants to prove.)

Finally, perhaps football qualifies as Most Sinful Sport Ever™, at least as a public symbol, because it is so popular. Consider the TV ratings for the Super Bowl–they are huge. Maybe that should make football a special “punching bag” above all other sports.

Well, that just doesn’t cut it, either.

It took until 2010 for the number of Super Bowl viewers in America to get past 100M, climbing to a record 112.2 million in 2014. In 2015, that record was bested, bringing in 114.4 million.

Being a truly international sport, it is hard to aggregate the viewing figures for soccer’s World Cup, but even conservative measures of World Cup viewing put the totals for the final game at more than double that of the Super Bowl, such as the estimated 260,000,000 in 2006. And that doesn’t even count the number of people without access to television who obsessively follow the World Cup’s games through other means (print, public announcement, etc.). In fact, over the course of the entire World Cup tournament, total viewership of some of the action is estimated in the billions.

Actually, all of these things said… considering the often prideful and combative attitudes of its players, the corruption of the governing bodies, the lack of compassion for its players’ head injuries (including among children), the “hooliganism” and violent and riotous criminal activity associated with its fans, the vast, vast viewing audience—with some fans virtually addicted to the sport and its “heroes”—and its central role in the culture of Israelitish nations, I would say that someone sincere about tackling sin in sports would pick soccer over football any day. (Of course, I mean real football over American football.) And that’s even true if one is seeking to focus on the vices of Israelite nations, for which soccer is far more popular when one remembers that America is only one star in that constellation.

So, we don’t really watch much football at all around our house, but it isn’t because we see it as some sort of “super-sinfullestly sinful” sport. We see it as most other professional and college sports—something that isn’t inherently sinful, but which money, fame, and attitude corrupt, like they do with most things. Even international chess. I’m glad that my boys play flag football at camp, which is certainly less likely to cause injury than tackle football. (Though still with its risks, which is not a bad thing, especially when bringing up boys.) But if they ever play a game of tackle on a future Thanksgiving afternoon, or watch a game on TV that day? I don’t see any good, biblical argument that tells me I would have to condemn them as engaging in an inherently sinful activity by doing so. (Actually, since 75% of the Smith boys are fencers, I think a friendly post-Thanksgiving duel is more likely in the future, but that’s beside the point.)

As for me and my house? We’re going to begin a relentless public crusade against thumb wrestling. Well, at least I am. I’m tired of my wife always winning. It’s not my fault I have short thumbs.

[I said I would provide links, but I’m feeling lazy. Still, I will instead offer a search of the blog on the word “football”–it should have them in there, somewhere. 🙂 ]

Apparently, the Super Bowl cometh…

Look, on the table! It's a dish! It's a wok! No, it's Super Bowl!
Look, on the table! It’s a dish! It’s a wok! No, it’s Super Bowl!

So, Super Bowl XLVII is this weekend! Believe it or not, I truly had no idea until today, though I did know it was coming up. (A theme of my life, apparently. Is it always the first Sunday in February, now?) And, believe it or not, I don’t know who’s playing, other than that I know it is not the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns, the Dallas Stars, the Texas Rangers, or the Flying Wallendas. I will, however, look it up in the newspaper or Google shortly after this post so that my citizenship as an American is not suddenly revoked.

(In other news, the Wallendas had the adjective “Flying” attached to their name after an incident in Akron, Ohio. Yes, I knew that you always wanted to know that.)

Every year when it comes around, I discuss whether or not we will watch it, and this year I suspect we will still be on the road coming home from Pittsburgh, so if it makes the driving less congested, all the better! We’ve had several posts here on the blog about football–whether it’s a sin to watch it, will there be football in the millennium, the crime of putting bounties on opposing teammates where thugs are paid to hurt others, how it provides lively Spokesman Club table topics fare, how elderly ladies can wrongly be made to feel guilty for enjoying it, and how local communities should be warned when nerds throw footballs–and rather than make (yet) another post, I thought I would simply list previous discussions for those who might be interested. And while I think I have addressed it before in at least one of the previous posts, I am sympathetic to the argument that the football players should go back to wearing leather hats instead of the helmets they use today, or even outer-padded helmets. There are a number of sports which could probably be made safer in a number of ways–professional pencil sharpening, for instance–and American football is clearly one of them. (As discussed, below, though: does that make the sport inherently sinful? Not at all. If something done unwisely made it inherently sinful, we’d all be in a lot more trouble than we are.)

On to the posts…

That’s all for today. Have a wonderful Sabbath!

Sure, Parades & Football — but hopefully Thanks most of all

Well, I don’t plan to write much, but at the moment seeing my wife work wonders in the kitchen while I sit here essentially useless has me inspired to say a few brief words. 🙂

The kids are recognizing one of the unintended consequences of our cutting ties to regular television fare to save a few bucks: No access to the broadcast networks’ Thanksgiving Day parades. (We’re purely a Roku/Netflix family now.)

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a tur...
Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a turkey and football player. But where’s Tom Landry? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I might hook up the computer to see if there is any simulcasting going on and, if so, connect the TV so they can watch them on the big screen. I’m sympathetic to the sentiment… In my house growing up, it was Thanksgiving Parades in the morning, then a walk down the alley to my grandmother’s house where the rest of my father’s side of the family would gather for food and football. Tom Landry was practically part of the family. The Smiths would watch the games on TV with the sound all the way down so that they could listen to the play-by-play on the radio, which they preferred to the TV announcers. (Does that count as a “multi-media experience”?)

For the Smiths, today–or at least this colony here in Ohio–football no longer plays a big part (though the Super Bowl seems to be discussed much on this blog: here, here. and here). Not that it is inherently evil (which I have covered before, more than once). I’ve just never been much of a sports guy–dodge ball, soccer, a little fencing, and competitive pencil sharpening excluded.

[Free admission: I may not be a sports guy, but I am a Texas Aggie, and it still seems very, very strange not to have Texas A&M playing t.u. on Thanksgiving, even if I usually didn’t watch. All the more bittersweet since sports pundits seem to think that the Aggies would win such a match up this year–something the Longhorns have to be thankful for, I suppose. Psalm 75:10a!]

Regardless, I hope to help all of us here in the Smith Kingdom and our guests today to remember the day for its true purpose: Giving thanks to our Creator.

In an old Plain Truth magazine back in 1969, the Church once wrote:

“There is nothing necessarily wrong with good food, family reunions and football games on Thanksgiving Day. But all too many use these activities wrongly and forget the purpose for the holiday. Many glut themselves with far more food than they ought to eat; few, however, stop to give God thanks for this food — even on Thanksgiving Day.”

True then, true today.

There are those few–in a celebration of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy as well as, in some cases, other, less innocent motivations–who confuse the American Thanksgiving with pagan harvest festivals, falling for the same faulty arguments that some use to claim that the Feast of Tabernacles is pagan in origin. But the day’s clear path to its place on our calendar is easy to trace, and Thanksgiving is, truly, a national holiday that a Bible-believing Christian can celebrate. (Ditto for arguments that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are pagan, which they most certainly are not.) What a shame, then, if those who are Bible-believing Christians fail to observe in the good and godly spirit it was originally intended, even if no one else is doing so.

So, however you choose to enjoy your time with family and friends today–whether it involves parades on TV or football in the backyard or whatever your own family traditions might be–I hope it includes some sincere thanks for God’s promises to Abraham and for the blessings this undeserving country continues to enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rise of the Female Aggie Yell Leader?

Aggie Yell Leader Lans Martin (photo by Stuart Seeger)
Aggie Yell Leader Lans Martin (photo by Stuart Seeger)

Well, you can file this in the “unnecessary commentary few would be interested in” drawer. But it’s on the front page of my Wall Street Journal, so it’s made some news, and I think there are bigger principles that are touched by the “fun” news item it represents.

It looks as though Ms. Samantha Ketcham, a junior at Texas A&M University this year, is campaigning hard to become the first female Yell Leader.  For those unfamiliar with the tradition, check out the Wall Street Journal article, available without subscription, here: “There’s Lot’s of Yelling in Campaign to Break This Glass Ceiling” (WSJ, 2/27/2012).  The article actually covers the tradition fairly well, while mentioning many other A&M traditions, as well.  (Those of you who wonder why I begin most of my sermons or announcements or e-mails with “Howdy” will find your answer there.)

The fact is that Aggies don’t have cheerleaders, we have Yell Leaders: five guys (Rick Perry had been one while at A&M) dressed in white running around at football games who lead all the Aggies in the stands (and, yes, I’ve been one of them) in all of our arcane yells concerning farmers and bus drivers and the sawing off of our opponent’s horns in accordance with Psalm 75:10 (well, the only opponent to which this applies is t.u. — the Longhorns — which will be hard now that they’re in a different conference, but that’s another story).

Texas A&M used to be a school exclusively for the Corps of Cadets, gradually allowing nonregs (students who are not a part of the Corps of Cadets) and girls (students who are not boys), and is co-ed in many ways. While they aren’t a majority by far, there are even girls in the Corps of Cadets.

But the Yell Leaders have always been male.  For just over 100 years, it has been the one institution that has remained XY-chromosome-only. Some females have tried to be elected to the spot, but Ms. Ketcham’s campaign seems to be the most aggressive and most popular so far. You can check it out yourself on her website, samketchamforyell.com.

Let me say that I am sympathetic. Ms. Ketcham seems very loyal to Aggieland — a 3rd generation Aggie whose blood probably runs as maroon as anyone’s. She’s clearly no Two Percenter and doesn’t appear to be generally anti-tradition. The same WSJ article points out that though some suggest that the A&M dance team that has performed at basketball games in recent years should also perform at football games, Ms. Ketcham is against the idea, preferring the uniqueness of Texas A&M’s Yell Leader tradition, and good for her for thinking so.

At the same time, making one of the Yell Leaders a female would be a dilution of that tradition — an incremental but nontrivial decrease in the uniqueness she praises.

Yell Leaders are just that: Leaders. Unlike cheerleaders (forgive me, offended cheerleaders), they aren’t just performing to get the crowd excited and pumped, but they are leading and directing the entire student body, tens of thousands strong, like a team of coaches of the 12th Man. Sure, student class presidents have included females, and as our society increasingly demeans the idea of gender differences and demeans the idea of preferring men over women as leaders in such positions, that shouldn’t surprise us. I would say it is to society’s detriment, but that, too, is another post for another time.

And being a Yell Leader is a more overtly masculine role in ways that “student body president” (sadly) is no longer, surrounded by the sort of “release the XY-chromosome hounds!” traditions you might expect in such a role on a college campus that used to be all military corps. Consider the scene below:

Corps Freshmen tackle the Yell Leaders after a victory over Oklahoma State in 2007 (photo by BQZip01 from Wikipdea)

Here we see the tradition of chasing down the Yell Leaders (the guys in white) after a winning game and carrying them off to throw then into the fountain. But can you imagine the scene above if one of the “guys in white” was a gal? If you find that too easy to imagine (you shouldn’t) then imagine all of the figures in white being gals, with a mob of men (or vastly a majority of men) running them down to physically tackle them and throw them into a fountain.  I notice the article addresses the concern about a girl in white being thrown into a fountain (Ms. Ketcham says she plans to wear a swimsuit under her clothes), but what of the rough and tumble leading up to it? And who wants to be one of a pack of adrenaline-fueled young men, running down a girl to catch her and carry her off like a mob? Who thinks that is a good idea? Anyone?

Yell Leaders have remained a tiny bastion of the regrettably outdated idea of masculine leadership. And, seeing them in action, it comes across as a traditionally masculine role, to which a masculine image is naturally suited, like that of a stereotypical drill sergeant. Could a female do it? I am sure one could. There are, after all, female drill sergeants. But the real question is: should a female do it? (The same could be asked of drill sergeant-ing, by the way.) It isn’t a popular question to ask anymore, but it really is the question at hand.

If having all male leadership means nothing anymore, then the answer is easy: “Sure, if she wants to.” But male leadership does mean something, I believe. And what a statement on our society that defending the notion that male leadership still means something could center on deciding whether or not a group of five guys yelling at football games should be allowed to include a girl. It’s a tradition I love, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like deciding on who should be the leader of the free world, and I don’t recall hearing a lot of real debate about that when Mrs. Clinton or Mrs. Palin were vying for such spots. Whether or not a female should be allowed to serve as a Yell Leader is, in the large scope of things, incredibly trivial.

But the larger idea the question represents is not trivial, at all. Those who think that the Texas A&M’s cadre of Yell Leaders should remain a male-only group, like I do, should ask themselves why they think so — why they think such a tradition is worth holding on to. Maybe they will get a glimpse of a larger discussion that needs to be had.

I have nothing against Ms. Ketcham, and I admire her spunk and determination, as well as her passion for Aggieland, a school I, too, love very much. But if she does succeed, I will mourn a bit that traditional masculine leadership’s death by a thousand cuts has proceeded apace with one more nip.

========================================
[VERY LATE UPDATE, 9/14/2012: Ms. Ketcham did not succeed in her quest, though she received more votes than any other woman who has run before, coming in at 5th place in a six-candidate race where the top three are picked. Of note, the 6th place candidate was also a female. Here’s an article on the results.]

The Super Bowl: To Watch or Not To Watch?

super bowl
super bowl (Photo credit: sinosplice)

Well, this weekend we’ll all see the Super Bowl. Or will we?

To be honest, I forgot it was this weekend until someone pointed it out to me.

[By the way, sometimes some say “I didn’t even know it was on” as a way to demonstrate that they too “enlightened” a person to pay attention to such “boorish” matters. Me? I admit to being simply unobservant.] 🙂

Generally, my family does not watch it. It’s not that we think football is somehow inherently evil (it’s not) or that we’re against watching television in general (we’re not). We’re just not “football” folks and tend not to care too much.

At the same time, we’ve been to a few Super Bowl viewing events that were a lot of fun–and by “a few,” I mean two. One was at the house of some close friends (that was the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” Super Bowl) and another was with some Church brethren who’d put together a Super Bowl viewing party where we spent more time fixing my wife’s table router than watching the game (though the whole event was a lot of fun, and the fact that I didn’t have to buy a new router was just icing on the cake).

There have also been many occasions in which I tuned in here and there, especially as the game is winding down, and have seen some amazing plays. I may not be a “football” guy (what do they call their scores? Homeruns? Royal Flushes?), but I do enjoy seeing people perform at their best and at the limits of human ability, and championships of all stripes and sizes tend to display exactly that. I enjoy giving my children the chance to see that, as well.

And while I can’t stand the “must buy things” mentality of our society, I do enjoy the creativity that goes into some of the Super Bowl television commercials–when, of course, they aren’t dirtied with sexual innuendo, or advertising a movie for which even brief clips make me want to scrub my eyeballs clean, etc. [By the way: This year’s Super Bowl has set a record in advertising sales and, assuming those paying the exorbitant prices for those TV spots aren’t completely incompetent, this adds to the evidence that the report of television’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.]

After the previously (parenthetically) mentioned 2004 Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson fiasco, watching the halftime show is something I can almost guarantee we will not do (the halftime show over at the Puppy Bowl is often much more enjoyable). And speaking of that “wardrobe malfunction” moment, if I recall the entire halftime show that year was completely horrific, immoral, and simply disgusting. The fact that everyone focuses on those few fractional moments of Ms. Jackson’s indecent exposure instead of the complete moral cesspool the entire performance represented says something about our society, methinks.

Our Spokesman Club meeting will be over by lunchtime on Sunday, leaving everyone free to make their own choices: skip the game, watch the game, or switch back and forth.

What about you? Let me know in the incredibly exciting poll below!

On Tim Tebow and something refreshing in football

[UPDATE, 12/13/2011: I can’t believe that I missed the fact that we had a commentary run this very weekend on the Tomorrow’s World website that discusses Tim Tebow, as well! I subscribe to our commentary updates (and I urge you to do so, as well!), but in the hustle and bustle of the weekend, I must have missed it. My thanks to my Beautiful Wife for pointing it out to me! I’d rather you read that than this or at least go read than and come back. Here it is: “Faith on the Football Field?” by Mr. Dexter Wakefield.]

Posting this graphic may be the closest I get to a real football in the foreseeable future...

Well, many hate him and many love him, but few football fans seem to feel one way or the other about Tim Tebow.

If you have no idea who that is, don’t worry, you’re fine. No need to adjust your TV set. He’s the current starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos who (1) happens to be enjoying a very good season so far in spite of a number of shortcomings in his technique, (2) happens to be very open (and sincere) about his nominally Christian faith, frequently kneeling (increasingly called “Tebowing”) and praying after successful moments on the field, and (3) happens to seem like a genuinely decent and caring fellow.

As for his religion, itself, I have no comment beyond my normal comments about mainstream Christianity: It is a far cry from “the faith once delivered” and I would suspect that Mr. Tebow’s preferred version of Christianity is no different.

But rather than pick at the details (e.g., are his public displays, however sincerely motivated, violations of Matthew 6:5-6?), I’d like to focus on the fact that his attitude is terribly refreshing in a world–that of professional sports–that seems so often to be one of glorifying the self above others. Football is just like any other professional sport in the sense that it is what you make of it — not inherently vile or righteous in and of itself, and commendable/condemnable based on the attitudes of its participants and fans.  I’ve seen “no contact” sports like golf, tennis, and track produce and display individuals with incredibly satanic attitudes, and I’ve seen “full contact” sports like football and wrestling produce and display some pretty decent human beings and moments of real virtue. But all sports, especially at the professional level, seem to risk a glorifying of the self above others–definitely not the attitude of Philippians 2:3.  And all the kneeling and “I thank the Lord Jesus” Tebow moments aside, those moments where he simply behaves like a clean decent fellow are, I think, wonderfully refreshing.

There are a few anecdotes related in the Wall Street Journal’s article this weekend “Tim Tebow: God’s Quarterback” (12/10/2011 — and no paywall!) that illustrate this refreshing quality.  Here’s my favorite, I think: The moment after Tim Tebow had been sacked (that’s where the quarterback is tackled while still in possession of the ball, for the sports ignorant) in the Broncos’ came against the Detroit Lions, the “sacker,” Stephen Tulloch, took a knee to the ground in an obvious attempt to mock Tebow’s own kneeling prayers.  But when asked later what he felt about Tulloch’s mean spirited jab, the WSJ reports that Tebow responded, “He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack. And good for him.”

Now, on one hand, this sort of response should be non-news. On the other hand, the fact that it is news is what makes it news. (Those looking for an unending iterative loop in that statement are free to have at it.)

Actually, the article is a good one for a number of reasons — it’s discussion on why someone such as Tebow, who seems like a genuinely good fellow, stirs such reactions in the public, as well as on other matters, was interesting to me (one who is otherwise not a big sports fan).  A comment made in the article (and highlighted in a sidebar in the print version) that caught my eye was this one: “A public figure’s seemingly admirable character throws us. We don’t know how to trust goodness.”  I really do think it’s a worthwhile read, regardless of one’s opinion about sports — check it out here if you’d like.

Having grown up in the era of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach’s Cowboys, today’s sports and the attitudes that accompany them irritate me to no end. And if even mainstream Christians are irritated at Tebow’s displays, however sincere they may be, I can understand (for example, I can’t imagine Landry or Staubach wearing their faith on their sleeve so much — even though Landry, himself, taught “Sunday School” and adult Bible studies).  But it is refreshing to me to see some positive attitude from a big name player who really does seem to recognize that football is, after all, only a game, and that there really are more important things out there.

Congrats to the Rangers

Those who know me know I am not the most sports-minded fellow.  However, you can’t be from Texas and not sport a big Texas-sized grin at the thought of the Rangers (finally) going to the World Series.  When I was a lad of single-digit age, I was a member of the official Texas Ranger fan club, complete with a batting glove that had Jim Sundberg’s signature on it.  Or at least his name on it.  Or something.  I did say “single-digit age,” right?

Today’s WSJ carried some funny comments about the match up by columnist Jason Gay (read it here: “2010 World Series: Bargains, Beef and Beards”).  Here’s just a few:

“The $55 million-budget Rangers stunned the $206 million-budget Yankees, baseball’s richest franchise.  For the cost of the Yankees, you could buy the Rangers three times and buy everyone in Vermont a Lexus and an iPad.”

Q: “What is Rangers owner Nolan Ryan doing right now?”

A: “As we speak, he’s delivering a calf that he will promptly trade to the Seattle Mariners for the rights to Felix Hernandez.  Later, he intends to build a barbed-wire fence to keep the Yankees away from Cliff Lee, then he’ll drive through the night to San Francisco in a battered pickup truck, stopping briefly to punch a guy in Reno.”

“The Giants’ hair situation is unruly.  The team looks like it should be raising a barn, or opening an artisanal butcher shop in Portland, Ore.”

“The World Series begins Wednesday at 7:57 p.m. Eastern time on Fox; the games have been moved up an hour to accommodate 30 minutes of football highlights to placate Texas viewers.”

Funny stuff.  Feel free and read it for yourself.

It seems that Nolan Ryan is the gift that keeps on giving for the Rangers.  Congrats, fellows.

Cleansing the palette after MJ’s speech

I don’t keep up with sports that much (I know: not a big revelation to those who know me), but it is my understanding that Michael Jordan’s speech at his Hall of Fame induction was less than gracious and, apparently, simply petty.

For those who saw it and would like to cleanse their palette, here’s a great article on a class act: Jordan’s fellow Hall of Fame 2009 inductee David Robinson.

Whoever it is…

I’m not necessarily “anti-football,” and I hope this doesn’t come across that way.  But I must admit: It’s 10:00PM and I just realized I have no idea who won the Super Bowl (assuming it’s over; is it over?).

But whoever the winner is, I do know this.  It’s not the Texas Rangers.  (Yeah…  I’m sort of a sports genius.)

Have a good week everyone!

LeBron and Manilow – I knew it…

Sitting here in the waiting area outside Mr. Crockett & Dr. Winnail’s offices, I just zipped over to check some Internet news and found something that confirmed a suspicion I have long held.  The AP is reporting that basketball star LeBron James apparently has Barry Manilow on his iPod.

See — I always knew that LeBron and I had more in common than our tall, muscular physiques and athletic prowess.