Tag Archives: sports

Tim Tebow’s Legacy

I’m ba-aaaaack….

 

It was a refreshing time away from the blog.  You can take the boy away from the blog, but you can’t take the blog out of the boy, though: 3-4 times a day, I would encounter something and immediately think, “oooh!  I should do a post on that!”

 

To the carpenter, everything is a 2×4.  To the artist, everything is a canvas.  To the blogger, everything is a blog post.  This is one of the many dangers of such a demanding mistress.

 

I will only be able to post on a small percentage of those ideas, but one of them I can across today.  Get a load of this article on Tim Tebow’s legacy.

The article touches upon only a small smidgeon of his legacy.  It focuses on the impact he’s had on the U of F fans.  There is a larger eternal impact past that.  I admit, when I first saw him play vs. my beloved Ohio State in the national championship game a few years back, I really didn’t think highly of him.  But the last few years, his actions and words on and off the field have won me over.

 

Here’s an exerpt:

 

The numbers and awards are all impressive and voluminous, but they’re not what have made the quarterback a historic figure in Florida and beyond. That’s due to the winning attributes, the leadership qualities, the endless acts of charity performed off the field, the ability to graciously lead a heavily scrutinized life.

 

You just don’t find all those things in a single college-aged package.

 

Tebow long ago entered another dimension of stardom, as his impact went viral. He is the most polarizing college athlete ever, by a wide margin, engendering the deepest of feelings across the culture.

 

The cynical and envious rip him — and rip the media for saying nice things about him, claiming that he is overhyped. (They’ll say that very thing about this column, I’m quite sure.) Some roll their eyes at his unapologetically public Christianity — worn on his sleeve and under his eyes — despite the authenticity that underlies it in word and deed.

 

It has become an unfortunate aspect of our Hater Nation mentality that many of us cannot stand too much of a good thing.

 

But the Tebow lovers are numerous and ardent as well. And Saturday was their day to be seen and heard.

 

I love that phrase–unapologetically public Christianity.  The Church needs more of this.  Far too often we listen to a cynical world that tells us to shut up and keep it locked up and private.  I am glad Tebow has not cowed to the pressure one bit.

 

Sometimes tokens like eye black can be cheezy and quite stereotypical, and those in the Church should be cautious of leaning on such physical displays (fish magnets on cars, Christaneeze t-shirts are other examples–I avoid both) as the sole or even main witness in public, but it is my prayer that many of our youth take Tebow’s example to heart and boldly live out their apprenticeship to Christ in the public…like the article says, in both word and deed.

 

For Tim Tebow, his impact has just begun.

Champions on and Off the Mat

I’ve blogged before about Ohio State head wrestling coach Tom Ryan.  Needless to say, I’m a big fan of the guy.  I mean, sheesh, the year before he came in, Ohio State finished somewhere in the 40’s in the NCAA tournament.  In the years he’s been at the helm, OSU has finished 10th, 2nd, and 2nd again.  They are going to be gunnin for the title this year.

 

But that’s not the biggest reason why I like the guy.  He gets that wrestling is not just about wrestling.  He has a wider focus: he wants to build men of character.  He doesn’t just talk about it–he really goes after that goal…and he’s a believer too!

 

Here’s a video of an example of what I’m talking about.

 

This is a guy that I want to emulate.

 

 

Tebow and the “Despicable Doctrine”

Tim Tebow is the source of much commentary in the sports world, for a number of reasons.  Most often the commentary is praise and adoration.  But this was not the case in USA Today a few weeks back.

football-prayer-4

courtesy of markdroberts.com

 

Tom Krattenmaker, author of a new book, Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers, leveled some pretty heavy critique at the very evangelical Tebow and others in his theological camp:

 

Anyone who watches pro and college football or follows the drama of the baseball playoffs can’t help but notice something else that often competes for our attention amid the passes, pitches and home runs: religion.

 

Players point skyward to the Almighty after reaching the end zone or home plate, star athletes voice thanks and praise to their savior after a big win, and sports heroes use their media spotlight to promote the Christian message. (See University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his eye-black, touting Scripture.)  These are the outward signs of a faith surge that has made big-time sports one of the most outwardly religious sectors of American culture.

 

So far so good.  If he were merely commenting on the fact that many of these displays are hypocritical (Barry Bonds, anyone?), or superficial, he’d have my sympathy.  I’d agree entirely if his  commentary was focused on how many players, when they pray, merely ask for the win, erroneously citing Phil 4:13 for support.

 

But he focuses on something other than that: the exclusivity of the Gospel message touted by many Christian athletes.  He acknowledges that these athletes have a right to express their faith, but, somewhat paradoxically, thinks it is time we remove the exclusive claims of what he calls a “far right theology”:

But Jesus’ representatives in sports aren’t just practicing faith. They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams. Typifying the exclusive creed taught by many sports-world Christians is the belief statement published by Baseball Chapel, which provides chaplains for all major- and minor-league baseball teams. Non-believers in Jesus, the ministry declares, can look forward to “everlasting punishment separated from God.”

 

Urban Meyer, Tebow’s coach at Florida, has praised his quarterback’s faith-promoting ways as “good for college football … good for young people … good for everything.” Such is the rhetoric usually heard from those who defend sports-world Christianity as wholesome and harmless.

 

But should we be pleased that the civic resource known as “our team” — a resource supported by the diverse whole through our ticket-buying, game-watching and tax-paying — is being leveraged by a one-truth evangelical campaign that has little appreciation for the beliefs of the rest of us?

 

…If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one — which their creed boldly states — everyone else is wrong.

…It’s not just non-Christians who might have a thing or two to say about this exclusive theology. According to a December 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, 65% of American Christians believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Our pluralism is a defining and positive reality of American life — but not one that is much valued by those who define the faith coursing through the veins of sports culture.

 

After noting that Tim Tebow does missionary work for his father’s ministry, which adheres to a “far right theology” (Should I point out that such beliefs are hardly far right?  For the whole  of Christian history, they have been smack dab in the center, hardly considered controversial in the Church.  Perhaps Krattenmaker’s loaded language is misplaced, then?)  that Christ is the only doorway to salvation, Krattenmaker concludes:

 

Certainly, Tim Tebow must be applauded for the good he does working on his father’s missions, but he should be seen, too, as one who promotes a form of belief that makes unwelcome judgments about everyone else’s religion. Let’s not forget the twinge that is felt by sports-loving Jewish kids and parents, for example, or by champions for interfaith cooperation, when adored sports figures like Tebow use their fame to push a Jesus-or-else message.

 

The irony is lost on Krattenmaker.  In taking Tebow and his fellow evangelical believers to task about saying “everyone else is wrong,” Krattenmaker foists himself on the same petard.  That is, he’s a pluralist–all roads lead to God, and every (or most) religion(s) is (are) right for each individual.  The Jew’s path is right for him.  The Muslim’s path is right for him, and so on.
Sounds nice, but what him and many others don’t realize is that by taking exception with conservative evangelicals, he is saying that “if someone disagrees with my belief (in pluralism), they are wrong.”  While Moral Therapeutic Deists (more on Moral Therapeutic Deism in youth) in America might hold to pluralism in like manner, he unwittingly pits himself against the majority of  the world.   According to  Islam, there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.  Jesus is not the King.  Jews are in error, etc, etc.  According to Judaism, Jesus is not the Messiah.  They think Christians are wrong.  Same for much of the Hindu and Buddhist world–they’ll balk big time at many of Jesus’ statements.  Even if you listen to a follower of B’hai, you’ll hear exclusivistic statements left and right–they think they’ve got it right (that all the leaders of the big religions are prophets) and evangelical Christians/Muslims/orthodox Jews are wrong!  That’s a big chunk of the world right there.

 

Krattenmaker thinks he’s right–otherwise, why would he be writing the column chastising the likes of Tebow–and evangelical Christians are wrong.  Period.  Why is it that when he takes that stance, he’s just right, but when Tebow et al take the very same stance in regard to their beliefs, they are suddenly intolerant?

 

As one commenter noted:

 

Ah! So it’s just the conservative brand of Christianity that needs to receive condemnation for being divisive. Why? You don’t think that liberal Christian theologians think that they have a more accurate summation of Christianity? Islam? Hinduism?

 

Face it: truth by nature is exclusive.  When you say something is right or true, that means its opposite is false…can’t get around that.  Why is Krattenmaker so sensitive to that when those he disagrees with point that out, but he’s ok with his theologically like-minded friends standing upon that principle?  His sensitivity to the nature of truth is popular, but odd.  Imagine if I said, a la Krattenmaker above, “Let’s not forget the twinge that is felt by sports-loving evangelical kids and parents, for example, or by champions for Chuck Colson’s prison ministries, when adored sports writers like Krattenmaker use their fame to push a pluralism-or-else message.”

 

My message to Tom K: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

 

What’s more, I don’t know why he thinks its important that a majority of what he calls “Christian” Americans agree with him.  Since when have numbers mattered in determining what is true?

 

You might think I’m making the same error when I talk about the majority of the world disagreeing with Krattenmaker, but my point is different: it is ironic that he takes to task those who are narrow in their theology when his own theology is narrow by his own definition.

 

Perhaps I’m not being wholly charitable to him.  Maybe his problem isn’t with the exclusivity of evangelical claims (though much of his column does suggest that), but with the preaching on hell: those who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell.

 

I can see how this doesn’t make sense to a pluralist.  Many well-meaning Christians, in an attempt to stand for their beliefs, awkwardly defend and explain this part of Christianity.  Put the way it is–if you don’t believe in Jesus, you go to hell–doesn’t make much sense to the typical non-believer.  It sounds as if a few sincere errors on a theology quiz can condemn a person to hell, regardless of behavior or the state of his heart.

 

But when one considers our natural state as rebels against God, and when one considers the depth of our rejection of God and the serious nature of our rebellion, the belief makes more sense.  We aren’t good (you’ll need the following to view the link: ID–pugnacious  PW–irishman): our problem isn’t a few errors on a quiz.  Rather, we don’t bring a clean resume before God–we bring a lengthy rap sheet.  Our moral crimes have earned us not God’s gifts, but His judgement.  This goes for those in the West and the East.  But God, in His love for us, graciously provided us amnesty.  The thing is, since we’ve offended God, forgiveness is on His terms, not ours, and His terms are through Jesus.  We should be grateful that He provides a pardon at all, not offended that He provides an infinite number of possible pardons that suit our tastes.  It is us in the dock, not Him.

 

If Krattenmaker still has a problem with this, then I suggest he take it up with Jesus, not Tebow.  It is Jesus who spoke of hell and God’s judgment more than anyone in the Bible, and Tebow is merely faithfully communicating the message of his Sovereign.

 

Lastly, I suggest conservative Christians take note.  We have been accused of being intolerant for our beliefs for some time now.  Actually, Jesus and His disciples got the same treatment.  As Albert Mohler points out, things will only continue to go in this direction:

 

You can count on seeing these same arguments appear anywhere evangelical Christians express their faith in public or within ear-shot of those who may be offended. The belief that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation is now at the very center of secular outrage.

 

Consider this: Tom Krattenmaker ransacked the website of the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association in order to find the statement that caused him to criticize Tim Tebow as espousing “a far-right theology.” The outrage directed at Tim Tebow is not just about a Bible reference written in eye-black. The outrage is directed at the sincerely-held beliefs of a young man and an evangelistic association.

 

Tom Krattenmaker suggests that Tim Tebow should adopt a “more generous conception of salvation.” And now we all know the price of being seen as “more generous.” Just abandon the Gospel.

 

I am confident that Tim Tebow will withstand this pressure. He has shown enough theological maturity and strength of conviction to earn that confidence. But, we have to wonder, how many others will fold under the intimidation?

I echo Mohler’s encouragement: it is my hope that conservative Christians buck up and refuse to be intimidated by the passive-aggressive “secular outrage.”

Inspiring Story of the Day

Bonnie Richardson won a state track team title in Texas, all by herself…twice!

Virginity in the NBA: Mission Possible

I ran into an oldie but a goodie the other day on the web: NBA star A.C Green’s testimony as to why he was a virgin.

courtesy of sacredhoops.com

courtesy of sacredhoops.com

The only reason I say “was” is because the article is from 1998, and he married in 2002.

The article is a gem.  Here is an excerpt:

I’m a virgin because, first of all, that’s what God has designated for me at this time, being a single man. I have committed my life to let Him make the decisions, not me. I’m following His rules, so that’s the first thing. Secondly, I choose to be abstinent because of the self-respect and high regard I have for my body. It’s a choice I’m proud of. There are tests, there are trials, but to me it’s not as hard as most people would imagine. You only really get tested when you put yourself in a tempestuous situation, or spend your time around tempting women. Maybe you’ll find out exactly what you’re made of, but I wouldn’t trust myself to a stupid test like that. Therefore, it’s best for me to keep away from possibly compromising situations.

Over the years, there have been people who don’t believe that I’m a virgin. They say, “Oh, man, you can’t be in the NBA and be a virgin!” My only response to that is: “Hey, I know who I am and what I am, and that is a virgin. And with all of the risks associated with sex, I’m surprised you’re not.”

I’m really tired of the stereotype of NBA players. My pet peeve is the stereotype that gets labeled on athletes first of all and overall. You know that everyone is going after fast cars, a lot of money and a lot of women. That’s the stereotype. You’re supposed to come into the league, get paid, get a home, get a ride, and get a honey. That’s the image, but I say, forget that. Sure, it’s there, but just because it’s there doesn’t mean I’ve got to partake of it. In truth, the majority of the guys in one way or the other get caught up in one of those stereotypes, maybe not all of them, but one of them for sure. I can almost say two of them.

The whole issue of NBA players and women and sex and children out of wedlock was the subject of a recent Oprah Winfrey Show in which I participated. The main question that kept coming up was, “Why don’t guys use condoms?” That is a very good question. I told Oprah that I feel it is very stupid just to put yourself in that position. I don’t even know why they are having sex in the first place, if they are not married. I tell my colleagues and teammates all the time that they are playing with fire. They don’t realize how stupid it is because to them it’s fun, it’s daring, it is like living on the edge. And when you live on the edge, you want to be near the fire. But like mama said, when you play with fire, you might get burned. These guys have so much to lose. It’s crazy to me to put yourself in that position. There might be a few virgins in the NBA. But overall, the guys are sort of reckless and their behavior reflects the attitude, “Hey, I can do anything and everything and not worry about responsibility and accountability.” That’s their attitude.

Sometimes in the locker room, I’m like a voice of reason. I don’t want to hear about what happened last night, and the guys have enough respect for me and know what I stand for that they don’t even bring that stuff to me. But more than anything I try to get them to understand that you’ve got to think about what you’re doing–instead of just thinking that every lady out there is a road trip. That’s the type of mentality sometimes–“just because I go from city to city and play this game, I can play women too.” Sometimes they think women are just like that–a game or a piece of meat. (emphasis mine)

I absolutely love the fact that he was a virgin not just to avoid STDs or an out of wedlock pregnancy, but because he wanted to honor God and women (catch that last sentence in the excerpt above.).  This guy saw the bigger picture.

Hey folks, if an NBA star like Green could do it with everyone conspiring against him (In the article he tells stories of how his teammates tried to sabotage and tempt him, and he tells of how female fans used to try to honey up to him), anyone can do it.

Read the whole thing.  It’s well worth the time.

Factoid: Green played in more consecutive games than any other player in NBA and ABA history (1,192).

Do More Than Others Think is Necessary

Chances are, you’ve never heard of Les Gutches, but he’s a household name in the wrestling community.  This past week, I had the chance to see him teach wrestling at a wrestling camp (I was part of the camp staff).  During one of the sessions, he shared a story that left quite an impression on me.gutches

Continue reading

March Matness

This weekend was a bittersweet one for me.

It’s a weekend that I wait for all year long.  The day after, I moan and groan because it will be another 365 days before it happens again.

The weekend I’m talking about is March Matness.  No, that’s not a typo; I’m not much of a basketball fan.  I’m talking about the Division I NCAA Wrestling Tournament.  I absolutely long for this weekend and can’t wait for it to come around every season.

This time, my beloved Buckeyes nearly pulled off an incredible upset, finishing second to perennial powerhouse Iowa by a mere 4.5 points.  The difference is miniscule–one, maybe two more wins for the Bucks or losses for the Hawkeyes would have been enough to sway the standings in our direction.  Given the number of medical defaults Iowa received (a medical default is when you automatically win because your opponent is injured.  Think of it as a forfeit.), the number of overtime matches they won, and the number of overtime matches we lost, a 4.5 point difference is a mere pittance.  GAH!!!

I absolutely can’t get enough of all the personal interest stories that crop up every year, like that of J Jaggers, aka, “Mr. March.”  They all inspire, uplift, and amaze me.

Why am I getting all worked up over wrestling?

Wrestling, much like its athletes, is a unique, yet highly misunderstood sport.  Most people, because they haven’t been exposed to it in any meaningful way, don’t give a darn about it.  It just ain’t sexy.  Whenever it comes up in conversation, the statements I hear most often are: a) “you guys run around in sweats all the time and never eat.  That’s dangerous!” and b) “Wrestling is gay.”  The latter statement is the one preferred by my just slightly immature and homophobic 9th grade students, but adults have uttered it on occasion as well.

credit: revwrestling.com

credit: revwrestling.com

Very few people can fathom my fascination with the sport.  99.9% of the people who “get it” were either wrestlers themselves or are married to one.

All sports can be great crucibles to shape character.  The practice and dedication required to become skillful can burn discipline into the soul.  On the flip side, athletes of all stripes are prone to displays of pride, narcissism,  and arrogance.  Wrestlers are not immune to this temptation.  Brent Metcalf’s boneheaded retaliation after his finals loss, along with the lame excuses he offered in the following interviews, is a prime example.

Here is part of the match:

Here is the unsportsmanlike move at the end of the match:

Metcalf interview afterwards

Nevertheless, wrestling is the best character crucible of all sports-wise, IMO.

Wrestling won’t get you paid, laid, or made, as one author put it. It’s all guts and no glory.  The stipend for a team USA wrestler, for instance, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 dollars a month, so many need part time jobs in addition.  Former Olympian Melvin Douglas, worked at Home Depot in his gladiator days.

Perhaps the most common physical mark of a wrestler is “cauliflower ear.”  It looks so disgusting, yet many wrestlers wear it with pride as a sort of “red badge of courage.”

cauliflower ear...credit: uwec.edu

cauliflower ear...credit: uwec.edu

It is the world’s purest sport.  While there is a team aspect to it, at its most primal level, it pits man against man in clean combat.  No gloves.  No pads.  No helmet.  No raquet, ball, or stick.  Just a mouthpiece, a headgear resembling ear muffs (many forego the headgear), and your body.  It totally exposes your abilities, dedication, and heart.  In a basketball or football game, it is possible to pawn your mistakes off on other team members.  Not so in wrestling.  If you make a mistake or don’t prepare enough, there is no comforting fig leaf that you can use to hide.

It is also, arguably, the world’s oldest sport.  Records of wrestling competitions exist amongst the annals of ancient Greece and Egypt.  By contrast, basketball was invented in the 1800’s.

Wrestling is not biased against a certain size, height, weight, or body type.  Whether you are 100 pounds or 280 pounds, there is a spot on the team for you.  Men with no legs or missing arms have wrestled.  The blind have wrestled (their grips are scary enormous!) and have done quite well.  The tiny, like Sam Henson (I dare not call him tiny to his face!), or the gigantic, like Rulon Gardner and Alexander Karelin, can carve out a space in wrestler lore.  The tall and lanky slicksters, like Kendall Cross, as well as the stocky brawlers, like Tom Brands, can win championships.

Sam Henson

Sam Henson

While discipline is prevalent in all sports (From watching my sister compete, I’ve gained a great respect for cross-country runners.), the discipline required in wrestling is particularly intense.  The conditioning workouts are enough to kill a small horse.  Perhaps the most taxing is the strength of mind needed to maintain a wrestler’s diet.  Wrestlers watch their diets like  hawks, and it takes considerable mental toughness to maintain a balance between laziness and extreme and unsafe measures.

Once you have put all the hard work into preparing yourself, there’s nothing like engaging in a hard fought battle on the mat, walking off afterwards feeling like a mack truck hit you.

Rulon Gardner

Rulon Gardner

Perhaps I’m biased.  Well, I think there’s no doubt: I competed in it for 15 years and have coached for 3.  I have been intimately involved since I was 9 years old.  For me, wrestling is something spiritual; to be successful, one must display many of the character qualities of a disciple.

Though things like courage, fortitude, and perseverance are found in many places and in all sports, you will find them in abundance in wrestling.  If you look into the eyes of someone who has spent a lifetime in it, you will see a depth of soul that a precious few have known.

So, you see, calling wrestling the “world’s oldest and greatest sport” is no empty boast.

I sure do hope there’s wrestling in heaven.

Check out some more highlight vidz:

2008 Big Ten Finals

2008 NCAA Finals

A short clip of an Iowa practice