My father was a church elder, public school teacher [Latin/civics/ English literature], and a football coach. His teams even called out their plays using Latin verb forms and characters. I played 6A high school basketball in N.C. and was a recipient of a Division I college basketball scholarship. I finally ended my competitive playing days at the ripe age of 36 when my dear wife took the strings out of my shoes while she softly but firmly said: “Dear, I think that is enough!” All of this is simply background for legitimately saying that I have been on both sides of this topic as a player and a fan.
From a Christian perspective several things come to mind whether we are the athlete or the fan:
- Our single focus must be that everything we do is for the glory and praise of God and not ourselves.
- One vision is whatever we are involved in we are to do with all the energy we have and to the best of our ability.
- The other vision is whether we are on the stage as a player or a fan, we are to be “salt and light” and reflect the Lord we serve in how we act, what we say, and how we compete or cheer for others.
Because of the radical changes in the sporting world, some rather difficult issues face any Christian believer or institution involved in competitive sports. To be honest, I think these changes have made it harder for the fan to keep a good Christian testimony than the athlete:
Language: Take your young children or grandchildren to a high powered Division I basketball game today, and their ears will lose their innocence prior to the second half in most games because of all the foul language coming from coaches and some fans that you cannot get away from in that setting. That was not the norm many years ago. The physical rigors, mental discipline and concentration required of players during a game really put a damper on most player outbursts. Fans do not have those constraints. I find it harder sometimes to watch a game and be a good sport, than I ever did playing!
Team: Another radical change in sport has been the rapid decline of the “team” concept. I can say without a doubt, that this is the greatest change I have witnessed, for few coaches today model and teach team play over individual glory.
Money Driven: Athletics today is driven with money and for money! It no longer is a program to give students activity, exercise and something to be proud of.
The jury is still out whether competitive athletics can be used in the long haul for the glory of God by Christian institutions without its corrupting influences destroying a world of good. I guess every eye is on Liberty University to see just what does happen in a marriage between Christianity and Division I. One thing is certain: the sporting world certainly can use all the right kind of “salt and light” we can offer.