Football, sports, and violence: Should we use sports as a “hope” for children?

Recently, an article on ESPN about the violence in football offered the following explanation for why football will not go away:

It [the known effects of multiple concussions, etc.] also shouldn’t give people a reason to sell their kids on the notion that it’s not a sport worth playing. It’s easy to say that when you live in the White House or you’ve benefited from a nice, upper-middle class lifestyle. It’s a different story for those kids who grow up in inner-city projects or have few options of ever improving their own lives. Ask those families what football can do for them. Their parents won’t be so quick to condemn a sport that could open doors that would ultimately be closed to them later in life.

Really? Football is some kind of hope for kids with “few options”? I think this is absurd. How many of the kids who live on this dream actually grow up to play in the NFL? If the opportunity referenced is about scholarships there may be a point to it, but I think it is really depressing that when it comes to kids with few options, one of the first things that gets brought up is sports. I’m sorry, but sports is not a salve to these issues.

Giving kids the hope that they can play in the NFL or any other major sports league is not very realistic. I also think it sells children short. The general message that is given is that if you are born into a certain situation, the only way to pick yourself up out of that hard place is to play sports. Frankly, not everyone is gifted in sports, so this message presents a message of hopelessness.

So what do I suggest? Hey, I admit I am not an expert on this at all. I am not even sure I have any alternatives to suggest, but I think that we need to get beyond offering sports as a kind of dream. It’s not realistic to tell children that they can all go and be NFL stars or NBA stars or what-have-you. We need to work with children in their situation and work to change the situation. The salve for poverty and need is not to give a false hope that only one in thousands can even have a chance to achieve.

As a Christian, I have to say that we need to be praying about those in need. We need to use our gifts to forward the causes that help care for those who are in want. We need to get beyond offering false hopes and offer the true hope of Christ. I know for some that is groan-inducing. Allow me to explain: I’m not suggesting that just going around preaching the Gospel will magically reduce poverty and lead to world peace. What I am suggesting is that the Christian worldview, in all of its robust splendor, provides a motivation to care for those in need. It also provides a framework for viewing those in need not as people to whom we need to throw a bone in the form of false hope, but persons who are fellow imagers-of-God whom we are called to aid. There are no easy answers to all the needs of our time, but at least as Christians we are called to take on those needs head-on. I hope you’ll join me.

Finally, I’ll have you know that all of this comes from an avowed NFL fan. I love football. My point is we should not use it as a substitute for real hope.

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Here’s the article that touched off this issue for me: http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2012/story/_/id/8905129/super-bowl-xlvii-football-change-survive

 

Why NCAA Football is ridiculous

Look, I won’t hide my bias. I like the NFL a lot more than college ball. I was reminded of the reasons for this one more time this weekend.

Florida State was playing against Savannah State. I turned the game on because it was the only one I could get with a ranked team in it. I looked at the score. 28-0. Oh well, I thought, maybe Savannah State can mount a comeback. Then I realized there were 7:34 left in the FIRST QUARTER. Oh, and Savannah State hadn’t even gotten positive yardage yet. They were at -27. Wow. Seriously? It was 35-0 to close out the quarter.

This is why I think NCAA Football is often ridiculous. I’ll grant I like college ball, but these types of games are what really destroys it for me. This isn’t competitive. This is just a straight up slaughter.

Do I need to mention that going into the 2nd quarter, Florida State put their 2nd team defense on the field?

Yes, there are NFL games that can become non-competitive, but here’s the thing: in the NFL everyone has a realistic chance. They have access to relatively the same amount of money, and they’re allowed to spend about the same amount every year. Yes, some owners don’t spend all the way up to the cap, so they may not have as many superstars, but the point is they all have a chance.

In the NCAA, it seems like these ranked teams line up as many piece of junk teams as they can in order to throttle them to try to earn a higher place in the rankings. Then, they’ll put a few ranked teams on the schedule to see who actually might be better.

There’s no parity in the NCAA either. Top players go to the teams that are already good or have a system in place to be really good. Savannah State? Sorry, no luck.

So don’t get me wrong. Is there excitement in the college football season? Yes. But does it feel to me like the same level of excitement every week as the NFL? No. Why? Because there isn’t nearly as much parity. Oh well.

I don’t see any way to change that. Do you?

How did the game end? It got suspended due to weather. Florida State won by a paltry 55-0.

NFL Draft Day: My predictions

Just a short post here on the first day of the NFL draft. The top two picks are obvious: Luck and Griffin III. The rest, not so much. It seems the Vikings are waffling between Claiborne, Kalil, and Blackmon (less so Blackmon).

I think that by far the best thing for the Vikings to do would be to see if they can trade down and pick up even an extra 5th round or 4th round pick. Teams over-excited about Tannehill might be interested, or perhaps Tampa might want to leap over the Browns to get Trent Richardson. Either way, if the Vikings can trade that pick, they absolutely should do it as fast as they can. If they can swap down to 5 or even 8 they will likely still get one of their top 3 and still get value by adding a pick to bolster their horrendously bad team.

If not, they should take Kalil, hands down. They already signed Simpson at WR for one year and so they should pass on Blackmon, who I’m not convinced is a top 10 talent anyway (I’d like to be proven wrong here). Claiborne fills a huge need but I don’t think is as much a value as Kalil, who can lock down their left tackle position for a decade. Christian Ponder, their QB, was on the run for his life much of last season, and to improve he needs more than just an extra weapon, he needs protection.

Whatever they do, if the Vikings aren’t able to trade down I am fairly convinced the Browns will take Richardson. They might surprise us all and take Justin Blackmon instead just to try to give another weapon to Colt McCoy, but I think Richardson is a bigger need. RBs are, in some ways, a dime a dozen now though, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Browns go for Blackmon. From there, I suspect Claiborne to go to Tampa, assuming the Vikings don’t snag him. If not, then look at Blackmon here.

Lots of excitement about this draft. I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the first few picks, though. Oh well.

 

NFL: Don’t Do Bounties

The New Orleans Saints were caught with a bounty program in which they paid players to actively seek to injure opposing quarterbacks (and perhaps other players). That is disgusting. What makes me happy is that the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, did not take it.

He handed their head coach, Sean Payton, a year’s suspension without pay. That same coach is apparently “beside himself” because he expected to only get suspended for four games. Guess what? If you lie, think you are above the rules, and knowingly try to cover up blatant violations of those rules… all while actively endorsing a plan that intentionally seeks to injure players in the NFL and potentially end other people’s careers, you absolutely don’t deserve to coach in the NFL. I honestly think he should be banned from the NFL. It’s just a disgusting violation of the rules, and it’s not a violation that doesn’t hurt anyone but actually sought to hurt people. I’m horrified.

Goodell also stripped the Saints of two second round picks, which is another fitting punishment. He suspended their GM for 8 games, and their assistant coach for 6. The message has been sent.

 

The Eschatology of a Cubs Fan

I was watching basketball last night when I saw an ad that nearly broke my heart. I’ve posted the video:

I’m a lifelong Cubs fan. I’ve watched them my whole life. I remember sitting with my (now passed away) grandpa on the couch, cheering as the Cubs won, groaning as they lost. I can still see him getting the broom out of the closet and going around my grandparents’ house sweeping, yelling “Cubs Sweep! Cubs Sweep!”

One of the most wonderful moments of my life was when my grandpa, my dad, and I all went to a Cubs game together at Wrigley Field. I cannot describe to you how unbelievable it was. I was probably only 8 years old or so, and it was the absolute best thing to ever happen. We were holding a sign that said “Three Generations of Warticks” on it, and we were spotted on TV by my grandma, mother, and sister. The scents, tastes, and overall feel of being at Wrigley Field brings me back to those moments even now, just by seeing an image of it. [Image credit.]

There’s a reason that baseball fans love the game so much; it is for memories like these. Our family traditions often rotate around the sport, and we feel like we’re there, just watching it on television. The glories of our team and the bitter losses stick for a long time. I’m still not over seeing the Cubs make the playoffs several times and get eliminated, in an often brutal manner.

The ad that I linked above has me thinking about baseball more than ever.  Theo Epstein has been brought in to run the Cubs, and I can’t help but believe that he’s going to work some kind of miracle. If he doesn’t, what then? It will just be the same ol’ Cubs. I love them, but I’ve never seen them win it all. My dad never has seen them win it all. My grandpa never got a chance to see them win it all. My great-grandpa, who lived almost 100 years, never saw them win it all. So Theo, we’re counting on you, but we won’t hold it against you if we don’t make it.

Back to the video: watching those images was surreal, just as the ad says. Seeing Cubs fans celebrating, rather than giving up hope; seeing them rejoice over a World Series win was just glorious. I could almost taste it. But then we realize it’s just an ad for a video game. Ouch.

I still hold out hope though, it’s almost like an eschatological promise: “There’s always next year.” Boy, we’ve been saying that for a long time. But I really do believe it: one day, the Cubs will win one, and it will be during my lifetime. When they do, I’ll be like the fan standing up, looking at the skyline, and just rejoicing. I’ll say “This one was for you, grandpa” and I’ll see him sweeping the streets in heaven. If it happens, I will get to Chicago, I don’t care when it is or how it happens. I won’t have to be at a game, or even there while one happens, but I’ll get back to Chi-town, the place I love, and I’ll kiss the walls of Wrigley, wearing my “World Series Champions” hat.

One day, Cubs.

One day.

Volleyball needs to be the new big sport

I love watching volleyball. I particularly enjoy women’s volleyball. I think it’s because growing up I always watched my sister play and enjoyed it greatly. The sport itself is fast-paced, action-packed, and definitely has much strategy involved.

But here’s the thing: it’s hard for me to find a venue at which to watch it. I don’t get cable, so even the occasional game they show on espn2 isn’t on my radar.

On a long car ride home with my wife, we were talking about sports (wow!) and I just had the thought that I wish volleyball would become the next big sport. I’m talking about having major teams across the nation, complete with drafts, etc. And personally, I don’t see why that couldn’t happen. I know I’d watch it if it were on. It’s such an exciting sport, and it would be awesome to see one of the major sports be based on women. I mean, if a men’s league developed, it would be called the “Men’s Volleyball League!”

Does anyone else love volleyball? Do you have any suggestions for how to watch it? I do live near the University of Minnesota, so perhaps I’ll go to a game or two. I just would really like to start watching it again.

In any case, if I were a billionaire, I’d start the league myself. I just think it would be thrilling to cheer for the Chicago Thundercats or something like that. So if anyone out there reads this and has a few million extra dollars sitting around, make it happen!