Football

Go Long, for Life

As in football, go for the long ball in life. Bikeriderlondon/Shutterstoc

As in football, go for the long ball in life. Bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

In football, if the defensive players have no fear of your going long, they stack up against you and the shorter plays become incredibly hard and frustrating. It's as if the defense can predict what you're going to do and outnumber you. 
 
Many people live their lives, and some nonprofits run their organizations, this way —never going for the long ball. 

Brazilians and Football: From Passion to Protest

Brazilian riots, photo by Francisco Neto / Flickr.com

Brazilian riots, photo by Francisco Neto / Flickr.com

Brazil and the World Cup are in the news now, but not in the way that pleases the Brazilian government. Crowds are gathering in the streets around football (soccer) stadiums where Confederation Cup games are being played but not to buy tickets or get autographs of their sports idols. They are congregating to protest against the 2014 World Cup coming to Brazil. Brazilians protesting football? Upset about hosting the World Cup? Something has gone seriously wrong. This is like the French boycotting wine or Italians accusing pasta of undermining family values.

Even Americans, confused as we are about why the rest of world insists on calling soccer “football,” know that the outcome of a football match can launch an entire nation into elation or despair. But no matter the sport, fans around the world follow the same emotional pattern: they are up when their team is up and down when they are down. World Cup championships played out on a global stage provide the winning nation with an outsized cathartic event for the pent up frustrations that accumulate with the stress and strains of daily life. And even without streets clogged with protestors, if you are a football fan living in one of Brazil’s major cities, the typical daily grind is almost unbearable. Here’s an account from an Al Jazeera reporter who lives in Brazil:

It is 8am and a bunch of people line up to get on a bus on Faria Lima Avenue in Sao Paulo. This may be their third transfer in the daily ordeal of travelling to work from the outskirts of Sao Paulo. When the bus slows down, people start to nudge right or left, hoping not to be left behind. Once they get on, it is so full that finding a little space to stand is only for the truly crafty. 

After a one-hour journey through the infamous Sao Paulo traffic and pothole-ridden roads, crammed in with 100-plus people, it feels more like a ride on a rodeo horse than a means of transportation — all at a cost of 3.20 Brazilian Reals ($1.50) and your dignity. 

Welcome to New England, Tim

Photo Courtesy RNS/Wikipedia

Tim Tebow taking a knee. Photo Courtesy RNS/Wikipedia

Now that you’re joining the Patriots, I’d like to offer you a few pointers on your new regional home. I realize that, to someone from the deep South, this may seem like just another part of Yankeedom, but New England is really a different place than New York. And given what happened in the Big Apple last year, I’m sure that’s good news, and the less said about it the better.

Anyway, New England is a great place to get a graduate degree, and you could not find a better institution than the U. of Foxboro to do advanced work in the liberal art of playing quarterback, under the tutelage of Prof. Brady. A dissertation on passing might be a good idea.

Aside from football, New England has a lot of variety of the human experience: steady habits in Connecticut, socialists in Vermont, cranky individualists in New Hampshire, a Tea Party governor in Maine, a Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democratic governor in Rhode Island, an African-American governor in Massachusetts. But wherever you go in this fair territory, same-sex couples can get married. That’s how we roll.

Sorry, But God Isn't a Ravens Fan

Photo: joyfuldesigns / Shutterstock.com

Photo: joyfuldesigns / Shutterstock.com

One of my favorite views of Charm City right now is entering into the downtown area from the 395 off-ramp. Our city is painted with Ravens spirit — purple lights dancing on skyscrapers, "Go Ravens!" posters taped to city windows, and my favorite: the billboard that simply said "WOW" after the Ravens' win Sunday over the Patriots. In fact, as I sit down to write this at the Towson Public Library, a woman just pointed out that the bookshelf next to me contains an entire collection of books with purple covers, complete with a border of purple stars cut out of construction paper.

Purple has become a unifying topic, bringing complete strangers together in conversation. All week at work, I've asked patients, "Did you see the game?" or I'd see someone wearing a purple scarf and fist bump in the air an amiable, "Go Ravens!" I think this is one of the beautiful things about sports: its ability to bring people together irrespective of socioeconomic status, race or political beliefs.

But I can't help but notice something else about all this celebration — something that disturbs me.

If I Were Manti Te’o's Pastor

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish warms up before a game. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Listen, I’m not here to bash Manti. I’m not here to ridicule or mock him. I’m not even suggesting that Manti is lying or that his statement is not accurate but we can all agree that the whole story is absolutely bizarre and the total truth has yet to be fully revealed. But because I’m a believer in people – and more so – because I believe in the power of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration, I want to see Manti do well – not just as a football player – but as a man … as a human being … and as someone who often speaks of God.

If I were Manti’s pastor …

While more details will emerge in the future,  I wondered what kind of advice I would give him if I were Manti’s personal pastor. (Manti, being Mormon, is supposedly a deeply religious person.) Here are the four pieces of advice I’d give him.

RGIII and Some Tibs

 Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Redskins QB RGIII outruns N.Y. Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

We had literally just paid for our food. It was some takeout place without any seating close to our hotel that the front desk had recommended as the only place still open. I walked outside to enjoy the crisp evening D.C. air, quite different from the still-tepid Arizona evenings we had just left. Next door to the take-out place was a lively dive full of guys deeply invested in the soon-to-end Redskins/Giants game on Monday Night Football. The neon sign in the glass glowed "open." I told my buddy we had made a serious mistake on our dinner choice. Tyler replied, "I already paid, man." "Go and get your money back," I pushed. He said I was more the type to go insult the nice woman behind the counter and cancel our order. It turns out he was right.

Inside the new place, we settled down to a few beers and ordered some finger foods to watch the rest of the football game. Nobody cared that Robert Griffin III was playing a below-average game. You could tell these guys had watched this team before without a good quarterback and now with one - a seriously good one — he would get a pass. The Redskins converted on third down. RGIII could take a knee. The room went nuts.

It was a friendly place; the locals allowed us to be fans with them. The owner came up and brought a little extra food on the house. All told, it was a great American night: Friendly football fans at their favorite neighborhood dive, where everybody knows your name, treating the new guy like your childhood pal. You could imagine the Founding Fathers smiling down upon us.

Except Tyler and I were likely the only native-born dudes in the room. Everybody was cheering on the Redskins in Amharic while we ate injera, tibs, and wat with our fingers and drank St. George Lager. A picture of Haile Selassie and JFK together in a town car framed the wall. I love tibs.

Is the Future of Church in Fantasy Faith Leagues?

Football diagram, Prixel Creative / Shutterstock.com

Football diagram, Prixel Creative / Shutterstock.com

I used to be in a fantasy league, but the fanaticism of the whole thing wore me out. The guys would gather online for an evening-long draft event, debate rules ad nauseam, and haggle over trades through the wee hours. I considered myself to be a fan, but these guys had practically made, well, a religion out of fantasy sports.

I was reading a piece today by Bruce Reyes Chow about what we Christians might learn from fantasy sports, and it got me thinking. One of the most interesting things being in the fantasy league did for me was that it totally changed how I watched the games. I would turn on games I never would have had interest in before, just to see how my selected running back performed. I even found myself rooting against my own favorite teams once in a blue moon when it served my fantasy team and didn’t affect the outcome of the actual game.

The whole experience drove my wife crazy, partly because of all the time it took, but also because the way I engaged sports was so different that, even if we were watching the same game, it was as if we saw two completely different things.

We’re in the middle of a similar kind of shift in the west with respect to organized religion. While folks within the walls of church may be intent primarily on keeping the institutions placed under their care alive, a growing majority of people outside the doors don’t really care about the denominational logo over the entryway, the name inscribed on the stone sign by the street or the long, rich history of all the congregation has meant to the community.

Texas Cheerleaders Clamor for G-O-D at Football Games

Cheerleaders at an East Texas high school are fighting their school district’s orders to stop using Bible quotes on their signs at football games.

In August, cheerleaders at Kountze High School, a school with fewer than 500 students 30 miles north of Beaumont, Texas, began painting Bible verses on large paper signs football players burst through at the beginning of games.

But this week, Kountze Independent School District Superintendent Kevin Weldon called for an end to the banners after consulting with a legal adviser at the Texas Association of School Boards.

“It is not a personal opinion of mine,” Weldon told KHOU, a Houston television station. “My personal convictions are that I am a Christian as well. But I’m also a state employee and Kountze ISD representative. And I was advised that such a practice would be in direct violation of United States Supreme Court decisions.”

That prompted the cheerleaders and their supporters to launch a Facebook page, “Support Kountze Kids Faith,” which attracted 34,000 members in its first 24 hours — more than 10 times the population of Kountze.

Parents of at least three cheerleaders have hired an attorney and are considering suing the school district.

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