Posts Tagged ‘football’

bottle-shock-movie-poster-2008-1020442676Bottle Shock was a film that didn’t receive all that much attention. Chances are many of you haven’t even heard of it. I had seen previews for it a while back and thought it looked pretty interesting, but never got around to it. The reason we decided to recently watch it, was because my wife and I are planning a trip to Napa to celebrate for our anniversary. And this film, as you may know, explores the true story of the 1976 blind wine tasting of Paris.

The world saw Paris as the premier winemakers and laughed at the feeble attempts of the Americans. A man from Great Britain, Steven Spurrier, decides to explore Napa Valley, and the surrounding areas, to see if these “hicks” can actually make some decent wine.

I’ve always been a fan of Alan Rickman and he plays the snobby Spurrier really well. Bill Pullman also plays the owner of the Chateau Montelena, Jim Barrett, and does a good job at his character, as well as, his son, Bo Barrett played by Chris Pine.

There were some scenes that bothered us. For example, the love some of the characters throw around is pretty ridiculous. The film, however, is set in the 70’s when “free love” was a pretty popular cultural phenomena, so I guess the film could be labeled as accurate.

Even though some of the love and dialogue of the film was a bit cheesy, it was really enjoyable. I’m not sure how accurate the movie is, but I found the story interesting. One aspect of the film, which I will focus on today, is the notion of perfection. The French knew they were the perfect winemakers. No one else could rival their craft, however, that didn’t keep Americans from attempting to make premier wines.

As Spurrier travels to the US to laugh at their attempts, he is shocked to find out that Napa’s wines are excellent. I don’t want to give away the ending, but let’s just say he’s impressed enough to bring some samples back to the UK and invite some US wineries to compete.

There is a point in the film where Spurrier comes to the realization that Paris is not the sole provider of great wine. And, he goes on to say something to the effect of, “Now we are opening this idea up to the whole world.” In essence he’s saying, Now anyone can compete and attempt to make good wine. In a sense, they are stealing the ownership of wine from Paris.

What’s interesting to me is how this idea of perfection manifests itself in various ways. There are people who love to assert that their football team is the best. Others want to say that their school is the best (in America these lines of distinction aren’t all that distinct). People want to assert who has “the best” bar-b-que, whose doctor is the best, etc. We all have this notion of “the best” because of the fact that we were created perfect.

We were designed with perfection in our blood, so it is hard for us to cease looking for its remnants in other places. And it is equally hard for us when these various “bests” end up failing us – whether that’s our sports team, our friends, our food, or our wine.  It is good, however, when these things do fail us.  Even though we fell from grace and are tarnished with sin, there is still this underlying notion of perfection we grasp. And even though we get earthly tastes of it from time-to-time, we still long for that day of redemption when our sinful imperfections fade away and the unfading garment of perfect righteousness clothes us for all eternity.  Then we can each boast in our best on the basis of Another.

This weekend, the new and much heralded adaptation of The Great Gatsby will hit the theaters.  Even though I have read hundreds of novels over my lifetime, somehow I missed one that is well-known to be the “great American novel.”  I blame my literature teachers in high school!  Thus, with this embarrassing hole in my literary knowledge, I will leave it to someone else to review this novel-based film.  But in honor of The Great Gatsby, I will present two posts that focus on GREATNESS in the movies.  Today, I will use three movies that illustrate the greatness of our sports athletes in the breaking down of the sinful barrier of racism.


42 is the most recent film that chronicles the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era.  Robinson broke the baseball color barrier when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947.  As the first major league team to play an African-American man since the 1880’s, the Dodgers virtually ended racial segregation that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues for six decades.  The example of Robinson’s character and incredible talent challenged the whole basis of segregation, which then marked many other aspects of American life as well.  Enduring much persecution, he truly broke down the barrier that now enables countless African-American men to play professional baseball.

Glory RoadGlory Road is a 2006 sports drama which is based on the true story of Texas Western College’s remarkable men’s basketball season leading to the winning the 1966 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship.  First year coach Don Haskins led a team with an all-black starting lineup–a first in NCAA history.  What was even more incredible was that the team beat Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats, also known as college basketball royalty.  It was truly a David vs. Goliath.  This majority African-American team had to endure the racism and hatred of the 1960’s, as well as the belief that black players were not intelligent enough to play championship level basketball.  After the historic victory, even the great University of Kentucky recruited its first African-American player, changing the entire face of the sport.

Remember the TitansFinally, Remember the Titans (2000) was another fine sports film based on the true story of African-American high school football coach Harold Boone as he tries to integrate a racially divided team in Alexandria, Virginia in the early 1970’s.  He replaced a long-time hall of fame white coach, as the area high schools were being desegregated.  Conflict broke out repeatedly among the black and white football players until they finally unified under the leadership of two defensive linebackers.  Not surprisingly, this story also includes racial hatred from the board and the community, until the team wins the state championship.

So we have three movies illustrating similar themes in the three major American sports–baseball, basketball, and football.  And, in three separate decades (40’s, 60’s, and 70’s) we have great athletes who in their own ways break down a racial barrier, thereby changing their respective sports and leagues forever.  And, even though the racism of white Americans is clearly on display, all three movies have a white man who also sacrifices for the cause of racial reconciliation: Branch Rickey (GM of the Dodgers), Don Haskins (Head Coach of the Miners) and Bill Yoast (Defensive Head Coach of the Titans).  It can be argued that without these “mediators” and “advocates”, the athletes could not have broken down the racial barriers.

Now before I make the connection to the greatest BARRIER-BREAKER of all time, I’d like to make just one slightly cynical observation.  As much as I love sports, and nearly all sports movies ever made, it’s kind of sad that it takes a winning sports team to make people “less” racist.  In all three situations, many of the white people relaxed their racist sentiments only when the athletes brought them victories.  I guess that’s human nature–the idolatry of racial segregation was just overwhelmed by the idolatry of sports championships.  So, if we are honest, these barriers weren’t broken out of a love for God and for other people of all races, but because of sheer idolatrous pragmatism.

Thankfully, Jesus Christ, the greatest barrier-breaker of all time, broke down the barrier between God and us, and between Jew and Gentile out of perfect love, not to win a meaningless game.  As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:13-14, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and BROKEN down in His flesh the DIVIDING WALL of HOSTILITY…”  As great as it is to see racial barriers come down, how much greater for believers of all tribes and tongues to be unified in Christ Jesus our Lord!   


(guest post by: Brad Davis)

I’m a sucker for inspirational sports movies. I love stories that chronicle the hard work and dedication of underdogs who achieve the impossible. My guess is that I’m not alone. The fact that a majority of men spent a significant part of their childhood playing one sport or another makes these movies the perfect setting to communicate powerful messages to us. As I’ve watched numerous sports dramas throughout my life, I’ve noticed a disturbing personal trend. For some reason, with sports movies, I tend to drop my guard and mindlessly buy whatever the story teller is selling. My ability to personally identify with the characters often causes me to absorb messages from the film that are in stark contrast to the truth of Scripture. Needless to say, this is dangerous.

The focus of this post is the film Rudy, arguably the greatest football movie of all time. If you’re one of the three men over the age of ten who HAVE NOT seen this film, you’re in for a treat. It tells the true story of Rudy Ruettiger, a 5 foot 6, 165 pound kid with dyslexia whose one dream is to play football for Notre Dame. Rudy’s limited size and athleticism, not to mention his learning disability, made this goal virtually impossible to reach. But against all odds, he persevered through every imaginable trial, and by sheer heart, hard work, and determination solidified his (on-screen) character and made his dream a reality.

As the dramatic final scene of the film plays out, the viewer is left with the sense that Rudy has arrived. You feel as though his integrity and character have been permanently cemented through this experience. You envy his accomplishments in spite of insurmountable odds and long to be as he is, seemingly mature and complete, lacking in nothing and prepared for whatever lies ahead in life.

The underdog theme is common in almost all sports dramas, and what can be misleading for Christians is that it appears to be Biblical. After all, overcoming obstacles through hard work is a Christian virtue, right? Aren’t we supposed to persevere and endure trials so that we can be mature and complete (James 1: 2-4)? How does Rudy’s gospel differ from the Gospel of the Bible?

The gospel of Rudy appears to be that Trials + Perseverance = Character & Success. Hard work is the lone vehicle of Rudy’s salvation and is the key ingredient to his character development in the film, but does it work in real life? Can hard work save us? Does it build character? Can it bring us success?

According to the Bible, the answer to each question above is NO. Scripture explicitly warns us against the dangers of trusting in ourselves for salvation, sanctification, and success. Our salvation is a gift from God and not the result of our works (Ephesians 2:8). Our character is also a gift from God as we are ‘credited’ with the righteousness of Christ (Romans 4). While we are commanded to work hard at whatever we do (Col. 3:23), we are also reminded that hard work doesn’t guarantee success. Scripture informs us that this too comes from the Lord (Proverbs 21:31). Rudy’s gospel is the gospel of the world and of the American Dream, but it isn’t the Gospel of the Bible.

So how did Rudy’s gospel work out for him in real life? On one hand, his external life was radically changed by the events portrayed in the film. In addition to having a movie made about him, Rudy went on to become a successful motivational speaker and have numerous awards and scholarships named in his honor. He’s been given keys to various cities and has received honorary doctorate degrees. But unfortunately, the character building formula portrayed in the film was discredited by Rudy’s own actions. In December of 2011, he was charged by the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) in a scheme to deceive investors into buying stock in his sports drink company. He produced a product similar to Gatorade and lied to potential investors about its performance and demand in the market place. Investors were conned into believing the product was on the rise and as a result purchased large amounts of stock in his company. Just before the sham was revealed, Rudy sold his shares of stock and walked away with nearly $11 million dollars, leaving his investors holding an empty bag. Rudy’s gospel failed to equip him with the character we thought he’d developed in the movie. Instead, it gave him popularity and fame that he leveraged to steal from those who trusted him.

It’s easy to demonize Rudy for his deplorable actions, but the truth is, we are no different. Apart from Christ, all of us are despicable human beings capable of much worse if we trust in ourselves for salvation, sanctification, and success. Hard work alone never builds character! It may help us reach goals and achieve some degree of success, but it can never save us. Rudy’s gospel is the exact opposite of the Gospel of the Bible. The beautiful message of the Cross is that our character has already been built for us through the hard work of Jesus Christ. We simply have to cling to it by trusting in Him alone…which ironically, is hard work.


Brad Davis is a former missionary at Zhengzhou University in central China, where he taught English for two years.  He was also a public school teacher and currently works in healthcare.  He currently lives in Brandon, MS with his wife Christie and their one-year old son, Hayes.

(Rudy agreed to settle the charges against him by paying $384,000. By doing so, he neither admitted to nor denied the allegations. For more information and to read the main article referenced in this post, click here.)

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Another article on the Penn State debacle?’ Yes, there have been many posts written on the tragic scandal at Penn State.  Even though that is the case, it is something that must continue to be discussed for some time.  This post is not intended to make light of the matter, rather it is focused on truth by looking at the similarities of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and the recent incidents at Penn State.

Before we get into that, I need to say that I have heard (second-hand) that there is another post/article out there that has made this comparison.  I tried to find the article to link it here, but couldn’t.  I haven’t read the article and honestly drew the connections prior to hearing about the article, so I just wanted to communicate all that up front.

Over the years, The Village has climbed my list of all-time favorite movies.  The musical score alone is excellent and was my musical diet for my seminary studies.  The story follows a group of people who live at peace, in a Pennsylvanian (first parallel) countryside, with creatures living in the woods.  These creatures ‘those we don’t speak of’ are thought to be hostile and keep the inhabitants of the village from crossing into the woods. [SPOILERS – you really need to watch this movie] What we later discover is that the elders of the village have all experienced heart-breaking loss and erected the village, along with the lore about ‘those we don’t speak of’, in order to create a perfect existence and escape evil.

If you skipped to this paragraph thinking there won’t be any ensuing spoilers, you’re wrong.  The rest of the post might explicitly or implicitly speak to those, so you should go…just walk away.  I really want to focus on one parallel between PSU and The Village.  That one similarity has many specifics, but that’s all we’ll focus on today.  The main thing I want to focus on today is the external.

The people of the village had come face-to-face with the harsh reality of a fallen world.  They had experienced rape, murder, loss and wanted to escape that reality, by living a somewhat fake existence.  The village wasn’t truly real, it was a fabrication of reality.  The cruelty of the world drove these people to create an existence that was squeaky clean on the outside…sound familiar.

As Ted Kluck says, in his post on this matter, “I didn’t grow up a Penn State fan (I grew up in Indiana)…but I felt like Penn State, as a program, affirmed and shared some of the same things that I valued.”   Some of what I think Ted is referring to is the squeaky cleanness PSU & Joe Pa communicated about their program.  On the outside they were the good ‘ol boys of football.  They stayed focused on tradition.  Some may say they seemed stuck in the past.  They created a program that seemed intent to capture the essence of football and how it used to be – not the horrific animal it has become.

However, what the people of the village and all those involved in the scandal at Penn State seemed to forget is the fact that evil is not outside of us. It’s in our hearts.  No matter how hard you try to clean up on the outside, your heart is darker than you even know.  Whether you’re building a village in the Pennsylvanian countryside or a football program, you can’t escape evil. As Jesus said in Matthew 15:16-20:

And he said,”Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

What the elders of the village and Joe Pa were focused on was the external, but they forgot that the heart (the internal) was the core of their corruption.  But let’s not judgmentally point the finger at them without pointing it at ourselves, we all are guilty of this.  Christians and non-Christians are a fake people who often clean up on the outside forgetting that our own hearts are what need cleansing.  We may not have played a part in the molestation of children, like some at Penn State did, but Jesus reminds us of the evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander that make up your heart and mine.

No one would want the desires of their heart exposed, so be humbled by your own heart before you judge another.  At the end of the day, if righteousness came from building a village or wearing the same football jerseys for two centuries, we wouldn’t need Jesus Christ.  But the truth is, we do.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to change your dark heart.  Our hearts were so nasty and so helpless, that it took the Second Person of the Trinity to come and live the life we could not live and die the death that we deserve.

So be angered at those at PSU who covered up this horrific tragedy, but be humbled.  Your heart is just as dark and capable of the same evil.  Those in The Village, Joe Pa, the students rioting, the administration at Penn State, and you, all need the cleansing blood of Jesus to cure your dark hearts.