Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

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.)

Spending good money to kick/throw/hit balls

Posted: September 23, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

We continue to look at the movie Moneyball. Yesterday we talked about the movie in general and some interesting themes for discussion. Today we will deal with Biblical reasons why we love movies, we love sports and, of course, sports movies. The bible is structured in a frame of Creation-Fall-Redemption. This organization is useful for us to investigate all sorts of things under the Sun. Today we will turn that towards fun and entertainment.


God made us in his image. As such, we reflect Him in many ways. One of those ways is by being receptively creative; we imitate God in that we make our own sub-creations. Those can range from simple things as a second grader love poem to highly sophisticated fictional worlds (Pandora, etc) and large sporting events such as the Olympics. When we create movies, games, in fact, any form of play or entertainment, we are acting as sub-creators and imitating God; in them we always include our fingerprints. A reason why we love our sports and our movies is because they are reflections of who we are, what we love, how we think, what we value and what we hate. Our sub-creations always mimic patterns of God’s creation, whether intentionally or not.


Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, the world is no longer what it used to be and we as fallen creatures do not reflect God perfectly anymore. In this way, our sub-creations always have perversions, distortions of how the world should be that we twist for our own pleasure. In this way we are able in our sports and games to exercise our sinfulness and evil desires. Let’s consider some examples of this. Recently John Perritt dealt with the issue of racism. Sadly, the sporting stadiums have been a brewing ground for racist manifestations. From chants at Southern football stadiums to the soccer fields of Europe, people take the sporting world as a venue in which they can erect ethnic barriers of hatred. Thus we get something good (God-created ethnic diversity) and we use our sub-creation (sports) to sinfully resent it. There are several other examples: Good-spirited competition and desire to win can quickly turn into hatred filled rivalry. Or our legitimate investment of money in our entertainment can become a devouring idol that consumes all the family money in sports bets, prohibitively expensive football weekends and so on. We recognize that every family has different limits, but we all can easily go beyond this in our search for fulfillment and contentment through fun and play. We have not even mentioned the sexualization of our entertainment – and we are not only talking about porn, but also about how far we can go with mini-skirted cheerleaders (warning to the female readers of the blog: the guys are only pretending to be impressed by the choreography…); and many other areas in which we can turn good things into evil.

Why do we love sports? Because we can exercise some of our evil desires in a sphere that is supposedly safe, “not for real.” So the same guy who avoids pornography thinks that Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition is safe; the father who does not let his kids watch violence in movies allows them to see real violence in football. In such ways we use what should be good to deceive ourselves into sinning.

Enough about the Fall; this is becoming a dissertation.


The third main category of the Bible is that of redemption. God’s eternal plan involves saving a people for himself out of the fallen humanity. Man, even after the Fall, is aware of his need for redemption and has eternity in his heart (Ecc 3:11). Man’s sub-creations usually exhibits themes of redemption; they are common in movies, we love to see them in sports. Good triumphing over evil, the weak overcoming the odds. Because we still live in God’s world, using God-given minds and creating under him (in rebellion or not), our sub-creation always contain themes of redemption. So in a movie like Moneyball, they appear in the unlikely triumph of the weak, in people who seemed to be doomed but who find a way out. Our favorite sports narratives include stories of redemption, players who seemed finished and come back for one last victory, the team that is trailing by many points but has an unlikely comeback, underdog stories and so on.

We could go on and on; but the goal in this post has been to simply begin a discussion on how sports, in fact, play in general, are loved by mankind because they reflect aspects of Creation-Fall-Redemption.