Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Have Lost My Appetite for Football

Every year my wife and I long for football season to arrive. The convergence of cooler weather, SEC football and my wife's chili make for many smiles in our home. I went to Auburn University and grew up in a home where every Saturday the TV was on and tuned to a ballgame. We didn't care if it was even some bush-league Big 12 game (Update: then the Big 8), we were watching.

And when we had decided to move to St. Louis so I could go to Seminary, we started pulling for the Rams and got very into the NFL. We love Sundays curled up on the couch (yes, this is no exaggeration, my wife loved to do this) watching pretty much any game. Sunday nights and Monday nights revolved around those games.

Not so much anymore.

I read everything by Malcolm Gladwell. Everything. If he wrote a book of Haikus on the habits of prehistoric arachnids I would try to get a first edition. Signed, even. This Past October I read his article for the New Yorker entitled, "Offensive Play" about Football, Dogfighting and Brain Trauma. The gist is there is a link between brain damage and the everyday collisions and concussions that all football players are subjected to in each game. Gladwell provocatively asks us to consider our outrage over the entertainment of dogfighting which is so brutal and if we are prepared to be outraged over the findings of scientists in regards to football players.

My stomach churned as I read this article because it took my love of a game and threw it against conviction, which I must admit sometimes is not a very hard surface.

And then there is this article over at about the physical toll, football took on Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champ, David Louis Pear. (HT: Zach Nielsen)

"Don't let your kids play football," he says. "Never."

Every time there was a player lying on the turf still and straight as a board, I would look over at my wife and she would look in my eyes - we both knew we were watching something that should not be happening.

Let every man and woman be convinced in his or her own mind. But it has gone from feeling like good clean fun to being a part of the mob in the Roman Coliseum. I have said very little about it because I have not been all that sure how I should react. Now I have hit a wall of conviction, firm and steadfast.

Let me make it clear I have no expectation of people adopting my conviction and would not argue for my position with anyone. Since I read the article by Gladwell, it has been very hard to kick the habit of not caring about who wins and loses. Usually I am elated by a Colts win and a Pats loss. But since October they both just felt like losers in what has become an industry machine at the expense of health and well-being for husbands and fathers. Husbands and Fathers, for the love.

How am I able to give up what was such a passion? The gospel, clear and simple. How could I, even if this is not conclusive information, not be satisfied with the grace of God - even if it costs me a cherished hobby/interest/affection/possible idol? Is Jesus not enough? The sufficiency of my place in Christ before God is enough when other men question my toughness and convictions.

They will ask for my "man-card". They will call me extreme and ridiculous. Whatever. They will expect it to be short-lived till Auburn becomes a better team. And they will call me a legalist. That is need to appear manly may need to be nailed to the cross also. Maybe.


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