I want to start by acknowledging that I am one who has over the course of time (and by the grace of God) become increasingly aware of my own guilt regarding the sin about which I write. I’m a Christian and a sports fan, and it’s been that way for practically all of my life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Sports has been an avenue for my enjoyment of the glory of God, just plain entertaining, and an agent of sanctification.
More agent of sanctification in the past couple of years than before, though, and for that I thank God. Perhaps part of it has to do with being the father of a ten-year-old son, himself a believer and sports fan, and wanting to train him up in the way he should go. In any event, I’ve enjoyed what has become (for the most part) a growing emotional detachment from the results of games. I’ve enjoyed not getting inappropriately excited over my team’s successes, and likewise, I’ve enjoyed not getting angry or sad at the opposite.
Are you ready for a completely pointless post? Well, you got it! And just so you know I didn’t sit down and do this all at once. This happened in small bits, not that that’s an excuse.
“What if” questions are usually stupid, but I think it’s fun to wonder how things might be different sometimes. I especially like doing this in something non-serious like sports. So with all the hoopla about Michael Jordan turning 50 today, and me being a big fan of the North Carolina Tar Heels, I was reading an article about Jordan’s college days in which he said he was still bitter about the 1984 NCAA Tournament loss to Indiana and only agreed to go pro after Coach Dean Smith advised him to. But what if he’d stayed for one more season? How might UNC basketball history be different? How might the NBA?
Let’s start with the 1984 NBA Draft. With Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie gone 1 and 2, the third pick went to the Chicago Bulls, who had to choose between another Tar Heel in Sam Perkins and Auburn standout Charles Barkley. They went with the more explosive Barkley, who had a productive career and several playoff runs with the Bulls, but only got to the conference finals once, where they were dispatched by the Knicks. As for Jordan, he went on to win a gold medal for the USA in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Bob Knight coached the team and said he never got more from a player in his career than he did from Jordan. Continue reading “What if… Michael Jordan had stayed for his senior season at Carolina?”
We had a joke back when I was taking Biblical Greek. When we worked on pronunciation and somebody got it wrong, somebody would say, “You put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle.” And for the purposes of you getting that, emphasize the caps and you’ll get it.
I have been a fan of Tim Tebow since 2006. When Steve Spurrier coached the Florida Gators I couldn’t stand them, but when Chris Leak went there I began to cheer for them. Leak was an All-Everything quarterback for my alma mater, the Independence Patriots. And in Leak’s senior year he led them to the National Championship. But even though Leak was the starter, it seemed his backup was getting more buzz than he was. Tebow was a freshman that year, and many Gator fans seemed to want him in the lineup more than Leak.
Nevertheless, the more I learned about Tebow the more I liked him. You know the story. Here was an outspoken Christian, the son of missionaries, willing to write Bible verses on his eye-black and speak openly about his faith in Jesus Christ. He didn’t get into trouble off the field, played great on the field, and was committed to his team, but more important, his Savior. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy and another National Championship as the starting quarterback, and was drafted by the NFL’s Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2009 draft.
Tebow’s outspoken Christianity already gained him critics before he left Gainesville, but it seems like the moment he threw his last college pass they got a lot louder. Never mind his winning record, this guy was going to be a bust. He can’t throw the ball like an NFL quarterback, they said. He doesn’t have what it takes to win at that level, they said. And yet, underneath all of that as he was leading the Broncos to the playoffs in his second season was an undercurrent of hatred for the One he had placed his faith in. Continue reading “Tim Tebow has made a grievous mistake (Part commentary, part open letter)”
Today the International Olympic Committee announced that wrestling has been dropped from its list of “core sports,” making it very unlikely we will see it in the Olympics beginning in 2020. The announcement is just the latest in a string of decisions regarding the inclusion and exclusion of sports over the last 20 years that have the Olympics losing relevancy little by little.
More and more, the Summer Games are becoming about two sports: swimming and gymnastics. These are the sports that move the television needle and for good reason. They are exciting to watch every four years and their audiences include both men AND women. Television ratings equal advertising dollars for networks and advertising dollars for networks equal bigger and bigger rights fees paid to… the International Olympic Committee.
But the Olympic ideal is suffering when wrestling, one of the oldest sports in the Olympics, if not the original sport, is excluded. Think about those ancient Greek pictures of athletic competition you see? What are they doing? They’re wrestling. And real wrestling has produced some great Olympic moments over the past twenty years. I specifically remember seeing Kurt Angle win the gold in 1996, but especially, I remember watching Rulon Gardner beat that Russian in 2000 who hadn’t lost since the Bolshevik Revolution. Wrestling is pretty much the ultimate one-on-one, who’s better sport that exists. It’s not for everybody, but it’s pure, and not malicious. And it’s an Olympic icon. Continue reading “A rant on the Olympics dropping wrestling”
After the high of beating Duke last Saturday night to win the ACC regular season championship outright, the North Carolina Tar Heels leaped to #6 and #7 in the two polls and became a trendy pick to steal one of the last #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Then they responded by shooting 6-for-21 and committing fifteen turnovers in the first half against ninth-seeded Miami in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. At one point in the second half they were down nineteen and Heels fans, myself included, were giving up. Yet, after playing about as badly as possible they began shooting the lights out and Miami, who had come from ten down in the final minute against Virginia the previous day to win in overtime, started pulling a Virginia-esque implosion. Incredibly, the Heels’ first lead of the day came with the buzzer sounding, as Tyler Zeller’s layup, leaving his hands with about .1 or .2 left on the clock, went in for the 61-59 win.
Here is their comeback, YouTube style, in a minute…