Dehumanization Found in Bad Sportsmanship

I have a confession to make…

 

Are you ready?…Okay, here we go…

 

I love watching sports.

Yes, I confess, I love watching sports. In the vast ocean of sports, my particular fish of choice is football. I love the competitiveness. The excitement amplifies me. The athleticism amazes me. And the necessity for unity in each particular team (that is, successful teams) compels me. While I have my particular favorite teams (e.g. Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers) and have my lesser favorites…(wouldn’t you like to know), good sportsmanship is prized above all things when it comes to athletics.

That is why I was truly perplexed at last Saturday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback of the Steelers, was carted off the field with an injury. While he enjoyed his cart ride back to the locker room, some fans began cheering that this person had been injured and threw objects at him. The off-the-field antics by the fans spilled over to the field. Pittsburgh went on to win the game due to unsportsmanlike behavior by some of the Bengal players that literally cost them the game. Being a playoff game, the sting of defeat burned far more than usual.

Let it be said that this one game DOES NOT REPRESENT the good people of Cincinnati, Ohio, the NFL, nor the Bengals organization. Such a thing could have happened anywhere.

How is it that sports overrides a person’s humanity? I understand that we all want our favorite teams to win. But in the end, one team must win and one team must lose. However, a person remains a person. I feel the problem stems from dehumanization which stems from the objectification of a human being. That is to say, a person is not viewed as a person but as an object.

Dehumanization is nothing new. Dehumanization has happened before and unfortunately will happen until Christ returns. Dehumanization led to the gas chambers in Germany, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the countless victims slaughtered across the world.

Am I saying that fans cheering on an injured quarterback is the same as the previous examples given? No. Of course not! However, if left unchecked, such societal ideologies, attitudes, and behaviors can lead to such extremes especially when human life is devalued. So how to we keep ourselves from dehumanizing another person? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Remember that all people are made “imagio dei.”

Despite a person’s nationality, politics, religion, or race, each person is a person made in the image of God. Granted, for some people it is much more difficult finding that image. Nevertheless, each person is a creation of God and is to be valued as such. One of the Ten Commandments states that one shall “not murder” (Exodus 20:13).[1] Why? It is because that every human life holds value. At the end of the day, even if your team loses, the winners are still human (that is unless your sport features fighting robots).

  1. Keep things in proper perspective.

At the end of the day, keep things in proper perspective. If your team loses, how are you really going to be affected? Chances are likely that the vast majority of those reading this article have not invested interest in the teams for which they cheer. Even if you do, is the world really going to come to an end if your team does not win the championship? 

  1. Try to remain emotionally balanced.

Sometimes people who have had a string of bad luck with personify their favorite team. Their team somehow psychologically represents them in a real way. However, this is certainly not the case. We must find a way to keep ourselves balanced emotionally. Try not to allow yourself to become overly excited or overly depressed.[2] How does one accomplish this? Try the final principle.

  1. Keep in tune with God.

When a person sees the world the way God sees it, then the person will not be as apt to become obsessed with their team and, thereby, resist the temptation to dehumanize those individuals on opposing teams. Yes…even if the Chicago Bears were to defeat my Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks were to defeat my Carolina Panthers…(to quote Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space, “oh, the pain…the pain”).

drzachscream                            sad Packers dog

In eternity, will it really matter who won these games outside of the influence that people have with one another? Not really. Life will keep moving on.

If we keep these principles, we can demonstrate good sportsmanship and, more importantly, maintain the value of every human life.

 

 

© January 12, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] A biblical example of this can be found in the apostle Paul. Paul could find contentment in any state that he faced. See Philippians 4:10-13.

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Football Fights and the Fall

Today, I heard a news report that discussed the growing problems of violence among high school football players towards referees and officials. Those working in the realm of high school athletics said that there needed to be “zero-tolerance” for players who assaulted officials or other players on the field and for coaches who promoted such actions. I whole-heartedly agree. However, as it was noted on the newscast, it seems that such actions indicate a greater, growing problem in our culture. But what is the problem?

There is a growing tendency to dismiss authority which has led towards an attitude of anti-authoritarianism; that is, disrespecting all authority. Individuals seem to promote the mentality that a person needs to fight against what is often called “the man.” “The man” is used to reference authority. “The man” may refer to the leaders of the business that employs the individual. Perhaps “the man” references those who enforce laws. Perhaps “the man” are those who make laws. It could even be that “the man” are those in Christian leadership. It is agreed that corruption can, and in fact does, exist in such agencies. However, are aggressive acts such as those implemented by the high school football players the answer? Certainly not! Shouldn’t one find a way to make a difference while still respecting one’s governing authorities? Certainly!

Attitudes of anti-authoritarianism is a human problem that have its roots in the fall. In Genesis chapter 3, Satan tempted and led humanity into sin by the simple words “Did God actually say” (Genesis 3:1)?[1] Since that time, human beings have questioned the authority of God. Does God really want control over this area of my life? Do I really have to love my neighbor? Anti-authoritarianism finds its root in one’s rebellion against the Supreme Authority–God.

It is true that there are times that the believer must stand opposed to the works of a governing authority. But, those times should only occur when such agencies stand opposed to the principles given by God. For instance, Jesus stood opposed to the Sanhedrin by calling out the sins and discrepancies of the institution, while calling on a higher calling–loving God. But Jesus did not call for hurtful aggressive actions. Rather, he called for one to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Peter, Paul, and the early apostles did not accept the edicts given against them to cease their preaching, yet they did not strike such authorities with the sword. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respectfully stood against the Babylonian commands which contradicted their obedience to God, but they did so while still respecting the authority of the king. All of them paid a price. However, their stand was not rooted in anti-authoritarianism. Their stand came by ultimate authoritarianism as they respected the ultimate authority of God.

Let us take care that we do not promote an anti-authoritarian mindset. The apostle Paul wrote that the Christian should “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7). If we as a society would teach respect and honor to our authorities…and ultimately to the Supreme Authority–God…then it is certain that we would not have a culture where high school football players would think that it is acceptable to assault the authorities over the game.

Copyright September 18, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Are American Professional Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

Are American Profession Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

By: Pastor Brian Chilton

    

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “professionalism” as:

“1     a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession

b : engaged in one of the learned professions

c(1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession

(2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

2       a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs 〈a professional golfer

b : having a particular profession as a permanent career 〈a professional soldier

c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return 〈professional football

3       : following a line of conduct as though it were a profession 〈a professional patriot.”[1]

As far as the second definition, it must be admitted that pro sports are still professional in the sense that athletes are getting paid for a service rendered.  However, for this article, the first definition will be targeted, particularly the definition of 1c…”characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” and “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.”  Three issues stand out in regard to professional sports leagues in the modern time and the evangelical Christian.  The first relates to that of politics.

Technical Standards or Political Platform

It cannot be said that all sports leagues are guilty of what the NFL and NBA are commonly guilty of committing, but since the NFL is the most popular league right now, the NFL must be examined.  The NFL is, quite frankly, the most guilty of all in allowing their league to become a “political platform” instead of maintaining technical standards.  Take Sunday Night Football on NBC for example.

During the halftime show of almost every Sunday Night Football game, NBC commentator Bob Costas, who is known for his liberal bias, will give a political topic that may loosely be based upon the game.  Let me ask you this: is this a proper platform for Costas’ political agenda?  When a person logs on to our show “Redeeming Truth Radio” at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton, the listener knows what he or she is going to hear.  However, is it fair that Costas is allowed to give his opinion without a differing opinion allowed to be given?  Some will say, “Well, that is the media not the league.”  While that statement is true, the league is allowing this to transpire.  The league permits these platforms because the league depends on the media to a great degree.  How successful would professional sports be if not for the media?  The driving force behind professional sports is money.  The apostle Paul accurately diagnosed the love of money long ago when he wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief” (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB).  The love of money causes all kinds of problems.  This love of money has created another unprofessional manner of conduct: a seeming control of beliefs.

Courteous and Businesslike Manner or Control of Beliefs

Another attribute of professionalism is courteous and businesslike manner of conduct.  This courteousness should be revealed in the appreciation of all points of view.  However, this is not the case.  A great case in point is the “blackballing” of Tim Tebow.  Tim Tebow, the former quarterback of the Florida Gators and former quarterback of the Denver Broncos, was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets.  Why?  Tebow led the team to a first-round victory in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers that year.  Tebow was a great moral player.  While I will admit that he was not the best player that has ever played the position of quarterback, he did hold his own.  It was clear that John Elway, the owner of the Broncos, had his problems with Tebow.  Why?  It had more to do with the religious and political convictions of Tebow more than Tebow’s football performance.  Now that the Jets have dropped Tebow, it does not seem that Tebow will be hired by another team…at least not by the time this article was posted.

Some have dismissed this as a lack of performance by Tebow.  The listener hears such responses as, “Tebow’s playing style does not work in the NFL.”  Well, is it not the same playing style of Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers?  Is it really playing style or beliefs?

Clearly, the problem with Tebow is something much deeper.  Why is it that Tebow was ostracized for his beliefs?  Or was it rather that Tebow was ostracized due to the vocalization of his beliefs?  This seems to be the going trend in the NFL.  Worship the league.  Don’t be an individual.  The famous “end zone celebrations” are so restricted that the originality of the celebrations are taken away.  But, this takes us to another problematic issue with professional sports.  It seems to be the new reigning religion of America.

The Real Problem: America’s New Religion

What is the religion of America?  Some would say that professional sports are the new religion.  With the passionate focus on football, baseball, and other sports with the lack of zeal towards God, truth, and things of substance, it could be said that perhaps sports really are the new religion of America.  Chad Gibbs of the Washington Post writes,

16.3 million is certainly a lot of people, in fact it’s almost as many as 17.3 million, which is the number of people who attended an NFL game in 2009. You see the reason so many people in America check ‘Christian’ on these Religious Identification Surveys is because football is usually not one of the choices. Because if we are being honest here, and who isn’t honest on the Internet, America is really a football nation.[2]

 Could this not be part of the problem with America?  Could it not be that we are falling into the same trap that those of the Roman Empire were before the Roman Empire’s collapse?  After all, sports are only games on the level of Monopoly, Uno, Chess, and Backgammon.  When football coaches speak of running a “play,” it is just that…a “play;” playing a game.  Could professional sports be nothing more than a delusional fantasy…a delusional fantasy that helps people lose focus on the troubles of life: a dreamland where a person can pretend to be a sports star with no apparent problems?  But the truth is, sports stars have their own set of problems.  Some stars have greater problems than the ordinary Joe would ever have to face.  That is at the heart of a delusional fantasy.  The grass is always greener on the other side until you get on the other side and see that the grass is not as green as once thought.

Conclusion

At the heart of it all, there is nothing wrong in enjoying professional and college sports as long as the enjoyment is kept in healthy moderation and does not become a means of escaping reality and responsibility.  The problem lies when leagues lose their professionalism to promote a certain agenda onto the populace.  A greater problem is that many Americans are content with living in a dream world of football, basketball, baseball, and soccer.  It is an opiate that helps to keep a person from dealing with the big issues of life.  Karl Marx once said that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  This is of course self-defeating because Marx is giving a religious statement which must then be seen as his own opiate if true.  Acknowledging God’s existence and having a relationship with the Lord does not hide one from his or her problems.  As a matter of fact, God helps us deal with important issues…big issues…and resolve the problems in our lives if we let Him…and if we listen to Him.

Although sports are okay to enjoy in moderation, people must give sports their proper place.  If sports or games of any kind become an opiate for the people (keeping them from dealing with the important issues of life), it would be easy for a person to be brainwashed with any passing fad that the sports leagues wishes to promote.  The combination of unprofessionalism in many sports leagues coupled with the populace allowing professional sports to become their new religion can lead to a mindless, immoral, group of lemmings. This is extremely dangerous.  If one does not believe the danger involved, look at the Roman Empire.  See how the people were engrossed with the games while atrocities were committed.  See how brutality became the norm.  The parallels between the Roman Empire and our modern culture are uncanny.

This is not what God brings to His children.  God through Jesus Christ brings freedom, courage, and morality.  As Paul writes, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father” (Romans 8:15, NASB)!  It is not suggested that a boycott or anything of the sort be conducted against these sports leagues.  I will continue to watch football games and cheer on my favorite teams.  However, it must be suggested that sports, especially in lieu of the recent unprofessionalism, be kept in proper perspective.  For it will not matter how many touchdowns you threw, home-runs you hit, free throws you earned, or goals you scored when you stand before God on Judgment Day.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton


[1] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

[2] Chad Gibbs, “Football: America’s National Religion,” Washington Post. September 3rd, 2010, accessed June 3rd, 2013. {http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/football_americas_national_religion.html}.

Reflections on Christian Coaching

darryl speer

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a member of our church who is also actively involved in coaching.  I interviewed Darryl Speer, an elementary school basketball coach and a tee ball coach.  We discussed the integration of Christianity in coaching.  You can access that interview by clicking here.  As I reflect back upon our interview, I also find myself reflecting on Christian coaching in general.  Coaching, especially when performed by a Christian male, can have a profound influence on a young person if the following five principles are kept.

The Importance of Positive Male Role-Models

coaching

One thing that Darryl addressed, which is something that deserves more attention at a later date, is the impact of positive male role-models.  Let’s face it.  We live in a land of single mothers and dead-beat dads.  This is not always the case, but is to a great degree.  The real victims in this ordeal are the children involved.

Formerly, I worked in the school system.  I saw first-hand the impact upon a child who grows up with no father.  Mothers and fathers are vitally important to a child.  If you take one of the elements away from a child, it can be detrimental to a child.  Some children latched onto me because they needed a positive male role-model.

However, it must be said that if a male role-model is to be a role-model, he must be positive.  Children do not need negative influences. Many children who have absentee fathers only know their fathers from violent encounters, from behind a jail-cell, or from negligence.  This certainly is not the case with all single-parent homes.  For some, it is the mother who was a negligent, negative influence.  Nonetheless, male coaches need not to be remembered for yelling, screaming, cursing, and snorting.  Rather, the male coach, if desiring to be a role-model worthy of praise, needs to encourage, drive, and compliment the children so that they feel better about themselves.

The  Importance of Integrating Good Sportsmanship

sportsmanship

Sports are competitive by nature.  Almost every coach desires to lead one’s team to victory.  Winning is fun but losing is not.  However, sportsmanship is becoming a lost art.  The coach cannot demand character from his/her players if he/she does not display genuine character as a coach.  This demands integrity.

Ultimately, Christian principles bring forth integrity which leads to character.  Many times character does not come from winning, but from losing.  As a popular sermon illustration goes, “Fruit does not grow on the mountaintop, it grows in the valley.”  The illustration shows that it is during the difficult times of life that character is grown.  Take the words of Paul who wrote, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3–5, NASB).  Character must be exhibited both in winning and in losing in order to achieve a maximum impact as a positive male role-model.

The Importance of Equality

equality-and-diversity

Darryl Speer, the coach we interviewed, said something of great importance when he said, “We have learned to be impartial.  I have to treat my girl…the same as anyone else on the team” (Darryl Speer, Episode 36 “Christianity in Coaching,” Redeeming Truth Radio).  This is important.  Many of the great problems in sports have come from partiality.  The Bible says that the Pharisees and Herodians said of Jesus (although they were trying to trap Him), “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth” (Mark 12:14, NASB).  We are not to show partiality.  Coaches, especially Christian coaches, should not show partiality to any child regardless of race, gender, or even creed.  You will not show a person of another faith the love of Christ by being impartial to them.  Politics should absolutely play no role in this kind of equality.

The Importance of Evangelism

Evangelism

It is difficult to have a full-impact unless you have great faith.  In some areas and in some places, this may be difficult.  The coach cannot bluntly say, “You gonna accept Christ?  Huh, huh, huh???”  Especially in this hyper-sensitive culture in which we live, the Christian coach must be careful in how he or she evangelizes.  However, the Christian can still show forth the message of the gospel in the way he/she lives, by the way he/she prays, and by the way he/she treats others.  The Christian coach may not be allowed to lead a team prayer.  But, the Christian coach has every bit of right to pray on his/her own time.  Do the children witness the coach praying at mealtime?  Do the children see the coach reading his/her Bible during spare time?  These are powerful ways to be a witness.  Rest assured; people may try to stop Christianity, but God has a way of leading the wayward heart to Him.  Isn’t it about glorifying God in the first place?

The Importance of Prioritization

prioritize

Finally, the element of prioritization exists.  Although I appreciate various sports leagues, I will be the first to admit that I am adamantly against leagues scheduling games on Sunday mornings.  There is, quite frankly, no excuse in my eyes that exists for planners of these leagues to schedule games during this time.  If there are scheduling conflicts, that lies on the planners of the leagues.  Many parents are put into a paradox on Sunday mornings due to these scheduling conflicts   Every parent must make their own decision.  However, I will go on record to say that my child will not be allowed to play in any league that schedules games on Sunday mornings…period.  He will be able to play in any sport that he chooses, if he chooses to play.  He will be allowed to play as much as he wants to play, but not on Sunday mornings.  If he chooses to play the guitar instead, that will be fine, too.  If he chooses to paint and become an artist, that will be fine, too.  If he chooses to hit the books and become a scholar, that will be fine, too.  Be that as it may; I have to answer for what I do and others will have to answer for what they do.  So, I say this not to judge, but to bring out an important question, what holds the greatest priority in your life?  If you want to be a positive Christian influence, then Christ must be on center stage.

If a parent chooses to allow one’s child to play on Sunday mornings, spiritual disciplines cannot be ignored.  When one does not engage in spiritual disciplines (daily prayer, Bible study, regular church attendance, and so on), the person will find oneself slipping into a backslidden condition.  Can a person worship God on the ballfield?  Possibly.  But, it is not likely.  Nothing takes the place of the preaching, teaching, and study of the Word of God.  If one allows their child to play on Sunday morning, it is vitally important for the parent and the child to be in church on Sunday night, Wednesday night, or both.  If your church does not have services at these times, find a Bible-believing church that does hold services at these times until the league is over and then are able to go back to your home church.  Also, don’t forget to send in your tithes if you are going to be gone for an extended period of time.  If too many Christians stay gone for too long, there won’t be a church in which to return.  Remember, if parents do not place Christ at the epicenter of their lives, what makes them think that their children will???

You don’t think church attendance and spiritual disciplines matter?  Well, you are reading from a writer who backslid from God for seven years.  It did not happen overnight.  The process of backsliding is a slow, meticulous process that ends in disaster.  The most important decision is to have Christ as the Lord of one’s life.  Some hope that his or her child will go pro.  Remember, many professional athletes have made millions only to lose it all due to unChristlike behaviors.

Why do I mention this?  Well, if there is one thing that I have learned from working with children, it is that children know when someone is legit and when someone is simply blowing smoke.  If you are desiring to be a positive Christian coach, parent or leader; you MUST be a Christian and you MUST have your service to Christ as your chief priority.  The children will not take the coach seriously about the coach’s faith unless the coach is serious about his own faith.  That goes not only for coaches, but also for parents and any person of influence.

Conclusion

When put in proper perspective, sports can be a wonderful way for children to have fun and learn life principles.  The coach can be a great catalyst to bring forth positive Christian values to a child.  There exists a HUGE demand for positive, Christian, male coaches in our day in time.  But what must be stressed is the importance of character in the coach.  This is something that is missing in many men in our day and time.  Oh, that God would bring up Christian men of integrity that will make a positive impact in the world for Christ!