I couldn’t attend the football games any longer.
I knew too much…
While obtaining my MBA I worked as a Residence Hall Director in a mid-size university with a football program in a lower-grade conference. Several players from the football program lived in my dorm – clustered together in rooms nearby one another.
With the exception of one player – with a Mormon background – the football players I dealt with were consistently disrespectful to authority and loved breaking rules. They lived with impunity. It became so bad that the administration moved an assistant coach to live in the dorm on a full time basis. When we had a problem with a player we were instructed to call in the coach. Maybe they would listen to him.
I tried going to the football games to cheer for my university, but as I read the names on the back of the uniforms – what I knew about their thuggery drained my school spirit.
And none of these kids were going on to the NFL. It was not a conference competing for National Championships. And it was 20 years ago. Maybe things are better now?
During an April 14, 2015 ESPN Dallas radio show, the hosts talked about the current crop of rookie NFL players who have alleged criminal backgrounds. One of the hosts put the problem this way: “They are put on a pedestal. They feel they are invincible. More so now than ever before…they are not told ‘no.’”
And the news reports of domestic violence, assault, weapons charges, murders, etc. seem to only increase.
The joke goes like this: “I predict an 11-5 record for my team this year. 11 arrests and 5 convictions.”
Some people argue that we are too hard on football players – or other professional athletes – because their “sins” are made public by the nature of their profession.
But most people understand that if a young athlete can throw, catch or block – then – as Tony Romo said on the Cowboy’s signing of Greg Hardy, “I think that we all know that because he’s a talented player he’s going to be afforded more opportunities in the National Football League.”
In February of 2015 Hardy had a domestic violence charge dismissed as he apparently settled the dispute with the woman out-of-court. Regarding the charges, USA Today put them this way: “Hardy threw her in the bathroom and later onto a futon filled with guns. She also said he placed his hands on her throat and threatened to kill her.”
As he entered into the courtroom Hardy tweeted that he would give a pair of game cleats to a fan would could name his favorite color.
Yes – that was his response.
Today the league announced a suspension of Hardy for 10 games without pay. While that is at least a good start – the NFL culture of violence and disregard for decency is quickly draining my team spirit.
What can we do to help this great game return to some level of respectability?
In my line of work – as a pastor – when things get so bad that there seems to be no possibility for improvement – we pray.
This may sound strange to you – but this year I am going to put football on my prayer list. Will you join me?
Let’s pray for believing players to be bright lights in the gathering darkness. Let’s lift up team chaplains and intercede for front office Christians to take stands for right and wrong. Pray for believing coaches, GM’s and owners to be more bold in expressing their faith. Pray for talk-show hosts to uphold high standards.
And most of all, pray that players like Hardy and others will discover the good news of Jesus Christ who can change them from the inside out. Is forgiveness and a fresh start possible? Yes, but only with God’s help.