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My New Sweet Dreams

Chris —  January 12, 2016

Billy Williams day in June of 1969When I was a child, I dreamed of being a big league ball player like Billy Williams. Now I dream of being Buck O’Neil. Without Buck O’Neil, Billy Williams might haven never played an inning in the majors. 

Billy Williams was unquestionably one of the greatest Cubs ever. Nicknamed, “sweet swinging” Billy Williams for his effortless yet powerful swing, the Baseball Hall of Fame summarizes Billy’s career:

Over an 18-season big league career (1959-76), 16 spent with the Cubs, Williams had 2,711 hits, a .290 batting average, 426 home runs, hit 20 or more home runs 13 straight seasons, and once held the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,117.

“Billy Williams is the best hitter, day-in and day-out, that I have ever seen,” said longtime Cubs teammate Don Kessinger. “He’s unbelievable. He didn’t hit for just one or two days, or one or two weeks. He hit all the time.” . . .

“The leader of the Cubs is, of all people, the quiet man of the clubhouse, Billy Williams,” wrote Chicago sports columnist Bill Gleason. “Billy Williams, who seldom speaks in a voice that can be heard beyond his own cubicle, who wouldn’t say ‘Rah! Rah!’ if (Cubs owner) Phil Wrigley promised him a $10,000 bonus for each ‘Rah,!’ is the man to whom the Cubs look for leadership.

“He combines the dignity of Ernie Banks, the determination of (Ron) Santo, and the competitive fires of (Randy) Hundley, and he plays every day, every night.”

Yet, Billy Williams’ big league career almost never happened. Williams came up in the Cubs minor league system in 1959 at a time when racism was especially despicable and inhumane. In his book, Billy Williams: My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime with the Cubs, Williams describes the humiliation African-American ballplayers endured:

I would help entertain fans at the ballpark by playing baseball to the best of my ability, but then I was not allowed to eat in the restaurants or stay in their hotels. My black teammates and I had to rely on our white teammates to bring us a sandwich in the back of the bus after they were done enjoying their casual meal in a segregated restaurant.

Finally, Williams could endure the racism no more. He made the decision to quit baseball. He told a teammate he was done and took a train home to Alabama.

With Billy’s decision to quit,  Buck O’Neil entered the story. O’Neil had been a legendary player and manager in the Negro Leagues. By 1959 he was working for the Cubs as a scout. When the Cubs management learned that Billy Williams had gone home, they contacted O’Neil to ask him if he knew Billy. O’Neil responded, “I know who he is. I have been to his parents house and sat around with them. And I have eaten at their house.” Indeed, it had been O’Neil who first spotted Billy Williams’ talent.

So O’Neil agreed to immediately make the long drive down to southern Alabama. Williams describes what happened when O’Neil got to his house:

Baseball’s Buck O’Neil

At first, Buck didn’t say much. He simply said, “How do you feel, boy?”

I said, “I’m doing pretty good Buck.”

Buck said, “Got a call yesterday from John Holland. The Cubs think a lot of you. You’re playing good. They think that one day you might be in the major leagues because your scouting reports are good. What do you think?”

I said, “Buck, I have had enough. I don’t want to go back there anymore to play any baseball. I have enjoyed the time that I played. But I just don’t want to through the stuff that I have been going through off the field. You know, waiting for the white guys to bring me sandwiches, staying in separate run-down hotels, and things like that.

Buck knew all about discrimination in those days. I wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t know himself firsthand. He had experienced it himself throughout his entire life. Buck had also managed the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro Leagues, and he had a lot of players who had been homesick and wanted to go home. But I repeated “No, I am not going back to San Antonio.”

At that point, Buck said, “Okay,” and then he talked to my dad before he went back to his hotel. The next day, Buck came back to our house and we talked again. It must have been around 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

There was a place down there in Alabama called Prichard Park. That’s where all of my colleagues and guys who were in my class went to play ball. . . Buck said to me, “Come on, boy. Let’s take a ride.” . . .

Once we rolled up into the park, everybody there recognized Buck as a big-league scout. Then people noticed I was with him and they started pointing and saying, “There’s Billy! Hey how are you doing? You’ve been off to play ball, right?”

I said to them, “Yeah, but I am home now.”

Then the fellas said, “Wow! How did you get a chance to play pro ball? How did you get an opportunity to sign and play professional baseball? I bet it’s great. Man, I bet you are having a good time playing baseball, doing something you always wanted to do. . .

Buck just shook his head up and down at everything those guys were saying to me at Prichard Park. You could tell he was loving that influential kind of talk from my friends. He could not have scripted the comments any better. There must have been 10 or 12 guys saying things like that to me, making a big deal about me playing professional baseball. At that point, I started looking around at the guys from my hometown. Most of them were scuffling, trying to make ends meet, trying to make it with scarce job opportunities around town.

At that point, I said to myself, “Well, you know baseball, ain’t that bad. And waiting to get a sandwich at the back of a bus from a teammate ain’t that bad.”

Of course, it was that bad. It is unthinkable that such racism existed – – and continues to exist in some ways – – in our country. But O’Neil was successful in persuading Billy to return to San Antonio.

Once Williams returned to San Antonio it was only a matter of weeks before he had the opportunity to play in the majors. From San Antonio, he was called up to Triple-A where he hit .476 over a five day period and was called up to the majors.

But for Buck O’Neil’s wise influence, Billy Williams would have quit baseball a few weeks shy of the major leagues.

The story of Buck O’Neil and Billy Williams hits me differently today than it did when I was playing sandlot baseball myself. When I was growing up, I would have given anything to be a big league ball player. I loved playing baseball. But now, all these years later, I no longer dream about playing professional baseball. Instead, I long to be Buck O’Neil. And longing to be Buck O’Neil is, in the end, a bigger dream than being a professional athlete. How many men and women have the wisdom and talent to put our arm across the shoulders of young, gifted, men and women and encourage them to keep going when they feel like quitting? And what a difference a pastor, a coach, a friend can make who has the wisdom to encourage someone to not give up.

Today the Cubs have retired Sweet Swinging Billy Williams’ number.  As long as baseball is played in the friendly confines of Wrigley field, Billy Williams’ name and number will flutter from the right field foul pole above Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux, while Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Fergie Jenkins wave from the left field pole. And that is as it should be. I’m glad that Billy William’s number has been retired. But if I owned the Chicago Cubs, I would have a seamstress stitch the name of Buck O’Neil in small silver thread in a corner of the pennant of Sweet Billy’s flag. And  Williams would be the first to agree with the decision. Without Buck O’Neil’s long drive and wise words, Billy Williams would never have rounded the bases at Wrigley nor plucked a baseball out of the air from just above the ivy.

Will Power – A Story of Character

Chris —  November 26, 2014

Watch this one and you’ll “wrestle” better today.


An early Ivy League football game.

“Vanbriesen pops through the left side of the AC line and he’s loose in the secondary. It’s a footrace for the end zone.”

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . Isaiah 9:6

Founded in 1636, Harvard stands as the oldest school in the conference. When I say Harvard, I  mean the institution of higher education out east rather than the community on the other side of the Big Northern Conference where they hold the milk festival. Though, for the record the Harvard Illinois Hornets enjoyed a good 2013 football season.

Most people now think that “Stillman’s Run” references the football team getting hot in the playoffs, but a few historians remember that “Stillman’s Run” is the name of an 1832 battle fought on our ground during the Blackhawk war though it was also called the battle of Old Man’s Creek or the Battle of Sycamore Creek. Which is to say, I’m not sure of how old our high school is but Harvard University started signing diplomas not quite two years hundred years before Blackhawk and his warriors crossed the creek and chased off Major Isaiah Stillman and the Illinois militia.

Yale's Handsome Dan dates back to 1890

Yale’s Handsome Dan

Yale University, in the same conference as Harvard, came along in 1701. Yale’s original mascot was a bulldog named “Handsome Dan” – – The story goes that one of the Yale offensive tackles bought the bulldog Handsome Dan from a local blacksmith and the Yale mascot was born.

A few decades after Yale, Dartmouth was founded in December of 1769. Dartmouth began as a congregational university and their motto, “A voice crying out in the wilderness,” recalls the role of John the Baptist in announcing Christ. The motto was was favored by Dartmouth because at that time New Hampshire was in the wilderness. Dartmouth’s mascots have changed over the years and have variously included an Indian, who much like Chief Illini and the Marquette Warrior, was dropped in the name of political correctness. The Dartmouth student body campaigned for a mascot named Keggy the Keg but this was resisted by the administration who was doubtless looking for something with a bit more Ivy league dignity.  Someone proposed the Dartmouth moose  – – but this mascot has never quite taken over – – and so Dartmouth athletics are often known as the Big Green.

curiosity-ivy-league-pictures-26Harvard, Yale, and Darmouth do not enjoy membership in the Illinois High School Big Northern Conference or even the Big Ten. These universities are all members of the Ivy League, which as you know, is the grand group of colleges: the loftiest echelon of higher education. Without reviewing all their mascots, the Internet succinctly summarizes that the Ivy League is:

“a group of long-established colleges and universities in the eastern US having high academic and social prestige. It includes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania. . . The term Ivy League also has connotations of academic excellence, selectivity in admissions, and social elitism.”

Once, when I was in Boston, I drove past Harvard, but I was mostly trying to find my way around and, if you’ve ever been in Boston, you know what a challenge that is – – so, other than a quick glance out the window, I have never been near an Ivy League campus.

Growing up, I knew of only one person who went to the Ivy League. He was from Southeast Iowa and though I didn’t know him personally my friends and I heard that he was so committed to learning that he taped vocabulary words to his bathroom mirror and studied when he was shaving. My friends and I didn’t shave very often in high school, so we resented him on that basis alone.  We also knew that stretching one’s vocabulary apart from high school requirements was not normal. And we understood that we would not be joining kids with big vocabularies in the Ivy League.

Instead, I went to college in Pella, Iowa, which was 90 long miles from home, closer to the Iowa metropolis of Des Moines, and so, I reasoned, a bit like going out east. In Pella, we had tulips in May but very little ivy. We weren’t sure of how to distinguish college ivy from poison ivy so the crew who mowed the grass put Roundup on anything that started to grow on the sides of the buildings.

Our college football field was on was on the edge of a cornfield.

Which is to say that it’s hard for me to picture the Ivy League. All these years later, and though I now know a handful of people who went out east, I am only slightly less informed then I was as a farm kid in Southeast Iowa.

But after the Fall of 2013, there is one vivid “Ivy League image” burned in my mind, a picture I can see very clearly. It has to do with the Stillman Valley – Aurora Christian 2013 class 3A State Semi-Final football game.


SV’s Seth Vanbriesen carries the ball in a Thanksgiving 2013 practice

High school playoff football, of course, is far more familiar to us in the Midwest than the Ivy League. Many of us were at the state semi-final game; and most who weren’t present at the game can picture it. We drove down across already harvested cornfields for the Saturday evening game in the suburbs.  And, though the calendar may have said, fall, the forecast read like the evening news for Gnome, Alaska. Global warming notwithstanding, the predictions were so arctic that we rented torpedo heaters like those we used to heat our barns in Iowa when I was growing up.

The weathermen were right. There was no gentle fall breeze. Instead, an icy winter wind howled out of Canada and right into Aurora. We were shivering before the game even started. No one tailgated. People sat in their cars with the motors running or built igloos out of blankets in both rows of the visiting bleachers. A cheerleader’s feet got so cold that she melted her tennis shoes holding her feet up to the heater. I know of three different people who melted gloves in the same way. (My son, Ben, and I were two of them).

Predictions for the outcome of the game weren’t any warmer than the weather. AC came in with an all-state running back with the first name of (I am not making this up) “Legend” – – they had a monster quarterback the size of our linemen – – and the threat of passing attack that made us feel like we would be watching the Blue Angels at the Oshkosh Air Show.

The game started like we expected. Aurora Christian grabbed an early lead. We managed to keep it close the first half, but it felt like the game could get away from us at any moment.

When AC scored on a pick-six early in the 3rd quarter our hopes were on ice, which was true both figuratively and literally. It kept getting colder. For a witness, I appeal to my son Ben who said it was the coldest he has ever been in his life. He steadfastly maintained this claim for four days until a practice the following Wednesday that he claims was colder.

Anyway, Stillman answered AC’s pic-six score by stalling and in short order AC blew into our red zone, with the possibility of the score going to 24-7. The outcome hung in the balance, but somehow Stillman stopped them on fourth down though even when we got the ball we were trapped inside our own fifteen.

I need to back up for a minute and point out that as a church and community, we are honored that one of our own is in the Ivy League. Derek Vanbriesen rolled a 36 on his ACT test and finished first in his class and his acceptance at Dartmouth speaks well not only for him and his family, which it does, but also for our schools and teachers. And, I want to say, in Derek’s defense that, so far as I am aware, Derek didn’t tape vocabulary words on his mirror in high school and he is far more normal than the guy I previously mentioned from Southeast Iowa who went to Harvard. Actually, I think that the guy from SE Iowa was fairly normal; it’s just that my friends and I resented him because he was smarter than we were and, like I said, had to shave every day.

In any case, Seth Vanbriesen, Derek’s younger brother, was playing in the Stillman Valley-AC game and, as it turns out, Seth ended up being part of the pivotal post-season play. The play itself resulted from a halftime adjustment.

In our locker room at half-time, while our team was attempting to get feeling back in their fingers, the Stillman Valley players told the coaches that any time our offense went into a particular set, Aurora Christian crammed defenders in the box and keyed on our fullback. The Aurora Christian defense made this adjustment by yelling a code word which sent the message, “We know what you’re going to do, and we are going to stop it.” Or, said another way, it was shorthand for, “We are going to win and you are going to lose.”

But Stillman’s coaches like adjustments and they were ready with a wrinkle of their own. In response – – and this is what Stillman did down 17-7 in the third quarter – – we decided to fake to our all state fullback Zac Hare- – and gave the ball to Seth. It worked perfectly and Seth was off to the races while the AC defenders piled onto our fake. Once Seth burst through a hole on the left side of the line, he had lots of space because the defense was flowing so hard to our fullback. It probably wasn’t very pleasant for our fullback – – what with everyone plowing into him – – but he was used to it and took one for the team.

For his part, Seth was an unlikely candidate to make the long run- – 73 of his 76 yards that night were on one play. But the play was enough to tip the balance of momentum in our direction and our fullback, Zac, plowed into the end zone in the last minute to win the game.

As long as I have my wits about me, I’ll picture that play from my place on the sidelines- – wind howling – – clouds of steam coming out of helmets – -reserves shivering on the sideline – – cheerleaders melting their shoes on torpedo heaters – – and the suburb superpower pounding us on the ropes.

And then Seth — with the ball – – dancing through the line; the crowd erupting from under their piles of blankets and sleeping bags – – and the sound of cowbells bouncing off the Aurora Christian turf.

But the actual game footage is not my favorite picture of the semi-final game. My favorite picture is from the Ivy League. Seth’s brother, Derek wasn’t able to be at the game. Dartmouth didn’t offer a pep bus going to the Illinois football playoffs. But the game was broadcast on the Internet and so Derek listened online. And the picture of Derek listening in the Ivy League to the news from home – – that is my favorite image from the state semi-final game.

I didn’t really talk to Derek about it, and I know he was listening on the Internet, but I like to picture Derek tuned in on a giant radio in some historic dorm.

I surfed the Internet to see if there was an archive of the game. I wanted to hear the call when Seth got loose for a 73 yard run that changed the momentum, not just of that one game, but of the whole post-season run. But I couldn’t find an archive of the broadcast. It’s just as well. I like to imagine the “staticy radio” play-by-play call Derek heard:

Stillman Valley trails 17-7 and they are backed up in their own territory – -McNames over center, a quick give over the right side to the fullback Hare and a pile of bodies- – check that – It’s a fake to Hare and Stillman is loose in the Aurora Christian secondary. It’s #40 – Seth Vanbriesen. He’s already across midfield: the 50, the 40, the 35 – – Aurora Christian giving chase – – Vanbriesen may score . . . he is tackled inside the Aurora Christian 10. No flags.

The Vanbriesen brothers are on the left and right sides of this birthday party picture from 2005.

The Vanbriesen brothers are in red jerseys on either side of this 2005 pic

I love the picture of one of ours out east hearing that his brother, back home, made a big play back.

It encourages me as a pastor and dad to think, that as far as kids from Byron, Stillman, Rochelle, or Rockford may travel, they will dial into the news from home. Whether they go off to California, or Kentucky or Vanderbilt or Wisconsin, they’ll want the local news. And the reason is because the closer the winners are to home, the sweeter the sound. Had Derek been listening to an NFL team (does anyone really want to win the NFC North?), he would have been only moderately excited. But when he heard the news that his brother made the big play for his hometown he was thrilled. There is no news more local than the news that your own brother made a big play. Derek is not a real animated sort, but he must have at least smiled.

Now, whatever your high school allegiances, if you think about it, the image of an Ivy Leaguer tuned into local good news is a Christmas picture. It is a Christmas card. It is as much Christmas as any print from Currier and Ives because the idea of someone in an elite place, who is never the less, straining to hear the news from home reminds us that the best news is local news.

The first Christmas card was that kind of picture too. It was good news because it was local. Christ’s birth wasn’t someone else’s news in some distant place. It is our news. When Jesus arrived, he didn’t make his entrance in New York or Paris or Rome. He wasn’t even born in Jerusalem where he might have been expected. Mary gave birth and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger because there was no room in the inn.

Christ the LORD was born locally in an obscure, small town, a lot like our towns – – the LORD was born in Payne’s Point, not Paris; Christ the King didn’t come for princes and prima donnas. He came for herdsmen and hired hands: people like us. And the Scriptures promises that for all who receive Christ and truly give their lives to him – – that the news of Christ’s birth is intimately local – – we are part of his family (John 1:12).

It is not lost on Christians today, of course, that in the hallowed halls of higher education, the miracle of Christmas is often viewed with academic disdain. There is little regard for the real Christmas story. The claim of a virgin birth is seen as so much sappy sentimentalism.

And yet, interestingly it is the local Christmas story that resonates with the soul of the world  – – from one edge of the map to the other.

Christmas celebrations take places in local churches, not hallowed hallows. Tonight, on Christmas Eve, the cold blue flames of Bunsen burners in scientific laboratories will all be extinguished and the science centers will be dark. And, instead, the warm orange flame of midnight church candles will burn from one edge of the map to the other. Those who view Christianity with disdain are left to admit that they haven’t been able to create a celebration of their own, so they reluctantly join the local party in Bethlehem.

On Christmas, the actions of nearly everyone agree that the best news is not that of proud achievement, but the sort that is local and humble. So the celebration of the Christmas story should grab the attention of even the proudest minds, if we will think of it. Recalling something C.S. Lewis once wrote, The Christmas story – what some would regard as a made up story – – beats the so called real story hollow.

The best good news is local. News sounds the sweetest when it isn’t someone else’s story, but ours. And this is the Christmas message – – For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. And this is a true, local story.

Before we conclude, there is one more Christmas card to open. Rather than imagining Derek dialed in from Dartmouth, consider who is tuned in and listening to our local news tonight- – imagine the Risen Christ following our lives with the interest of a brother, for that is what the Scriptures tell us – – In all his omniscient, omnipotent glory – – He is dialed into our local lives – – For those who believe in Him, he listens with the interest and excitement of family. He celebrates our victories and is concerned for our pain.  Because, after all, Chist came not for princes and prima donnas, but for herdsmen and hired hands – – local folks such as us. And the good news of Christmas is the best kind of good news, because it is local good news.

DSC_6622Which theory better explains the thrill of victory: materialism or Christianity? Can any of you do a better job with a materialist explanation of the thrill of victory than I did? Why do you think winning is so much fun?

We had a lot of fun with football this year in Stillman Valley. It culminated in a state championship and a new experience of the thrill of victory. And it is worth considering why we enjoy competing so much.

I am asking the question on a philosophical level. Why is the thrill of victory so much fun? Before you accuse me of being too nerdy, I want to point out that I participated in multiple pep rallies and did not go all philosophical on people at any point – – even when I had the microphone.

Also, for the record, and before some of our competition points it out in the comments, the Stillman Valley Cardinals weren’t the only ones celebrating the thrill of victory this year. Rockford Lutheran gave us purple nightmares. Their quarterback, to the tune 16 of 25 for 285 yards, spun away from pass rushers like Fran Tarkenton (just watch this film clip and you will know what we endured – – same color jersey and everything). Similarly, the St. Joseph-Ogden quarterback also gave us fits. And whereas Lutheran gave us purple nightmares, Winnebago gave us purple bruises. They were one of the more physical teams we’ve seen in high school football and my son had the post-loss black and blue spots to prove it. We served ibuprofen at our house.

I digress.

CDB_3311Here, again, is the question. Why is winning a championship – – – or even competing to win a championship – – such a blast?

From a philosophical point of view, we might consider two explanations. First, there is the materialist explanation for the “thrill of victory.” If you’re not up to speed on philosophical terms, “materialism” is the belief that the only reality is the material world. Hence, everything must be explained in terms of substance and natural law.

A materialist explanation of the “thrill of victory” would begin with the idea that life resulted from random collisions of molecules. However improbable, the point would be that given enough collisions – – which would probably require an infinite number of universes (see this post)- – higher life would develop the capacity to invent football. From there, and over billions of years, the desire to win evolved such that we as human beings enjoy competition as a part of our survival instinct.

I’m trying to give a fair summary, but I am honestly not sure why the materialist would say that sportsmanship and character and respect for the opponents evolved. If we really believed the whole survival of the fittest thing exclusively, shouldn’t we shoot the losers rather than shake hands at the 50?

DSC_6585In the materialist view, there is nothing enduring about the thrill of victory. You win a game. That’s it. The trophies tarnish and you lose the ring, or you keep it long enough for your kids to lose it. But there is nothing, ultimately, greater than a few minutes on a football field in Dekalb, IL. And even though barbwire was invented in or around Dekalb, that really isn’t a very big deal.

Alternatively, there is the Christian explanation for the “thrill of victory.” (I understand that there could be other options – – but this is a blog post, not a book – I’m keeping it brief). The Christian explanation would be that God created humanity in His own image and that God invested in image bearers the capacity to represent God in creation. Consequently, humans can uniquely create, run, work together as teammates, accomplish, make music, and so forth Whenever, humans are human, they are mirrors which reflect the glory of the Creator, albeit imperfectly.

The Christian explanation for the thrill of victory contends that the best of competing and winning and losing points to something far greater than us. Hence, far from being an end unto itself, the thrill of competition points us to the possibility of being on a team whose champion is none other than the King of the Universe.

If the Christian explanation makes more sense than the materialist view, then the next logical step is to further consider Christ – – the ultimate champion – – -and how we can truly be on His team. Maybe watch Ron Brown’s video below? Or, better yet, visit us at the Red Brick Church in Stillman Valley or another Bible believing church.

But, at the very least, ask yourself, doesn’t the thrill of victory show us that there must be something more than the material?

See also What is the Gospel?

As Z says, as you watch, keep this in mind.

15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)


Friday Favorites

Chris —  September 6, 2013

Some favorite action shots from the previous week.

Senior Zac Hare breaks the banner for a new year

Steig Theden is congratulated by teammates after scoring on a goal kick.   Eric Baker with a corner kick Leo Lenth leaves a goalie behind Signs line the street to the school

A gritty tackle A formidable soph d-line Soph Team CDB_5053 Soph Team Captains Desperate for cooks, SV is willing to elist anyone CDB_5397 Senior dance team member Sydney Gatz Cheerleaders for national anthem Staying hyrdated Jacob Hoey gets an outside block Logan Alberts breaks into the clear Frosh QB Nolan McNames CDB_5776 CDB_5771 CDB_5547 CDB_5538 Trainer Aaron removes padding from the most well wrapped cast in high school football A 7th Grader looks for the right call in volleyballSteig Theden returning to goal

Drafted: Why Chris Norman Said No to the NFL from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Ted Kluck wonders if RG III is the Tebow. And he regrets that Tim Tebow didn’t have more opportunity to be just an NFL football player.

I admit it felt weird writing a book about Robert Griffin III just weeks into his rookie season with the Washington Redskins. At this point, nobody knows how God will use success, failure, and other circumstances to shape this professional, professing Christian football star. As John Piper once said in a sermon, “Living heroes are important, but they might cease to be heroes before they die.” That’s to say, the jury is still out on Griffin and, to be fair, all of us.

A scant three years ago, when Griffin was still playing college football at Baylor University, we may have thought the same things about then-hero Tim Tebow. Amazingly, we’re already living in a post-Tebow NFL. Back then, everything Tebow touched turned to gold. Heisman winner. National champion. First-round draft choice. Author. Spokesman for everything.

A celebrity-hungry evangelical fan base “made” Tebow by clamoring for anything Tebow-related: books, jerseys, photographs, autographs, documentaries, commercials, articles, game tickets, and conference tickets. We put Tebow on a very significant public pedestal because he stood for what we stood for, everything from a pro-life position to homeschooling to the actual gospel.

If “mentioning your faith” had a spectrum, Tebow would be on the high end of that spectrum, and Griffin would be on the moderate-to-low end. While public faith was an integral part of the Tebow brand, Griffin seems low-key by comparison. He said nothing more than “God had a plan” at his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. He has tweeted periodically—but not excessively—about his faith. His Twitter bio is a play on the popular evangelical mantra of relationship-not-religion, saying “I have no Religion. I have a relationship with God.” Still, Griffin seems to be walking a fine line, appealing to Christians and non-Christians alike.

There’s something weird about the Christian celebrity culture. . . .

Read the rest here.

Philip Yancey writes:

Sportswriters calculate that the year after Michael Jordan retired (the second time), he earned from his endorsements more than twice as much as all U.S. presidents earned for all their terms combined. He earned more endorsing Nike shoes than all the workers in Malaysia who made the shoes. He may pay $200 for a round of golf, but earns $33,390 while playing that round. I like Michael Jordan and wish him all the best, but a society that pays him more in one year – – for not playing basketball – – than it pays all their presidents combined seems to me a society out of balance. Rumors of Another World, 34.

Pictures freeze a moment in time. Study the moments and you might find a lot for which to be thankful.

Scoring a touchdown is great. But there is also a lot to be said for the moment when the ball is in the air, when it is yet to be determined if you will make the catch or not.

The chance to look for a sack – – – or twist for the endzone – – or meet athletes from other schools. The moment of leading your team onto the field —or to break a tackle — there are so many pictures in life that we need to stop and savor.