Thursday Morning Sports Guy September 17, 2009
Ok, so a couple of weeks ago, ESPN ran the story that a few current and former football players for the Michigan Wolverines had leveled allegations that the football team was made to practice and work on football beyond the NCAA limit. This story surprised me. Why?
There's a limit? Yes, there is! Apparently, teams can only require 20 hours a week apart from game day activities. What are the players supposed to do with rest of their time? I think the idea was to go to class. Novel thought, I know.
These players complained about it in the news media. Why? To get attention? Hard when you're the “ unnamed sources within the Michigan program.”
Michigan? They're cheating, allegedly, but I'd take all but 2 SEC teams against them any day. Sorry to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, but y'all ain't up to that yet, you know?
Now, Michigan's defense is two-pronged:
Everybody does it. All programs exceed the 20-hour limit. Which, to me, is a lousy excuse. Always has been. I grew, as most kids did, with Dad asking “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” Sure, Dad, if everyone else went first. It wouldn't hurt too bad.
The excess hours are supposedly “ voluntary.” Multiple teams have brought this as a defense of Michigan's actions. What, apparently, goes on is this: senior leadership of the football team goes through the athletic dorms during times that aren't practice times, which are confined to the hour limit, and spot football players doing various activities. In the off-chance that a player is really studying, they leave them alone. But if Bob the defensive back is kicked back watching I Love Lucy reruns, other players have Bob join them in their room, where they watch game film and talk about either what happened last game or what will happen next game. Essentially, during the season, moments not occupied with academics are mostly taken up with football. (in theory, we know a few folks get into trouble. So do seminary students.)
Is this a problem? Well, perhaps for something as minor as football, it shouldn't be as all consuming. But it's a good illustration. Our life as believers in Jesus cannot be confined to something that has a major game day (Sunday) with a limit on the hours we put in elsewhere. True, there's a limit to the formal time we can gather and have structured practice (Bible studies, prayer meetings), but there can be no limitation on the informal growth and expansion of our walk with Christ. Rather than watching TV alone, could you be building fellowship with another family of believers? Or with a family of unbelievers that you might point them to Christ? How can you use your time at the football game to be an example of the Glory of God?
Everything does not have to be documented, measurable action, but it should all point to the Glory of the One who has saved us. It should be an all-consuming passion that takes up what we say, do, watch, read, and work on. Don't impose a limit.
Sports note: I note the passing of NCAA President Miles Brand. He was formerly President of Indiana University, where he finally acted on the fact that winning cannot be everything for college athletics. He has tried to bring some of that to the NCAA, and I hope it's a continuing legacy. It would be good to remember that schools have scholarship athletics to provide educational opportunity, not to field championship teams or prepare people for professional athletics. Championships can be sought, but they shouldn't be the goal. I hope that Miles Brand leaves a legacy beyond just college athletics, and that's a legacy of faith. I don't know if he does or not, since I've only read of him in mainstream media that avoids all mention of a person's Christian faith, but we'll see if anything comes out.