Why Sports Fans Should Learn to Love the Meadowlands

Wall Street Journal: “The Super Bowl is about one victor; the Meadowlands are about what comes after defeats and the unexpected riches that result, especially if you consider all of the things that were proposed and never built: a giant dairy farm to produce milk for New York City in the early 1800s, futuristic cities in the early 1900s and the world’s largest mall, in 2011 and still pending.”


Philippians 4:13: A Statement of Empowerment or Dependence?

I don’t have a lot of memories of my parents embarrassing me when I was a kid, but one in particular stands out. I was probably about 10-years-old (give or take a year or so) and playing baseball for the local little league. My team was in a big game, and it had gone into extra innings. I was standing in right-field, waiting for the next pitch, when all of a sudden I heard my mom’s voice screaming, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!”

I can laugh about it now, but at the time, I was mortified. Being an introvert, I don’t particularly like the spotlight under normal circumstances. But when all eyes are on you because of a crazy lady shouting Bible verses, it’s a special kind of misery. Suffice it to say that I never again gave her trouble about not paying attention at one of my sporting events. In fact, from then on, I was happy to look over in her direction and see her reading a book instead of watching the game.

But while I was embarrassed that my mom was attaching that verse to my performance on the baseball field for me, applying Philippians 4:13 to a sporting event or other accomplishment or aspiration is hardly a novel concept. Somehow Paul’s declaration that he could do all things through Him who gave him strength has been transformed into a personal missions statement promoting self-empowerment and a “can do” attitude that belies Paul’s original meaning. Continue reading Philippians 4:13: A Statement of Empowerment or Dependence?

My Family’s Baseball Legacy

Some of my favorite memories from my early childhood are of going to watch my dad play for the I.B.E.W. Local Union 164 softball team. In addition to going to games throughout the NY/NJ area, I travelled with him to tournaments in Chicago and Indianapolis. He was a pretty good pitcher and played the game hard. I remember him coming home with bloody, broken fingernails, bruises, and even the imprint of the softball’s stitches in his skin.

Brooklyn Dodgers LogoApparently, his skill and love for the game was hereditary. His father was good enough that  he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 1940s, when they still played in Brooklyn. Players made so little back then, however, that his dad encouraged him to get a “real” job instead so he became a union electrician instead, and thus missed an opportunity to possibly play with the likes of Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider.

But the baseball genes go even further back. A few months ago while looking up my family on Ancestry.com, I found the following listings (among others) for my great-great-grandfather in the city directories for Pottsville, PA and Jersey City, NJ in the 1880s & 1890s: Continue reading My Family’s Baseball Legacy

Is Student-Athlete Becoming an Oxymoron?

Is it just me or have sports gone a little mad recently?

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz almost come to blows after a game in October. Ndamukong Suh was suspended for slamming an opponents head into the ground and then stomping on him during a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving and showed no remorse afterwards. He then wrapped his car around a tree and had his passengers lie about their injuries. Throughout the current season there have been numerous brawls during and after high school and college football games. It’s crazy.

What I have found really interesting, however, is how the people involved have responded to these incidences.

On Saturday, the annual rivalry basketball game between the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University was marred by a brawl between the 2 teams with 9.4 seconds remaining. Here’s a clip if you haven’t seen it:

Perhaps even more frightening than the brawl itself was the reaction afterwards by the Xavier players. In the post-game press conference, they actually bragged about the fact that they were “gangsters.” Rather than being embarrassed over how they behaved, they were proud that they had enhanced their street cred. Continue reading Is Student-Athlete Becoming an Oxymoron?

Learning from Joe Paterno, Part 2

This Penn State story isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, though it seems inconceivable, it looks like it will get worse before it gets better. On Tuesday, I wrote a post geared toward parents that focused on the lessons we should learn from this story, and specifically Joe Paterno’s involvement in it, in order to prevent something like that from happening in our families and churches. Today I want to address some of the lessons that young people can take away this situation.

In youth group, we are in the middle of a series on 1 Timothy 4:12. This past Sunday we looked at setting an example in conduct (i.e., with our actions and behavior). As I watched the fate of Joe Paterno and other administrators at Penn State unfold on CNN and ESPN last night, I couldn’t help but connect the situation to what we talked about on Sunday night. Some of these lessons will reinforce what we talked about. Some will be new ones that we didn’t discuss. But all of them are important for us to keep in mind. To set an example in conduct, you need to: Continue reading Learning from Joe Paterno, Part 2

Learning from Joe Paterno

I’m not going to rehash the Penn State sexual abuse saga here.

For one thing, I have no desire to do so. Over the past 48 hours, I have read some great articles criticizing all those who refused to look into the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and standing up for those children who were victimized by him. I don’t have anything to add to what has already been written on the subject.

For another, I’m not even sure I could. I can’t remember the last time a story made me this sick to my stomach. I’ve had to lessen my exposure to the news coverage as the story has dragged on because I couldn’t stand to read or hear anymore about what Sandusky is accused of doing. It’s just disgusting.

As awful as the story is, however, I think there are some important things that we as parents and youth workers need to pay attention to, especially as the story pertains to Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno is one of the most legendary and revered figures in college football history, holding his position at Penn State for an astounding 45 years. Even when the team wasn’t having much success on the field and some were calling for him to be fired, no one ever seemed to question the fact that he was a good, moral man who at the very least instilled discipline and values into the young men he coached.

However, all of that went out the window this weekend when the story broke that a graduate assistant had alerted Paterno to Sandusky’s behavior a decade ago. Rather than confront his former employee (and reported good friend) or call the police, Paterno chose to pass the information on to another university official and wash his hands of it, content that, “I did what I was supposed to.”

Paterno has understandably (and rightfully) come under fire for fulfilling the minimal legal requirement without questioning what his greater moral responsibility was, especially since innocent children paid for his failure to do so. Whether this costs him his job or not is yet to be seen (Update, 11/9/11: Paterno has been fired.), but it begs an interesting question for us:

What can we do as parents and youth workers to ensure the safety of children entrusted to our care? How can we protect against passing the buck of responsibility at the cost of a child’s innocence?

Here are a five things I think we can need to do to try and avoid the mistakes Paterno and other Penn State officials made: Continue reading Learning from Joe Paterno

Things I’ll Miss about New Jersey, Part 1: Giants Games

In The Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazzero makes the point that we often do not properly grieve the losses in our lives, and this hinders our ability to effectively minister to others. I’m excited about moving to Baton Rouge, and I’m confident that it’s what I need to do. However, I also understand that in doing so, I’m leaving behind almost 30 years of history, and that I need to recognize the drastic change this will cause in my life so it doesn’t become emotional baggage later on. So I’ll occasionally be writing about the things about life in New Jersey that I’m sad about losing, with the first installment being Giants games.

with my mom and my siblings at the first regular season game at Met-Life Stadium

My family has had season tickets to the New York Giants for decades. My dad took me to my first game when I was four, and over the past quarter century, the only year I didn’t attend a game is the year I spent as a missionary intern in Russia. Giants Stadium was a home away from home for my siblings and me in our childhood. Fall afternoons were spent tailgating in the parking lot with our extended family and strangers who became something like family just from always tailgating in the same area (like the guy who gave us Devil Dogs before each and every game). Giants games were always the one thing that brought our family together–the one thing we all had in common. Continue reading Things I’ll Miss about New Jersey, Part 1: Giants Games