Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Can Barry Bonds be Honest?

Barry Bonds holds the record for the most home runs in a season, the most home runs in a career, and the most MVP awards in a career (7).  But the baseball community remains divided over the credibility of Bonds' accomplishments due to the assumption that he used performance enhancing drugs during the latter years of his career. (Good summary by SI here.)  So I was interested to read an article yesterday that there's every possibility that the Giants will find a role for Bonds within their organisation.

The slugger said he met recently with Giants president and CEO Larry Baer about working for the club in some capacity, and Bonds has a personal services contract the Giants have said could go into effect once his legal proceedings were in the past.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean told the San Francisco Chronicle that Bonds would be welcomed back.
"The invite's open-ended. It's not a matter of if but when," Sabean told the newspaper. "He's got a personal services contract."

This series of events reminds me of Mark McGwire. He was hired by St. Louis as their batting coach in 2010.  This was certainly a controversial hire given the widely held belief that he had used steroids during his playing years. Soon after he was hired he gave this lengthy confession and apology.  Here's an excerpt,

I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It's time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the nineties, including during the 1998 season.
I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.

It was a long time coming, but I respect him immensely for making this statement before taking his coaching position.   

No more rumors. 
No more innuendo.
No more suspicions.
No more maybe's.
Just honesty, openness, vulnerability and a chance at redemption.

Barry Bonds, please take note!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


It's official.  The Commish suspended Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat) one game and Dexter Pittman (Heat) three games for their hits on Pacer players.  I don't think it will help the Pacers tonight as Wade & James seem to be on fire at the moment.  However, Haslem has been a pain in the butt and scoring some important points for the Heat in the last couple of games.  (As for Pittman... who's Pittman?)

The suspensions seem fair to me.  Hansbrough's foul was at a minimum careless.  But coming after Hansbrough's foul, Haslem and Pittman were clearly acting with the intent of payback.  Pittman's wink pretty much sealed the longer suspension for him! It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but somehow I don't think their coach and teammates are too thrilled with them now!

It got me thinking how revenge comes so naturally to us and motivates us so strongly.  Whether we act in response to our own hurt, a family member, or a teammate, we take irrational steps that we wouldn't consider without provocation.  God knows we're wired this way.  In the ancient Israelite legal code, God gave someone who injured or killed a person the chance to run to a designated "city of refuge" for protection, under the assumption that a friend or family member would be looking for revenge.
NBA Commish - David Stern

Ultimately though, God directs people to trust him to take the ultimate revenge, and avoid our own hot-headed antics in the meantime.  Be bigger than the moment.  Something that doesn't come naturally.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19).

I think the Commish agrees.  Can't you picture David Stern saying "My dear friends, don't take revenge, let me take care of it for you.  Is it really worth missing the next 1-3 games when your team needs you in the playoffs? "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Commish. Also, his name just seems appropriate for this type of statement - even if he is smiling in this picture!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Loyalty in the Face of Wooden Spoons

Over the weekend I followed Carlton take another beating when they needed to win if they seriously want to be a Top 4 team.  It got me thinking about the times they've lost when they "needed" to win.  Most painful are the 2 or 3 wins they needed in 2002 to avoid their first wooden spoon in over 100 years!  A few more needed wins in '05 and '06 would have been nice too.  But I don't know any Carlton fans who stopped following the team because they started racking up the losses instead of wins. Footy fans are loyal.

This got me thinking about church. Is it possible that footy fans are more loyal to their club than Christians are to their church? I can think of several church members at various churches I've attended who've left over the smallest thing, or at the first hurt feeling. My footy team hurts my feelings all the time and I don't walk away from them.  (Although I have supported trading certain players.... hmmm, could I introduce trading church members? :-) )

As I considered the idea of loyalty, I wonder if we stick with our sports teams through lean seasons because at the end of the day their lack of success doesn't change anything all that important.  My bruised feelings aside!  At the same time, because our faith and relationship with God IS so important we want to make sure our church supports and encourages us and if it doesn't we find a church that will.

On the other hand, we could argue that exactly because our faith is more important than sports we should stick with our church through thick and thin with even more determination. Just as the supporters of  a losing team seek to encourage their team by cheering (before they give up and head to the exits early), church members dig deep and seek to encourage those around them.

Not all fans are as blessed as Blues supporters who only have 3 spoons in 116 years.  Appropriately (perhaps) the Saints are great role models for Christians with itchy feet.  They have 26 wooden spoons.  I don't know that I'd have the loyalty to manage 26 losing seasons at a local church.  So props to all those longsuffering Saints fans out there.

As I write this it occurs to me that this perspective applies just as equally to our marriages.  Our families also require commitment and loyalty.

Jesus himself described the importance of counting the cost before following him.  If you're not prepared for the periods of pain, then maybe this journey isn't important enough for you to undertake.  He gave examples of builders making sure they have the funds to finish construction, and kings making sure their army is competitive with their enemies before attacking.  He might just as well have said "your journey won't be constantly filled with premiership flags, make sure you're prepared for the inevitable wooden spoons and stick with me."  Check out his words first hand here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Golf - World Record

I just want to draw attention to this article about Australian golfer, Rhein Gibson. (and read more here) He just shot a 55, the lowest ever score for a round of competitive golf!!  As I understand the article, he was playing with friends, not in an official tournament, but still official enough to qualify as a world record.  Gibson currently plays on a minor tour trying to make it to the PGA Tour. It's still an incredible accomplishment.  After 9 holes he was 10 under par!

Interestingly, the article also mentions that he attended Oklahoma Christian University.  I find that exciting as it's one of the colleges associated with my "tribe".  Not that this says anything about his faith as colleges recruit athletes from all sorts of backgrounds. I'm guessing he'll make it to their homepage soon.  As of right now, the guy barely has a bio on the official site of the tour he plays on!  I think that's about to change. :-)


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

LeBron James Sucks?

In the wake of Miami's loss to the Pacers last night (Yeah!!!) I'm amazed at how quickly the criticism for LeBron James has surfaced.  See for example this article on  Is it really just 4 days since everyone was  praising James for winning his third MVP award?

I think we all have a tendency to react to the latest headline or event in our lives. In my experience too, it seems that the baggage from criticism hangs around a lot longer than the glow of praise.  It's not enough to be the best player in the world. To win a third MVP in four years. To lead your team to the playoffs. The only people free from criticism are the champions. Even then there the quick questions, "Can they do it again next year?" "Are they getting older?" "Will they establish a dynasty, or did they just hit a hot streak?"

"What have you done for me lately in the last 5 minutes?" can easily become a mantra for our society that looks for quick results and quick fixes.

Unfortunately, I often encounter similar attitudes in the church. Christians are quick to criticise their own churches over something that (in their opinion) is missing, but stingy in their praise of the good the church does. We all want to see churches better represent God, but criticising our church isn't the best way of helping.  I really want to use this blog to present positive messages of all God's doing in the world. I think it's an attractive message and one we don't hear enough.

So LeBron James, you're not my favorite player.  I hope you lose to my favourite team.  But, I'll confess, "You're a GREAT player."

Likewise, to my church: As a minister it's my calling to urge you closer to God.  Sometimes, this makes me overly critical. But, I want to acknowledge, "You're support of me is extremely gracious, and I am constantly encouraged as I see you love others who come seeking God's presence in their lives."

Here are a couple of verses encouraging positive attitudes and feedback:

How did Paul interact with the churches he lead? For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

Here's what I'm looking for: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

(Yes, I realise the irony of criticising people for being critical.)  :-)

This guy has a similar idea... minus the LeBron references!

New Blog - God Meets Ball

Welcome to my new blog!  I'm excited about it as it brings together my greatest love and my favourite hobby: God & sports.

I was inspired by this article written by Josh Graves (who blogs here).  Sports fields around the country and world provide a crucible of intense human experiences.  Athletes frequently face moral choices: steroids in baseball, match fixing in international cricket, the NFL's bounty scandal.  Off the field, professional athletes also  meet extreme challenges that most of us don't consider.  How will they use their new found wealth and influence?  How will they handle the increased availability of sex, drugs, alcohol?

The recent publicity given to prominent Christian athletes, Tim Tebow & Jeremy Lin has added another layer of interest to professional sports.  I have never really viewed sports stars as life role models.  I've always managed to respect athletes for their performances on the field and ignore the rest of their life.  However, social media and increasing media exposure in general have removed the concept of professional athletes having private lives.  Their views, comments, and behaviours are exposed for everyone's review, this includes the faith statements of sports stars.

Some athletes meet these challenges head on and come out triumphant.  Others may be heroes on the field, but have lives in shambles away from the spotlight.  How do people react?  What differentiates athletes?  The intensity of the athletic experience makes sports a valuable lens through which to comment on the broader human experience.  That's the goal of this blog.  Sometimes we'll just talk sports, and other times I'll reflect on a  Christian response to particular situations.  And sometimes, I might just talk a little God all by himself, after all, the Bible uses some sports analogies itself!