It seems that we all were a bit ahead of the curve when it came to faith and football. A week ago, a number of you readers engaged in a vigorous conversation on whether religion should be considered when a coach/general manager makes football personnel decisions. One of those engaging in the debate sent me this excellent New York Times article published Oct. 30. The article deals with many of the issues explored last week, many of them wonderfully drawn out with solid detail.
Here's the heart of the story:
Every preseason for 30 years, Coach Bobby Bowden has taken his Florida State football players to a church in a white community and a church in a black community in the Tallahassee area in an effort, he said, to build camaraderie. He writes to their parents in advance, explaining that the trips are voluntary, and that if they object, their sons can stay home without fear of retaliation. He remembers only one or two players ever skipping the outing.
Since becoming the football coach at Georgia in 2001, Mark Richt, too, has taken his team to churches in the preseason. A devotional service is conducted the night before each game, and a prayer service on game day. Both are voluntary, and Mr. Richt said he does not attend them.
On game days, Penn State players may choose between Catholic and Protestant services or not go at all. Coach Joe Paterno and the team say the Lord's Prayer in the locker room after games.
As in politics and culture in the United States, college football is increasingly becoming a more visible home for the Gospel. In the past year more than 2,000 college football coaches participated in events sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which said that more than 1.4 million athletes and coaches from youth to professional levels had attended in 2005, up from 500,000 in 1990.
Is it right for faith to play a role in football? What about athletes who are of different faiths from the majority of their team? When is the ACLU going to get involved? How has the Supreme Court affected faith in football? These are all great questions that go to the heart of some of the church and state debates. Also a great example of why sports are a superb microcosm of life.
On a similiar note, The Indianapolis Star ran a great profile of Danny Granger. He is the Indiana Pacers' first-round draft pick who will hopefully lead them to the NBA finals this year and he also happens to be a devout Jehovah's Witness. Read on for an interesting profile of a green NBA player with a great deal of potential to become a bright star in the professional sporting world.