(Centennial Fellow) Once while working as an assistant city editor on a metropolitan newspaper, I made the discovery that while talent is a great blessing, it's often character that counts most at the end of the day.
An important story would bounce into sight and I would assign it to a brilliant reporter while overlooking an arrogance handicap, sometimes regretting the decision. The next time I might hand the banner opportunity to a more humble, diligent, eager, helpful reporter perhaps lacking razzle-dazzle ability and rejoice in the outcome.
That paper was in Denver. I went there at a time when the Denver Broncos were headed for their first Super Bowl, and the city was flipped out over the team's Orange Crush defense even to the point of painting houses orange. I myself had many orange moments that season, though I left paint alone.
I now live outside Denver, up the mountains a bit, and am naturally enough caught up in the saga of Tim Tebow, a man of character. He's also a man of controversy, of faith and of miracle wins on the football field. It has been something to watch.
This rookie quarterback has led the Broncos to a series of last-minute, improbable, comeback victories, reversed a losing season and put his team at the head of its division. Inspiring other players to top-notch performances, he is a never-give-up, upbeat leader. Still, he has sometimes been awful in passing the ball and has infuriated not a few with his open praise of Jesus Christ and a kneeling prayer position imitated worldwide.
He's not really very good, some people say. Yes, he runs the ball well, but that is not what quarterbacks are for, they tell us. They seem to think it little excuse for his sorry passing stats that fumble-thumb receivers should have caught some on-the-mark throws. They wonder where he hides out for the first three quarters of so many games and they tell you luck has been amazingly in his corner. Then they come to religion.
Some consider it very nearly an NFL disqualification that he openly prays at games. Sports really ought to get rid of all the God talk, it is said by many reflecting what seems to me the most anti-religious period in my life. Some wear it as a badge of superiority that they hate the church of their childhood. I repeatedly have encountered those whose boasted tolerance does not extend to Christians they think of as hypocritical, judgmental, mean-spirited, anti-science throwbacks to an age of superstitious malevolence.
The critics are not that smart. Most of these I've run into suppose all Christians subscribe to some straw-man version of a faith a world's distance from the one I know that never ceases preaching love. They can recite faults of 500 and more years ago without grasping any of the immeasurable good.
But then listen to me sounding snappish. That is not what the faith is about. So now listen to the always-self-effacing Tebow on being sacked by someone who then knelt gleefully in the Tebow prayer posture.
"He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack," Tebow told an interviewer. "And good for him."
I ran across the quote in a Wall Street Journal piece that also reminded us of how Tebow has dedicated himself to charitable activities that have included visiting with a young leukemia victim and saying his name on TV to boost his spirits.
I briefly met Tebow and will share my intuitive conviction that he is genuine.
Concerning his public piety, please note that while Tebow thinks believing produces positive results, he also says God does not fix ballgames. His prayers are part of a joy much like that of the early Christians. It just can't help bubbling up.
He's a matter of national debate now. That's fine. The cynics are probably just having fun. As for his sports future, I make no predictions except to say I believe character will out.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow.
After moving to the Denver area four months ago, I have become intrigued with the commitment this area has for their NFL team.
After spending the last four weeks of the NFL regular season watching the Broncos throw away their shot at the playoffs, one thought kept entering my head: I'm glad I'm not a die-hard Broncs fan.
The agony of watching your team suffer like that is almost unbearable and is something true sports fans remember forever.
It was a different sort of agony Thursday night watching the Longhorns take on the Crimson Tide in the BCS Championship.
At first it was all excitement as I took in the pre-game and the electricity around the stadium. It seemed that this was going to be a special game.
Alabama gambled with a fake punt on their opening drive of the game which resulted in an interception and the momentum was immediately on Texas' side.
Just four snaps later, Texas QB Colt McCoy was coming off the field with an injury to his throwing shoulder and the entire feeling of the game changed.
Texas could not get in the end zone and settled for a field goal and the Longhorns offense suddenly looked like a prizefighter caught right on the chin with an uppercut from nowhere.
The offensive coordinators didn't know what to do. Over a month of gameplanning, analyzing and preparing McCoy for the No. 2 defense in the nation suddenly went out the window. The confusion was evident as the offense could not muster a first down until the third quarter.
The Texas defense and special teams did everything they could to help carry the suddenly stagnate offense, but the loss of McCoy and the inexperience of his replacement, freshman Garrett Gilbert, was too much too overcome.
There's a lot to be said for the way Texas hung in there and continued to make a game of it, and Alabama came surprisingly close to blowing what should have been an easy win.
Fortunately for the Tide, they had a spectacular defense and Heisman winner Mark Ingram, who turned in a solid performance.
I'm not a die-hard Longhorns fan, but there was a certain amount of pain watching what should have been college football at its highest level instantly be replaced by something subpar on the biggest stage possible.
But that's sports, for better or worse, and what's sick is we always come back for more.
('76 Contributor) Since moving to Denver from Houston in October, I've found it been impossible not to pick up on the love affair this city has with the Broncos. It's a topic that everyone has an opinion on, and everywhere you go on gameday you feel the team's presence. Unfortunately, on this "day after," the city is asking itself one thing: What happened to the Broncos?.
They entered the year with low expectations from those outside of Denver (including, at the time, me) due to the chaos within the team's lockerroom and the fact they had a rookie head coach in Josh McDaniels who seemed to be losing control of his team before the season even began.
Six weeks into the season, the Broncos seemed well on their way to proving all the naysayers wrong with a 6-0 start and impressive victories over Dallas, San Diego and New England.
The win against the Patriots provided fans with the lasting image of McDaniels pumping his fist and screaming in celebration. After Sunday's last-second loss to the lowly Raiders on their home field, the Broncos had receded back to mediocrity and McDaniels is searching for a reason why his team is in a 2-6 funk.
How could the Broncos defense, which had made a stellar goal line stand early in the fourth quarter, not shutdown Raiders backup quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the most beleagured quarterback in the NFL?
Russell drove down the field on the game-winning drive, at one point converting a first down on fourth-and-10, and picked apart the Broncos secondary. The Raiders receivers kept finding holes in the defense and Russell made the plays when it counted most.
The Broncos offense struggled the majority of the game and Kyle Orton showed Denver fans what many Chicago Bears fans already now, that he can't get it down in crunch time.
After running for an average of 5.1 yards per carry in the first quarter, the Broncos' running game was shutdown by the maligned Raiders defense and gained just 29 yards the rest of the game. Hardly the key for success when you have Orton under center.
McDaniels now has his biggest task of his career in front of him, try to turn things and push his team through the increasingly shrinking window to the postseason.
"76 Contributor) As one of the many transplants who have moved from Texas to Colorado, I’ve picked up on several interesting differences between the sports scenes in Houston and Denver.
Denver is one of the most unique sports cities in the country with an eclectic mix of competition for fans to take in.
Obviously there are the big four with the Broncos, Rockies, Nuggets and the Avalanche, but there is so much more. From Major League and Arena soccer to Arena and Australian Rules Football. There are even two professional lacrosse teams in town, not to mention the array of high school and college sports.
In Texas it is no secret that football is king, from high school all the way to the NFL. But while support for the Texans has continued to grow through the years, Houston is light years behind Denver when it comes to supporting an NFL franchise.
High School football is another matter. While it has increased in popularity in Denver, the entire state of Texas is infatuated with that level of football, and the majority of the State champions at the top levels over the last decade have come from the Houston area.
Prep baseball in Houston is far superior to that in Denver, with a laundry list of top MLB players originating from Houston. Meanwhile the biggest MLB player from the Denver area at the moment would probably be Brad Lidge.
Of course that’s not a surprise considering the climate here and how difficult it is to play baseball in cold weather. Anyone who has ever caught a 90 MPH fastball in sub-50 degree temperatures or hit a ball off the end of the bat would agree.
I guess the most obvious difference between the two cities when it comes to sports is the variety. While Houston has the Rockets and the Houston Dynamo, which has won the MLS championship, it is dominated by football and baseball from the professional ranks down to high school.
Denver provides more options which sports fans clearly enjoy, and while the Broncos obviously reign supreme, fans relish the opportunity to take in the plethora of athletic competition the city provides.
Austin Corder has covered sports for the Amarillo Globe and San Antonio Express as well as his hometown Houston Chronicle. He now lives in Genessee, equidistant between Invesco Field and the ski areas.
My dad’s father was a tough Scottish builder. The story I’ve heard is that when he began to follow Christ, there was a radical change in his life. He gave up drinking, he gave up gambling and he gave up soccer. In his mind, they were all associated together with his previous life. He needed a clean break from all of it. Consequently, when my dad was growing up and wanted to go out for high school football, he was not allowed to. His dad still held all those associations together.
However, when I grew up, it was very different. My dad encouraged me to sign up for sports. So I played baseball and swam competitively. I wasn’t the greatest athlete. But when I played, my dad was often there. When I hit the ball, he cheered. When I struck out, he sighed and gave me a pat on the back, encouraging me to do better next time. All through my growing up years he made sure I knew how to swim. We played catch in the back yard, tossed the football, played volleyball, croquet, horse shoes. He took me and my brothers to professional baseball, football, hockey and basketball games. He was not a sports fanatic, but he understood the grace of sports.
Last week in Colorado we had a great ride. The Broncos are on a roll—so far. The Rockies, even though they have now been eliminated, won the Wild Card spot in the post season playoffs. We have college football in full swing. The World Series is just around the corner. So we are all talking about sports.
Of course, it is easy to go overboard on sports, especially in a sports town like Denver. More than one sermon has been preached about how our culture is so obsessed with games that some practically burn incense to the sports god. Sports can become an idol when it becomes the ultimate thing in our lives taking God’s rightful place, and not, as it was created to be, a second thing.
On the other hand, I don’t believe we say enough about what I call “the grace of sport.” I am not talking about graceful athletes like Michael Jordan (basketball), Joe DiMaggio (baseball), Walter Payton (football), etc.. I am talking about the gift of play. I think we forget God’s tender mercy in giving us games like baseball (I say this as a baseball nut).
God created us so we can play. Sport or play is a grace. It is not a saving grace (which redeems us and is found in Christ alone). It is a minor grace—a common grace. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, James 1.17 tells us, from our heavenly Father. Do we believe that? An old hymn put it this way: “This is my Father’s world, he shines in all that’s fair.”
What common grace comes to us through sports? For one, games like baseball and football relieve the weight of life. They help take our minds off of things like terrorism, turbulent markets, and politics we don’t like.
Sport also satisfies our competitive urges. As my friend Jim Ryan, who played with the championship Broncos says, “sports create contrived dramas or battles. It sets up artificial crises which in turn help us deal with the real crises and the real battles of life.” How true.
Along with all that, sports teaches us lessons that are crucial for life. In the NT, Paul seems to commend the discipline, achievement and rewards of the Greek games as a way of understanding the ultimate crown which Christ gives.
In 1 Corinthians 9.25, he commends the discipline and self control learned in sports when he compares the Christian life to a race. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Sports teach the lesson of delayed gratification for the greater reward.
In 2 Timothy 2.5, Paul highlights the importance of learning to play by the rules. “If anyone competes as an athlete,” he writes, “he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” Learning to care about the referee’s verdict and playing by the rules is extremely important in every aspect of life.
In 1 Corinthians 9.24, Paul compares the Christian life to a race aiming at our reward. He writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Not only are we to live for the ultimate reward, we are to live it like a runner doing all that we can to get towards finishing well. In Philippians 3:13,14, he writes, “one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
And in Hebrews 12.1-3, the writer of that letter imagines us all in a race surrounded by the a stadium full of people, only this crowd is all those saints who have gone before us. He wants us to learn endurance. With their example in mind he says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
As it turns out, the New Testament is full of passages which demonstrate good things which come through sports. As good things, they are a manifestation of God’s common grace. There are good things for the coach who is trying to teach life lessons to kids. There are good things for followers of Jesus who want to know how to finish well. And there are good things for the person who wants to play for the glory of God.
I don’t know if my grandfather, whom I deeply admire, ever understood that. But I am so grateful my father did.