Monday, March 21, 2011

Athletes, Owners and Saints Come Together in Sports and Faith



As appealing as sports are to a large part of our society, we know the stereotypes of the dumb jock live on. It gets worse as players move up in success. Professional athletes are often portrayed as selfish and pleasure seeking--and much worse. For every incident of bad behavior reported about an athlete no matter how true or false, thousands of reputations are tarnished.

Regardless of the bad news, we know that athletes are achievers. They train harder than the rest of us. They focus on goals and they punish themselves on a daily basis to reach those goals. Many have simple country upbringings and go on to face an incredibly complex and vexing urban social scene. In addition to many ruinous temptations, the athlete also faces career ending injuries that come as fast as a 90 mph fastball or a charging middle linebacker.

Several NFL franchises offer young players help in their spiritual growth to combat all the challenges and temptations. Players are not forced into it, but the franchises work with the players themselves to offer things like Christian Bible studies, chapel services and Mass. Often players believe that they have special God-given gifts that offer them great advantages in life, but ones they must hone and develop to honor the giver.

Owners encourage their athletes to help others as well. Many owners and players work tirelessly with charities and wonderful organizations that set out to improve the lot of those less fortunate. Often they go way beyond what we see at the latest celebrity golf tournament or celebrity dinner. Some do it very quietly.

Then there are the charities themselves and the saintly superstars who have made a difference in thousands of lives. When the owners, players and the charity superstars come together-- tremendous good can be done. Often these three forces come together in shared faith. The owners and players mostly help the charities attract contributions and the superstars help others with those resources. Athletes and owners also contribute their own funds.

Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey's story of the wonderful people he has known over his 36 years as part of the Bears family--people who show what it means to live "faith." Many of these people demonstrate that sports are not an impediment to a faithful life at all. They can go hand in hand.

The author has lived sports and faith, and shares that living with the rest of us in his book.

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