Basketball season is under way, LeBron is jammin’, Stephen is current, and the NFL is prepped for the playoffs. But they all took a back seat to the college football bowl season. From all over the country, there were teams of young men lining up to face each other one more time. For some, it was one last game before hanging up the cleats. For a select few others, it was for the chance to be called champion. All the sacrifice is worth it, to be the undisputed best in the country. But for how long?
Boys grow up thinking and dreaming about getting a scholarship to play sports with the big boys. They get matching gear that makes others envy, free education that others will pay for, TV time that others watch, and a litany of benefits that others can’t imagine. With that, they also have dreams of making it to “The League”, also known as the NFL. This represents Canaan, The Promised Land. If they can make it there, then life will be everything it’s supposed to be. They will have money to take care of their family, buy the things they want and need, and have the name and respect they’ve always craved.
Not many look at the landscape over the ridge of the Veneer Valley. Instead, like Lot, they see the greener pastures without wondering about the city that they will have to inhabit once in it. They can’t see through the glare of the television, or hear past the applause, or X-ray their expectations. As David asks God in Psalm 139 to search his heart, our young men are unable, or unwilling to do so.
We have to understand “The League”, and any professional sport for that matter, has become like a god. Whatever sport will make it rain manna from heaven, and give their heart’s desire; everything an idol promises, but never delivers. Bodies will be broken and bloodied through practice and games, with mental fatigue, while sleep is sacrificed to sport, studies, and social life. No price is too much to pay for the deception of a guaranteed pay day. The man who found the hidden treasure had no cares in sacrificing and selling all he owned, because he knew what he had coming (Matt. 13:44). College athletes have that same assurance, but in something completely false. They willfully ignore the stats:
• 1.6% of college football players go pro
• 1.2% of college basketball players go pro
• 3.5 years is the average NFL career
• 4.8 years is the average NBA career
• 60-80% of professional athletes’ marriages end in divorce
• 78% of football players are bankrupt or commit suicide within two years
• 60% of NBA players are bankrupt within five years
• 99.9% of athletes aren’t LeBron James
• 100% of athletes can’t play forever
Despite these statistics, which most athletes have been repeatedly exposed to, the dream of going pro seems all our young competitors think about. Effort towards alternate employment opportunities or personal enrichment doesn’t even compare with the sacrifice towards their sports.
Why do they chase this win so hard, a dream that will never end? One college football team will be crowned the national champion this year, and they will enjoy it for a short period of time. After that, it’s back on the merry-go-round, because all good athletes know what you did last year doesn’t matter.
Da Truth explained it well in his song Satisfied when he said, “You climbed the ladder but at the top it was nothing but smoke/And God your creator holding a bag of blood/He said if you don’t repent and turn to the man above/Jesus, my Son then none of your stuff matters much/Naahh, it’s chasin after the wind, you got it, you get it, you done it and then you chase it again.” The same is true of young men that chase sports, but not much else.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 highlights parental roles in discipling children in the home. It also explains why our young men put so much stock in sport, instead of the Savior. In this text, we are commanded to teach and discuss the Word when sitting, walking, lying down, waking up, to bind it on our hands and between our eyes, on our doorposts and gates, but how often do we talk about sports, instead with our boys?
Do we teach them how to play and run? Do they constantly watch SportsCenter, which continues to glorify athletic achievement? Who do they look up to and want to be like? What do you praise them for? Is school just another thing they do, so they can play? From a young age, sports are constantly talked about and praised. Playing college sports gains automatic esteem and respect among family and friends. However, what would that same devotion look like when applied to walking with God? Do we realize it is the Lord that provides us with all our needs and not the god of “the Pros?” I don’t think our young men realize this, and how would we expect them to when we’ve elevated lifestyles only achieved through being millionaires.
We need to make sure our young men have legitimate degree plans, and looking into an internship or two. The Christian mindset allows young men to live and think beyond the ball. Let’s help our young men by showing them the life they should be striving for is one pleasing to God, and not fans.
This isn’t to say they shouldn’t aim for the pros. In fact, not to utilize their gifts to their fullest is sin as well (Matt. 25:14-30, 1 Pt. 4:10-11), but we’ve got to train them up in the fear of the Lord (1 Tim. 4:7b-8). There’s two type of athletes: either they’re struggling with emptiness, or striving for the One that has created and saved them (Ecc. 2:24-26). Chase the eternal win, not the win-d.
*Statistics taken from: