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Football used to be a game replete with serious, intense, dedicated, authentic gladiators who participated in a rhythmic danger that climaxed with a win or loss. That was when I was a child, a time when the masses were interested in the game.
Football began a long, slow ascension to the top of the sport’s world in the 60s when Major League Baseball was America’s pastime. Somewhere in the 80s and 90s, football and baseball passed each other, going in opposite directions. MLB landed in the cellar of sports boredom, which is why last Sunday’s NFL v. MLB line-up was so stunning.
America’s team (Dallas Cowboys) was playing the up-and-coming Philadelphia Eagles. Their dual was competing with game five of the World Series featuring those lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.
And the winner was Major League Baseball. It crushed the NFL in the ratings race. It has been a long time since the World Series (or any other baseball game) beat an NFL game.
All the speculators are speculating on the ratings slide of football. Some say Donald and Hillary are more interesting (or more frustrating). Others say the violence is no longer acceptable. Many have put forth the over-saturation angle. I mean, who can watch six games a week, plus college football?
There’s a game in London, two Sunday afternoon games, one Sunday night game, another one Monday night. Then there’s the dreaded Thursday night game.
At three hours a pop, we’re talking eighteen hours a week! Imagine “going to church” eighteen hours a week–or even half that, or talking to your spouse and children that much!
Elections, violence, and saturation have hurt football, no doubt, but there are two other things worth considering. The media depicts today’s players as more narcissistic and individualistic than the players of yesteryear.
True greatness in the Kingdom of God consists not in position or authority but in serving one another. – Jerry Bridges
It’s no coincidence that the rise of social media and the decline of the NFL are simultaneous happenings. Social media is our most significant and subtle public temptation. Virtually anyone can prance before the public. The selfie craze attests to this. Facebook has given the world unlimited opportunities to talk about themselves.
Social media is the kryptonite for the athlete too. All he needs is a gimmick to get himself on ESPN’s highlight reel. The NFL is no longer a “community” sport where a team unifies to win their weekly battle.
The NFL is a group of individuals competing against each other for a piece of the 24 to 48-hour news cycle pie. It’s too many small men with big egos. They have become intoxicated with the potential of fame. They no longer care about the team or the fans. The playing field is their stage.
It’s not a “professional” football league any longer. Each team has a handful of performers, inebriated by the quest for greatness. A few selfish men dilute the whole. The lure of the lights is a stronger temptation than a desire to work hard for the benefit of the team, the organization, or the fans. This last group–the fans–pay for their cathartic narcissism.
Social media has led football to the saturation point as well as lured the player into a new kind of competition: How can I get myself in cyberspace today? People aren’t interested in narcissistic people, even if they are exceptional athletes.
True greatness begins with humility. The NFL is being ruined by a few people who do not know how to steward what God gave to them.
The Lord has given you many gifts, too, like life, time, and talents. He has also given you Jesus. These mercies from God’s common grace (Matthew 5:45) is your opportunity to self-reflect.
So, how are you stewarding these mercies? Paul said that whatever you do, you should do it for God’s fame rather than your own (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).