Inspiring Athletes

Fort Worth, TX — For the next three days, I’ll be at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial here in Fort Worth right next to TCU campus. But before I get those reports in, it’s time to introduce a feature called “Hot Topic Tuesday.” Each week, I’ll ask a question and prompt you the readers to respond. I’ll chime with my opinion the following week. The week after that we’ll introduce a new topic and, again, I’ll give my take. Make sense?

So let’s start here: Does character matter?

Here’s the premise: When you root for a sports team or an individual athlete (say in golf or tennis), does it matter to you what kind of person they are off the playing field? Do you care how they treat their opponents? Does their attitude–win or lose–make a difference in your level of support?

I’m convinced that many people of faith (especially the hardcore sports fans among us) don’t care. Why? Let me give you an example. I play on my church softball team and often the conversation in the dugout will turn to whatever major sport is going on at the time. Usually its baseball. Our team sports Phillies fans, Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, Rangers fans and even a lone Astros fan (that would be me).

Because of my work with Christian athletes, I sometimes interject commentary about players from the teams in mention. And you know what? It doesn’t usually matter one bit to the guys if the hated rivalry has some amazing athletes of great character. They either write that off or try to discredit my point altogether.

Just to clarify, in bringing up good character guys from various teams, I’m not trying to get them to change their allegiance from one team to another. It’s more about helping them see things from a different perspective.

I also don’t mean to unfairly point out my teammates because, quite frankly, most of us are like this. For the sake of full disclosure, I’m a lifelong Lakers fan and I’ve recently dealt with a wide array of poor behavior from various members of that team (most recently the ejections of Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum). Kind of hard to defend moving picks with a side of forearm (see the final minutes of the 2011 NBA Playoff Series between LA and Dallas if you haven’t already).

I’ll share more of my thoughts next week, but for now, I want to hear from you. Please share your comments. Does character (as it pertains to athletes and sports) matter? Do you root mostly for athletes of character? Does it make a difference to you if you know an athlete has a strong sense of faith and belief in God?

Discuss. — cb

Tomorrow we’ll hear PGA legend Tom Lehman chime in on the topic of integrity as it pertains to the game of golf and life.

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