Friday, September 24, 2010

Kneeling in the End Zone Game of the Week

  • Game: Texas Christian (3-0) vs. Southern Methodist (2-1); tonight, 7:00 PM CST; ESPN

  • Synopsis: Former Southwest Conference rivals meet in the annual battle for the Iron Skillet. SMU, whose school of theology has been home to renowned Wesleyan scholars Albert Outler and Billy Abraham, looks to spoil the national championship hopes of TCU, the most prominent school affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

  • SMU's Story: People under 30 don't remember that SMU was once a football powerhouse, winning unofficial national titles in 1981 and 1982. But after a pay-to-play scandal in the 1980s, the NCAA gave the Mustangs football program the "death penalty," canceling the entire 1987 season and severely restricting the program's recruiting, scheduling, and TV appearances. NCAA penalties so hampered SMU football that the Mustangs would not appear in a bowl game for more than two decades. The drought ended last year when the Ponies took a 7-5 record to the Hawaii Bowl, where they issued a death sentence of their own, executing Nevada 45-10. (To be clear, The United Methodist Church, in its Social Principles, opposes capital punishment.) This season, SMU looks to take the next step toward redemption under coach June Jones.

    God doesn't give up on us, even when we do horrible things. Moses, a fugitive guilty of killing an Egyptian, returned to liberate his people from slavery. David, whom God punished severely for having an affair with Bathsheba and having her husband killed, served faithfully as God's anointed king of Israel. Christ tapped Paul, who had persecuted early Christians and overseen the stoning of Stephen, to lead the church's mission to Gentiles throughout the Roman world. SMU's story of redemption reminds us that nothing we do, no matter how reprehensible, can separate us from God's grace.

  • TCU's Story: The TCU football program also has a storied history. The Horned Frogs won a consensus national championship in 1938 and several times represented the Southwest Conference in the Cotton Bowl. TCU struggled in the 1970s and 1980s then, in 1996, lost its seat among college football royalty when the Southwest Conference disbanded (in large part due to the indiscretions of the Frogs' opponent this evening). Arkansas had already; Texas, A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor joined the Big 8 schools in the new Big XII Conference. The four Dallas/Fort Worth- and Houston-area schools were left to fend for themselves. TCU landed in the WAC then moved to Conference USA in 2001 before finally joining the Mountain West Conference in 2005. While the MWC is not one of the six power conferences and does not own a BCS automatic bid (and may never own one now that Utah and BYU are leaving), it has earned a reputation as a conference that can produce elite teams. This year, TCU, a BCS outsider, is in its best position in more than 70 years to contend for a national title. Even though TCU played in a BCS bowl last season and began this season in the top ten, the Horned Frogs earning a spot in the BCS National Championship Game would be unprecedented.

    Thanks to TCU, Boise State, and Utah (and don't sleep on Nevada), this could be a dream season for college football outsiders—one that could see a school from a non-BCS AQ conference playing for the crystal football. TCU or Boise winning a national championship would shock college football fans, but it shouldn't shock anyone familiar with Scripture. Throughout the Bible, God calls outsiders to be leaders and to do the work of God's kingdom. Despite the ancient Near Eastern tradition of blessings and birthrights passing down from a father to his oldest son, God ordained that Isaac, Jacob, and Judah (none of whom were their father's firstborn and none of whom did anything to earn their birthright) would be blessed. God chose Gideon, the least member of the weakest clan in the tribe of Manasseh (with an attitude problem to boot), to lead Israel against Midian. God anointed David, and not one of his older and more accomplished brothers, to be the second king of Israel. And God chose Mary, an unwed peasant girl to give birth to the Messiah. God went beyond Israel's borders to call outsiders such as Rahab (also a prostitute), Ruth, Cornelius, and Lydia. One could make a convincing case that God prefers working with outsiders.

    It may seem strange for football fans to see TCU ranked #4 in the polls this early in the season (and a win over SMU combined with an Arkansas upset of Alabama and an Oregon State victory over Boise State could lift the Frogs as high as #2), but it isn't strange to God.

Order Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports.


Post a Comment

<< Home