Is It Time to End Our Love-Affair with Football?

Rick Reilly manages, by accident every once in a while, to dig deep and strike sportswriter gold! He wrote a thought-provoking article, published at ESPN recently, that expressed his growing angst at being a football fan. As stories of the long terms effects of the violence of the game pile one on top of the other, civilized human beings, and especially Christians, are going to have to ask this question:

Does the brutality of football make it immoral? 

You can follow the link above to read the entire article, but let me cull some clips that make his point most clearly. After talking about his love for the game, for the sounds and sights of hard-hitting football, he says this:

Now I hear that sound and wonder how soon it will be before they can’t remember where they parked, their sons’ middle names, or where their families went last summer on vacation.

I see too much sorrow and ugliness to love football like I used to.

I watch Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck take a brutal lick now and I think of former Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who told a Washington radio show the other day he can’t remember most of his daughter’s soccer games. “That’s a little bit scary to me,” Favre said. “… That put a little fear in me.” He’s 44 years old.

I watch New England tight end Rob Gronkowski get up from wreck after wreck, and I think of former Colts tight end Ben Utecht, who said the other day he couldn’t remember being at a friend’s wedding until the friend showed him the photo album. See, you were a groomsmen. And you sang, remember? He’s 32 years old.

I watch Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson fling himself into crashing whirlpools of men and I think of former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, who said he sometimes finds himself driving on a highway and can’t remember where he’s going. “I’m just hoping and praying I can find a way to cut it off at the pass,” Dorsett said recently. He’s 59 years old.

I see too much sorrow and ugliness now to love football like I used to.

I read the filthy and racist transcript of voice mails between one Miami Dolphin and another and am told bullying is “part of the culture.” Or lack thereof. I read about players like the late Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher, twisted inside his violent life, and yet not one NFL team has a full-time psychiatrist on staff.

I read the suicide obits of former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, age 50, and former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, 43, and I can’t help but notice Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson is 95, San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos 90, and Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford 88. Good for them. They were lucky enough to get in on the luxury box side of the business, not the pine box.

Now, the guilt gnaws at me a little as I watch.

I covered former Broncos defensive end Karl Mecklenburg. Now he takes a photo of the front of his hotel in the morning so he can find his way back at night. I covered former Dolphins wide receiver Mark Duper. Now he has constant ringing in his ears. I covered former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon and used to giggle at the way he’d score a touchdown and then joyously butt heads with teammates at 10 miles an hour. Now he has two teammates who have committed suicide and admits he’s thought of it himself.

He concludes the piece with an evocative illustration drawn from history.

In Caesar’s day, they filled the 50,000-seat Roman Coliseum to watch gladiators compete. These gladiators trained at special schools. They knew the risk. The glory and the money was worth it to them. If the gladiators weren’t dead at the end of the fight, the emperor looked to the crowd to help him decide: Had the losing fighter fought hard enough to please the people? If he hadn’t, the emperor would give a thumbs down, and the victor would immediately stick his sword into the neck of his opponent.

We are all still in that Coliseum. We are still being entertained by men willfully destroying each other. It’s just that now, the sword comes later.

This article certainly made me think. Is there something inherently immoral about our passion and love for this game? Are football players gladiators, killing one another for their own riches and glory, and for our entertainment? Are we the bloodthirsty crowds demanding to see bones broken and blood spilled? Are we enablers; encouraging the public murder or suicide of our heroes in pads and helmets?

I realize that this will be considered some form of latent liberalism; Baptists do not question the morality of football, we revel in it! Especially those of us who are conservative, Bible-believing and Scripture-honoring complementarians – we like our sports manly, bloody, brutal! The very act of questioning the morality of football will be seen as unpatriotic, ungodly and perhaps part of a communist plot.

And I am not saying that football is immoral. Not yet anyway. I’m just asking if we shouldn’t consider what Rick Reilly was saying. I would not (I hope) stand on the street corner and watch two men beat each other to a pulp. If I could not intervene myself, I’d dial 911 and get some help. But Fridays (high school), Saturdays (college) and Sundays and Mondays (NFL) we watch similar brutality and we cheer! When a Jadeveon Clowney (pictured above) separates a Michigan player from his senses, he becomes a hero.

  • Is that okay? Would Jesus cheer for football or would he chide the fanaticism of his own followers after the kickoff?
  • As the evidence piles up of the horrific effects of football on the brains and bodies of those who play it, doesn’t it at least require us to reexamine our love-affair with the sport?
  • Do not the reports of suicides and dementia and dysfunction at the least require us to ask some tough questions?
  • Does the fact that many (including black players) are excusing Richie Incognito for using the n-word to insult a black teammate, because “that is football culture” make us wonder if football culture and Christian sanctification are inimical?
  • Most people will admit that corruption is rampant in NCAA football. But we Christians just don’t care much, do we? As long as our team wins, its no big deal.

Saturday, I will watch the Hawkeyes try to become bowl eligible. Sunday, I will cheer as Peyton Manning performs his magic. But I will also be wondering as I do if I am enabling men to destroy their own lives by participating in all this. Most of us as little boys dreamed of playing in the NFL or for our favorite college team. For many, their days on the high school football team are a glorious memory that carries them through life’s drudgery and difficulties. Let’s face it, we love our football – to a level that could easily be labeled idolatrous for many of us.

But we do not (yet) encourage or assist suicide or self-destructive behavior. When someone engages in such, authorities step in. We prevent self-destruction when we can. If the long-term effects of participation in football are anywhere near what people are now claiming them to be, is it not strange that we not only do not intervene in this instance of self-destruction, but we actually cheer rabidly while it goes on? Just how many lives need to be destroyed before we begin to question the morality of our national obsession?

Again, I’m raising questions not making proclamations here. But I think it is time that we at least began to ask some of these questions. I am not a pacifist – sometimes moral people are called on to stand against evil, even with guns and bombs. But does defeating your conference rival or winning the Super Bowl justify the brutality and violence that football has become?

I can tell you this. All four of my kids participated in sports in high school, but I am glad none of them played football. My second son is a big guy – taller than me. I always thought he would have been a force as an interior lineman. But he chose to do other things. I’ll admit that at the time I was a little disappointed. Now that he is a seminary student, raising the two cutest grandsons in world history, I’m actually glad he stayed off the gridiron. And I will try, as best I can, to encourage my grandsons to pursue other forms of competition. Play baseball, boys. Run cross country. Learn some good post moves and a jump shot. But your brain is more important than any glory you can win on the football team.

I wrote this last night, but this morning I saw an interview with Tony Dorsett (mentioned in Reilly’s article), one of my favorites from my younger days. He has been diagnosed with CTE (the brain disease so many football players get – with such devastating consequences) and watching him tremble and talk with a faraway look in his eyes was sad and disturbing.

I’m not ready to make a judgment or to turn off the game, but I think it’s time to start asking some tough questions.

What say you?



  1. Dave Miller says

    I hope you will read this article before you go after me. But I also hope you will take the time to follow the link and go to Rick Reilly’s article as well.

  2. tom Bryant says

    Cartainly not CB…
    Football is far less brutal than it used to be. Watch a bears/packers game from the 50-60’s for proof. The first reall media coverage of football was a show called something like “The Voilent World of Sam Huff”

    So this is not a new idea abot violence in football as a whole. But like a friend said about boxing 20 years ago, “It’s brutal, it’s violent, it’s awful… and i am going to watch as much of it as I can.”

    I understand the questions, but, like you, not even remotely close to turning it off.

  3. says

    David; Have you taken complete leave of your senses? After all, you will lose CB Scott just as surely as you yap about the crimson crud, and then there is a little problem you have about ending your love-affair with the Yankees baseball team.

    Now on to more serious things. You are quite right, and our violence prone culture is the source of that problem. Remember, too, that the beginning of the end of the gladiator games came, when a Christian Monk leaped into the arena and began to protest such a terrible thing as men murdering one another for entertainment. I wonder how well the soccer players fair in comparison to football players. We should also consider the Ice Hockey violence (their games are fights). My wife had a home health care nurse for a few months after some surgery (he came to change the dressings on the wound), and he was a former player with one of the teams in Canada. He told about his injuries, surgeries, etc., and said he finally decided to get out of the game before he was killed or injured and incapacitated for life. He was one interesting Canadian.


      • cb scott says

        There is a whole lot of truth in that and you know it.

        Dave is like the guy who preached against High School Proms as being of the devil. Upon investigation, it was revealed that the preacher was also the guy who could never get a date to the Prom when he was in high school.

        If Dave Miller lived in an SEC FOOTBALL NATION he would not have written this post. His insane jealousy due to living in the BUZZARD-EYE NATION has driven him to madness.

  4. says

    The brutality of the game is not the only question. How much time, money, energy, and devotion do we spend on football? Especially in the Deep South? I have been thinking about that lately. It is an unreal amount. Relationships are affected and people orchestrate their lives around it. I have been guilty of this as well. It is a waste, in my opinion.

    I have definitely backed off of it lately. I still like it and cheer for my teams, but the excitement of it has gone down over the years. It is just a game and it is not worth wrecking your life over, either.

      • Jake Barker says

        I think we should be more concerned with MMA and boxing than football. Although, Dave I will give you credit for being critical of “pro” football rather than college ball. After all we know that college ball is neither corrupt, unless you call paying a coach 5+mill a year versus an accounting or english or math prof 55 grand, corrupt. Nor idolatrous, heaven forbid CB would hold Saban just under JC Himself. Nor brutal…..well maybe a little. I think I just made your point for you.

    • cb scott says

      Alan Cross,

      The problem with you is that you were born too late be a Hippie, Tree-Hugger, Peacenik, San Francisco Nut-Flake, who missed Woodstock and you are are still angry about it.

  5. Euphranor says

    Psalm 11:5
    Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
    5 The Lord examines the righteous and the wicked.
    He hates the lover of violence.

    …If football is a violent sport then it’s time to quit watching.

  6. says

    I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t like football (albeit Peg is a REAL fan…).

    I am, however, an Alabama fan … a resident of Sabanation. And we’re mentioned in the Bible, by the way. Esau’s wife was Oholibamah.

    Personally, I like Sumo Wrestling. It lasts 15 seconds and you have to be fat.

  7. volfan007 says

    Playing football is neither immoral, or moral….it’s just a game. And, if people don’t want to play, and take the chance of getting hurt; then they don’t have to play. NOBODY is making any of those players get out on that field…NOBODY! They’re choosing to play.

    Also, I played football for years. I never had any serious injuries. My 2 sons played for years, and they never had any serious injuries. We never had any concussions, either.

    Also, I participated in another dangerous sport….boxing! Nobody made me get into that ring…..I chose to do it. I boxed in the Golden Gloves in Jackson, TN. I received no concussions from it, either.

    I love football, as do most Southerners. AND, I see absolutely NOTHING wrong with it. Now, if I was an Iowa Hawkeye fan, I might give up my love for football. But, I’m a VOL FAN…..Go Vols! Beat Auburn!


  8. Christiane says

    One of the joys of my life is seeing my husband light up after the Steelers win a game . . . at his age, I’m not sure how many football seasons he has left.

    He still believes in sportsmanship, though. I know because once he said that a certain baseball player who was involved in gambling and who had tried to injure other players on purpose should NEVER be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    He also values the ‘roughness’ of the game, having had his own nose broken and assorted other injuries during a boyhood playing football in a Pennsylvania steel town. He thinks ‘soccer’ is a ‘sissy game’. Oh well.

    Thing is, football is a part of his life. I think more than idol worship, it has to do with family and friends and loyalty to the ‘home team’ (his hometown was just north of Pittsburgh) . . . that ‘tradition’ is a part of who he is and I can’t imagine him without all of the team regalia which decorates his man-cave, and the family room, and the mantel in the living room, and . . . well, you get it . . .

    in the end, out of kindness, I can’t begrudge people his age their football.

    But for the young? I sure can. The more we find out about the gravity of the brain injuries, the worse things look for the football world. Just protecting the young as priority is probably the BEST reason to stop the madness. But how to do it?????? And who will take the lead to make changes?

  9. Mark A. Mitchell says

    Maybe it is time to stop over analyzing things and making false comparisons. Trying to compare football to gladiators is absurd and over the top.

    • Bill Mac says

      Mark: I don’t think the analogy is out of line from the spectator perspective. As a race, human beings love violence. I’m not a fan of football so I’m not specifically talking of it, but there’s no denying we love violence. So the question is why do we like football (those that do)? Or boxing, or MMA? Athletics can instill a number of virtues in a person: discipline, camraderie, etc. But in the end, it is entertainment. I like hockey, which can be violent also. But the sport is trying to move away from the thuggery that characterized it when I was a kid.

      So I think the questions we have to ask as Christians is what about football, or hockey, or MMA, or whatever, entertains us? Is it the skill, the strategy, the speed, etc. Or is it the violence?

      • says

        Last line is the clincher on that Bill Mac, if it’s the violence, especially of the ‘don’t care if another gets hurt’ type, that’s a problem.

        If it’s skill and strategy and speed, then not much wrong there.

      • Mark A. Mitchell says

        There are spectators in all sorts of things. Just because gladiators have spectators does not make it line up with football. It is an absurd notion. It is like comparing someone who squashes a bug to Hitler. What I see in me and what I see in others is that people get excited when a runner breaks away and gains massive yardage, or when someone makes a catch in the middle of a crowd, or when the team continuously moves the ball to the red zone.

        I am told Michelle Obama wants Elmo to be yellow instead of red because red looks like blood. Talk about over thinking an issue. Same deal here.

  10. says

    Having served in Big 12 country and SEC land I have a complicated take on this. First, Football in and of itself is not bad. Maybe the evils of society are being seen clearly in this sport but that would be true in other sports as well. So no Football is not evil. Second, the worship of anything other than God is evil. Now worship is obedience. But allowing something to control us (emotions, feelings, money etc) is evil and often prevents our true worship of God. I have seen the fanatics in sports, having played in college myself. I have seen the money blown when ministry could have been accomplished. So my second point is – in moderation, no it is not evil. But when it trumps ministry, yes!

    Now, I must hurry home from the office – their are some good games on tonight! :-)

  11. William Thornton says

    I think not. Instead, I would make a sober risk assessment for my kids or grandchildren. Millions play with no ill effects. If you don’t wish to participate or spectate, then no one forces it.

    College football: Take the time to read “The Shame of College Sports” for a serious case removed from the daily anecdotal stuff.

    I don’t know about corruption. The schools, the legislators, the coaches, the fans are all willing and for the most part knowledgable players in this. If a successful pastor (e.g. Stephen Furtick) lives in a $2m home, that is news and people get mad. No one cares if Marc Richt Univ. of GA head coach and highly visible follower of Christ (we attend the same church, he smiled at me in the hallway once) makes $3m a year or an ASSISTANT coach almost one million annually. Free enterprise and successful marketing of skills that few have. He is worth every penny.

        • says

          cb, I saw where the government, to make a point about poaching, is destroying about 6 tons of ivory.

          How did they get into the vault under that statue of the Bear in Tuscaloosa?

          • cb scott says

            Doug Hibbard,

            To tell the truth it is a rather sad story and commentary on how far our government has fallen under the present administration.

            A representative from the White House came to T’town and told the fellows who guard the vaults under the Bear’s statue that they had to all go the Obama Healthcare website and get registered or they would never have another opportunity to get healthcare insurance.

            (I have to admit that our guards are not very bright. They are all Iowa graduates.)

            So, for the next 17 hours while the guards were in the campus library computer lab trying to get registered for healthcare, Federal Agents, stole the ivory from under Bear’s statue.

          • says

            Well, first, thanks for helping employ the unemployable.

            And having spent hours on that website, and hours more on the phone with the affiliate call center, I’d rather play QB with no pads against BAMA than do it again. I felt like Brandon Allen the morning after after dealing with that.

  12. Bart Barber says

    “Play baseball, boys.”

    I endorse this comment. If I had an official letterhead to go with my office 😉 I’d use it to promote this concept.

    “Baseball,” of course, is a game in which the pitcher, when it is his turn, steps up to the plate to bat just like all of the other players.

    • Dave Miller says

      Baseball chose, wisely, to leave the dark ages behind and send 9 batters to the plate.

      Hopefully, the National League will give up their rotary dial phones. their knickers, their bowler hats and come into the 21st Century.

      • volfan007 says

        It’s very dangerous to stand beside a homeplate with a 100 mph fastball being thrown a little bit high on the inside of the plate. Now, that can do some damage.

        I would imagine that even badminton can be dangerous, at times.


          • volfan007 says

            I believe the point was that football is too dangerous and violent of a game, and maybe we should not watch football, anymore. Correct? Well, baseball can be very dangerous, too. The Cardinals had a huge amount of injuries, this past year. Basketball players have lots of injuries….and they bang around underneath the basket.

            So, maybe we just need to only watch synchronized swimming.


          • volfan007 says

            BTW, I know of some baseball players, who’ve had very serious injuries by being hit by 99 mph fastballs….being hit by thrown balls while sliding into a bag, etc.

            I know of some basketball players, who’ve suffered some very serious injuries while going in for a dunk, or fighting for a rebound.

            I’ve known of some hockey players to suffer serious injuries.

            In fact, all sports….except synchronized swimming have risks…..

            Should we stop watching sports period?

            It seems like the Apostle Paul enjoyed watching sports, BTW.


  13. says

    A Voice from the Past:

    “We favor safe, helpful athletics in our schools, but to say the least, our Christian colleges are going far astray when they lend their influence to the training of boys to kick and trample their fellow students to death. We are against the murderous game (football), root and branch…If some of the over-enthusiastic youths that attend Baylor are bound to test their kicking abilities, let them cross legs with a burro. It will be fully as civilized and much less dangerous.”

    J. B. Cranfill in The Baptist Standard, 1899

  14. Eric says

    One of the problems with football today is the sheer size and strength of the player, can you say steroids?

    The scourge of steroids and lack of testing go down to the HS level, but is rampant in college and pros. Until football gets serious about testing and banning, like baseball or cycling the injuries will get worse and worse.

    Have you noticed how much smaller baseball players are, David Ortiz was almost slim in the WS, 20 years ago how many players were over 300 pounds. Adrian Peterson comes back from serious injury and goes on to set records? Really?

    I don’t suffer from good ol days syndrome either. I am aware of the stimulant use, not to mention other drugs and alcohol back in the day. I heard a recent interview with Tony Dorsett this morning that just made me shake my head.

    All that said, if football does not get its arms around steroid use, the league will simply kill itself.

  15. Adam G. in NC says

    I live near Raleigh, so if they outright banned football it wouldnt really matter much. Too convoluted anyways.

    But hey, Tobacco Road basketball is about to get underway, so at least we do have SOMETHING to talk about in church around here.

  16. says

    “My heroes have always been Cowboys.” The Tony Dorsett CTE diagnosis truly saddens me. As a child, I enjoyed thrilling moments like the one in the link below–when the Cowboys only had ten players on the field. Thus, I have mixed emotions. I love watching them do what they do, but I hate the price some of them have to pay simply to entertain us.

    • Dave Miller says

      That, Rick, is precisely what I am beginning to wonder. Football (as it exists) only exists because of our passion. But is the price too high?

      I was a pretty big Cowboys fan back in those days.

      • Greg Harvey says

        You guys left out some of the WHY of being a Cowboy fan: Tom Landry and Roger Staubach were role models both in the game and in our faiths. Billy Graham held a crusade in September of 1970 in Texas Stadium prior to the football season. (A FASCINATING article from the DMN archives goes over the details of how decisions are handled.)

        Sports were presented as “above the fray” kind of activities not sullied by vulgarity or, yes, sin. It was idolization, indeed, but it spoke to what we as believers desired to hear: that these heroes were worthy role models. Now the movie North Dallas 40 (1979) might have provided a somewhat more realistic view of the Dallas Cowboys, but even then–by my late teens–it was easier to accept the idolization story and mostly for the “good” reasons and that was after playing in high school.

        I haven’t encouraged my boys or girls to play sports past YMCA-level. We ran into club-equivalent teams in the Lewisville and Austin areas very quickly: by first grade. And we just couldn’t encourage our kiddoes to adopt that mentality. We wanted it to be fun (though I’ll note that we still felt you should KEEP SCORE…)

        I’m not opposed to a sensible look at football and reasonable restrictions. I certainly eschew the hazing that went on with the Miami Dolphins and that to some extent or another is deeply embedded into football culture across the nation from middle school to the pros. (As a side note: I dealt with some of that at A&M and after a first round of it, I called the Kampus Kops as suitemates were breaking into my room to strip my clothes off, cover me in shaving cream and either deliver me to one of the women’s dorms or dump me in the fish pond…the KK told them they had to have my direct consent in order to do that and they grumped and walked away…and wouldn’t talk to me for the rest of the school year.)

        I’ve referenced a “meme” fairly consistently that I acknowledge running into first interacting with Doug Groothius: we need as believers to exegete our culture. I think both Dave’s blog and the Reilly article help do that and both are part of an EXCELLENT discussion.

        But I think we need to be careful and not overdo it. We have a reputation to a certain extent for being judgmental and prissy. We need to state our opposition in terms that acknowledges that much of what we see in football is an effort from a secular perspective to express masculinity in an enduring and satisfying way. While it is VERY possible for a woman to play football well, there is a sense that the natural advantages of the male physique lead to a different level of play that distinguishes men from women. And that is a LOT of why I think both men AND women enjoy it as a sport both ON the field and watching it on TV.

        I do not believe–from my experience–that the majority of people watch football the way we watch NASCAR or hockey: on the edge of our seats when a wreck or a fight is going to break out. So the “gladiator” tag is at least so far somewhat overwrought.

        But the physical price for playing football at every level is not ignorable. NFL players KNOW they’re going to have a sport-related injury that is likely to hobble them physically and potentially to shorten their life span. It’s part of the game. But, honestly, is there anything wrong with living life in a way that it isn’t as long as long as it is as full? What part of creation did God create with the intention that we only look at it and not experience it? The mountains? The deep seas? The atmosphere (planes and parachutes)? Outer space? And isn’t there risk when we take on these kinds of physical challenges?

        I think that games like football can lead to many good benefits but there are definite maybes and definite negatives, too. This suggests that a view that incorporate wisdom and moderation is imperative. But we Southern Baptists sometimes view moderation as a four-letter word (in at least two contexts I can think of.)

  17. Dale Pugh says

    Since the Ducks lost to the Cardinals last night I’m tempted to say that the answer to the question is “Yes.” I shall refrain from such by stating that there’s always the Rose Bowl……

  18. cb scott says

    Duckman Dale,

    I hope you do enjoy the Rose Bowl. I really do. I sincerely mean that from the bottom of my benevolent nature as a Sabanite. And just to show you my heart is sincere and in the right place toward my fellow FOOTBALL Fans of Lesser Nations, I have written you a little poem.

    “Roses are red
    The Ducks are blue
    But don’t feel bad
    ‘Cause now you’re through
    We will beat the Noles
    And had we played
    We would beat you too.”

    Duckman Dale, I hope that little poem gives you some comfort and lightens your grief. My dear friend, it is better to know the truth now instead of going all the way through the Bowl Season thinking you could win a National Championship only to have your dreams crushed by a CRIMSON TIDE washing your DUCKS out into the Loser Sea as happened to the poor little IRISH MUNCHKINS last year.

    Here is reality, Duckman Dale. I share it with you and all of the other SBC Voices folks out there who have lived the unfortunate existence of not being a SEC NATION FOOTBALL Fan.

    The SEC is the dominate FOOTBALL Conference in all the FOOTBALL Universe. We own the Sport. Any other Conference is only Little League.

    At this point in time. The SABANATION is the Flagship of the SEC. In years to come, it will be another SEC NATION who is the Flagship. And, of course that SEC NATION will win the National Championship. That’s just the way it is.

    So come-on, Duckman Dale. Joint the elite and become a CRIMSON TIDE Fan. We are winners. We have always been winners. We can’t be anything else but winners. We are Alabama.! We are the CRIMSON TIDE!! We are FOOTBALL!!!

    I can see a Threepeat comin’ in the near future.


    • says

      I think the only thing standing in Bama’s way is the sense of direction of their pilot–if he delivers the team to the wrong place, they might not win.

      But I don’t think the Mad Hatter is going to come up with a win against you all. I’m glad to see Gus making the Iron Bowl look interesting this year, though. That should be a good game. For a quarter or so.

    • Dale Pugh says

      Well, after last night, I must admit that my green has turned a slightly blue hue. And your poem is quite……..iambic pentameteric, SEC CB.
      I look forward to next year and the playoff system. Maybe THEN this ridiculous fascination with all things SEC shall cease and desist and a new day shall dawn for all America!
      I have a dream!
      A dream of a nation free from the BCS computers, free from the controlling and corrupting influence of the SEC boys, free from the fashion faux pas that occurs when one puts on crimson, free from the elephantine tidal wave that rolls over the NCAA polls every year!
      I have a dream that one day my grandchildren will say, “Gramps, who in the world is Saban and doesn’t that name rhyme with ‘Satan’?” I shall respond, “No need to fear, my little ones! The mighty Puddles, the magnificently feathered Duck of Oregon, is here to release us from the tyranny of those silly Southern pigskin peoples.”
      Oh, I have a dream! A glorious dream of football as the Lord in heaven intended it to be played!
      Come to the light, SEC CB! Come to the light, and see the errors of your way! Embrace the new and wonderful age to come!
      By the way, the Baptists from Waco certainly showed up and gave those Sooners a whoopin’!
      And the season ain’t over yet, my poetic friend………….

      • says


        I feel your pain. As an Auburn Tiger whose War Eagle has sailed high at times and sadly crashed in a heap at other times, I know the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

        You remember my thrill of victory, do you not? 2010?

        As for the Bama nation and CB’s comment, “We are winners. We have always been winners. We can’t be anything else but winners. We are Alabama.! We are the CRIMSON TIDE!! We are FOOTBALL!!!”

        Well, Elephants don’t have the best memories after all. Sure, they have won. But not always. Just look at their record of wins vs. Auburn since The Bear lost his stranglehold on all things football:

        Iron Bowl Wins:
        Auburn 17
        Alabama 15

        Overall Wins since 1981:

        Auburn: 265
        Alabama: 251

        So despair not. The Tide has come in at times and the Tide has gone out as well.

        • cb scott says

          Les Prouty,

          Only the desperate resort to historic stats. But if you do what to talk numbers, who has won more National Championships and is about to become a Threepeat National Champion?

          One thing is for sure. It ain’t no Tiger!! It ain’t no Tiger from any Conference in the whole FOOTBALL UNIVERSE. It is the ELEPHANT.

          ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!!

  19. says

    And as an observation on the topic at hand:

    Once again, we see what happens when we exalt something above the things of God. It takes on a life of its own, and then becomes an idol. Idol worship then begets more idol worship, and eventually, idol worship begets human sacrifice.

    It’s a pattern in religion in general, across history. I’ll see if I can find the actual reference, but I remember that from Philosophy at one school and World Religions at MABTS.

    We have allowed sport in general to start rising toward idolatry (or, perhaps, it’s already there). It should be no surprise that the idol is demanding bigger sacrifices. We have to kill it as an idol–

    If you kill it as an idol soon enough, you can retain it as a pastime. If not, then it’s got to go completely.

  20. John Wylie says

    I think it’s interesting that the Apostle Paul frequently used athletics as an analogy of the Christian life. He even referred to boxing in in 1 Corinthians 9:26 and possibly in 2 Timothy 4:7. If boxing was immoral I don’t think Paul would use it in describing the Christian life. As a matter of fact, these athletic events were very much a part of Greek culture and Paul never addressed them in a negative light.

  21. Chad says

    Here in SEC land football is often more important than church. If LSU should beat Alabama this weekend, church attendance will be down on Sunday. Its a culture here in the south. Its a gladiator culture for sure. The more violant and physical the game is the more we love it. Its our nature. We love the hit pictured above. We love to see the big hits. We love to see our football heroes succed against all odds. A helmet to helmet hit seems to be no big deal, until you see it during a kids football game then it is scary. How do we justify our love for a violent sport? Its just a game? So we just watch these men, young men and kids go out and physically harm themselves? This article is has made me stop and think.

      • says


        If we want to get technical, I’m sure that there are plenty of young boys who are forced into football by their parents. Moreover, I think there is definitely room for an ethical discussion about the voluntariness of a sport which has, at an institutional level, downplayed a very real danger while incentivizing participation among young men with offers of unfathomable wealth, fame, and glory.

        But I know that’s not the point you’re trying to make. So ignoring those issues for argument’s sake, let’s just assume that participation is voluntary: Does the fact that men aren’t forced to play football really address the crux of the issues raised?

        Let’s take the gladiator example: Say we build a new coliseum here in the South and re-institute gladiatorial combat to the death as a new collegiate and professional sport. But unlike in ancient Rome, all contestants join the sport voluntarily. Does the voluntariness of the participation render any objections moot? Would the fact that a gladiator voluntarily joins a sport where he might be fed to a lion live, in front of a cheering, fanatical crowd, make it good and proper for Christians to watch and support? Surely not.

        The issues Dave raised in the original post, which Chad reiterated here, have nothing to do with the voluntariness of the sport. I would hope and assume that there is some level of violence which you are not willing to accept as sport/entertainment. Couple that violence with issues of fanatical devotion, corruption, and wealth, and you’ve definitely got room for a serious discussion. After considering those issues, you may still find that football is beneficial and edifying to the Christian, but surely it’s not simply because men aren’t forced to play.

        • volfan007 says

          People are NOT forced to play. They choose to play.

          Also, football cannot be compared to a Gladiator fighting lions in an arena. And, there’s no one fighting to the death, either. C’mon….let’s keep this conversation in the realm of reality.


          • Dave Miller says

            For the record, my point was not that football should be outlawed or that people should be restricted from playing.

            My question, based on Reilly’s article, is whether we are acting morally when we support a sport that leaves so many of its participants with serious brain-disease.

            It would seem that we might be thoughtful enough to at least ask ourselves such a question.

          • says

            David (volfan007, not Miller):

            I’ll be perfectly honest; I’m not really sure what you’re responding to in my comment. (Perhaps, maybe, it wasn’t a response to my comment? After all, the threaded commenting system has gone haywire in the past.) If your comment was meant as a response to my comment, though, then allow me to clarify.

            First, you state as follows: “People are NOT forced to play. They choose to play.”

            In my question to you, I explicitly conceded that issue. If you read my comment again, you’ll see that my question is immediately prefaced by the phrase: “let’s just assume that participation is voluntary.” So, while I appreciate your fervor in wanting to reiterate that nobody is ever forced to play football, that really has nothing to do with my question to you. My question expressly assumes voluntariness.

            Second, you state as follows: “Also, football cannot be compared to a Gladiator fighting lions in an arena. And, there’s no one fighting to the death, either.”

            Again, please read my comment more closely. I never once compared football to gladiatorial combat. I suggested, for the purposes of a thought experiment, the example of real gladiators. (If you read the very first sentence of that paragraph, you’ll see that I suggested “. . . a new coliseum . . . re-institute gladiatorial combat . . . a new collegiate and professional sport.”) Absolutely nowhere in my comment did I equate the violence in football to the violence in gladiator games.

            In fact, the point of using the gladiator example was to choose something which is admittedly more violent than football. The entirety of my question rests on the assumption that football is not the same as gladiatorial combat. I wasn’t trying to be coy or to trap you with the gladiator example. In fact, I expressly stated the purpose behind using the example: “I would hope and assume that there is some level of violence which you are not willing to accept as sport/entertainment.” Again, that’s the only point I made. You say football isn’t too violent? Fine. Surely, though, you draw the line somewhere. So, allow me to ask my question again.

            You have asserted, twice now, that football is voluntary. My question to you is this: What does that have to do with Dave Miller’s concerns? How is that relevant to the inquiry?

            Third, you concluded you comment with: “C’mon….let’s keep this conversation in the realm of reality.”

            C’mon….let’s respond to things I’ve actually written.

          • volfan007 says

            The point is….if someone thinks that football is too violent, then they don’t have to play. Nobody is making them play.

            Secondly, you analyzed and parsed my words, and wrote a whole lot about it. Wow.

            Thirdly, my opinion….OPINION….is that I don’t agree with Dave Miller…shock of all shocks. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the game of football.

            Fourthly, I did read what you said…and you said that football was just a little bit shy of gladiators fighting each other to the death. That was the example you chose to use to describe something WORSE than football.

            Oh well, I’m watching Game Day, at the moment…eagerly awaiting the Vols vs. War Eagles game….so, I’ll see you later.


          • says

            David (volfan not Miller):

            I honestly don’t think you’re reading what I’ve written. But, frankly, I can’t think of a way to make it any clearer. If anybody else wants to chime in, be my guest.

            That being said, I do take exception to your statement that I “said that football was just a little bit shy of gladiators fighting each other to the death.” I’ve never said anything even remotely close to that. That’s an absurd interpretation of anything I’ve written.

          • volfan007 says


            You said, “Let’s take the gladiator example…lions…and all that….” That would be like a liberal saying anyone who opposes Obamacare, and people getting affordable healthcare, with what Hitler did in WW 2. And, calling all Conservatives and Republicans acting like Hitler.

            In other words, you and Dave, and the original author, who wrote about this….it’s like you’re saying that maybe it’s immoral to watch football, because so many players get hurt, and have severe injuries in their life. Then, you compared Southerners love for football to the Romans loving to watch a gladiator in the arena of Rome…..

            Anyway, I’m not really gonna argue something like this….I just don’t agree with anyone, who thinks that we should stop watching football just because some people have injuries.


          • cb scott says

            Zack Stepp stated:

            What does that have to do with Dave Miller’s concerns? How is that relevant to the inquiry?”

            Zack Stepp, you must understand the background for Dave Miller’s post. He does not live in an SEC NATION. He is angry because he is a BUZZARD-EYE Fan. All of his dreams of a National Championship are hopeless fantasies.

            Therefore, he writes crazy stuff about FOOTBALL that no SEC Fan will believe or support. SEC Fans are winners. We will always be winners. BUZZARD-EYE Fans are losers. They will always be losers.

            Zack Stepp, tha tis the background of this post.

            ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!!

    • cb scott says

      Don’t worry Chad. LSU with not beat ALABAMA. So you should have a full house tomorrow. Preach them the gospel with all your heart and soul.

  22. says

    The only thing more violent than football is a bunch of preachers having at one another, verbally, over football, that funny little pigskin thing that
    Andy Griffith talked about in his famous narration on the subject we have been discussing.

    • Dave Miller says

      From your previous comments, I should have deduced that you had sipped from the SEC koolaid.

      • Mark A. Mitchell says

        So let me get this straight. All people who are fans of the SEC are fans of violence? Is that what you are implying? If that is not what you are implying I fail to understand how you believe my comments are tied to the so called “SEC koolaid”. I would also ask just what is the SEC koolaid. That is something knew to me.

        • Dale Pugh says

          Mark, not that Dave needs me to come to his defense, you obviously don’t know Dave’s sense of humor. It was a joke. We constantly go at one another about our choices in football teams and conferences around here. Read through the comments above.

        • says

          Mark, Dave suffers from what is known as “Deficient Football Syndrome.” It causes him to mistake the play in lesser football leagues as being proper, and not fully understand that the game is intended to be as you find it on a Saturday here in the South.

          He misunderstands that it’s a different game being played.

        • cb scott says

          Mark A. Mitchell,

          I am going to give a shot at answering your questions as a card carrying member of the SABANATION, the Flagship FOOTBALL NATION of the SEC, the greatest NCAA FOOTBALL CONFERENCE in the entire FOOTBALL UNIVERSE.

          1). “So let me get this straight. All people who are fans of the SEC are fans of violence?”
          Yes. Most SEC NATION youngsters learn to pass a FOOTBALL only by becoming proficient at rock fights first. That’s why so many SEC players don’t have their front teeth. They got ’em knocked out in rock fights during K-5 and First Grade play periods.

          2). “I would also ask just what is the SEC koolaid?”
          The SEC Kool-Aid is shavings of flint and steel, mixed with Gator-Aid, and seasoned with Gunpowder. (In T’town we use a lot more gunpowder in ours. Most other SEC NATIONS use as much and FOOTBALL NATIONS of the Lesser Conferences use none at all.)

          BTW, I take a bath in SEC KOOL-AID and drink two quarts of it before a deacons’ meeting. Deacons don’t mess with a pastor who drinks SEC KOOL-AID. Try it. You will have more peaceful deacons with whom to work and do ministry.

  23. John fariss says

    I have tried to refrain from commenting; but no longer can I.

    Fact is: some things in life are rough. Sometimes life itself is rough. Sometimes the roughness is physical, other times it is emotional or even mental. And sometimes we preachers are accused of being too namby-pamby. Sometimes it is though and just not articulated. And when you read “namby-pamby” understand it means some variation of “feminine” or emasculated. And sometimes we feed right into that sterrotype.

    You don’t have to love violence to enjoy a good, hard-fought football game. What you do have to love is giving something all you’ve got, whether it is directly or vicariously. If someone thinks that is violent, that is their issue to work out, or perhaps to avoid.



    • cb scott says

      Amen, John Farris.

      I trust you are having a ROLL TIDE night and I wish you a ROLL TIDE Threepeat for the the New Year.

  24. Mark A. Mitchell says

    I would also add that I have not attacked anyone here. I did address the ideas in the op. I do not believe that attacking me suggesting that I have drank the SEC koolaid is warranted or appropriate. Further it is a rather un-Christian personal attack.

  25. cb scott says

    Ladies and Gentlemen, The time has come for me to take my position in front of my television with loved ones near and lots of man food close at hand and watch the SABANATION smite the LSU NATION hip and thigh.


    O yeah, for those of you who like Dave Miller who wrote this crazy, postmodern, anti guy stuff post, there is a Shirley Temple movie marathon coming on the Hallmark Channel at the same time as the LSU-BAMA game. So, enjoy yourselves and have a nice time singing “The Good Ship Lolly-Pop” along with Little Shirley. And don’t forget; Be sweet now and play nice.

  26. Stephen says

    Dave Miller said there are three issues: Brutality, Corruption, and Idolatry. We can certainly find more brutal examples of sport (MMA/boxing), there are perhaps more corrupt parts of society, but we are hardpressed to find something in America that is a bigger idol – every weekend, tens of thousands dressing color, traveling hours, making fire sacrifices outside, filing into a stadium, cheering and singing together, agony at defeat, etc…
    Outside America, there are more popular events (soccer), though.

    So, relative to everything else that exists in culture, I don’t think football is sinful. Is it dangerous? I think public opinion is quickly moving the sport to a much safer position. Actually, I think rule and culture changes will make the sport decline sharply in popularity within 3-4 decades – hits will be cheered less at the pro/college levels, moms will forbid their kids from playing tackle, etc.

    By the time that football as we know it today becomes unpopular, I think we will find a new idol for our hearts to lust after though.

  27. cb scott says

    The comment below was mistakenly placed in the thread where Chris Roberts is confessing to being a Deist. Sorry for the confusion. I will now place it here for clarity and educational purposes for those of you who are watching the Shirley Temple movie marathon on the Hallmark Channel.

    Oh well, what can I say, fellows?

    Oh yeah, I know. I can say:
    We are ALABAMA! We Are the CRIMSON TIDE!! We are FOOTBALL!!!

    A Threepeat is in the T’town air!!!


      • says

        If cb speaks, and does not mention football, we doubt the identity of the potential cb-impostor. He’s either really, really serious or sick if he leaves out the off-topic Roll Tides.

    • Chris Roberts says

      Deism redefined:

      “A deist is a person who doesn’t believe that God interacts with the world the way I think God interacts with the world, regardless of what the Bible says.” – cb scott

  28. cb scott says

    No, Chris Roberts. That is not the right definition in this context of a deist.

    Let me help you, but as I do, please look into a mirror as you read. Doing so will help you with clarity and understanding and lessen your constant confusion due to your malady of having a narcissistic, sanctimonious, self-indulgent, “I am right and everyone else is always wrong theological perspective” that lacks any grasp of biblical theology because the only theological discipline I have ever studied is systematic theology which has left me greatly lacking in theological discussions, therefore I alway superimpose my limited understanding upon all theological conservations in an arrogant and bullheaded manner.”

    Here, Chris Roberts, is the correct definition of deism in this context:

    “A deist is a person who doesn’t believe that God interacts with the world the way I think God interacts with the world, regardless of what the Bible states or does not state.”
    ————Chris Roberts

  29. says

    For clarity’s sake:

    Deism was initially a philosophical viewpoint that while God may exist as Creator, God created the universe and then backed off and lets it run according to natural laws. The typical illustration is a watchmaker who makes a watch, winds it up, and lets it go.

    It was prevalent among the 18th-19th Century elites, like Franklin and Jefferson, but has varying degrees. It was typically in opposition to the Edwards/Whitfield/Wesley view of God as active in the world. Especially in opposition to the Edwards view that effectively denied “cause and effect” and put God as the only cause of anything–gravity only worked because God willed it, every time, while the Deist held God created gravity to work, and gravity works without Divine action from here on out.

    The varying degrees of Deism either left the world untouched, unaided by God since Day7 of Genesis (more Jefferson’s view, usually), to allowing for occasional, but very rare, miracles. Oddly enough, a few Deists viewed the idea of God not-intervening as a proof of Divine Perfection: He made it right, why would He intervene?

    Since, however, we tend to only remember the extreme, Deists are typically remembered as those who think God gave us a world and left us alone with it, governed by natural, physical, moral, and perhaps even metaphysical laws.

    • cb scott says

      Thank you, Doug Hibbard.

      That pretty sums it up and packages Chris Roberts’ theological predisposition up in a net little box, allowing him to declare himself with complete understanding in all things and all others completely lacking if they do not agree with him.

      Well done, Doug Hibbard. Well done.

  30. says

    Sports: now there’s a conversation starter.

    I’m not a big sports fan. The Bible doesn’t condemn athletic competition and even uses it as a metaphor for a certain aspect of sanctification. Ideally, the real competition is against oneself. But that’s not what we see in the popular sports arena.

    I don’t have a problem with what we call the brutality of it. Now, I’m not a brutal man, but what passes as brutality today has been everyday life throughout most of history. We imitate extreme brutality on the silver screen and in video games, but moviegoers and gamers are notoriously potato-like. Most people need to be challenged physically more than they are and controlled sports is a good place to meet those challenges. We don’t know how to handle violence wrought with evil intent by challenging it with honorable valor. (Well, we better just dial 911 and hope a violent perpetrator we have encountered doesn’t kill someone before the police arrive. Baloney! I’ll gladly go to jail defending someone’s life. I’ve been in harm’s way before.)

    But today’s popular sports equip and enable people to act on their sinful nature outside of the normal course of the game. Many of the issues I see aren’t directly related to the general idea of the game itself. Many players are saturated in steroids or other kinds of drugs which means that opposing athletes have to follow suit or lose. Many are ill-equipped to handle the money they are paid or the fame they are given. Career rewards are given to those who bring home the right statistics and whose politics make the club look good rather than for exhibiting honor and courage. One plays so as to win, but not unfairly so as to please the team owners and fans dishonestly.

    “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game,” used to mean something. Anymore, it amounts to giving all the kids on every little soccer team a trophy just for showing up. Those trophies are meaningless. It’s also meaningless if the winning team gets a multi-million-dollar bonus for playing dirty. An honorable player knows how to use his strength to defeat his opponent without harming his opponent.

  31. Rev. Ken Polsley says

    Please Dave,
    Please, now that I have become a Liverpool fan, and have gotten in touch with the rest of the world in gearing up for the World Cup – (I will be rooting for Ivory Coast or Cameroon or Ghana or Nigeria – (pretty much all my favorite players are in those countries)), now that I can have conversations with visiting international students, including Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists from all over the world about football, conversations that sometimes lead to friendships and more conversations about Christ, now, Brother Dave, you say I have to give up my love affair with football?? Say it’s not so, Joe!

    • Rev. Ken Polsley says

      What I mean is that I can meet a Mexican and start having a conversation about how amazing Chicherito is around the goal and I have instant rapport. I can talk to a African Muslim about how great Yaya Toure, from Ivory Coast, is in controlling the mid-field for Manchester City, and I have stepped into their world. Here is a way to become more global in conversations in natural ways. Every time I see someone who I think is an international, I want to talk to them about futbol. It is not something that I have to force. They are always surprised that an American knows anything about futbol. It was a conscious decision for me to ditch American football, which was a great time waster for me in front of the tube, to embrace the football that the world embraces. I started by joining a Yahoo international Premier league fantasy soccer football league, knowing nothing at all, with people from Iran, and another league from Indonesia, and another one from Scotland. This is not time consuming like American football fantasy leagues, but it forced me to learn about players and countries. Now the World Cup is the thing I look forward to, not the Super Bowl. It also was great that when I was in Iowa – my boss was from England – I wasn’t the best employee (I was good but not the best) but the boss thought I was pretty good because he could talk to me at the water cooler about Rooney’s weekend hat-trick,, and he knew that I was all over it. Just a suggestion for those with ethical qualms about papaya ball.