Whoa, who saw that one coming? Nick Saban’s teams do not catch a beatdown very often. The Alabama fans didn’t see it coming. They moaned and wailed every time Clemson scored, and sounded like they were on the Titanic. (People dying from hypothermia is not funny, but the sounds emanating from my television were akin to the sounds from James Cameron’s epic) Dabo Swinney didn’t see it coming. Did you see his face at the post game interview? Guy looked like he just won the powerball jackpot.
Dabo Swinney expressed his love for Jesus Christ and his belief in the sovereignty of God over his life’s trajectory. He said, “God planned this. This doesn’t just happen. God planned all of this.” What are we to make of Swinney’s acknowledgment of faith?
A friend of mine, whom I respect, suggested Dabo’s Christian joy was an attempt to placate his freshman quarterback who is also a man of faith. There are three problems with this assertion, and we’ll skip the obvious fact that Trevor Lawrence said nothing about Jesus or God in his on field interview immediately following the game.
First, if Coach Swinney were dead set on pleasing his quarterback, why did he wait until the fifth game of the season to start him? Lawrence was a high school legend. It seems the easier way to please him would be with playing time rather than fake faith.
Second, Coach Swinney seems to be the most genuine coach in college football, unless you count Les Miles who said, “Death Valley is where championship dreams come to die.” The University of Kansas football program got ten times more interesting when they hired Les, but I digress.
Third, who’s to say that Trevor Lawrence couldn’t inspire his football coach to grow closer to God? I’ve heard Tim Tebow had a positive effect on Urban Meyer. Why couldn’t Trevor Lawrence have the same effect on Dabo?
How should we react when a coach, or an athlete gives credit to God after a championship win? I’ll end this post with a few suggestions:
- We should evaluate what they’re saying. Are they pointing to God as their leader, or are they pointing to God as their helper? Are they acknowledging God for being great or are they telling us that God has made them great. There’s a big difference.
- We should not be jealous. Let’s face it guys, which one of us would not love to be standing on the podium hoisting the Lombardi trophy or that weird looking National Championship stick? I like the crystal ball personally, but I hear Alabama broke it. I’ll be honest. I would love it, but God did not create me to coach college football. If I were the head coach at Clemson, we would not be bowl eligible. We might beat teams like Iowa and Oklahoma, but those would be our lone victories.
- We should cut them some slack for two reasons. First, these guys have just come off winning a championship, and they are amped up. Second, most of these guys are not seminary trained. The rampant emotions and the shallow theological understanding combine to make for some uncomfortable statements. Let’s cut them some slack and look beyond their post-game interviews to how their faith is expressed in their actions. Many of these coaches and athletes are heavily involved in FCA, their churches, and other Christian organizations. They’re making a lasting difference in their communities. Their post-game statements will fade into obscurity, but the tangible impact they’re making on those around them will be their legacy.
- How do they react when they lose? Tim Tebow, after his team lost the SEC Championship game to Alabama said, “to God be the glory”. I’ve not heard how Tua (I can’t even begin to spell his last name) reacted, but I hope his faith is stronger than one lopsided defeat. We should pay attention to how these athletes and coaches react when they’re on the wrong end of the score before we make a judgment about the authenticity of their faith.
We need athletes and coaches proclaiming the name of Christ. They’re going to fail at times (cue the Hugh Freeze comments) but we should be pleased whenever Christ’s name is mentioned. In Philippians, Paul was faced with those who had ulterior motives for proclaiming the name of Christ. He responded, “To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. These preach out of love for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, I will continue to rejoice.” When we hear Christ’s name proclaimed, let’s rejoice.