Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Character & The Local Team

Seems the local football team found something to celebrate a few days back (though what that could be, I'm not sure considering their play this season.) And for those who thought ridding themselves of Randy Moss would improve the team's character, think again. As I write this, Jay Leno is on day 7 of monologue jokes at the team's expense.

I love football. Playing is great fun. Coaching 5th/6th grade football was a blast and something I miss. Being in the stands for a University of Minnesota/University of Wisconsin game is awesome fun (except this year.) But of late I've paid less and less attention to the local pro franchise.

I used to live and die, metaphorically speaking, with how the purple clad lads did each Sunday. Now, though, I find myself why I even bother. I enjoy watching the games, but the emotional investment just isn't there. I now have zero problem missing part, or even all, of a Viking's game on TV due to hanging out after church.

And this change of attitude has nothing to do with the team's play. Instead, it has everything to do with the team's players. I'm sure some, maybe even most, of the players are decent guys. But more and more we see stories about players who whine about contracts they've signed, or who are arrested for this/that crime, or who bed the groupies while the wife's in another city.

"But," people say, "they're not role models. They're just athletes, and we shouldn't care what they do off the court." Hogwash. These people are celebrities, for better or worse, and what they do off the court or field is plastered across newspapers, talk radio, and the Tonight Show monologue. Our children can't help but see these athletes be worshipped on Sunday, and then hear about their "dark side" during the week. When we feign outrage at their escapades, but then tune in on Sunday to cheer them on again, our kids see that too. They notice that we're being hypocritical, and that sin ain't so bad if you can catch a ball.

In a perfect world, kids would only look to their parents as role models. But even in this imperfect world, many kids do look to their parents as role models, and sometimes they see us worshipping the celebrities who they know to be flawed. I don't think it's coincidental that I'm less likely to overlook a failed drug test now than I would have been before I became a father. I don't want my kids to see me "preach" that sin is okay if you are famous, or talented, or rich, or...anything. I don't expect perfection - God knows I'm so imperfect as to render moot any self-righteousness I may have. Like it or not, though, when the sins make the paper, you can't ignore them. Fair? Maybe not. But it's not my choice that my kids see public sin - it's my choice how they see me react to it. And no longer will I endorse it, even passively.

Character matters, and for my girls to have good character they need to see it modeled. By my wife and I. Part of that is rejecting those with obvious bad character regardless of what talents they may have. I wish the Vikings well...but I would rather the team gains good character than wins. And if I don't see another game, it won't bother me. Spending Sunday afternoons teaching my daughters what God says about character seems a much more fruitful thing to do.

God bless!

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