By Jeff Robinson
At the risk of sounding like one who has missed the real meaning of Christmas, I have to admit that one of my favorite aspects of the holiday season is the presence of myriads of important (or pseudo-important if your team, as did beloved Georgia Bulldogs, wound up in a non-BCS Bowl despite an 11-2 record and winning the SEC East, not that I’m bitter about it or anything. . . .) football games. The NFL season is wrapping up and the playoffs are looming, but, best of all for me, college teams with at least six victories are playing bowl games (the rightness and wrongness of which are highly debatable).
For me, it is an important marker on the annual calendar: the end of college football buries the last vestiges of autumn and gives way to the cold, gloom of winter (read: I would prefer to boycott winter). Friends have teased that in the Robinson household there are three annual seasons instead of four: baseball season, football season and basketball season. Indeed, this lies close to the truth.
In recent years, my sons have begun to watch games with me and it has forced me to think through this pursuit in terms of “how to” and “how much.” So, here is one father’s guide to navigating the bowl games (or NFL contests if you prefer the well-salaried tackle footballers) over the next few days:
- Keep the remote control in your hand (Or keep it beside you if you are a more animated fan). Commercials often attempt to capitalize on the prurient interests of men. This reality gives dads the opportunity to guard his own heart and protect his family, while modeling for his sons the profound care that a godly man must take in determining where his eyes will roam. Beware: there is much filth out there and it must not enter your household. Guard your heart and those of your family with vigilance at all times when the TV is on. “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds…Take no part in the fruitful works of darkness…” (Eph 4:17; 5:11)
- Look for opportunities to discuss God’s sovereignty over sports. Countless times I have heard, “Come on, God has better things to do than mess with football. He doesn’t care about who wins and has nothing to do with it.” But, as the great Dutch statesman/theologian Abraham Kuyper so famously said, there is not one square inch of creation about which God does not say, “Mine.” Tell your kids that God is sovereign over football, even when your highly-ranked team loses to its unranked rival. This truth should help neuter proclivities toward the sinful sore-loser syndrome which can, in the brief span of three hours, turn a grown man into a sniveling, pouting boy. “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lam 3:37)
- Look for opportunities to point out the way in which God has gifted athletes. When Ochocinco makes a great catch and then struts like Nebuchadnezzar, tell your boys that it was God who gave the wide out his gifts and that the glory belongs to Him alone. All athletic ability comes from God and must be employed for His glory – end zone dances notwithstanding. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.” (Dan 4:35a)
- Watch games (and television/Internet in general) in moderation. Don’t stay on the couch so long that you become as much a fixture in the den as the armoire or sofa. Tell your children that football is one of God’s good gifts among many, but remind them that it does not make a satisfying God. Only Christ and His Gospel satisfy. Tell them. Show them. Spend more holiday time doing other things with them than you do in front of ESPN3. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15)
(Jeff Robinson is editor of Gender Blog. He serves as pastor of preaching and pastoral vision at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, the heart of SEC football country.)