Posted tagged ‘football’

Mr. T and Gatorade

January 28, 2016

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

            Before Mr. T was a television star, and before Gatorade was the popular drink of choice among athletes, I experienced both.  Known to me as Mr. Turentine, this simple, kind old man loved kids.  When we talked about him, he was “Mr. Turpentine;” when we talked to him, he was Mr. T.

            A member of our large church when I was young, Mt. T was faithful in his attendance to services and church activities.  He enjoyed standing out in the foyer talking to people and sneaking candy from his pocket into the hands of young children.  His best suit was old and hung droopily on his medium build frame.

            He lived alone, owned no car, and was an eccentric individual.  He did not hold official positions in the church, though I recall him helping with custodial duties sometimes.  He was not one to be called upon for answers to faith or theology.  But he loved Jesus, and he loved children.

            Our church had a high school age baseball team in the summertime.  Most church leagues played softball, so our team was registered in a community recreational league.  Games were played at various locations across the city.  I loved baseball growing up and was good enough to be in the starting lineup during those elementary years.  But this was big-boy baseball.  I was a small 9th grader seeing my first ‘real’ curve ball, and one bop in the head proved my fear to be warranted!

            I did not get to play much, being among the younger boys, and being a ‘chicken.’  However, I did get on base a couple of times when the opposing pitcher could not hit my small strike zone. 

            We did have one faithful cheerleader who never missed a game.  His name was Mr. T.  No matter where we played, Mr. T found the bus route that would get him to our games, and he always brought a jug of Kool-Aid for us to drink.  At first I thought he used funny tasting water.  One of the older guys said that it was simply not sweetened.  He reasoned that Mr. T could not afford sugar, so he added salt instead!

            That was then.  We tried to be kind and not hurt his feelings, but it tasted awful, especially when we were expecting a sweet treat!

            Looking at it now, I don’t think Mr. T’s potion was a result of his eccentric ways or his lack of funds.  I genuinely believe he knew the effect sugar would have on athletes needing to replenish energy and lost fluids from perspiration.  I think he was providing us his own version of Gatorade, a sports drink that was not yet a staple across America in dugouts and on sidelines.

            In our large church Mr. T was well known and loved, but had no close circle of friends, no favorite people to sit with during fellowship meals, and was never an ‘up front’ person to be publicly noticed.  But he loved Jesus and he loved people, and he found a permanent place in my heart and memory. 

            By now he has long since reached his eternal home where he enjoys fellowship with Jesus forever.  I wonder if he ever knew what a blessing he was to others, and I wonder how long it took others like me to realize that fact, as well.

Kicking the Kicker

December 3, 2013
Just Thinking: Many football fans tuned in to watch the Alabama-Auburn “iron bowl” last Saturday.  This annual barn burner was a highly anticipated match up this year as #1 ranked Alabama faced #4 Auburn.  It was a good game, with an unexpected and exciting finish, as the Auburn player ran the ball 100+ yards on the last play of the game to win by 6 points.

I will skip all the details of what made the game so exciting; you can find the highlights at ESPN or on youtube.  I will also omit some of the accompanying news and fallouts of the results of the game, which include an Alabama fan poisoning two prestigious trees on the Auburn campus, and a female Bama fan killing another Bama fan for not being upset enough about their defeat.

But there was much focus on the Alabama kicker who missed 2 field goals and had the third attempt blocked.  Though he had made 12 of 13 tries over the course of the season, it was of no consequence as “twitters” severely bashed him with their freedom of speech technology.  He also received several death threats because of his poor performance.  I read a few of the tweets, and it is disgusting what some people will write .

I have no stake in Bama football, but I felt so bad for him when he missed his 2nd attempt, and then to have one blocked.  And I know he felt absolutely horrible.  So I was glad to see his teammates come to his aide and support in the face of these unruly, unsympathetic fans.

The NT makes it quite clear that in the church we are not about kicking someone when they are down.  The command is to gently restore those who have sinned.  We are not judges, we are advocates.  The Body of Christ is a place for healing and growing, not for sentencing. 

But even better news is that God Himself is for us, and not against us.

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”  Romans 4:7-8

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”   2 Corinthians 5:18-19

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”  Hebrews 4:15

A Day of Thanks and Praise

October 18, 2013

By Steven J. Callis

I recently saw a cartoon that portrayed a turkey grinning at the pumpkin which had been carved into a jack-o-lantern.  With a somewhat painful look on his face, the pumpkin declared to the turkey, “Laugh all you want, but you’re next!”

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but many people are already making plans for this national holiday, working out the details of what has become a tradition of family, friends, turkey dinner, parades, and football.  Family gatherings require advanced planning as some family members will travel for a few hours or more to be in attendance.  The menu must be determined, and the preparation of its entrée’s must be delegated to the various attending guests.

Some families change the gathering location from year to year, while others may have one home that most easily accommodates the crowd, or a home that is more geographically centered than the others.  There seems to be some kind of unspoken rule that the host has the privilege of preparing the turkey (and keeping the leftovers!).

Another fun part of Thanksgiving for some people is the close examination of store ads in the newspaper,  anticipating “black Friday.”  Some of the excitement about black Friday is getting up before the chickens in order to be at the store when they open their doors.  Many stores have robbed people of that excitement by opening Thursday at midnight or soon after.

Well, who should we “thank” for all of this tradition and celebration?  President Abraham Lincoln is credited with declaring the last Thursday of November as a national holiday.  History records that Secretary of State William Seward wrote the actual proclamation document.

It is further noted that magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale wrote a letter to the president requesting such a proclamation, stating that she had been advocating for 15 years for all of the States to recognize a common national thanksgiving date. Then, of course, there are the first settlers, the Pilgrims, who celebrated with a thanksgiving feast after their first harvest in 1621.  Many people had a hand in this holiday tradition!

Thanksgiving is not an official Christian holiday, but as you make your plans for this Thanksgiving, consider the words of President Lincoln, proclaiming “a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  Let us give thanks with a grateful heart to the One from whom our blessings flow.

Is Your Game Face On?

August 24, 2013

Is Your Game Face On?

By Steven J. Callis


Little Larry was a new student in Miss Collins’ kindergarten class.  She asked him if he could name the four seasons of the year.  Larry proudly replied, “Winter, Spring, Summer, and Football!”

Yes, it’s that time again for the bears and wildcats and rams and cougars and lions and bulldogs and pioneers and warriors to hit the gridiron.  The most common nickname in college sports is the Eagle, followed by the Panthers, and then the Tigers.  College nicknames tend to follow in line with traditional mascots, but there are some exceptions.  For example, this fall you might see the Scorpions, Blue Hose, Bonnies, Johnnies, Tommies, Trolls, Horned Frogs, Jumbos, Gila Monsters, and my favorite, the Fighting Pickles playing football.

However, I have not found a helmet or uniform that is adorned with a mouse.  I suppose that is reserved for online schools only.  Every student gets to hold the mascot during online class!

No matter how common a school’s nickname may or may not be, it does seem to serve as an identifier, and also a unifier.  We take pride in who we are, and what we represent.  We wear our colors, protect our mascot, paint our faces, and with raised index finger shout at the TV camera as it spans our section of the bleachers, “We’re number one!”

And among that fan-atical crowd we find distinctions in gender, race, economics, grade point averages, politics, and interests, all united under one name that we bear with passion.  We have rallied for a cause.

My senior year in high school was in a brand new school that merged 4 existing schools into one.  Few of the seniors were happy about having to leave their true alma mater for one year at a new school. There were many challenges, obstacles, and conflicts to overcome.  One event that helped to unify this befuddled and somewhat belligerent student body was the privilege of determining the school nickname from a list of 3 choices.  With overwhelming solidarity, we became the Raiders, and many years later that school still stands and bears the Raider emblem.  Our game face was red, white, and blue.

What does your game face look like, in life, that is?  What drives you?  What is the passion that motivates you?  What does it look like when you are living from the center of your heart?  More poignantly, how does that passion impact those around you: your family, friends, school, church, workplace, and community?  How does that passion effect your world?

In the past it was called “giving it 110%.”  Today, athletes are exhorted to “leave it all on the field.”  Oh, that it could be said of me when I leave this earth, “He left it all on the field, and he did it for the glory of Christ.”

And the Band Played On

September 7, 2012

And the Band Played On

By Steven J. Callis

As a high school student, fall Friday nights were all about the game.  After a high protein supper, I would make my way to the locker room where the only noise involved trainers taping ankles, knees, wrists, and elbows, the rustling of shoulder pads and helmets, and occasional whispers among players and coaches.  After the game, the locker room was usually quite noisy in celebration.  I was fortunate to play on a team that won most of its games.

Years later, as a parent, fall Friday nights were all about halftime.  Yes, my wife and I were band parents.  I still watched the game with interest, but the whole night revolved around an 8-minute performance of marching intricacies and musical precision.

Anticipation began as the entire band marched in step to the beat of one lone drummer keeping time with a 4/4 rim shot.  With the players finally in place, one could hear the proverbial pin drop as the announcer inquired, “Drum majors, is you band ready?”  After a series of affirmative salutes, the crowd would erupt with shouts, screams, and applause; then the band played on as they marched their daily-rehearsed patterns.

The highest point of the show was when the band “played to the judges.”  Some people call it the “push,” or the “blow out.”  Immediately prior to that moment, the band plays with its back to the home crowd, and the music is low in volume.  Then, in an instant, the entire band wheels around to face the crowd, marching towards the sideline, and playing at maximum volume.  It is a chilling and thrilling moment that produces proud fans standing in grand reception with shouts of appreciation and pride.

Thinking back in comparison, I have noticed the similarities between the football team and the band.  Both begin the event in a hushed focus, and both end with an enthusiastic celebration.  Both work hard all week, all season, to perfect their performances.  Both play for the pride of the school.

Maybe, just maybe, these thoughts can also be a description of life itself.  We begin with a focus on the very breath of life, we spend years perfecting our performance, and for those who live in the hope of the Christian belief of heaven and eternal life, received by grace through faith, our earthly days end with a celebrative homegoing.   In the words of songwriter Bart Millard, and recorded by MercyMe, “I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side.  I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me, I can only imagine.”

Saving a Life is Pretty Cool

August 20, 2012

Saving a Life is Pretty Cool – Steven J. Callis

“Saving a life is pretty cool.”  These are the words of Bryce, a 19 year old college student who endured a painful week-long procedure to donate bone marrow to a 47 year old leukemia patient in need of a transplant.  The young man’s mother said the pain he experienced during the process actually brought him to his knees.  He compared it to severely straining a muscle while lifting weights, except all over his body.

            As if this story needs another mark of character in it, Bryce knowingly sacrificed a starting position on his collegiate football team this fall in order to serve as a bone marrow donor.  Because of the procedure, his bones will be too weak to risk playing football this year.  How did he feel about that?  “When you compare losing a passion to losing a life, they are pretty easy to weigh against each other,” Bryce said.

            Bryce’s friend since elementary school is also fighting a battle with leukemia and is in need of a transplant.  While Bryce was not a matching candidate for his friend, he was able to transfer that life-saving desire to help someone else, having learned about the potential while attending a donor drive for his friend.

            This reminds me of a similar story about a little boy whose brother needed a life-saving operation.  The parents explained to him that he had the same blood type as his brother, who would need blood during surgery in order to survive.  Agreeing to give his own blood to save his brother’s life, the nurse made the necessary preparations and then began the procedure.  After a few seconds the parents noticed tears running down his cheeks.  Asking if he was in pain, his quivering lips spoke, “How long before I die?”  In his mind, he thought giving up his blood to save his brother’s life would end his own.

            The Christian faith believes in the crucified and risen Christ, whose volitional, sacrificial death on a cross made atonement for the sins of humankind, by which those who believe receive His gift of eternal life.  Through one man (Adam), sin entered the world, and through One (Jesus), sin is pardoned.  I don’t mean this sacrilegiously, but I think Jesus would agree with Bryce: “Yes, it’s pretty ‘cool’ to save a life.”

If you have not experienced this life-saving gift, I urge you to contact a local church pastor to find out more about God’s gift of life. 

By the way, donating blood could save another person’s life, and you can find more information about that act of kindness through the Red Cross.  Also, doing a simple kind deed for someone else may not save the person’s life, but it could rescue a moment of it.  Reach out and give someone else a reason to smile today.