Posted tagged ‘sports’

Why Character Matters to Me

February 16, 2016

by Dr. Steven J. Callis 

                Whether earned by overwhelming accomplishments or awarded by popular opinion, people rise to the top in their field.  Be it sports, entertainment, politics, academics, or business career, our society has made it a practice to recognize and honor the leaders.

                The standard of judgment is normally based on performance or productivity.  The world rankings for professional golf, for example, are objective, based on a sanctioned calculating system.  On the other hand, a “most valuable player” award is a subjective decision that may include criteria other than statistical data.  Recent presidential debates judged by news reporters and political experts seem to be based on a candidate’s policies, debate strategy, and the ability to maintain composure in the stressful moments of the actual debate.  Naming a debate “winner” is mostly subjective, as well.

                There is one element that is, in many instances, not considered when promoting someone as the best, or as the winner: character.  No matter the ability or skill level, I have difficulty backing someone whose integrity is questionable, or whose character and diplomacy are weak.

                Two decades ago a political giant whose immorality captured the news headlines declared that his personal life had no affect on his ability to be a leader in the political community.  Amazingly, many American citizens seemed to agree with him, so reported the media.  Similarly, there often is a superstar athlete in the news for drug abuse, domestic violence, or other off-the-field improprieties.

                The question is this: does it matter?  Those empowered by their fame say that it does not matter.  As long as they perform to the satisfaction of the public and do what they are paid to do, personal character is of no issue.  Do you agree?

                Well, it does matter to me, for a few reasons.  For one, character and integrity cannot be turned on and off like a light switch when a person transitions from private live to public arena.  If a person has questionable morality in private, it will follow him to the office or field.  The two cannot be separated. The outflow from that is lack of trust from the public fan base that it creates.

                Another great concern for me is that our children are watching, and often emulating these giants of their fields, especially those who often are in the public eye.  I recall one NBA superstar who was reminded that he is a role model for America’s youth, responding that he is not a role model, but an athlete; and if a kid wants him to be a role model, that’s the kid’s problem.  How could he not realize that he has no choice in the matter?  Many children and teens want to be superstars someday, and they will follow the example of others who have successfully reached that dream.

                It may sound crazy to you, but my feelings are so strong that I do not even put such players on my “fantasy” teams.  And a political candidate’s character will be no afterthought for me; rather it will play a large role in my vote at every level of government, especially the presidential race.

                Integrity begins at home.  Persons with integrity tend to gravitate to others with like character.  So it really does begin in you and me.  Character; our nation was founded on it, and it must be a part of her restoration.   

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.

Don’t Knock Yourself Out

September 9, 2013

Don’t Knock Yourself Out

By Steven J. Callis


Nationally syndicated newspaper columnist L.M. Boyd once wrote about a boxing match back in the early 1930s, when C.D. “Bigboy” Blalock of Louisiana State University–a six-foot-six-inch giant of a boxer–was taking on a stocky fellow from Mississippi State.

Boyd wrote, “In the second round, Bigboy let loose a roundhouse.  The Mississippi man stepped in, and his head caught Bigboy’s arm inside the elbow. With the opponent’s head acting as a lever, Bigboy’s arm whipped around in almost full circle, connecting with haymaker force on Bigboy’s own chin. He staggered, grabbed the rope, walked almost all the way around the ring, and then fell flat for the count–the only prizefighter who ever knocked himself out with a right to his own jaw.”

I could not help but laugh the first time I read this story.  However, it quickly brought to mind the Louis Binstock quote, “We are our own worst enemy as we foolishly build stumbling blocks on the path that leads to success and happiness.”

Ultimately, each one of us is responsible for our own choices and actions.  We can attempt to hide behind our adversarial circumstances, but in reality these are mere excuses to rationalize our vulnerabilities and poor judgments.  There are plenty of examples where right choices have overcome adversity, rather than being victimized by it.

Ask a football coach what his team does during halftime at a game, and his simple answer is really quite profound: we strategize about how to overcome the things that were working against us in the first half, and about what to do with the unexpected surprises brought about by our opponents.

A difficult childhood, alcoholic parents, health issues, financial setbacks, and losses in life certainly present their challenges, but they do not justify selfish avengement or retaliation at the expense of others; poor life choices are not inevitable consequences of adversity.

One writer of deep wisdom offers this 3-fold philosophy about living a good life: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.  The reference, however, is not to occasional moments or days of such a life; rather, a consistent, persistent lifestyle.  This advice is something every person can choose to follow; things we can do despite our circumstances or adversity.  It simply is a matter of choice and will.

By the way, the aforementioned writer is the prophet Micah. In its context, the prophet has said that a person can do many good things, but that the surest way to make a difference in one’s world is to persistently act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly [with the Lord].

Don’t beat yourself up over what life has dealt you.  Don’t let your adversity victimize you.  Choose instead to be an overcomer.

More Than a Fantasy

September 7, 2012

More than a Fantasy, by Steven J. Callis

Just Thinking:  College football is underway!  That fact means very little to some of you, I realize.  On the other hand, I read recently 20 things you will never hear a southerner say, and one of them was, “I don’t have a favorite team.”  Connie and I drove to Knoxville last Friday, and on the highways I saw vehicles saluting their teams:  Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia – – in the words of public address announcer Bobby Denton (for 44 years), “It’s football time in Tennessee!”  Vols fans hear that phrase at the beginning of every Tennessee football game.  Well, it’s football time in the entire South!!!

Coinciding with the arrival of football season is Fantasy Football.  I am in a league with my brothers, nephews, and son.  In Fantasy Football, I am the coach and manager, deciding who will play that week, trading players to get the best possible roster, etc.  Truthfully, though, it’s not much of a fantasy.  I can’t talk to my players, I am not actually on the sideline with an all-star lineup, I can’t hear the fans cheering…no, just names on a computer screen.

Now, Mr. Roark and his sidekick, Tattoo, had this fantasy idea perfected.  Guests of Fantasy Island actually lived out their fantasy for a weekend at this very special place.  The twist, however, was that people’s fantasies usually included unforeseen obstacles and glitches, often involving pain or heartache.  I wonder what YOUR weekend would entail if you took a trip to Fantasy Island.

The Bible speaks of a kind of “fantasy,” and participants will actually experience it emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  AND, there is no danger of heartache, pain, or disappointment there:  Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.