07 September 2011

Open Letter to College Football

by Frank Turk

Dear College Football,

It is not going to do any good to tell you this because you're not a person.  You're not even an event per se: you're a season in the sociological calendar.  So this is like writing an open letter to Spring Break, and I grasp its futility even as I type.

You know: between January and August inclusively, more or less, I can count on Twitter being veritably alive with the tweets of good men and pastors who are prep'ing for Bible Study and Sermons on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  It can actually get unnerving to get Tweet-preached by roughly 100 guys who take their duties as pastors and fathers and husbands seriously -- in a good way.

And then on that first Saturday of College Football ...

... I mean: it's like the Egyptians brought Leeks and Garlic to the Red Sea rather than the chariots.

What I am not saying is that ever watching sports is a sin -- or that enjoying sports is a sin.  Hating Futball (that's Soccer to you ign'ant Americans) is a kind of sin, but that's not my point.  My point is that there's something strange that happens when College Football season starts, and it shows up on even the best of men with the most formidable spiritual lives.

Because I trust their faith and not yours, I hold you responsible.  Do something about that -- after you make sure the Razorbacks get a good bowl slot this year, you stingy, jaded, biased and possibly conspiratorial malcontent.

Woo Pig Sooey.








58 comments:

Tom Chantry said...

Frank,

Thank you for this timely and very needed spiritual letter. I can only say that I hope that College Football responds to your letter with serious and life-changing repentance. For too many years CF has been a blight on the fellowship and holiness of the church.

I well remember the visiting pastor from Alabama at our central Pennsylvania church when I was in my teens who spoke first to my family at dinner and then to every member of our church that he could buttonhole about his memories of the 1979 Sugar Bowl. I couldn't tell you what the brother preached on. None of us could hear him because of the palpable hatred in the room. My memory wafts back to that very Sugar Bowl, the only time my otherwise godly father drove in furious silence the entire distance from my grandparents house to our own.

Exsurge Domine! A wild boar seeks the destruction of the Kingdom, and I do not mean only a Razorback!

Robert said...

I'm sure it is the same everywhere, but growing up in SEC country and now living in Big 12 country (although I'm not sure if they'll ever have 12 teams again, but I digress), it seems like it gets especially crazy around here during football season. I am an LSU alum and fan, but I have found that my fervor has waned greatly since being saved. I still follow the team and root for them, but it isn't the focal point of my Saturday, let alone my week. Same goes for following the Saints in the NFL. Although I still need this reminder so that people see me as a Christian first and foremost.

PS - I hope you remember this post around Thanksgiving weekend, Frank!

stratagem said...

Frank, this tongue in cheek just gave me an idea for a line of pigskin Bible covers with shoelace stitching on the front cover.

I don't watch football, ever, but I'm not afraid to make some money off those who do!

Just Jules said...

I'm waiting for basketball. Rock chalk.

Doug Hibbard said...

As the Wild Boar did so much good for all of us,

so shall the Hog be good for the subject of your letter. Woo PIG SOOIE!!

Tony said...

All future "open letters" should be this short. :) :)

Johnny Dialectic said...

I don't see why you're so negative about college football. It provides money, cars, booze, drugs and women to young men and teaches them to value winning at any cost. We're building futures here, so what's the beef?

David Regier said...

I just had a pleasant little mental exercise imagining what it would look like if seminaries had football teams.

GW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GW said...

Only five more months until the "year of the open letter" is over!

Now that he has moved on to more abstract ideas one only wonders what we have to look forward to.

Open Letter to Mount Rushmore?
Open Letter to the Internet?
Open Letter to the DQ Blizzard?

However, it would be wrong to imply that Mr. Turk is involved in some kind of conspiracy to demand that loyalty to illiberal blackguards supersedes personal loyalty. :-)

Manfred said...

Actually, soccer (kickball, as it's called where I live) ought to be illegal in this country.

Lee Shelton said...

@Robert: I'm a New Orleans native and lifelong Saints and Tigers fan. I think it's easier for us relax now since we've seen the impossible: both of those teams winning national championships in our lifetimes. :)

The Squirrel said...

I've often explained my passion for football as "my other religion."

Up with Montana, Boys! Go, Griz!

aztexan said...

Manfred: >>Actually, soccer (kickball, as it's called where I live) ought to be illegal in this country.<<

Agreed. But calling soccer "kickball" is an insult to real Kickball.

Rhology said...

College football is the official state religion of Oklahoma.

Tim Bertolet said...

Ok, I'm just going to say it... did you follow Matthew 18 and confront College Football personally before you wrote this?

Just Jules said...

Did you take College Football out for coffee?

Just Jules said...

Or, possibly brats and a cold beer.

Lawrence Underwood said...

Wooooooo Pig Sooie!
WOOOOO Pig Sooie!
WOOOOO PIG SOOIE!

RAZORBACKS!

(Cue the band)

Tad said...

Frank....I think this is my favorite open letter yet. And yes, and tweeted about the game on Saturday, shame on me. But on a more serious note, you made the statement that enjoying football is not a sin. And I agree wholeheartedly, except when I am screaming at the tv and my kids are crying because their daddy has turned into a raving lunatic...that is sin. But, I have come across a new breed of puritanical Calvinist that is arguing that all competition is sin, especially sports. I have argued against this on several levels, but to no avail. How would you respond to such a charge as this?

Tom Chantry said...

But, I have come across a new breed of puritanical Calvinist that is arguing that all competition is sin, especially sports. I have argued against this on several levels, but to no avail. How would you respond to such a charge as this?

I'd offer to settle the disagreement with an arm-wrestling match, but that's just me.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Why did Tom Chantry have to go and ruin the comment thread by posting the best comment FIRST?

I've pretty much avoided College Football, passed it by, not gone near it. Unlike professional American football, college players tend to play for the glory rather than the millions of dollars the pros are guaranteed. As a result, one cannot sleep through a college football game, while I regularly look forward to the afternoon nap/pro game every Sunday after church. It would be anti-productive for me to get hooked on College Football, because I'd have to actually watch it.

However, your comment about getting Tweet-preached is quite interesting. (Tweet-preaching. There's gotta be a witty joke in there, but I'm mentally blocked.) Makes me almost want to jump on board with twitter. Almost. But I'm a weaker sister. Can't go there. At least not until the kids move out.

Frank Turk said...

Here's how my week goes, now that I am writing open letters here on the blog:

Friday - make a short list of likely candidates for the open letter. Draft a bullet-point outline for each (mentally if not physically) to test how interesting the letter will be.

Saturday - Family time. Mull over the outlines and (sometimes) discuss with the Holy Spirit (my wife being His conduit in my house). Eliminate non-starters. Flesh out best ideas.

Sunday - After church, usually after dinner, start the first draft of the letter. Probably scrap the first draft, sometimes ditch the first idea for a different, better idea. Sleep on what turns out to be the second first draft.

Monday - close the draft and have a provisional final draft. Forget to proofread so the better readers will have something to e-mail me about.

Tuesday - Ponder for a moment: how much more will I enjoy this letter than most of the readers? That is: what is it that I know about this letter that the readers may miss? Is it possible to clarify that without ruining the letter? No? OK -- nevermind then. I'll leave the typos in just to throw them a bone.

Wednesday - Sit here agog that the point of the letter is utterly missed except by the usual suspects. Laugh at the noetic problem and ask Jesus to forgive me for being callous.

Frank Turk said...

Tad --

Ask them whether they think that applies to Capitalism or not. That would be a great way to see the wheels come off their apple cart.

Just Jules said...

If "the point of the letter is utterly missed except by the usual suspects"' maybe it's your writing and not the readers.

Tom Chantry said...

Well, then, only one thing to do...

Next Week's Open Letter: "To the Usual Suspects"

Rabbit said...

@ JustJules: "Like"

Matt Aznoe said...

I want to say that I really enjoy watching football. I was a huge Denver Broncos fan for years (even when they were always losing before Elway), so I am not out to take out football fans.

But I sincerely wonder if we, as Christians, should be participating in what really amounts to idolatry in this country and is so closely associated with beer and sex.

"So, since Christ suffered in the flesh, you also arm yourselves with the same attitude, because the one who has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin, in that he spends the rest of his time on earth concerned about the will of God and not human desires. For the time that has passed as sufficient for you to do what the non-Christians desire." (1 Peter 4:1-3a NET)

We have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, the Almighty God comes down in the flesh to live and die to save us. Is spending a minimum of three hours watching a game and then the endless discussions afterward (including sometimes real divisions that come as a result) worth it in light of all that was given for us and is even now being given to us? If we were to catch even a ten second glimpse of Hell, would we even consider such a pointless distraction worth our attention or time? We are commanded to be "sober and alert", but instead we steep ourselves in an activity that takes our mind off of the kingdom and places it squarely in this world.

Now I will freely confess that I am talking more strongly than I feel, but I say that to my shame not as an excuse. I think it bears serious and sober reflection.

Mike Westfall said...

Leeks and Garlic, yum. Much tastier than nasty ol' chariots.

Oh, and... Go Razorbacks!

donsands said...

"..Leeks and Garlic"?
I guess bad breath was something desirable back in those days.

Love College Football season. Good letter to the same to hold them accountable.

The Terrapins won this past Monday night, and as much as I love Maryland football, I hated their new uniforms. It was difficult to watch them play in such hideous helmets and uniforms.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/836596-maryland-football-uniforms-2011-terps-new-helmets-pose-a-hideous-distraction

Scooter said...

I'm from Big Ten country, thickness is part of my genes. The most striking example comes around the Advent season. Without fail, every year we somehow think we will prevail against the SEC or the Big 12 during the bowls. Thankfully cynicism prevailed in my life and I chuckle every time someone says, "This is the year!"

Actually this seasons annoys me the most in church. The pastor can barely get the benediction out before the previous day's games are debated or plans to watch Sunday games are made.

And I'm glad the almost sin of hating futbol was mentioned. No stone left unturned, no sin left in darkness!

Robert Warren said...

memories of the 1979 Sugar Bowl. I couldn't tell you what the brother preached on.

Pastor Chantry: It was probably the
perseverance of Barry Krauss
.

Tom Chantry said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Everyone from Bama will tell you that was the greatest goal-line stand in history. Everyone from Central PA will tell you that our iconic coach, is, always was, and ever will be a complete ninny when it comes to play-calling. Four downs, and he called the same play four times? After the first three times failed, what exactly did he expect on fourth down?

Frank Turk said...

Chantry -- then you and I and a few others could just revert to e-mail. And think of how much happier the world would be without the open letters! They could be closed letters that no one else could read and then the cry would be "CONSPIRACY! CABAL! SECRET PLOT!"

That sounds so fantastic I may think about it some more. It sounds kind of like the conf Skype call I have with my brothers at CalvinistGadfly.com.

Rob said...

I think you could have gone further: There was nothing in your open letter about averting one's eye's when the scantly-clad cheerleaders appear on the screen.
Or the questionable elements of a game which by nature involves muscular young men grappling with one another for a few hours.
Or how this sport seems to be punctuated with an endless succession of commercials for alcohol.

I'm sure that the Lord is edified (and wives appreciative) of their husbands and sons sitting motionless on a couch watching grown men throwing a ball to one another...

David Regier said...

I'll bet Chantry doesn't sound like Mater.

Cathy said...

As a diehard Auburn Tiger alum and fan - married to, daughter of, and daughter-in-law to the same- who was transplanted to the heart of Razorback country 12 years ago, I strongly object to the tone of this letter.

So I'm pretty sure I missed the point....

Frank Turk said...

I think somehow both Rob and Cathy got the point.

the phantom of the bookstore said...

Woo Pig Sooie?

I thought pigs were unclean...

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Wait. There is a point to this post we are supposed to understand?

Blog post titles can be so confusing sometimes.

I'll have to read it again with my team pyro helmet on. (Those are for sale in the concessions stand, right?)

busdriver4jesus said...

I remember a while ago asking you the spirituality of watching whole seasons of "Smallville" in the span of a couple days... your indignant response included the rationale of family time and "understanding our culture". That said, I wholeheartedly agree with your tone and concern,

Careful about that log in your eye!

Brett

Tom Chantry said...

And there we have it!

As of 9:10 AM this post received the first response that I expected, and as of 12:48 PM it received the second!

Still looking for that email, Frank.

Chris H said...

I don't think I got the point, but I'm not willing to respond until I do.

That said, Go Gators!

James Joyce said...

@stratagem
It's been done with NFL football bibles anyway.
http://www.alittleleaven.com/2008/12/pigskin-bible-cover.html

Robert said...

I agree with Rob...and I guess that is why I don't sit through much of any of the games any more.

Robert said...

@Tom - I am actually surprised that it took that long, but I've become more cynical as I approach 40...I'm hoping I reach a happy medium soon.

Matt Aznoe said...

So what exactly did I say that was so bad? Or is it just that you guys don't like me?

Tom Chantry said...

No one dislikes you, Matt, and you did nothing wrong. I just knew someone would want to discuss the merits and moral deficiencies of football. I'm just glad it was done by someone who is an admitted fan of football, and not by a hater!

Tim said...

My niece is in the band (clarinet) and my youngest son is a junior and we are all HOG FANS! WPS!!

St. Lee said...

I assumed that the whole rabid overblown college football fan phenomena was a southern thing, but I see I may be wrong. Maybe I was mislead by living in Minnesota where the college football team has been soooo bad for soooo long that hardly anyone remembers there is one. Up here, if there is an issue with Christians being waylaid, it is by the NFL,...except for those few of us who greet each new underachievement with an "I told you so" rather than disappointment. The Vikings: always ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

Rachael Starke said...

If I stopped and considered all the ways in which a nation worshipping a game named after a ball that is neither a ball, nor one to which a foot is often applied, might possibly be a metaphysical statement about the true state of that aforementioned nation,

I'd have to watch about eight straight hours of cricket just to keep from killing myself.

Chris Nelson said...

I'm giving up football this year after years of spending countless, wasted hours watching it. Still trying to figure out what to say to the Lord when He asks me why I wasted so much time.

Keith said...

At a church we used to attend, most of the Elders could recite the starting offensive and defensive lineups for not only their favorite school, but just about every school in the conference. On the other hand, few of them could have named the books of the NT or the Twelve.

Solameanie said...

Time for an open letter to the WWE.

naturgesetz said...

I may waste more time watching Red Sox games on TV that lots of people waste watching college and pro football (considering that there are 162 baseball games in the regular season, and no, I don't watch every one but I do watch most). So there's the plank, beam, log — call it what you will, KJV or not — in my eye.

I understand why people like to see their old alma mater's football team do well, and I understand why people like to see their local pro team do well. But the obsession that many people have takes it to a ridiculous extreme. And it is simply insane for people who never attended a school to get all wrapped up in it's athletic success.

There is a columnist for the Boston Globe named Derrick Jackson who writes of the poor graduation rates of "student" athletes at many universities. This is the case both with football and basketball. The "students" and the universities are exploiting each other: the athletes for the chance to make big bucks in the pros (to say nothing of all the side benefits while they're still in school); and the universities for the donations from sports-crazed alumni. But it has nothing to do on either side with giving those young men an excellent education.

donsands said...

I hope I never boast in anything but the Cross when it comes to my salvation. And hopefully my heart is dead to the world and the world is dead to me.

That would be the religious world and the secular world.

And I am surely free to enjoy football, which I do, which I played. And also Lacrosse is a joy to me, which I played.

Nothing compares with Christ really. The Gospel is all alone in all its glory, and there is no other salvation, nor name under heaven whereby a soul can be saved from condemnation and eternal death and seperation from the Lord of lords.
I am not the Gospel, that's for sure. Hopefull my light shines a bit for my Savior; and my salt is still salty as I watch the Ravens play the Steelers this Sept. 11th.

Have a great Lord's day in His grace and peace and joy!

Edward said...

I did not know Ar Kansas still had a college football team.

Frank Turk said...

The WWE is a different kind of religion. I'm not sure I'm massive enough to take it on.