Tuesday, March 8

The Last and the Least

When Hugh Goldie (1806-1881) joined a mission station in Old Calabar on the West Coast of Africa early in the nineteenth century, he was horrified by many of the things he found there. The living conditions of the people were utterly deplorable. Their nutrition was abominable. Their hygiene was disgraceful. Their social and commercial arrangements were in utter disarray.

But it was their cavalier attitude to the sanctity of human life that most disturbed him. Although they had recently abandoned the centuries-old practice of human sacrifice, they still freely practiced abortion, abandonment, and infanticide. Goldie was met with stiff opposition by the tribal chiefs--and even by many of his fellow missionaries who felt that his pro-life convictions would compromise their evangelistic efforts--he stood firmly on what he believed was the essential integrity of the whole counsel of God.

He faithfully taught the people. He worked hard to ensure that every man, woman, and child had access to adequate health care so that there would be no excuse for the taking of innocent lives. And he established a pattern of care and concern for the least desirable people in the community--rather than focusing his attentions on the most prestigious--thus modeling a consistent ethic of the sanctity of all human life.

Finally, as a result of his life-long crusade for life, tribal decrees on this day in 1851 banned the terrible customs. He eventually went on to his eternal reward having "run the race, fought the fight, and held the course" (2 Timothy 4:7).

Sports Scandals

Steroids in baseball. The NHL lockout. College recruiting slush funds. NBA basket-brawls. Tournament tampering. Salary cap and free agency feeding-frenzies. Jury-rigging rosters. Scabbing road team lineups for the playoffs. Blood-doping in the peloton. Under-the-table Alumni bling-bling.

Oy veh! What a mess sports have become--at all levels.

Why is it that the very thing that ought to teach us and our children discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, playing by the rules, respect for authority, and love for the game has produced just the opposite? How is it that sports have been so degraded by an unethical, manipulative, selfish, and greedy hubris? Even high schools, intramurals, Pop Warner clubs, Little Leagues, and church round-robins have been swept into the wretched hard-scrabble mess--as I have lamentably witnessed first-hand just this past week. What on earth is going on here?

At least part of the answer is simply that all too many unscrupulous coaches, agents, managers, principals, alumni, or parents are living vicariously through their athletes, students, clients, or children. To be sure, many of those athletes, students, clients, and children can be held culpable for the debasement of their sports as well. But at the heart of virtually all of the current sports scandals you will find some desperate, pitiable, and parasitic soul who lives off of proxy glory--all the while playing the supposed part of a mentor, buddy, or advocate.

It is a vile spectacle, indeed--a nasty little charade. Even in the midst of March Madness with my beloved Lady Vols, NC Tarheels, and Gonzaga Bulldogs roaring into the land of bracketology, it has practically become the ruination of sports. For an avid sports fan like me, that is saying a lot.

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