First Round Grace

Submitted by Pita Horne

I once heard a conversation on the radio about a young quarterback. The commentators explained how football players drafted in the first round will be given every opportunity to fail. They are seldom (never) cut from the team at the end of the preseason competition.

In contrast, NFL clubs will sign young, undrafted, players to temporary contracts to get them through training camp. Throughout the preseason NFL teams must gradually cut their squad from 90 players to 75, and then finally to 53 players on the team's roster at the start of the regular season. If you're doing the math, that means that 40% of the players present on the opening day of training camp won't play in the NFL that year.

Read more

Fired and Hired

Submitted by Pita Horne

January 13, 2015 – The Buffalo Bills hire Rex Ryan as their new head coach
December 27, 2016 – The Buffalo Bills fire Rex Ryan.
January 11, 2017 – The Buffalo Bills hire Sean McDermott as their new head coach.

As the NFL offseason continues, the teams who failed to make it to the Playoffs begin the process of improving for next year. This may involve upgrading the roster through the draft or through trades. In many instances it involves changing the coaching staff.

This year, Washington decided to clean out the coaches on the defensive side of the ball firing four, including the defensive coordinator. Firing assistant coaches for another five teams wasn’t enough. Buffalo, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco all fired their head coaches as well as some assistants.

In the case of Buffalo, Rex Ryan was their eighth coach since 1998. No coach in that period has survived to the end of their fourth season. Only Wade Phillips (1998-2000) has managed a winning record in that period. Perhaps Sean McDermott will prove to be the guy that can lead Buffalo out of the longest current playoff drought (17 years) in the NFL.

This time of year reminds me that we’re all accountable to someone.

Read more

If God had a Draft

As the NFL draft approaches, those of us in NFL markets hear all kinds of speculation and information about college players we’ve never heard of previously.

Which teams need a QB?
Who will move up in the draft to get the player they want?
What is my team’s greatest need?
What if they need to improve their offensive line, but the secondary is also weak after recent retirements?
Why did a team release a particular player?
Does a franchise have a plan when a player is lost to free agency or is this an issue of contract negotiations gone awry?
Who will they draft to improve – or at least replace a lost veteran?

The core question each team has to answer is simply, “Who is the best player who can make the most needed contribution to make my team the best team?”

The Bible records several occasions when God conducted a draft, and His criteria for drafting was quite different. Here are several examples:

Read more

From Cleats to the Cross

Submitted by Peter Horne

This coming Sunday the NFL is encouraging its players to wear custom cleats that reflect their commitment to charitable causes. In this league promotional video Brandon Marshall works creatively to give each element of his cleats’ design significant meaning. He wants to raise awareness of mental illness and the design elements steer people’s thoughts in that direction.

The NFL  "My Cause, My Cleats" page contains pictures of many different cleat designs and the explains the causes they support. This excellent initiative allows players to express their individuality while benefitting others with significant needs. Each cleat contains a story begging to be told: a family member’s illness, a loved one’s death, a friend’s struggle, a personal hurt….

Over 2000 years the Christian faith has collected many symbols and stories. Some of the symbols are works of art, songs, or rituals, others are artifacts, historical relics. Some are clearly fictional or fraudulent, others move people deeply.

Read more

Next Man Up

Pita Horne is a regular contributor to Spirituality in Sports. See his blog at God Meets Ball.

Each summer NFL teams start training camp with 90 players on their roster. In 2016, the magic date for reducing the roster to 53 was September 3.

It sounds so matter of fact, "reduce the roster". In reality many of those players cut will never play in an NFL game as their dreams of professional football evaporate. At the other end of the spectrum, veteran players hoping to get another year or two out of their aging body also find themselves confronting disappointment and frustration as they look for work or wait for other players to get injured throughout the year.

The harsh reality is no player can continue to take the punishment of the NFL forever.

This season, one of the biggest stories has been of the Dallas Cowboys’ backfield. It was bad enough news when the team lost NFL veteran and 1,000 yard Darren McFadden to a broken elbow in the offseason, but then their All Pro quarterback, Tony Romo, was sidelined with another back injury in a preseason contest against Seattle.

Read more

Major League Missionary

Pita Horne is a regular contributor to Spirituality in Sports. He has his own blog that he has operated for several years; check it out at God Meets Ball.

Unless you've been living in a cave, you might have heard that the Chicago Cubs won the MLB World Series this year. This was their first championship in 108 years.

Whenever something historically significant like this occurs numerous stories will be told to demonstrate how improbable the victory was. We'll hear tales of struggles overcome. And players will establish themselves as heroes in the furnace of the moment as the world watches.

This year, the Cubs' player who shined brightest in the World Series spotlight was veteran outfielder, Ben Zobrist. In his first year as a Cub, after winning a World Series ring with Kansas City last year, Zobrist hit for a .357 average and .919 OPS in seven World Series games. This was enough to win him the series MVP.

Read more

Imperfect But Striving for Perfection

ref yellow flagWhat do we do with an imperfect Christian?

What do we do with the sports star who espouses Christ but falls - publicly? What happens when the camera pans on them just as they shout an obscenity or follows them as they start a brawl in the heat of a moment? What happens when they draw that technical foul, or worse, are arrested for DUI or suspicion of another crime?

As Spirituality in Sports interviews and uploads videos, the day will inevitably come when one of the believers on this website will make a large, public mistake. Their face will be posted all over the Internet and Television for being caught in an act clearly not of Christ. Pundits will pile on in protestation of such behaviors, shake their heads and wag their fingers – perhaps rightfully so.

What then?

Read more

Wins and Losses secondary, but Harding ranked in the top 10

What do you get when you have a head coach and a defensive coordinator/head coach in waiting who don’t focus on wins and losses? What happens when their emphasis is not wrapped up in on the field results, touchdowns, turnovers, and even tackling?

You get the top ten ranked Harding University Bisons – a program which has been making noise in the Greater American Conference for several years. Harding, a faith based institution in Searcy, Arkansas, has not been known as a football power, but the current coaching staff is changing that perception.

2016 is quickly turning into a special season for the Bisons, led by head coach Ronnie Huckeba (pronounced Huckabee) and defensive coordinator and 2017 head coach Paul Simmons. These two men with personal ties for decades, are leading the charge while they redefine success.

Read more