Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrating (Sinful) Sports Stars

Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But it seems as though recently his accomplishments off the field have been overshadowing his impressive accomplishments on the field. Unfortunately, his off-field "accomplishments" are far less impressive, causing many sports writers and fans to question his character and judgment.

The most recent allegation is that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a 20 year-old woman in a bar bathroom in Georgia. Last summer he was served with a civil lawsuit by a hotel worker who accused him of raping her at a Lake Tahoe hotel where the woman worked. Of course these are only allegations and I do believe a man is innocent until found guilty.

But there is more. He almost killed himself in 2006 when he had a motorcycle accident while riding without a helmet, and has a reputation in Pittsburgh of skipping out on his restaurant tabs. And when I did a search of his name to insert a photo into this post, this photo of an obviously drunk Roethlisberger was one of the first to come up.

Ben Roethlisberger is a sinner. And so am I. I'm not bringing up a record of his sins in order to cast judgment on the man. To do so would be to cast judgment on myself, for I am the greatest sinner that I know. The question on my mind is this: should Christians celebrate this guy, and others like him, by wearing his football jersey? Going to school at Penn State, I know many Christians who watch their beloved Steelers on Sunday afternoons wearing a Roethlisberger jersey.

I personally wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. In fact, my Chase Utley Phillies T-shirt now serves as a dust rag after he dropped the F-bomb in a pre-planned speech on live TV after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. Yet I still have and wear my Jimmy Rollins shirt, though for all I know he may well use the F-word as often as Utley and get drunk as much as Roethlisberger. And when I go to Phillies games, I sometimes wear an authentic Ryan Howard Jersey that my wife got me for a great price at a yard sale a few years ago. Maybe that is hypocrisy; I've not got this all figured out.

As a Christian, I desire that my whole life reflect a hunger for God's glory. That includes my enjoyment of sports. I certainly do it very imperfectly, and I don't think there are absolutes when it comes to areas of Christian liberty like this.

So let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that Christians who wear Ben Roethlisberger's jersey are sinning by doing so. I'm simply saying that I am not comfortable doing so, and am curious what other readers think about this subject.

For those of you who love sports, how do you feel about celebrating and cheering for athletes who are openly living their lives in rebellion against the God whom we love and worship?

1 comment:

  1. Is is possible to celebrate the God-given skill(s) of an athlete or team without idolizing them as individuals? I tend to focus more on "wow, what a great play" than on "wow, Utley is the man!" This attitude also helps to keep things in perspective when a player makes a mistake. I am a sports fan--not an athlete fan!