Sports are the crown of unscripted entertainment. 111.9 million people watched Super Bowl 50, a billion people watched the 2014 FIFA World Cup final and 3.5 billion viewers tuned in for the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
No matter what team or athlete you follow, the magic of sports is its ability to keep you at the edge of your seat during the whole event.
Growing up, my family was crazy about sports. Sundays brought three guarantees to our household: eggs for breakfast, church, and watching football. My two sisters did gymnastics and dance when they were younger. My brother Don was an All-American quarterback for Syracuse, and my brother Mark was once the 8th ranked boxer in the world. I played for the NFL's San Diego Chargers for 4 years.
There's something very real about sports. Though most athletic achievements can be attributed to hard work, discipline, and preparation, some things still happen by accident. Huge underdogs can win it all, and even the most dependable star can have a bad day.
In all those senses, sports are a great metaphor for life. That's why we embrace them, because we connect with the athletes. We relate to their victories and struggles, and we follow their personal stories within the broader narrative of every match or game. It's so fascinating when the everyday drama we know from real life makes an appearance in the lives of the famous athletes we follow.
For example, during a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers on May 15th, second baseman Rougned Odor punched Jose Bautista for an aggressive slide. We can't look away when two grown men who are playing a game get into a brawl that — outside of the context of sports — would've landed them in jail.
And we all heard the cheating scandal of "deflategate" — which we were reminded of this week as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady decided to appeal his four-game suspension. Somehow the pounds of air per square inch of a football turned into a full-blown, national court drama.
It shouldn't surprise us when the brokenness we see in society makes it on to the biggest stages. The Bible says in Romans 3:12 that there isn't one man who does good — not even one!
No matter what side of the fence we land on with these issues, they provoke us because sports are the pulse of our society and athletes are leaders in our culture.
I pastor Rock Church in San Diego, California, and I try to bring Christian athletes in to share their stories as often as possible. This Sunday, Chargers running back Danny Woodhead will join me on stage to tell his.
Athletes like Russell Wilson, Ken Shamrock, Chris Cyborg, and Drew Brees have all visited us tell their stories, sharing the moments of greatest joy as well as those of deepest depression. As it turns out, they experience many of the same pains and pressures as the rest of us.
I love giving the athletes the opportunity to lead our culture in a positive way — something I didn't know how to do as a young pro. If you ever find yourself disappointed with what you see in pro athletes, remember that we're all a part of the culture they represent and be the change you want to see.
To watch Danny Woodhead tell his story live this Sunday, May 29th, visit www.sdrock.com/liveplayer at 8AM, 10AM, 12PM and 6PM.