"My allegiance is to ‘Jesus Christ, who stood up and died for our sins.’” That was the keynote comment of a victorious Randy Couture, third-time winner of last spring’s heavyweight belt in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
United Methodist–related McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, has decided to discontinue calling its athletic teams “Indians” in keeping not only with the denomination’s two-year-old policy against using racially demeaning names and mascots but also with a National Collegiate Athletic Association prohibition of such team names and symbols in postseason tournament competition.
In Chicago winter lingers well into March, like a house guest unaware that she’s worn out her welcome. But some of us hardly notice; we’re mesmerized by the NCAA basketball tournament involving 65 teams from Division I schools.
The myth that sports are racially redemptive makes for formulaic movies. Glory Road feels a lot like Remember the Titans. The films (both produced by Jerry Bruckheimer) show how a team’s drive to win a championship overcomes racial divisions and leads blacks and whites to bond like brothers.
Perhaps only in the U.S. would the “integrity of baseball” or any sport be the focus of political speeches and front-page newspaper articles. Surveying the massive press coverage of the congressional hearings March 17 on steroid use in Major League Baseball, Representative Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wondered why issues of health care and poverty don’t receive the same attention.
At this time of the winter countless high school basketball teams are trying to dribble, pass and shoot their way to a state championship. Glamorized in small-town lore and big-budget movies, reaching the state tournament is a dream shared by most any student athlete who has put on a basketball jersey (or soccer cleats or football pads or a wrestling singlet or softball glove).
In Friday Night Lights, which features a legendary high school football program in West Texas, Coach Gary Gaines explains to his team the situation: “Gentlemen, the hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter more than you do right now. It’s time.”
The exchange seems bizarre to onlookers. Speaking for himself and his assistant coaches, the football coach at Gilman High School in Baltimore asks his players, “What is our job?” The players yell back, “To love us!” The coach shouts, “And what is your job?” “To love each other!” the boys respond.