March Madness and Christianity

Friday March 19, the Wall Street Journal had an article on the origination of basketball. “It brought back a number of memories.” I grew up in an urban community of approximately 500. Our grade school was grade one through eight. We had three basketball teams. The A team, B team and the Peewee team. In the third grade I made the peewee team. We played teams in the city.

Our high school team in my senior year was third in the state of Washington. That year I was the inspiration award winner at our banquet held at the YMCA. A number of us were members and would go to the YMCA to play basketball and Ping-Pong. I went on to play in college. I then coached basketball for two year at a Christian high school. My last year coaching we were the state of Idaho Parochial champions.

According to the WSJ a young Christian, James Naismith had received a master’s degree from a Presbyterian Theological College and went to serve as a physical-education instructor for the YMCA. His assignment was not only to handle their P.E. program but to win young men to Christ. He was encouraged by the Y’s director to create an indoor game for students during the winter months. In 1881 basketball was born. Dr. Naismith held the players to a high moral standard promoting sportsmanship. His goal was to develop the whole person—mind, body and spirit.

Beginning in 1897, YMCAs were on college and university campuses and had tremendous participation nationwide. Close to 50,000 men were enrolled in YMCA college Bible studies by 1905. There were 1,000 at Yale alone. These students would go on local mission trips to minister to needy children in nearby urban neighborhoods. A February in 1911 a trip to New Hampshire 43 out of 70 boys became Christians. Their goal was to reach the world for Christ. Basketball served as an important evangelical tool for many during its first 50 years.

Dr. Naismith never profited from the sport or never received remuneration for speaking. The WSJ article ends: “The sport may have lost its relationship to Christianity, it will always have the tremendous legacy of a founder who, like his Lord, put others before himself, as he awaited his blessed hope, as the Scripture says: ‘The glorious appearance of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.’”

Our younger people have little idea what it was like sixty years ago in America. We were definitely a Christian nation. J. C. Penny started the Golden Rule Stores in 1902. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Where I lived everyone knew what the Golden Rule meant and most followed it. In school we talked about God and the history of our country. We had to memorize poems, such as “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. We studied the constitution, the Bill of Rights. We started each day with the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school.

It is too bad we couldn’t have progressed scientifically and technically and maintained our Christian heritage. I doubt few of us would like to go back to when we had no TVs; few homes had radios or telephones. Some families had no electricity or indoor plumbing. However, I can still remember the neighbors who you could always count on. Did we as a nation give up Christianity for progress and fairness?

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1 Comment

  1. Doug Lee

     /  March 22, 2010

    Thanks Don!
    Like our founding father’s, Mr. Naismith obviously understood the value of “Teamwork!” While I do not follow basketball or sports in general as closely as years ago, it was good to see my Purdue Boilermakers get to the sweet 16 when most counted them out. The commentators were shocked but the sad part was that many basically said the only reason that they did make it, and as a result prove people wrong, was due in largest part to the passion and heart they played with. Isn’t everyone supposed to play that way? Unfortunately, the teams and individuals that play with great heart and passion are not as common as they once were. Why? I believe a big reason is that no one holds each other accountable for their actions. It used to be that if you let down a teammate on or off the court, you knew their would be a price to pay and in my opinion that is healthy! It forced us to better ourselves as players and people and not settle for the middle of the road. People around Tiger Woods did not know he was cheating on his spouse? C’mon! Having been in the professional sports world for years, I can tell you more than a few people around him had to know but chances are they did not want to jeopardize their own relationship with Tiger and as a result kept quiet. Yes, ultimately it is Tiger’s responsibility but what might have happened if someone close to him stepped it up sooner and confronted him?? I had the opportunity to be around some of the best athletes in the world and it is really sad how many lack true friends. I say enough!! We are really hurting people when we don’t speak up. When will we bring each other into true accountability? Sure some may not listen, but do we even try that much anymore? In our world now, many people embrace athletes and celebrities who are controversial and even at times disrespectful. Oh, I think sports can and does still provide some great role models but when will we take a stand and demand that people who are in these privileged positions at the very least play with heart and passion?

    It is the same in our everyday lives, many people approach each day with no hope and joy and as a result lack the passion to go on. I remember being on ESPN play of the day a few times during my career and while it felt good for a moment, it faded quickly. Why do many athletes come to Christ? Because at one time or another, everything is at our fingertips and after trying all the world has to offer, we ultimately yearn for true love, real relationships and authentic accountability. I have found, like many, the ONLY way to obtain these lasting things for my life is a relationship with Jesus Christ! Everything else ends up empty!!



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