Our Voice

Christ and Football

I confess, my fellow Americans that I like football. In fact, I really like professional football and I am a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles. A fan, and not a fanatic.

I watched the Philadelphia Eagles win what was then the championship game, the predecessor to the Super Bowl all the way back in 1960. What a glorious moment that was for the City of Philadelphia and its fans most of whom are in fact fanatic. The other side of the coin is that there has been nothing since, nothing. Our good team did make it to the Super Bowl two times, losing the first appearance to the Oakland Raiders and the second to the dreaded New England Patriots. I actually had the privilege of going to both games. It was a very exciting experience not only the games themselves, but all of the events and excitements before and after. If you can afford tickets, it is worthwhile going (I think). Although the game and the events are much bigger than life, a Super Bowl experience is probably the highlight of any football fan’s life.

Football players are rough and tumble. Huge, carrying incredible weight, strong, tough, often mean and of course highly aggressive and competitive. Football contact, tackling and blocking can bring out the savage side of any of these huge men. They are often injured, and often play injured. They trash talk, obscenities and vulgarities are commonplace, and camaraderie is often missing. It is an environment where there seems little place for religion, and especially Christianity. To have what Decision Magazine calls a SUPER WITNESS FOR CHRIST seems entirely out of place.

But yet, there are these excellent athletes who are possessed of a deep and passionate belief and belief in Jesus Christ and they can be proud witnesses to that effect, not only with their teammates, but their fans as well, not the least bit intimidated in showing and sharing that faith even on the field, whether before or after football games. It is even somewhat commonplace for players of both teams to gather on the field after the game, having gone at each other bigtime, but kneeling together in prayer and thanking God for their belief in their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a witness that is. The contrasts in character are most interesting, are they not?

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl. They beat the New England Patriots 41 to 33. The Patriots are symbolized by owner Bob Kraft, Coach and General Manager Bill Belichick, and of course the legendary quarterback Tom Brady. Outside of New England, the Patriots are disliked, even despised and in crucial games like a Super Bowl, fans across the country and even the world root against them no matter who plays. That seemed to be so this year where many more watchers favored the Eagles, hoping they would in fact beat what many the world over call:

THE EVIL FOOTBALL EMPIRE

In fact, they did in what was one of the most exciting Super Bowl games in NFL history.

Strong and passionate Christians comprise some of the Eagles roster. Carson Wentz, one of the bright young quarterbacks in the NFL, led the Eagles to the playoffs before suffering a serious injury and being lost for the season, the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Wentz is unabashedly and outspokenly passionate about Jesus Christ. He witnesses everywhere he can, but in a way which has never been offensive, which earns him and his faith the respect of so many. He loves football, Carson Wentz does, but he loves Jesus Christ more.

And then there is Nick Foles, backup quarterback for the Eagles, who hardly played all year long, but became a starter when Wentz was injured. Foles is himself a passionate Christian and as Wentz refers to him, his BRO in the Lord. Everybody undoubtedly knows the story of Nick Foles, from bench-sitter to Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Super Bowl. It was indeed one of the most incredible performances by anyone in Super Bowl history.

Foles was interviewed after that incredible Super Bowl victory and announcer Dan Patrick said of Foles and his performance:

How do you explain this?”

Foles answered that question and others in the same vein as follows:

I wouldn’t be here without God in my life, with Jesus in my life. I don’t have the strength to come out here and play this game like that.”

I always find it interesting that when religion as they call it, or in this case a testimony for Jesus Christ comes into play, announcers are befuddled, often speechless and anxious to move off the subject. Men like Nick Foles would not let them.

And then there is Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson, himself a strong and passionate born again Christian. Doug Pederson humbly replied to that question:

I can only give praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity.”

Gutsy, solid, unabashed testimony for Christianity and Jesus Christ, don’t you think?

These men and others on the team conducted a Bible study for couples virtually every night and then again another Bible study for players on Thursdays, and yet even a third Bible Study for coaches on Friday mornings. They then conducted their own version of chapel on Saturdays even to the point of conducting baptisms in the team pool! Talk about a Christian witness.

Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich, a former quarterback who played in four losing Super Bowls for the Buffalo Bills was a former seminary President and pastor. Reich, a brilliant football mind was recently named Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Reich brings to Indianapolis and that new job a passionate love for and belief in Jesus Christ. Incidentally, when Nick Foles ends his football career, which apparently has only just begun, he aspires to be a pastor, a youth pastor and serve actively and directly his Lord.

The faith of Carson Wentz and Nick Foles produces a loving brotherhood, no jealousy or competition whatsoever. Wentz tweeted the morning of the Super Bowl game:

So excited to see him (Nick Foles) and this team go out and compete tonight. Been through it all this year as a team, and yet, here we are! God’s writing an unbelievable story and He’s getting all of the glory!”

A beautiful testimony, don’t you think?

There are two other devoted Christians on the Philadelphia Eagles. The one is tight end Trey Burton. It was Burton who threw a one yard touchdown pass to Foles on a gutsy, fourth and goal trick play. That made quarterback Nick Foles the only such quarterback in NFL history who has both thrown a touchdown pass and caught one! That was a play Trey Burton will remember for the rest of his life. Burton is one of the team’s most mature spiritual leaders. He helped baptize five Philadelphia Eagles players last season alone.

And then there is Zach Ertz, a very strong and passionate Christian, who many think may be the best, but certainly one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Ertz scored what turned out to be the game winning touchdown with two minutes and 21 seconds remaining, an 11 yard pass from Foles. Ertz was baptized last summer, the day before his wedding. He told reporters during Super Bowl week that the believers on the Eagles team have a singular purpose:

Our number one goal on earth is to make disciplines.”

Ertz went onto say the following:

Football is the platform we have to draw people to the Word of God and to Jesus. It is not something we take for granted.”

What a pleasure, even a thrill for me as myself a strong Christian and for others who believe the same to hear these words of testimony and praise from these star athletes.

And yet another Philadelphia Eagle born again and a follower of Christ, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. This believer is a passionate football player and Jenkins said the following:

Whenever I get the opportunity, I want to tell people what God has done in my life.”

And he sure does.

And then there is Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Graham. The Eagles were leading 38 to 33 after Ertz’s go-ahead touchdown. Brady and the Patriots had gotten the football back and Brady, known as one of the greatest come from behind quarterbacks in NFL history led the Patriots on what could have been a game winning touchdown march. But Brandon Graham broke through the line, swiped at Brady’s hand and forced a fumble, recovered by the Eagles and that was the end of New England. Graham had told reporters that he had met with the team chaplain at 5 AM each Tuesday morning during the season for one-on-one discipleship. Brandon Graham is also a passionate believer in Jesus Christ.

And then there is offensive guard Stefen Wisniewski, yet another strong believer on the Philadelphia Eagles. He and other Philadelphia Eagles Christian players gathered at midfield after the Super Bowl game for prayer. Wisniewski had the honor and he prayed as follows:

God, we ask that what was seen on this field today would bring glory to You. You gave us the talent. You gave us the strength. Take all the glory. Your Glory is forever and ever and ever. We praise you, God, this is not about us. Let it be about YOU!”

Well, my Christian brothers and sisters, there it is, the unbelievable testimony for Jesus Christ of so many star players for the Super Bowl LII. These star athletes, Super Bowl champions cared much more about being super witnesses for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I as a fellow believer applaud them, encourage them and their faith and thank them for their witness before hundreds of millions of people the world over for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You might say that the verse that drives them is:

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.”

These good men want passionately to win football games, but as tight end Zach Ertz so well said, they would far rather spread the Gospel and make disciples of all men and women.

I am certain I will always remember that incredible game, football at its best. But I for one will remember these men more so for their faith, commitment and testimony for Jesus Christ. That witness will last far longer than the memory of a Super Bowl victory!

Well done, thou good and faithful servants, well done for football, for the NFL and for your Lord!