Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kurt Warner's concerns for safety don't go far enough

 There has been much discussion amongst those in the NFL relating to player safety. The issue with the New Orleans Saints "bounty program,"and recent suicides of former players allegedly due to repeated undiagnosed concussions have brought two main questions to the forefront: what will life look like after the game of football, and do I want my kids to even play this game?

Kurt Warner, a former Superbowl winner (they beat the Bucs to get there in 2000 because of a terrible call which actually spawned a new rule), chose to answer the latter in the negative. He expressed concerns and even desires that his kids would not play football.

This drew the ire of a former teammate (for a year or two) named Amani Toomer and current ESPN analyst Merril Hoge. Hoge called him "uneducated."

Some have labeled Kurt Warner hypocritical. After all, it was the NFL (or at least the path to the NFL) that literally allowed him to stop working at a grocery store. But since Hoge has probably 10 times more concussions than I have had, he's probably not someone I'd be taking advice from.

Kurt isn't alone in his concern. Giants Osi Umeniora had this to say

“Kurt Warner is Right to think how he is thinking about his kids and football,” Umenyiora wrote. “Its an awesome game and has done a lot for me, but i know when im 45 there is a strong chance il be in a wheelchair. If i can avoid that for my son, i will. But if he wants to play i wont stop him.”

I surmise that my sons will be too skinny to play "tackle" football and am grateful for it. It is probably more dangerous than other sports; it's hard to argue against that point. But parents today often steer their kids toward sports or away from certain sports with only physical safety in mind. While that's wise, it is not wise enough.

Parents often do a good job of thinking through the long term physical effects of sports. Will my kid be able to walk after sports? How many surgeries will be needed? But what about our kids "spiritual walk?" Most Christians really don't think through the long term spiritual damage which sports may bring.

If your kid regularly misses corporate worship to play sports when he's under your roof, where will he "worship" when he's in college? Probably Bedside Baptist or Pillow Presbyterian.

What is it that we really want for our children? Is it for them to walk with Jesus in college or simply the chance to get an athletic scholarship (do we realize how hard these are to get)? Sure we'd like both, but our lifestyles often prove which one is more important.

And kids aren't stupid. They are smarter than they look. They really are. Even the ones I think are totally out of it see things in parents that amaze me. They are learning all the time. Like that old drug commercial which depicted the father asking the son where he learned such stuff, "I learned it from watching you, Dad."

Many kids don't connect to a church when they go to college. We wonder why not. But do not we parents play some part in this? I do fear that we have concerned ourselves with the physical safety of our children and ignored their spiritual safety.

I'm hoping professing Christian Kurt Warner attends a Saturday night church with his boys. Because his job, now on the NFL Network has once again continued the pattern of not going to church as a family on Sundays. To care about physical safety is just not enough. May he and all Christian parents wade through these waters with much prayer and in community in order to discern how God may use sports to further His Kingdom instead of our own agendas.

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