Monday, April 19, 2010

Eye Black and Bible Verses

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit a man or woman to gain the whole world and forfeit his or her life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
Mark 8:34-37

The NCAA College Football Rules Committee met last week and instituted new rules to prevent concussions, reduce taunting, and ban messages on the black patches that players wear under their eyes to reduce glare.

In support of the ban on eye-black messages, columnist Bob Ryan spoke with surprising emotion when he declared, “I just don’t like being preached to by a certain left-handed quarterback.” The story I read came with a picture of Tim Tebow with one of the offending messages on his eye patches, “Mark 8:36”

In the New International Version that Tebow uses, that verse reads, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” In The Message, it reads, “What good would it do to gain everything you want and lose you, the real you?”

I am not one who believes that Tim Tebow walks on water. I don’t think he is a saint. And there are some issues of theology and Christian social ethics on which we would probably have vigorous disagreement. What I do believe is that he is a serious Christian who tries to be a faithful disciple of Jesus. And I’m guessing that when he thinks about that verse from Mark’s Gospel, he’s thinking about how it applies to his own life as he stands on the brink of even more fame and fortune, and the temptations that come with it.

The Bible verses are a witness of his faith. And maybe I give him too much credit, but I imagine that he is telling us what he is thinking about, rather than telling us what we ought to think. And I like the idea that there might be some folks who see the reference on the eye black and go looking for their Bibles to see what the verse is for that game.

In a larger sense, the story about the new rule juxtaposed to the picture of Tim Tebow with that particular verse, is profoundly ironic. When it comes to big time college athletics, the NCAA has sold its soul. They talk about student-athletes, but the bottom line is measured in dollars rather than diplomas. It has become a huge business, which makes billions of dollars for the colleges and their corporate “partners.” They have no problem with “The FedEx Orange Bowl,” or the “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl,” and they are glad to have people tune in to watch Tebow play in the “Allstate Sugar Bowl.” Just keep those Bible verses to yourself.


  1. From a friend who has little or no qualification to comment about ANYTHING sport-related (GUESS WHU< BILL?):

    First-off, I really enjoyed your post. It is wonderful to observe you apply not only your personal enthusiasm for sport but more so to read when you focus your incredible intellect and it's voluminous experience with a "pinch" of wit.

    It is sad to see when authority sights-in on such: "intimidation-tactics" but seems simply symptomatic with the current trend in America; to want to hustle religion, scripture and anything deemed: "politically-incorrect" off to Buffalo, if not the dust-bin. The suggestion, it seems to me, says: keep "that Jesus-stuff" at home where it belongs; Just play foo(setball (make [US] more money!).
    Kind-of goes against the grain of what we, as Christians, are SUPPOSED to be doing; sharing the Gospel! --"Wheels" VB, egumc

  2. Lead us not into Tostitos and deliver us from FedEx.