MTV no longer plays music videos. The History Channel no longer discusses history. Before long ESPN may no longer show sports highlights. The so-called worldwide leader in sports will feature nothing but reports from courtrooms and press conferences. Former athletes will sit around tables and parse the latest PR spin for suspended, arrested, and otherwise disgraced players. And we’ll wonder why we ever cared so much about the games that made them rich.
Yesterday Major League Baseball cited “social responsibility” while finally cracking down on the drug scandal that has enveloped the storied sport for much of the last two decades. Commissioner Bud Selig handed down severe suspensions for 13 players, chiefly New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez, who would miss the remainder of this season and all of the next. But the talking heads at SportsCenter chattered about more than the long fall of the aging ARod. They also wondered whether college football’s best player would be suspended for his sophomore season. According to reports, brash Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel may have demanded payment for his autograph, an obvious no-no in supposedly amateur athletics. So yesterday was a big day in the world of sports journalism. And a horrible day for sports.
Writer and athlete Ted Kluck understands the consequences of treating a good thing like sports as an ultimate thing. Kluck, author of the new book Robert Griffin III: Athlete, Leader, Believer, is himself an intense competitor who wants his children to learn the best lessons of sports. But he also recognizes when he cares too much and needs to apologize to his children for not setting a godly example. Kluck joined Mark Mellinger and me for a special edition of Going Deeper with TGC, the podcast of The Gospel Coalition. We asked him why baseball decided now to crack down on this kind of cheating when athletes have always tried to gain illegal advantages over their opponents. We asked him how he would explain morality to athletes and announcers fumbling to explain what’s wrong with breaking the rules. We also asked him why baseball punished one of its all-time greats when football celebrates drug-aided athletes as they deliver concussion-inducing blows on each other.
Listen to the complete 25-minute podcast to hear how Kluck would share the gospel with athletes such as Rodriguez and Manziel who have been worshiped by the same media and fans who now gloat over their disgrace. And hear how he answers his son during NFL games when he asks whether each player uses steroids.