IVP - Strangely Dim - Good News, Sports Fans

January 27, 2006

Good News, Sports Fans

There are three (count em) televisions in the men’s locker room at my gym. That’s approximately one every twenty feet—except that two of them are five feet apart. They’re also about seven feet off the ground, which means I can’t change the channels (I’ve got a pretty unimpressive standing vertical leap), which means I’m at the mercy of everyone else for what I watch.

Of course, television is even more captivating in a locker room than in the comfort of your own home, largely because in a locker room anywhere else you look is likely populated by some naked guy. So imagine my distress when I’m happily listening to Katie Couric telling me all about the latest person to get kicked off American Idol, and some seven-foot-tall, python-armed naked brute unceremoniously changes three television stations to SportsCenter. It’s disorienting, it’s emasculating, it’s . . . hmm . . . interesting . . .

There’s no doubt about it: sports reporting is a lot more captivating than news reporting. Part of that is the silliness that often gets reported as news: what Paris Hilton wore to Amy Grant’s CD release party isn’t technically news, and compared to the excellence being celebrated in sports reporting, the overnight weather forecast isn’t terribly compelling. But more than anything, sports reporting is distinctively exciting because sports reporters can often barely contain themselves.

They might be reporting plays that happened moments ago in a key contest or decades ago in career highlights for some sports luminary. They might be looking at the week in review or the season to come. Whatever they’re reporting, sports reporters are passionate about it. Even the most inconsequential sporting event of the week—say, a high school JV football preseason scrimmage—holds the reporter’s full attention and occasionally elicits a yell or a scream right into the microphone. We the viewers find ourselves on the edge of our seats, waiting along with the reporter for someone on the field to wow us.

That’s not so much journalism as it is witness: the sports reporter mediates the experience of unleashed potential for the audience, and we’re all wowed together. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, it all gets chronicled for us, and we trust that one day we will remember not just what these athletes did but how we felt when they did it. And it’s entirely possible that future generations of fans will be able to revisit this moment and witness what we’ve witnessed. The span of time may make news old, but it will never make witness obsolete.

We memorize facts and figures that at some point were news—George Washington was the first president of the United States, the Allies won World War II—but we’re inspired by the chronicles of witness. The Gospels, for example, don’t tell us what we often tell one another about Jesus: “We are all sinners; Jesus came to earth to die on a cross and save us from our sins; Jesus rose again and went to heaven to prepare a place for us.” All this is true and important, which is why we call it the good news. And all of it is contained within the Gospels. But the Gospels tell us Jesus’ story more completely than that, and they tell it through eyewitness accounts. We watch Jesus confront the Pharisees, we hear him raise Lazarus from the dead, we see him transfigured and resurrected, we even touch the scars on his hands and in his side—all vicariously, all through his awestruck witnesses. And their awe becomes our awe, and we realize experientially how awesome Jesus really is.

But we also hear through these witnesses that Jesus calls us to be witnesses as well: not cold, dispassionate purveyors of the mere facts of Christianity but witnesses. That’s how the faith has been communicated down through the centuries and throughout the world, and when people witness Jesus, they can’t help but hear what he says as good news.


This piece originally ran at the Sports Outreach website. If you're wondering why a sports ministry would have any interest in what I have to say, I'm wondering right alongside you, but they're good people doing good work.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at January 27, 2006 1:25 PM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

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