Missouri Linemen Demonstrate Christian Responsibility on Field

About a year ago I wrote a brief post on how modesty and, of all things, violence fit together nicely in the Christian world. In it I stated that Christian men must become “modest avengers”.

The bizarre culture of manhood America displays is not the product of too much or too little violence. It is the product of a false choice. Men are told that they must put violence aside at all costs or become monsters. Most men choose the first. A few choose the second, and prey on the first.Christian men must pick violence up. They have no choice. Although violence is a fruit of evil doing, it is not in itself evil. Satan was violently thrown down from Heaven when he tried to violently overthrow the Right Throne. Evil violence is the imposition of the will of the stronger over the will of the weak, to the detriment of the weak. Good violence, proper violence, is the preservation of the will of the weak against the will of the strong, to the benefit of the weak.* This is why judges must be vindicators and avengers. That sounds more personal and violent than Americans would like, but that is their calling. They are there to save the widow from the ruthless man.

Good, evil, and violence are complicated things. Any ethic of violence is bound to be complicated, and bound to dwell in gray areas where questions of authority haunt every decision. But the Christian man must be willing to use violence…he has his wife, his children, and his neighbors to consider. Every Christian man is in some small, limited way, an avenger and a vindicator. He must be a modest avenger.

When I teach my kids about fighting and violence, I try to be as clear as possible. You may not use violence to defend yourself or your own dignity. But you may use violence to defend others, and that not just from physical threats. If some boys are insulting your sister, have at ’em.

Some Christians have difficulty with that concept. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, etcetera. But they forget a few things. Like the preliminary to that command, which is “avenge not yourselves”. And when the Almighty says “to me belongeth vengeance and recompence”, he then goes on to describe the vengeance that will fall on the enemies of God’s people “in due time”: that vengeance involves his “swords” and “arrows”, with which he’ll draw blood and take captives. As the rest of Moses’ books show, and as a search for the word “avenge” will also show, it is the armies of God’s people which he uses to avenge God’s people.

The books of Moses deal with vengeance. Vengeance is said to be the Lord’s. Sanctuary cities are set up where manslayers can hide from bloodguilt, clans, and vendettas. Personal vengeance leads only to a cycle of violence. But sometimes, it’s just your job as a Christian to be an avenger. A ruler is to be an avenger. A judge is to be an avenger. One of the reasons the fatherless and widows are so vulnerable is that they have no one to protect them, to avenge them.

The crisis comes when the Christian lives in a land where there is no justice, where rulers are not avengers of the innocent.

What is a Christian to do then? Some say, we simply suffer and wait. Others say, we’ll become Knights Templar.

Often Christians are called to suffer and wait; often they are powerless, dragged away in chains. Christians remember that part of Israel’s history. What they forget are the mighty men who fought against the enemies of God’s people.

As long as there is a mighty man around to do the protecting and avenging when God’s enemies are around, that is what they must do.


Which brings me, at long last, to SEC football.

This past Saturday we saw an episode in which some football players had to take justice into their own hands. Some would object to it, saying that it amounts to a sports version of vigilante-ism. But I believe that it was their job. It only ended up falling to them because there was no just king in the land, but there it is. That’s how it happens for Christians all the time.

Alabama linebacker LaMichael Fanning picked up Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough and suplexed him WWE style, throwing him on his head. When you see the video you will see how brutal and vicious a play it was.

15 yard penalty. What?!

Yes, Fanning will probably be suspended. After the game. The refs didn’t expel Fanning from the game. And Nick Saban, Alabama’s head coach, lacked the class to sub him out for the next play and chew him out. Most coaches would have done exactly that, dressing the player down on national TV to send the message that this is the sort of thing their football program won’t allow. Unfortunately, Saban is a bully. Fanning was left in for the next two plays, and did not come off the field until fourth down/his helmet had come off.

Why did Fanning’s helmet come off? Because Hansbrough’s linemen were reduced to having to take vengeance into their own hands. And it was the right thing to do. First, the job had fallen to the judges; alas that the refs declined to expel Fanning. Then the job had fallen to the king; alas the Saban is an unjust king. The job of those linemen is to protect the running back.

So they went after Fanning. They, I would contend, were delivering the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor. Keeping it from happening again.

Did it work? Maybe. The fool only rages and laughs. Fanning kind of grins at his sideline as he runs back, full of arrogance. See the video below.

But that doesn’t matter. Those linemen had to show that they stood between their guy and wicked violence. And that’s how it ought to be in sports; it’s one of the ways you can tell good teams. Even when there’s just a scuffle, not an all-out bit of thuggery like Fannings, you can tell the good teams. Those are the ones where the offended party turns his back and walks away while three teammates step in to the gap.

By the way, don’t email me defending Saban. I don’t know what Saban did or said post-facto, and I don’t care. He sent all the message he needed to by leaving Fanning in the game.

Am I overreacting? Probably. I hope the Gators get to the SEC championship game, and that Alabama’s there waiting for us.

The Most Awesome Team Name Ever

Someone somewhere has an incredible sense of humor. I choose to believe that this was done on purpose, because this happening by accident is too sad a thing for me to accept.

These are your Deaf Leopards.

Straight hashmark-awesome. Hat tip to @geokearns on the twits.

Los Camachos Del Rugby

Gonzalo Camacho plays on the wing for Argentina’s national rugby side, the Pumas. He’s pictured here wearing the colors of Exeter Chiefs in England.

Camacho was on the pitch this past weekend for Argentina’s stunning tie with South Africa in the 4 Nations Rugby Championship (a tie South Africa were lucky to walk away with).

Here’s a cool little video about his rugby family. He’s the oldest of five brothers, all of them ruggers. None of them have reached his exalted heights yet, but the youngest has recently played for Argentina’s U18 side. Besides the five sons, the Camachos also have four daughters. Quite a family.

Free Jim Thorpe: A 100-Year-Old IOC Injustice

There’s a fantastic article at the Smithsonian about Jim Thorpe’s 1912 Olympic medals and records, which were stripped from him shortly after he won them. The given reason was his playing of minor-league baseball a couple of years earlier.

He is one of the most impressive athletes the Olympics have ever seen. He would win the high jump to this day. His time in the 1,500 meters wasn’t surpassed until 1972.

The reasons given by the IOC for stripping Thorpe’s medals were rubbish. And they’ve not even had a pretense of justification since 1992, when the IOC finally allowed professionals to compete in tacit acknowledgment that they’d been tolerating professionals from the Communist Bloc for years.

From the Smithsonian article:

Thorpe’s Olympic victories still have not been properly reinstated in the official record.

It’s commonly believed that Thorpe at last received Olympic justice in October of 1982 when the IOC bowed to years of public pressure and delivered two replica medals to his family, announcing, “The name of James Thorpe will be added to the list of athletes who were crowned Olympic champions at the 1912 Games.” What’s less commonly known is that the IOC appended this small, mean sentence: “However, the official report for these Games will not be modified.”

In other words, the IOC refused even to acknowledge Thorpe’s results in the 15 events he competed in. To this day the Olympic record does not mention them. The IOC also refused to demote Wieslander and the other runners-up from their elevated medal status. Wieslander’s results stand as the official winning tally. Thorpe was merely a co-champion, with no numerical evidence of his overwhelming superiority. This is no small thing. It made Thorpe an asterisk, not a champion. It was lip service, not restitution.

On this 100-year anniversary of the Stockholm Games, there are several good reasons for the IOC to relent and fully recognize Thorpe as the sole champion that he was. Countless white athletes abused the amateurism rules and played minor-league ball with impunity. What’s more, the IOC did not follow its own rules for disqualification: Any objection to Thorpe’s status should have been raised within 30 days of the Games, and it was not. It was nice of the IOC to award replica medals to Thorpe’s family, but those are just souvenirs. After 100 years of phantom contending, Thorpe should enter the record as the incomparable that he was.

That Favorite Moment In Your Favorite Sports

These are the moments I most enjoy about the sports that I’ve played. I’d love to hear what yours are, in these sports or others. Some of these are memories from childhood, or high school, or college. Some of these happened last week.

Basketball: I love basketball, it’s my first love, and today it’s second only to rugby for me. Even with rugby in the picture, its gameplay and flow is so unique to itself that every time I step on to the court I remember again why I love basketball so much.

What’s the one thing I like doing more than any other on the court? My offensive skills have always outstripped my defensive skills, and, as big as I am, my game is more about being smooth than it is about being a banger. That being said, there’s nothing I enjoy more on the basketball court than blocking some guy’s dunk.

Yes, it’s more satisfying than dunking in that same guy’s face. Perhaps because of the sense of relief. You stand to lose a lot of face when you step in front of a guy and challenge him at the rim; if you don’t block him, you’ve been posterized. When he tries to throw it down but your hand gets firmly in the way, maybe even gets pushed back on the rim, and then the ball pops out and everyone on the sideline’s got something to say…it’s a huge relief that only accentuates the exultation.

Rugby: in rugby, a tackled player must release the ball as soon as he’s tackled. There’s a split-second of vulnerability during that time in which an enterprising defender might be able to get his hands on the ball before the tacklee’s friends arrive to blow the defender off the ball. It is illegal for the tacklee to hold on to the ball once he’s been tackled, even if an opponent is trying to grab it.

Even more satisfying than straight-up stealing the ball is getting over the ball with every right to it, putting both hands on it, and trying to yank it out while your cheating victim holds on desperately to the ball. Guaranteed at least two of their guys will slam into you as hard as they can, but you hold on and wait for the ref to blow up the penalty for holding on to the ball.

Nothing’s more satisfying than that moment where you, the tacklee, and his teammates who’d been so desperately trying to rescue him, all stand up after the whistle. There’s just you and three or four of their guys who’d tried to get rid of you, and they couldn’t do it. Sorry, boys.

Volleyball: I never got enough training in this sport to be able to send a spike thundering straight down onto the 10-foot line. I imagine that would be very satisfying. What I can report to you is that going up for a loose ball above the net and having an opponent arrive at the same time sets one up for that greatest of moments: both players with two hands on the ball, with a split-second to wrestle it past the opponent’s hands and down to the floor.

If you come out victorious the ball usually hits the players chest and the net before it hits the ground, creating a shared moment in which your opponent knows he’s doomed but the point is not officially over yet. He might even be desperately falling to the ground in an attempt to get a hand under the ball, but you both know it’s too late. So satisfying.

This video isn’t of exactly that, but it includes a vital part of the experience.

Baseball: this one is obviously affected by the position I played. I only played baseball for two years in middle school. I had a huge strike zone, slapped the ball hard when I made contact but always as deep line drives up the middle, and found the motion of throwing a baseball to be unnatural. And I was pretty old to be playing for the first time. But I could catch and I was tall, so I was put at first base. And I enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed the possibility that there might, just maybe, be a pick-off play on.

The most satisfying thing in baseball was the moment after a runner had been picked off in a desperate scramble to get back to base. Watching the pitcher pump his fist while the runner has to pick himself up from being down in the dirt on his stomach was pretty great.

Hm…I’m starting to pick up a theme here. Is it healthy that I enjoy frustrating and humiliating my opponents?

Important Part of Growing an Afro

I didn’t know it until this morning, but my seven-year-old son has definite opinions on afros, a hairstyle which my father rocked in the ’70s to excellent effect.

This morning we were watching the final match of the regular season for two Australian SuperRugby clubs, the New South Wales Waratahs and the Queensland Reds, a match which ended at 7:30am for us on the east coast of the U.S.

This man had a good game.

This is Tatafu Polota-Nau, hooker for the Waratahs. As my son’s attention was drawn to him, he felt compelled to offer this opinion: “That’s a nice beard. I don’t normally like the fluffy hairstyle, I think it looks silly. But the beard matches pretty well with it.”

So there you have it, fluffy style. If you’re planning on growing an afro, and want to keep my son’s respect, grow out that beard.