Men of Sunday: Book Review

It’s time for a confession. Despite being a woman, I have been an avid fan of the NFL since I was just a little girl. My dad never had boys so in a sense I became the boy he never had. We would sometimes play catch together and would always watch sports on the weekends, from basketball to baseball. But football was always my greatest sports obsession. Though I lived on the west coast I fell in love with my dad’s favorite east coast teams (where he was from) and to this day I loathe the San Francisco 49ers and love the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, when I saw Men of Sunday, I knew it was a book I needed to review. Anytime faith and football is combined, my interest is peaked, and I love learning about Christian athletes who outwardly testify their love for God.  My hopes were not disappointed.

Men of Sunday is written by Curtis Eichelberger, a sports writer for Bloomberg. It recounts a wide variety of personal faith testimonies from Christian NFL athletes like Aaron Rodgers, Ray Lewis and Trent Dilfer. The book deals with an assortment of every-day issues from raising kids to health crisis.

As a backseat football player (you know, calling plays from the couch) I’ve never felt as if I could relate to these guys who are often seen with beautiful women hanging on their arms and millions of dollars in the bank. It’s easy to think their fame and fortune gives them an easy ride in life, but Curtis dispels that myth in Men of Sunday. Whether Christian or not, NFL players deal with real life issues just like we do. They worry about job security, suffer personal losses, encounter temptation, and make poor choices with lasting consequences.

A few things really surprised me in the reading of this book. I expected it to be more of a biography about Christian guys playing football, but it was so much more. I found myself actually learning lessons from what these guys had to say. One of my favorite quotes was from Trent Dilfer (former NFL quarterback and current sports analyst for ESPN) during an interview about the loss of his five-year-old son (which was a candidly honest and emotional read):

“If the motivation for your faith is what’s going on in the seventy-five or ninety years we have here on earth, then you are missing the truth of God’s promises. What God promises is eternity. This is not our home.” (pg. 95)

And of course I loved reading the nuggets of wisdom from Ray Lewis, who I’ve enjoyed watching from the beginning of his career.

“To be a leader you’ve got to be willing to serve others. Learn your job and become excellent at it. Then seek to help others…what comes first? Servitude.” (pg. 203)

Overall I found Men of Sunday to be refreshing and encouraging. It was inspiring to learn what role Christianity plays amongst a large number of NFL athletes, and it also encouraged me to grow in my own spiritual life. Probably the biggest “aha” moment for me was learning about the heartaches and trials that go with fame and fortune and how much harder it really is to live a life devoted to Christ in such an environment. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have my personal drama splattered all over newspapers and magazines, especially considering much of it probably would not be true.

Men of Sunday is a great book for the Christian NFL lover in your family. Even if you don’t watch football, you would be inspired by the stories of faith, perseverance, failure, loss, and redemption. The biblical truths are applicable to all walks of life. So, stop reading this review and go get your copy!

Men of Sunday was published by Thomas Nelson and released in August 2012. I believe in this book so much I am including a link to Amazon to purchase it (and no, I don’t get any money for that!) Click HERE to view on amazon.

(I received Men of Sunday by Curtis Eichelberger from Booksneeze for review purposes only. I was not required to give a positive review and the opinions here are strictly my own.)

Golden Goggles

What a difference perspective makes.

One Olympian is devastated to receive a silver medal while another makes history with a bronze. One Olympian rejoices like the greatest victor making it to third place while another Olympian totes a sour demeanor as a second place finalist.

Throughout the Olympics I’ve noticed a recurring theme transcending every event. There are athletes only happy with a gold medal, and there are athletes who would be happy with any medal at all. There are countries who have never received medals in certain events and others who are expected to receive gold in every event. For me, the layperson at home, I marvel at the attitudes of some receiving silver or bronze medals. One athlete even sobbed uncontrollably at their disappointment receiving a silver medal.

If there was an event for coffee drinking I might have a chance at Olympic gold, otherwise my days will be spent in the mediocrity of mundane every-day living while the “real” champs make millions in endorsements.  I’d like to think if I was talented in a given sport, was honored enough to make it to the biggest forum the world has ever known, and took away a silver or bronze medal-beating dozens of other world-class athletes-that I’d be thrilled beyond comprehension. I’ve seen that response in a few athletes, but the overwhelming take-away from many post-event interviews is that anything less than gold is trash.

And what does this message teach? If you work hard, sacrifice much and come in second place you’re a worthless piece of garbage? What a shame. I’ve seen interviews where athletes are practically defending their silver/bronze medals to a broadcaster determined to squeeze out a dramatic interview. “Oh, you must be so disappointed you didn’t get gold.” One athlete responded to this statement (loosely paraphrased)”I’m at the Olympics and I’m on the medal stand-I think that’s good enough.” Bravo.

And how often does this type of thinking play out in every-day life? We have big goals, big dreams, and great ambitions-and then we fall short. We feel there is only one outcome that will work, and when that outcome isn’t realized we are sobbing in second place. Our golden-goggles blur our vision of greatness.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, our less-than-grandeur finish was what God had planned for us all along? That perhaps our un-notoriety was the greatness God destined us for? Isn’t His plan the best plan, and His outcome the best result?

There’s nothing wrong with high aspirations, but we must remember our plans are not always His plans. When we’ve done our best and come up short of what we expected, we have to trust His purposes. That place of trust is the only place that soothes lost dreams and dashed hopes.

“Commit your actions to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

If I commit every action to the glory of God, the outcome will be a success in God’s eyes, though not necessarily in man’s eyes. I want to wear the golden goggles of God’s success. I want to be okay with His outcome. I want to have His perspective.  What color goggles do you have on today?

“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:1-3