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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Christian Framework for Sports, September 17, 2009
This review is from: The Reason For Sports: A Christian Fanifesto (Paperback)
People worship sports. They do. They sacrifice enormous amounts of time, money, and energy to follow their teams and favorite athletes. They heap praise on these heroes and hold them up as god-figures. Every Sunday, thousands of people gather to praise their god of choice, filling stadiums decked out in team colors to signify their allegiance to their god as they chant and cheer. Sports is a religion, and it has millions of followers, many of them also Christians.

With these things in mind, how should believers approach and engage sports?

Ted Kluck (Why We're Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church) attempts to help us think through this question, as well as provide numerous funny, poignant, and telling stories from his experience as a sports writer, in his new book, The Reason for Sports. More a collection of short essays than a unified whole, the book addresses issues such as: jock apologies, steroids, honesty, fantasy football, sports films, humility, and race relations, among others. The book is far from a complete treatise on the issues presented, but Kluck clearly understands two things well: the culture of sports and athletics, and the gospel.

My favorite chapter was probably the one on Mike Tyson and Ricky Williams. Kluck previously wrote a full book on Tyson, and some of his anecdotes about the boxer were very poignant. Both athletes, he points out, are a rare breed in professional sports, in that they are willing to be honest with people. Kluck states he'd rather listen to Williams discuss "his weaknesses than listen to Kurt Warner thank God for his Super Bowl performance" (p. 50). This isn't a knock on Warner, who I greatly respect, but it's nice to hear a Christian author give permission to find non-Christian athletes intriguing. He thinks like an evangelist, not a Christian desperate to find a successful Christian athlete to co-opt as one of our own and hold him up to the world as a shining example that yes, Christians can win (there's also a chapter where he talks about how this has been done with Tony Dungy as well).

The discussion on sports movies was also interesting. I don't agree with everything Kluck says about Braveheart (he's not a fan), but the discussion about what made Chariots of Fire so good was great, and something Christian filmmakers need to seriously consider (listen up Sherwood). Another favorite chapter was on humility called "Why I Love Muhammad Ali (but Why He Also May Have Ruined Sports)". Kluck's discussion of the way athletes behave in the me-first culture of sports today was spot on, while avoiding Christian clichéd responses.

I think that's what I enjoyed most about this book. He doesn't fall back on the traditional Christian responses to things. He doesn't make everything black and white either (for example, can my favorite athlete be someone who is known to be a bad guy off the field?). The discussions are nuanced, exploring the genuine contradictions that are present for many Christians who love sports. These questions need to be addressed. Kluck doesn't answer them all, but he'll get you thinking, and provide some enjoyable reading in the process.
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Location: Ohio

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