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GIVING AN ACCOUNT
It’s funny how there are parallels between sports and lessons we learn from the Bible. We are not so different than professional athletes who think they can run but they can’t hide. Whether it’s professional football, basketball or baseball many athletes have had to learn the hard way that the eye in the sky never lies. Most games are played in front of dozens of HD TV camera who not only record their every move but at many times from various angles. It is great for the viewer because we can see a spectacular run, a diving catch or last second desperation three from all kinds of views.
There are times when a player might get away with a late hit or a sucker punch that isn’t seen or caught by a referee. But it’s also not unusual for that same player to receive a notice from the league office of a $10,000 fine later that same week. A wrong action at that level almost never goes unnoticed. That’s not so different than what goes on in people’s lives every single day because God always has his eye on what happens in our lives no matter how much we try and hide something.
It says in Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight,” talk about a statement that can quickly bring you to your knees. Just like people have a record of what athletes do, God has a record of everything that has been going on in our lives from day one and it means that someday we will have to give an account for all of our actions. Jeremiah 23:24 says “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him, declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth?” Every time I read a piece of scripture on this all I can think is ouch.
It can be very sobering to think about but I don’t believe God wants us to be weighed down by this. He wants us to use it as motivation to live Godly lives and to care for others. He calls to do just that in Deuteronomy 5:32-33, “Be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you, do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the ways that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper.” We’ve talked about how we are similar to athletes in the way we have to be responsible for our actions. But we are different than them in one major way. While athletes have to pay their own fines, as Christians our fine has been paid for us when Jesus died for our sins.
"If we can trust God with our eternity, we have to trust Him with our now"
circle of influence
I’ve always told people who ask that it’s great to broadcast games, but especially nice to do so for your alma mater. Not that the passion would be any less doing games for another school, but it’s just in my DNA to be a positive representative of my school. I graduated from Baylor University in December, 1980. I did women’s basketball and baseball games on our campus station as a student, began filling in for the legendary Frank Fallon on men’s basketball games in 1984, then began working alongside Frank on Baylor Football…the absolute best learning experience of my life…in 1987. Upon Frank’s retirement in 1995, I came to work full-time in the Baylor Athletic Department.
It is natural for me to be positive about your school, especially so here at Baylor University, the oldest and largest Baptist University in the world. The mission statement of Baylor University and Baylor Athletics lines up exactly with the way I aspire to live my life. In every way, personally, professionally, athletically, academically, and spiritually, the Christian walk is not only accepted, but encouraged by those in administration. Our Athletic Director, Ian McCaw, is front and center in a weekly bible study we do with our local FCA director Ben Johnson.
I say all that to say that I recognize that I am in a work environment that is may be different than other broadcasters find themselves in on a day to day basis. I have no qualms about adding “God Bless you as you travel” to a broadcast sign-off or offering “Thoughts and Prayers” to a fallen player or Baylor fan who has lost a loved one. There is a plaque that is in our football broadcast booth with the verse from Psalms 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, Lord my rock and my Redeemer”. As a Christian broadcaster, it is very nice to share that faith in small ways over the air during our Baylor broadcasts.
Even in this type of environment, the fields are still white unto harvest. Mr. and Mrs. William Robbins recently donated bibles to every student-athlete and every staff member and coach in the Baylor Athletic Department. It was revealing to hear several of our football players say that that was the first bible they have ever owned. Our Athletic Department Chaplin Wes Yeary has made great inroads with our student-athletes but there is always work to be done and people who need to hear the Gospel.
Thanks to the Robbins for their investment in the lives of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff. It is a good reminder that we all have our circle of influence…some larger than others… and we should all take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us to spread the good word.
John Morris --"Voice of the Baylor Bears"
Being a Christian sportscaster to me means, doing the right thing and acting the right way, not only on the air but off the air. Like it or not, and I tend to shy away as much as possible, we’re somewhat in the public eye. Not only do we represent ourselves and our employer, but we represent the Lord as well.
In a profession in which motivation is key, some coaches use fear and cursing to motivate players. As T.J. alluded to in “Dealing with Change” a lot of times we get to know coaches very well, on a personal level. While it is important to form a good relationship with the coach and try to fit in, we must remember that we can influence them as much as they influence us. Even if they do use curse words with their players and staff, it is important that we don’t try to fit in with that specific characteristic. There are many verses/ideas I fail at, but one I take pride in, and that is reining my tongue. “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless,” (James 1:26). This doesn’t mean being critical when it is deserved, in my opinion it is cursing. As Sportscaster, sometime we have to be a little bit critical of coaches and players to maintain credibility. It is one thing and okay to do that, but it is not okay to curse at someone, especially on the air.
Another example I’ve learned from experience over the years is setting up equipment. Most of us have to engineer our broadcast in addition to call the games. I’ve learned over the years if we freak out about it, that isn’t a good witness. Sometimes it is someone else’s fault, but if we ridicule them, that isn’t being a good witness. If we stay calm and talk to them about it that is being a good witness.
Treating SIDs and team managers with respect is another way to be a good witness. We all treat our coaches well, but if we treat those who don’t have as much power with respect, that is a problem. This relates to another verse from James. “If you show special attention o the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man You stand there or ‘sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts,” (James 2:3-4).
Those are some of my thoughts on what being a Christian Sportscaster is.
After seeing the Lord put opportunities in my path to minister to people on a seemingly daily basis, I sometimes wondered if I was in the right profession. I mean, I’ve been a sportscaster for over 25 years and have always held but one dream, should the Lord put me there: to be the full-time play-by-play voice of my alma mater, OU. As fun and fulfilling as it is to call a great game, I find myself getting the same rush -- with even more emotion -- in helping to lead someone toward Christ or maybe providing advice or wisdom to a friend in a time of need. More than once, my sweet wife Amanda, who, upon hearing that I had ministered to someone yet again, laughed and said I should, “just give (sportscasting) up; you’re gonna be a minister”. I think she was joking.Well, I recently mentioned my “dilemma” to one of my church’s lead pastors and he basically said, “Oh no, no, no! You’ve been given a gift and with it, you can reach numbers of people that a preacher could never reach. Use your platform for the glory of God and pursue your dream.” Wow, wow and wow. I’d never thought of it that way.
Armed with that edict, now whether I’m calling OU baseball, Southlake Carroll HS football or covering pro and college games as a network radio reporter, I’ll always keep in mind that I have my commission: to be a reflection of Christ to all in a world that’s in dire need of His love. I find it incredibly easy to speak to people about the Lord. I chuckle when people comment that I have such strong faith in my belief in Christ. I tell them, “No, faith is when you believe in something … but you may not be totally sure of it. I’m positive that Christ is 100% real.”
I’ve seen and experienced far too much to believe otherwise
We, as sports broadcasters, have such an incredible opportunity to reach people and further the Kingdom. Think about it. The public loves sports. We paint the picture for those who watch and listen. That puts us in the public’s eyes and ears. They’re watching and listening to the games through us, and, in doing so, they’re also observing us. We should take our gift … and use it every single day.
It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to be Christ-like, whether it’s being kind … or humble … or putting your brother first. These are all things of Christ and come with double rewards. The receiver sees a reflection of Christ. The giver receives blessing from the Lord. It’s a win-win deal.
My favorite book in the Bible is James. It’s relatively short but has amazing wisdom and guidance. James 1:2-5 is one of my favorite parts in the Bible. It’s wonderfully-inspiring Scripture.
Who wants some devotion? That is an easy answer in the world we live in today…everyone and everything is seeking our devotion. It is something that we as sportscasters have to face while trying to juggle our careers, being husbands, fathers and our walk with God. In this profession sometimes things seem to be moving so fast traveling from here to there and prepping for this game, that sometimes you don’t feel devoted to anything.
I’m sure glad God helped to map out things for us. He made it pretty clear in Mark 12: 30 when he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This is a passage I have to focus on. I think it’s amazing when you read it and it seems very simple. But Jesus said it with such authority that He left no doubt that He should be first not second when it comes to our devotion.
Is it still difficult to get the concept and apply it to our lives, you bet. Why is that, I’m not entirely sure especially when I look at everything He has done in my life. One thing I can say is He has helped me to work on reprioritizing my devotion and focus.
If you have young kids you know that their energy is in abundance and they long to spend time with you. There are not many things that bring me greater joy than hearing my girls (2 and 4) belly laughing and saying “toss me again daddy” or “chase me again daddy”. One lesson He has taught me is that when you are home be home not devoted still to your work.
I really enjoy the time period from late August – March because I get to do what I love, broadcast games. However, God has grown me to where I can love that time even more because it’s not just filled with games and planes but more family time as well.
T.J. Jackson, UMKC Play-By-Play Announcer
"Your talents are God's gift to you, what you do with them is your gift to God"
While not a biblical quote, the principle behind that old adage above certainly is divinely inspired. You can find it in the book of Luke. Chapter 12, verse 48 says "To whom much is given, much is expected." It's a verse I try to meditate on daily and something that should inspire us all.
No matter where you work or on what level you call games, if you're reading this as a Christian sports broadcaster, you've been blessed with a platform. God has put you in a position to not only entertain and inform, but inspire and give back as well.
The late Bob Briner wrote in his book "Roaring Lambs" that many Christians can do as much or more for God in secular jobs, than they can in a full-time career in ministry. It's all about evaluating your talents and resources and asking God to reveal to you how you can use them to further His Kingdom and better the community around you.
As a sports broadcaster, when you talk (both on the air and off) people listen. What message could He be calling you to share that helps the greater good. As someone who works in sports, you probably have established relationships with athletes and coaches who share your heart for Christ. Could God be calling you to unite your gifts with theirs for the sake of a charitable cause? Many athletes and coaches have the fame to draw attention and the inspiration to make a difference, but don't have the vehicle to drive their point home. You could provide that medium.
What is God calling you to do today from the platform He's blessed you with? I can assure you, He didn't just elevate you to that position for the sake of reading sports scores and belting out touchdown calls. He GAVE you those great gifts and that influential platform, and now EXPECTS you to do big things with them. Remember, "To whom much is given, much is expected".
It's just like the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). Don't take your gifts and hide them away or use them only on yourself. Put them to use for God's cause and multiply them into many more blessings. Do that, and you'll fulfill your destiny and meet God's expectations. Then when our game of life on earth ends and the post-game party in Heaven begins, you'll be greeted with "Well done, my good and faithful servant" -- a signature call sweeter than any touchdown tag line in the book!
-Brian Hanni, Jayhawk Radio Network
I heard the phrase many times at church but never thought much about it's meaning. Blessed to be a blessing. Cliche'? Perhaps. Accurate? Probably. Words to live by? You bet.
Growing up, I was always the kid who was doing play-by-play while my brother and I played sports in the driveway or in the backyard. I did it because, well...someone had to be the radio announcer and say the score. I never thought it would turn into a career. My parents were very supportive of us, whether it was playing sports, or playing instruments in the band, or really anything we wanted to do, from whim to whim and year to year. Looking back, my brother and I thought we were as normal as any other family - with parents who loved us and wanted to spend time with us. Unfortunately, now it seems it wasn't as customary as we thought. Blessed? You bet.
In college, I was fortunate enough to broadcast high school games for the local radio station while finishing school. It was a busy time but one that I look back on with great fondness. Funny isn't it, that when we are in school we work so hard to get out of it and be done, yet when it's over, the minute you leave graduation, you say to yourself, "that's it - it's over?" Now we look back on those days with a smile and think "if only I could have summers off like I did in college" and many other thoughts about that time that seem so great and freeing now. Maybe that's not you. But for me, while college wasn't a boon of good times and partying, it is where I found my first taste of professional success. While I broadcasted games for the college radio station, it was my work with the local radio station during school that paid off after graduation. I was lucky enough to be hired by the local station to be their Sports Director, a job that would provide instant gratification for an aspiring sportscaster. Blessed? You bet.
You know the phrase, "if you aren't spending your day getting better, than someone else is" or something like that? Well, coming out of school I took it to heart. No one was going to work harder or be better than I was at being a sportscaster. Work became a priority. Splitting time between daily duties at a local radio station and doing college play-by-play, meant long hours away from home. Life like that can be rough, not only on the individual, but those in the swath of the "workaholic" force. I was married at the age of 23 and divorced by 25. What had started as priorities (God, wife, family, etc.) had become secondary to number one - work - and by proxy, me. Slowly my reading in the Word had stopped, going to church has stopped, praying had dwindled to only what I wanted or needed, and in short - I stopped thinking I needed God. Blessed? Even though I didn't see it, you bet.
Slowly, what felt like the darkest of times, became a source of strength. I began to read the Bible again, go back to church, commit to speaking with God daily about what He wanted for me, not what I wanted, and spend time getting my priorities in order. It wasn't easy - this wasn't an overnight process. A few years passed, and there were those fleeting moments during which I questioned whether it was worth it to stay on the right path. But that's the beauty of a painful past - it's always there to remind you of a lesson. I decided it was up to me to either accept the lesson and use it for something good, or wallow in the misery of self-pity. And so, I talked about my past with others, not forcibly "Hey! Did you know I got divorced!" wasn't exactly pouring from my lips to strangers on the street, but I did speak to those who had questions or to others going through a similar experience. What I found was that not only did I feel like I helped someone else in a tough time, it finally began to feel like what I went through had a purpose. Blessed? Even though at times it didn't feel great, You bet.
Eventually, my life started to become more representative of what God wanted it to be, something I thought I was doing before but wasn't - putting Him first. As my walk with God strengthened, my personal life soon followed. First, a chance meeting led to a courtship, and later a marriage with a wonderful Christian woman. Then the most beautiful gift of all, a baby boy that loves to play catch, watch sports, and spend time with Dad. And professionally? Yes, He was at work there too, providing a new job with more broadcasting opportunities, but most importantly, with the flexibility to spend more time at home. Blessed? You bet.
I'm not an expert. I don't believe I was called to be a missionary or any sort of saint. I only believe - no, I KNOW, what happened in my life, every good or bad thing, every nanosecond of every day was for a reason. For what, only He knows for sure, but I'm starting to guess the reason. And that's where the phrase "blessed to be a blessing" struck me. Of course, why wouldn't you use the experiences (both good and bad) that you've experienced in life to help someone else? Why wouldn't you use what you've been gifted by God (prayer, speaking, listening, service - fiscally or physically, etc.) to bring a little bit of God into someone's life?
When I first started the business I always thought "once I make it to the big time, then I'll be big into charities". It sounds so silly now, such a naive thing to say. Now I've come to realize this - why should I wait? Of course I can make a difference now, even with actions I deem silly or insignificant. Those actions may somehow bring blessings into another persons life, regardless of my or anyone's status in life. That's the beauty of God's army. There are no officers or ranks, just soldiers. And the rewards from a successful mission? A smile from a friend while sharing words of encouragement, a hug from a stranger when giving resources, gifts, or time through an act of service, or the look of love on a child's or spouse's face while spending time with family. Blessed? Absolutely.
Blessed to be a blessing? You bet.
- Brian Smoller, Kansas State Radio Network