Sports & Theology: Brian Urlacher

Let’s set the scene: Sunday night, the Houston Texans played the Chicago Bears. In a closely contested game, Texans’ cornerback Danieal Manning (a former Bear) intercepted a pass from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. As Danieal Manning was leaving the field, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher walked on the field and congratulated his former teammate on a great play. You can watch the video here.

All of this comes to the dismay of Bears’ fans. Urlacher has been highly criticized for the show of sportsmanship. This was his response:

“That was a nice play. I could give a crap about what people think on the street. Get mad at me all you want, I could give … I could give a crap about what people say. Danieal Manning is a friend of mine, he was a teammate for five or six years, and that’s the way it is. He made a catch and was running toward the sideline to say something to Coach, so I walked out there.

“The guy had a good game, he caused a fumble, had a pick. He’s my friend. I wish he wouldn’t have caught it, but he did, so nice play to you. I don’t give a crap about what fans or people say, they can kiss my butt. I don’t care.

Aside from the “kiss my butt” comment (I’m being picky, I know. I’m not offended but he could have gone without it.), I thought this was a great testimony to the power of friendship. It’s a totally different response than what Kevin Garnett had for Ray Allen.

I appreciate Urlacher acknowledging the great play of his friend Manning. Congratulating an opponent during a game is an extremely rare occurrence. Perhaps this is what it’s so startling to Bears’ fans. After a game is over, you’ll see congratulatory hugs and hand shakes all over the field but rarely during. It seemed out of place, it was foreign.

Should it seem foreign though? I don’t think so. As I’ve said before, your opponent is not your enemy:

This begs the question, what would the Christian framework be for looking at teammates and opponents? To answer this question, you have to go back to the beginning, back to the Garden. What if we saw sports as just another place in this world to unearth treasure? Not only in ourselves or our teammates but also in our opponents? And what if saw unearthing treasure in competition for the glory of God as the ultimate goal? There would no lines in the sand. No enemy. No bad guy. Only partners in the dance to glorify God.

Can you imagine if the glory of God was the ultimate goal in competition? Can you imagine what would happen if you deeply desired to compete well as to unearth treasure in your opponent and unearth all of the God-given talent he/she has? If this was everyone’s posture then I think you would see congratulations and thanksgiving all over the field. There would be handshakes, words of affirmation, clapping, and celebratory cheer all over the field not only for your teammates but equally for your opponent.

I can imagine that doesn’t sit comfortably. The idea that our opponent is our enemy is so engrained in us. If you want to be more uncomfortable, here’s a challenge: Work on seeing your opponent (whether you are a player, parent, coach, or fan) not as an enemy but a co-competitor. Affirm them, celebrate their success, genuinely desire them to perform well as to bring out the best in your team. It will be hard. It will hurt. But, if you practice this for a while, I can testify that it will change you. It will transform the way you spectate, coach, and play sports.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).”

 

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