To make something religious of a game like football by telling people that only Christians succeed at it is to make even more of a sham of a sport already beset by the overwhelming problems of commercialization and dehumanization. Football should stick to football and religion should stick to religion. The practice of religion should be a very personal activity, unencumbered by the show biz hype of some of the Sportianity groups mentioned.
If a young Jesus were attending an American high school today he might not choose to play football at all. He might even elect to play the flute, paint, write poetry, fix automobiles or maybe even become a carpenter. But whatever, I'll bet He would do it with humility, simplicity and humanity. Christianity needs more Malcolm Boyds, and football needs no more Billy Zeolis.
Our country is in the midst of one of the most severe moral and spiritual depressions since its founding. In this context it is unfortunate that SI should discredit one of the more potent efforts today to instill moral and spiritual fiber in our young athletes and their admirers.
JOHN H. JENKS
What we need in the world today is more virtue, and I consider it not only wise but imperative that we use sports in general and the fame of sports personalities in particular to achieve more conversions to morality.
Frank Deford describes superbly the phenomenon of the medium perverting the message.
NOEL J. AUGUSTYN
Frank Deford is a fine journalist, but when it comes to religion he is out of his league. Thousands of athletes are involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Baseball Chapel, Athletes In Action, etc. Why? Because in 95% of the cases they want to be there. Because Sportianity is a ministry. These groups want to minister and to be a help to the people who have the platform in the world. Not only because they in turn can minister to other people, but because as human beings they have a right to be ministered to. In most cases college and professional sports schedules prevent players from attending regular church services, or at least discourage regular attendance. The only reward for the leaders of these Sportianity groups is the knowledge that they are helping someone.
As for morality, Frank didn't do his homework on the FCA. The Christian Athlete, FCA's official publication, took three issues (January-March '76) and devoted them completely to the ethics of competition. It has also spoken out on the place of sport in society (February '76) and on winning and losing (March '76), and in every issue the ethics of sport is a major theme. This is also true of the lesson plans the FCA sends out.
Michigan State University FCA
As an ordained Baptist minister and seminary student, I would like to say thank you for the articles on religion in sport. I wholeheartedly agree that we as Christians have been overzealous and indiscriminate in the use of "heroes" to propagate Christianity. Shallowness is detestable in any area of life, especially in religion. What you have done is point up a sore spot, a weakness that needs correcting. Maybe someday our social concern will match our zeal for converts.
THE REV. ROBERT U. FERGUSON JR.
ON THE TRACK
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has always been one of the few magazines to give credit to talented young athletes. This is shown by your FACES IN THE CROWD department and has been proven by a number of feature articles. Yet when I read the article about the Drake Relays (A First Fling at Montreal, May 3) I was surprised at the omission of one special individual. Rudy Chapa is a high school senior who qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 10,000 with a time of 28:32.8 (he finished fifth). What is more, his time in that race on April 24 broke the prep record set on March 28 by Eric Hulst of Laguna Beach, Calif. by 22.2 seconds. More attention should have been paid to young Rudy than to what Francie Larrieu had for breakfast.
? SI first recognized Chapa as an outstanding high school cross-country runner (FACES IN THE CROWD, Nov. 25,1974) and then drew attention to him again as one of three remarkable sub-nine-minute two-milers—Carey Pinkowski and Tim Keough were the other two—competing for Hammond ( Ind.) High School (Three into Two Miles Who Go, Go, Go, June 16). We agree that Chapa is one to keep an eye on.—ED.