I was deeply saddened this morning when I heard that Ernie Harwell, the long-time broadcaster of Detroit Tigers baseball games on the radio (1960 to 2002), had passed away at the age of 92.  He had once said a thank you to all those young boys who had hidden their transistor radios under their pillows so they could listen to the radio games after they had gone to bed.  I was one of those boys during the 1960s although I lived in the state of Alabama! WJR Detroit would come in really strong especially on cloudy days.  I well remember Ernie announce the homeruns of my childhood hero, Al Kaline.

However, something else attracted me to this man Ernie Harwell after I became a born-again Christian in 1974.  Early on I learned that he too had come to Christ.  His testimony was that he had come to Him as the result of the ministry of Billy Graham.  As I have said under “My Story” I too came to the Lord largely through Dr. Graham’s messages which caused me to search out a local church where I could follow-up and really understand.  The secular sports media’s accolades which have poured forth this day in tribute to Harwell show that it is possible to be a good testimony for Christ in the sports industry and make a difference in people’s lives.

My thinking about the relationship of evangelicals to sports started in earnest years ago when I read a book entitled God in the Stadium: Sports and Religion in America by Robert J. Higgs, a book for which I wrote a review in The Journal of Ministry and Theology.  Right now I am reading a book by Tom Krattenmaker entitled Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers.  Krattenmaker appears to be a left-wing secularist/pluralist although to be fair I have to reserve final judgment since I have only read two chapters.  He notes his desire that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes should have been a broader organization something along the lines of Fellowship of Religious Athletes instead.  I plan on doing a paper on evangelicalism and sports to be delivered at the Seminary this coming Fall.  Apparently, there are several criticisms of evangelicals in sports that are coming out right now (it may be fashionable critique against evangelicalism in general).

There is no doubt in my mind that our culture overdoses on sports.  Yet athletic competition seems to be built into the fabric of how human beings, especially men, think and play.  This appears to be true in the first century as it is today.  This is another relationship that needs to be thought about deeply.