This weekend we saw the sad removal of the Joe Paterno statue that was outside Penn State’s football stadium.  I had mixed feelings, understanding both the many good things that Paterno had stood for and, along with many others, the new revelations of Paterno’s conduct in the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.  Last September I had gone to a game at Penn State when my own team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, was visiting.  I was able to see the statue, many of us taking pictures.  This was before everything became public.  I am glad that I got to experience the statue as it was meant to be.  One of the problems that some have discussed on talk radio and elsewhere is the worship of a man that comes with such adulation that a statue is made of him–especially in the field of sports.  There is also the worry that there is too much power in one individual without proper checks and balances in the institution.  Nonetheless, I still had mixed feelings as they carted the statue away, wondering if it was not overkill.  We must pray for those in authority at Penn State as they try to walk through the difficult maze they find themselves in at the present time.  I would not want to change places with them.

My fellow Crimson Tide followers have struggled with temptation to worship Paul “Bear” Bryant, the great coach of years gone by.  The football stadium has his name on it and there is a statue to him as well.  There are some factors that help to dilute the worship, however.  The stadium also has someone else’s name on it — Byrant-Denny Stadium.  Dr. George Denny was the highly respected President of the University of Alabama from 1912 to 1936 who led the University into a program of great expansion bringing it to the level of one of the great universities in the South.  So, the stadium’s name has some administration and academic background that is not just sports worship.  The same could be said of the statues.  Bear Bryant’s statue outside of the stadium does not stand alone.  Every coach who has won a national title as coach at Alabama has a statue:  Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Gene Stallings, and Nick Saban.   Nonetheless, the rabid nature of Alabama fans ( I count myself one) lends itself to the flavor of unwarranted worship if one is not careful.   Go to this link and read an interesting article by a reporter on the power that Nick Saban, the current Alabama football coach has on campus:

This is a major predicament for evangelicals.  College football seems to be by far the most popular sport in the South, where the  largest number of evangelical Christians live.  I have joked that in the Fall season, down South we have two weekend worship services — at the stadium on Saturdays — at church on Sundays.   Although I want my team to win and am a strong fan, I will never replace Jesus with Alabama football.  Jesus is the One who died for my sins and was raised from the dead.