I haven’t done a Booking Through Thursday for a while, but today’s question intrigued me:
- Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?
- Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?
- Do you consider yourself a sports fan?
- Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too … but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.
- (Or a good sports movie, for that matter. Feel free to expand this into a discussion about “Friday Night Lights” or “The Natural” or whatever…)
To answer the second question first, I am not a sports fan in general. In fact, I have had to wrestle through some negative feelings about sports. I don’t have an athletic bone in my body and P.E. was always my valley of humiliation in school. Even in friendly church games I didn’t miss the rolling of eyes, sighs of exasperation, or the nearly knocking over of people (myself and others) by the more competitive who were trying to get the shot they were sure we’d miss (and then they’d wonder why I decided to just sit on the sidelines and watch…) And in small schools, sometimes the athletes and their fans form the “in crowd” and everyone else is just “out.” And any involvement in sports these days just seems to take over a family’s time and life.
But I did come to see that there could be many benefits to sports. There are the obvious physical benefits, of course, and the learning to work together in team dynamics, learning to win or lose with grace, learning to stretch yourself in various ways. My oldest son’s very first baseball coach was a teddy bear of a man with an encouraging style who always brought home spiritual illustrations: I can remember his giving out team trophies and reminding them that, as special as those trophies were now, someday they would gather dust in the attic, and encouraging them to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
And there is just something about the Olympics that draws me, particularly the gymnastics and swimming at the summer games and the ice skating at the winter ones.
And, as the question indicated, I can enjoy a good sports story even though I am not generally a sports fan. One of the first I specifically sought out was the story of Pete Maravich after seeing clips of an interview with him on 20/20 that were being replayed after his death. I had heard several celebrities who professed to some kind of faith but whose lives didn’t reflect it, and my first impression of Pete was that he seemed thoroughly genuine. I found his auto-biography, Heir to a Dream, published about a year before he died. It told how he was groomed to be a basketball player (with a basketball tucked into his childhood bed at night rather than a teddy bear), his rise to fame, the realization that sports and glory don’t satisfy, and how he came to know the Lord.
Another favorite sports-related book was the biography of Eric Liddell, the runner made famous in the film Chariots of Fire. He was a believer and refused to run on Sunday during the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Because of that he missed the race he trained for and he was put into another — and won the gold medal and broke a world record. Just before the race, a masseur has passed to him a piece of paper on which was written 1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honor me I will honor.” Eric later became a missionary to China. The Japanese took over the mission where he was stationed during WWII and he and other missionaries as well as children from the China Inland Mission Chefoo school were held at the Weihsien Internment Camp, where he later died of an inoperable brain tumor. The particular biography I read was not very well written, so I won’t mention it here as there are others which I am sure are better, but another book which tells of Eric in the prison camp is called A Boy’s War by David Michell, who was a child in the Chefoo school during this internment.
Other favorites were Comeback and When You Can’t Come Back by Dave Dravecky, the baseball player whose career came back but then ended after a tumor in his shoulder. I had seen an interview with him on 20/20 as well and was inspired to read more.