Headlines from First Thoughts

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Shades of Baylor

The Duke Lacrosse scandal seems eerily familiar. I was at Baylor when one of the basketball players shot another to death in a field outside Waco. It brought shame upon the entire community. The murder exposed an unrelated, yet sordid, tale of a Christian coach named Dave Bliss violating NCAA rules. It resulted in the dismissal of coaches and NCAA sanctions on the school. The Baylor family collectively asked, "How could such a thing happen to a place like this? I thought this happened at other institutions but not a good Baptist school like Baylor."

Ever since the Garden, sin is committed by the people who have an over-inflated view of themselves. Baylor and Duke students are no exception. This Methodist school has faced the disgrace of a scandal whether or not the charges hold up in a court of law. Everyone looks bad, especially the ones who are involved.

What should be done? (1) Acknowledge that no one is immune from problems. Faith-based institutions often sow the seeds of their own demise by thinking that these kinds of things only happen at public schools. Right now, private schools seem to be doing worse than public ones. (2) Show me the money. The love of money is the root of many problems, and college athletics--really all athletics-- feeds the beast. These scandals represent a larger issue in our society that unless it is controlled quickly, they will bring all athletic programs down. It starts with the pressure on young athletes to become star baseball players/golfers/etc. Professional sports, and sports in general, should not be the shining achievement of any life. We've created this god, and we're watching the monster eat.

The good news is that Baylor found hope from an unlikely source, and I'm sure Duke will too. When the university was at its worst, a spunky little women's basketball coach brought a national championship to the school. Kim Mulkey-Robertson led an unlikely Baylor Women's squad to the NCAA tournament in just her fist couple of years as head coach. They won ironically while the men's team was facing complete disintegration. She then led them onto a national championship a year later.

Sports can be a great motivator, as well as a great detractor. How we use the talents and resources God gives us as a society makes all the difference in the world.

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