Our Super Bowl XLVIII and February 2014 DigiMag is now available. This issue features exclusive interviews from Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day on Tuesday along with in-depth faith stories on players and coaches on the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. Our columns also touch on a variety of issues. Managing editor Brett Honeycutt writes about Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in his column “Airing It Out,” and staff writer Stephen Copeland writes about his experience in New York City in his column “Another Angle.”
Familiar words to a Frank Sinatra song became reality for Joe and Kim Girardi on a November day in 1996. After three years behind the plate for the Colorado Rockies, Girardi left the Mile-High City in a trade that sent him east to don the Yankee pinstripes. The Girardis had no idea what was ahead, but with excitement and a bit of anxiety they changed the message on their answering machine to greet callers with, “It’s up to you, New York, New York.”
“I was in a comfort zone in Colorado,” says Girardi. “Getting traded was a faith-builder, and as the season progressed I began to see what God was doing in our lives.”
This archived story was published in the May 1997 issue of Sports Spectrum magazine. Click here to read the rest of the story.
At DistinXion camps, we start our first character lesson by telling a story of a contractor that builds a house that will eventually become his retirement gift. Any contractor will tell you that in order to have the best-built house, only the best materials should be used. Similarly in sports, most coaches will advise that if you want the best team, you should recruit the best players.
However, in Psalm 118, we are told that a rejected stone is turned into the capstone. How amazing! The stone that the builders saw as unworthy, usable, and damaged was the same stone that became the capstone, the stone that holds the entire building together!
When we see ourselves as unworthy, not good enough, and incapable, God sees us differently. When we feel defeated and rejected, God redeems and accepts us. In some cases, God may use our time of defeat to refine us, transforming us into a capstone. In other cases, God takes us as we are, but uses us in a different way to become the capstone. In both scenarios, God loves us so much that instead of throwing us aside like a rejected stone, He accepts us as a capstone and is glorified in the transformation.
By Luke Zeller
Luke Zeller is the CEO of DistinXion, a non-profit organization founded by the Zeller family. Luke is a contributor to Sports Spectrum magazine. Log in here to access our most recent Training Table. Subscribe here to receive 12 issues a year and a daily sports-related devotional.
Different isn’t always easy.
Remember the Jamaican bobsled team in the 1988 Calgary Olympics? Seems like an oxymoron, right? Jamaican bobsled?
To cement their involvement in the Olympics, a movie, Cool Runnings, was made about their exploits. The foursome of Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Michael White and Nelson Stokes had little practice and they had to borrow sleds from other countries.
And despite the fact they crashed and didn’t finish, their positive attitude and goodwill toward others won the hearts of the fans.
Having an impact doesn’t always have to come through success. Sometimes having an impact comes through defeat or perceived defeat.
God can use our ups and downs to help people see Him, especially when we have a godly attitude. Just like the centurion saw Christ as the Son of God because of the way Jesus took the ridicule and mocking of the self-righteous people and leaders.
Keep that in mind the next time things don’t go the way you would like. God could be using your circumstance to show people who He is so that they have the opportunity to choose eternal life with Him.
David Wise stood on deck at the top of the superpipe in Aspen, Colo. Before him stretched the perfectly groomed ice and snow tube carved 567 feet long into the mountainside. As he mentally prepared, Wise watched competitor Justin Dorey smash into the lip in what ESPN called “one of the gnarliest crashes in years.” (Thankfully, Dorey walked away with only an injured shoulder.) It wasn’t the kind of precursor you want before beginning your own high-speed attempt at defying gravity in a giant geographic playground.
Wise was already nervous about one trick in his run—the first trick in his run—the same trick that had just crumpled Dorey. The 21-year-old freeskier from Reno, Nev., paused to refocus. He said a prayer and told himself, It’s just another run.
But it wasn’t just another run. This was the 2012 Winter X Games finals, the snowy epicenter of the action sports world. And Wise was poised to claim the biggest victory of his freeskiing career. He pointed his skis, picked up speed and dropped into the pipe—backwards. He rocketed down one 22-foot wall, across the floor of the superpipe and up the other near-vertical wall, launching himself into three end-over-end rotations—think flips turned on a diagonal axis. In other words, picture throwing a coffee mug into the air and watching it wobble around rather than flip straight over. Wise was the human coffee mug with fiberglass skis on both feet, spinning around and around 20 feet in the air over the top of the pipe, 42 feet above its bottom. His landing target was the vertical wall. His switch double flip was flawless.
And that was only the beginning. Wise’s height out of the pipe, or amplitude in X-speak, was three feet higher than the other skiers’ average. And he capped his stellar run with a huge double cork 1260 with a mute grab—three and a half diagonal flips while holding a ski with one hand.
The impressive performance secured X Games gold. The victory was the beginning of a breakout 2012 season that also included wins at the next two major contests: the Dew Tour in Snowbasin, Utah, and the U.S. Grand Prix in Mammoth, Calif. And the season positioned Wise as a favorite heading into the Olympic qualifying year before the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
But before America starts chanting his name in unison, there’s something you need to know about David Wise: He’s not your typical action sports star.
Yes, he loves amplitude and hucking big tricks—he was the first skier to land a double cork 1260 in the halfpipe. Yes, he’s young—though at 21 he was the oldest on the Winter X Games podium in 2012. And yes, he is sponsored by an energy food and drink company.
But Wise is also a husband and father who eschews any of the industry’s arrogant swagger. His image is bouncing his toddler, Nayeli, and leading the youth group at his church back home in Reno rather than partying with the snow sports elite. It’s a difference that the action sports media has quickly noted. Wise humbly views it all as part of who God has and continues to make him.
“Skiing is my art,” Wise says. “It’s the skill, the talents and opportunities that God has given me to show the world what I think skiing should look like and what I think beauty is. Skiing is my way of worshiping.”
David and Lexi met in high school at a church leadership camp at Hume Lake. They shared a camp crush; then went their separate ways. Wise was focused on pursuing his career and becoming the best skier possible. He figured he might get married around 30 if that was what it took to pursue his goals. But when he ran into Lexi at church several years after that camp. Things clicked. The couple was married within a year. Another year later, Nayeli was born.
Others have noted that Wise didn’t win any platinum level contests like the X Games until after his marriage and the birth of his daughter. He doesn’t dismiss the insight.
“Being a pro athlete is a selfish trade,” he says.
It’s easy to be consumed with fine tuning every movement, every trick, every morsel of nutrition or every edge to become fitter and better. But Wise has found that his family relationships have turned his focus outside of himself.
“Having a family and being a father figure and supporter of a family instead of just skiing for myself has changed my whole outlook on life,” Wise says. “When I finally stopped worrying about succeeding and making money, then I started winning. There are things that are hard, but you learn you’re no longer living for yourself; you’re living for your wife and family.”
Lexi and Nayeli are with Wise at as many contests as possible. He calls it “so cool and unexpected and different and at the same time so normal.”
Wise also stays grounded by meeting weekly with two friends, including his former youth pastor, Mike Koudreit. He credits those guys with helping him grow spiritually and keeping him from feeling like a spiritual island in his sport.
Koudreit remembers Wise as an energetic middleschooler launching flips and gainers off boulders into Lake Tahoe on church retreats. Now he describes his friend as “passionate, resolute and persistent.”
“I appreciate his level of humility,” Koudreit says. “It’s refreshing to see a world-class athlete hang out just completely as a friend. There’s no hierarchy, just friendship based on history and common belief.”
Of course, a shared practical joke is fairly common as well—like several Christmases ago when the three friends captured a duck late at night. They placed the bird in a box in the living room of a friend. “They found the box, picked it up and ended up with a duck flying around in their house,” Koudreit says.
That sense of humor makes Wise a natural for leading the youth group at his Reno church. Lexi takes point while David travels to competitions during the winter, but the couple serves as youth pastors for the group. “If I can give back, I want to be involved,” he says.
“He genuinely enjoys the kids,” Koudreit says. “He has a good ability of not trying to come from above them or impress them—he jumps into wherever they are with different maturity levels and beliefs. He’d probably work with the group even if he wasn’t skiing.”
Wise knows how vulnerable the teen years can be. He struggled in high school when his parents divorced, and he rebelled against his family’s Christian faith at that time. He was a top national skier then, too, and wanted badly to be the best of the best. He says he would have bought into the whole self-centered lifestyle to reach the top. He could land the tricks the X Games athletes were doing. But his perfect practice runs kept turning to frustration in contests. It fueled his anger at God, and he tried to fill his emptiness with skiing. It didn’t work.
“Some of the ugliness of the world drew me away from God for a little while, but that experience brought me back tenfold,” he says. “Coming back was like Wow, now I can see for myself that this faith is worthwhile. It’s true; it’s real; it’s raw; it’s powerful.”
As for the current youth group kids, Wise thinks most of them don’t comprehend the level he competes at. A few do, and some hound him for the ubiquitous action sports energy drinks. Some are clueless, he says. And that’s fine with him.
Wise’s approach to expressing his faith in the ski world is similarly low-key. His style is not Tim Tebow’s. You won’t hear Wise invoking God in most interviews. But you will hear him talking about serving others and placing his wife and daughter’s needs above his own. Those are radical concepts in the circles of individual action athletes and the industry built on promoting image.
As Wise’s performance and profile have soared, a common media angle is “Who is this humble guy who would rather hang out with his wife and kid than party?” The answers are respectful and admiring. They should be. Wise comes across as thoughtful and well-spoken, whether he’s discussing designing and testing new ski prototypes, being a family man or living out his faith. It’s easy to forget he’s still only 22.
Wise says he would rather consistently live out his faith before talking a lot about it. The style matches his personality—not loud and in your face.
“I don’t tell my Christian friends I’m a pro skier. I don’t tell my skier friends I’m a Christian,” Wise says. “But you’re going to find out if you spend enough time with me either way.”
Still he’s been criticized by some Christians for not preaching more.
“He tries to be sincere and honest to himself and to his beliefs and faith,” Koudreit says.
“Sometimes I’m a little too quiet. Sometimes I could be more outspoken,” Wise says. “At the same time, I do enjoy when people come up and say, ‘You’re really different. What’s the deal with that?’”
With Wise’s star continuing to rise, that question will pop up more and more.
By Jeremy V. Jones
Jeremy V. Jones is a freelance writer based in Colorado. His books include Toward the Goal: The Kaká Story and Triple Dog Dare.
Thanks to your help, Sports Spectrum Global recently produced its second Christian sports magazine for Russia. Our friends in Russia are distributing the magazine through our digital platform, social media, street evangelism through trading cards, and through the local church. This magazine was created specifically as a tool for sports ministers to use in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
We are building other international magazines, as well, including a special World Cup magazine that will be used in Brazil and translated for other countries.
Click here to view SS Global’s first Russia issue.
Click here to view SS Global’s second Russia issue.
Click here to learn more about Sports Spectrum Global.
“Jesus said to him,‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” Mark 9:23-24
Al Michaels’ phrase, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” will be forever remembered as the most famous call in Olympic or sports history. He uttered those words at the end of one of the most shocking upsets in sports history, a 4-3 U.S. victory against the Soviet Union in men’s ice hockey at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.
It wasn’t the gold-medal game (that would come a game later against Finland), but it was stunning and unbelievable because the Soviets had routed the U.S., 10-3, in an exhibition less than two weeks prior to the upset.
The victory was so unbelievable that a N.Y. Times writer wrote that unless the ice melted that no team stood a chance to beat the Soviet Union, which had trounced a NHL All-Star team, 6-0, in an exhibition before the Olympics.
The U.S. team went in believing they could win, but belief wasn’t enough. They also had to take action.
Is there something that God wants to do in your life, but the only thing in the way is for you to believe? If you’re struggling with a lack of faith, ask God to help your unbelief as Mark 9 shows us. He is willing to help. All we have to do is ask.
By Brett Honeycutt
It doesn’t matter that I know he survived. It doesn’t matter that I know he made it.
As I sit here in my office and re-watch world-renowned aerialist Nik Wallenda’s 22-minute high-wire walk over the Grand Canyon from June, I’m sure it looks more like I’m back in my high school Health & Wellness class watching a video about child birth—nervously peeking through my fingers, feeling somewhat queasy, wanting it all to be over so I can breathe again, and, like Wallenda, saying to myself, “This will be over soon; just don’t look down.”
It’s not an exaggeration.
Re-watching Wallenda’s unbelievable feat (and feet) really does give me the heebie-jeebies. When the chopper circles the speckle of a person (with no harness) balancing on a two-inch wire in the vastness of a 1,500-foot drop, I must admit, all I see is the dot on the wire meeting gravity like a raindrop.
Throw the wind in there (20 mph gusts), the canyon dust accumulating on the wire (he’s surrounded by a giant rock, after all), the rippling of the wire (something scientific that I don’t understand), the optical illusion he was experiencing (I can’t even stare at a book for 20 minutes straight, not to mention a wire suspended over eternity), and the fact he’s wearing a standard pair of jeans that flap in the wind at his ankles (did his secretary mess up his schedule and tell him he had a business meeting at Applebee’s?)—and his stunt becomes one of the most horrifying things I’ve seen since The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
In my opinion, though frightening, Wallenda’s stunt was so intriguing, skilled, and historic that it may be the best sporting moment of 2013. That’s why I’m writing about it.
But I also like what it represents. And I like what Wallenda represents.
If you haven’t watched Wallenda’s entire 22-minute walk across the Grand Canyon, I recommend it—as terrifying as it is. Yes, you’ll see him make history. But you’ll also see what he believes. It’s as much a 22-minute prayer as it is a walk.
“It (the wire) really is, in a sense, somewhat of a prayer closet,” Wallenda told me via email. “That may sound strange, but when I step on the cable, the other cares of life are no longer in play. I am focused on the walk itself, of course, but then it just becomes a conversation with God as I’m walking.”
Before he reached the midway point of his walk, he said some variation of “Praise Jesus,” “Thank you Lord,” “Yes Jesus,” or “Hallelujah” 62 times (about 83 times total). And right when he took his first step on the wire and peered over the canyon, he said, “Praise God, this is awesome. Thank you Jesus for this beautiful view.”
I find it interesting that, though fear and death are below, he embraces it all, he experiences God in the midst of the Grand Canyon in 2013 or the mist of Niagara Falls in 2012, and his prayers rise upward. I can’t think of a better example of both enjoying God and depending on Him.
As I watched Wallenda’s walk, I must admit, part of me envied him—not because I want to be on the wire, I think I’d rather be Abraham in Genesis 17, but because I want my life to look like Wallenda’s walk. To be that risky, to be that dependent, to walk with the Lord down the straight and narrow in such a way that no outside factors can deter me. I want to welcome adventure because of the view. I want to embrace challenges because it forces dependency. But how?
“As a tightrope walker, I always try to establish a fixed point to focus on, particularly when there are so many elements in play that are a distraction or that are coming against me,” Wallenda says. “My walks over Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon were perfect examples. I faced winds, mist, and the movement of the cable, but my focus was on the solid rock on the other side. Christ is that solid rock for my faith. Life brings a lot of challenges that want to knock you off course, but we have to focus on Him. He’s that solid and unmoving rock.”
See, when you know your focus is on solid rock, all you have to do is keep walking, one foot in front of the other, enjoying God every step of the way. The fact that you’re enjoying and experiencing God can make a challenging walk joyful.
“I try to focus on the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6,” Wallenda says. “To paraphrase, trust me with everything, and I’ll direct your paths.”
And sometimes that path is a wire.
This column appeared in the January 2014 Sports Spectrum DigiMag. Stephen Copeland is a staff writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine. His column tackles sports and faith from another angle, whether it’s humorous, personal or controversial. Follow him on Twitter-@steve_copeland or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.