And because of who he once was—a kid, a hero worshiper like the ones that encircle him—Shaun Alexander appreciates the power of the moment. He signs autographs, slaps high fives, and poses for cellphone photos, smiling for each click. He doesn’t deny a request.
Alexander, the Seattle Seahawks’ running back with the knack for scoring touchdowns, is touring the old YMCA in his hometown of Florence, Kentucky, the building he bought last year for $1.8 million. The building he now owns is the same center he and his brother couldn’t play basketball in as kids because they didn’t have enough money.
“I have a heart for kids,” Alexander explains when asked about why he bought the building. “It’s a place where kids can come and have fun and a place to help them stay out of trouble…”
Read the remainder of Shaun Alexander’s story from our September/October 2006 issue here.
In one magical season that reads like an Oscar-winning movie script, Kurt Warner went from NFL quarterback wannabe–just two years ago he was a third-stringer who played in one game–to league and Super Bowl MVP.
“He’s a book, he’s a movie, this guy,” said St. Louis Rams former head coach Dick Vermeil after Warner led the Rams to their dramatic 23-16 victory in Super Bowl XXXIV by throwing for a record 414 yards.
Well, the book’s already out. It’s Warner’s autobiography, accurately titled All Things Possible. The movie? There’s nothing in the works–yet–but if you take Rudy, Rock, and Field of Dreams, and roll them all into one, you’ll get the idea what Kurt Warner: The Movie would be about.
Warner insisted after his record-shattering Super Bowl performance that “I don’t think of it as a Hollywood story. It’s just my life.”
Read the rest of our feature on Kurt Warner from our November/December 2000 issue by clicking here.
Here at Sports Spectrum, we are entering our 30th year covering faith and sports. Over the last three decades, the magazine has gone from “Sports Focus” to “New Focus” to “Second Look” to “Sports Spectrum,” which it obviously remains today.
Throughout 2014, we will catch up with some of the athletes featured in our first magazines and revisit some of our archived stories. Today, we are giving you the first issue of Sports Spectrum magazine, published in May of 1985 and featuring the late Dan Quisenberry. Click here to view the first issue of Sports Spectrum magazine.
This issue features stories on Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris, Detroit Lions defensive lineman Israel Idonije, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, and University of Alabama safety Taylor Morton. Our columns also touch on a variety of issues. Managing editor Brett Honeycutt writes about former LPGA Tour golfer Betsy King and following Christ in his column “Airing It Out,” and staff writer Stephen Copeland writes about the peace displayed by a man on a farm and Steve Smith in his column “Another Angle.”
On Oct. 4, 1890, Philadelphia outfielder William Ashley “Billy” Sunday (1862-1935) played his final Major League Baseball game. Traded from the woeful Pittsburgh Alleghenys, who finished 23-113, to the National League Phillies for a late-season pennant run, he batted .261—but stole 28 bases in 31 games (with 84 overall).
Impressed by his play and popularity, the Phillies offered Sunday a three-year contract at nearly $400 month for the seven-month season. Industrial workers averaged perhaps $380 annually. Billy and his wife, Helen (Nell), had a new baby and were supporting his invalid brother. Having loved the game for years, he signed.
But during the winter of 1890-91, he also agonized. After becoming a Christian in 1886, Sunday became a YMCA teacher-evangelist, and sensed God’s call to full-time ministry. As “Ma” Sunday recalled in 1957, Billy valued his highest salary ever, but “three years looks like a very long time to me now… if you don’t mind, I would like to send a request for my release.” A practical and spiritual woman, she replied, “The Lord isn’t talking to me about it, but if He’s talking to you, pay attention to Him.”
Sunday did. When his Phillies release request was denied, in prayer he sought a sign. Billy would honor his contract with a March 25 departure to join the 1891 ballclub—unless release before then signaled “retirement” into Christian work. Philadelphia’s management, sensing both his uneasiness and the influx of ballplayers from the failed Players League, on March 17 granted his release. Hearing this, Cincinnati offered $500 a month —but Mrs. Sunday settled it: “There is nothing to consider; you promised God to quit.” The YMCA paid $83.33 per month—but in years to come his preaching ministry would touch far greater crowds.
The same Saturday afternoon as Sunday’s finale, James Laurie “Deacon” White (1847-1939) closed his career with the Buffalo Bisons (which he partly owned) in the Players League. Drained business-wise as the players’ revolt against management control, or the reserve clause as it came to be known, fell short, and health-wise by playing 122 games at age 42, he was ready. Younger brother Will—the first major leaguer to wear glasses on the field—welcomed him into the optical business. In later years, he would run a livery stable and garage, and joining (with wife Alice) extended family in Illinois, did maintenance at Aurora College. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2013.
The 19th century’s two most famous Christian ballplayers (with Hall of Famers Jake Beckley and Pud Galvin) are pictured as 1889 Pittsburgh teammates. Sporting 15 years age difference, the dramatic outfielder-baserunner and iconic infielder-batter were also different in personality. With 1890’s rise of the Players League, their earnest ethical reflections brought different steps: justice led White into the Players League, while loyalty made Sunday one of two holdovers in Pittsburgh. Thought White (Advent Christian) and Sunday (Presbyterian) were members of different denominations, they were set apart by their deep Christian convictions and lifestyle, and their strong marriages and lives of service—eyes in the same direction.
By Rev. James D. Smith III
Rev. James D. Smith III (Th.D., Harvard) is Professor of Church History at Bethel Seminary San Diego, and has lectured extensively at the University of San Diego. He has been a Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) member since 1982.
As an athlete, I always placed great emphasis on sports in my life. Sports began to consume me. I played softball in high school and college, and my softball performance started to determine who I was as a person. It was the center of my universe, a universe that ultimately came crashing down.
During my freshman year of college, my softball team was struggling as was my performance. I began to feel like I lacked control over the situation and was helpless to change my circumstance. I was desperately seeking control over something in my life. I began to realize that there was something I could control: my diet and my weight. I started to obsess about how much I weighed and soon began starving myself and bingeing and purging, which offered a temporary emotional release, and made me feel in control.
“I was caught in the throes of a vicious addiction”
But my health started to rapidly decline and I began to realize the pain I was inflicting on myself. I felt helpless and hopeless to change; I was caught in the throes of a vicious addiction. I finally realized that I needed help.
Desperate, I reached out for help. I spoke with one of the coaches at my university and also the medical staff, who got me into a psychiatric program. Although I recognized things had gotten out of hand and was seeking treatment, I was still trying to control the situation and my condition continued to worsen.
I soon realized I needed something else in my life. I began reading on various religions. Although my father was a strong Christian, Christianity was not my first option of study.
“I was reading my Buddhist book, and I started crying”
I began my search with a book on Buddhism, but also oddly enough, my Jewish friend bought me a copy of The Purpose Driven Life at around the same time. I started following the instructions in the book and read one chapter a day, but I still was struggling.
Then one day while I was on my second hour of a workout on an elliptical, I was reading my Buddhist book, and I started crying. In that instant, I knew that I didn’t have to have control, that God had control of my life. I stepped off the elliptical, and I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, God had made my burden lighter. In that moment my relationship with Christ began. And just as easily as I was caught up in the addiction that is an eating disorder, God removed my addiction and set me free. It wasn’t until I found Jesus that I realized I didn’t need control and would never have it.
“My relationship with Christ has continued to grow and strengthen”
After the moment that I came to Jesus on the elliptical, I got involved in Athletes in Action at my university and even became a group leader. My relationship with Christ has continued to grow and strengthen, and I continue my walk with Him daily. Although my battles have changed and the struggles are different, I know that with Him, all things are possible and that I do not have to have all the answers, I just have to trust in Him.
He has led me through so much in my life and brought me to my current stage of being an Olympian. After I graduated from George Washington University in 2006, I played professional softball and after reaching that life-long goal I felt like I needed a change in my life. I felt that my athletic career was not complete.
“I took a chance, flew up to Lake Placid and made the team”
I had heard about bobsled in 2007 and discovered that the tryouts were in two weeks. My parents encouraged me, and I felt that I needed to go. So I took a chance, flew up to Lake Placid and made the team.
Becoming an Olympian is one of the greatest achievements one can achieve in this life. Although God has allowed me to achieve much, I know it’s all to glorify His holy name, and that I am working toward a much greater accomplishment in the next life.
By Elana Meyers
This story was provided by Athletes In Action and written by Elana Meyers.
Perhaps anytime a writer spends a considerable amount of time with Tim Tebow, the storyline is going to be clear. Tebow’s faith is going to be prevalent. Thomas Lake’s feature in Sports Illustrated is no different. “I’ve never found my identity in who I was as a football player,” Tebow told Sports Illustrated. “I found my identity in who I am in Christ. And when you find your identity as a Christian, then regardless of your status, or your fame, or your popularity, or your position, that never changes. So the roller-coaster that the world has always looked at my life and viewed, I’m very thankful that I don’t have to live it.”