According to Jason Stein, a sports writer for the Defiance Crescent-News, something extraordinary took place last Friday during the Archbold/Hicksville High School football game.
When Archbold quarterback Tyson Dietrich took the snap from center Lee Klinger in overtime and ran 11 yards into the end zone seemingly effortlessly, the Blue Streaks used what little energy they had left in the tank to celebrate what the quarterback called a “miracle of a comeback.”
For Hicksville, a team that looked emotionally drained, it was a bitter way to end a game where it had played so well, but could never figure out a way to close the game out.
As players for the Aces took a knee, laid on the field and just looked exhausted, it was easy to see just how bad they wanted that game. And yet, for as well as both teams played, the best part of high school sports was yet to come.
In an age where arrogance and showboating is too often on the “highlight” reel on TV for players from the pros, college and even in high school, everyone on Friday gathered on the big Hicksville “H” at midfield. And this was not just the red and white jerseys, it included the blue and white as well and all of the coaches.
How could a team that had only a few seconds ago looked so down and another team that was riding the wave of victory quell their emotions? Why would these two combatants, who had just shaken hands as they are required to do, want to spend more time together?
It’s called class.
All game long players were seen helping up the opponent, never showing the other team up, or taking a cheap shot at the other. Maybe this wasn’t as surprising, but it was a great sight of what sports SHOULD be about. Not winning or losing, but coming together at the end, win or lose and being grateful for playing a game on Friday night.
Stein rightly applauds the great show of sportsmanship by the Hicksville and Archbold players. Sportsmanship at all levels is lacking these days and it is refreshing to see players respect their opposition.
The problem I have with this story is the WHY of the sportsmanship. Why did the Archbold and Hicksville players treat each other with decency and respect?
The short answer? Jesus.
Hicksville and Archbold High School both have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. According to Stein’s story this is the reason the players treated each other so well.
Lucas Smith,the coach for the Hicksville Aces, had this to say:
Both schools have a FCA program (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and we invite the visiting players and coaches after the game to come and basically have a little talk together, a nice prayer thanking God for the opportunity to play this game, just looking forward to making men out of these young guys as they go through life.
NW Ohio is overwhelmingly Christian. Evangelical Christianity rules the roost so it is not surprising that Hicksville and Archbold have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. What is surprising is a school employee, at a organized school activity, sees no problem with offering a “talk” and a sectarian prayer. This is a clear violation of separation of church and state.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is not a generic, non-sectarian group. Here is how FCA describes itself:
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is touching millions of lives… one heart at a time. Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA is the largest Christian sports organization in America. FCA focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ.
There is no question about the sectarian nature of FCA. The FCA has a statement of doctrine that makes it clear that they are a Fundamentalist/Evangelical group:
- We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- We believe there is only one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
- We believe in the deity of Christ (John 1:1), in His virgin birth (Matthew 1:18, 25), in His sinless life (Hebrews 4:15), in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood (Hebrews 9:15-22), in His bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), in His ascension to the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9-11) and in His personal return in power and glory (Hebrews 9:27-28).
- We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful men (women), regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. (John 3:16; John 5:24; Titus 3:3-7)
- We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life. (John 14:15-26; John 16:5-16; Ephesians 1:13-14)
- We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost, they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. (Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
- We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:1-4)
I suspect the coaches and the FCA will say attendance at the “talk” and prayer is strictly voluntary but as anyone who has ever played team sports knows, few players are willing to make themselves the target of the coach’s disfavor by not attending a team activity. So they quietly submit to acts of worship of the Christian God regardless of whether or not they are a practicing Christian. (and prayer IS an act of worship)