Irvin & Bonds: A Tale of Two Superstars
- Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Barry Bonds’ story has been well chronicled. While the accusations have never been proven it is overwhelmingly suspected that Bonds benefited from performance enhancing drugs. Bonds has been defiant, arrogant, angry, and sullen as he relentlessly closed in on the record. Fans have taken to wearing asterisk shirts at San Francisco Giant games to make the statement that any records set should have an asterisk attached to denote that the mark is tainted. Barry Bonds has not made it easy to be a fan of his.
But the fascinating juxtaposition from Saturday was the adulation poured on Michael Irvin. Irvin was also once an angry, arrogant, and defiant athlete. He was reviled by many fans. He made some very poor judgments that hurt him, his team, and his family. So how did Irvin find himself being showered with affection this past weekend?
One word. Redemption.
Michael Irvin seems to be a changed man. On a day when he was being recognized as one of the best football players to ever take the field you would expect that Irvin would display more than a little pride in his athletic giftedness. He chose to humbly confess his sinfulness. I believe it took more courage to utter some of the words Irvin spoke Saturday than it took to catch a pass knowing that a linebacker was drawing a bead on his chest.
Irvin started with a prayer. He alluded to the success on the football field. But the comments that won my respect were his up front and honest confessions at a event that rarely sees such moments. This excerpt from The Dallas Morning News is a sample of Irvin's amazing speech:
Then came some very personal and emotional apologies for his failures off the field during the 1990s – the parties, the women, the drug arrests. He spoke directly to his wife, Sand, bringing a tear to her eye.
"For better or worse – those are the vows we take before God in marriage," Irvin said. "It's easy to live with the 'for better,' but rarely can you find someone who sticks around and endures the 'for worse.'
"Sand, my wife, I have worked tirelessly to give you the 'for better.' But I also gave you the 'for worse' – and you didn't deserve it. You didn't deserve it."
Irvin broke down in tears about 21 minutes into his speech when he addressed his sons, Michael and Elijah.
"That's where my heart is," Irvin said of his sons. "I say to God, 'I have my struggles, and I made some bad decisions, but whatever you do, don't let me mess this up.' I say, 'Please help me raise them for some young lady so that they can be a better husband than I.' "
And suddenly a night dedicated to football had nothing to do with football at all.
I did not used to be a fan of Number 88. He is winning me over. Partly because he could play at the highest level of professional sports. But mainly because he was man enough to recognize his mistakes, humble himself before his Savior, realize what really matters, and confess all of that when he really did not need to.
Most men have also caused some (or many) 'for worse' moments in their marriage. Most of us have fallen short now and then from what we should have or could have been as dads. But Michael Irvin modeled something far more important than football on Saturday. He showed us what redemption looks like. Michael and his family demonstrated the power of love. The amazing grace of Jesus. And that humility is the greatest strength that any man can possess. Some other blog sites have questioned his sincerity. I believe his comments were honest and real. That does not mean he will be perfect for the rest of his life. But I have learned that when you realize the depth of your fallen Ness you are ready to begin your journey toward Christlike Ness.
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