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How Do Superstar Athletes Gain Fame in God's Eyes?

A few weeks ago, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter made his last All-Star game appearance, becoming the oldest player ever to collect two hits in the mid-summer classic.


As my colleague Roberto Rivera pointed out on the BreakPoint blog, on the day of the game, a Washington, DC, sports talk radio show asked listeners if any superstar in sports had “worn” his superstar status as well as Jeter.


Well, if you’re wondering what it means to “wear” your superstar status well, you’re asking the right question. The show’s hosts referred to all the famous and beautiful women Jeter had dated without any hint of scandal. They cited his opulent lifestyle—his mansion in Florida is nicknamed “St. Jetersburg”—and his ability to preserve his privacy.


The consensus of the radio listeners was, no, no one wears his superstar status as well as Derek Jeter.


Well, I beg to differ. Not because I dislike Jeter or even care about what he does off the field. And I won’t deny that his on-the-field deportment is the embodiment of class.


No, my problem is that I think there’s more to “wearing” your superstar status than where you live and with whom you sleep. And while I think avoiding scandal is a good start, it’s setting the bar much, much too low.


In fact, I can think of several superstars whom I would prefer my children emulate more than the Yankee captain and the future first ballot Hall-of-Famer.


Like Clayton Kershaw. This Dodger southpaw has also been in the news lately. In late June and early July Kershaw threw 41 consecutive innings without allowing a run—the fifth longest such streak since 1961. He also became “the third pitcher in the last 100 years to win eight straight starts in one season while striking out at least seven batters in each one.” The other two were named Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal.


Kershaw’s latest accomplishments only built on his growing legend: his career ERA is the lowest of any starting pitcher in the live ball era with at least 1,000 innings pitched.


But that’s not why Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci argued that he should have been that magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” in 2012. Verducci cited Kershaw’s work with AIDS orphans in Zambia and the young people in his hometown of Dallas as examples of what he called “the awesome power of faith.”


Verducci wrote that Kershaw, “is one of the best pitchers in baseball who is making an even bigger impact without a baseball in his hands.”


Kershaw isn’t the only superstar whose impact off the field is greater than his impact on it. The winner of the NBA’s “Community Assist Award,” given each year to players for “community engagement, philanthropic activity, and charity work” is, as the inscription on the plaque reads, “Following the standard set by NBA Legend David Robinson, who improved the community piece by piece.”


While playing for the San Antonio Spurs, Robinson, a member of the original USA “Dream Team,” founded the Carver Academy, an inner-city school that offers “a challenging academic program . . . and a nurturing family-like environment based upon the foundation of Judeo-Christian scripture.”


Not surprisingly, both Kershaw and Robinson are Christians. They’re doubtless aware of our Lord’s words, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.”


Thus, they use what God has given them to further the Lord’s work of restoration in this broken world—at home and abroad. It may not be the stuff of drive-time sports talk radio, but it is the stuff of lives worth emulating.


Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary and I’ll link you to Tom Verducci’s article on Clayton Kershaw. And leave a comment. You can tell us about the sports stars you appreciate for their “off the field” performances.


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BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: August 13, 2014

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