Friday, July 29, 2011

CM Punk and The Art of Making an Impact

(First off, let me give this preface.  I know that to say that that professional wrestling is a sport is a bit of a stretch but just go with me on this one.)

I enjoy watching professional wrestling (or sports entertainment as some like to call it) from time to time.  Watching wrestling usually goes in cycles for me.  When I was a kid, I was a huge wrestling fan.  Growing up in the 80s, I was a big fan of Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior.  During my junior high/high school years, it was Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.  When I was in college, my watching of wrestling was off and on but I kept tabs on it now and then.  Since college, I have went in cycles.  There are times when I watch a lot of it and other times not so much.  To this day, I will still watch old matches in large part due to the nostalgia factor.

Recently (because I've had more access to cable), I've been watching more wrestling.  I would attribute this in due part to the "storyline" of one wrestler.  His name is CM Punk.  For those who don't know who that is, he's a wrestler from Chicago, IL.  Prior to working in the WWE, he wrestled in several wrestling organizations around the world.  He was been world champion in various organization, including several times in the WWE.  His "gimmick" is tied into his real life in that he is straight edge.  The straight edge lifestyle is one in which a person refrains from alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs.  There are others who hold to this lifestyle in sports including Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson.

Punk has played both the "face" (good guy) and the "heel" (bad guy) during his time in the WWE.  When he was a "face", his straight edge life was protrayed as a positive thing in which his "drug" was competition and winning.  When he was a "heel", his straight edge life was protrayed as a negative thing in which he was holier than thou with the fans and the "face" wrestlers.

Recently, his character had been kind of floundering and wasn't among the "top card" wrestlers.  However, that changed when he was named the #1 Contender to the WWE title.  This also coincided with the fact that his contract with the company was about to expire in real life.  So on June 27th, CM Punk came out on Monday Night Raw and told the fact that his contract was expiring.  He then went on to say that he was leaving the company and taking the belt with him.

What really stood out was the "shoot" message he gave at the end of the show.  A "shoot" is a real not fake thing.  What he did that night was a "worked shoot", which meant he had permission to say what he said but it was pretty real.  Usually if a worked shoot is done well, people don't know the difference and that night was a clear example of that.

That night onward leading up to the pay-per-view event "Money in the Bank", CM Punk created a buzz that even drew into mainstream media.  By the time of the event in his hometown, it was at a fever pitch.  His entrance to the ring was one of the loudest I have ever heard.  If you get a chance, watch his entrance.  There's no fireworks, nothing super flashy.  But the response of the crowd was loud.  Punk went on to win the match against John Cena and took the belt with him.  This has led to the storyline of there being two champions and will be settled I'm sure at the next PPV.

What got me thinking was about was does this translate into reaching out into a community with the Gospel and if so how?  What lessons (if any) can we learn?

1.) Let the Gospel make an impact.  We, as followers of Jesus, are called to share the Gospel.  We are not responsible for what happens afterwards.  We leave that up to God.  God will use our words and actions to change hearts and minds.  He is the one, through the work of the Holy Spirit, that makes that impact happen.  We are called to be faithful to share.

2) When Christ is at work, there will be a buzz.  When the impact of the Gospel happens in a community, it's hard not to tell others about it.  Word spreads all around.  People talk about it, even those you don't expect to talk about it.  It has an impact in people's lives.

3) Keep the message in the forefront.  After winning the title, Punk kept popping up at various events with the title to let people know he was around and had the belt.  As followers of Jesus, we're to keep the message of the Gospel out there, popping up in various places as we travel along sharing our stories.

It will be interesting to see how the storyline goes with CM Punk and the title.  But it'll be more interesting to see how God uses believers to continue to reach the world with the Gospel in the various contexts that He has placed us.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The "Ricky Bobby" Prayer: Reflecting on the Prayer from Saturday's Nationwide Race

During the summer months, there's not much sports related news taking place.  Baseball is in the middle of their season but it's not to the point of pennant races.  Basketball, football and hockey are in their offseasons.  MLS is quietly going on with little fanfare.  The only other major sporting event going on is racing.  In other words, it's pretty quiet.  So when I heard about what happened a few days ago at a race in Nashville, it caught my attention in several ways.

I had previously blogged (2 years ago) about how NASCAR is the only major sport that has an invocation or prayer prior to their event.  This is the case both at the major circuit (Sprint Cup) and their secondary circuit (Nationwide Series).  Last Saturday, there was a Nationwide Series race at the Nashville Motorspeedway.  Like other races, there was a pre-race invocation prayer.  I personally didn't see the prayer live but I later watched it on replay.

The pastor who led the prayer, Pastor Joe Nelms of Family Baptist Church of Lebanon, TN proceeded to give a prayer that has been talked about on sports talk shows, SportsCenter and newspapers across the country.  In his prayer, he gave thanks for the racing fuel, for some of the car owners providing engines for the cars, the tire company.  He also thanked God for his "smokin’ hot wife tonight, Lisa, and my two children, Eli and Emma, or as we like to call the, ‘The Little E’s".  He finished his prayer by saying "In Jesus’ name, Boogity Boogity Boogity, amen."

Here's the clip from YouTube of the prayer:

Some newspapers rightly described it as the pastor channeling Ricky Bobby in the prayer.  For those who don't know, Ricky Bobby is a fictional character from a movie called Talledega Nights which starred Will Ferrell as a race car driver.  Ferrell's character prayed a somewhat similar prayer saying grace at the dinner table.

To be honest, when I watched this I felt uncomfortable.  After watching it, I thought to myself "Would I pray like that if I was given the opportunity?"  The answer I came up with was "No."  I just wouldn't feel comfortable praying in such a manner as Pastor Nelms did.  It does make me think of how I pray privately with God.  Do I honor God with my prayers?  As a follower of Christ, I should be able to come before God and talk to Him like a child to a father.  Just as a child is comfortable talking to one's father, there is also a level of respect there too.

Did Pastor Nelms get attention?  Yes.  The question is what will he do with this attention?  Will his "Ricky Bobby" prayer help him as he shares the Gospel?  That would be a great question to ask him.  In the meantime, I know for me it has reminded me of how I pray to God and what I pray about to Him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Lesson on Selflessness With a Baseball: Derek Jeter's 3000th Hit

There are moments in sports that are special and historic.  There are moments that happen spontaneously and others that build up to the moment.  They are those "where were you?" moments.  One of those happened over the weekend.  Derek Jeter, shortstop and captain of the New York Yankees (a team which I cannot stand but I respect him), had his 3,000 hit.  Going into Saturday's game, he had 2,998 hits so it was only a matter of time before he got to 3,000.

Going against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and starting pitcher David Price (who's originally from Middle Tennessee), Jeter got hit 2,999 in the first inning to set up his next at-bat and a shot at 3,000.  I caught wind of it via Twitter and turned on my PS3 to watch it happen live on  I somehow expected a hit.  What I did not expect was a home run.  Sure enough, Jeter hits a home run into left center field for his 3,000 hit.  That was only the 2nd time out of 28 men to reach the milestone that it was done via home run (the other was Wade Boggs).  Jeter ended up going 5 for 5 and winning the game.

To me, the cool part of the story came out later.  Christian Lopez, a 23 year old cell phone salesman, was the one who ended up with the ball.  He got the tickets for his birthday from his girlfriend.  As soon as he got the ball, he was whisked away by security to the Steinbrenner's suite.  When asked what he wanted in return for the ball, Lopez said nothing and was willing to give the ball to Jeter for free.  Lopez did end up getting stuff, including season tickets in the Legends section (which is some big time stuff) for the rest of the season including playoffs, a couple of signed bats and jerseys from Jeter, spent some time in the YES Network booth and got to meet Jeter in person.

It's a cool act that Lopez did.  There are a lot of people who have said he should have held onto the ball and sold it.  There have been some who have even called him a moron for doing this because he doesn't make a lot of money at his job and has a lot of debt from school.

Personally, I definitely don't think he's a moron.  I think what he did was a pretty stand up act.  He looked out for someone else's interest ahead of his.  It's a good reminder that those of us who follow Jesus should put others' interest ahead of ours.  Lopez was rewarded anyway for his selfless act.  For followers of Jesus, our ultimate reward is in heaven but we also get to enjoy benefits of serving Him now.

Hat's off to you Mr. Lopez.  You made this anti-Yankee fan stand up and salute you.