The Reason for Sports By Ted Kluck
Book Review by Dr. Greg Linville
Ted Kluck is a popular writer for periodicals such as Sports Spectrum and ESPN The Magazine. His latest book – “The Reason for Sports” should also be popular with sports fans throughout America. His book is a whimsical foray into some of the more pressing moral issues facing American athletes and athletics.
Chapter #1 is a plea to elite athletes to “come clean” and simply admit their mistakes whenever they’ve comprised their character. It discusses sin, confession and why athletes can’t ask for forgiveness.
Chapter #2 takes on one of the real ugly “underbellies” of sport: performance enhancing drugs. It clearly outlines how these activities are cheating and why that matters.
Chapter #3 is a tribute to Mike Tyson and Ricky Williams but before you think the author has gone crazy, know his tribute is simply to applaud these two for being honest about their lack of integrity.
Chapter #4 is a litany of all the dishonesty in sport – even by so called Christian athletes. After reading this, you’ll better appreciate the tribute to chapter three’s honest, but fallen heroes.
Chapter #5 entitled: “what might have been” represents what most people who read it might think about the author’s handling of Tony Dungy. There is a lot of wasted potential here as there is much to like about Coach Dungy and his character is a bright light in today’s sporting world darkness.
Chapter #6 attempts to portray the truth of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes through the less than stellar lives of a number of stellar athletes.
Chapter #7 is a redo of chapter six only this time with a focus on Tony Mandarich rather than Tom Brady.
Chapter #8 starts off with a couple of thoughts about winning, moves to the wildly popular fantasy league phenomena and ends with an aside on mixed martial arts. Convoluted but interesting.
Chapter #9 touches on sports related movies and shares some interesting insights about men bonding with each other through sport and conflict.
Chapter #10 takes a brief look at the sexualization of sport and some of the concerns this causes.
Chapter #11 reminds us of how sport has changed from a venue where sportsmanship was once valued, to a trash talking spectacle of uncouth louts.
Chapter #12 lauds how sport has led the way in racial reconciliation.
New Concept Found in this Book
What may be new to some who read this book is the fact there are some people today who still care about values and morals when it comes to sport. I applaud Kluck for writing about sport in a way that reminds us there are more important issues than who won.
Catch Phrases Worth Remembering
“Fanifesto” is a clever description for this book. It demonstrates the author knew his audience and tried to hook them with stories about elite athletes so he might be able to deliver a little bit of common sense based upon Biblical truth.
Points of Contention
For the most part I found myself enjoying this entertaining read and support Kluck’s attempts to tie in Biblical truth with modern day sport. Yet, “Fanifesto” fits as a brilliant subtitle for this good but light foray into the theological foundations sport for it really only scratches the surface of the issues discussed. I appreciate the author’s motives and believe he successfully encourages the average fan to dig beneath hype and begin to contemplate the deeper issues and problems of sport.
The promos for the book suggest the book offers theological answers and insights for the vexing issues so many Christian athletes and coaches face. Sadly, it does not deliver. While it is clearly not the “theological manifesto” sport needs, it is a delightful “fanifesto” and recommend it to teens and adults alike concerned with athletes lacking in character and the rampant lack of morals within the realm of sport.
With that said, it is clear “The Reason for Sport” falls far short of its main title. It should be appreciated for what it is…an entertaining book but those looking for a comprehensive or systematic theology of competition and sport will be greatly disappointed. I am concerned that for the uninitiated, this book could be seen as a theology of competition and sport. Rather it should be appreciated for what it is. A work written by a committed man of faith whose expertise is sport, not theology. It is a good start with many good insights and questions but far from a meaty theological manifesto.
Recommendations for a Second Edition
Co-write it with someone who is trained theologically
Rather than using athletes with name recognition, use non-celebrities who truly embody Christmanship
How can local church sports outreach ministries use this book
While “The Reason for Sport” is not geared to address the needs of those leading a local church sports ministry face, sports ministers could find it a handy tool…
It would be well received and serve as a discussion starter by most non-churched adult or teen athletes participating in a church league as a post game devotional
Where to get the Book –Visit smile.amazon.com
I am a professor in the School of Theology and direct the Sports Outreach Ministry part of the School of Theology at Malone University. Thus, some of my comments may seem overly critical as I look for a deeper discussion of the issues raised. I do recommend this book to anyone beginning their consideration of the integration of faith and sport but would point those looking for a more substantial treatise to the CSRM member’s section on its website (www.csrm.org) where many other more significant treatises may be found.