While a handful of schools played last weekend, the upcoming Labor Day weekend marks the major kickoff of the 2021 college football season. Ordinarily, that would excite football fans like me. But there are circumstances that mitigate against that.
One is the countless players lining up to profit from new NIL (name, image and likeness) guidelines. That will introduce even more money to a system already swimming in it. I don’t find that exciting.
In addition, the Big 12 conference appears poised for radical realignment (or even collapse). That’s due to the recent announcement of Texas and Oklahoma’s imminent departure for the already-rich Southeastern Conference.
Great Football Film
For those who feel like me, to find encouragement beyond the world of big-money football I recommend a viewing of the film, Woodlawn.
Now, it’s not like it’s a new movie, having been released in 2015. However, although I was aware of it, I didn’t have a chance to see it until I recently came across the DVD at our nearby library branch.
I offer purely anecdotal evidence that many aren’t aware of it. The first two friends (both football fans) I told about it after watching weren’t hadn’t heard of the film. They thanked me for the tip.
In my estimation, it’s a feel-good movie rooted in reality that doesn’t gloss over the truth while it conveys inspiration.
A True Story
Woodlawn relates the true story of one-time Alabama and Miami Dolphins star Tony Nathan. He and some other Black teammates encountered considerable animosity when they helped integrate Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973.
Considering that was only a decade after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls, to say racial tensions were high is an understatement.
The movie centers on how conflict between the players threatens to destroy the team’s hopes. That is, until a motivational speaker who was touched at a revival meeting asks to speak to the squad after practice. He shares that Jesus is the only way to change their hearts.
Everyone on the team answers the invitation to follow Christ, touching off an atmosphere that is so radically different that everyone notices—even the coach, who eventually surrenders his heart and is baptized at Nathan’s church.
In addition to the realistic depiction of the racial tensions in Birmingham, the movie also portrays the animosity toward the spiritual renewal on the part of the school board.
Instead of being happy that Woodlawn’s team is playing better and the players getting along with each other, the superintendent goes searching for evidence to jettison the coach and stop the revival.
In one amusing scene, when the motivational speaker who started everything off goes to say the Lord’s Prayer at a huge rivalry game, the superintendent shuts off the microphone.
However, many of the 42,000 fans (still the largest game in high school history) keep saying the prayer, which can be heard echoing around the stadium.
While I understand the reluctance to appear to lend credence to any particular faith in a public school, I think much of the censorship of expressions of faith today is misguided. It is an ironic denial of free speech in a land that passed the First Amendment to prohibit restrictions on speech (and faith).
Despite such attempts, they are bound to fail. In Christ’s words: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 MEV).
That good news will continue no matter who is playing.