Running for their Lives

Things often get get dicey when sports and religion mix, like the flap earlier this year over Kurt Warner saying he was benched for reading the Bible too much.

And sports reporters too often have to report on nonsense like this AP report on Ty Law of the New England Patriots, who's insulted and wants to be traded because the team offered him a guaranteed $15.6 million in salary over the next two years.

Still, just when I am about to give up reading about sports all together, I come across a piece like Gary Smith's "Running for Their Lives" in the latest Sports Illustrated. It's not online yet but it's worth turning off the internet and running to your local book store to get it.

Here's the blurb on from SI's web site.

Running for Their Lives
Thanks to a selfless coach, the sons of migrants in a poor California town shunned drugs and built an athletic dynasty

It's a remarkable piece--about a devoted coach who gives his life to his team, and the struggles of one runner to fight off the lure of drugs and gangs to grab a chance at greatness and a college scholarship.

Religion is a background part of the story--the coach is the son of missionaries, and involved in his local church, but he never talks about his faith in the piece. You just see it in everything he does. If only that were true of more of us.

Today's blog gives me an excuse to post my favorite sports story in recent memory--about Brian Kinchen of the Patriots (I'm a big fan). Kinchen, a retired long snapper, was teaching bible classes to teenagers at a Christian school in Louisiana when the Patriots called him late in the season. Their snapper was hurt--would he sign with the team for a few weeks?

He wasn't sure at first, but his students and his kids at home told him to go for it. He did, and was a crucial player in the last second field goal that won the Super Bowl.

The Boston Globe ran this feature on Kinchen just before the Super Bowl after Kinchen had stopped in to see his students in the days off before the big game. It shows him as someone who has figured out what really matters in life.

He will bring his wife and children to the Super Bowl -- a family reunion. If there's euphoria, he will cherish the moment. Then he'll go back to real life in Baton Rouge -- teaching the Bible.

"Going back [to school] the other day and seeing them and getting hugs from all of them . . . that feeling will not be matched by anything else I do in my lifetime," Kinchen said. "To feel as loved as I was yesterday, and the day before . . . We're in chapel on Wednesday and the director came over to have everyone -- teachers and students -- put their hands on me and prayed for me. The feeling of acceptance of love from those kids and teachers . . . Granted, it was because of a football game, but in the long run, it's because of me and what I've become in their lives."


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