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The Rushmore Report – Which Sports League Is the Most Christian?

When the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl two weeks ago, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was quick to give God the glory. “I can only give the praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he said. His quarterback, Nick Foles, plans to become a pastor. As chaplain for the Houston Rockets, I was amazed that entire teams – the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder – attend chapel. But which of the four major sports – football, baseball, basketball, or hockey – is the most Christian? The answer may surprise you.

Of course, we cannot really say one sport is “Christian” or “non-Christian.” But Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University has analyzed each sport by an interesting matrix. Burge has looked over the Twitter profiles of each athlete in each major league – Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and the National Hockey League.

Specifically, Burge analyzed each Twitter account in search of Scripture references. And based on that analysis, it’s not even close. The most Christian sport is baseball.

Burge found that MLB players are the most likely to have Bible verses cited in their bios, with eight percent of the 1,265 accounts having at least one verse.

Next comes the NFL, where about four percent of the players cite Scripture. Coming in third is the NBA, at three percent. And the least Christian league is the NHL, where not a single player cites Scripture in his Twitter account.

Burge speculated as to the reasons for his findings. He attributes the relative strong Christian presence in baseball to demographics. MLB players tend to come from more rural areas and Latino countries, where Christianity is strong.

On the other extreme is hockey, where many players come from non-religious countries in Europe.

What is the most-cited Bible verse? That would be Philippians 4:13, which reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Of course, Christians are found in every league, and probably on every team. I suspect this is especially true of the Houston Astros, Houston Texans, and Houston Rockets. And yes, I am from Houston.

The Rushmore Report – Five Devout Christians on the U.S. Olympic Team

The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea are well underway, bringing together athletes from across the world to compete in various sports. As the Games begin, the United States has brought a diverse team of competitors to the global event that features many devout Christians.

Here, in no particular order, are five openly Christian athletes who are competing at the Olympic Games under the red, white, and blue banner.

1. Kelly Clark

Professional snowboarder Kelly Clark is a veteran of the Olympic Games, going into this year’s event having already won Gold and Bronze medals.

On her Twitter profile, Clark identifies herself as a “lover of coffee, God, and good times,” with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes noting in a January feature on her that she gave her life to Christ in 2004.

“My ministry, and what God is doing in my life, is really found in my career in the marketplace,” she told FCA earlier this year.

2. Elana Meyers Taylor

World champion bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor won a Silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Games and a Bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

In an interview with Christian Sports Journal published in November 2016, Taylor spoke about how when she competes internationally, she sees herself as representing not just herself or her country, but also “Christ and what He’s done through me.”

3. Nic Taylor

Professional bobsledder and husband to Elana Meyers Taylor, whom he met at a Bible study, Nic Taylor has accrued his share of medals in various competitions over the past several years.

According to an interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes published last month, Nic came to faith in 2005 when he survived three separate car accidents.

“It shouldn’t have taken three, but it took three for me to realize I’m not in control of my life,” he said.

4. David Wise

David Wise made history in 2014 as the first-ever Olympic champion in Men’s Skiing Halfpipe at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Calling himself a “truth follower” on his Twitter profile, wise explained in a 2014 interview that faith plays a “huge role” in his confidence.

“I don’t have to worry about what’s happening or the outside influences as much because I feel like I can trust God, and He’s going to see me through,” Wise said, as reported by CBN.

5. Maame Biney

American short track speed skater Maame Biney started skating when she was six and qualified for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics before she turned 18.

On her Instagram account, Biney explained that the “smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.”

In response to her qualifying win in Utah last December, Biney took to social media to “start off by thanking God.”

About the Author

Michael Gryboski writes for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report – Eagles’ Nick Foles, from QB to Pastor

On Twitter, the bespectacled Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles places his faith in Jesus before everything else that defines him in his tagline. “Believer in Jesus Christ, husband, father, son, brother,” he writes. It’s no surprise then that at the end of his football career, Foles plans to become a pastor.

“I want to be a high school pastor,” the 29-year-old said at a news conference ahead of the Super Bowl. “It’s on my heart. I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I wanted to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It’s a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people’s hearts.”

Foles continued, “When I speak to students, that’s such a time of young men and young women’s lives that there’s a lot of things that are thrown at them. So much temptation in this world, so much going on with social media and the internet that you want to talk to them, address it, and share the weakness. I have because I’ve fallen many times. It’s something I want to do. I can’t play football forever. I’ve been blessed with an amazing platform and it’s just a door God has opened, but I still have a lot of school left and a long journey.”

After suffering a few years of inconsequential performances since 2013 when he made the Pro Bowl after throwing 27 touchdown passes for the Eagles, he was thinking about retiring. Before making the decision, however, Foles and his family prayed and he chose to remain in the NFL.

He returned to the Eagles this season to play back-up quarterback to the Eagles’ young superstar Carson Wentz. When Wentz got injured with a torn ACL in December, Foles was ready and he powered his team to success with a lot of “faith throws,” passes thrown before the receiver breaks for the ball.

Foles told the Associated Press, “It took a lot more faith to come back and play than it would have taken to go in the other direction. Either way would have been fine. Either way, I would have trusted in God. I would have done something else and glorified God in that instance. I knew as a person that the more growth I’ve had and the more opportunity I would have to glorify God and trust in him would be to go back and play football,” he added.

About the Author

Leonardo Blair is a writer for the Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report – The Faith of Case Keenum

Sunday night, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum led his team to one of the most improbable last-second comebacks in NFL history. Down 24-23, with the clock running out, the Vikings had time for one last play. From his own 39-yard-line, Keenum found a receiver down the sideline for the winning score. But it is what he said after the game that matters most.

In a post-game interview, Keenum called this the third best day of his life. What is first and second? Keenum identified “the day I gave my life to Christ” and “the day I married my wife” and numbers one and two.

This journeyman quarterback, listed as third string to start the season, is suddenly on the precipice of the Super Bowl, which will be played in his home stadium. But there is more to Case Keenum than just football.

I discovered that for myself four years ago. Case spoke at my alma mater, Houston Baptist University. After the meeting I sat with him at lunch. He’s the real deal: humble, kind, and most of all, passionate about his faith.

Keenum was born into football. His dad coached football at McMurry University in Texas. He starred as quarterback at Wylie High School in Abilene, Texas. He then attended the University of Houston, the only major program to offer him a scholarship. At UH, he set major college football records: most passing yards (19,217), passing touchdowns (155), and was twice awarded the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation’s top passer.

Undrafted by the NFL – for being undersized at just over six feet – he was signed as a free agent by the Houston Texans. He has bounced around the league, playing for the Texans (twice), Rams (twice), and now the Vikings. He started this season third on the depth chart. But when injuries thrust Keenum into action, he was ready. He responded with one of the best seasons any NFL quarterback has had. He now has the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Case credits his faith for his success. “My faith is the number one thing that makes me, me. It is what my identity is in; it’s not in this game. I know that, although I do put everything I have into this game. But it’s not a life-or-death thing for me.”

He continued, “I want to do the very best I can, all the time. And I want to honor God when I do that. I think I do when I leave it all on the field.”

Case Keenum is an All-Pro NFL quarterback, just one game away from reaching his football dream of playing in a Super Bowl. But he has already achieved his greatest dream. He says, “I am a child of the King. So I win, regardless of what the scoreboard says at the end of the game.”

The Rushmore Report – Tim Tebow’s ‘Night to Shine’ Hits 500 Churches

More than 500 congregations across the United States and some foreign countries have agreed to host “Night to Shine” events, which are Tim Tebow Foundation-sponsored proms for special needs youth, in 2018. That marks a tenfold increase from 2015, when the first “Night to Shine” was held, according to a statement Tebow has released.

“Night to Shine” is an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older,” notes the foundation’s website.

In 2017, 375 churches from around the world hosted “Night to Shine” for 75,000 honored guests.

A native of the Philippines and a devout Christian, Tebow gained notoriety for his accomplishments as quarterback with the University of Florida before being drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010. Tebow garnered national headlines for his quarterbacking the Broncos and was credited for getting the team into the 2011 playoffs. In 2012, Denver traded him to the New York Jets. From there, Tebow was briefly with other NFL teams, including the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

Last year, Tebow began his professional baseball career, being signed by the New York Mets as part of a minor league deal.

In addition to his pro sports career, Tebow has pursued many charitable efforts through his foundation, which was established in 2010. “The Tim Tebow Foundation exists to bring faith, hope, and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need,” notes the foundation’s Facebook page.

“The Foundation will utilize the public platform that God has given to Tim Tebow – through media, publishing, speaking engagements, special events, and mission trips – to inspire friends and supporters to work with the Foundation as a team in helping to make a difference.”

News of the record number of churches participating in “Night to Shine” comes around the time Tebow himself spoke to a crowd of about 2,000 at the Clemente Center at Florida Institute of Technology.

In his remarks, he stressed the importance of faith and teamwork, with the Florida event also featuring a silent auction for Tebow-related sports items.

About the Author

Michael Gryboski writes for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report: How Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s Faith Impacts His Coaching

The Alabama Crimson Tide is clearly the superior program in college football today. It’s not even close. As Coach Nick Saban has passed iconic coach Bear Bryant’s record of six national championships, he is opening up about his faith. And it is that faith that helps him prepare young athletes to be the best they can be, both on and off the football field.

A devoted Catholic, he was asked by a reporter, “Does your Catholic faith play into the success of your career as a football coach?”

Saban answered, “I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that character, moral development – they are a part of leadership.” He continued, “I look at it as, we always say, ‘God have mercy,’ but that mercy is not a well. It’s not a cistern. It’s a channel that should run through us to other people. That’s part of what we try to do for our players so they have a chance to be more successful in life.”

Saban was also asked about the new student center at his church, St. Francis of Assisi University Parish in Tuscaloosa. It is called the Saban Catholic Student Center, obviously named after the famous coach.

Said Saban, “We’ve tried to raise money for it as well as making a significant contribution ourselves. My wife, Terry (married 45 years), is very involved in it. We have a lot of Catholic participation by our students here. We felt it would be great for them to have a place where they can go to socialize and develop the kind of relationships that might be helpful to them and their faith development.”

The Sabans started attending the church when he took over as head coach in 2007.

Saban has also been honored with a statue on campus at the University of Alabama. Whether he takes the Tide back to their sixth national title game in ten years next season or not, he will continue to lean heavily on his Christian faith, and impart the blessings of faith to his players and staff.

 

The Rushmore Report: NFL Tickets for $3 – You’d Think They’d Learn Something

I’ll admit it. I love the NFL. I love football. I know it’s politically correct to prefer college football over pro football, but to me that’s like preferring Minor League baseball over Major League baseball. I like any sport at its very best. When in Houston, I supported my Oilers and Texans. Now living near Tampa, I’m thinking about attending the Bucs game Monday night. Tickets are just $33. Hmm . . . you’d think the NFL would learn something.

I’ll probably wait until ticket prices come down before taking the plunge. After all, according to Vivid Seats, one of the leading ticket brokers, tickets last week fell to $30 for a 50-yard-line seat in Buffalo. (I know – it’s Buffalo, but still!) So let’s go to Chicago, where tickets could be had for $20. Or the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay – the holy grail of football, where seats went for $10. Better yet, let’s jump to Pittsburgh, home of the six-time Super Bowl Champs, where one seat sold for $3.

Crowds are so embarrassing that a Philadelphia newspaper reportedly advertised for “actors, models, and talent” to sit in the stands to make the crowd look more full.

Here’s the problem. Football fans love their sport. But they love America, too. And most of them love America more. That’s why they find it intolerable that athletes who make 100 times the money as our finest soldiers will stand for the national anthems of England and Mexico – but not America.

The NFL could have followed the examples of the NBA, MLB, and NHL, which all require their athletes to stand for the anthem. The NFL could have issued a strong statement. But instead, they punted. (Forgive the pun.) They didn’t take a stand. Since then, they have taken several stands in an effort to appear patriotic. Fans aren’t buying it. They aren’t buying tickets either. In Los Angeles, a metro area with 10 million people, only 25,000 are coming to see the Rams, one of the best teams in the league. As Don Meredith used to say, there are about 40,000 people showing up disguised as empty seats.

Do athletes have the right to express themselves? Absolutely. And in today’s NFL, do football players have the right to kneel for the National Anthem? You bet they do. The league, by ignoring their own written rules, has said so. But fans have a right to express their feelings, as well. And by the millions, they are doing so.

This isn’t helping anybody – the players, the league, or the fans. Except for those of us who have been waiting for ticket prices to drop below the cost of a cup of coffee.

I’d like to take in the Bucs-Falcons game Monday night. And when those $33 seats drop below the price of parking, I’ll probably jump in. Maybe something crazy will happen at the game, and I can be one of the few who can tell his grand kids he was at the game.

For all her faults, this is still a patriotic nation. Until the NFL starts to stand up for the National Anthem, millions of fans won’t stand for the NFL.

The Rushmore Report: 60 Percent Disapprove of NFL Handling of National Anthem Protests

The National Football League has been a public relations nightmare this season. The national anthem protests have turned off fans, and the league’s management has twisted itself into a pretzel trying to toe a middle line. It’s only made them look worse. It all began when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to stand and then kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner last year.

This year, more players have taken a knee after President Trump slammed the NFL at a political rally in September; the president views this as disrespectful. He’s not alone. The vast majority of Americans viewed Kaepernick’s antics as unpatriotic. The ratings are down for the league. NFL merchandise sales have plummeted almost 20 percent.

Now, a new Harris poll shows that 60 percent of voters do not approve of how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has handled the matter, with another 77 percent saying that players should stand for the anthem; 59 percent felt that standing for the anthem should be compulsory.

The survey comes at a sensitive time for Goodell, who is in the process of renegotiating a new contract. That process has become complicated by reports that Goodell is seeking $50 million a year and lifetime use of a private jet, although the NFL has disputed those reports. Goodell makes about $30 million a year presently.

On Veteran’s Day weekend, the slate of games had NFL members wearing camouflaged gear to honor our troops, though they have spat in their faces all year – at least that is how 60 percent of viewers have been seeing it. The Left thought that Trump had picked a culture battle he couldn’t win. It turns out that Trump won before even a shot was fired.

About the Author

Matt Vespa writes for Townhall.

The Rushmore Report: The Faith of Jose Altuve

He is the best player in baseball. But according to Houston Astros’ President Reid Ryan, “As good as Jose Altuve is as a player, he is an even better man.” The 5’6″ second baseman just led the Astros to their first World Series Championship in the 56-year history of the franchise. Three times, he has led the American League in hitting. He’s a four-time All-Star. But before he was a great ballplayer, he was a man of great faith. This is that story.

I could tell there was something different about Altuve the first time I met him. I was attending an Astros game the day he was introduced to the crowd at Minute Maid Park. I was sitting two rows behind him. After he waved to the crowd, I ran up the stairs and found the nearest gift shop, where I purchased a Major League baseball. Then I returned to my seat and waited for my opportunity. I asked Altuve to sign my ball, which he was very happy to do. He could not have been nicer.

I could tell there was something different about Altuve the second time I met him. I stood in line at a popular sports outdoor shop to have him sign my Astros jersey. Again, he could not have been nicer.

It is obvious that Jose Altuve loves baseball and the fans of Houston. But what many don’t know is why.

But now we know why, because Altuve is telling his story. In a recently released video, he said, “I grew up in a family that always told me that to achieve success, we needed to have God first. To achieve success wasn’t to get to the major leagues or have the best season in the world. The best success is to live your life the way God wants you to. If you can do that, if you can be good with God, then I think you will have success in your life.”

Altuve also talked about the importance of prayer.

“We need to not just ask God but thank Him for everything like our health and our family. And we need to ask Him to bless our homes and to always be present in our daily lives, and to keep us safe.”

As for team unity, Jose praised his clubhouse atmosphere. “We’re more than a team; we are a family,” he says. “We all get along great and that’s really very important.”

Jose Altuve is baseball’s Most Valuable Player. He is having a career like few others. He is on pace to go down as perhaps the greatest Astro ever – in the company of legends such as Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Nolan Ryan. But Jose Altuve is more than a ballplayer. He is a family man . . . and he is God’s man.

The Rushmore Report: Al Michaels Made This Joke During NFL Game – No One Is Laughing

A number of NFL fans were outraged Sunday night, but not because the players were kneeling during the national anthem. This week, their displeasure was directed at NBC sportscaster Al Michaels, who made an off-color joke during a game between the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos. It happened in the third quarter. And what the iconic sportscaster said has brought widespread condemnation.

Michaels threw out this bit of commentary: “Let’s face it, the Giants are coming off a worse week than Harvey Weinstein, and they’re up by 14 points.”

Later in the game, Michaels  apologized for the joke. “Sorry I made a reference earlier before. I tried to be a little flip about somebody obviously very much in the news all over the country,” he said. “It was not meant in that manner. So, my apologies. And we’ll just leave it at that.”

But that didn’t stop viewers from tearing into the sportscaster on Twitter.

Commentator Mike Freeman wrote, “Did Al Michaels just really say that?” Doug Farrar added, “Al Michaels is probably the best play-by-play guy in history. But that was a big, big lapse in judgment.”

Was this really a “big lapse in judgment”? Or are people overreacting – as is so often the case these days? Time will tell. What is certain, however, is that we live in a time when people are judged more by the words they say than by the actions they take.

In the future, expect Al Michaels to stick with his script.

About the Author

Erika Haas is a new contributor for Townhall and a recent graduate of Syracuse University.