Friday, November 30, 2007

Boston: City of Champs or City of Chumps? Part 2

I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

The Patriots are not evil - at least not every single player on the team. And, hey, maybe Bill Belichick isn't so evil himself.

For those of you who didn't read my previous post- wondering out loud if the Patriots were poor sports, bad fathers, and chronic adulterers - I reflected upon that a few weeks ago. Initially I planned on writing a "Part 2" that talked about the Red Sox - a team that was supposedly cursed for 86 years but finally won a championship three years ago, and followed it up with another one this year. But something happened between then and now.

First of all, I read this article, which makes Bill Belichick appear a little more human, and a little more likable - not that I ever disliked him (the most amazing part of the article is the story about Belichick pulling over on the highway to help a motorist who flipped over. He was only one of two people that actually pulled over to help the person, though there were probably about 500 cars that drove by on the busy stretch of highway).

Though I will not excuse his character flaws, I have always believed he is a misunderstood person, who is super paranoid and self-conscious around people he doesn't feel "safe" with. Anybody who has ever had the chance to listen to him being interviewed on Monday afternoons on WEEI in Boston, knows that he lets his hair down and actually jokes around with people he knows. Why? Because he feels like he's in a "safe environment." In that regard, he's no different than most other people.

And then there's the event I just went to on Monday night. My wife, my dad, my cousin and I all got free tickets to the seventh annual "Athletes in Action," banquet, held at Gillette Stadium. This banquet honors athletes in Boston who display high Christian character. In particular, Heath Evans, who is a fullback for the Patriots, was given the "Ernie Tavilla Award." This award is given to the athlete who "demonstrates outstanding leadership and character on the field, in the home, and in the community." Past recipients have included Red Sox players Trot Nixon and Mike Timlin, as well as Patriots player Don Davis.

It was a very inspiring night. We had VIP tickets - worth $150 - which allowed us to get there an hour early and meet some of the players that were in attendance. We met and talked with Patriots Kyle Brady, Kevin Faulk and Billy Yates. I also got to meet former Red Sox legend Dwight Evans, and radio announcer Joe Castiglione. I talked with Castiglione for about 15 minutes. He's a very nice guy (pictured with me above). I grew up listening to him on the radio and, in fact, listened to him on the radio during this year's World Series race, since I don't have a TV.

All of these men are of fine Christian character, and they were very inspiring. We talked with Kyle Brady for about five minutes (pictured below). He was very personable and seemed like a very genuine man. I also spent a few minutes talking with Kevin Faulk, who I noticed was limping quite a bit. When I asked him if he was all right and going to be able to play this week, he said that he definitely would be able to. I read reports that he didn't practice yesterday, though!

Billy Yates is a very nice guy, and he made it a point to remember my name, as well as Camille's and Shannon's. He is from Texas and he talked with Camille a little bit about the fact that she went to college in Texas, though he, of course, had never heard of Southwestern Adventist University! He is a very nice and humble guy, though. Just seems like a "regular Joe."

Speaking of a regular Joe: Joe Castiglione also shared a lot about his faith, and the fact that he and Red Sox third baseman, Mike Lowell (the World Series MVP) go to church together every Sunday they're on the road. In fact, the day of game 4 of the World Series - which was a Sunday - Castiglione said that he, his wife, and Lowell went to church in Colorado. It just so happens that the priest was from Boston, and he asked the audience if there were any Red Sox fans in attendance. Castiglione and his wife raised their hands, but Lowell kept his hand down because he didn't want to make a big scene.

It is a funny little story, but cool to know that the day the Red Sox won the World Series, Lowell - who seems like an incredibly nice guy whenever I've seen him being interviewed - made it a point to be in church.

The most inspiring part of the night, though, was Heath Evans' acceptance speech. He brought up his Bible and talked for about 15 minutes, assuring us that football pails in comparison to knowing Christ. On his priority list, God is first, his family second, and football is somewhere way down there. Football is unfulfilling, he said, and most players - whether they're Christian or not - admit that. They are constantly searching for something more.

This is definitely evident in his quarterback, Tom Brady, who said a few years ago in an interview on 60 Minutes, "Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, 'Hey man, this is what is.' I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it's gotta be more than this. I mean this can't be what it's all cracked up to be. I mean I've done it. I'm 27. And what else is there for me?" The interviewer asked, "What is it?" And all Brady could say in reply was, "I wish I knew. I wish I knew." I'm sure Heath Evans, for one, is doing his best to try and model what it is that Brady is looking for by the way he lives. He may not proselytize in the locker room, but people see the way he lives and yearn for the same thing, no doubt.

Evans wanted to make sure that everyone at the banquet had a personal experience with Christ, and said that he was willing to stay until 2:30 in the morning to talk with anyone who didn't know Him. He opened his Bible and read a long passage of scripture - when Christ washed His disciples feet - and was blown away by the thought of God washing the feet of created beings. This inspires him. And it should inspire all of us as well.

No, Boston sports stars aren't perfect - and they are not the only athletes in America who display Christian character. But it's at least nice to know that some of the men I cheer for can be admired, and they are not afraid of pointing people to Christ.

For a few more pictures of the night, please check out this link.

Shannon and Camille, checking out a foggy Gillette Stadium.

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