To say that my seven-year-old Paul likes college football would be an understatement. He loves it! We don't have cable now but we have taped games that are one to two years old. He recently finished watching all those.
My husband--Paul's partner in all things college football--taught my eager son how to check the scores of current games online. Our Internet speed is too slow to watch online clips, so Paul settles for checking the scores a few times a day.
Now, my sweet son knows I worry about him becoming truly obsessed, so he approaches me gingerly to ask if he can check the scores. Again. If he has completed at least three subjects in school (morning), or is done with school (afternoon), and if his chores are done, then I say yes, sometimes reminding him that God and family should always come before his interests and passions (I don't want his wife to feel neglected!).
As parents, we both have reservations about Paul's newest passion. First, he does seem obsessed--occasionally even keeping himself awake at night thinking about football games. Secondly, many college football players, while a bit purer than the pros, still have major morality issues. My husband doesn't follow pro football--never taped any games--so Paul knows nothing about those teams or players. But he is learning an enormous amount about college football teams all over the country. His memory amazes both of us!
Recently, my husband heard a story about a college football player's father getting into bidding wars and taking money from the team his son finally ended up with. This team move came after the son cheated on academics at one school and was about to be expelled (from a junior college I believe). The NCAA decided not to punish the player for the sins of his father, even though the player knew what his father was doing, and, most likely, he benefited financially from his father's six-figure payoff. He gets to stay on this new team. Obviously he's a very valuable player. Character means nothing, especially in college and pro-sports. Disgusting, eh?
Anyhow, as my husband was relaying this story, I could only think of my little Paul and his obsession with college football. What an unsavory business! I told my husband I thought we needed to take great pains to explain to Paul that while enjoying the game is okay, he should take care to never revere players.
So husband explained the whole unsavory story to Paul this afternoon, who seemed disgusted at the NCAA's decision. Husband also relayed that many sports players get into trouble and have poor character, sometimes brought on by confusion over too much fame, and often because of greed and selfishness. They are not to be worshiped in any way. Focus on the game if you must, but not on the players--unless, of course, an individual player is particularly worthy of respect.
I hope that was enough to drive the point across. Unfortunately, college football players and the NCAA will probably give us many more teaching opportunities. We should probably also explain how the fans support teams, and the football business, financially. When Paul has an income of his own he will have to decide whether it's ethical to spend his money on tickets or on TV viewing--at least for some teams. If my husband is right and all teams participate in bidding wars but some don't get caught, well, then, I just don't know. What a horrible business! I pray Paul does what Jesus would desire of Him, in this and in everything.
Husband and Peter share a love for insects and nature in the warmer months, while in the winter months, husband and Paul share a love for sports. We don't want to take away any bonding opportunities, obviously.
With good character long out of fashion, life gets pretty complicated. All we can do is dwell closely with our children, keeping careful tabs on their hearts and on their exposures, helping them filter everything through Scripture.
I think it's a blessing we can't afford cable!