The Football Analogy for Activists



“Billy Graham, a key figure at the Christian Woodstock in 1972, once compared life to a golf course, where it was only important to follow the rules in order to be embraced by the Lord once the game was over.” —  Vine Deloria, Jr. in conversation with the author

Explo ’72 was a gigantic rally held at the Cotton Bowl in June, 1972. The host city Dallas forked over a lot of financial support so that folks like Bill Bright (of Campus Crusade for Christ International fame) could push their fundamentalist-oriented agenda to unprecedented heights. Young Christians did respond to the tune of seventy-five thousand souls-in-need, on fire, indeed.

A group of Christian athletes headlined the whole shebang, including Roger Staubach (who was a Football God at that juncture), Heisman Trophy winner, Vietnam Vet and — you bet! — Super Bowl MVP in ’72. The spotlight on the Dallas Cowboys quarterback sailed through Fundamentalist Heaven when he declared that life was to be compared to a football game with “salvation as the goal line, and the Christian as being in good field position because of Christianity.” Once the Naval Academy graduate exclaimed that he became all that for a good portion of the nation, second perhaps only to Jesus in the eyes of the faithful, his kills in Vietnam notwithstanding.

Christians would do well to ask whether or not — being in good field position — a touchdown would be necessary for salvation. Or if, say, a field goal would suffice, and be just as nice in God’s judgmental eye. Would a mere three-pointer make the angels blue on the head of a pin?

Activists face the same kind of question. Should they attempt an end run with some kind of reform-minded target in this endgame we’re facing collectively?  Or are they obliged to bring about, say, an end to capitalism post haste? Wasting time on reform — as increasing numbers of writers, academics and lecturers point out — won’t do enough soon enough to make a big enough difference; that seems true to many people I talk to these days.

Well, I’m not going to attempt to push anyone into the Reform Quarters or the More Radical Quarters with this piece. Rather, I’m just going to point out that we don’t want to punt, for sure. Too late in the game for that! And that our situation can be thought of as being played out on a field which is becoming more and more (irreversibly) toxic with each tactic employed. With each desperate play.

The entire field. Not just the part that activists are playing on. Meaning, that there’s some very real pressure — as we all know — to at least consider some kind of equivalent to Staubach’s 1975 Hail Mary play. No matter what necessary reform activity we might embrace as concerned citizens simultaneously.

Staubach’s most memorable moment on the field came in late 1975, only several months after the Vietnam War officially ended. And I think that’s healthy food for thought, to be taken in, perhaps, in lieu of chewing on the toxic fare still served up at virtually all professional sports events.

Like the processed meat sold, and the Blue Angels that too often fly overhead.

Valleria Ruselli writes exclusively for alternative media outlets, and has been an educator and activist for decades. Contact her at [email protected].


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