How High Profile Athletes and Coaches Can Avoid Problems

The Bible has some simple solutions to widely publicized problems experienced by many high profile athletes and coaches.  God’s word contains the wisdom of God and  applies to all situations in life.  If just a few passages in the Bible were believed and practiced, it would have averted a lot of heartache and ruined lives.  I do not need to list names of high profile athletes, coaches, announcers and others who have been in trouble with authorities, have destroyed or tarnished their reputations, etc.   Every sports enthusiast is all too aware of these things.  It is major sports news that there will be no inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2013 due to the drug scandals of the 1990s and early 2000s.    Recently, the cheating of Lance Armstrong, the great road racing cyclist, is every where talked about.  And the beat goes on and on.  

A little foolishness can destroy a reputation that took years to develop.  And that foolishness will stick to that person for the rest of their lives.  Ecclesiastes 10:1:  Dead flies make a perfumer's oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.”   There are many examples of this truth in politics, in religion and in sports.   You supply the names.  Two players, whose decision to trade their wives and children during the off-season (just a little indiscretion) totally shocked the baseball world in the early 70’s.  One of the parties involved is still surprised, after more than 40 years, that his whole career is defined by this one incident.   He stated that it is just not fair!  Maybe not, but this is reality.   However, with the rapid moral decline of our country, and with homosexuality becoming more commonplace, I wonder if the matter of trading wives and family would create much of a stir today.  

“A” Rated Problems

Baseball players have a rating system.   A “five star” player is one who is outstanding in hitting for average, hitting for power, fielding,  throwing, and running.   So this is my rating system for players or coaches with problems.  Most problems can be explained very simply as AAA problems.   By this I mean, Alcohol, Adultery and Anger --- three of the leading causes of all problems.   One of the most practical books in the Bible is the book of Proverbs and, guess what, it speaks a lot about fools who mess up their lives with women, drinking and the inability to control anger.   Another major subject in Proverbs is controlling the tongue.  So maybe I should call it a four “A” problem  (Alcohol, Anger, Adultery  and Audio) just to keep it simple.   By adding “arrogance” I can call it a five “A” problem.   Maybe this could be a new 5 star rating plan for players who are headed for trouble.    By alcohol  I am including the whole range of recreational drugs that has exploded in our society.   By audio (sound) I am referring to a whole range of speech including “trash talk”, vulgarity, blaspheming others, using God’s name in vain, boasting, etc.   James writes that out of the same mouth should not come both  “blessing” and “cursing”.   Anger and arrogance seem to go hand in hand in most cases, but not all.  Along with “anger”,  just throw in violence, for violence is a by-product of anger.  Adultery usually refers to married people, but here I will just use it for all illicit sex.   While I am at it, I might as well throw in pornography, for that seems where we are today in society. 


Now you don’t think that alcohol is a problem in sports.   Well, it has always been a problem in sports.  Alcoholism is a problem even among some top athletes.  I get “Sports Illustrated” and cannot help but notice the number of hard alcohol advertisements (Vodka, Whiskey, Scotch, etc.) inside its covers.  I am also aware of all the beer companies that sponsor sports.  It is legal, but it presents a real problem on the sports scene.  It seems that alcohol and sports go hand in hand.  I am just saying there might be a problem here.  

The Bible addresses the problem drinking with these words of warning:   Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise. . . . . . .  Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel”  (Pro. 20:1, 3)

Pro. 23:29-35:  "Who has woe?  Who has sorrow?  Who has contentions?  Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?  Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine.  Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly;  At the last it bites like a serpent And stings like a viper.  Your eyes will see strange things And your mind will utter perverse things.  And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast.  They struck me, but I did not become ill; They beat me, but I did not know it.  When shall I awake?  I will seek another drink.”


For years it has been known that booze and women can ruin a young athlete’s career, and yet the exposure to both is found everywhere.  I am including in this the wide spread use of pornography, which is most demeaning to women and men, and is a gateway to sexual perversion.  Classified among the works of the flesh are such things as immorality,  outbursts of anger, drunkenness and carousing (see Gal. 5:20-21)  and those guilty of such things cannot inherit the kingdom of God.   Watch the halftime program of this year’s Super bowl and you will get a taste of what I am talking about.  Along with the subscription to Sports Illustrated magazine is the swim suit issue, which features barely clothed “Babes”.   It is interesting that if you subscribe to Sports Illustrated you can e-mail and option out of the “Swim suit Edition” thus recognizing that this might be a problem.  A large percentage of proverbs is devoted to the danger of “strange women”, that is, any woman who is not your wife.   This was a problem 3,000 years ago and it is a problem today. 

The Bible has clear warnings as to this behavior:  Pro. 6:32-33: “The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; He who would destroy himself does it.  Wounds and disgrace he will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out.  For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance.  He will not accept any ransom, nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts.”

Pro. 9:13-18: "The woman of folly is boisterous, She is naive and knows nothing.  She sits at the doorway of her house, on a seat by the high places of the city, Calling to those who pass by, Who are making their paths straight: 'Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,' And to him who lacks understanding she says,  'Stolen water is sweet; And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.'  But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol."


Sports is supposed to be about self-control, but anger is often a part of the sports landscape.  Anger is closely associated with alcohol, arrogance and audio (speech).  Anger is often displayed in full public view involving players, managers, coaches, etc. as if it is a badge of honor and shows you really care.  This fact is so well known that I do not need to give specifics.  Again, the Bible is full of warnings about this.  Here is a sampling:

Pro. 12:16:  “A fool’s anger is known at once, But a prudent man conceals dishonor.” 
Pro. 14:29: “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”
Pro. 15:18: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.”
Pro. 19:19: “A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.”
Pro. 22:24: “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man”
Ecc. 7:9: “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,  for anger resides in the bosom of fools.”
 Pro. 29:11: “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.”

Audio (Speech)

I am using the word “audio” to include sound or speech.  This may be a bit of a stretch, but it does fit in with staying with “A” words.   Speech gets a lot of athletes into trouble.  I played Major League Baseball for twenty years, and early on I learned that common speech in the clubhouse and on the playing field included taking God’s name in vain, vulgarity, swearing and just plain filthy talk.   Now it includes what is called “trash talk” on the playing field hoping to increase you chances for winning by provoking the opposition.   I learned very early in my education as a Christian to control my speech.  If I used such words growing up, and my parents learned of it, the seat of my pants would have lit up a bit.  Such words are offensive to God and demeaning to man who is created in God’s image. 

Here are some passages that warn about the bad use of our tongue:

Exo. 20:7: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
Matt. 5:37: “But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes ' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.”
Col. 3:8:But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
Eph. 5:3-4: "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;  and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks."


It is quite proper for an athlete to express confidence in his abilities, but a boastful and arrogant attitude is something else.  In our day and time we have seen too much of the latter.  Maybe this is because so many top athletes have been pampered or it is the corruption that comes with money and power.   I think that our society still honors a good but humble athlete.   Just because an athlete excels in a particular field of endeavor, that does not make him superior to others.   Anger and an unbridled tongue often are the products of arrogance.   When we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, we are headed toward problems.  Here are a few warnings in the Bible:

Pro. 18:12:  “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.”
Pro. 29:23A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.

Why are we experiencing more problems in the field of sports?    Is it because of the corruption of money?    Is it because we have not paid much attention to the moral and spiritual development of our athletes?    Is it because many have made a “god” out of our sports heroes and super athletes?  Is it because our society as a whole is becoming more corrupt?    Is it because there has been a neglect of the development of the whole man (physical, mental, social and spiritual)?   Do we really think that the only cheaters in sports are those individuals who took steroids in the 1990’s?    Since sports is my background, I enjoy watching good competition as much as anyone, but we do not need to make “gods” out of these fallible men.   We need to develop a proper sense of values. 

I personally wish that more athletes and people connected with sports possessed a stronger background in the Bible and the way of righteousness.   Many of these problems can be solved with a Bible course 101.   But more than this, there is a general lack of Biblical knowledge on the part of society, and since our athletes come from society in general, it perhaps is not surprising that such problems have become newsworthy.  The truth is that all of us need to understand and apply the five “A’s”  of how to avoid problems.   

The fact that many athletes do experience trouble and have fallen out of favor with the public is perhaps a good sign that many Americans have not completely lost their moral compass.  We do indeed expect better from our top athletes and coaches.

                                                          Lindy McDaniel, January, 2013

The photo at the beginning of this article was taken in 1957 and includes Stan Musial (in the middle), myself (on the left) and my brother Von.  Musial died recently at age 92 and had a great reputation among fans, players, and sportswriters.  He set many records in hitting and was a gentleman.  He never argued with the umpires.   He was not guilty of the five “A’s”    The great manager, Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles, died on the same day as Musial, but he was known for his tirades, salty language and getting thrown out of games by the umpires.  One umpire, who was the object of some of his angry tirades, said: “When he dies the family will have to pay the pallbearers.”   Earl spawned a number of managers just like him just as the legendary fiery manager/player Leo Durocher did the same.  As long as you win, all is forgiven in baseball.  These men had problems with most of the “A’s”.  

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