Dangerous Loves

David Stertz
March 11, 2015

I love sports. I love competition. But loves are dangerous things. Loves can be misplaced and misused.

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated highlights these dangers in his interview of U.S. Goalkeeper Tim Howard on the release of Howard’s new book: The Keeper: A Life of Saving Goals and Achieving Them. In the interview, Howard is asked, “You also write that your pursuit of greatness made staying married difficult. Is that more common among top-level athletes than most people realize?” Howard responds to the divorce question with stunning candor: “I think so. The divorce rate among athletes is staggering. You see that, and you have to figure out why. There’s a lot of pressure to be the best. It becomes like a drug, and some people can manage that. Others find it difficult. I found it difficult. Doing the things I wanted to do came at a heavy cost. But you have to make decisions in life and work through them.

The key to Howard’s answer lies in his own divorce in 2012 after a nine year marriage. Seen in this light, Howard’s admission should stun us all. “Doing the things I wanted to do came at a heavy cost.” In other words, Howard wanted to be a better soccer player more than he wanted to be a husband. If this concerns you, don’t worry. Howard apparently thought through this choice: “But you have to make decisions in life and work through them.”

Misplaced and misused love is called idolatry in the Bible. Idolatry happens when someone loves something more than it ought be or they love it wrongly. The effects of idolatry are devastating as illustrated in Howard’s own words. In essence, Tim Howard traded his wife (a living being made in the image of God whom God loved with infinite love) for the joy of stopping an inflated rubber bladder covered in cotton and leather from getting past him. This kind of idolatry is devastating.

When I think about Mr. Howard’s words and actions, I am reminded that so many people today brush off idolatry as no big deal. Idolatry gets reduced to an economic transaction: “Doing the things I wanted to do came at a heavy cost.” However, the cost defines the problem. Howard has demonstrated one horrific aspect of the sin of idolatry. He has elevated a ball kicked around by human feet over the treasure of a whole human being. How might that play at the final judgment when Mr. Howard must answer for his words and actions?

I do love sports. I have played both American and European football, basketball, softball, ect… I love them all. But loves are dangerous things. Do not misplace them. Do not misuse them.