“All In” – More than 15 Minutes of Fame

If you’ve been on Uncle Larry’s E Mail list pre-blog you will remember the E Mail I simply passed on from our friend and Chaplain of the NY Yankees and the World Champion NY Giants – George McGovern. At the Giants Chapel service the night before their “must win” against the NY Jets the message reflected the theme of necessity for Believers in Christ to “Go All In!” Like a poker player with a winning hand – push it all in the pot for your faith.

Jason Tuck, Defensive End, fired up his Giants team mates in a pre-game locker room challenge with the All In theme and how they had to go All In as individuals and as a team to beat the Jets. After that inspiring victory for their next game the Giants gave out 75,000 towels with the words All In to the fans. It kick started the now well documented All In run of seven straight games to win their world’s biggest prize – The Super Bowl.

I’ll shut up now and let you read the note and article below from George McGovern – sharing his 15 minutes of fame in TIME Magazine’s Feb 13th Issue, written by Joel Stein. I laughed so hard I cried. Creative minds and humor transcend all boundaries. Uncle Larry

Dear Friend,
You’ve heard the saying, “15 minutes of fame”, and that everyone experiences it at some time in his life. Well, mine came (and went) during this past week with the Giants being in the Super Bowl.

I received a call from Joel Stein, columnist for Time Magazine. He wanted to write a feature on the role that faith in God plays in determining the outcome of sporting events, namely the Super Bowl. We had a lively discussion in which I informed him about specific activities of sports team chaplains, and he entertained me with an array of humorous responses. The result was a clever satirical essay. Stein is quite the wordsmith. I hope you enjoy the read.

TIME February 13, 2012 / U.S. Edition / Volume 179 / Number 6Most Valuable Prayer. Forget the stats. For the Super Bowl, I’m betting on the team with the winningest chaplain By Joel Stein

I’ve watched enough post-game interviews to know that what wins football games isn’t the quarterback or the offensive line; it’s God. So to figure out which team is going to win this year’s Super Bowl, I went straight to the guys who serve as middlemen between God and the players. The team with the best chaplain isn’t just going to win but, from what I understand about theology, will also totally cover the spread.

Almost every NFL team has a chaplain who runs weekly Bible study and holds a short service on Saturday nights before games. Although I’m sure honesty is a key part of each of their belief systems, it is not a huge part of mine, so I left out the part about wanting to talk to them strictly for gambling purposes.

The Giants’ chaplain, George McGovern, is a kindly, white-haired man who is paid by Athletes in Action, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ that places pastors with most of the big football colleges and pro teams. After being a campus chaplain at Rutgers, he worked with the Jets and Mets from 1990 to 1995 before getting traded to the Giants and Yankees. McGovern is going to his third Super Bowl with the Giants, and the Yankees have won five World Series under him. God loves this guy more than he loves Tim Tebow.

I asked McGovern why his speeches have been so much more successful than those of any other George McGovern, but he said he has nothing to do with the outcome of the games. Which seemed like exactly the kind of Job-like humility that God loves. McGovern insisted that when he meets the 25 or so players and coaches–the most attendees in team history–for the Saturday sermons, he doesn’t even talk about the game. “It’s not a pep talk. It’s not a ‘God, help us win tomorrow.’ I’ve never heard a player or coach ask for a victory. It’s always thanking God for opportunities or health or ‘Give us the strength we need to play with passion,'” McGovern told me. I did not like the sound of this. From what I know about the Old Testament, God doesn’t respond to the soft sell. He’s more of a tie-your-firstborn-to-the-altar kind of guy.

When I asked McGovern to inspire me, he gave me a bit of the 20-minute sermon he delivered the night before the Giants beat the 49ers in overtime. It was actually a very thoughtful, touching talk about fatherhood that quoted Moses and the apostle Paul. But it didn’t make me want to win a game. It made me want to skip the Super Bowl party I was going to go to and take my son to the park.

I was about to put a lot of money on the Patriots when I learned that the Patriots are one of the very few NFL teams without a chaplain. They do, however, rely on Don Davis, who was the team’s chaplain until 2010, when he moved to Virginia. Davis, who is going to Indianapolis to give the team sermon on Saturday, is a two-time Super Bowl winner and ex-Patriots linebacker. This guy sounded like a King David–level winner, the kind of guy who would talk about parting seas of linebackers and the fact that if God wanted the Giants to beat the Patriots, he would have landed the Pilgrims in East Rutherford, N.J.

But when I asked Davis to lay some of his pregame sermon on me, he said he wasn’t sure what he was going to say yet. This was like hearing that Bill Belichick hadn’t started working on his Super Bowl playbook or Tom Brady hadn’t selected a hairstyle. When I pressed Davis, he said he was thinking of speaking about legacy. This seemed great until he explained that he meant the legacy the players would leave besides the Super Bowl. “I’ve played in a few of these Super Bowls and coached in one. They were big deals when you played, but life goes on,” he said. “It’s the things you do outside that have an impact forever.” When Davis gives this downer of a speech, he isn’t even going to wear his Super Bowl rings. He says that sometimes when chaplains who aren’t ex-athletes give their sermons, they try to talk about the game, which comes off as “cheesy.” Davis seems to be the one American who does not understand what a big deal the Super Bowl is. I’m sure Davis would have told Moses that asking God to let his people go would be “cheesy.”

After talking to both chaplains, I realized that when players thank God at the end of a game, they’re not saying God liked their team better. They’re actually being modest, saying they realize how small a part they played and expressing gratitude–just as they would for a meal, their health or a Friday. A chaplain doesn’t have anything to do with the game. He’s with the team for the same reason the caterer and the travel agent are: to provide basic services for guys who travel a lot.

So I’m not going to make a bet. Which I’m guessing is what both chaplains wanted all along. Man, they’re good.

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