Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fans Cheer for the Opposing Team?

This might be the best article that has come out of ESPN The Magazine in a long, long time.

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.


Thanks to Andy McCullough for pointing this shining example of Christ-likeness out to all of us.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rick Warren's Dateline Video

Rick Warren's interview on Dateline ran tonight. Already widely recognized as one of the most influential evangelicals in America, Rick has garnered more attention as President-elect Obama's pick for the inaugural prayer. That has all but enraged an already fuming homosexual population recently dealt a blow by the historic passage of Proposition 8 in California.

Rick, like usual, delivers a great response to all those looking for some clarity in the issues facing America.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Coach Pete Carroll's Shocking Nightlife

After enjoying some Sunday football for the first time in a long, long time, the CBS show 60 Minutes came on. A story on USC football coach Pete Carroll caught my attention. The teaser mentioned that it was Coach Carroll's off-the-field life that landed him on the program. I thought, "Well, here's another guy caught partying with his recruits or visiting a local strip club." Thankfully my pessimism was proven wrong.

Coach Carroll uses some of his very limited free time to visit inner city L.A. gang turf and help young boys understand they have a better future than prison or gang violence. And by assembling some other influential leaders in the city, he has begun to have a big impact on a big city. To transform a city, it will take a network of leaders like this. Way to go Pete.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who is a Movement Builder?

Shane Walton over at www.movementbuilders.com wrote this article on the characteristics of a movement builder. I found it helpful enough to repost here.

Movement Builder Defined

The Institute for Democratic Renewal, a national collaboration supporting movements for racial and social justice, published a list of the most common characteristics of successful movement builders. While a few of the Institute’s points were omitted because they relate exclusively to social movements, the majority (in bold below) apply to all kinds of movements.

A Movement Builder understands that suffering and oppression are not enough to create a movement. In creating your movement you cannot afford to focus exclusively on the problem. You must offer your audience a solution — a vision of positive change — for them to rally around.

A Movement Builder is conscious of the need to go beyond slogans and to create programs that transform and empower participants. I have written previously on the difference between marketing and movement building. Most importantly, successful movement builders are not simply creating brand recognition; they are providing a positive change that their audience is passionate about.

A Movement Builder can accept contradictions that develop in the course of a struggle. Movement building is a dynamic, ongoing effort that is more a collaboration than a centrally controlled hierarchy. As such, there may be contradictions that arise because your supporters — in other venues or on other subjects — disagree with each other or with you. But successful movement builders are able to accept and at times even embrace those contradictions.

A Movement Builder is able to take advantage of historical moments—the convergence of time and events. No movement is created in a vacuum. More importantly, no movement COULD be created in a vacuum. Your audience’s passions come from the problems they are facing right now, in a particular culture, in a particular point in history, in a particular location. A successful movement builder uses the current context to generate support and interest.

A Movement Builder chooses boldness over timidity. Many sports t-shirts profess, “No guts, no glory.” The same could be put on a movement building t-shirt. You need to be willing to get out there, speak up, and take risks in order to build the buzz that is essential for a powerful movement.

A Movement Builder calls forth a vision that is larger than the issue at hand. The truth is that your nonprofit’s current campaign or your business’ current product will not always be relevant to your audience. The most successful movement builders engage their audience’s passions by solving current issues while simultaneously pointing to the larger vision that will lead the movement into the future.

A Movement Builder strikes a balance between control and autonomy. As mentioned above, movements are informal group actions that cannot be controlled in a strict hierarchical manner. You can guide and influence your growing movement, but you cannot fully dictate its course. The most successful movement builders have learned to walk the line between letting the movement run free and trying to control its every step.

Movement Builder Expanded

In addition to the Institute’s list, there are a few other characteristics that successful movement builders share.

A Movement Builder is strategic. Cultivating a movement is a complicated process, and without a plan to guide you the task becomes even more challenging. You need to be willing to alter your plan when circumstances change, but you must always be following a strategic vision.

A Movement Builder seeks help. The essence of a powerful movement could be described as people working together to achieve a common goal. As such, you are not just getting your message out to a receptive audience (that would be marketing) — you are assembling a group of people to help you spread the message. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner your group begins to grow.

A Movement Builder believes. Passion is contagious. If you believe in your product, your nonprofit’s mission, or the political candidate you represent, people will be able to tell. If you don’t believe, they will pick up on that, too. Passion is contagious, and successful movement builders have it.

This is a solid list of the most prominent characteristics shared by successful movement builders. Of course there are many other important traits — please add in the comments below some of the ones you have seen to be valuable in your work.