Sound and Fury

The video below is not merely a hilarious sporting moment, it’s a great illustration.

I know many readers may not understand American football, but I’ll explain what is happening, and why it hit a pastor’s blog.  I post things just for fun, sometimes, but this isn’t one of them (it IS fun! :)).

Understanding the Play

This is a punt play.  Kent State (dark jerseys), unsuccessful in advancing the ball to the opponents’ end, had to kick (“punt”) the ball to the other team.  One player “snaps” it back to the punter, who kicks it downfield, where the punt receiver makes his decision.

The punt receiver, #2 in white, can catch the ball and run back the other way, or play safe, signal for a “fair catch,” and catch it but not advance the ball.  His third option, best this time since the kick bounced well in front of him, is to stay away and let it bounce.  He chose the third, but made a very bad mistake — he got too close, and the ball hit him.  If a receiver touches the ball in any way and it bounces free, the other team can pick it up and regain possession.  That’s what happened here.  That’s a bad play by the receiver, it can cost your team badly, but it is not particularly unusual.

Then, unusual happened.  First, #10 for Kent State picked up the ball, and ran towards the end his team was defending.  This is never a good plan :), roughly equivalent to an own-goal.  Second, the Towson players tackled him, even though he was going the way they wanted him to go.  This is roughly equivalent to blocking your opponent’s shot on his own goal.  The first has happened before, but very rarely, in American football. The second may be entirely unique. 🙂

I can’t tell, from the video, what Parker’s teammates are trying to do.  They are running hard.  Are they trying to catch him and turn him around, or are they caught up in the moment, and running to try to block the other team from stopping him?  You can’t tell.  You can see their actions, but you don’t know whether they are trying to accomplish something good or whether they are trying to help him keep going wrong.

I only saw one player that I knew was thinking at all (others may have been, this guy clearly was).  At the 16 second mark in the video, near the 50 yard line, one of the Towson players comes from the side and blocks one of Parker’s teammates who is chasing him.  That’s generally a good idea — if your opponent is going the way you want him to go, keep his teammates away from him.  They may be caught up in the stupidity, too, but there’s a chance they know what is happening and are trying to stop him, so take them out of it if you can.  This also happened to be a dumb play, for reasons I’ll explain later, but at least it looked like a smart play. 🙂

It Reminds Me….

The whole thing reminds me of a lot of Internet conversations I’ve seen (and I must confess, taken part in).  Have you ever seen anything like this in an Internet discussion?

  • Somebody says / does something bad / stupid.  (Receiver getting too close to the ball, getting hit by it.)
  • An opponent pounces on the opportunity, and starts running with it, without any regard to the bigger picture of where he should be going or what he should really be saying or trying to do.  His opponent messed up, now he’s got the ball, and HE’S GOING TO RUN WITH IT and not let anyone stop him.  If you yell at him that he’s going the wrong way, he’s not going to hear you, he’s too busy running and avoiding being stopped from doing whatever it is he thinks he’s accomplishing.  (GO, ANDRE PARKER, GO!)
  • Those on “his side” immediately engage in frantic activity, but it may be hard to tell exactly what they are trying to accomplish.  (Kent State teammates.)
  • His adversaries may do their best to stop him, even if he is helping their cause, simply because he’s not on “their team.”  (Towson player tried to tackle him at the 12 second mark, then two more “succeeded” further downfield.)
  • Usually someone around recognises what is happening and will act accordingly, but he’s barely noticed, and he may not get everything right, either.  (Towson player I mentioned above, who took out the closest pursuer from Kent State.)
  • Those who aren’t involved are amazed and somewhat amused at the stupidity on display by both sides, yet they may get drawn in and say or think stupid things, too.  (Announcers.)
  • When the frantic activity is over, everyone is all stirred up.  (Scene on the sideline immediately after the tackle.)
  • Their more alert teammates are not pleased with the guys who stopped the hero, and wish he had been allowed to keep shooting himself (and / or his team) in the foot.  (Note #21 for Towson, centre of the screen at the 25-26 second mark. :))
  • Hopefully, once the hero recognises what he’s done, he feels bad about it (34 second mark) and maybe even hangs his head (41 second mark).

The best part of the whole thing?  The reason the apparently alert Towson player was also doing something silly?  The rules say you can’t advance the ball after a “muffed punt” — a punt which the receiver never controlled.  You CAN recover it, and regain possession for your team, but you can’t RUN with it.  Andre Parker WAS a hero for recovering the ball, and it became Kent State’s possession again at that moment, at the point at which he caught it — but the play was then over, as far as the rules are concerned.

From that point on, none of the frantic action that followed counted in the game.  It was all “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  He ran the wrong way — but it meant nothing (except it DID make him famous in a way he’d not prefer).  His teammates weren’t happy with him, but it actually didn’t have any impact on their team.  The opponents tackled him, and it meant nothing.  Their teammate was upset with them for doing so — and was wasting his energy.  The Towson player who took out the Kent State player wasted his energy for nothing.

Even the announcers got sucked into the folly, one declaring that Towson’s players shouldn’t have tackled him, and it would have been a safety (that’s when you end up in your own end, instead of the end you should be going for).  It wasn’t going to be a safety or a touchdown or anything else.  It was just one player playing the fool and a bunch of others joining the folly.  That’s it.  The announcer who called it a “fumble” was wrong (a muffed punt is technically different from a fumble in the rules, one can be returned and the other can’t), and the other who said they shouldn’t have tackled him was wrong.  Even as they were amazed at what was going on, they said dumb things, too.  They contributed to the “sound and fury.”

And many Internet blow-ups are just exactly the same, “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  They have no impact on anything real — unless we engage in sinful speech, of course.  The subject of the conversation is often of no import whatever.  In most Internet disputes, the world will not be a better or worse place based on the outcome, and we will neither become more Christ-like nor help other Christians become more Christ-like by engaging in frantic activity and trying to tackle our opponents.  The conversations mean nothing, but they draw us and others into a lot of folly.

It doesn’t matter if I think my sports team is better (or worse) than yours.  It often matters little if I agree with someone 5000 miles away about how to evaluate the actions of someone 2000 miles from either of us.  It doesn’t matter much if someone in the next town, region, country, or continent, misunderstands >me< or thinks poorly of >me<.  We should be very clear about Biblical truth and encourage others to respond Biblically, truthfully, and charitably, but if it becomes about >me< or whether people agree with me, or whether I respond just because I think someone is on my team (or not on it), it becomes a big waste of time and effort, “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

But sinful speech IS real.  The football play was dead, the heroic running had no impact — but any “unsportsmanlike conduct” during the run-back would have resulted in a 15 yard penalty.  When we dishonour God in what we say or how we say it, that always matters.

As the announcers said, “How often do you see that?”  Not so often on the football field — but it abounds on the Internet, and we Christians are too often right in the thick of it.

So, thank you, Andre Parker.  You started something, others joined in, and we all had a good laugh.  But though it was kind of dumb, you didn’t do anything really wrong or harmful, and you gave us a nice object lesson.  I hope you can laugh at it and enjoy your moment.

Colossians 4:6

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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2 Responses to Sound and Fury

  1. Robin Oberman says:

    What you said seems very true about how the internet blow-ups are nothing but empty “sound and fury”. At times it’s easy to get caught up in it along w/ them. Then I find myself asking, “Was that redeeming the time?” After reviewing the video clip, I realized there was a team-mate (#1) that came along aside him, almost like he was drawing him out of the group to take him aside and talk w/ Parker, may even been trying to “protect” him from other’s. He seemed to do it deliberately, got his way thru, took him aside, then put his hand on his back and had a “talk” w/ Parker, We all do stupid things, (oh, how I know from experience all to well) but I am glad there are those in the body of Christ who will come along side us and “exhort”, “rebuke”, “correct”, and “encourage” us. Hebrews 10:25 “…exhorting one another…” There is a great need for more of those, don’t you agree? That team-mate was altogether another lesson for me.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Robin. I thought that interaction was very interesting, though for a slightly different reason. My impression was Parker didn’t even realise until half way across the field, which made me think perhaps #1 didn’t actually tell him he’d gone the wrong way.

      What he DID do was get right into the melee, get his friend, get him out of there, and stick with him all the way across the field. Maybe he did tell him and it didn’t sink in. Maybe he didn’t think he needed to tell him. Either way, he looked to me like a true friend, and I hope Parker appreciates him.

      I’m thankful for those with the courage and integrity to talk to me when I need it (even if I may not always listen as well as I should at the time). But I thought, “I don’t know if #1 spoke to him or not, but was there a need? He wasn’t going to continue in his error, by that point.” It’s when we’re in danger of continuing our folly that we really need others to intervene. In this case, Parker just needed friends, someone to stick by him. “Repentance” was NOT going to be a problem. Poor guy. Wise friends know when we need to be confronted and when the need for that has passed.

      I also thought some of the other interactions (teammates coming to meet him, opponents’ coach, etc) were very interesting. Lots of human nature on display. I did think #1 was a leader and a friend, whatever he said to Parker. His actions showed. When our brothers and sisters, our friends mess up, they need us there, sometimes to correct, sometimes just to still be a friend despite their mistakes.

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