The Christ and Pop Culture 2022 sports roundup is an extension of The Coach‘s Box column, where we highlight the goodness and beauty of sports and explore the more profound questions beneath the surface-level analysis of sports.
We can mark 2022 as the year of “getting back to normal,” with sports helping us navigate the inroads we were familiar with pre-pandemic. Here are some of the biggest headlines and overlooked stories in sports from 2022’s third quarter.
Sydney McLaughlin Breaks 400-meter Hurdle World Record
If you’ve never run track and field or kept up with the sport, Sydney McLaughlin’s 2022 World Championship 400-meter hurdle championship run might not seem that remarkable. But speaking as a girl’s track and field coach and former track and field athlete myself, her 50.68 sprint is almost unthinkable. For context, some of the top Olympic 400-meter times average around 48 seconds. McLaughlin finished just two seconds behind that time while hurdling ten hurdles.
McLaughlin unashamedly attributes her success to her faith in God, not because she believes it gives her any unique advantage, but because she had to learn to trust. Trusting God helped her trust the process of working out and doing whatever it takes to be great at her craft.
“I could vividly hear God in a couple of instances say, ‘Are you done? Are you ready to give your life over to Me? Are you ready to let Me have control?’” McLaughlin said. “I would literally tell Him ‘no’ because I wasn’t sure if it would turn out the way I wanted it to turn out.” Well, it turned out that she would become the fastest woman ever to run the 400-meter hurdles.
Serena Williams Plays Final Tennis Match
Serena Williams is regarded as the most outstanding athlete of all time. However, in August, her career ended after losing to Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the U.S. Open. Though her loss was not controversial, comments made by another tennis legend were.
As covered here on Christ and Pop Culture, Australian tennis record-holder Margaret Court criticized Williams, believing she had an easier path to greatness than women in the past. Additionally, Court—an outspoken and self-proclaimed Christian—has many other problematic views that make Christianity seem fragile and dependent on belittling others (like Williams).
Nevertheless, it’s an excellent reminder for us to love and live peaceably with all men, even if we feel slighted, and that celebrating the achievements of others doesn’t diminish who we are in Christ.
Tua Tagovailoa’s Head Injury Sparks Controversy
In late September, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a concussion against the Buffalo Bills. Tagovailoa did not leave the game, however, but returned to help his team win. It wasn’t until the next game, when Tagovailoa was slammed on his head by a Cincinnati Bengals defender, that the sports world began questioning the business ethics of professional football.
As covered here on Christ and Pop Culture, we explored what it would look like for Christ-followers to respond to these ethical issues. We ought to value our neighbors’ humanity above all else, be it bottom lines, winning football games, or entertainment value. And the Tua Tagovailoa situation reminded us that athletes are our neighbors before they are our entertainment mediums. As I wrote, “Hopefully, we can learn to be more concerned with the business of compassion, and allow it to drive the business of football instead.”