Monthly Archives: June 2010

Helping America Love Soccer

By Jim Bennett
Daily Review Atlas

Let’s face it: Soccer is a flop here. The pastime the rest of the world lives for is about as popular with Americans as Helen Thomas is with the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.

The Yankee yawn of indifference toward soccer mystifies all other nations. The typical European, Asian or Latin American sports enthusiast behaves as if the World Cup consists of one team curing cancer while the other team captures and exhibits a live Sasquatch. Yet if you were to judge the game based on the apathetic response it receives stateside, you’d think it was just some guys kicking a ball around.

What accounts for this domestic disinterest? The prevailing wisdom asserts that our collective psychological marketplace for amusements is finite; since baseball, basketball and football have filled up most of the space available for sports, there is very little room left for soccer. I don’t buy that. The popularity of “Jersey Shore” and “Glee” categorically proves that we, as a people, have no cultural gag-reflex when it comes to what we’re willing to consume as entertainment.

Another theory holds that soccer’s pace makes it too boring for attention-deficient Americans. Nah. One of our fastest growing spectator sports is three hours of watching a clump of cars circling a track.

Recently, though, I heard the least-credible theory of all. Some wit declared that soccer is a non-starter here because violent hooliganism abroad has left us with a bad impression of fútbol.
Well, that’s just crazy-talk! Who loves sports-related riots more than the people of this great republic?

Fans in the USA don’t even need a heartbreaking loss or a bad call to trigger mayhem; a joyous victory for the home team is every bit as likely to release the Kraken. The Lakers’ championship win this month touched off celebratory rioting in L.A. that was as bad as, well, the rioting after the Lakers’ championship win last year.

Celebrating a big win by making the hometown play Tina to their Ike has become tradition among U.S. sports mobs. Tigers votaries gave Motown the arson-and-rioting equivalent of an atomic wedgie after Detroit claimed the Commissioner’s Trophy in ’84. Following the Broncos’ Super Bowl XXXII win, Denver fans made the Mile-High City look like it had just been shot by the Death Star. And six years ago, as Red Sox supporters enjoyed the kind of triumph they hadn’t seen since the great World Series victory of 1918, they rejoiced by subjecting Beantown to the kind of destruction it hadn’t seen since the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy of 1919.

Which is not to say, of course, that a loss can’t stir things up too. Remember those mischievous imps from Michigan State University who, in 1999, registered their displeasure with the Spartans’ Final Four defeat by reducing the entire Lower Peninsula to a smoldering heap of post-apocalyptic rubble? Granted, they didn’t rack up double-digit and triple-digit body counts like the Brits in Belgium back in ’85 or the 2001 African riots, but those loveable MSU scamps did beat up a Taco Bell.

Truthfully, I have no idea why soccer is so unpopular here. I know nothing about sports. For most of my life, there hasn’t been a single game that I enjoyed playing, let alone watching.

Recently, however, something amazing happened: I am now hopelessly and obsessively in love with a sport! I’m referring to that noblest of all diversions, bowling. And if that can happen to me, then coaxing this country into an infatuation with soccer will be a snap.

In fact, it’s literally as easy as the press of a button.

You see, not long ago I reluctantly went to a bowling alley with a friend, and as I was preparing to seethe, cringe and loathe, I noticed a little white button on the scorekeeper’s table.

“What’s that for?” I asked, pointing.

“Oh, this?” my friend said. He pressed it.

Approximately twenty seconds later a woman with a notepad approached him. They had a brief conversation and she left. Ten minutes later she returned, carrying a tray that held Jell-O, curly fries, corn dogs and Pepsi.

I was sold. In that instant, I became a ten-pin zealot forever.

So, if they’re serious about popularizing soccer in the USA, it begins and ends with installing those magical waitress-summoning buttons in every seat at every arena in the country. Do this, and mark my words: Overnight, the American people will be saying to soccer what I now say to bowling:

“You had me at Jell-O.”

Jim Bennett is the pastor of Rozetta Baptist Church in rural Henderson County.

Copyright 2010 Daily Review Atlas. Some rights reserved

Review-Atlas Newspaper Column for June 23, 2010

“Natural Selection In My Living Room” By Jim Bennett

My Pink Mohawk and Me

Sorry Ladies. I'm spoken for.

In Support of Short-Term Missions, Local Pastor loses 71 Pounds and Sports Pink Mohawk

(Rozetta, IL) – A Henderson County pastor has shed over 70 pounds since January to raise funds for his church’s short-term mission team, and just last week he challenged his Vacation Bible School students to support that ministry with their offering, lightheartedly laying his dignity on the line as an incentive.

The children enthusiastically rose to the occasion, exceeding the goal by nearly sixty percent.  As a result, they not only experienced the satisfaction of helping the mission team spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they were also treated to the spectacle of Pastor Jim Bennett with a fluorescent pink Mohawk.

Rozetta Baptist Church has been sending out short-term missions teams for the past five years:  Two trips to the Appalachians of West Virginia, one to an American Indian orphanage in Arizona, and most recently, inner-city Atlanta last year.  Their first international journey, to the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, is scheduled for July.

“I’m so blessed to serve a congregation that has caught the vision for short-term missions, but obviously, international travel means greater expense,” Pastor Bennett explained. “Our budget this year was a daunting $17,000 for our nine-member team.”

Pastor Bennett insists the real story isn’t his silly hairstyle, but rather the startling move of God that has prompted so many believers to be exceedingly generous in their responses.  “We’re now fully funded for Grenada, where we will be supporting understaffed, impoverished local churches by setting up and carrying out their own vacation Bible school for them.  I can’t help but interpret these answered prayers as the Lord’s endorsement of this particular ministry.”

To finance the trips, the team counts on gifts from the congregation, a popular “Trivia Night” function, and other conventional fundraising efforts.  This year, however, some new approaches yielded surprising results:  The team members undertook a very successful letter-writing campaign to solicit support, Pastor Bennett made his Mohawk appeal to the Vacation Bible School, and he also received remarkable support from sponsors of his “Pastor Pound Blaster Thin-a-thon.”

“Rozetta folks were evidently anxious to see me drop some weight, and rightfully so.  I asked for pledges of at least one dollar per pound lost.  With all the pledges combined, it worked out that the mission team received 29 dollars for every pound I dropped, and by God’s grace I’ve lost 71 pounds since January,” Pastor Bennett said.  “Thank the Lord we ended the Thin-a-thon the same day we had one of our famous Rozetta Baptist Church potluck dinners!”

As for the new hairstyle, the VBS students were told that Pastor Bennett would get a Mohawk if the offering exceeded the prior year’s total.  To inspire some friendly, inter-gender competition, a pink or blue dye job would be thrown in, depending on whether the girls’ or boys’ offerings were more generous.

“I made it clear I didn’t want pink, and that was all it took to provoke the boys to start putting their money in the girls’ bucket,” Pastor Bennett stated.  “So pink it is.”

As a consolation prize, the boys were given a list of several embarrassing public appearances to which the pastor would subject himself, and it was decided that he should have dinner at a nice restaurant.

Pastor Bennett and his wife Missy enjoyed a fine meal Saturday night at The Drake restaurant in Burlington where he was treated to prime rib, excellent service, and the shocked stares of his fellow diners.  Later that evening, clippers did away with the fuchsia nightmare once and for all and established a more conservative look.

“I certainly wouldn’t have led a church service looking like that,” he explained.  “Worship of our awesome Lord calls for reverence.  It’s a time-and-place issue.”

Videos of his “transformation” and his dinner at The Drake restaurant can be viewed at the church website, http://www.rozettabaptistchurch.com.

The nine members of Rozetta Baptist Church’s short-term mission team will depart for their 8-day trip to Grenada on July 9th.

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