Sports, Technology, Character and the Church

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

I’m convinced that technology will help the church overcome present and future challenges. Initially for this article I wanted to show an example of how technology and data science in sports have transformed two of the most cursed organizations. However, in my research I found that the church has something far greater to offer: people with character who overcome adversities, failures, and hardships.

Have you heard about the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ or the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’? These were superstitious explanations about the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs not being able to win the World Series for the longest time; for Boston it was 86 years and Chicago 108 years. But one person is credited in ending curses for both teams, Theo Epstein. When he started out in Boston, he was committed to using data analysis and latest technological advances. For example, Red Sox interns went to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to examine 30 years’ worth of college baseball stats to look for characteristics of college players who became productive major leaguers. They worked with neuroscientists to study the brain makeup of great hitters. The Boston Red Sox’s success was mainly credited to Epstein’s commitment to ‘Moneyball’ (the data analysis approach to sports). However, he hit a snag. He found that winning and success were only parts of the solution. Something far greater was in need- athletes with character.

When the Red Sox team that won two World Series had an embarrassing late season collapse in 2011, Mr. Epstein observed that even though players looked great on paper, some of them had serious character flaws. Therefore, when he started to work for the Cubs he placed an upmost importance on character. Instead of just looking at numbers and analytical data, he asked his scouts to examine adversities that prospective athletes had to overcome on and off the field. Moreover, his scouts were instructed to ask potential recruits’ friends, coworkers and family members these questions: How does he treat people when no one’s looking? What do his friends say about him? What do his enemies say about him? How does he treat people he doesn’t necessarily have to treat well? He wanted to emphasize that the heart and soul of an athlete are greater than the sum of the physical attributes.

As I stated previously I wanted to highlight the importance of using technology to overcome some of the challenges that Trinity faces. I still believe that because businesses, government agencies, sports teams, and non-profits that skillfully employ science and big data will move forward. Moreover, Mr Epstein’s experiences help me to appreciate that the core mission of the church is still to meet the core needs of humanity, building character. Through researching about Mr. Epstein, I learned, Yes! Technology is needed in the church. It’s needed so that we could continue to make disciples of Jesus who bear the cross to overcome injustice, apathy, and violence through godly character, perseverance, and faithfulness.

 

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Trinity United Methodist Church is located in McLean, VA. Our weekly worship services are on Sundays at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and on Wednesdays at noon. Sunday School is at 9:30 a.m. for children and adults. Children up to 6th grade are also invited to Children's Education during the 10:30 service. Adult Bible Study also occurs on Mondays at 10 a.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. Please visit our website for more information.

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