The Reason for Sports and a Dispen-sensational Thriller

I got double-Klucked last week:

  1. Ted Kluck. The Reason for Sports: A Christian Fanifesto Chicago: Moody, 2009. 154 pp. 13-page sample PDF.
  2. Ted Kluck, Zach Bartels, E. L. Duncan, and Brad Atchison. Beauty and the Mark of the Beast: A Dispensensational Thriller. Lansing, MI: Gut Check, 2012. 173 pp.

Kluck beast

When I saw Ted’s blog post about Beauty and the Mark of the Beast, I thought it was a spoof.


It’s not a spoof. Clarification: Ted and company really did write a “dispen-sensational thriller” about Tim Tebow (err, “Ted Strongbow”). The book, however, is a spoof. It’s crazy.

I started it but ended up skimming the last three quarters very quickly. The twisted plot is injected with both satire and sci-fi. I think I would’ve liked it better if it wasn’t “written by committee.” Others will catch more of the hipster allusions and resonate more with the humor than I did. The repeated cynical allusions to Ted Strongbow’s shallow Christianity and unfettered narcissism and arrogance, for example, are so over-the-top that they’re off-putting.

Ted’s Fanifesto, however, is classic Ted. It makes you laugh at both others and yourself.

10 excerpts from Fanifesto:

  1. Christian sports writing, historically, has been cringe-worthy at best. A publisher puts out a title lauding the spiritual life of Christian Jock, and then crosses fingers, hoping that Christian Jock doesn’t end up in jail, in divorce court, or embroiled in a paternity suit. These books are usually of the “by (Christian Athlete) with (local sportswriter)” variety and include the obligatory tales of a hardscrabble upbringing (made to sound hardscrabble even if it isn’t exactly, well, hardscrabble), the wild early years as a pro, the rededication of one’s life to Christ, at which point the blessings (Super Bowl, trophy wife, new contract, etc.) start to flow. (p. 14)
  2. [Jock apologies] are, for the uninitiated, apologies by people (athletes) who don’t really apologize. They’re apologies that were written by twenty-one-year-old interns in the PR department. They usually say things like, “I’m sorry if anyone was hurt by what I said.” Translation: You’re too sensitive. Or, “We just need to put this behind us and move on.” Translation: I’d like to move on as soon as possible, if only you could let me forget that I took money from a booster, used steroids, ran over an old lady with my car, or shoved a fan who trashed my mom. . . . Athletes apologize because they have to. They apologize because they’ve been caught. (p. 20)
  3. We love athletes because they make hard things look easy. (p. 45)
  4. As his mother explained after schools [i.e., colleges] competed for Powe’s favor while he was academically ineligible, “Jerrell really is a good child, but he just can’t read.” (p. 65)
  5. I get the sense that in life not everyone can end up the Big Winner, and I appreciate Dungy giving voice to that fact. Often evangelicals like telling the stories of those who have ended up Big Winners, when in fact, many of us end up somewhere between “anonymous” and “loser.” Life is full of unfulfilled dreams, sick children, boring cubicles, lost jobs, death, and difficult situations sent our way to, I believe, grow us in sanctification. (p. 73)
  6. It’s Thanksgiving weekend 2008, and I’m in my office, which is where I always go to escape awkward family-gathering type situations. One of the hidden blessings of self-employment is that I can always retreat into my office and that retreat can be seen as a virtuous hard-work sort of maneuver. When really it’s just escapism. (p. 82)
  7. Now, there are two kinds of sportswriters in the world—the sloppy, gushy, just-want-to-be-in-the-presence-of-athletes kind, and the cynical kind. I’m the cynical kind, usually. (p. 82)
  8. The awkwardly heavy-handed message in this film is that prayer does things. Specifically, prayer makes your previously soft, weak team good overnight, it allows your noodle-legged field goal kicker with the paraplegic father (tug heartstrings here) to drill a 51-yarder to win state, it gets you a new car, and it allows you and your wife to have a child. These are all good things that I’m glad happened to earnest Coach Grant Taylor, but they are, I think, a gross misrepresentation of prayer and the gospel. (p. 113)
  9. In general, I don’t think most sports fans want their athletes to be entertainers. We have real entertainers for that. I think what many people want to see, when watching sports, is people who are incredibly gifted at a sport and are also incredibly competitive. These are traits that made Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan impossible to ignore. But now that many athletes are expressing themselves on a nonstop basis, it’s easy to wish they wouldn’t. Athletes have gotten a little more cartoonish. And a lot less humble. (p. 136)
  10. Athletes are good at race relations because they aren’t trying to be good at race relations. (p. 141)

Related: Ted Kluck reviews Tim Tebow’s autobiography.


  1. mike wittmer says

    Ted is a very good writer. Thanks for a heads-up on the book. My next door neighbor is a retired sportswriter and he is a bit cynical after decades of covering athletes. And he covered Detroit, not Cleveland.

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