When the Game Stands Tall: A Conversation by Kelly Mize

Last week, I had an opportunity to speak with Bob Ladouceur and Terry Eidson, the coaches portrayed in the new movie, When the Game Stands Tall, starring Jim Caviezel and Laura Dern. It’s the story of an impressive high school football team that held twelve consecutive undefeated seasons, setting a national record winning streak of 151 consecutive wins. I spoke with the movie-inspiring coaches about faith, family, and football.

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What advice could you share with parents of young children who want their kids to be involved in sports?

BL: Go ahead and get them involved in sports early, as they want to be involved, if they ask to, and then back off. Let them do what they can do. I think it’s a great learning experience no matter what happens, whether they’re doing well, or even if they can’t hack it. However, when parents get involved trying to micro-manage, it just turns into a mess. It doesn’t do the kids any good to have their parents fighting battles for them. They’re going to have to learn how to lose and be disappointed. That’s a part of life.

I love the way that this movie uses Bible passages to subtly illustrate, without being “preachy.” What role did/does your faith play in your coaching, and in your life?

BL: It’s infused in every part of your life if you call yourself a Christian. If you try your faith on like a shirt, take it on and off in different situations, that’s pretty lame, not being true to your faith.

TE: One of my favorite professors in seminary said, “Once you understand Scripture, there’s only one way you can act.” That’s always behind the curtain of everything I do.

One of the things that seemed to make your teams strong was the love the players had for each other. How did you encourage this attitude with your players and within your own family?

BL: Kids in middle/high school around the ages of 14-18 are searching for identity, a place to belong. They sometimes have a tendency to be narcissistic or myopic about it: What’s in it for me? What am I getting out of it? We tried to teach the kids that having that attitude is not how you make connections, not how you improve yourself as a human. It’s about understanding the other person, reaching out to other people and showing real concern and empathy for them. This comes in teachable moments, in listening to your kids and the way they speak to each other. We made it a point to stop and correct. “Is that building someone up or tearing them down?” As coaches, we spent an inordinate amount of time reinforcing this.

TE: Respect authority, be thankful for what people do for you, clean up after yourself, think about others. For parents, teachers, and coaches, it’s also not about being the good guy all the time. A greater love is always out there to learn.

I live in Alabama where football is a way of life and high school football is huge. How can families maintain the perspective that football is “just a game”?

BL: No matter what you’re doing, when it’s all said and done, just say to yourself, “Does this really matter?” The important things are God, family, kids, loved ones; all the other stuff, it doesn’t matter much.

TE: I think it’s great that families go to games together. Have a passion for your team, but keep the perspective that what’s really important is who you are, not the team you root for. Families can be inspired by a team’s playing and effort, but at the end of the day its important who you are.

Do you think non-football fans will enjoy this story?

BL: It’s not just about football; it’s wrapped around the human lives. The human lives are not wrapped around the football, it’s vice versa.

LE: It’s about building a team, and family is a pretty important team. In the focus groups, the film was very popular among women and mothers, even those who did not like football.

Any last words for parents of children ages 3-11 trying to balance work, family, and fun?

BL: When you do get that rare free time, try to make it family-time. When my kids were younger, I always tried to make it a point to read to them or ask about their day. Hearing some sacred thing in their lives was important. This season doesn’t last forever.

This applies to marriage too: I think one of the most important things is to never leave each other or go to bed, without telling your kids you love them and hugging them. It makes a huge difference. I think that’s critical, that human touch and connection.

When the Game Stands Tall opened in theaters on August 22. It is rated PG.

Trends & Truth Online with Mika Nappa: Talking The Hobbit with Dr. Timothy Paul Jones

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Dr. Timothy Paul Jones is a distinguished theologian, a professor at The Southern Baptist Seminary, and editor of the Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry. Oh, he’s also a pop culture savant and expert on J.R.R. Tolkien. We recently got him talking about The Hobbit movie―care to listen in?

T&TO: What should every parent know about The Hobbit?

Jones: The Hobbit will span three films: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and There and Back Again (2014). The films are based on a book from J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien wrote the book for children, although the book’s readership has long since transcended any age limitation.

Even though The Hobbit will hit theaters a decade after The Lord of the Rings films, this reversed order wasn’t the case when it comes to the books. The first version of The Hobbit book was published in 1937, several years prior to the first installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

If The Hobbit films follow Tolkien’s text, there will be a lot of wizardry and a bit of burglary, a couple of quite violent conflicts, and plenty of puffing on pipe-weed. The Hobbit films are likely to provide foundations for fruitful family discussions about magic and morals, wealth and war, and more.

 

T&TO: The Hobbit is overwhelmingly favored by Christian groups, but some parents warn that kind of blanket endorsement is potentially harmful. Your thoughts?

Jones: Part of this favor in the Christian community stems from the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings originated within a Christian worldview. In fact, Tolkien took the very term “Middle-earth” from an Old English poem about Christ’s ascension! Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and God used Tolkien to bring C.S. Lewis to faith in Jesus Christ.

When asked about the religious perspective of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien described the trilogy as “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion,’ to cults or practices, in the Imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”

I would suggest that this is no less true of The Hobbit. Although the work is certainly no allegory—Tolkien despised allegories—the characters are deeply symbolic, representing humanity’s deep sense of exile as well as our struggle not to center our lives on the pursuit of earthly wealth or power.

Despite the origins of The Hobbit in a Christian worldview, I would agree that a blanket endorsement is undeserved—and I’d say the same about any other work of popular art and culture. Here’s why: Such endorsements can unintentionally provide parents with a false comfort, the idea that they can place this book or movie or digital download in front of their children without having to engage in critique or conversation about it.

Visit Dr. Jones online at: www.TimothyPaulJones.com.

Will you and/or your kids go see The Hobbit movie? It releases December 14th, this Friday.

Should Smoking Be Rated R? Trends & Truth Online with Mike Nappa

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If James Sargent, M.D., of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, had his way, cigarette smoking in any movie would automatically earn an “R” rating. Same for films with cigars, pipes, and the like. Here’s why:

When young kids see people smoking onscreen, that becomes something of a “product placement” advertisement that’s repeated and reinforced through frequent viewings—and which might influence kids’ attitudes toward the habit. Dr. Sargent and his colleagues conducted a study of 6522 preteens and early teens, trying to measure scientifically the impact smoking in movies may or may not have on children. According to Everydayhealth.com, Sargent’s research suggests that, “Kids 10 to 14 years old were 49 percent more likely to have tried a cigarette for every 500 they saw smoked on the screen in PG-13 movies.”

“It is the movie smoking that prompts adolescents to smoke,” Sargent’s team emphasized in their report, “not other characteristics of R-rated movies or adolescents drawn to them.”

In response to these findings, the study’s originators have a simple recommendation: Give all movie smoking an “R” rating.

The thinking is that an “R” rating would make it harder for preteens and young teens to see repeated product placement of cigarettes in movies. In the researchers’ opinion, that would reduce underage smoking by at least 18%—a significant number in today’s American society.

According to the Surgeon General’s office, the smoking habit almost always begins in adolescence. About 2400 youth and young adults become regular smokers each day, with about 90% trying their first cigarette before the age of 18. What’s more, cigarette-sized cigars are so popular in youth culture today that one in five high school males smoke cigars.

A strategy that would help postpone the onset of adolescent smoking would drastically reduce adult smoking (and smoking-related illnesses) in years to come. Why? Because, according to the Surgeon General, “Almost no one starts smoking after age 25.”

This is why Dr. Sargent calls for an “R” rating on movies that contain smoking. Refusing a PG-13 (or less) rating for tobacco-fueled films would, in theory at least, keep anyone under 17 from being exposed (without parental consent) to the negative influence of onscreen smoking. If Dr. Sargent is correct, that in turn would measurably reduce the prevalence of underage smoking in America.

And so now the question is out there:

Should smoking be rated “R” in movies?

Or does that take social censorship too far, paving the way for “R” ratings for films that feature other bad health habits, such as eating fatty foods or drinking coffee and soda?

And how does an “R” rating criteria in cinema impact smoking and other bad habits displayed on television?

What do you think, ParentLife families? Take time to talk about it in your home this week.

 

Have a pop culture question for Trends & Truths? Email it to parentlife@lifeway.com!

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Mike Nappa is a bestselling author, a noted commentator on pop culture, and founder of the website for parents, FamilyFans.com.