Friday Deep- Draft

Posted on June 4, 2010

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Mel Kiper Jr. is the smartest man in existence.  I know this for a fact.  I don’t know his SAT scores, I don’t know where he went to college, I don’t even know how long it takes him to make instant coffee or decide which pair of socks make the best hand-puppets, but I know he’s smarter than any other person alive.  This is because Mel Kiper Jr. is an NFL draft analyst.  His job is to watch as many college football games as possible, decide which players will make the best NFL players, and then go on TV once a year and analyze the NFL Draft.  That sentence speaks for itself.  Forget about Stephen Hawking or Louis Pasteur- Mel Kiper Jr. INVENTED a job that involves college and NFL football, being on TV, and guessing.  That’s pretty smart.

 It’s harsh to call what NFL draft analysts like Mel Kiper do ‘guessing’.  The process of evaluating collegiate football players for their NFL potential is actually scientific enough for an episode of Star Trek.  The height and weight measurements are only the tip of the iceberg. Theres’s the 40 yard dash, shuttle run, and the bench press.  There’s even an IQ test called the Wonderlic, which sounds like the name of superhero dog.

For quarterbacks, the process is even more intense.  Men with degrees in astrophysics and Nobel Prizes watch every snap a quarterback has ever taken and say things like “his release mechanics need work”, “footwork is very robotic”, and “arm angle is too mandibular on deep throws.  does not drive the ball with his core.”  Everything about every player can, supposedly, be broken down to its basic components and analyzed.

 There’s one phrase that pops up time and again in this laboratory  endeavor, particularlarly with quarterbacks, that is the exact opposite of rational:  “He has that ‘it’ factor.”  ‘It’ is that special quality, what the French call a je ne sais quoi (literally, I know not what) that causes someone to stand out from the crowd in a positive way, like charisma, or confidence or joy.  Whatever ‘it’ is, it’s not scientific.  It can’t be measured or tested for.  No athlete can be said to have “2.7 on the It Scale.”  For a data-driven enterprise like draft analysis, allowing something almost mystical like “It” into the discussion seems out of character.  And yet, it comes up more often than not, in response to the question ‘How do we know he’ll be a good player?  Answer: he has ‘it’.

 Young athletes do not corner the market on the ownership of ‘it’.  Politicians, businessmen, communicators, musicians, ordinary people can all be said, if we notice, to have ‘it’.  It’s an appellation that basically says ‘You have some unseen, non-understandable thing happening’.  It’s borderline religious.  How convenient, then, that this borderline religious quality known as ‘it’ has a genuinely religious, Christian twin:  love.

 1 Corinthians 13 is such a famous passage on love that it’s read at 80% of all weddings and probably should have been read at the other 20%.  It’s so well known that even the guys in ‘Wedding Crashers’ knew about it.  Check out what the apostle Paul writes in that chapter about the prominence of love in a Christian’s life.

        “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”  

Some in the Corinthian church were obsessed with having special abilities and showing off, like speaking in tongues.  But Paul is having none of it. “Being a spiritual dynamo is awesome, guys.  Knowing everything about the Bible- heck, everything, period- is great too.  You can obey Christ until you’re blue in the face, giving away everything and even dying for Him.  But if you don’t love, who cares?  You didn’t do anything.”

 Paul tells us that the defining characteristic of a Christian is love.  Do people notice our obedient life?  Great.  Do they notice the Jesus fishes on our cars?  Tremendous.  Do they notice our rock-solid faiths in the midst of crisis and trouble?  Phenomenal.  But do people, above all, notice that we love others?  

Love is tricky because it’s an attitude, or posture, not a mushy feeling.  Love comes to us in the truth of Jesus, his life and crucifixion.  1 John 4:10 says, “this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us, and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  We don’t know what love looks like without the cross, and we can’t love others until we’ve admitted the truth of our need of a Savior.  And why would we?  Why would we love people we dislike unless we knew that we had had a shared, desperate need of salvation?  Without Christ, we’re good people and others are bad people.  But with the truth of Christ, we’re all bad, and all died for, and so all loved.  That’s the truth that love for others comes from. 

Lots of times in my life people see many more characteristics before they see love.  In fact I think sometimes love is about 49th on the list, between “where are the hubcaps on his car?” and “he seems to only own one pair of pants.”  That’s a tough scouting report to hear.  More often than not, I would rather the world saw the more traditional definition of ‘it’, anyway- big success, tons of respect, people giving me props and thinking I’m great.  Loving everybody?  Not on my radar.  But Paul says without it, I’m not much more than a ring tone.  My love-less life is just a bunch of radio static. 

 Ultimately what people see in us is love.  Imagine If Mel Kiper were evaluating people for the Christian Draft.  “This guy’s got everything you could ask for in a Christian.  His number of daily quiet times is off the charts, his tithing looks great, the length of his prayers is outstanding, his durability is unquestioned- never missed a day of church.  And he does the little things, with multiple mission trips on his resume.  He looks great on film, there’s nothing on the surface that would prevent him from being a stud at the next level.  The only question is intangibles, because that’s the deciding criteria.  Does he have that ‘it’ factor?”

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