Ted Kluck loves Jesus. Ted Kluck loves the Church. Ted Kluck also loves sport.
The Reason For Sports (2009, Moody Press, 154pgs) enjoys the subtitle ‘A Christian Fanifesto’. Very cleverly it disguises the fact it is series of twelve largely unrelated essays, some adapted from columns that Kluck has written for magazines.
Kluck seeks to reflect on the passion that he and countless others share for competitive sport and relate those reflections to a Christian worldview. Watching individuals or teams excell at the highest levels, taking pleasure from the success of those whom you support, and generally feeling deflated when they lose. Many of these high achieving individuals also veer dangerously toward atitudes and actions which can be self-destructive and wrong. Yet the fascination with them remains.
The book is written from a US context so many of the names will be unfamiliar to Australian readers, apart from boxers Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson and golfer Tiger Woods. I did not know that Ricky Williams, an NFL player of repute, left the game and spent time in an Australian commune.
In spite of the fact that the stories involve athletes and teams who are largely anonymous, the names of Australians almost implant themselves on some of these narratives: Warne, Ablett, Carey, Fevola, Sailor, almost any Rugby League player have had their personal failings and transgressions played out in the public arena and the situations described here echo aspects of stories with which we are familiar. As someone who remembers the first premiership/competition wins of the Queensland State of Origin, Wynnum-Manly Seagulls, Brisbane Broncos, Queensland Cricket and Brisbane Lions the pleasures and the pains of which Kluck writes are very familiar.
His writing style is also very engaging with an amusing and self-deprecating voice, which make his writing an easy read.
Because these figures achieve with such passion and with such visibility their successes and failures are larger than life. It is in his observations about character, fame, fallenness and morality that emerge from these big canvasses that he draws conclusions that are applicable to the lives of all people.
Most of us want to identify with success of our heroes and disavow them in their failings. Kluck points out that their successes in the arena are most likely beyond our capacities, but that their personal failings are far more likely to be reflected, in some measure, in our lives and it it here that we (and they) can learn our lessons.
This is a thoughtful book that can be picked up and read from at any point. You could read it in a sitting or come back to it over a period of time.
There are insights about the Creator, the Redeemer and the human condition, both fallen and redeemed.
Most sports fans who are happy to read the sports section of the newspaper should happily be able to get through it without any problems at all.
A good gift for someone who enjoys sport, but also likes to have a bit of a think about deeper issues.
The Reason For Sports is available at Koorong.