As a Christian, I am always happy to hear an athlete or coach give God credit when talking about their accomplishments on the field.
Last night, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and head coach Gene Chizik did just that. Each seemed genuine and sincere.
It did, however, strike me a little odd that Cam Newton said that his journey to the BCS championship at Auburn proved how God could take a bad thing and make it good.
That sort of statement is usually reserved for people who face adversity that is not of their own doing, or face adverse circumstances beyond their control. It hardly feels right when it is used by a person whose family has been under investigation and whose father is told by school officials to stay away from the game because of allegations of impropriety.
Everyone knows about the NCAA's investigation into Cecil Newton's activities regarding the attempted selling of his son's services to the highest bidder. Mr. Newton, pastor of the Holy Zion Center of Deliverance in Newnan, GA appeared to have become tired of waiting on God to deliver his struggling congregation and turned to another savior, his insanely talented son, Cam.
A refresher on the controversy from the New York Times follows:
ESPN.com and other news outlets reported that John Bond, a former Mississippi State quarterback, said he was approached by a former teammate on behalf of Cecil Newton, who was seeking $180,000 in exchange for sending his son there.
And Cecil Newton told ESPN.com that N.C.A.A. investigators requested bank statements and other documents related to his small church here, the Holy Zion Center of Deliverance, which has struggled to keep the city from condemning a building that needed extensive repairs.
To date, Cam Newton has been cleared of any wrongdoing. He was cleared to play out the season and led his Auburn Tigers against the Oregon Ducks in the BCS Championship Game, which he did quite successfully.
Cam's Tigers won the surprisingly low scoring game on a last second field goal. Final score: 22–19.
Regarding the NCAA's findings on the Newton scandal, an article in teamspeedkills.com by "Cocknfire" (um, that has to be a user name, right?) sums it up nicely:
The NCAA essentially ruled today that there are no conspiracy charges when it comes to the Association's bylaws. You can dissect the statement anyway you want, you can point to Mike Slive's judicial (and overly judicious) reasoning if you want, but the NCAA today ruled that trying to sell your son to the highest bidder isn't that bad if you don't actually get any money in the end. Cecil Newton can still look for Dan Mullen to put a smile on his face as long as he never actually smirks.
If you are old enough to remember the Iran-Contra flap during the Reagan administration, you will recall that the essential question concerning the president was, "What did he know and when did he know it?"
Does God care who wins a football game?
Same thing here.
An excerpt from the NCAA's ruling essentially says that they failed to uncover evidence that Cam knew his dad was a dirtbag.
[T]he student-athlete's father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football...
"Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement."
Giving Cam the benefit of the doubt, we can say that he did not know his dad was doing his dead-level best to whore out his son's talents in the name of God. If so, what is the issue with Cam, a young man of faith, giving God the glory for his accomplishments?
Nothing. Nothing, whatsoever.
Just don't give God the credit for rewarding your narrow escape from an NCAA suspension with a national championship. God doesn't reward dirty dealing and cover-ups. And besides, he didn't bring "something good" out of all that bad. Who exactly was it "good" for and what difference does it make in the larger scheme of things if Auburn wins a title and not Oregon?
I don't think God takes sides in football games (Well, not since Tom Landry patrolled the sidelines and God watched his favorite team through that hole in the Texas Stadium roof). Nor do I think Auburn's win was God making something good out of a bad situation. It was more a product of an over-matched Oregon team whose defensive line was outweighed by Auburn's offensive line by an average of 45 pounds per man.
That, and the tricked-up, high school looking offense Oregon runs, which works better when playing lesser beings, but not so well against real football teams from the SEC.
There was also the mistake of going for a touchdown rather than kicking a field goal on fourth and one at the goal line.
While Cam Newton is in the thanksgiving mode, he might offer a prayer of gratitude that he was facing a no-defense-having, wild-ass offense-boasting Oregon team and not the TCU Horned Frogs for the National Championship.
Thank God for that, Cam.