I was at the '98 NFC Championship game when Robert Smith went steamrolling down to the twenty yard line late in the fourth quarter to put us in range for a field goal that would have given the Vikings a ten point lead with three minutes left and sealed our trip to the Super Bowl. I watched as Smith pumped his fist in a rare display of emotion as the crowd (myself included) chanted "Super Bowl! Super Bowl!" What followed was the most sickening letdown I have ever experienced as a sports fan and something that Red Sox fans only understand in their imagination.
Not that it was Robert's fault however. I came to admire him more than any other athlete I have cheered for. His selflessness and determination were unparalleled. He never acted like he was on Soul Train when he scored a touchdown, he just simply handed the ball over to the ref and acted like he had been there before. His long graceful strides on his way to those 60 yard touchdown runs were a thing of beauty. I was truly saddened by his sudden retirement after the 2000 season.
So of course I ran out to get a copy of Robert's new autobiography, The Rest of the Iceberg. I was not however expecting to get a theology lesson from him. I knew that Robert was not a Christian (neither was I when he was playing), but I didn't know just how different he was from the perception I had of him in his playing days. This man has one of the biggest egos I have ever come across. His stereotypical atheist views are put forth as some of the most profound ideas ever to grace the printed page. His reflections on how he has gone out of his way to visit kids with cancer and bring so much joy into their otherwise hopeless existence are saturated in subtle self-glorification.
As for his religious views, he spends most of the book throwing in subtle antichristian references like when he is preaching about how we need education reform in America he says "We waste our time trying to introduce ridiculous concepts like 'intelligent design' into school curriculums when most of our kids can't even spell the phrase." Then in chapter 9 he introduces us to Jesus as "a man who is celebrated for certain achievements or attributes" and "a role model and hero." Then after making vague statements about the absurdity of believing in the divinity of Jesus and the arrogance and judgmentalism of those who hold such beliefs, he goes on to tell us how it really is. We've all heard this song before, but do we really need to hear it from a pro athlete?
Aside from his intolerance and judgmentalism of religious intolerance and judgmentalism, the book was fairly insightful about the inside world of professional sports, which is why I bought it. I do not need to read a cookbook that says "add 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of flour and by the way, there is no God!" Sorry, but if the extent of your theological training is growing up in Catholic school and a few conversations with Cris Carter and Randall Cunningham then you are not qualified to teach me theology. It's ironic that he spends so much time preaching about how misinformed Americans are in their decision making and then goes on to prove it by his complete ignorance of Christianity. So to the man who Jim Rome called "the smartest man in the NFL" I would say that if there is a book that has shaped western civilization more than any other book in the world and you have not read it then you are illiterate. And it's a good thing you retired from football early because you wouldn't want to injure that knee that you will someday bow as you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.