I’ve always been just a bit too practical for my own good. Playing house as a kid? Nope, not happening. Dressing up? Absolutely out of the question. After all, in my mind it was just “made up,” and I wasn’t having it.
The single exception my little, black-and-white mind was willing to make was in the realm of books. Although I didn’t participate in “made up” games, nothing could beat the world of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy… except maybe that of Louisa May Alcott’s lesser known character, Polly of Old Fashioned Girl. I traveled through the Old West, across the ocean, back in time, through harrowing adventures, and re-lived great love stories in the pages of so many wonderful books.
As I grew up, or at least grew older, I meshed my practical mind with my love of reading, and dove wholeheartedly into the world of autobiographies. I find stories based on real events and people so fascinating. They carry an undertone of our commonalities as humans while showcasing the different paths through life our individual choices can make.
Reading and Playing
I’ve also always been a huge sports junkie. One of the best moments of my life was walking into Cameron Indoor (any Dukies out there?).
Pope Pius XII wrote the following in regards to sports:
Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor; it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance. It is not merely a physical development then. Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator.
Favorite Autobiographies from Athletes
In the midst of what seems like so much mess in the modern sports world, it can be difficult to see the benefit outlined by Pope Pius XII. However, in the following list I’ve found some true gems that give me hope that sport can be, and should be beneficial on our path to Heaven.
Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow does an incredible amount of evangelizing with his professional athlete platform. His book gives quite a bit of insight into growing up with missionary parents and how their faith informed all that they did, including sports.
Tim’s parents were advised to not carry his pregnancy to term, as there were complications. Doctors claimed that he would be too malnourished to survive. Tim’s parents entrusted the pregnancy to God. And if you’ve seen Tim Tebow recently, well, he seems to be quite well-nourished. It’s an incredible pro-life story that kicks off an inspiring life. Well worth the read.
Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away by Ben Utecht
Former NFL football player Ben Utecht tells his story of God, football, family, concussions, and how they’ve forever changed his life. This one is a little sad and even unsettling, as real life stories often are. However, Ben handles his situation with grace and hope.
This is a very interesting look into the concussion dilemma facing the NFL from the perspective of a person who clearly still loves the game. While his football experience is the overarching theme of the book, Ben does a fantastic job of fleshing out the real people and experiences behind the glamourous image of the League.
They Call Me Coach by John Wooden
You know those, “If you could eat lunch with anyone…” questions? John Wooten is at the top of my list. I would love to be in the presence of his wisdom. This man did an incredible job of balancing the important things in life with the sport that he loved, all while making it a vehicle for teaching life skills.
For those who may not know his story, John coached the famed UCLA men’s basketball team to an unheard of seven consecutive national championships, and a total of ten in his twelve years at the university. Despite all of this success, he continued to place the development of his players first. My favorite line from his book reads:
Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.
Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton
I admit it, I’m a little biased. Josh played for my hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds, after he made his comeback, so I’m a big fan. His story, one of falling prey to drug addiction and eventually being banned from baseball, is likely not that unusual in a game where big money is thrown around. However, the unusual part comes when he manages to find his way back with his family’s help and support coupled with the grace of God.
While he is honest about continuing to fight his demons, he made his way back into baseball and has had a successful career. I believe that this story of redemption will strike a chord in all of us. No matter how many mistakes we make, God’s grace is waiting on us, pursuing us, pulling us back to Him.
Champions of Faith: Catholic Sports Heroes Tell Their Stories by Thomas O’Toole
This book is filled with interviews that will give you so much hope for the possibility of sport properly directed and the incredible results that can be gained. You will likely recognize a lot of these names, but what you may not know is how they quietly lived out their Faith within their respective sports.
These stories are a true reminder of the fact that no matter what our call in life may be, we are called to live out our Faith in our daily lives.
What are some of your favorite autobiographies by athletes?
Bridget Franer is a Midwest girl who spends most of her time trying to single handedly keep Chick-Fil-A in business, working a full time job, working out(to make up for the Chick-Fil-A,) and being the fun aunt of 6 adorable kiddos. Find out more about her rather average life here.
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