Coach scolds team for playing video games

By November 21, 2011 Sports In Focus

Louisville’s Head Football Coach Charlie Strong is placing some of the blame for his team’s loss to Pittsburgh on a video game. He was critical of his players who stayed up late playing the recently released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 before their game with Pittsburgh.

Strong knew it had distracted his team when he heard players talking about the video game and saw their posts about it on Twitter. “I said on Tuesday we have guys that miss class because they want to stay (up) all night and play that video game, whatever it was,” Strong said Monday at his weekly news conference. “I didn’t even know what it was, but it’s such a big deal.”

One of his players was so excited that he posted this tweet the night it was released: “Call of Duty at midnight!!!! #Gamerwithapassion.”

“I said to the players (Sunday) that’s why I talk about today and not tomorrow,” Strong said. “You had your opportunity and you can’t let it slip by. There’s a great example right there. If we would have taken care of our business, look where we’d be sitting right now.”

Video games have become one of the biggest influences on recreational activities in our culture. Gamers spend 18 hours per week playing games. More income is generated by video games than by films from Hollywood. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sold more than $775 million in it’s first five days in stores. It’s game franchise is on par with the biggest entertainment brands like the Harry Potter and Star Wars movies.

Let’s be clear. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with playing most video games. For sure, some are too violent and include sexually explicit content. But most games are not that different from the games many young people played 30 years ago. No doubt, the Madden video game is far more advanced than the electric football tabletop game I played on a metal vibrating field, but the nature of the games is not different.

The real issue for the Louisville players and most kids today is idolatry. Idolatry is not just bowing down to some wooden statue as a god. It is more often something in our lives that takes the place of God. It could be the games we play, a friendship, food or any type of leisure activity. Many times the desire for wanting a good gift from God can become a sinful craving. John Calvin said, “The evil in our desires usually does not lie in what we want but that we WANT IT TOO MUCH.” There is an endless list of things that can become too important in our lives.

So how can we know when we want or desire something too much? In his excellent book, Seeing with New Eyes, David Powlison suggests responding to a group of questions he calls “X-ray questions.” Here are a few questions on the list.

1. What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?

2.  What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? The greatest pain or misery?

3. What do you think about most often? What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?

4. What are your idols and false gods? What do you turn to or seek? Where do you take refuge?

This kind of self-examination is helpful, but we can also identify idolatry in our lives by using the Bible, the Holy Spirit and the feedback of other believers. CJ Mahaney teaches that we can also discover idolatry by evaluating our responses to the effects of adversity or prosperity. How we respond to either adversity or prosperity in our lives will often reveal if something has become a cheap substitute for God.

The key in this battle is to detect the idolatry in our hearts so we can destroy its source. For example, if we’re spending so much time playing video games that it distracts us from our relationship with God and other priorities, we might need to make a shift in our thinking and behavior.

You can listen to a condensed radio version of this blog here.

1. Discuss each X-ray question. How do you think most of your friends would respond to each of these questions?

2. Besides video games, what other activities can potentially dominate your time?

3. Read Hebrews 4:12, ” For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” What does this verse teach us about identifying idolatry?

4. Read Psalms 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” What does this verse teach about identifying idolatry?

5. How can your friends help you discern if there is any idolatry in your heart?

6. Explain how adversity and prosperity can help you identify idolatry.


Gordon Thiessen has served on staff with the Nebraska FCA since 1986. Currently, he is the Director or Training and Resources for the Nebraska FCA. He has a weekly blog, Sports In Focus. You can subscribe to the podcast at itunes and the blog here.He has also founded Cross Training Publishing ( He has written Team Studies on Character and edited The Athletes Topical Bible. He is married to Terri and has four grown children. You can find out more information about the Nebraska FCA at

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