Football and Fathering

I confess to really enjoying NFL and college football. As far as I see it, there are only two seasons in the year: football season and “other.” I also confess to having a hopelessly irrational thirty-five year addiction and love affair with the New York football Giants. I know, there is no accounting for taste. You can imagine, in recent years, I have been a happy fan. So, if you are a Giant hater, please forgive me, but the Lord often speaks to me and moves me deeply from sports metaphors, particularly football. I want to talk about the Manning family as it relates to fathering.

For those who do not follow the sport, the quarterback for the New York Giants is Eli Manning. Eli has won two championships, as well as being MVP in both games. His older brother Peyton won a championship with the Indianapolis Colts. He was MVP of that game, as well as being the league MVP a record four  times.

They are the sons of Archie and Olivia Manning. Archie had a stellar college career at Mississippi state and Ole Miss. However, he got his brains beat out on a weekly basis playing in the NFL for what was a very weak New Orleans Saints team at the time. As  a young lad, I can remember Archie running for his life, getting the dickens pounded out of him, as he valiantly tried to help his team win. Not only did Archie never win a championship, the New Orleans teams he played for, were dismal laughing stocks of the league. Even as a boy, I can remember feeling so sorry for Archie, watching him get literally pummeled, week after week.

To me, this is the essence of fathering: being willing to have your brains beat out, not seeing any success, so someone who shares your DNA can come after you and succeed beyond your wildest dreams. There is nothing like the joy in a father’s heart to see his children realize dreams that he never could. As a “father,” I actually get teary-eyed when I think of the joy that must reside in Archie and Olivia’s hearts when they see what their sons have accomplished.

Paul captures the essence of spiritual fathering so well in one of my all-time favorite verses: 2 Cor. 12:15.  The Corinthians, were a people for whom he was significantly responsible for birthing into the kingdom in the first place, and for whom he had apostolic care and oversight. They were in the process of rejecting him personally, the message he was carrying, and his fathering/oversight relationship to them. He wasn’t flashy enough for them. In the presence of a staggering level of emotional and literal rejection, Paul writes to them and says:

I will very gladly, spend and be spent by you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. (2 Cor. 12:15)

This is the essence of fathering. Folks, there is much talk these days about spiritual fathering. It has nothing to do with networks, accountability, submission, authority, “tithing up-stream,” government, ruling, and other control grids.

A spiritual father is someone whose love for you is unstoppable by circumstance, or your own rejection of him. A spiritual father is willing to have his metaphorical brains beat out, for your sake, that you might succeed. If we really believe in “generational vision” and “generational transfer” and “raising up the next generation,” as spiritual fathers-mothers, our own dreams are the fertilizer for others. The younger generation doesn’t exist to make our dreams come true (It’s nice if it’s mutual, but it is neither necessary nor required). We exist for them . . . our sorrow, our loss, our failure, our lack of “success,” becomes the fuel to make them champions  . . . when absorbed in Calvary, liberty and a prevailing love one with another in relationship. The battles I may fight today, that do not seem to produce desirable outcome, are merely investment in a son’s future victory.

NOTHING offered in genuine faith (not our own imaginations, but genuine relational faith) to, for, in, and on behalf of Jesus Christ is EVER wasted. It is not possible for His kingdom to suffer decrease.  The fruit just might not be in my lifetime. Oh, there will be fruit, as surely as Eli and Peyton are the fruit of Archie’s labor’s spent, how much more so, shall you and I be as the fruit of the Lord’s labor spent?  How much more so, those in whom we have invested our life’s virtue, and perhaps seen no return in our mortal days? God thinks generationally for His purpose, not individually for success. Our individual “success and acclaim,” or lack thereof, is of no concern to Him.

Ah, the issue is, our desire, yes, even our demand to see a desirable determined outcome for our “efforts for Jesus.”   In effect, we still think and act like employees, expecting “just recompense” for “efforts provided.” That is the opposite of fathering.  Our desire and demand to see a determined result on our efforts is nothing other than refusing to let God be God . . . we are still lord’s of our own life, dictating the terms of employment for the factory-master in the sky. So sad. Genuine spiritual fathers have given up their rights to desirable determined outcomes . . . for the sake of Jesus’s interests in others.

If you are interested in more on this topic, I recommend our little booklet: Father-Son Ministry, that re-examines some themes that are prevalent today regarding “spiritual fathers and sons,” particularly the ethos that wants to make younger people the personal property and perpetual slaves on the plantation of an older person’s frustrated carnal ambitions for greatness. That is not spiritual fathering. The booklet can be found in soft cover or Kindle at the Online Mall tab at

Copyright 2012,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

13 comments on “Football and Fathering

  1. No problem, Steve. Sure, I forgive you for being a Giant’s fan. College 1st/NFL second as my only favorite sports. Refreshing, topic you bring our way. Including Archie getting brains beat out. Of note,in recent interview, he was asked his favorite moment in his football career. In light of his hard knocks you bring to light; his answer is of note. His answer? “The entire journey. It’s what I wanted to do as a kid” Great response and a keeper. Sometimes, believers go through what seems like our brains are getting kicked in. When asked same question as Archie was. “The entire journey” would be a hopeful/cool response.
    Robert Stonefelt

    • Thanks Robert, I actually agree . . . I think the college game is more fun. What a great response from Archie to that question, and indeed, would to God our rsponse would be he same. God help me. Love you much.

  2. I am blessed to the point of being speechless to have this fathering in my life thanks to Stephen and Rita Crosby who have sacrificed more than I will ever know so I an succeed.

  3. As always Steve, very well put. The Lord has blessed you with the gift to put into words exactly what others are feeling. You seem to capture the heart of what the Lord is doing in others for I bear witness to what you have said. I recently left the network/fellowship I was in not willingly but because the dues are needed elsewhere given current economic conditions. At first I thought, “Oh no.” Now I see that it is where I/we need to be right now. Thanks again!

  4. Having read this post, Steve, I can only conclude that genuine spiritual fathering is rarely to be found (certainly here in the UK). I remember being very young in the faith and discussing the Paul / Timothy ‘dynamic’ with a church elder… sheepishly asking him whether he would be ‘Paul’ to this ‘Timothy’. He didn’t say no. But neither did he say yes. Instead he said something along the lines of, “sit under the preaching”… as if that was enough in and of itself.
    I’m not bitter, and I’m past being angry. It’s just one of many frustrations with the institutional church system that I’m learning to live without. Nonetheless, I am disappointed not to have been ‘well fathered’ in the faith. I hope that as I grow up in the faith myself that I can actually be one who ‘breaks the chain’ and is able to provide this much needed selfless commitment to the next spiritual generation.

    • I totally understand. Been there myself. Yes, the real thing is rare, but that is the definition of treasure: rarity. Over the years the Lord has told me, that if I would let him, he would make me be to others, what I never got myself . . . that is how he redeems the pain of our past. I hear the same cry in you.

  5. Stephen, that was a very good story. It is very applicable to the kind of spiritual fathers that are needed in the kingdom. We should want to see others go beyond where we have gone. We should want to see others who come into the Kingdom bring more honor to our Lord than we did; therefore they should be better fathers in the faith than we have been.

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