(Update: I created a second post that answers many of the concerns in the comments. You can read it here, if you haven’t already.)
Sometime over the Summer – or perhaps it was early Fall – I watched an episode Life on the Rock where Philip Rivers was interviewed. (Note: Video may not work any more; I believe the interview was conducted by Father Francis Mary. I have searched for a copy on YouTube, but to no avail.) He spoke a bit about his faith, about how his proposal to his college sweetheart (a cheerleader!) was not a mistake, how he is happy to be married in spite of what teammates might think.
One would think that someone who appears on EWTN and talks about how important his faith is to him would be more discerning about his behavior.
Philip Rivers has, in recent games, acted in a manner totally unbefitting of a Catholic. Trash talking at the Broncos game. Taunting Colts fans.
Seriously, is this how he thinks Catholic athletes should act?
I hope Philip Rivers’ family and his priest discuss his unmanly behavior with him. His uncharitible behavior. I don’t care if his trash talk at the Broncos game was “no different than any other game I’ve ever played in since I was 10 years old.” When the cameras continually catch you looking like this:
… you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. You’ve got some apologies to make. If you’ve got no bad blood between you and the other guy, you publically come out and tell people you’re sorry that you’ve had this attitude – even if it’s just a perception, for perception is reality for those of us who are watching you in snippets on television – and that you’re going to work on being a better sportsman in the future. Then you shut your mouth and keep your head down.
In the past, I have pointed him out to my daughters. They love to see committed Christians – especially Catholics – in the public eye. It’s good to see someone live out their faith in a culture where everything seems to be telling you not to pay attention to some dead Guy from 2000 years ago.
When Philip Rivers takes the field, all those young men who watched him on EWTN are looking at him as a role model. Like it or not, he came out and said I’m a Catholic. I live out my faith in the face of ridicule. It’s possible to do that. Just watch me! and became a role model to them all.
But when he taunts Indianapolis fans in the last minutes of the game and has shouting matches with them, he’s not showing how possible it is to live the faith. Tony Dungee had way more class than Rivers last night. Calm and collected, he warmly congratulated the Chargers on their victory. He didn’t show anger. He didn’t taunt anyone. He took his loss like a man.
Watching Rivers last night, I was reminded about a portion of Champions of Faith when Mike Sweeny discussed his run-in with a pitcher. He was angry and had multiple fights with the other player; when he arrived at the youth group that weekend, one of the girls from his parish came to him, crying, asking why he acted that way. “I am so disappointed!” she told him. He apologized to her. Even if he felt justified in the moment, he realized that he should have been setting an example that the children at his parish could follow; he did not do that. It took him years to apologize to the pitcher, but he eventually did that, as well. He realized that he needed to be an example for his son, and he could not be a good example if he didn’t apologize for what he’d done.
This is what Philip Rivers must do. Humble himself. And that is pretty hard to do, especially when he’s got most of the sporting world telling him he’s The Man.
Philip, take another look at yourself. Don’t just watch the game tapes this week, but also take in what the media has shown us – your attitude. Is that the kind of attitude you want your children to emulate? Anyone’s children? Shape up, kiddo, and make a public apology for your poor sportsmanship. It will not be easy, and you might not even feel you need to, but it’s the right thing to do. Millions of young Catholics started looking up to you after that interview. Besides, you’re not The Man.