Monday, September 11, 2006

US Open Champion Maria Sharapova & Obeying God

This past Saturday Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova won her second grand slam tournament when she beat Justine Henin-Hardenne in the US Open. If you are a tennis fan you no doubt enjoyed seeing some of the best tennis players in the world as well as the farewell appearance of Andre Agassi.

If you’re not a tennis fan you may not be aware that there is a rule that no coaching can take place during tournament play. Even though your coach may be seated in the stands a few feet from the court there is not supposed to be any verbal or non-verbal communication taking place.

Apparently during tournament play Sharapova’s father and her hitting partner were at one point holding up a banana and holding up four fingers. In a post tournament interview Sharapova was asked to explain the hand signals she was receiving from her support people.

Sharapova explained that during the match she gets so focused on tennis that she forgets to drink water and hydrate herself. The hand signals were meant to simply be a reminder.

With that explanation Sharapova indicated to reporters that she didn’t want to talk about the subject of unfair communication any more. She said, “Right now I’m sitting here as a US Open champion, and the last thing I think people need to worry about is a banana.”

I like Maria Sharapova and I enjoy watching her play tennis. In the matches that I’ve watched she has always conducted herself with class and professionalism. And, I don’t like to nit pick. However, it doesn’t matter if you’re being reminded to hydrate or if you’re being reminded to hold your racket a certain way for a drop shot, it is still receiving coaching during the tournament.

Why am I putting that little act under the microscope? The receiving of illegal coaching and the demand that it be dismissed as a matter of interest is a reflection of how our world thinks today. Many who believe that there is a God and that someday we will stand before Him to give an account of how we spent our lives, also believe that they are going to be able to insist that God not look at certain behaviors. Some live like they are going to be able to say, “I’m a US Open champion (good, charitable, fair, hard-working, kind person) and the last thing I think You ought to worry about is a banana (cheating, lying, selfishness, etc.).”

On that day you won’t be able to control the press or your image. God will be in control. And, the only hope you’ll have is that you already received forgiveness for sin from Jesus Christ and that you followed Him as Your Lord. Friend, that’s worth reflecting on.


Anonymous said...

You make God out to be a bad guy. Is he really that harsh? Doesn't God love unconditionally? Doesn't he forgive us? Is it a clear cut case of cheating or is she being judged?


Scott Brewer said...


I don't know if Sharapova clearly cheated or not. The point was that she didn't even want to talk about it, even if it clarified the situation in her favor. Read the trascript of her press conference. It is that attitude I'm highlighting.

As for God I would say He is anything but harsh. He is full of grace and mercy and forgiveness. But, God gives all the grace and mercy and forgiveness we're ever going to get before we die and stand before Him. At the point where we stand before Him on the day of accountability there will be no second chances and that is not harsh at all.

Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Do you think God would create a law that would deprive a person of food and drink during strenuous exercise? No! He is inviting us to a banquet! It sounds as though Maria is a bit compulsive and needs a little intervention to help remind her to stay healthy.

Sometimes we need to disobey manmade law (legalism)in order to obey God. I see Maria's attitude as a rejection of legalism, not God. Some people have attitudes and just need help putting words to them in order to express themselves better.

There is coming a day when some will need to make a choice to obey manmade law or obey God - take the mark of the beast or not - obey God or obey the law to buy and sell.

We need to start practicing discernment and openly questioning some of the laws that are being made out of fear - not whether we are capable of obeying or not but WHO we are obeying.

Scott Brewer said...

Dear Anonymous Friend:

You share an interesting reflection. Two thoughts occur to me. 1) My point was not that Maria was disobeying God. My point was that Maria seemed to be avoiding authority and avoiding taking responsibility for a rules infraction.

2) Maria doesn't have to compete in professional tennis tournaments. No one made her compete in the US Open. However, if she chooses to compete then she must agree to their rules. If she appears to break one of those rules (like receiving coaching) then she needs to be accountable about that. If she thinks that is legalism then she can choose not to play.

Thanks for entering the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Your article is written with the presumption that Maria is disregarding a regulation and being arrogant about it, when in fact, that may not be the case.

In regard to her attitude, Maria may be suffering from arrogance or she may be frustrated with the apparent lack of undersanding, trust and faith. Actually, her words remind me of Jesus's frustration when He broke the law to feed His hungry disciples and was confronted by the Pharisees.
I really don't think we will get punished if we understand and allow others to be reminded to drink water or fuel their bodies during a game of tennis, whether it is for recreational or compulsive purposes. I personally would want the freedom to choose to be reminded to quench my thirst without fear of reproach.

I'm glad we are accountable to a God who knows our hearts - who is not suspicious of us, but knows and understands us. I'm glad we are accountable to a God who wants to rescue us from suffering and set us free. I'm glad we are accountable to God and not most men who send mixed messages -"I like you" while on the other hand saying, "I accuse you of lying" or "I accuse you of being arrogant!". That kind of message is not congruent with God's gospel.

As to her choice to play tennis or not, I am not judging that - she sounds compulsive. I do know this - that God-given talents need to be expressed whether one gets accused of arrogance, lying, cheating or whatever. Jesus Himself was accused on a routine basis.

I do not believe that hand signals to remind a person to drink or eat are considered illegal coaching and I have no cause to distrust Maria's need to be reminded of this. I see her words as a frustration against laws that are made out of human hearts that keep a record of wrongs. I think we are called to invite people to know that God is a different type of authority and makes rules that free and guide us, not frustrate or oppress our pursuit to quench a basic need. We are invited to recognize the difference and demonstrate God's Way.

Anonymous said...

I made the previous comment - I stand corrected on the actual regulation - it is a violation to receive advice from the sidelines during play -the regulations do not specifically define what constitutes "advice". However, the WTA is considering experimenting to allow sideline coaching so I feel heartened to see that is being reconsidered. I feel the regulation is unreasonable and I am not convinced that there would be empirical data supporting the benefit (or perhaps distraction) of such an activity.

When I ponder and suspect a person of ulterior motives or attitudes, I am growing in myself, an attitude that will not be existant in heaven. We need to practice being in heaven and inviting others there as well.

Scott Brewer said...

Dear Anonymous:

You have exemplified the hope of this blog by giving careful thought and reflection to issues that become a part of our every day experience.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog and the opportunity for expression - you're alright!