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03 June 2006

intersection set[Christianity, Arena Football, Baseball, America]

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The New York Times
Friday 2 June 2006

Sports and Salvation
on Faith Night at the Stadium


It has long been noted that in certain parts of the United States, a fine line separates sports from religion. But at a minor league indoor football game last month in Birmingham, Alabama, fans may have witnessed as transparent an attempt to merge football and church as had ever been tried.

Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber of VeggieTales threw out the first pitch before the Somerset Patriots played the Camden Riversharks.

Before kickoff, a Christian band called Audio Adrenaline entertained the crowd. Promoters gave away thousands of Bibles and bobblehead dolls depicting biblical characters like Daniel, Noah and Moses. And when the home team, the Birmingham Steeldogs, took the field, they wore specially made jerseys with the book and number of bible verses printed on the back.

Donnie Rhodes, a children's minister at Gardendale's First Baptist Church near Birmingham, took 47 sixth graders to the game by bus and said it was the perfect outing. "It was affordable, safe and spiritual," he said. "And the kids just thought it was the coolest thing."

Mr. Rhodes and his students were at the latest in ballpark promotions: Faith Nights, a spiritual twist on Frisbee Nights and Bat Days. While religious-themed sports promotions were once largely a Bible Belt phenomenon that entailed little more than ticket discounts for church and synagogue groups, Faith Nights feature bands, giveaways and revival-style testimonials from players. They have migrated from the Deep South to northern stadiums from Spokane, Washington, to Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Third Coast Sports, a company in Nashville that says it specializes in church marketing and event planning for sports teams, has scheduled 70 this year in 44 cities, and many teams produce Faith Nights on their own.

They are about to become even bigger. This summer, the religious promotions will hit Major League Baseball. The Atlanta Braves are planning three Faith Days this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks one. The Florida Marlins have tentatively scheduled a Faith Night for September.

The religious promotions are spreading because they offer something for fans and for teams. Churches get discounted tickets to family-friendly evenings of music and sports with a Christian theme. And in return, they mobilize their vast infrastructure of e-mail and phone lists, youth programs and chaperones, and of course their bus fleets, to help fill the stands.

"Religion is a very big component of people's lives around here, and churches are very well organized," said Derek Schiller, a senior vice president for sales and marketing for the Braves, whose first Faith Day is scheduled for July 27. "If they decide they're going to have an outing and it's going to be an Atlanta Braves baseball game, rest assured there will be a big participation."

The mixture of sports with old-time religion is not to everyone's liking. Officials of arenafootball2, a minor league of the Arena Football League, threatened to fine the Birmingham Steeldogs for wearing their biblically themed jerseys during the game last month because they violated league policy. To comply, the Steeldogs wore the special jerseys before and after the game, but not during play.

"The league quite frankly didn't have the temperature for it," said Scott Myers, a managing partner of the Steeldogs. "They'd just as soon stay out of politics and religion."

Organizers of the promotions said they were mindful of fans of other faiths. Brent High, the president of Third Coast Sports, said he went out of his way to avoid what he called "ambush evangelism."

"If we were doing something that was controversial, that would defeat the whole business purpose," he said. "If we'd had resistance, the teams would run from it."

So far the promotions seem to be working where they count the most, at the box office. Attendance at Faith Nights organized by the Nashville Sounds, a Class AAA baseball team, are 59 percent higher than the team's average attendance.

The Steeldogs average around 5,200 fans; Faith Night last month brought in just under 6,200.

Glenn Yaeger, the general manager of the Sounds, said he knew of only one promotion that was more effective than Faith Night: fireworks. Not one to let an opportunity pass, Mr. Yaeger now caps off Faith Nights with a fireworks display.

"Teams are always looking for ways to put fannies in the seats," Mr. High said, "and this is just a creative way to reach a certain demographic of people."

That demographic was out in force on May 25 in Bridgewater, New Jersey, for a Faith Night at the minor league baseball game between the Somerset Patriots and the Camden Riversharks. Star 99.1, a Christian radio station, broadcast from outside the stadium, as a contemporary Christian band called 9 Feet Tall played.

Before the game, Jamie Damm, a youth pastor at the nearby Zarephath Christian Church, gave a short speech from the field about the need for connecting with Jesus, and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Patrick McVerry, the general manager of the Patriots, said the team was trying to accommodate church groups without altering the experience too much for other fans. Beer sales, for example, were not affected, he said. "We don't want to go over the top," Mr. McVerry said.

The Braves are taking a similarly careful approach. They plan to sell a special voucher for their Faith Day in July. After the game, officials will clear the stands, then readmit those with the voucher, who will be treated to an hour and a half of Christian music and a testimonial from the ace pitcher John Smoltz.

"Faith days will not interfere with our regular course of business," Mr. Schiller of the Braves said. "It's somebody's choice to participate."

Much of the spread of Faith Nights can be attributed to Mr. High, an avid baseball fan and former youth minister from Tennessee. In 2003, as the church and youth programs manager for the Sounds, he began reaching out to the roughly 3,000 churches within 75 miles of Nashville.

He brought in sponsors to fund Bible and bobblehead giveaways, and he joined forces with VeggieTales, a popular line of Christian-themed children's videos, books and music featuring animated vegetables. VeggieTales' slogan is "Sunday morning values, Saturday morning fun," and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber have become fixtures at Faith Nights around the country.

For the Braves, support from churches could translate into increased ticket sales. There are some 5,400 churches within 75 miles of Atlanta, Mr. Schiller said, and the team will use its advertising budget to get the word out to those congregations via television, radio and the Internet.

While Faith Nights may be good for the box office and perhaps even the soul, there is one area where all that spirituality does not seem to have much effect: the scoreboard. On Faith Nights over the past two years, the Nashville Sounds have compiled a record of 15-17.

"On Faith Night, God cares a lot more about what's happening in the stands than about what happens on the field," Mr. High said.

- 30 -

Copyright © 2006 The New York Times Company


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Ashley "Billy" Sunday (19 November 1863 - 6 November 1935) was noted first as a professional baseball player, and then more famously as an evangelist.


Born in Bina, Iowa, Sunday grew up the son of a single mother, and the family endured significant poverty during his childhood. His father, also named William, enlisted in the Iowa Infantry Volunteers four months before Sunday was born. He died a month after Sunday was born, of an unknown disease contracted in Patterson, Missouri while on duty. Sunday's mother was left a widow and mother of three sons. She later remarried and had another son and a daughter.

At the age of 13, Sunday and his older brother were sent to Soldier's Orphanage in Glenwood, Iowa. He ran away from the orphanage two years later and worked for Colonel John Scott in Nevada, Iowa as a stable boy tending shetland ponies. Scott gave Sunday a home and the opportunity to attend school. (The 4-H baseball field in Nevada, Iowa is named the Billy Sunday field.)

Sunday left high school before graduating and moved to Ames, Iowa to play on the baseball team. Shortly thereafter he moved to Marshalltown, Iowa. There he worked at odd jobs: was a runner on a competitive track team and played in the outfield for the local baseball team.

Marshalltown native (and future Baseball Hall-of-Famer) Cap Anson saw Sunday play after being told by the Marshalltown coach that he should come see Sunday play. Anson signed Sunday on to the league-leading Chicago White Stockings. Although Sunday struck out his first thirteen times at bat he was acknowledged to be the champion sprinter of the National League. At one point Sunday raced Arlie Latham, champion sprinter of the American League, and Sunday beat him by fifteen feet. Sunday played professional baseball for eight years for the Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia teams.

In 1887, after a night of drinking with some of his teammates, Sunday was invited to attend a service at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, Illinois. He began attending services at the mission regularly, and it was after one of these services that he accepted Jesus Christ as his saviour and was "born again." Sunday married Helen A. Thompson in September 1888, and in 1891 he quit baseball to devote his energies to the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). Sunday spent time as an assistant to another evangelist before embarking solo in 1896. He was ordained as a preacher in the Presbyterian church in 1903. Sunday was one of the first prominent preachers to make use of the then-new medium of radio.

Billy Sunday is most noted for his "fire-and-brimstone" approach to evangelism. Holding a strictly fundamentalist view, he would often preach fiery sermons against political liberalism, evolution, alcohol, and so forth. His energy and vitality won many converts. This in turn led to his accumulating a small fortune through contributions at his sermons.

Sunday is noted as being one of the major social influences in the temperance movement leading to the adoption of Prohibition in 1919. One of his most famous sermons was "Booze, Or, Get on the Water Wagon," which convinced many people to give up drinking. As the tide of public opinion turned, he continued to strongly support Prohibition, and after its repeal in 1933, Sunday called for its reintroduction. He said "I am the sworn, eternal and uncompromising enemy of the liquor traffic. I have been, and will go on, fighting that damnable, dirty, rotten business with all the power at my command." Sunday preached that "whiskey and beer are all right in their place, but their place is in hell."


His popularity waned in his later years and he even became the subject of derision. One of his revival songs, ‘Brighten the Corner Where You Are,’ became a drinking song in the blind pigs [speakeasies] that prospered during Prohibition. One line,

"Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar"

called the waiter for another stein of beer.

In "Chicago," a song written by Fred Fisher, Frank Sinatra sings

"Chicago, Chicago
the town that Billy Sunday could not shut down"

He died a wealthy man in 1935 at the depth of the Depression when about one-third of the population was unemployed. He left a large estate as well as trust funds for his children. But, true to his word, Sunday continued to preach against alcohol until his death.

External links

* Selected sermons
* Revival takes a bite out of crime
* Huge database of Sunday images and content
* Billy Sunday's grave
* Audio Sermons by Billy Sunday
* National Prohibition of Alcohol in the U.S.
* Billy Sunday at The Internet Movie Database


* Nevada Community Historical Society Inc. (2003). Voices from the Past: The Story of Nevada, Iowa, Its Community and Families. Unknown press (Nevada Community Historical Society, Inc., PO Box 213, Nevada, Iowa 50201-0213; 515-382-6684)
* Allen, Robert. "Billy Sunday: Home Run to Heaven." Mott Media: Milford, MI. 1985
* Ellis, William T. Billy Sunday: His Life and Message. Philadelphia, PA: John C. Winston Co., 1914.

* This page was last modified 08:14, 10 May 2006.


Anonymous patlisteningtodeadkennedys said...

"Sunday morning values, Saturday morning fun," ?
Eh ??? Man, those "christians" dont even know how to have fun anyway. Most of us "normal" people call it "Saturday Night Fun, Sunday Morning Sleepout" (or "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" by The Specials)
Would you kindly ask the Ministry Of Homeland Defense or however these loonies call themselves make sure those idiots will never be allowed to get out of the US anc come to Europe ? Were embarresed already by this sort of behaviour. Thank you.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

the idiots have to come to Europe. the idiots have established a network of secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe, and a very large network of secret air bases throughout Europe to abduct Europeans, put bags over their heads, and fly them to the secret prisons. we have important business in Europe.

hmmm didn't vleeptron post something about Swiss intelligence unofficially blowing the whistle on some of this naughty Yankee activity? this sounds like the work of Herr Kommissar Hans Berlach. but of course I have no proof it was Berlach. He's just always doing Ethical and Moral things.

is there an intersection set between Christianity and the World Cup?

Anonymous patswitchedtothemisfits said...

no intersection, thank fsm
there has been an arrest yesterday re the fax from the CIA to the CH govt. Cannot find a link in english at present. Vleeptron will be updated.
(Ì ll get me a beer, put on the Misfits and do some research)These things cannot be tolerated

How come Bleeptron never reported on the "Big Brother" thing where millions of phone calls from us cititezns were taped by your govt. You must have gotten word of that.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

hey, i'm a print journalist. sometimes i'm betronken for days at a time and have blackouts.

uhhh no that's not why i didn't write about it.

for all my Lachen, Agence-Vleeptron Presse actually is trying to cover the news on Planet Earth in a fairly serious and analytical fashion. A-VP is NICHT Fox/Murdoch, A-VP is NICHT CNN. A-VP skipped it because it's such a huge huge story that EVERY agency in the mainstream media covered it -- not particularly well, but exhaustively. I'm not trying to compete with 20,000 Lemmings with tape recorders and notebooks.

I will say something about that story that almost nobody else mentioned. One and Only One large telephone company -- Qwest -- told the NSA NO! when they wanted customer phone records without a warrant.

I'd switch to Qwest immediately, but they only operate west of the Mississippi.

Notice in this story -- only a month stale -- that the Qwest CEO is now under federal indictment for insider (stock) trading. Hmmmmmmm ... is this Bush's way of getting revenge for the only huge phone company that told him to stick it up his ass? There's a very big subtext about the phone companies who did cooperate with the NSA that the main reason they did it so willingly is that they were afraid of what the feds would do to them later if they didn't cooperate. Sometimes when you're brave and do the right thing, you mysteriously contract cancer, or are arrested for having cocaine in your pocket (of the suit you just got back from the cleaner's).


Qwest refused NSA's records request

Date published: 5/13/2006



WASHINGTON -- Telecommunications giant Qwest refused to provide the government with access to telephone records of its 15 million customers after deciding the request violated privacy law, a lawyer for a former company executive said yesterday.

In a written statement, the attorney for former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio said the government approached the company in the fall of 2001 seeking access to the phone records of Qwest customers, with neither a warrant nor approval from a special court established to handle surveillance matters.

"Mr. Nacchio concluded that these requests violated the privacy requirements of the Telecommunications Act," attorney Herbert J. Stern said from his Newark, N.J., office.

"It's been briefed to the appropriate members of Congress," Hayden told reporters outside a Senate office. "The only purpose of the agency's activities is to preserve the security and the liberty of the American people. And I think we've done that."

Nacchio told Qwest officials to refuse the NSA requests, which kept coming until Nacchio left the company in June 2002, his lawyer said.

In contrast, AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. complied with the request to turn over phone records shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, USA Today first reported on Thursday.

Qwest, the No. 4 U.S. local phone company, serves customers in 14 Western states. Based in Denver, Qwest Communications International Inc. has come under fire over criminal and ethical allegations. Nacchio himself is under federal indictment on insider-trading charges.

Lawmakers have been pressing the Bush administration for information about the NSA's database of telephone records in advance of hearings reviewing Hayden's nomination to be CIA director, scheduled for next Thursday.

The White House yesterday reiterated its support for Hayden and the NSA's operations.

"We're 100 percent behind Michael Hayden," press secretary Tony Snow said. "There's no question about that, and confident that he is going to comport himself well and answer all the questions and concerns that members of the United States Senate may have in the process of confirmation."

Snow added that questions on classified material may have to be handled in closed sessions with select senators who are cleared for access to that information.

Some senators were trying to separate the issue of Hayden's confirmation from questions about White House decisions and the surveillance programs.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he didn't yet know if collection of the phone records was illegal.

Yet Reid said he has no "specific problems" with Hayden going into the hearing process and said the Air Force general "has always proven to be a person of intellect and a person of independence."

Republicans, including Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner of Virginia, have said Hayden was relying on the advice of top government lawyers when the operations were initiated.

But Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., an Intelligence Committee member, said he now questions Hayden's credibility. He said, "The American people have got to know that when the person who heads the CIA makes a statement that they are getting the full picture."

The NSA was using the data to analyze calling patterns in order to detect and track suspected terrorist activity, according to information the White House provided to Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo. "Telephone customers' names, addresses and other personal information have not been handed over to NSA as part of this program," Allard said.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said on the "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" that "the president's program uses information collected from phone companies"--the telephone number called and the caller's number. Bond is a member of the select panel allowed access to all information on another controversial Bush program, the warrantless surveillance operations.

After meeting with Hayden yesterday, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said that he had "absolute confidence" in the general and said his Senate confirmation hearings would provide the facts on the monitoring programs.

"He's going to have to explain what his role was. To start with, did he put that program forward, whose idea was it, why was it started?" Hagel said. "He knows that he's not going to be confirmed without answering those questions."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, praised Hayden as an excellent nominee but said Congress should ask tough questions about the NSA programs.

Collins, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said it was disconcerting "to have information come out by drips and drabs, rather than the administration making the case for programs I personally believe are needed for our national security."

Associated Press writers Michael J. Sniffen and Elizabeth White contributed to this report.

- 30 -

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Happy now? Agence-Vleeptron Presse has sobered up and files this Very Interesting Story about the CEO who Did The Right Thing.

"Classified Information" ... now what on earth does a low-rent insider stock trading case have to do with "Classified Information"???

Very clever defense lawyer strategy. If the federal government refuses to let the defense see these "classified documents," then the Judge will almost certainly have to dismiss the charges against Nacchio.

Less stale -- this story from yesterday. Your beloved altakaker editor has sobered up.

Hurry up with your story about the Swiss fax arrest. I don't know what tenterhooks are, but I'm waiting on them.


The Associated Press/DENVER [Colorado USA]

Prosecutors want Nacchio defense details

JUN. 2 12:42 P.M. ET -- Prosecutors in the insider trading case against former Qwest Chief Executive Joseph Nacchio have told a judge that defense lawyers need to be more specific about classified information they may want to use.

In a court filing Thursday, U.S. Attorney William Leone said Nacchio's lawyers must identify what material they plan to use so the judge can determine whether information should be redacted.

Leone requested a hearing on the matter.

- 30 -

Anonymous ManOnTheGround said...

Well, here is the story on this Fax thing. No big deal, really. I had a hard time finding it in the Sunday Papers (including the one that broke the original story) could only find it in german though, SwissInfo never bothered to translate the story.

Swiss Military Justice has arrested a man in connection with an affair concerning what is known here as The CIA Fax Affair. He war arrested on May 24th and released yesterday after being questioned by local Authorities. The Identity of the swiss national has not been revealed.Swiss Military Justice and the Federal State Attorney are currently investigating the matter. A few months ago a local tabloid published a fax believed to be from egyptian secret service regarding secret CIA jails in eastern europe.
You can find the story in full length here (sorry, german only)

Now how bout that pay rise you mentioned some time ago...

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Thanks! Danke! Merci! Grazie! Please keep an eye on this curious storyand if anything further develops, pls keep A-VP posted. If anyone actually gets put into a Suisse jail for this, I will eat my shoelaces. (In a Chaplin movie he was starving and ate his shoes and shoelaces -- but they were actually made of licorice.)

Hmmm yesterday I wrote something to a Canadian blog, and then made a Translator Robot translate it into francais, because That's The Law in Canada. Didn't do a half-bad job. So if swissinfo isn't thoughtful enough to translate it into English, try . The Robot's translation couldn't be any worse than mine.

Okay! Agence-Vleeptron Presse is so pleased with Man On The Ground's work, we raise your salary from NV62351 (New Vleepidecs) per week to NV65559 per week! Have fun!

Anonymous manonthegroundwithpayraise said...

aw fanks boss, you are very generous today.
As an exchange you'll get a new story. there is no direct connection between the two stories, but something is very fishy abot this one. Judge for yourself (this time en anglais)


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