This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on September 8, 2023.
With week one of the college football season kicking off last weekend, fans across the country began dreaming once again about the gridiron glories of violence and victory. And for the parts of American culture shaped by white evangelicals, these simmering passions carry culture war implications and opportunities for justice that mostly go unrecognized.
In an interview with Baptist News Global in 2021, Kristin Du Mez said: “Sports, especially football, serves as a metaphor for war.” She added that for white evangelicals, football is “definitely the most masculine sport for their purposes.”
At the time, Du Mez was discussing the white evangelical fascination with quarterback and missionary Tim Tebow, noting how “he was essentially proselytizing a white savior narrative in terms of his volunteer work.” But as she listened to Tebow speak, something was lacking.
“What was missing was any sense of privilege or of structural injustice,” she observed.
But in a complete reversal of this obsession with victory through violent masculinity that is unaware of its privilege or of structural injustice, it’s especially notable that the two largest stories in sports this past week were of a 1-11 football program from last year that was taken over by a Black head coach coming out of a Historically Black College or University and of a women’s volleyball team.
The largest attendance ever for women’s sports
The sound of “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project began playing for a capacity crowd at the Nebraska Cornhusker’s Memorial Stadium. As 92,003 fans cheered, the videoboard revealed their team walking through the tunnel. But rather than it being their five-time national championship football team, it was their women’s volleyball team.
The sellout crowd broke the record for the highest-attended women’s sporting event ever.
“Having this to kind of look up to is something little girls will keep in the back of their mind when pursuing the sport of volleyball.”
“It’s so huge for little girls to get to see a woman’s sport and volleyball being played on this big of a stage and having so many people invest in it,” Nebraska junior Lexi Rodriguez said after the match. “Because when you’re little you have big goals and big dreams. And having this to kind of look up to is something little girls will keep in the back of their mind when pursuing the sport of volleyball.”
The Nebraska’s women’s volleyball program began in 1974, just two years after Congress passed Title IX in an attempt to bring parity to men’s and women’s sports. When the law first passed, the National Collegiate Athletic Association claimed it would destroy college football.