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Issue: "The '96 Election," Nov. 16, 1996

Nice guys finish first

Golf is the only major sport in which rules violators call penalties on themselves. The lack of scandal occurring on golf's three major professional tours astounds a public more used to shame than the phenomenon of nice guys finishing first. Golf has just seen a stretch in which professed Christians won major tournaments on the men's tour. The string began with Corey Pavin's 1995 U.S. Open victory and was followed by Steve Jones's 1996 U.S. Open victory and Tom Lehman's 1996 British Open victory, just after he had finished second to Mr. Jones in the U.S. Open. Mr. Lehman followed that with the Tour Championship (the season-ending all-star tournament) victory on Oct. 28, which made him the leading money winner on tour this year with $1,780,159. The relationship between Mssrs. Jones and Lehman proved to be one of the game's best stories of 1996. The two quoted Scripture to each other for 18 holes as they battled in the last group at the U.S. Open before finishing first and second. As the pressure increased, Mr. Lehman, trailing Mr. Jones by one shot, quoted Joshua 1:9 to Mr. Jones on the 16th fairway. "Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous? Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Responded Mr. Jones, "Right, amen." Mr. Jones then closed out the victory.

What the MVP values most

When the New York Yankees won the World Series on Oct. 26, their victory party had the look of a church picnic. World Series Most Valuable player John Wetteland, the relief pitcher who saved all four victories, and catcher Joe Girardi, the offensive star of the final game, spent their postgame TV time praising and giving glory to their Lord, Jesus Christ. Non-Christians on the squad also celebrated with their wives and children while noting unexpected blessings and the family atmosphere of the team. The contrast between these Yankees and their counterparts two decades ago, in the "Bronx Zoo" days, was strong. So was the contrast between the Yankees' conduct and the Dallas Cowboys' bragging after winning Super Bowl XXX in January. The Cowboys' profanity-filled exclamations had millions of television viewers pounding their remotes. The Yankees historically are the most hated team in baseball, and owner George Steinbrenner remains obnoxious (although marginally less so than Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner), but even some diehard Boston Red Sox fans found themselves admiring this year's champions.

In football

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The surprising Washington Redskins had a 7-2 record with seven games left to go in their National Football League season--and two articulate Christians, defensive back Darrell Green and defensive lineman Sean Gilbert, were playing key roles. Both men deliver their testimonies daily to anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see. Cynics at Sports Illustrated are also noting the testimony of tough tackling; SI's preseason scouting report suggested that the Redskins' defense would be suspect because Mr. Gilbert had recently become a Christian and therefore was considered "too soft." The Green Bay Packers, with 8 wins and 1 loss after the first week of November, are considered the favorites to win the Super Bowl behind the NFL's No. 1-rated defense. That defense is led by Baptist preacher Reggie White, a man so soft that opposing offensive coaches design entire game plans around avoiding him. Sports reporters need to learn that the difference between a wimp and a Christian is that a Christian often knows when he's being one and what to do about it.

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