Culture > Books

Books: Incomplete confessions

Books | The cleats just keep dropping for PK's Coach McCartney

Issue: "School shooting," Dec. 13, 1997

The Promise Keepers movement has some positive aspects (see WORLD, Oct. 18), but PK founder Bill McCartney has written a disturbing book-disturbing for what it leaves out. Sold Out: Becoming Man Enough to Make a Difference (written with David Halbrook) is on the surface an autobiography. It's not his first: In 1989, the former collegiate football coach published Ashes to Glory. Nor is it complete: In newspaper articles following the release of Sold Out, Mr. McCartney admitted to an adulterous affair-and though Sold Out is supposed to be about the downs and (more recent) ups of his marriage, Mr. McCartney leaves out any mention of the affair, which occurred 20 years before he confessed it to his wife in 1993.

Nor does he mention that his daughter got pregnant twice, out of wedlock, by two different members of his football team. To be sure, his 1989 book addresses Kristy's first pregnancy (which occurred in 1988), but it happened again in 1993, and Mr. McCartney doesn't seem to see the underlying problem (in his leadership at home) as worth addressing.

Sold Out chronicles the life of the McCartneys from their first date (he got drunk and drove into a parked police car) to the point four years ago when Lyndi McCartney, bulimic and suicidal, finally got her husband's attention (it was losing 80 pounds that did it).

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Mrs. McCartney writes several chapters of the book, giving her perspective of the events. "It seemed everywhere I went, someone was saying, 'Oh, your husband is so wonderful!' Honestly, it was enough to gag a rhinoceros.... But when I saw Mr. Wonderful on TV or the newspapers I cried, desperately wishing that Mr. Wonderful could just be Mr. Available to me and our kids."

Beyond recounting some of Mr. McCartney's personal failings, Sold Out mixes theology with pop psychology and conventional motivational rhetoric. "We have only one team but many squads competing around the globe," he writes. "Our sole mission is to share the good news about playing for our Coach." Of his drinking, he says "I was in classic denial.... In all fairness, if anybody had ever pulled me aside, or ordered me to see an alcoholic specialist or counselor, it might have made a difference."

Especially disturbing is Mr. McCartney's response to legitimate criticism and questions: "In all actuality, I suspect that much of the criticism leveled at Promise Keepers from within the Christian community-typically cloaked in assorted, usually untested claims that we're an ecumenical movement, or that we preach a gospel palatable to Mormons or fringe cults-has as its true root a deep-seated cultural resistance to the message on [racial] reconciliation. It simply tells me we're on the right track."

Flag on the play, coach. Trying to choke off debate with insinuations of racism is unsportsmanlike conduct.

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