In Defense of Bald, Old Men: Pastoral Wisdom from Bob Costas and Ernie Johnson

What this world needs is a few more bald, old men. Bald, old men in bad suits. Bald, old men in bad suits with a microphone in their hands.

I was practically raised by bald, old men with microphones in their hands. Men like Ernie Johnson Sr. He used to announce Atlanta Braves baseball games. During baseball season, I listened to him almost everyday. And I mean intently listened. Now, a few years after his death, I can’t remember one word he ever said. That means that Ernie Johnson did his job well.

There aren’t many Ernie Johnson types around today. You know, men who just tell you what’s happening in the game, step out of the way and let the sport be the sport.

Instead we have men like Bob Costas.

Last season, Kansas City Chief linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed the mother of his three-month-old daughter. He then drove to team facilities where he killed himself. The following day, Bob Costas took a few moments during halftime of NBC’s Sunday Night Football to inform us that this was all the fault of America’s gun culture.

Last Sunday night, Costas took time to preach another sermon, seemingly in hopes of delivering a strong dose of guilt to anyone who has ever cheered for the Washington Redskins by calling the team’s name an “insult” and a “slur”.

For the record, Bob Costas has all of his hair. And he also has the same disease that Dick Clark had. That disease that makes you look 26 for your entire adult life. I can’t prove it but I think that Bob Costas is actually 98-years-old.

The bald, old men I grew up watching knew something that today’s sports commentators seem to have forgotten. The game sells itself. They knew to just get out of the way and let the product on the field take over. They never used their sport as a platform for their agenda. Although they certainly had personalities and something to say, they never let those things get in the way of the game itself.

There is something for pastors to learn here. We have been given the privilege and responsibility to talk to a crowd of people about the gospel at least once a week. We have something to say. But a few temptations come along with that. Like the temptation to get in the way. Or the temptation to make it just a little bit more about us. And the temptation to use the church as our platform for our kingdom and the sermon as the billboard on which it is advertised.

Ernie Johnson died a couple of years ago at the age of 87. He never was recognized for his astute social commentary. He never made anybody’s list of beautiful people. When I listened to him, he was old. And bald. And even though I can’t remember anything he said, Ernie Johnson left me with something more valuable than an opinion or a great quote. Ernie Johnson Sr. taught me the game of baseball. Practically everything I know about the sport came from him.

Pastors, teach your people the gospel. One day we’ll be dead. Just like Ernie Johnson. And most of the people we preached to won’t be able to remember much of what we said. And that’s okay. Maybe that just means that we got out of the way and let the gospel be the gospel.

A lot of people are remembered for the words that they said.

But only a few special people are remembered for the truths that they left behind.

Leave a Reply