A Season of Life

Like a lot of boys I learned important life lessons from playing sports. Through sports I learned about how to be a part of a team, the importance of developing a strong work ethic, and how to handle both winning and losing. Yet on the football team that I played on in high school those kind of lessons were secondary to the main goal of winning football games. But I recently came across a story about a very successful football team that made winning secondary to developing men.

If you are a man who enjoys sports and especially if you are a dad of young boys, I would highly recommend Season of Life by Jeffery Marx. It is a short, easy read that is packed with a lot of important insights in manhood. The book tells the story of the relationship between Joe Ehrmann, former all pro on the Baltimore Colts defensive line, and Jeffery Marx, the author of the book.

The two first met when Marx was the ball boy for the Colts during summer training camp. They stayed in touch until Marx went to college. When they were reintroduced twenty five years later, Ehrmann was no longer the free spirit he was during his playing days but a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and a minister at a Grace Fellowship Church in Baltimore.

Always possessing a heart for the city, Ehrmann was not only a pastor but also an assistant coach for the nationally recognized Gilman football team. Along with his friend Biff who served as the team’s head coach, Ehrmann had an agenda beyond winning football games. Together their passion was building men. To accomplish their mission they instituted a program called Building Men For Others that is still active today.

Biff and Joe believed that the culture was sending out the message that what made a man was athletic performance, girls, and financial success or Ball field, Bedroom, and Boardroom. But these false definitions of manhood lead men into isolation and disappointment. As coaches they built into their players that being a man is defined by relationships, working for a transcendent cause, accepting responsibility, leading courageously, enacting justice on behalf of others, and empathy.

According to Joe, “It’s going to come down to this. What kind of father were you? What kind of husband were you? What kind of son were you? What kind of brother were you? What kind of friend were you?” A man’s relationships with others will end up determining the impact of his life.

Marx spends a season with the Gilman team watching the coaches interact with the players, having discussions about life with Joe, and leaning a lot about his own relationship with his father. While it would be impossible to call this a Christian book-Jesus or the gospel is never mentioned-I think that it is safe to say that many of the principles are based on Christianity. My guess is that in an attempt to gain a wide readership, the author stayed away from using specifically Christian language.

In my opinion there are a lot of important lessons in this book that would help men of all ages but especially those that are in the important position of helping boys become men.

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