Can you imagine playing football without a helmet? Today, helmets are finely engineered to provide the utmost protection. But there was a day when helmets were not available,
or worse, available but optional for players.
My friend, 102-year-old Casey Medlin, remembers playing high school football and not wearing a helmet. The Thomasville native said they were available to the players but that they were cumbersome and provided minimal protection. The leather helmet primarily protected a player's ears. He did say in retrospect that he wished he had worn a helmet: “I took some hard hits. I’m sure it knocked a screw loose here and there.”
It’s not known who created the first helmet. Some sources credit basketball inventor James Naismith, but many others credit midshipman Joseph Reeves who had a shoemaker make a leather helmet so he could play in the rival 1893 Army-Navy game. In an earlier game, Reeves sustained a head injury, and doctors warned him that further trauma would be life-threatening. Those first helmets looked like early aviator helmets or scrum caps worn by today’s rugby players. By 1939, Riddell Company began making plastic helmets and the company made huge advancements in the padding. The merits of the new and improved helmet as protective equipment caught on, and by the mid-1940s, helmets were required by the National Football League. Modern helmets are constructed using a variety of high-tech components. Surface materials are designed to absorb impact and new paddings dispel energy helping to prevent injuries.
Advancements will continue as more information about the effects of brain trauma in players is
known. No one, not the youngest kid playing Pop Warner league to the college Heisman standout to the top NFL superstar, would even attempt to play the game without a helmet today. In the 1990’s sitcom “Boy Meets World,” Cory Matthews’ big brother, Eric, enlightens the younger boy on the ups and downs of life and the unexpected situations that can occur. He sagely ad-vises: “Life’s tough: Get a helmet.”
One of the greatest athletes mentioned in the Bible was Samson. He had a ripped physique and performed superhuman feats with his bare hands including slaying a lion and decimating an enemy army with only the jawbone of a donkey. Today, he would be a number one draft or a shoe-in on the latest ultimate challenge television series. Even though Samson was an example of athletic form, the Bible says that his strength came from God. From his infancy, Samson was forbidden to have his hair cut. His long locks were evidence of a consecrated life – a life lived for God. But like so many of us at one time or another, Samson began to stray from what God wanted for him. He began hanging out with a dangerous crowd and choosing to no longer do what was right. He went on the playing field without his helmet, so to speak. The results were catastrophic. While sleeping one night, his girlfriend Delilah betrayed him by having his hair cut. His strength was gone.
Samson had reached the toughest time of his life. He was enslaved and blinded by his captors. Realizing his plight, and determined to overcome his peril, Samson once again called on God. God restored him and his strength returned. In a final act, Samson breaks a temple pillar causing the massive roof to crush down on 3,000 of his enemy. Restored to the power of the living God, Samson was victorious. He had put his helmet back on.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul advises the church to "take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." He is definitive regarding what’s needed for a Christ-centered victory in day-to-day living. The son of Christian missionaries, Tim Tebow recounts his struggle to honor his faith in Jesus while striving to be a top professional athlete. As an elite sports star, he knows the importance of donning the correct equipment and honing his skill through dedicated practice. His book "Through My Eyes," tells his story. In college, he amassed impressive credentials, winning two BCS championships, earning the Heisman as a sophomore, and joining the Denver Broncos as a first-round draft. Through it all, Tebow credits his faith and family values for his successes. For this stand, he has endured big hits by critics. Still, he wouldn't think of going on the field of life without his "Jesus" helmet.
Life can be really hard. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to tackle the tough times without God.
Thankfully, none of us has to make that choice.