It May Be Your Sabbath But It’s Our 3rd Grade Championship

It May Be Your Sabbath But It’s Our 3rd Grade Championship

Dear Ben,

I totally respect that your particular religion requires you to abstain from sports on Sundays. But Sunday is our 3rd grade championship game, and the fact is we can’t win without your son, Jonah.  We have seven boys who are fair-to-middling at best, and then my son Coop who can’t dribble twice without traveling. So I’m wondering if you would be willing to “let go and let God” and let Jonah play on Sunday?

FYI, Sunday is my day of rest, too, Ben. I putter around, mow the lawn, watch football, eat wings.  Not a lot of praying, but it’s still a Sabbath of sorts. So I’m making a sacrifice here, too, dragging me and Coop out to Foothill Middle.  Why? To give these kids a chance to express their God-given talents before the eyes of God.

I would never argue that our basketball game is more important than your religion. But I would argue that your son Jonah’s ability to shoot off the dribble is itself an expression of God’s will, one that you may not even have the right to deny him. And not to be sacrilegious, but his step-back jumper is seriously the most ungodly thing I’ve ever seen in U9 basketball.

You’re probably aware of the rule where I have to play the lesser players for five minutes in the first half. They get out there and jump around and lose the ten-point lead that Jonah gave us, and when I look at Jonah on the bench I can see that the only thing he wants to do is get back out there and break some ankles.

What this means to me, Ben, is that Jonah is only truly at rest while he’s in motion. So if you really want him to rest, you have to let him play. And if you don’t let him play, you’re not letting him rest, and therefore failing to observe the Sabbath. Could this make you a sinner? I’m no theologian, but it might be something to consider.

I do respect your beliefs and your adherence to the Word of God, so I did research the whole “day of rest” covenant in the Bible. In Exodus 20:8-11 it says:

On [the Sabbath] you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock.

Now, though it does mention sons, there’s no mention of basketball. Not even any language that you could construe to refer to basketball. And since covenant means the same thing as contract, playing basketball ipso facto does not constitute a breach of the Covenant.

I also want to remind you that this game will be over by 3pm, so you and Jonah will have 23 other hours in the day to abstain from things. And I don’t mean to offend, but I can’t help wondering how a benevolent God could ever punish a child for playing in a basketball game? Honestly, I don’t know if I could believe in such a God, Ben.

One scenario that Assistant Coach Rajeesh mentioned was this: Cooper invites Jonah over for a play date (or a “pray date”) on Sunday; the boys wander over to Foothill Middle to pray or “whatever” and then you pick him up at three-thirty.  You do a WWJD by turning the other cheek and a blind eye, while also maintaining plausible deniability in the eyes of the Lord. And maybe, just maybe, we find a trophy in our case by EOD.

We’re Presbyterians, Ben, so we don’t have the whole covered-wagon-no-cell-phone-apocalypse thing going. But on good days we all do believe in God, and when I lost my job last year I prayed like crazy to God.  And he delivered.  Albeit at a 30% pay cut. So I consider myself a religious man.

But I don’t think my God wants me to make arbitrary rules that preclude fun for my child. He doesn’t want me to tell Cooper that he can’t play basketball because he shoots into the wrong basket or because I need to “rest” on Sunday. I believe that my God wants me to let my son play on Sunday, or Tuesday, Friday or any frickin’ day they put a game on our calendar, Ben.

So please reconsider and let your holy basketball warrior help us vanquish the Battling Bobcats Sunday at 2pm at Foothill Middle School, Court 2.

Yours in God,

Coach Tim


About the Author

Stephen Statler is a writer whose work has been published in McSweeney's and whose screenplay, Little Dan, was a semifinalist for the Nicholl Fellowship. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife and two children.