I can only imagine the looks of surprise on the faces of funeral attendees. Some would immediately recognize the man from his playing days or time on TV. He had to have been a good foot taller than everyone else in the room. The hulking former athlete sighed as he walked down the aisle to pay his respects to a great friend.
Charles Barkley and Lin Wang met while traveling for work at a hotel bar in Sacramento. The only two there, they sat and talked for three hours. Then they went to dinner and continued for another two hours. Lin, a comparatively shorter man and scientist from Iowa seems like the exact opposite of “Sir Charles” and yet a deep bond was formed.
I believe there is something special about sports that goes beyond what we see on the playing field. Sports to me, like faith, are the “Great Equalizer”. Anyone can attempt to play (at least up to some level). Most can volunteer to coach. And it doesn’t take much to be a fan. Yet this passion can carry from one person to another to create a brotherhood of sorts. Lin loved basketball and thought greatly of Barkley, but their bond went even deeper than that. 
Win it for Tyler
Tyler Trent was a fairly ordinary teen boy from Indiana. That was until his battle with cancer lead to his impacting thousands of would be supporters.
Tyler first learned of his bone cancer when his arm broke throwing a frisbee in high school. After fighting through chemotherapy for nine months he went into remission and earned a scholarship to Purdue University. When the cancer returned, Tyler battled to make it to school on time. He was the last to complain and the first to think of how he might serve others.
As the cancer spread to his spine it became clear that his time was limited, yet Tyler continued to support the athletic teams at Purdue while raising money and awareness for cancer research. After a difficult surgery he bravely attended the Boilermakers game against Goliath Ohio State and watched his favorite team pull off the unthinkable upset. His life, both in and beyond sports, would leave a remarkable legacy beyond this win.
When Tyler Trent passed away, Purdue Quarterback David Blough shared his thoughts on losing his friend and brother:
“Rest In Peace to my friend, my captain, my brother, my hero. You inspired us all by the way you lived. I love you, and I can’t wait to see you again. Forever #TylerStrong.”
David and Tyler had a bond beyond football. They shared a faith in something bigger. And they both believed they would see each other again one day to continue their great friendship.
Rivals to Brothers
In my young thirties I thought I had a pretty good grasp on things. Sports certainly played a role in my life and football helped me get into a good school, which lead to a solid job. I was married to the love of my life, we had one son and another on the way. And yet something was missing, I kept grasping for it but never felt like I could get it.
One evening, my wife and I had our Senior Pastor over to spend some time with us as we were planning to have our son baptized soon. We sat and chatted, I respected him right away and all in all we got along well. As our young son started to show clear signs of needing to go to bed, my wife excused herself and brought him up leaving the two of us on the couch.
As my wife returned she could tell the whole aura of the room had changed. Joking and jabbing back and forth the two strangers she had left on the couch were now laughing like old schoolmates. Somehow we learned that we both attended and played football at rival schools, and from that point on a relationship bloomed almost instantly.
Sports started that conversation, but soon it turned to Jesus. That night eventually lead to my own baptism in a commitment to follow Christ because of his mentorship.
A Bond Beyond Sports
Recently I was working late at the office and the janitor came through the hall. His name is Raymond and he’s my buddy. Every time we see each other we smile big and joke about what record we think the Philadelphia Eagles will end up with. But on this night I saw he was deeply listening to something on his head phones. I asked him what he was listening to, and with a thoughtful response he told me it was a weekly prayer call he listened to.
We talked about faith for a few minutes and agreed that there was nothing better than being both brothers in Christ AND Super Bowl Champs. I think we’ve just scratched the surface and can’t wait to see what doors God opens next for my friendship with Raymond.
Like sports, faith in Christ is the greatest of all equalizers and deepest of brotherly bonds. You may think you know it all, or you may be at rock bottom, but I believe in a Savior who will redeem you regardless of where you stand. See where sports and faith might come together in your own life. The Great Equalizer will never turn you away empty handed.