Are you old school?  I ask that question as I watch pro football games. Commentators use the term as they discuss a player’s talent, attitude, and contribution to his team. When you tune into sports talk radio, you will hear intense dialogue, men sharing passionately about the play of their favorite players and teams. They often refer to players as old school. Could it be evoking memories of players of old, stirring a longing for the past, especially their youth?

As an NFL sports fan, I know enough to keep informed and to converse with others. I’m even in a fantasy football league with some of the guys in our building. For some it borders on idolatry. But I try to keep it in perspective; it is simply a pastime for me. Even so, I wonder why these die-hard fans use the term old school so often. Do certain players model character that is missing in our day?

Gary Sheffield wrote that Green Packers wide receiver Davante Adams is old school for this comment: “I hate everyone that I play against.” “Although it’s overblown how buddy-buddy athletics are today, “notes Sheffield, “[Adams] is having none of that culture. He spoke this morning about how much he hates everyone he plays against…We’d like to see more quotes like these from everyone so we can get back to believing players take losing as personal as we do.”

If I’m understanding this correctly, Sheffield would like to see more passion in football players that verges on hatred of the opponent, rather than the “buddy-buddy” mentality he encounters on his sports beat. For him, though, old school carries more of a negative connotation.

I identify somehow with old school, but primarily as a positive longing in the hearts of men admiring the exceptional performance in a man competing with other men. Pro scouts talk about a prospect as “a character person.” This is more the exception then the rule. To get a positive grade for “character” is seen as an achievement. 

So, what exactly is old school? It certainly points to a player being exceptional and even unique. I would like to be considered old school when it comes to my walk with Jesus. I know that I am “surrounded by…a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) who are definitely old school.  They all followed Jesus, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever.”  So as followers of Jesus, we might want to be called old school.

First, if hating your enemy is old school, as Sheffield seems to believe, I don’t want to be identified with that attitude. The old can become the new. The old has died, and I am a new man in Christ. He gives me grace to compete but also care.

Second, old school refers to the exceptional character of a person. It seems to highlight the attitude of one who “marches to the beat of a different drummer.”  I want to be that way. “Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34).

Third, old school can refer to the admired performance of a player. He might not be the most talented, but he works hard at his game – like a “blue collar guy.”  I want to be “all in” for Jesus, not necessarily polished, but sincere.

Fourth, while being old school, I sincerely pray that God will give me the discernment and wisdom to be relevant in sharing the good news of Jesus.

If that’s what old school means, I’m in. How about you?