In the opening play of the preseason game on Saturday, Aug. 27, featuring the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Detroit Lions, 35-year-old Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson went down with a torn Achilles tendon and had to be helped off the field.
He’s going to be out for the rest of the season.
After a long and successful run with the New Orleans Saints, the veteran player and outspoken Christian came to the Ravens with a two-year contract and was expected to be key to the team’s offense. Now, he’ll spend the 2016 season at home with wife Kirsten and their five children, including a daughter born in August. 2015.
As Watson says on his Twitter account:
Eldest of 6, Father of 5, Athlete of 4, Servant of 3, Son of 2, Husband of 1
Support and prayers began to flow in on social media from Watson’s fans — both of his on-field activities, and of his off-field Christian witness and writings, especially his heartfelt Facebook posts and book, “Under Our Skin.”
The nonfiction tome expands on Watson’s social-media efforts to offer a reasoned, thoughtful, fair-minded and deeply Christ-centered response to some of the most hot-button issues of our time, particularly race.
Watson even recently took on the “transgender” bathroom issue, writing, in part, on Facebook:
I do not claim to understand the confusion, isolation, distress, pride or any other emotion of those who struggle with gender dysphoria or those in their families who support them. Because of this, as easy as it may be to do, it is not my place to speculate about their motives and character, or insult them for their lifestyle choices. Like me, these individuals are loved and valued by their creator. Like me they deserve to earn a living, enjoy friendships, and live free from slurs, disparaging remarks, and bodily harm. And like me, they stand condemned and separated from a Holy God except for the covering of the atoning blood of his Son, applied on their behalf through repentance and faith. Like me, they were created for a purpose, male and female, to be an earthly depiction of the spiritual union between Christ and his bride, his body, the church. As important as genitalia are in determination, gender roles do not stop at anatomy. They were created as complimentary differences that should be celebrated, embraced and encouraged. They build strong families, healthy communities, and ordered nations. There is great beauty in masculinity and femininity that fully blooms in the sacrificial oneness of marriage. To accept the blurring there of is to deny and tacitly reject God’s design and to condone what He has created as a reflection, albeit imperfect because of our humanity, of his immense love for us. This is the danger we face, not only with this issue but with any issue, when our feelings, genetic predispositions and desires take precedence over His principles.
This is the crux of the matter. If I believe I am my own God, I am within all rights to do, say and believe as I please. But if I believe I was created, then he who did so is God and I am not. And my duty is to obey him for he knows what is best for those to whom he gave life.
Along with money and the opportunity to support his family and pursue the causes that touch his heart, the NFL has given Watson a tremendous platform to speak the truth of Christ, leading to over 59,000 Twitter followers and over 341,000 fans on Facebook.
I’ve always thought the best use of fame was to leverage it to help others, which many NFL players do (including Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, another vocal Christian, who has an unflagging dedication to visiting, fundraising for, and cheerleading children battling cancer in Seattle). With some exceptions, though, when you’re not an active player, it’s hard to keep that spotlight.
I’m sure the levelheaded Watson has ensured his financial security and that of his family, but it seems a shame that he’ll be sidelined during such a pivotal year.
But, in the ways that really matter, he won’t. Even with his leg in a cast, Watson has Facebook and Twitter; he can promote his book; he can continue lending his measured, wise voice to the problems of the day.
In the calculation of God, maybe that’s way more important than running drills and making touchdowns. In fact, I’m certain it is.
Football has provided Watson the megaphone, but it’s the Holy Spirit that can inspire what he uses it for.
Still, he’s human and a professional athlete, so the prospect of watching from the recliner at home instead of being out there with his teammates is disappointing and frustrating.
“I know the league and the Players Association is working very hard and trying to figure out ideas to work out the preseason,” Harbaugh said Saturday night, via the Baltimore Sun. “These are big, fast, strong men running around out there. It’s not 25 years ago. … It’s not the ’70s anymore. These guys playing in these games — it’s tough — and they’re not meaningful games. They are important to get better, and they improve us. But we football coaches can find ways to get our guys ready and get our players evaluated without the kind of risk that a game necessarily entails.”
Watson said, again on Facebook:
Thank you all for the outpouring of love encouragement and prayer the last couple days. In a sad heartbreaking time it has truly lifted my spirits.
And that verse?
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Then Watson had a Twitter exchange with former player, coach and Hall of Fame inductee Tony Dungy, who tweeted:
We know Romans 8:28 is still true. I’m not sure how but God is going to use this for His glory and our good! https://t.co/lLqpuzaxSz
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) August 29, 2016
And Watson replied:
Amen. When we don’t understand His plan, we must trust His heart. https://t.co/8id2nxvM0Y
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) August 29, 2016
Lions players also reached out:
Sad to see this happen to such a good man. Praying for your recovery! Everything is working for your good. https://t.co/zFKBALxPbY
— Alex Carter (@AlexCarter) August 28, 2016
We’re all praying for you. Especially after all those times you’ve prayed for us. 🙏🏿 https://t.co/EwYRnTJ1VP
— Johnson Bademosi (@j_bademosi24) August 28, 2016
In the general scheme of things, an interruption, or even the end, of a long and successful football career hardly qualifies as a tragedy. But as he always does, Watson uses the opportunity to point toward Christ, and that’s what really matters.
(Now, if we could just pray him and his beautiful family into the Catholic Church!)
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) August 31, 2016