Monday, October 5, 2009

Eye Black Challenger - Joel Langton

It's finally game week again, and this week we're featuring "eye black challengers" from Louisiana in honor of the impending LSU game.

The first is Joel Langton, a self described "die hard LSU Tiger" and the guy behind Christian Sports Online. We like Joel's site, but we like the story behind it even more. In particular that he started with just an idea to share stories of encouragement with friends, and that idea has grown from a letter emailed to friends to a well read website that encourages people day to day, week to week, with a "little help from his Maker."

Here's the Q&A we had with him:

Why did you start the site?

I’ve always read sports. It’s been a part of my life. For much of my life, I’ve been a Christian. Thus, whenever I’d read a story about a Christian athlete and his faith, a lot of times, I’d find that encouraging to me, or at least interesting. It would, I hate the cliché’, but lift me up in my faith.


Remember now, I’m 45 years old, and in effect, I’ve been reading sports stories for more than 35 years and been trying to keep Christ at the center of my life for at least that long. So, if I read a really good story in Sports Illustrated or the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate it would never go outside that audience that could look at that newspaper or magazine.


Well, the Internet has grown and our fingertips are seldom stained with ink and we often read more stories, but no ink! We can now read newspapers literally all over the world and I’ve posted stories from England and South America, because they involved a Christian athlete.


So, the bottom line why is, I’d read those stories, I’d be encouraged in my faith and I’d think that this could possibly encourage others. When I was younger, I couldn’t really go out and buy 17 copies of Sports Illustrated and send to friends, although I might share it with a friend or two. But the bottom line why is in this Internet, viral world, we can easily share these stories that lift us up or sometimes, that we just find interesting.


How did you start the site?

It was in the back of my mind for a long time. When I quit thinking about it and started doing something, I was in Southwest Asia as a military member. When you’re deployed, you work a hard 12 hours and then you’d wait another 12 hours. So, I had some time on my hands. Honestly, I felt really led to do it. The idea had been there in some shape for many years.


My personal goal when I was deployed was to always do something positive. Take college classes, learn a language, something! Well, this time I started doing these dispatches. They started out weekly on a Microsoft Word document and I’d email them out to friends and family.


When I got home, my wife and I built a blog on Wordpress.com. It’s at http://joelalangton.wordpress.com. We still use this site as our foundation. I lay it out on the Wordpress site, then I copy and paste it into our ‘bigger’ site at www.ChristianSportsOnline.com. It’s been a matter of constant evolution as we keep striving to get better at this. Our next goal is to provide more original content. Little stories on athletes, writers, those involved in the world of sports. For example, I did a Question and Answer session with Austin Murphy, who did the Sports Illustrated story on Tim Tebow earlier this Fall; lots of good insights from him.


I’d also like to make the site more visual but I’m much more of a content person than a bells and whistles guy. At some point, that will happen.


What is your purpose?

The purpose is primarily, to encourage others in their faith. If God leads someone to this site and through some athlete’s story, they begin a journey with God at the center of their life, that’s awesome. However, I can see us primarily encouraging believers to do more with their faith.


Do you only talk about certain sports? We’ve never seen a hockey story…

Are there really Christian hockey players? Just kidding. I’m open to any sports but you’re right, I don’t know if I’ve ever put a story up about a Christian hockey player and I will seek to rectify that.


I do try to focus on the positive. If I see where a Christian athlete messes up, there is a slim chance I will put that up. There are enough people who will do that for us. However, if I see a story about how a Christian athlete has messed up and learned more about his faith through his lapse, I will post that. It’s not that I want to bury my head in the sand, but I don’t think we always get the full story and I don’t want to be guilty of just piling onto a Christian brother or sister who are in a brutal enough environment as it is. They need us praying for them, not casting stones.


Nor does an athlete have to be big time to be included in our site. I think one of the most inspirational athletes in the Florida Gator community is…baseball player Brandon McArthur. Here is an athlete who has hit some really tough times and but has continually persevered. He’s someone who we can all learn from. I’ve tried to get to him and do a Question and Answer session but to no avail (if anyone in Gator land could get him to contact me, joelalangton@hotmail.com).


How can we support ChristianSportsOnline?

Just pray that we do what God wants us to do. God has been very gracious to us. God has been awesome about putting the right people at the right place at the right time. I have a dear friend Paul who’s managed to constantly make the sight more visual, I have a lovely wife who’s constantly providing great insights.



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