Joe Gibbs Leaves the Team

Joe Gibbs, head coach for the Washington Redskins, attended a Prison Fellowship function several weeks ago, graciously giving autographs to fans who crowded around. At the time, no one realized that these were some of the last autographs Gibbs would give as the Redskins' coach. Days later, he announced he was giving up football to spend more time with his family. "I'm 52 [years old]," the coach explained, "and there's a window of opportunity with my family" that's not going to stay open forever. Gibbs says he wants to see his wife all year round, not just in the off-season. He wants time to spend with his sons, watch them play football. "I want to sit in the stands and just be a dad," Gibbs told reporters. Now, I love rooting for the Redskins, but today I'm rooting for Coach Gibbs. He's doing something tougher than taking on the Dallas Cowboys: He's standing against a distorted value system-a system that says, in the words of one Christian counselor, that "it's OK for men to be married to their jobs and fail at home." For decades fathers have handed over the major responsibility for child rearing to their wives, as though their only role was to bring home the bacon. But today the evidence is pouring in that fathers aren't just a meal ticket; they are crucial in their children's emotional and intellectual development. Unfortunately, a lot of that evidence is negative: dark reports from the inner cities about the crime and social pathology caused by what psychologists term "father absence." But the most prevalent form of father absence isn't in the inner cities, says a recent book on the subject: It's in families where fathers simply do not engage in their children's lives-fathers who work 60-hour weeks and come home to slump in front of the television or behind a newspaper. Harvard psychiatrist Armand Nicholi says "parents in the United States spend less time with their children than in any other nation in the world." And it's getting worse. From 1965 to 1985, the average time parents spent with their children dropped from 30 hours a week to just 17 hours-a 40-percent drop. The major reason for the decline, says the Family Research Council, is workaholism. A New York Times survey found that 72 percent of employed fathers feel torn by conflict between their jobs and their desire to spend more time with their families. As a result, fathers are all too prone to what psychologist Robert Coles labels "the teddy bear syndrome": They buy their children toys and Nintendos to compensate for spending so little time together. Well, Joe Gibbs is one father who's not satisfied with trying to buy father-substitutes. He's cutting back on a brilliantly successful career to give his family what they really want: time with him. Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said bringing fathers back into family life may be the only way to "save [the] nuclear family." I believe she was right. My friend Joe Gibbs has set a wonderful example-something far more important than any Super Bowl championship.


Chuck Colson


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