That ‘Crazy’ Herschel Walker Trade

Dallas_Cowboys_stadium_championship_banners_4A new ESPN mini-documentary concerns the legendary Herschel Walker trade in NFL football. In October 1989, the Dallas Cowboys traded former Georgia star Herschel Walker—one of the best ever running backs—to the Minnesota Vikings for five mediocre players. Nobody could understand why the Cowboys made the trade. The Cowboys’ new coach, Jimmy Johnson, was in his first year as coach of a professional team, and the Vikings assumed they were pulling the wool over his eyes.

Johnson knew that the fine print of the trade stated that for each of the five former Vikings players that the Cowboys cut, they would receive one of the Vikings’ future draft picks. These picks would eventually produce the players that built an early-90s Cowboys dynasty that included three Super Bowl championships. But when Johnson announced the trade in 1989, he was not about to tell the world all of the trade’s details, or that he planned to cut the five players and thereby “rob” the Vikings of future picks. The media accused Cowboys leadership of getting robbed. After all, in addition to giving up Walker, the team even had to pay him a huge bonus to keep him from retiring, just so the trade could go through. It was “The Great Trade Robbery.” One reporter said, “Now you can totally bury the thing. This season’s gone, and you have to wonder when football will be back in Dallas.”

The Cowboys knew the facts, and staying the course despite heavy criticism, reaped great rewards. They dealt the Vikings’ picks throughout five years of drafts and built a juggernaut.

Similarly, Christians must recognize that the world will not understand our priorities, or why we would give up earthly benefits for heavenly benefits. The world’s confusion on this point should not surprise us, because Christians know spiritual truths of which the world is willingly ignorant (2 Peter 3:5), and this makes all the difference. The world could not understand Moses’ choice to suffer with the Israelites rather than to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle (Hebrews 11:23-28). The world could not understand why Daniel’s three friends would go to the fiery furnace rather than to commit idolatry (Daniel 3). The world could not understand John the Baptist’s conviction about the sanctity of marriage, a conviction that led to his execution (Matthew 14:4). The world could not understand why the early Christian martyrs such as Polycarp would not renounce Christ.

The fact of the matter is that God’s people understand things that people of the world simply do not. Like Moses, Christians “see him who is invisible.” That is, based on sufficient evidence, we are convicted about the existence of God, the Lordship of Christ, and the inspiration of the Bible, and are not willing to compromise the many convictions that are based upon these realities. But the world doesn’t see the invisible and so often will not take Christianity seriously. This must not deter us from faithfulness. As Jesus said,

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18-21).

- 2017