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Food For Thought: Essendon’s ‘Whatever it takes’ slogan dependent on values


Food For Thought is a public theology & Bible advocacy blog for Eternity from Sophia Think Tank’s David Wilson, who gathers top Christian thinkers to take a closer look at how the Christian faith addresses matters in society at large every week.

‘Whatever it takes’. That slogan has taken on a new meaning in Melbourne in the last week. It was Essendon Football Club’s slogan for this year. The marketing team had come up with what under other circumstances would’ve been a highly motivating slogan. We’re going to get into the finals this year no matter what it takes. We won’t give up or shy away. We’re totally committed and nothing’s going to stop us. Whatever it takes.

Problem is, a statement like that needs a good value system both underlying it and being seen to underlie it. Without such a value system it could mean, I’ll murder, I’ll cheat, I’ll steal… I’ll take performance enhancing supplements. Whatever it takes.

Essendon Football Club’s advertising campaign (from its Facebook page).

Two weeks ago it all turned belly up for Essendon. They are being investigated for wrongful use of performance enhancing supplements. The investigation is ongoing and as an avid Essendon supporter I’m hoping that all will be well. At the same time a report came out from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) that all is not well in Australian sport. Drugs, connections to organised crime, match fixing, betting scandals…the list goes on. Australian sport! We thought we had the moral high ground. Not so. Our favourite religion is seen to be as tainted as religions of our past.

The wise-thinking Essendon machine quickly tore all the banners down. They saw that in the current climate it was unwise to say ‘whatever it takes’ as it certainly doesn’t approve of drugs, match fixing or cheating in other forms. In other contexts it could be said that ‘whatever it takes’ is a good commitment it all depends on the underlying value system.

When Paul the Apostle wrote about sports as a metaphor for life he could’ve had ‘whatever it takes’ in mind as well. In 1 Corinthians 9 he writes that the athlete runs to win. An obvious statement but one that probably has a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality behind it. But look at the values that guide the mentality. Paul mentions the values of strict training, strategy and goals, and self-control. In an even more relevant value to the issues of today, given in 1 Timothy he says that a good athlete will always run in obedience to the rules. Whatever it takes, yes, but within the values framework of discipline, self-control, and rules.  A commitment to this values framework by Australian sport in particular would’ve made the ACC report somewhat different.

Everyone seems to be talking about a values framework. You hear it come up in conversation about the federal elections. It was a dominant subject in the research I was involved in last year into the social environment and young people. An Atheist friend of mine told me recently that much of his value system was worked out in his association with the church. He lamented the lack of such values education for children today.

From my totally biased perspective I think that Essendon Footy Club has a good code of ethics and is a decent club. I hope I’m not proved wrong in the next few days. But it is also true that a lot of people and a lot of organisations don’t have adequate value systems to guide them through the ethical dilemmas and the ‘whatever it takes’ mentality for everyday life. I believe that the good book, the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, is the source of wisdom for the building of such a values framework.

Food for Thought.