Dan Walker: Sports Commentator
Austin Walker was the first of the Aberystwyth students to go into the ministry after I arrived in the town in 1965. He is now the pastor at Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, Sussex. His son, Dan Walker, is a radio sports commentator with Key 103 FM (Piccadilly Radio) based in Manchester. He has been described by a panel of judges as an absolute natural and an undoubted star of the future.’ Dan and his wife worship at Belvidere Road Church in Liverpool. This interview is reproduced from Day One magazine, September 2002, by kind permission.
HOW DID YOU BECOME A CHRISTIAN?
I was privileged to be brought up in a Christian home. My father is a pastor and I used to pride myself on knowing all the answers to questions in Sunday School! I would go to bed happy if I had found Lamentations before anybody else in church! The problem was that I knew it all in my head, but not in my heart. When I was twelve, Gerald Jackson came to preach on a Sunday night.
He was talking about weeping and gnashing of teeth and I remember sitting there feeling a deep conviction of sin and terror at the prospect of hell. I went home that night and wept like a baby for hours, talking to my parents. I went to bed in the early hours safe in the knowledge that Christ had died for me and that I was a Christian.
HOW DID YOUR INTEREST IN SPORT DEVELOP?
>From a very early age I was fascinated by sport, spending hours in the back garden pretending to be Glenn Hoddle, Gary Lineker or Boris Becker. I played tennis to quite a high standard but football was my real passion. By the age of nine or ten, I was asked by a number of clubs to go for trials and play in their youth teams. The problem was that every one of them played their matches on Sundays. This was a real test for me. Although I wasn’t a Christian at the time, I began thinking about the importance of God’s commandments and particularly the Lord’s Day. After many tears, I explained to the clubs that I would love to play for them – but not on a Sunday. I was turned down. If you can t play football then the next best thing is being paid to watch it! God clearly led me through the years.
WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK INTO THE MEDIA?
My big chance came when my fiancée Sarah (now my wife) heard about a competition on Hallam FM for their sports reporter of the year. Looking back I can see that it was incredibly providential. Two days previously I had been turned down for a teaching course in Sheffield because they thought I was, too much of a goon’. Spurred on by Sarah’s enthusiasm I sent in a commentary tape that I had recorded into my dad’s stone-age tape recorder and won the competition. Within two weeks I was working on the Saturday sports show, and later got a job at Piccadilly Radio (Key 103) in Manchester.
HAS YOUR FAITH BEEN TESTED IN THIS ENVIRONMENT?
I thought it would be more difficult for me not to work on a Sunday than it has been. When I first got the job I said that I would be willing to work extra time for six days of the week in exchange for Sundays off. My boss agreed. Since then, although I have been asked to work on Sundays, he has gone out of his way to give me other shifts. It has been difficult at times because radio stations tend to attract the biggest collection of egos in the world. The biggest test comes when you are on air. Not laughing at a dodgy joke is tough enough in the office but when 150,000 people are listening it adds an extra pressure to your response. I suppose it’s the same in most offices. If you ask people to stop swearing or blaspheming, some people will silently respect you while others will go out of their way to turn the air blue.
WHAT ARE YOUR CONVICTIONS ABOUT THE LORDS DAY?
I believe that the Christian Sabbath is a day given to us by God, our Creator, for our own good. I firmly believe that there are ten commandments (not nine) and that it is more important to keep Sunday special now than it has ever been. I still get itchy feet when I drive past a game of football on a Sunday morning but we live in a world where every corner of our Christian witness is being eaten away. By treating Sunday as a different day we immediately show that God makes a difference in our lives. People have asked me on numerous occasions, for example, why I don’t go to United v Arsenal when they play on a Sunday. It gives me a perfect opportunity to say why I go to church, what I believe in and what God has done in my life. People can make excuses for doing anything on a Sunday – it is easy to justify what we want to do. But you can never get away from that the fact that in doing so, we are going against God’s plan.
HAVE YOUR CONVICTIONS AFFECTED YOUR CAREER?
Yes they have, but God has blessed me greatly. In my two and a half years in radio I have won nine awards and I firmly believe that God has a plan for me to progress in the industry. It can be a little frustrating at times but you have to remember that God will honour those who honour him. I have had to turn down job offers from a number of companies like Sky Sports and the BBC because they stipulate Sunday working. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted by a great job offer but I value peace with God far higher than a chunky salary.
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR YOUNG CHRISTIANS TO CONSIDER A CAREER AS A PROFESSIONAL SPORTSPERSON OR COMMENTATOR WITHOUT COMPROMISING THEIR FAITH?
Whichever side of the microphone or camera you are on it will be difficult to be a Christian and be involved in sport at the highest level but never let that put you off. You have to come to terms with the fact that you may never get to the top of your game but I firmly believe that we should pray for talented sportsmen and women to really achieve as much as they can in sport. If you are the best at what you do then organisers will move mountains to accommodate you. What a witness it would be if the next tennis superstar was a devout Christian who got to the final of Wimbledon and refused to play! If the organisers disqualify him for not playing then people will see how much his faith means to him and if they move the final then it would be a great encouragement to Christians everywhere struggling to make a stand. We should also pray for established stars to be converted in the same way as we pray for our government. If Tiger Woods wouldn’t play on a Sunday then soon enough golf tournaments would start on a Wednesday and finish on a Saturday. What a phenomenal witness that would be!
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL CHRISTIANS WHO SAY THEY CAN WORSHIP GOD WATCHING OR PLAYING IN A FOOTBALL GAME ON THE LORDS DAY?
I would say, look what you’re missing out on! When you’re on the pitch at 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning think what you could be doing. Is it really more beneficial for you and more honouring to God for you to be kicking a football around on his day rather than worshipping him in church? God sent his Son to die for your sins on the cross and yet you treat his day like a sports day! The Bible commands us not to neglect meeting together with other Christians and I remember a quote that a friend gave me on the subject from Epheren Syrus: ‘He who pampers the body and starves the soul is like one who feasts his slave and starves his wife.’ Do you feel the Lord has encouraged you in your stand in witnessing to non-Christians or helping Christians?
I do feel that God has given me clear pointers that I am in the right profession. A couple of people advised me not to pursue this career because it would be too difficult, but every step of the way I have felt God’s support. He has given me the words to say in awkward situations and most importantly peace with difficult decisions. Some Christians are still surprised that I do what I do but most of them just ask if I know anything about the latest football info or who Liverpool will sign over the summer. A wise Christian told me about a year ago that I should never forget that God has put me in a great position to witness to lots of people. It seems weird but during interviews I’ve talked to David Beckham about going to church and Noel Gallagher has asked me why I don’t swear. I find it as hard to witness as anybody but I have to remember that I may be the only Christian these people will ever meet.
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