Summer 2024

James Brown aims to model Godly lifestyle as he hosts record 11th Super Bowl pregame show

When each part of the body is working properly, the body can grow and perform at its best, Ephesians 4:16 says. And with Christ as the head, the rest of the Church body must work together, each part for its designed purpose, to accomplish the will of God. This is how James Brown approaches both his personal life and his work hosting “The NFL Today” on CBS.

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Though he may be best known now for hosting a football show, the former basketball star prefers to play point guard on the show rather than be the main scorer.

“My whole focus has always been to do the best to make my colleagues look good. It’s a team-oriented sport,” Brown said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in December. “I’ve always been focused on the whole body. I’m usually the host of a team doing this.”

It’s been his mindset his entire career, which has now spanned more than 30 years and includes three Emmy Awards. In October, the National Association of Broadcasters awarded him with the Distinguished Service Award, putting him in company with other luminaries such as Walter Cronkite, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw and Billy Graham. And on Sunday, with CBS broadcasting Super Bowl LVIII, he’ll host the popular pregame show ahead of the Super Bowl for a record 11th time.

He’s hosted “The NFL Today” since 2006, and by this point the Super Bowl is somewhat old hat for him. But there’s still a noticeably different feel when hosting the show on Super Bowl Sunday, he said.

First, it’s a much bigger production with a much larger audience. The one-hour show becomes a four-hour spectacle seen by millions of fans, many of whom are likely casual fans that don’t tune in each week or only tune in once a year for the Super Bowl. It’s a big stage, and he wants to make sure those who tune in are entertained and informed about the game.

A former Harvard University basketball standout who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1973, Brown remembers what his high school basketball coach taught him: Just focus on the fundamentals.

“I want to understand the game exceedingly well, the people and teams that are competing, their strengths and weaknesses, and what my colleagues are studying,” he said on the podcast.

Each week, his goal is make sure his bucket is full — an axiom he picked up from the late John Madden, who would ask this of his co-host Pat Summerall before broadcasting games to make sure they had all the information they needed to carry out a well-produced, high-quality broadcast.

The longer show requires it, Brown said. And in the event that something bizarre happens, like when the lights went out in the stadium during Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, he wants to be prepared to fill any extra time.

“You always want to pray for a great game … but we need to have some extras just in case,” he said on the podcast. “I always want to be prepared for the purpose of eliciting the best out of my colleagues, because if they’re happy, if they felt that they were given enough of a platform to share what they know in preparation for that, then you know what, we’re all happy.”

Brown is also an ordained minister, but there was a time when he didn’t know God, and he shares his story in hopes of connecting with others. A few months removed from being cut by the Hawks, he was paying frequent visits to night clubs and more or less living in a season of life full of sadness and despair. Life felt stagnant, he explained on the podcast.

He reached a breaking point and knew he needed to turn to God.

“I know of You, but I don’t know You,” Brown said in prayer to God. “If You will introduce Yourself to me or help me to get to know You, I will serve You. And I meant that.”

The next week, he got an invitation from his friends to go to a pajama party. He was aware of the juxtaposition of being a 24-year-old adult attending something that felt so juvenile, but he went anyway, perhaps against his better judgment.

“I had been there 10 minutes, and I didn’t know the Lord, but I felt like I had committed high treason,” he said. “On my way back home, I apologized profusely for doing that and said, ‘This will be a diligent search for You.’”

That launched what he said was a 12-year search for both a genuine relationship with God and a church home. He was eventually led to Rhema Christian Center Church in his hometown of Washington, D.C. Now, there’s no question where his faith in God fits in his list of priorities. It’s central to everything he does.

“It’s only what we’ve done for the Lord that really matters,” Brown said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast back in 2017. “That will last.”

Just as he prepares for his show, he said he takes seriously the command in 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Those around him know he’s a man of faith, and his humble and welcoming disposition allows him to be a source of comfort for colleagues and others to seek Godly counsel from him. It’s opened doors for him to share the Gospel with people as well.

“I don’t go around trying to beat people over the head with the Bible,” Brown said on the 2017 podcast. “I try to model it in my lifestyle.”

The four-hour edition of “The NFL Today” will start at 2 p.m. ET Sunday. The 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 6:30 p.m. ET.

>> Do you know Christ personally? Learn how you can commit your life to Him. <<

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