How many of you have seen signs prominently displayed at athletic events which say "John 3:16" and wondered about the origin of this practice? I have, many times, but I haven't known where to go for the answer. I was sure, however, that someday I would accidentally stumble across the answer and that stumble occurred several days ago when I was watching some obscure television program.
It seems that Roland Stewart was listening to an evangelist one night in his hotel room and became so concerned about the preacher's prediction for the end of the world that he was "born again" right in the hotel room without any outside assistance. He was so taken with the message he had heard that he dedicated himself to spreading the word and for the next 20 years that is exactly what he did. With his rainbow wig, t-shirts with the Jesus message emblazoned across the front and his signs, he proceeded to visit every major sports venue such as the Super Bowl, World Series, Golf Tournaments and anything else that guaranteed a large viewing TV audience. Somehow he managed to be located in prime centers of visibility and was so successful that he became a major problem for TV producers all over America. They were convinced his signs were distractions, but they continued to appear until Mr. Stewart decided to have his own "Super Bowl" of publicity and holed up in a hotel in California and plastered his windows with signs of the impending doom . He was aiming for the maximum TV coverage but somewhere along the way something went wrong. His extravaganza, instead of being a publicity event, turned into a hostage situation when the maid in his room became alarmed at his behavior and locked herself in his bathroom. Eventually, Mr. Stewart was removed from his room without being able to deliver his message of world doom and was tried for kidnapping. This is where the story becomes unbelievable.
Mr.Steward was tried on three counts of kidnapping ( I don't know where the 3 counts came from ) and received 3 life sentences. He is now serving those sentences in Folsom Prison where his job is to clean up the grounds of trash created by the other prisoners. I'm sure there is a logical explanation for some people of how a man could receive 3 life sentences for a "crime" where no one was hurt and arguably, there was no victim, but that's what was done by a state that has probably the most heinous crimes in America committed within its borders and can't muster up the courage to execute someone when they are convicted of these crimes.
So there you have it. Now we know how the signs originated. Probably the strangest part of the story is that the signs continue to appear. I saw them at several NFL games this past year, but I can't remember if I saw one at the Super Bowl. If there has ever been a single example which best demonstrated Andy Warhol's famous "15 seconds of fame" statement, it would have to be Roland Stewart. Another sad aspect of the story is that his daughter was interviewed on the television show I saw, but she hasn't seen him in person since 1980. Mr. Stewart appears calm now and admits that his publicity stunt did not achieve the desired results. He, however, stops short of of saying he's sorry he did it.
The story causes me to wonder where all the sports characters have gone. They used to be plentiful, but now they seem to have been replaced by people who are more mean spirited and ego centered.
Oftentimes, the characters today are principals in the sport itself. Call me old fashioned when I pine for the old days and I'll plead guilty every time.