You shall have no other gods before Me, (Exodus 20:3).
Do Americans worship sports? When one considers how many billions of dollars and thousands of hours are dedicated to the industry (from Little League to Major League), a case could be made that in a very real sense we do.
At the very least I think we have to say that it is amazing—mind numbing in fact—how seriously we take our sports. Now, I assure you, this is no diatribe against our favorite pastimes; but I would like to take a moment to reflect upon the matter.
We rightly think of sports as bringing out the best in folks, particularly our kids: physical well-being, discipline, teamwork, selflessness, etc. And regardless of liberals and their hissy-fits…it’s healthy for children (especially the ones over 30) to learn to win and to lose graciously.
You win some, you lose some. We’re not all equal in gifts and talents and abilities. Sometimes things don’t end as we think they will or should. That’s life. We can use sports to teach or illustrate these things.
But while we often think of sports as manifesting the best in us, in actuality they commonly reveal the worst in us: selfishness, dishonesty, anger, arrogance, pettiness and so forth. These unseemly traits are not just seen on the field, but off the field—in the bleachers (maybe even more so). Sports turn many people ugly and vicious—sometimes even criminally violent. Why?
Just what are sports anyway?
I think we must say that sports properly belong to the category of entertainment. Those who play sports non-professionally are recreating and those who play sports professionally are entertaining. (This is why pro athletes are so highly paid. We revere entertainers. Indeed, we practically idolize them.)
Either way, recreational or professional, for most of us sports are really nothing more than entertainment. Do we fail to see this?
I’ve seen fans openly, unashamedly weep in both victory and defeat. There are people who soar with absolute euphoria or plunge into abject despair based upon nothing but the outcome of a game.
And our terminology doesn’t help us any.
It’s odd to think of the rhetoric we use of sports. Though sports are entertainment we often use terms such as gutsy, brave and heroic to describe on-field performances. War metaphors are typical. We speak of “sudden death” and “battling it out” and “warriors.” Sports entertainers are commonly referred to as heroes.
No, I’m not suggesting that we change the vernacular. Only this: When we hear or say such things…remember…sports are merely entertainment.
Sports—as entertainment—are in actuality distractions. Sports (not unlike movies, concerts, plays, board/card/video games and shopping sprees) are a means of forgetting one’s situation in life for a couple of hours. Obviously, all such “getaways” can be healthy or unhealthy—to speak biblically, lawful or sinful.
So, when it comes to sports and all forms of entertainment—lest we fall into idolatry—the Christian should always seek to think and to behave to the glory of God. We should ask ourselves: Am I honoring God with my actions, attitudes, and priorities in regards to this sport/entertainment?
That’s a sobering question.
Well, that’s all the time I have for now. It’s October and I’m a life-long St. Louis Cardinals fan. So…you know what that means. I’ve got baseball to watch.