Monday, January 22, 2007

For Whom Do I Cheer?

For kids I'd like to abolish organized sports. If a child wants to play, he should have friends over and learn the rules and get some good, fun exercise by playing a game with neighborhood companions. In high school it should be a less demanding (controlling, life-consuming) activity. The high school sports sphere is such a cutthroat quest for scholarships. At least in the cities, where the high schools have thousands of students enrolled, the students who make the team are those with resumes of involvement in sports since they were young, and over the summer at camps. An outrageous sum of money is spent on camps, equipment, uniforms, membership in leagues. The return is not profitable. I think parents should have been investing for college if college scholarships for a college education were the end-all for their children.

There are those devoted (obsessed) fans who have memorized statistics, names, plays, penalties, and trivia for their favorite sports team (or sport in general, or every sport). Cable channels dedicated to sports fuel this waste. Even in school I have met people who know more about their favorite athlete than they have Bible verses memorized, yet they've proved their brain capable.

What really bothers me about sports is when people are at practices or games, or watching games during times when they have committed to be at church. Especially children are taught by the priorities demonstrated by participating in a soccer tournament Sunday morning. The excuses are petty. No one has told me, "We go to church on Saturday (or Tuesday) because the Bible says we don't have to respect one day over another for worship and fellowship." This would be a satisfactory explanation to me. Yet kids can't attend our Bible study/memorization club on Mondays or Wednesdays, youth group on Tuesdays, or church on Sundays because they are either attending practices and games or too exhausted from practices and games.

On the other hand, sports in moderation (certain sports, which do not glorify meaningless violence) can be inspiring. There is an intoxicating thrill in being on the edge of your seat waiting for a team to win or lose, rising up with a cheer for the incredible play. Thoughtful tactics are for the peaceful moments of a game. What should they do? Why did the coach do that? Does the player understand all the rules, and the game-long scheme?

Then there is the fact that there are some very public Christians, whose character is demonstrated to be different even on the field or the court. Yesterday the Indianapolis Colts won the AFC Championship in football and they will be playing in the Super Bowl in 2 weeks. On a nationally televised game, forming a counterpoint to the worldly commercials and environment, the owner of the Colts "humbly" gave glory to God. Again, right after the owner, their coach, Tony Dungy, gave credit to God for their victory. My family speculated that their quarterback, Peyton Manning, had been praying during the last minutes of the close game. People know he's a Christian. His character is Christian. He is a team player and a good player, kind to the other team and usually calm even in the face of injustice - though with an intelligent grasp of the truth.

Though I love the city of Chicago, the other team playing in 2 weeks, and though they have a sort of Cinderella story, I will be cheering for the Colts. I want to be associated with their fans. At this big game, this big secular event, when the owner and coach mentioned God, the crowd even roared their agreement.

Sometimes, sports isn't so bad. Paul uses the imagery of the athletic tournaments to describe our spiritual life. Practices, following the rules, giving it your all, striving for the goal of the single prize:

2 Timothy 2:5,
"And if a man also strive for masteries,
yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully."

1 Corinthians 9:24-27,
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize?
So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly;
so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others,
I myself should be a castaway."

To God be all glory.

1 comment:

Lisa of Longbourn said...

A follow-up: Mom said she heard Peyton Manning confessing on a morning news show after the game that he had been praying during the final minutes when the game was out of his hands but definitely still in God's.

"I said a little prayer there before that last drive," the younger Manning says. "I don't know if you're supposed to pray for stuff like that. But I said a little prayer there."

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn