Everyone who knows me has no doubt about my love for sports . . . most particularly football. Though I generally march to the beat of an anti-institutional drum, sports is one area where I am caught up in the institution. It is in the realm of sports, and most particuarly college football, that I have recently uncovered a parallel that helps me understand (and perhaps explain) a central theme to the changing epistemological shift in theology and philosophy. [The mere mention of “college sports” in the same sentece with “epistemological” shows that I have problems.]
Growing up in northern Ohio I was destined to be a Big Ten fan. Ohio State first . . . all the others second . . . and M****gan at the bottom. Good ole’ Midwestern smashmouth football. Defense (believe it or not the Big Ten used to play good defense.) That was really the only conference I knew much about growing up. Going to college in Tennessee would change all of that. My friends there made fun of the Big Ten calling them fat and slow. I couldn’t believe my ears . . . how could they be so misled.
Of course they were not all SEC fans . . . our dorm quickly separated into factions, but really only two emerged: Big Ten folks and SEC folks. Not suprisingly, the Big Ten faction hailed from Ohio and Indiana while the SEC folks were from TN, AL, KY, and LA. The older I’ve gotten, the more people I’ve met from all over who root for teams from all over (I even know a guy from New Mexico who roots for Miami University – please make them stop referring to it as “The U.”) – that’s for you Brian.
OK . . . now to bring all this gibberish to its epistemological implcations (epistemology refers to the idea of how we think . . . how we know what we know). Our collegiate alliances are rooted in our heritage – usually where we grew up (except you Brian). Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye. But this doesn’t simply impact who I root for in the fall (and winter for basketball). It impacts the way I think about college sports in general. Here are some of the rather far-reaching implications that I think stem from my Buckeye and Big Ten allegiance (see how far they go from the actual football game).
* Fact: The Big Ten Conference is one of the few football conferences not to have a conference championship game at the end of the season.
*Implication on my thinking: Conference championships are stupid. They throw out years of tradition for the sake of finding a “winner.” What happens in one game can override an entire season’s worth of accomplishments.
* Fact: In 1998 Ohio St. was left out of the BCS championship game because of one-loss Florida St. FSU lost to Tennessee in a game that I strongly believe Ohio St. would have won.
*Implication: The BCS stystem is flawed and should be overhauled. Either pick champions through the polls like it’s always been done and allow for shared champions (imagine if I was an Auburn fan), or choose eight teams for a playoff and then we’ll have a winner.
* Fact: Ohio St. and Michigan have been voted the biggest rivay in college sports (and usually overall.)
* Impact: This is the biggest game of the year. It is simply referred to as The Game because the implications have always been so much.
OK . . . that’s enough ramblings about shallow sidepoints to college sports. College sports are not even my real point. This is the part where I bring it home. We grant each other the benefit of the doubt for rooting for another college team. If you are from Indiana I would expect you to be a Purdue fan (Indiana is just too bad for now) or a Notre Dame fan. If you’re from southern California I’m sure you’re rooting on those Trojans.
And more than that, I would expect and understand your biases. You USC fans can legitimately complain about an “east coast bias” (although not right now, all the media is on your bandwagon). No doubt, you would see the college football world differently. If your team is watching my team and there is a close play, we’d probably see the outcome differently.
And that brings it to “epistemology.” How can we sit and watch a catch or a fumble being reviewed on replay – seeing the same “truthful” event happen, yet see things differently? Because we come from different worlds. You come from the world of Michigan (or wherever) and me from Ohio St. We can watch the same thing and see a different outcome.
Why can’t this be allowed to hold true outside the world of sports? My upbringing had a larger impact on my thinking in areas more significant than sports. My family is overwhelmingly Democratic . . . thus I lean left in politics . . . they were pro-union . . . and I remain a ltitle leary of the “white collars” . . . I grew up in a conservative, near-fundamental church . . . and I still have a strong emphasis on the Bible and prayer . . . and on an on it goes. I like to think that I haven’t simply taken on these things without considering them further, but after I consider them, I usually end up where I started.
This seems to be ok, everywhere but in religion. Why is it so hard for us to see why people see things differently and won’t (can’t?) see things like “I’ see them? They have had a different life experience. The idea that truth is out there somewhere, and if we would just pray hard and give it an authentic try and we’d find it just isnt’ fair to the un-ending stories people find themselves in.
I will always be a Buckeye fan. No one is going to change that. You can only hope to help me be a better Buckeye fan. You can help me understand you better. YOu can help me respect your team better (I have really come around with Vanderbilt and Northwestern), but I’m still going to be a Buckeye fan.
I’m also always going to be a Christian. You can only hope to help me be a better Christian. You can help me understand you better. You can help me respect your religious tradition better (I have really come around with modern day Judaism, and Native American spirituality), but I’m still going to be a Christian.
Hopefully these parallels have come out of my mind well enough to make a discernable point. I find it very interesting that we grant people so much grace in stupid areas like sports but are unwavering in our stance in religion . . . the source for grace.