Close to Home

I’ve been thinking about a topic that hits pretty close to home. Sports. I love sports. Anyone who knows me well at all, knows how much I love sports. Football sits atop the highest pedestal, for me, but just about any sport I can sit down and watch on television. Mary Beth is astonished how I can sit and watch two football teams that I don’t care much about, and be entertained. It’s just who I am. Football season bleeds into basketball season, which is really my off-time for sports – not a big hoops fan, which satisfies us until spring training begins, and the “there’s always next year” mantra, has come into reality for all Cleveland Indians fans. In short, I waste alot of time and money as a spectator and fan of sports.

I suppose that alone is enough to bring about a beef, however, there’s more. There’s the addiction that many have to playing sports. Working with teenagers, this has become an especially poignant issue in my thinking. I see parents shell out ungodly amounts of money to send their children to sports camps and even hire personal trainers to work with them. That’s really when I started thinking.

Sports has become, for many, our modern day idol. In sports we place our trust, our faith. It becomes a brotherhood, a community. It, in many aspects, is where many go to fulfill the void left by not having a relationship with God. What else defines something that makes grown men take their shirts off in sub-degree weather, spend hundreds of dollars for a ticket, spend hours in the parking lot, and spend hours upon hours following the standings, statistics, etc. except faith. The American faith has become in athletics.

It has stolen the dreams of our parents. How many parents still vocally dream that their children might do something great in this world such as pursue science and continue the advances towards cancer and AIDS and other pandemic diseases? How many hope their children might pursue economics in seeking to address world poverty? How many wish they to be doctors and nurses helping their fellow men? How many encourage them on in any number of fields where they can better mankind? Far more set the ambitions of their children to playing in “the big game” and being the quarterback to lead the game-winning drive or being the batter with a full count with a chance to win the World Series, or kick the game-winning penalty kick in the World Cup or hit the game winning shot . . . or whatever it is, just make their mark of athletic prowess known.

Sports are no longer fun. They are work. Hard work. At least once you hit double digits. Upon a child’s tenth birthday, they reach a landmark decision in their life – a life time decision that the previous generation didn’t have to make until they were in high school. Is sports going to be y0ur life? Is that your number one pursuit? If it is, then we can work with you. We’ll put you on some elite travel team that will cost your family thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of time commitment, but you’ll have the best training money can buy. If you choose to pursue something besides sports, but still wish to play, we have some rec leagues that you can play on, but no one really cares about them, and you may have trouble finding coaches and officials.

Our parents of young people need to take a step back and consider the message they are sending their children. If they don’t succeed they are a failure. Just as long as you gave it your all . . . yeah, sure, but it’s not nearly as good as if you had won. Upon selling your soul to the sports god, you’re left with only a few choices (that is the 99.99999% of people in the world who don’t get paid to play sports). You can stay in the game coaching, officiating, or painting your chest in the stands. You can turn your attention to your children . . . and the cycle continues.

Churches aren’t helping matter here too well. Have you ever participated or watched a church league basketball game? Any differences between them and another league? Maybe a few less cuss words . . . maybe.

The church needs to offer a prophetic word in the area of sports. When it comes to sports, the question of what would Jesus do seems rather moot. Who cares, I wonder if that’s what Jesus would say as he was strapping on his soccer cleats for the Nazareth High School JV team. “If we win, if we lose? Who cares? Maybe I can show these other guys through my example that this game is fun, and I have benn blessed to be able to play? But there are more important things to do. More important ways to spend your time. Maybe you should take this season off. For God. Now that’d be radical. People would notice that.”

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One thought on “Close to Home

  1. We got to see an “idol” shattered here at work, where we sell a lot of Buckeyes items. One day, everybody is gearing up for the BCS Championship game and things are busy–the next day–practically nothing.There still has to be a “loser” in each game, no matter how we spend our time or our money or our effort. Clearly, with everything being a toss-up, we either need longer-lasting idols, or better–something that leaves idols behind.You make a very good argument for the things that we really need.

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