Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sports and the Christian perspective

I have been conversing on Facebook and other places about where I am right now as a fan of sports. I mainly keep up with College Football and Baseball on all levels. After watching the completely (in my opinion) unethical poaching by USC of the University of Tennessee's entire coaching staff, I have been pondering in my mind exactly where Christians should be in relation to sports.

As I told Father Tim on Facebook the other day, "Actually, where I'm at right now with college football, I think Verse 5 (of Psalm 12) is resonating with me the most. I'm real close to being done with watching big time college football altogether. It's devolved into power and money and winning at all costs, and who has the most all of the above.

I don't know if, as a Christian, I can ethically be so involved in it anymore. I've thought for years that its morphed into a business, but now its morphed into something totally unholy.

I am going to have to think about it in the off season."

Later in the conversation I also remarked, "
As much as I was disgusted by the Lane Kiffin fiasco, really, is what Tennessee (or any university) going to do to replace him going to be that much better? Bigger schools cannibalize smaller schools good coaches. I need to work out my thinking on that some more, but football is a sport that no longer has anything in terms of ethics, other than perhaps the ethic of winning, and the NCAA and talking heads are proud of that fact.

I mean, nobody really batted an eye when Notre Dame hired Cincinnati's coach before the bowl game, gypping the players out of a chance to actually (perhaps) make that game quasi-competitive...

I need to think on this more. I don't know if I am more deeply disturbed by the corruption of it all or that no one seems to care as long as we win. The ethics of football (and big time collegiate sports in general) has become winning (i.e. the ends) justifies the means. I think this has ramifications in the steroid problem too in baseball."

The more I have been pondering these things, the more I do not like where my thinking is taking me. I've always liked sports, both playing and watching. I do not have any issue with sports if they are good, clean wholesome fun. I always thought sports were a good alternative to sending boys off the war or other non-productive channeling of teenage male angst while at the same time teaching life lessons and character building and strategy and sportsmanship.

I am coming to the realization in my mind that popular culture no longer shares my values on this issue in regards to sports. You read stories periodically in the paper of some parent in a Pee Wee sports league going bananas and assaulting a coach or referee after the game. The sheer level of profanity and unsportsmanlike conduct of fans and players at sporting events had increased exponentially over the last 15 years at least in my opinion.

On the other hand, if you read stories of goings on in Major League Baseball in the 1910's and 1920's makes today's atmosphere seem tame. Most of those players could not read and went back to work in the coal mines in the off seasons. Simply read any accounts of Ty Cobb's career and his absolutely nasty antics will give you a hint of what I'm talking about.

I am thinking of doing some research on this issue, and posting a series of blog posts over the next few months. I would love to hear people's perspective on this issue. I am sure there are some poignant opinions.

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