Go Team Go!

Recently a regional professional sports team won their league title – you know the best thing that could ever happen to their team.  I understand that that’s a big deal.  Afterall, achieving the best you can in your chosen profession is always pretty damn cool.  What I don’t relate to is the reaction of so many of the fans.  And for this I will be criticized and will offend a large number of people.

Here’s the thing.  There was a parade.  A parade in which hundreds of thousands of people attended – to watch people they don’t personally know drive around a giant trophy.  It was blistering hot, and a weekday.

Yet, earlier in the spring, the remains of an POW/MIA Korean War Vet was returned to his family.  I heard about it on social media and the radio, there was a request to line the route and fly a flag as the convoy passed.  However, there was no traffic jam, there were not thousands, not even hundreds, of people lining the streets.  Honestly, the only evidence I saw just an hour later was an American flag, that previously wasn’t there, hanging from a local business.

And let’s not forget the people who daily do amazing things, but rarely get recognized  – the surgeon who saved my neighbor’s life, the teachers who helped your kids get through a rough spell in their life, the garbage collector who collects our refuse, the maintenance crew that shows up when a water line breaks, the friend who saves a stray animal, the kid who shovels their elderly neighbor’s walkway without being asked.

Again, I’m not trying to belittle the achievement of the team that won their league “We’re number 1” title.  Instead, I want to ask you to think about how you react to that, after all, it’s very likely that you had nothing to do with their victory.  But celebrate, it’s always fun, and I get the excitement behind it – after all, sports provide some of our best entertainment.

In general, we like to know that people are cheering us on, be it in a business venture, a friendly competition, a performance, or a league title.  And believe me, if my nieces and nephews lived closer, I’d be trying to get to a few of their events to cheer them on – be it an athletic event, spelling bee, or dance recital.  Because, again, it’s nice to know we’re being supported by those who know us.

What I don’t understand is why so many people think having a “winning” professional sports team in the area is such a great thing for the children.  “Think of the kids!  They got to see their team win!  It’s so inspiring!”  First of all, it’s not “their team”; their team is the one they play on through their school or the local organization that is home to the field/arena on which they practice and play.  Secondly, how is watching a group of paid, adult athletes  who are done developing physically, and with resources the kid will most likely never have access to, inspiring?  I understand that it can be inspiring to watch someone play the game well.  But to put so much emphasis on a team or player at a level which so very few can ever attain, just seems silly to me.

Which brings me to a bigger question, especially if you’re a Christian and have ever, EVER, accused someone of worshiping a false god: Are you simply a fan of the team, or are you worshiping them?  I know that sounds harsh, but if that question ruffles your feathers, you might want to ask yourself why it agitates you.  If you are a Christian, ask yourself, if the parade were held on a Sunday, would you have skipped church for it?  It’s a slippery slope, being a fan vs. worshiping a false god.

Many of the Christians I know often use the word “idolatry” when referring to money, greed, keeping up with the Joneses, pride, or vanity.  But how often do we use the word “idol” and forget that it designates the object/person being idolized, meaning, it’s a form of idolatry.   Sure, it’s good to have people to look up to, even idolize, as we all need a goal, something to strive for, or a person to inspire us to do better.  But at what point does it become more than that?

Unfortunately, I see way too many people, regardless of religious affiliation, who act in ways that treat professional sports teams and players as if they are gods to be worshiped.  Are your religious rituals much different from your sports rituals?  Both have designated locations, suggested attire, chants or songs, food or culinary expectations and rituals, and strong affiliations.  I can just imagine an alien life form viewing our broadcasts and labeling the planet based on professional teams as religious sects?

“Hmm, it looks like the major religious beliefs are based on a checkered round ball, but this continent seems to have adapted it to a pointy oval one.  And across the planet there seem to be variations on the round ball, they aren’t all colored and they come in different sizes, some groups kick it, some hit it with an object.”

“Agreed.   I can’t seem to keep the different sects separate.  It looks like the prominent biped species shows their allegiance by wearing and displaying the colors and symbols of the sect they follow.  A large number of them have shrines in their home and have rituals they must follow before the clergy meet.  And the sects do seem somewhat regional with missionary type pockets around the planet. “

“True, but I haven’t yet figured out what the primary clergy are trying to accomplish when they meet.  They seem to schedule meetings of different sects during certain seasons.  But I’m not sure how the outcome is interpreted by the followers or what the different types of clergy are trying to to do during the meetings.  And why are some sects physically violent, but not others?”

Silly?  Yes.  Harsh?  Probably.  But again, I’m not against sports; team sports are a great way for people to build relationships and learn to work together, and all sports offer physical exercise, which many of us don’t get enough of.  Don’t even tell me that you think I’m jelous – because let’s face it, the odds of anyone making it to a professional sports team is pretty slim (The Goat has done the math).  And I’m also not against being a fan of anything – I’ve got favorite bands and musicians, authors, foods, restaurants, etc.  And I will gladly tell people about them when asked or the topic comes up.  It’s the level of fanaticism, bordering on idolatry, so many people have towards pro teams that I don’t understand.

If you have a favorite team, by all means, keep cheering them on – especially your little league and local minor league teams.  Please just remember that for many of us, including most sports fans, a victory will most likely only minimally affect your daily life, if at all.  Tired or hungover because you stayed up to watch the game?  You probably still need to get up the next day and go about your routine; just like those who were up to late with a sick kid,  someone who made a trip to the ER, parents waiting for their teens to get home safely, and everyone else who was going about life as usual.

I’m not trying to villainize sports fans, or take a righteous high road.  I’m just looking at it from a different perspective, albeit a minority perspective.  But then again, if I were born ages ago, you probably wouldn’t have found be at the Coliseum watching gladiators either.  Go Team Go!