Let me get this outta the way first:
One, I’m coming off two weekends of travel baseball, the first weekend spent in what could easily be described as the pit of hell because it was so humidly hot and I’m quite sure demons took the shape of winged bugs that stuck in your teeth and hair; and the second weekend, the state championship, which was out of town when we’d already been out of town and didn’t need another night out of town. And again it was so hot that I couldn’t use the bathroom out of fear I wouldn’t be able to pull my shorts back up. The kind of hot when you lament the fact that you put lotion on your legs or mascara on your lashes. Or wore a bra… That. Hot.
Two, I must confess: I think football is barbaric, baseball is confusing, golf is antiquated, and soccer is boring as all get out. And if I knew anything about any of the other zillion sports out there, I’d give you my opinion on them as well.
All that aside, I totally enjoy a good afternoon spent inside Vaught-Hemingway, soaking in the sights and sounds of an Ole Miss football game.
I love to wear my powder blue and cheer on the Rebs at Swayze.
And I adore watching my little baller, Bearsy, in the MANY games he plays. (Like his father, he’s obsessed with all sports.)
It’s just that the ultra-non-competitive side of me doesn’t get the fuss.
What’s the big deal if we win or lose?
Why the hate on social media for the teams we don’t like?
How can we possibly justify the poisoning of trees (Toomer’s Corner) or beating fans to a pulp over a win or loss?
I just don’t get it.
You would think some of us believed winning a football game was like a one way ticket to the right-hand of God.
Speaking of God, what do you suppose HE thinks of sports?
If He were walking around down here in the flesh again, would He approve?
Would He approve of my seven year old’s travel baseball schedule, for example?
Would He want my little gift practicing hours a week and playing upwards of SEVEN games in a single weekend? (In the hot sun. Wearing long pants and socks. With grown men hollering at him from every direction.)
What exactly does the Bible say about competition?
Well, as it turns out, not much.
The simple fact is, not a whole lot of our modern-day world is discussed in detail in a centuries-old book.
There is nothing in the Bible about group text etiquette. (Like, a commandment saying don’t put me in one.)
Nothing about driving a car (or a chariot, for that matter).
Nothing on attending Sunday school, or the PTO meeting, or your weekly hair appointment. (All things we Southern women believe get you into Heaven.)
And there is certainly nothing specific about modern-day sports.
However, the Bible has a great deal to say about the way we treat each other.
~ Love your neighbor as yourself…
And it has a lot to say about how we should enjoy life.
~ This is the day the Lord made; let us rejoice and be glad in it…
So where does that leave the Christian who is genuinely concerned about whether or not the travel ball/college football/world series lifestyle fits into having faith?
First, if you haven’t stopped and pondered the current environment surrounding sports–and come away feeling a bit worried–you are not living in reality.
Without a shadow of a doubt, we have a serious obsession with professional athletes.
We place them on too high of a pedestal.
We expect them to achieve goals that aren’t humanly possible (aka the need for steroids).
We glorify them despite certain lifestyles that are far from glory-worthy.
And we put too high an emphasis on winning at all costs. (The studies on the long-term effects of the brain after playing football are horrific and should give us great pause.)
There is also a pervasively pushy attitude creeping into children’s sports.
We are moving towards travel ball and competitive cheerleading at a frightening pace because rec sports simply aren’t “good enough.”
We are forcing young boys to pitch an absurd amount of games.
We have football players dropping daily from heat exposure and overexertion, cheerleaders being permanently injured from stunts you would have never seen twenty years ago.
We are emphasizing a false belief that more and harder competition=better athlete.
We are teaching our kids that the most expensive fees/uniforms/equipment are necessary for being the best player.
And again, we are
whispering shouting in their ears that winning is more important than character. (Go to any ball field during a weekend tournament and see for yourself. Coaches are fighting with umpires, parents are fighting with coaches–I’ve even seen a grown man make fun of a child.)
Of course, I know not all parents, players, coaches and fans are this way.
And none of that ugliness, aggression or unrealistic pressure has to be what sports is all about.
We once considered a ball game nothing more than a pastime, a way to enjoy life in days of old.
We bought popcorn and Coke and cheered on our favorite team.
We wore our colors proud.
We encouraged hard–and honest–work.
And if we lost, we lost. There were far more important worries: war, illness, where we might get our next job or meal.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten lost in the competition.
I think we’ve grown complacent about whether or not we’re doing right by the people we’re cheering on, whether or not they’re doing right by us.
We should get back to that.
In the mean time, does God approve of travel ball? Of college football, or competition in general?
I think He does, actually. Despite my own bias, I think God loves His children enjoying and competing in sports, as long as our hearts are in the right place.
He probably wishes we didn’t take them so seriously, I’m sure.
But I really do believe if Jesus were walking in the flesh in our modern world, we’d catch Him in the stands on any given Sunday…
Popcorn in hand.
Smile on His face.
Cheering on our favorite team.