Tuesday, October 25, 2016
IN DEFENSE OF SPORT BY MARC SIMPSON
It is not often that I have the opportunity to feature a guest blogger. My friend, who happens to be a very wise and godly man wrote this as an essay. I wanted to share this, so what follows are the thoughts of Marc Simpson
In Defense of Sport
An Antidote to Cynicism
by marc simpson
Premise: It is far more worthy, nay, more Christian to pursue sport than it is to pursue politics.
You may think I am an odd person to be writing this essay; to be making this argument. And I can argue for the elevation of the arts:
to have them brought up to the level of attention enjoyed by sports in our schools and culture. The value of the arts is an easy case to make in my world. They are a absolute reflection of heaven on earth, a pursuit of the divine. Two seconds of Bach and I leave this planet and am adoring my Lord.
But, as this political season wears on, the baseball season winds down, and the Vols string together several phenomenal games, I could not help but drawn to questions along the lines of:
What is the proper place of the pursuit of sport in the Christian’s life? Are we supposed to keep sports at arms length? Why are sports so appealing? Is it bad that they are? To this last question I say no.
For people of faith, particularly men, being a sports fan (and remember, fan is short for fanatic) can be a conflicted, sometimes embarrassing moniker. Starting to talk with great enthusiasm about one’s team at church on Sunday morning and you may encounter an unstated, understated or perhaps overt challenge to your spiritual maturity. An accusation of idol worship may even be implied. “Do you love sports more than Jesus”? “Why don’t you get as excited in Sunday morning worship as you do in the ballpark”? How much devotion/attention to sports is OK”? “How do we know when we’ve crossed the line”?
These questions deserve exploring. It is one thing to tout the benefit of sports for the participants, especially for students. Physical activity, learning teamwork, fair play, etc. are normal benefits listed for sports programs, but what of the observer, the fan, particularly the fan of professional sport. It is sad that the business of professional sports often overshadows the game itself. Who can forget the Baseball strike of 1994 that brought to a halt one of the most idyllic seasons ever begun. There are a myriad of negatives that have come to pervade pro sports in the last 25 years or more. One could name everything from financial greed (on the part of the owners and players), the cold practice of trading marquee, franchise identifying players to save money, the blight of PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) and on and on it goes. But none of the negatives are the fault of the games themselves. Sport, in and of itself, as an entity, as an activity, as an endeavor to pursue as a participant or an abserver is a good thing. Sport is noble, honorable and indeed, a lab, a type and a parallel of life.
Now we all have our preferences. For me the choice is clear and simple. Baseball, as a team sport, and golf as an individual sport offer the best of sport’s high ideals with the least amount of clutter. For instance, in baseball there is very little, if any, deceit. For sure a pitcher does not telegraph his pitches to the batter but his choices are relatively few and mostly known by the batter. Golf, of course, (no pun intended) offers no, nor allows any, deceit. The ideals of golf, upheld to the highest degree in the professional ranks, have players calling rules violations on themselves! Who can forget Hale Irwin calling his fellow competitor over to confess to ‘whiffing’ a tap in putt and then losing the tournament by 1 stroke, later saying he wouldn’t have it any other way. This kind of honesty woven into the game is but one example of the virtues that golf, if pursued by the rules, builds into it’s players. Even sports that pit teams against each other such as football, basketball, hockey, etc., have boundaries on the field of play that are hard and fast. If a football player’s foot touches the sideline in the least degree, he is call out of bounds. Draconian? Perhaps. But the rule is clear and clean. The limit is the limit. The noble, honorable ideals of sport are also clear and clean and can be seen in these sometimes physically violent games. Teamwork, sportsmanship, fair play, overcoming obstacles or discouragement, etc. still dominate these sports
But what lies underneath these attributes. I would suggest such things as self control, gentleness, faithfulness – but wait, aren’t those listed in the Bible as the fruit of the Spirit? (Gal. 5:22) In fact, that list can be charted with an almost perfect parallel with sports ideals;
Love = Teamwork (Self sacrifice)
Joy = Overcoming defeat (Victory)
Peace = Getting in the “zone”
Patience = Never giving up (Don’t lose heart)
Kindness = Sportsmanship
Goodness = Honesty, (Fair play)
Faithfulness = Sticking to game plan, not giving up
Gentleness = Gracious losing
Self Control = Performing under pressure
You see, sport is an outworking, a practical exercise, in the pursuit of the faith. It is, or can be, a way to “keep our eyes fixed on what is unseen”.(II Cor. 4:18) Things such as faith, hope and love. Joy and peace. Politics, on the other hand, is the epitome of things that are seen. In fact, politics is “the world” in full view. Politics is transient. The ideals of sport are eternal. You immerse yourself in politics you are ‘in the world”. Of course we should be informed citizens and vote and strive to improve our society but when you start to think your security, your future, your well being is dependent on political outcomes you have crossed a line. So, take your sports seriously, you politics lightly. I know this seems backwards. After all, politics is serious but sports are just, well, games. And by taking sport seriously I don’t mean having to win or see your team win all the time. That is also having your well being depend on the outcome of the game. In that way sports should be kept at arms length. There is a great line in a book titled “Golf in the Kingdom” an old Scottish pro says, “Dinna worry about the score too much laddie, it is not the important thing”. The author was recognizing that golf is about unseen things.
Sports are appealing because they are about good things, the unseen things we are admonished to keep our eyes fixed on. Take advantage of that Christian. Enjoy you game and go Cubbies!