It was once a game. How sports became a god and how we as Christians should respond.
Well college football is in full swing. My mother’s favorite sport, NHL Hockey is underway, and the NBA tipped off last night. As a high school basketball coach, I am currently preparing for a season that will begin practice next week. It is a busy sports time. Have you ever wondered if we put too much emphasis on sports? I believe we can honestly say sports has become a god.
How did this happen and what can we do about it? This month I want to address how we got here and next month I will give you some suggestions on how to navigate the crazy world of sports today.
First, how did we become such a sports crazed society from professional sports all the way down to youth sports?
Let me give you five things that have helped increase the problem. There are definitely more than five, but these help bring about the environment we have today.
Does this sound familiar? An ever, increasing fascination with sports and an increase of the violence of it, as well as large amounts of money throne at it to amuse the masses. Sounds like today, does it not? This is what Edward Gibbon said was one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire in his book “The History of the Roman Empire”. Our culture dictates a great deal of how we live even as believers.
2. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
Believe it or not, these two men have a great deal to do with how much sports we watch. When they entered the NBA in the early 1980’s, the NBA was a struggling league. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were rivals from Indiana State and Michigan State who had recently played in the 1979 NCAA national championship game. It is still the most watched NCAA championship game in history. This rivalry carried over to the NBA. They helped save the NBA. Television ratings increased not just for the NBA but for other sports as well. This helped lead to our third cause.
3. The rise of technology
September 7, 1979, brought the dawn of a new age to television. This was the day that ESPN debuted and brought us the world of 24-hour sports. Now with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the like added into the mix we can have sports and reaction to sports all day everyday. We don’t have to go a minute without the latest scores from games all over the world or our favorite players next tweet.
4. The introduction of the “Trophy Generation”
The “Trophy Generation” is the generation that always gets a trophy no matter what. It doesn’t matter if they earned it. In a society that does not want to leave anyone out we have decided to award everyone. We even go so far as not to keep score because we want everything to be fair. This has had the adverse affect. Instead of making everyone happy, it has only increased the anger in sports. Everyone has to win now. Everyone must be recognized. It is not enough to just to compete, now you must achieve. If you don’t achieve and excel, you’re not as important or as valuable as other people. Giving everyone the same thing doesn’t help because it teaches you that you only have to just show up and you are rewarded. It doesn’t matter whether you work hard or not.
5. The Rise of Year-Round Sports
Sports are now 365 days a year. Years ago there were high school sports and then summer sports. Now you can play your sports all year. Year-round sports have been shaped by the desire for college scholarships. A recent study said that 67% of parents whose children are involved in elite sports do so because they hope their child will get an athletic scholarship. The same study showed that 63% spend anywhere between $ 100 to $ 499 per child, each month on youth sports. A whopping 8% spend $2,000 or more a month.
How are we as believers suppose to be involved in sports and how much is too much? How do we navigate this increasing world of 24-hour sports? Next time we will look at how to be involved in sports, enjoy it, and use these experiences for the glory of God.