By: Trevor Shewski, Contributor
Be it a trip to the ballpark to watch America’s past time, playing, or cheering on your country at the Olympics, we’ve all been impacted by sports at some point in our life. And there is no denying this elusive, intangible quality about participating in or watching sports. But where does it come from? Let’s dissect this hidden philosophy in sports.
I stood there, my face two feet away from the screen, in awe of history being made. The Boston Red Sox had finally won a World Series and broken their curse. Why was I so intrigued by this team? I’m a 10 year old Rangers fan watching the Red Sox on TV hundreds of miles away. I don’t personally know anyone on the team or have any other investment in them. Yet, as Keith Foulke tossed the ball to first base to record the final out and they exploded in celebration on the field, I stood there with the goofiest grin on my face, entranced by and joyful for the players. You see, this feeling of sheer excitement and ecstatic celebration transcended any allegiance to a specific team. I couldn’t help but feel for these people because humans love celebration. We love the last second miracles, the go-crazy wins, the odds-defying underdog, the ultimate triumphs of the human spirit. We love these because it affects our narrative. Seeing an incredible story unfold before our own eyes instills hope and generates courage in ourselves that we may also accomplish things otherwise thought impossible. In this case, the Red Sox – before even making it to the World Series – overcame an 0-3 deficit to the New York Yankees (highly encourage you to watch Four Days in October if you haven’t). This is something no team had ever done in the history of Major League Baseball. They then broke the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino” originating all the way back to some guy named Babe Ruth. Legend had it that, after winning the 1918 World Series then selling Ruth to the Yankees, the Sox were cursed to never win it again. And here I am watching this unfold on TV right in front of me. There’s no shortage of miraculous stories and people in sports either. The Play, Hail Flutie, Jason McElwain, Kerri Strug, Miracle on Ice, Favre’s Monday Night, Jackie Robinson, Team Hoyt, Cinderella Man, Jimmy V, Jeter’s final at bat in Yankee stadium, and the list goes on. These are the kinds of narratives you watch in fictional movies, but thanks to sports, we get to witness in real life.
There is something else peculiar about sports. Turn on any team sport on TV and you’ll usually notice at least a few die hard fans with their faces painted, cheering their voices away. With any team comes a fandom filled with intensely loyal fans. How is it that through no personal affiliation we decide to cheer on a particular team, often with lifelong dedication? Sure, geography is a big factor as we often cheer for our “home team,” but again, why? This attribute about sports, I think, is deeply embedded in our human instinct to belong to a tribe. We all crave to belong, to be accepted, to be loved and to love, and to claim a group of people as “our people.” In sports, this serves as an amazing equalizer. I can pass someone on the street from a completely different walk of life in a Rangers shirt and easily strike up a conversation about the team. I can meet someone from a different country who also loves basketball and immediately bond over the game. Unfortunately, this also serves as a great divider. Oh boy, have many disputes been ignited simply because of two sports fans’ egos and loyalty to their teams. That being said, there is too much good that can come of sports to not invest any of your time in them.
This leads me into my final point. I’m not about to dive into my entire life story, but I grew up heavily invested in sports. I found my worth in being a baseball player. The error in this lies in that even if I was an all-time great baseball player who got inducted into the Hall of Fame, I’d eventually grow old, be unable to play and feel worthless. You can’t idolize something on this Earth and expect it to sustain you forever. Look at what Tom Brady (a future Hall of Famer) had to say about his success:
“Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean maybe a lot of people would say ‘hey man this is what it is. I reached my goal, my dream.’ Me, I think god, it’s got to be more than this.”
He’s certainly right. There has to be more to life than the highest honors one could achieve in the National Football League. CS. Lewis puts it best in Mere Christianity:
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is I was made for another world.”
A Heavenly world. Eternal life in Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Wow, what wonderful news! And like all wonderful news, it needs to be shared. As Christians, the “something greater” in our lives is found in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), where Jesus instructs us to spread the Gospel, making disciples in all nations. The Creator of the universe, who knows us each by heart (Psalm 139), has invited us to play this key role in has grand design. Sports can offer incredible victory and belonging, but God invites us to participate in the ultimate victory (John 16:33) and imperishable belonging (Galatians 3:26-29; Romans 8:15). Belief in Jesus Christ unites people from “every nation, tribe, people and language.” (Revelation 7:9). This is the greatest equalizer of all – a Heavenly citizenship that transcends any sports fandom or allegiance.
So Tom Brady, if you’re reading this, to answer your question – sports are amazing, and congrats on those Lombardi’s and MVP’s, but yes, there is so much more to life than football.