Sportianity: Sports instead of Jesus

Sports as religion?

Sports like religion?

Though I would mostly disagree with the claim that sports are literally a form of religion, as some scholars would attest, I certainly believe that sports – specifically professional sports – have characteristics of and fulfil some religious functions.

Myths, legends, ritual and tradition, sacrifice, sacred sites, ineffability, and community. These words conjure up thoughts of experiencing religion just as much as they do of sports.

I’m curious if Christians are aware of and if they should participate in the “religion of sports”.


Following a team: the stats, scores, and players (and their twitters’), being glued to the TV, Internet, or a smartphone (yes, there’s an app for that) for the latest information on trades, rumours, news, prospects (reading the paper and sports magazines works too), wearing a jersey (or something more extravagant), regularly attending games (often with a rather high ticket price),

making an event or a whole day out of a game and the traditions/rituals that come a long with it, having a sense of belonging, ownership, friendships and community built around a team, and an emotional connection.  All these things, and more, are the ways that people invest their time, money, and energy into sports or a specific team.

None of these things seem inherently bad.

But, as a Christian, I question whether professional sports are taking too much our time and if it is a god – how much do these things mean to us?

I question whether we should be proud of, cheering for, and supporting organisations that: spend (tens or hundreds of) millions of dollars on players salaries, commodify people (athletes), promote violence or suffering of self for ‘winning’ (though making money is actually the goal of the organisation), as well as promote the sexualisation of women, the achievement of stardom, and the ethic of winning above all else.

What do you think?


To note: I’m very much in favour of sports on a local and/or amateur level.  Fitness is important and there is plenty of fun to be had!  I love playing intramural hockey and ultimate frisbee.

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One thought on “Sportianity: Sports instead of Jesus

  1. This is interesting. I love sports, including professional sports. But I think you are right, many of us cross lines that should not be crossed by Christians. The money involved is perverse. The top college COLLEGE football coaches are now making over 4 million dollars! That’s by and large tax payer money. Living in SEC county, I can attest to the year round obsession and grief spent over teenagers wearing bright colors whose results are often determined by random luck. The issue of competitiveness is also important. Somewhere along the line, in or just before high school, this definitely becomes an unhealthy thing. I know from my experience in high school football, I rarely left a game with anything but contempt for the other team, and often found myself blatantly taunting and disrespecting others something I never did in other contexts. I was first made aware of these issues by a professor who told me God told him to give up following 49ers football. That really struck me and got me to thinking. Also, there seems to be a correlation between those Christians who do not follow sports very closely and a high level of vibrancy and engagement level in life at least among my peer group. Even if we decide not to completely give up sports, Christians at least need to be thinking about these things. Thanks.

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