The tension of being a Jesus-following sports fan
January 18, 2008, 11:41 am
Filed under: culture, football, media, San Diego

It’s Friday morning as I write this. In about 48 hours I’m looking forward to sitting down in front of a television screen, and tuning in to see a professional (American) football game between my beloved San Diego Chargers, and their formidable foe, the New England Patriots. Very few people outside of San Diego are giving the Chargers a shot at being the first team to beat the Patriots this season – rightly so. As a fan, my hope for a miracle win flickers, but I haven’t exactly called Vegas to place my bet in that direction.

I have to say, though, that for as much as I’m anticipating the big game Sunday, I do feel a degree of tension about this. The National Football League is big business . . . HUGE, HUGE, HUGE business. They’re a textbook model of how to build a brand, develop intense customer loyalty, dump lots of money into the pockets of their franchise owners, and extend their business into an incredibly wide variety of markets. And one of the most stunning things about all of this, is that people don’t readily recognize the massive empire that this has all become. They might wince a little at how much it costs to attend an average game in the league, or drool a little when they hear the size of the star players’ paychecks. But when their favorite team is winning, it all just feels right.

Really, what other business has developed that kind of loyalty? People definitely have their preferences for which burger joint or soft drink is better than its competition. But have you ever read stories in the Wall Street Journal about riots in the streets because The Home Depot‘s 4th quarter earnings beat out Lowe’s? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Now, I can rationalize that I’m basically just a one sport fan – I’d rather watch that artist dude on PBS that paints the “happy trees” than watch a pro basketball game. My favorite sport to play while growing up was baseball, but I don’t watch more than one or two entire baseball games on TV per year. But still, I participate – willingly and enthusiastically – in the sports industrial complex. And while I would never drink the crappy American beers advertised on the football game commercials, I do watch them and laugh . . . am I somehow complicit in the popularity of bad tasting beer?

There are definitely times that I am disturbed at the level of fervor I and other sports fans feel for a business. Especially when we would rarely even think about the intense joy we might feel in feeding the hungry with our $60, rather than buying a ticket for three or four hours worth of football entertainment. And what about all the time we spend watching sports on TV, rather than spending that time with family, friends, and those who lack friends? It borders on idolatry. I’m not trying to be pious here – I don’t think it’s a sin to be a sports fan, really. But am I a better follower of Jesus – a more “cooperative friend of Jesus” (thank you Todd Hunter) by being a football fan? In one sense, yes – it is re-creational for me, and that’s o.k. In another sense, no – I often find myself more depressed when my team loses than I am that there’s injustice in the name of Jesus (my Kingdom team).

I doubt I’ll resolve this tension any time soon. But I don’t want to live life without consciously becoming more aware of how I can live better, love more, and announce the radically good stuff about the Kingdom of heaven at hand.

I close with some encouragement for anyone out there in search of some musical entertainment for your day . . . click here NOW.


1 Comment so far
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Well you know me, if it has to deal with sports, that’s right in my wheelhouse. While there are the flaws that come with sports (greed, pride, selfishness), there are also good qualities that are reflective of a good Kingdom mindset (camraderie, teamwork, sacrifice). Sports, like a lot of things, can be used as an outlet for expressing the Christian life and from that glorify God and reflect Jesus to others.

And as much as I respect you and consider you a friend, I have to root for the Patriots. I would love to see a perfect record happen (if Seattle or Tennessee can’t be the ones to break it)

Comment by MIchael

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