(Bryan Allain is no stranger to the guest post. His last one, Christian End Zone Touchdown Celebrations, was a blast and this one is too. Here, with a post I probably needed a few months ago when the Tarheels won the College Hoops National Championship, is Bryan with another great look at life, sports and God. Enjoy.)
Of the many things that Jon and I have in common (and by “many” I mean “I have no idea what I’m talking about”), my favorite thing is definitely that we both grew up in Massachusetts. This can lead to amazing coincidences, like the fact that the city where Jon once got dumped by a girl in a coat closet is the same city where I earned my college degree. One man’s peak is another man’s nadir. (That last sentence should be sung to the tune of “It’s a small world after all”.)
Being born and raised in Massachusetts means you’ve got 3 things in your blood: platelets, midi-chlorians, and the Red Sox. Cheering on the Sox year after year is a bond that runs through my entire family, so I’ve done my best to pass this love on to my two children in hopes it becomes another connection point in our lives. I love that they’ve picked up on this already and seem to derive joy from a Red Sox win (or a Yankees loss) along with me. In fact, I’m smiling now just thinking about it.
I realize a big reason for this is that my children are always watching and taking their cues from me, so I try to model the appropriate level of fandom for them in good times and in bad. I never want them to think it’s okay to take your fandom too far (see Football Fans, European). This idea of balanced devotion applies to more than just sports, of course. Whether it’s the Red Sox, a favorite band, or even a favorite hobby, I don’t want my kids to get overly involved in anything that takes over their lives without them realizing it.
When the Bible talks about this type of obsessive adoration for something other than God, it’s called idolatry. And even though the Bible doesn’t contain a bulleted list of idolatrous behaviors for us to avoid, it’s clear God doesn’t want our love for Him to be dwarfed by our love for anything else. While no sports fan is fully exempt from this principle, the line that separates “loyal sports fan” from “over-the-top sports idolater” is going to be different from person to person. If you think you might be obsessing a little too much about the teams you follow, it could be God telling you to back off of the sports thing for a bit. It could also be your husband or wife whispering subliminal messages in your ear while you sleep, so it’s best to pray about it. And sleep with earplugs.
Without knowing you (which is a shame, really…you seem so nice), I can’t specifically tell you if your love of sports is hurting your spiritual life. I have, however, created this quiz to help you determine if it’s time for you to take a time out from the world of sports. So turn off the game, grab a pencil, and answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following twenty questions.
1. Have you named your kids, your dog, or your wife after players from your favorite team?
2. When you picture Satan, is he wearing the uniform of your hated rival?
3. Have you replaced your morning Bible devotions with daily readings and memorizations from the team media guide?
4. Have you ever prayed for forgiveness when an athlete on the opposing team sustained an injury because earlier that day you were praying for that exact injury to happen to him?
5. Have you ever used the sermon note section of your bulletin to write out potential starting lineups for your favorite team?
6. Have you been archiving these fake starting lineups in a locked, fireproof cabinet for the last ten years?
7. Are you the reason your pastor recently instituted a ban on prayers for sports teams during altar calls?
8. Have you ever promised God that you’d tithe off of your fantasy sports winnings in hopes he would tweak the wind to help your kicker nail a 50+ yarder?
9. Do people at church avoid you like a leper after your team loses a big game?
10. Do people at church just avoid you in general?
11. Is your favorite thing about Easter Sunday remembering the resurrection of Jesus…EXCEPT when Easter happens to coincide with the final day of The Masters?
12. Do you have trouble getting into the spirit of the praise and worship music unless you’re wearing your foam finger?
13. Have you ever brought your own communion glass to church, complete with team logo and “World’s Greatest Fan” etched onto the side?
14. Have you ever worn long-sleeved shirts to church to cover up the body paint?
15. Have you ever worn a ski mask for the same reason?
16. Does the team schedule taped to the inside of your Bible have more highlights and notes written on it than your Bible does?
17. Have you ever referred to ESPN as “religious programming”?
18. Have you ever considered painting your hated rival’s logo on the bottom of your toilet bowl to improve the overall bathroom experience?
19. Did you just read that last one and think, “Hey, that’s not a bad idea”?
20. Have you ever turned to the Book of Numbers hoping to find ERA and WHIP statistics for Moses and Aaron?
If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, I suggest you put the body paint and foam finger away for a few weeks and try reading a book. Honestly, you’re dangerously close to finding yourself on the bottom of one of those crazy soccer riots.
Oh, and if you’ve got a great “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever done as a fan” story, now would be a great time to tell it.