Sports

Jenna Barnett 03-01-2016

DAVID KING and Margot Starbuck are nostalgic for the good ol’ days of youth sports. In Overplayed: A Parent’s Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports, the authors first critique the current youth sports machine by reminiscing about an athletic utopia of the past: One where kids used water bottles for goal posts and flip-flops for bases. Back when parents weren’t paying up to $18,000 in hotel and trainer fees for elite travel teams. Back when kids loved sports.

This book intends to teach parents how to prevent burnout, overuse injury, and a misguided value system for their children. However, I read Overplayed as a young single woman learning to love sports again after suffering overuse injury and burnout right before college. I wish my parents—loving and good-intentioned as they were and are—had read this book 20 years ago.

King, athletic director at a Mennonite university, and Starbuck, a writer and a parent to three teenage athletes, believe that sports has the potential to be a powerful force in the lives of children. However, often money and myths corrupt that potential. Early on, Starbuck speaks wonders of the ways athletics teach us to know and love our physicality, explaining, “I came to know my body as good because of the opportunities I had to play sports as a girl.” But with early single-sport specialization and year-round tournament schedules, children are coming to know their bodies as injured before they can come to know their bodies as good. The authors note that in 2014, 1.35 million kids suffered sports-related injuries that landed them in the emergency room. “‘No pain no gain,’” the authors insist, “should have no place in youth sports.”

Martin Rogers 12-10-2015

Image via RNS

Muhammad Ali aimed a powerful and impassioned message at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Dec. 9, saying that the recent global terrorism crisis has “perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

Ali became a Muslim and changed his name from Cassius Clay during the height of his career as one of the greatest boxers in history. His message came in a statement following a week in which Trump cast doubt on President Barack Obama’s assertion that several American “sporting heroes” practiced Islam.

“I am a Muslim, and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world,” Ali said.

Stephen Mattson 02-05-2015
Online shopping illustration, Fotinia / Shutterstock.com

Online shopping illustration, Fotinia / Shutterstock.com

For Christians, it’s sometimes hard to admit believing in the supernatural, the legitimacy of miracles, an afterlife, and following an ancient text written thousands of years ago by numerous authors that have been divinely inspired by an all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent God.

At first glance, Christianity seems at odds with an increasingly “secular” culture that views spirituality as old-fashioned and irrelevant, but our society reveals that everything — and everyone — is spiritual on some level.

At first glance, Christianity seems at odds with an increasingly “secular” culture that views spirituality as old-fashioned and irrelevant, but our society reveals that everything — and everyone — is spiritual on some level.

 

1. The Religion of Sport

Few people pray more fervently, earnestly, and passionately than when their favorite sports teams — and athletes — are competing.

With arms outstretched, they wildly clap, cheer, chant, cry, and scream at the top of their lungs. Wearing costumes, jerseys, and following

“Among Americans who pray: People typically pray for…” graphic courtesy of LifeWay Christian Resources/RNS.

When Americans aren’t busy praying for themselves or their own needs — and most of them are — many are seeking divine intervention on behalf of a favorite sports team or the golden ticket in the lottery, according to a new survey.

About 13 percent of Americans who pray say they pray for sports teams, compared with about one in five (21 percent) who say they have prayed to win the lottery, the new survey from LifeWay Research suggests. 

A survey earlier this year from Public Religion Research Institute suggested that more Americans (26 percent) pray for their sports team, while more than seven in 10 (73 percent) say they have never done this.

Some of LifeWay’s new survey’s main findings include:

07-03-2014
"From the looks on Barack Obama's face during his time with the Little Leaguers, I would guess he enjoyed it more than the political fundraiser afterward," Jim Wallis wrote in Time magazine about the impromptu visit to the field where his son was playing.

Supernatural Super Bowl infographic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute. Via RNS

Most Americans don’t think God or the devil will be picking the NFL playoff winners this weekend or any other sports champions. 

But some will pray nonetheless, and a few will “religiously” perform little game-day rituals just in case.

survey by Public Religion Research Institute, released Thursday, probes the crossover between team spirit and spirituality.

Most Americans (60 percent) call themselves fans of a particular team. Among this group, several will do a little dance or say a little prayer to help the team along:

  • 21 percent (including one in four football fans) will wear special clothes or do special rituals. Donning a team jersey leads the way (66 percent). But some admit they get a little funky with their underwear. One fan wears dirty undershorts on top of his jeans.  (No word if these are boxers or briefs.)
  • 25 percent (including 31 percent of football fans) have sometimes felt their team has been cursed. (No word on how many are Red Sox fans.)
  • 26 percent (including one in three football fans) say they pray to God to help their team. White evangelicals are most likely to lean on the Lord on this: 38 percent will pray, more than any other religious group.
  • Football fans are also more likely than other fans to admit praying for their team (33 percent to 21 percent), performing pre-game or game-time rituals (25 percent to 18 percent), or to believe that their team has been cursed (31 percent to 18 percent).
Stephen Deere 11-01-2013

Beer being poured from a tap. Photo vai RNS/courtesy Vladimirs Koskins via Shutterstock

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is putting an end to alcohol sales at youth-related events.

Under a new policy that goes into effect Friday, drinking will not be allowed at any event that is directed primarily toward minors.

That means parents will no longer be allowed to throw back a few beers during their kids’ soccer, volleyball, and softball games. And athletic associations will no longer rake in revenue from beer sales at their concession stands.

Tom Ehrich 05-28-2013
Indianapolis 500 in 2010, carroteater / Shutterstock.com

Indianapolis 500 in 2010, carroteater / Shutterstock.com

On the day after the Indianapolis 500-mile race, I wonder why the self-proclaimed “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” matters so much to me.

It isn’t a nostalgia trip to my growing-up days in Indianapolis. Indiana high school basketball mattered far more to me at the time, but I can barely raise a flicker of interest in it now.

It isn’t deep association with the sport. I recognize only a few of the drivers’ names and know less and less about the technology on display — 33 open-wheeled race cars driving 500 miles at speeds exceeding 220 mph. I care nothing at all about attempts to turn one race into a national franchise.

Nor am I tracing a link to my hometown roots. For me, Indianapolis is about family, not racing.

No, I think it’s the race itself. The 500 is pure experience, unapologetic, radically open to anyone who can try, and yet limited to a small circle of men and women who can do it well.

James Colten 05-24-2013
Brodie Smith, via YouTube

Brodie Smith, via YouTube

It’s almost impossible to talk about Christians in sports without talking about Tim Tebow (case in point). But there’s another University of Florida grad who has gained attention from another sport — Ultimate Frisbee.

Unlike mainstream sports like baseball and football (and futbol), Ultimate is a relatively new sport. In fact, it is not much older than Sojourners, as it was reportedly invented in 1968 (Sojourners was founded in ’71). And like Sojourners, it has gained momentum through word of mouth to the point that it is a nationally recognized sport.

Even with the infiltration of high school sports, college teams, and semi-professional clubs, Ultimate is, for the most part, faceless, with the exception of one man: Brodie Smith. Smith grew to be a nationally recognized Ultimate player through his Youtube trick shot videos.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35lURrrEQrU

Adam Ericksen 04-30-2013
Baseball runner's foot, Lauren Simmons / Shutterstock.com

Baseball runner's foot, Lauren Simmons / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: Jim Wallis’ latest book On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good is sparking a national conversation of what it means to come together on issues that traditionally divide the nation. Bloggers Adam Ericksen and Tripp Hudgins are having that conversation here, on the God’s Politics blog. Follow along, and join the discussion in the comments section.

In his post “Lattes for the Common Good,” Tripp states that working for the common good starts in mundane places, like a coffee shop. These are the places where we practice neighborliness. Here’s Tripp’s brilliant point:

I wonder if one of the things that we can think about in terms of the common good is learning to practice neighborliness in the inconsequential moments so that when we face the bigger political difficulties of our shared life — when we start talking about the common good in the larger sense around some of the other issues like violence, and fear, and money — that maybe if we've already built up habits we can have these larger conversations with greater ease.

Jim Wallis says something very similar in his book On God’s Side. When it comes to the common good, Wallis states, “I have never seen the real changes we need come from inside politics. Instead, they come from outside social movements” (295).

According to Wallis, for those social movements to make any real change in our politics they must be based on the biblical command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Indeed, On God’s Side begins with a reflection on the Golden Rule. And, as Tripp says, “learning to practice neighborliness” is learning to practice loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

But there is a tension in Wallis’s book that, for me, is unresolved. That tension is clearly seen when Wallis talks about baseball.

Adam Ericksen 04-08-2013
NCAA tournament bracket illustration,  Brocreative / Shutterstock.com

NCAA tournament bracket illustration, Brocreative / Shutterstock.com

Watching sports is not as much fun as it used to be.

I blame Jesus for that, because he just had to say:

“Love thy enemy.”

Or, as Chad Gibbs puts it in the title of his fantastic book on spirituality and sports, Love thy Rival.

Brian E. Konkol 08-09-2012
Basketball image, Yuri Arcurs / Shutterstock.com

Basketball image, Yuri Arcurs / Shutterstock.com

While I strongly believe that physical activity and participation within sports can offer excellent avenues for education and wellness on an individual and community level, my role as a fan of sports has been significantly tested over recent years. In other words, I have come to wonder whether or not something inherently good, such as sports, has reached excessive levels to the point of having far too many negative consequences in society. For example, in the U.S. we experience massive inequality and outcry surrounding government budget shortfalls, yet we seem to have more than enough funds for stadiums, tickets, TV packages, and team-related memorabilia. While our public servants receive salary cuts and loss of jobs, millionaire professional athletes argue with billionaire owners over income distribution and so-called “fairness." And of course, while I hear countless people complain about how busy they are and how financial times are tough, those same individuals seem to have plenty of time to watch a few hours of sports on TV each night, and more than enough resources to support their favorite teams. With all of this in mind — and one could list countless more examples — we have to wonder whether our priorities have been distorted, as our collective love for sports may have crossed the line from entertainment to idolatry. Or in other words, how we went from being spectators and participators to devout worshippers.

 
Henry Brinton 08-02-2012
Ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens.

Ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens.

When the Summer Olympics opened in London, there was a version of a religious ritual in the Olympic oath, procession of athletes and lighting of the flame. This was no accident because the modern Olympics have religious roots, though they appear to have largely secular fruits.

I'm reminded of this fact because it was in London in 1908 that Anglican Bishop Ethelbert Talbot first said, "The most important thing in these Olympics is not so much winning as taking part" — a phrase that became part of the Olympic creed. He was following in the footsteps of the Rev. Henri Didon, a Catholic priest who gets credit for the official Olympic motto "citius, altius, fortius" (faster, higher, stronger).

The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was educated by Jesuits. "The first essential characteristic of the Olympics, both ancient as well as modern, is to be a religion … above and outside the churches," he said. He was influenced by proponents of "muscular Christianity," who turned away from traditional Christian contempt for the body and used sports as a method of strengthening faith and morality.

Muscular Christianity became popular in Victorian England and spread to the U.S., where it shaped the programs of the YMCA and Boy Scouts of America, as well as church sports leagues. Although it declined in mainline Protestantism in the 20th century, it remained strong in evangelical organizations, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Promise Keepers. Today, muscular Christianity is alive and well in professional athletes such as Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin.

Joshua Witchger 07-26-2012

The 2012 Olympic games are approaching quickly. This Friday, more than 10,000 athletes will gather in London to celebrate athleticism and competition in 26 sports. While the hype of an event like this may drive athletes to revel in the spotlight, others find it’s the best avenue for an intimate connection with God.

At this year’s games, the United States boasts a plethora of athletes, but alongside incredible athleticism, some are gaining attention for their personal faith.

Chris Lisee 07-26-2012

A 600-foot footrace was the only athletic event at the first Olympics, a festival held in 776 B.C. and dedicated to Zeus, the chief Greek god.

For the next millennium, Greeks gathered every four years in Olympia to honor Zeus through sports, sacrifices and hymns. The five-day festival brought the Greek world together in devotion to one deity.

What began in ancient Greece as a festival to honor a single god, Zeus, has now become an almost Olympian task, as organizers of the games navigate dozens of sacred fasts, religious rituals and holy days. 

The London Olympics will try to accommodate religious athletes with 193 chaplains, a prayer room in every venue and a multifaith center in the Olympic Village.

Athletes at the ancient Olympics believed their training honored the gods, and victory was a sign of favor from a deity. As contests like wrestling, boxing, and horse racing were added to the Olympic roster, they supplemented devotional sacrifices, hymns, and ceremonies.

“The idea was that you were training to please Zeus. But part of the festival would be to visit the temple, visit the cult statues, making offerings, celebrating and seeing your family,” said David Gilman Romano, a professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona.

The combination of Greek sport and worship led the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, to ban the Olympics in 393 A.D.

JERUSALEM — Despite international pressure — including support from both U.S. presidential candidates — the International Olympic Committee has refused to include a moment of silence at Friday's (July 27) opening ceremony for Israeli athletes killed by terrorists at the games 40 years ago.

President Obama and his likely GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, have both called for the IOC to honor the 11 Israelis murdered in Munich in 1972.

"We absolutely support the campaign for a moment of silence at the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes killed in Munich," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said a smaller, more somber ceremony would better memorialize the tragedy.

IOC officials made a brief statement and held a moment of silence on Monday during a pre-Olympics event in London, where the 2012 games begin on Friday.

"I would like to start today's ceremony by honoring the memory of 11 Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals that have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village," Rogge said.

Omar Sacirbey 07-20-2012
Suleiman Nyambui (center), who ran at UTEP between 1978-1982 and won the silver

Suleiman Nyambui (center), who ran at UTEP between 1978-1982 and won the silver medal at the 1980 Olympics. Photo courtesy RNS.

This year, more than 3,000 Muslim athletes will compete in the Olympics, but many will not fast, a decision that has been sanctioned by religious authorities. While Muslims are increasingly common on Western teams -- for example British rower Mohamed Sbihi and French boxer Rachid Azzedine -- no Muslims made the U.S. team this year.

Nyambui said the hard part about track is training. Competing is easy. Had Ramadan occurred before the Olympics, when athletes prepare their bodies for competition, then his performance would have suffered, he said. He acknowledged that fasting can present difficulties for athletes, but usually only during the first or second weeks of Ramadan when the body is still adjusting to the rigors of fasting.

“After that people are used to it,” said Nyambui, speaking from his office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city. “People play soccer, they can go jogging, they can go swimming.”

Tim Townsend 05-17-2012
softball photo via Mark Herreid / Shutterstock

softball photo via Mark Herreid / Shutterstock

"Three congregations said they were uncomfortable playing our team because I am their pastor and I am an out bisexual person," said the Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell, 27, "which is surprising because I don't even play."

Darnell called the pastors' reaction ridiculous.

"It seems like my sexuality doesn't have anything to do with how my congregation plays softball," Darnell said. "It's frustrating because this is who is representing Christianity in our community, and this is the message youths in our community are getting."

Patriotic racecar.Walter G Arce / Shutterstock.com

Patriotic racecar.Walter G Arce / Shutterstock.com

Back in John Kerry’s ill-fated 2004 presidential campaign, Democrats tried to attract so-called “NASCAR Dads” – white, working-class, mainly Southern fellows – to try to blunt George W. Bush’s re-election and show folks that Kerry was not a wealthy patrician who only appealed to “soccer moms.”

Now Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition is trying to corral what might be called “NASCAR Christians” in hopes that social conservatives will give Mitt Romney a crucial boost in November.

the Web Editors 03-13-2012

Two things to consider:

1) On Sunday, the NFL announced that it had increased the salary cap for athletes by $225,000. Last year, players could make $120.375 million dollars per year; this year they can make $120.6 million.

2) The income requirements for an American family of four to be above the poverty limit is $23,050 – a figure nearly one tenth the amount of the .2 percent increase awarded to athletes.

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