In a world where empires collapse, earthquakes devastate, assassins slay and
armies crush, no news is as important to many people as who won the last
sporting world cup. Sport for many is a craze. At least, it could easily look
that way to an outside observer.
Think of the hours of coverage on television or the procession of parents
following their children to the local playing field each weekend. Witness the
people who run, climb, bat, kick, throw, swing, dive, drive, pedal, dance,
skate, ski, wrestle, box — and add what you want.
For some it’s an interest, a pastime. For others it’s an essential
ingredient of life — life being rendered meaningless without it. For yet
others it is a passion, a driving force, a religion calling for supreme
dedication. Those who view sport but don’t play it, fall into exactly
the same categories.
Thank God for sport
Candidly, I wonder
just where we would be without it. What would our young people get up to if
sport didn’t take up so much of their spare time? There are a tremendous
number of doubtful alternatives that could easily captivate them.
How many would have healthy bodies if they had no systematic exercise? Would
we learn to lose well in the game of life if we didn’t learn to lose in
sporting competition? Where would we learn team spirit, comradeship, courtesy
toward rivals and a host of values like determination, courage, endurance and
mental and physical discipline?
Even though we see many unfortunate examples of bad sportsmanship, the
overwhelming majority seem to benefit from their sporting activity rather than
lose from it.
Keeping it in context
The thing that
troubles people like me is the utter seriousness which surrounds organised
sport so much of the time. Now, I know it’s serious business when you
are shaping up to kick or miss a goal one minute before the final siren, but
why must it always be serious business, taking over so much time, money,
thinking, ambition, affection?
It’s not too strong to call it a religion. Think of the rituals that
surround notable occasions like grand finals and the Olympics. Think of the
fanatical adherence to codes, the quoting of the Book of Rules — to the
point where erring umpires almost deserve to die as heretics. The commentators
speak of the sacred or hallowed turf. Then words like dedication, sacrifice,
adoration, miracle, triumph, awe and magnificence flow in a steady
The sad truth
As I see it, we parents and elders handed sport to our
children with this inordinately high profile because we haven’t anything
else. Do they, or we, ever ask the question ‘So what?’ So what if
this individual wins or loses? So what if this or that team goes down next
Saturday? So what if America wins the next Olympics? Does it matter all that
When the chips are down, that is, when life’s realities set in, or death
stares us in the face, it won’t matter very much who could kick a
pigskin full of air or who could whack a ball with a lump of wood.
When the last siren sounds at the stadium and God rings down the curtain on
every performance on earth, how many people will be wishing they had given
attention to Him instead of being caught up in a game. How fatal, how foolish
this obsession may turn out to be in the end. And, after all, wouldn’t
any sporting coach say that it’s the end that counts?