Sports Addicts

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on the idolatry of sports in America. I wanted to follow up on the subject because it is a bigger issue than people really think it is. Many people struggle with finding their purpose in this world, and so they turn to sports to get a sense of transcendence and to add meaning to their life. Their job is not fulfilling, their spouse has let them down, their kids are rebelling and life is not turning out how they hoped it would. So passion goes out the window and purpose is found in the trivial and temporal things of this world.

This is where sports enters in and fills a void for a variety of reasons. First, it is socially acceptable to be a “sports addict” or to consume as much sports as possible in America today. This is not the case with alcohol, drugs, pornography or even possessions. If you obsess over and become addicted to any of those things, friends and family members will eventually intervene. But if you obsess over your favorite team, they’ll support your addiction through buying you paraphernalia and tickets on any major holiday.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of people staying at home all weekend during football season and not interacting with anyone. They will barely get up to go to the bathroom or to eat. If it was alcohol or drugs causing this behavior we would call for help, but since they are “just” watching sports it’s ok. After all, it’s football season.

One of my favorite books is The Broken American Male by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and in this book Shumley talks about our obsession with sports (especially males). He says, “Why is it that a man who shows little to no emotion in almost every other area of life suddenly shows such indescribable passion when watching football, baseball, or basketball? Because his team makes him feel good about himself. He may be a loser, but his team, well, they’re winners. And by attaching himself to them, he achieves greatness by association. Being a sports fanatic allows him to live vicariously through his favorite team and feel heroic.”

So what’s the big deal? How does having a passion for a sports team effect you and I spiritually? Isn’t being passionate about sports harmless? I would say enjoying sports as an entertaining pastime is one thing, but being passionate about sports leads to something else. Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And our passion for sports leads us to storing our minds with meaningless knowledge rather than Godly wisdom. I hear people tell me all the time how hard of a time they have memorizing Scripture, or even reading it for that matter. I would say part of this is linked to our passion. And being passionate for something as trivial as sports will not lead to living life to the fullest. Proverbs 15:14 says, “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” Eugene Peterson translates it this way: “An intelligent person is always eager to take in more truth; fools feed on fast-food fads and fancies.” We are knowledgeable about things we are passionate about. I know for me, even after attending seminary and being in ministry for close to five years, that I still probably know more about sports than I do about Scripture. I would say this is the case for a lot of people.

One of my best friends (who gave me permission to share this) also highlighted this for me yesterday. During work he and another friend of ours began playing a game that involved sports knowledge. The goal is to keep exchanging names of sports players until you run out of names (without the help of Google). This particular list was retired or inactive baseball players. Here is the list they came up with during work yesterday:

greg maddux
charlie hough
jim abbott
sandy koufax
rollie fingers
jack mcdowell
brett saberhagen
brett tomko
mike timlin
otis nixon
john rocker
mark lemke
chris sabo
barry larkin
rob dibble
tim belcher
tom browning
norm charlton
john franco
jose rijo
dave concepcion
marquis grissom
frank tanana
stan belinda
bert blyleven
andy van slyke
danny tartabul
jay bell
hal morris
ron karkovice
david justice
gary gaetti
pete incaviglia
lenny dykstra
deano palmiero
deion sanders
dennis martinez
dave stewart
dennis eckersley
sal palintonio
pedro gomez
benny agbayani
doug drabek
danny almonte
fernando tatis
roberto alomar
sandy alomar
carlos baerga
moises alou
moises alou sr.
bobby bonilla
pat hentgen
john olerud
kelly gruber
mike bordick
joe carter
andres galarraga
david cone
fernando valenzuela
jay buhner
stever garvey
ken griffery sr
ken griffey jr
honus wagner
eddie taubensee
jose cruz
jose cruz jr
willie randolph
steve sax
harold baines
don mattingly
keith hernandez
mookie wilson
brett boone
aaron boone
doc gooden
darryl strawberry
julio franco
ruben sierra
juan gonzalez
ray ordonez
derrick bell
albert belle
chuck knoblauch
frank thomas
dean palmer
kirby puckett
kent hrbek
ozzie smith
ryne sandberg
mark grace
matt williams
andre dawson
shawn dunston
dennis tankersley
jeff blauser
darryl kile
cecil fielder
micky tettleton
sid bream
tony gwynn
jim leyritz
bob tewksbury
robin yount
walt weiss
terry steinbach
mike scoscia
gary carter
ray lankford
brian jordan
brad radke
brooks kieshnick
tim raines
chili davis
lonnie morris
pokey reese
ken caminitti
terry pendelton
steve avery
dante bichette
tom glavine
john smoltz
mark wholers
larry walker
todd walker
vinny castilla
jt snow
scott fryman
sammy sosa
scott spezio
sal fasano
brett butler
harold reynolds
jeff fasero
tony la russa
sparky anderson
tommy lasorda
jim rice
pat borders
tino martinez
rico brogna
devin brown
orel hershiser
terry mulholland
roger cedeno
andujar cedeno
robin ventura
will clark
will cordero
jose lima
tony tarasco
jeff conine
scott seltzer
dmitri young
mo vaughn
steve trachsel
joe morgan
alan tramell
mike trombley
reggie sanders
lee smith
benito santiago
mike mordecai
charles nagy
denny nagle
brady anderson
robb nen
shea hillenbrand
jim deshays
scott zobrist
jim edmonds
tim salmon
kerry wood
mark pryor
hideo nomo
mike piazza
scott youngblood
desi relaford
gregg nettles
john kruk
rick honeycutt
ricardo rincon
eric karros
eddie murray
billy ripken
cal ripken
steve finley
luis gonzales
rickey henderson
bo jacson
catfish hunter
mickey mantle
dave henderson
rick reuschel
carney lansford
kevin mitchell
john jaha
raul mondesi
tommy john
phil niekro
mike lieberthal
hal mccrae
brian mccrae
kevin appier
darryl hammonds
alan ashby
bobby ayala
mike ashby
brad clontz
jeremy burnitz
fred mcgriff
todd van poppel
dave winfield
pete harnisch
bucky dent
bob tewksbury
dave dravecky
rob ducey
carl everett
jorge fabregas
chuck finley
mitch williams
candy maldonado
nolan ryan
tom seaver
bill buckner
johnny bench
pete rose
harmon killebrew
satchel page
stan musial
ted williams
hank aaron
barry bonds
babe ruth
lou gehrig
gaylord perry
orlando cepeda
juan marichal
willie mays
tony perez
willie mccovey
willie banks
javy lopez
roberto clemente
willie stargel
bobby bonds
dusty baker
larry bowa
pernell whitaker
lou whitaker
joe torre
buck showalter
bobby valentine
billy martin
billy beane
regie jackson
mark fydrich
jim leyland
bob feller
dizzy dean
bob couzy
goose gossage
don drysdale
shoeless joe jackson
whitey ford
joe dimaggio
yogi berra
kirk gibson
ty cobb
cy young
benny the jet rodriguez
roy hobbs
jackie robinson
bob gibson
benji gil
jeff kent
craig biggio
jeff bagwell
juan acavedo
lou ferigno
edgardo alfonzo
larry dierker
mike schmidt
art howe
mike scott
mark portugal
morgan ensburg
kent mercker
morgan ensburg
kenny lofton
scott erickson
whitey herzog
jose macias
luuis alacea
scott livingston
dave magaden
tony pena
dusty baker
lou pinella
ned yost
thurman munson
steve carlton
randy johnson
john smiley
carlton fisk
david wells
octavio dotel
el duque
d angelo jiminez
roger clemens
jose canseco
mark mcgwire
rafael palmiero
howard johnson
wade boggs
rusty greer
bill bates
johnny oates
mark grudzielanek
kurt leskanick
alex ochhoa
mike mussina
connie mack
kenny rogers
rondell white
ben grieve
adam everett
mike hampton
wade miller
david segui
bernie williams
kevin mench
scott showenwice
dan quisenbery
george brett
sid fernandez
brian giles
marcus giles
edgar martinez
joe girardi
doug glanville
jon lieber
cory lidle
john wetland
darren dalton
phil garner
steve kline
bob wickman
dan kolb
mariano duncan
erubial durazo
travis tyner
ryan rupe
casey fossum
harvey washbanger
tony eusabio
tom goodwin
flash gordon
art howe
ruben gotay
joey cora
alex cora
francisco cordova
marty cordova
rocco baldelli
jojse oquendo
rogers hornsby
jason kendall
jose valentin
todd worrell
fernando vina
orested destrada
tim mccarver
phil rizzuto
billy madison
roon santo
bip roberts
greg vaughn
carl yastremsky
luis valbuena
turk wendell
richard hidalgo
esteban loaiza
paul lo duca
kenny lofton
davey lopes
ferguson jenkins
odebey mcdowell
tony clark
tug mcgraw
chris burk
scott proctor
aaron harang
rod carrew
nellie fox
greg jenkins
chris reitsma
ron washington
eric wege
juan incarnacion
khalil green
bartolo colon
luis alfredo
antonio alfonseca
ugeth urbina
felipe alou
wilson alvarez
brian anderson
garret anderson
kevin seitzer
jim rice
jim eaver
al leiter
mark leiter
chales nagy
jose mesa
jose table
joohn mayberry
gary sheffield
cliff floyd
preston wilson
armando benitez
rafael furcal
terry francona
jeff francis

That is 427 ex major league baseball players from memory. And yet most of us can’t even name the 66 books in the Bible. I’ll do a little exercise: Which one of these is not a statement made by Jesus in the Bible:

a)    Go tell that fox, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”

b)   The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

c)    Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

d)   Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Maybe that’s not a fair quiz and maybe random Bible trivia is not all that important to your spiritual development. But we sure love random sports trivia and devote a ton of time to memorizing random statistics all for something that is meaningless in the end. At the end of my life I want people to say that I had one glorious obsession, and that was Jesus Christ. I don’t want people to say that I loved the Baylor Bears or the Miami Dolphins (random, I know). I want people to say that I was passionate about knowing God and Scripture. I don’t want people to say I was passionate about basketball. I want people to say I worshipped God, not sports.

3 thoughts on “Sports Addicts”

  1. I love this because even though I don’t care much about sports, we can replace that word or list with anything else and still be cornered. How true and powerful! Thanks for pointing it out!

  2. Not to burst your bubble, but I think Garret Anderson still plays for the Dodgers, and Bill Bates was a football player. Man do I need help. Great blog as usual!!

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