This article looks at sport as religion, sport as competition, and sport as entertainment.

Source: Reformed Perspective, 1984. 2 pages.

Competition and Sports

Competition is a fact of life. If viewed in the proper perspective, it can help in the development of proper attitudes and can nurture good sportsmanship. Sad to say, the negative characteristics of com­petition permeate most games we play and many things we do, every day. Win­ning boosts our ego; losing dents our self-esteem. We are usually very poor losers.

It seems that much of today's com­petitive spirit comes from the world of sports. An article in The Church Herald (Dec. 1981) mentioned some interesting data.

If there is one unifying religion in North America today, it is sports.

Religion and sports are closely relat­ed. Professional football teams make it a habit to pray before and after games. A theologian and sports en­thusiast in the United States, Michael Novak, mentions the "Holy Trinity" as being basketball, football, and base­ball, which awakens and inspires most sleepy-eyed Christians.

The increased closeness of sports via the media and the astronomical salaries which many sports figures com­mand, bring about a sports fanaticism among many people. The weekend re­volves around the T.V. and sports heroes are adored as saints.

In many respects, sport has become a challenging civil religion. Sport has its gods, the stars; its high council, the na­tional sports groups. Sport also has its scribes who will write about the game and discuss sports events in detail. Sport has its shrines, such as the Hall of Fame and the trophy rooms in almost every educational institution in North America. Believers in sports, those whose number one priority in life is sports or sports-related matters, flock to their houses of worship (stadiums), huge multimillion-dollar facilities that are well-dressed, -tilled and -kept. The world of sports has produced a situation where those who worship it are called fans. On the other hand, those who worship God are often called fanatics.

Our children tend to be the most zealous "converts." Stacks of hockey cards, vital statistics about "Mr. 99," and various other memorabilia, help to emulate the stars in the National Hockey League. A brawl leaves a lasting impres­sion. The score is soon forgotten, but not the players who slugged it out. A prolific scorer takes on mystic qualities in a young mind. A typical road hockey game therefore is not just a game; it becomes an in­tense contest. The best team must be se­lected. The non-athletically inclined kids will be picked last and are constantly ha­rassed for making mistakes. When the opposition scores, it's often not fair; when the "good guys" do — instant ecstasy!

The competitive spirit is also a "force within us, striving for something in op­position" (Clarion, Nov. 19, 1982). Boosting the ego and one's self-esteem are very much part of the fallen nature of man. The Biblical equivalent of self-esteem is pride, something that usually brings about sin. In the ever-increasing competitive environment of sports, our old nature can easily gain the upper hand and bring forth such fruits as pride, self-interest, and glory-seeking. Encouraging competition can therefore often mean the highlighting of something which our old nature may readily adopt for sinful purposes.

Sports, and the positive competition it should entail, is able to provide fun, excitement, broader interests, better fit­ness, and the development of our God-given talents. However, let's remember that, as Christians, it is important for us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by Christ's power. A fanatical following of sports events, which spills over into our daily conduct, is not what God intended when He spoke of our being blessed and being a blessing.

As long as people live in a society, there will always be the feeling for com­petition — whether for jobs, for marks, for praise or for sports. The way to minimize the negative results of competi­tion does not consist in avoiding it. It seems to me that we should make our­selves and our children aware of another kind of competition within ourselves, namely, to become better than we are with our God-given talents. This type of competition should be stressed much more in our circles. Beating others is not a Biblical criterion for success. However, the Bible does say a lot about excelling or bettering oneself. That should take place both in the mental and the physical talents which we all possess. Adults play an important part in the nurture of a Biblical sense of competition. Rivalry and peer pressure are found among chil­dren every day, in many situations. We must make sure that the proper example is set. Showing (by saying nothing or very little) that we don't really mind that much if ridicule takes place in the home, on the street, or on the soccer field, en­courages a continued unhealthy or wrong sense of competition.

Being physically fit, whether one is six years old or perhaps past sixty-five, is a blessing from the Lord. He has given us talents and capabilities which are to be used — not abused. All of God's gifts bring great potential for good, sports in­cluded. Of prime importance for Chris­tians is to enjoy these gifts without using them as a substitute religion. Let's place renewed emphasis on sportsmanship and less on winning. May we encourage par­ticipation by all, regardless of ability. Forget about prizes such as ribbons or trophies. Let fun be the main reason for playing a game. This might seem like a tall order in our intense, fanatic world. Yet, a new look and a different prescrip­tion is necessary. May involvement in sports be a wonderful, enriching ex­perience for all of us, when seen and played in the proper perspective.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.