Taking the Spiritual Aspect of Sports More Seriously

Britain’s Andy Murray celebrates after winning against Italy’s Fabio Fognini after their men’s singles match on day five at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London on July 7, 2017. (Photo by Alastair Grant/AP)

Many people tend to write off sports as a waste of time, only for “jocks,” not worthy of serious consideration from an academic or even a religious perspective.

As a scholar who teaches a course on “Sport and Spirituality,” in a Roman Catholic school, I often run up against common cliches that get in the way:

Sports inherently build character

They can build character, but there is no guarantee they will.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of how they do not automatically help one morally, including steroid use, issues related to concussions, recruiting scandals and gambling problems.

It has been said that sports create character or reveal character. In a society that is obsessed with winning, we must focus on the character-building of athletic achievement as opposed to just the outcome of who came in first.

Sports are connected with spirituality, faith or religion

Athletes are often seen pointing to the heavens after crossing home plate following a home run or thanking God in postgame interviews.

However, the connection between sports and God (or the gods) actually goes back to the ancient Greeks, if not earlier. In the fifth century B.C., the Olympic games were always played to placate or to praise the gods. In a context where there is so much “me-first thinking,” going beyond oneself to the transcendent can move a person beyond the self and perhaps even prompt better performance.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Edward Hastings

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