I have enjoyed playing and watching sports most of my life. Now that I’m sixty years old I sometimes think back to my time playing baseball and basketball, with fondness for the camaraderie, teamwork, discipline, and competition these sports engendered. I often think about the particular people I played with and against on the courts and fields of competition. In some ways playing sports as a youth prepared me for later life, including my calling as a Christian apologist.
I think being a sports fan can play an important role in people’s lives. It can be a welcome distraction from life’s difficulties and burdens. Sports also provides engaging entertainment as a hobby or pastime. Rooting for a particular team can also bring like-minded people together as common fans. And following your sports teams can teach you the importance of teamwork, endurance, patience, and joy.
However, I’m very turned off by “sports smack talk,” with its flippant, in-your-face attitude, putdowns, and sports tribalism that is so prevalent today. Worse still is when criminals use sporting events as a convenient way to break society’s laws and assault other human beings who happen to root for opposing teams.
Unfortunately, sometimes Christians who would otherwise not engage in sarcasm, ridicule, and taunting nevertheless succumb to these actions when it involves their favorite sports teams and fans who root for their rivals.
So how do I endeavor to reflect a gracious Christian sports fan attitude? (Especially since Super Bowl Sunday is only days away!)
As a Christian, I want to be gracious in all I do. Yet I’m not always able to fully carry out the three steps I am about to enumerate. Like my Christian life of sanctification, being a gracious Christian sports fan involves lots of striving. I’m passionate about my favorite sports teams and have rooted for them for decades; thus, sometimes, my feelings run high. But let me share three points that I try to put into practice to help balance my enthusiasm for sports with my spiritual goal of being a gracious person.
Three Points on Striving toward Sports Fan Graciousness
First, I try to recognize that sports fans who root for other teams likely appreciate athletic competition for the same reasons I do. In that way we share our passion and appreciation for sports. This recognition provides common ground in a sports fandom world ripe with tribalism.
Second, I try to respect other people and their sports loyalties. I look to appreciate and compliment the skilled players on other teams who compete with my favorite teams. In talking sports with others, and especially with those who have different fan loyalties, I try to intentionally avoid the sarcasm and ridicule that is so much a part of sports smack talk. Though I’m a lifelong Lakers fan I find it easy to appreciate the greatness of such Lakers rivals as Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Steph Curry.
Third, I try to learn from people who root for other teams what they like and appreciate about sports and the particular teams they support. While I bleed Dodger blue, I enjoy learning about their historic baseball rivals like the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees.
I don’t always succeed at being a gracious Christian sports fan but I’m committed to trying to be a gracious person in all areas of my life. And I enjoy sports more when I view them as a larger part of society that provides enjoyment and engagement for untold fans. I hope you will enjoy sports more, too, as you take these philosophical reflections on sports fandom to heart.
Reflections: Your Turn
Has your sports passion ever bumped up against your spiritual conviction to try to treat others graciously? Do any of the points I’ve made especially resonate with you?