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Author Topic: Another look at "Sports"  (Read 3138 times) Average Rating: 0
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GabrieltheCelt
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« on: October 25, 2007, 11:06:17 PM »

I read a book about the rosary and came upon this:

  "From the Fall of Rome until the time of the Communist Revolutions of 1848, Christians understood sport as utterly opposed to every moral principle that Christ taught.  They didn't object to sport just because one athlete might inflict injury on another but because the essence of sport is contention, and contention is a vice (Mt 5:21-22, 38-39; Pr 17:14, 19: Mt 7:12; Rm 2:7-8; 1Tm 3:3; Tt 3:2, etc).
  "The Fathers of the Church struggled mightily to close down the arenas and the hippodromes and to get the point across that sport is not compatible with the Christian way of life."

 What do y'all think about this?
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2007, 12:58:23 AM »

Interesting...  I don't see anything in the New Testament passages you reference that condemn much of what I see in sports.  There are certain side effects of participation in sport, both as athlete and as spectator, that can very easily become passions (e.g., quickness to anger, unhealthy attachment to a particular team, extreme competitiveness, remembrance of "wrongs", etc.).  But I don't see the core principle of sport, competition, necessarily being condemned in the teachings of Christ.  Then again, what do I know about this?
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« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2007, 06:41:54 PM »

Unless I am playing sports, I personally think watching them is boring and a waste of time. What is the point of watching sports? I just don't see how it is supposed to be fun.
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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2007, 06:58:51 PM »

Unless I am playing sports, I personally think watching them is boring and a waste of time. What is the point of watching sports? I just don't see how it is supposed to be fun.

Experiencing success and victory vicariously through people with the same regional affiliation.  Reaffirmation of the quality of the place that you live in through the success of the sport program (not just wins, but also merchandise sales and ticket sales and TV ratings).  A means of identifying with other people across geographic boundaries.  Asserting dominance over another person.  Escaping from the drab reality of day-to-day life.  Watching people get paid to play a kid's game!  (How many of us when we were 10 wished we could just keep playing catch or football or whatever forever!)

Don't underestimate that last point...
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« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2007, 09:14:00 PM »

Experiencing success and victory vicariously through people with the same regional affiliation.  Reaffirmation of the quality of the place that you live in through the success of the sport program (not just wins, but also merchandise sales and ticket sales and TV ratings).  A means of identifying with other people across geographic boundaries.  Asserting dominance over another person.  Escaping from the drab reality of day-to-day life.  Watching people get paid to play a kid's game!  (How many of us when we were 10 wished we could just keep playing catch or football or whatever forever!)

Don't underestimate that last point...

Don't get me wrong. I like playing sports, I just don't like watching them. It bores me to death. I guess I just don't get the psychological gratification of people from my region throwing a ball around. It is all fleeting.
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2007, 02:40:14 AM »

Watching people get paid to play a kid's game!

Don't underestimate that last point...
ABSOLUTELY!  Heck, I just love watching kids have fun playing a kids game... for no pay at all.  (I just got home from watching a high school football game where I didn't even care who won.)
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2007, 02:53:45 AM »

So, in response to how the Fathers supposedly felt about sports, how should we in today's age, participate (playing/watching) in sports?  I realize that there is a Fellowship of Christian Athletes which is all well and good, but did the Father's really have misgivings about sports and if so, why and to what extent should we today align ourselves with this mode of thought?
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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2007, 06:10:46 AM »

I think we should bear in mind the age in which the Fathers of the Church were writing - when 'sport' meant quite literally, blood sport. In that light much of what they said still applies to me.
Football (not futbol), boxing, NASCAR (crash thrills), "professional" wrestling, ice hockey all seem similar in mass attraction to the Roman circus or gladiatorial games or old Olympic sport (which was brutal).
Taken into the Christian era, the excesses of the 'fan' factions -The Blues, the Greens - in Constantinople come to mind - as further motivation for the Fathers' views.
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2007, 08:51:08 AM »

Indeed. It's interesting even in the non-violent team sports, there's a feeling of intense loyalty in the fans, so much so that if, for example, I want to watch a Cubs game, and it's not against the Cardinals, I might be called a "traitor." I just enjoy watching baseball, and WGN shows it often during the summer.

This insanity is a good reason for playing/watching individual sports (tennis, golf, bowling, etc.). There's much more emphasis on the skill of the players than the color of their clothing.
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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2007, 08:04:03 PM »

Every once in a while, I hear news of soccer (what those outside the USA call football) fans rioting over the result of a match.  Even here we have stories of irate fans (of sport in general) causing serious injuries to on-field officials (KILL THE UMP!), physically assaulting coaches, or threatening athletes over what happens within a game.  I think there's certainly something of value in watching sports, or else I wouldn't watch the high school football games I love to watch as an impartial observer--sure, American football is a potentially brutal contact sport, but I love the game for its quasimilitary strategy.  But my firsthand experiences have shown me the reality of the passions that can be so easily inflamed by excessive attachment to an athletic team or the consequences of an athletic contest.
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« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2007, 09:39:26 PM »

OK, the book I quoted from is called Rosary; Mysteries, Meditations, and the Telling of the Beads by Kevin Orlin Johnson PhD.  It's a very informative book (though Roman Catholic- I bought it back when I was flirting with becomming RC).  The chapter is The Sorrowful Mysteries; The Agony in the Garden:

 "'Agony' doesn't mean pain, nor torment.  It meanss a struggle; and to the Greek-speaking world of St. Luke's day, agonia meant sport.  Not as we might use the term loosely today to mean any kind of diversion, but sport in its essence:  organized contention expressed physically, entering into some game of contending intellectually or physically brawling with another party to achieve some kind of goal while that party either tries to get there first or keep you from getting there at all, or both.  It means tussling with some opposition to a goal, or striving for something against that opposition.  By using this particular, unique word, St. Luke points to the importance of what you strive for, whom you strive with, and how you go about it.
  That's why St. Augustine preached against sport, and why bishops constantly exhorted the Christian emperors to put an end to the Olympic Games and close the stadia; it's why Tertullian and Novatian wrote whole books about sport and its utter incompatibility with Christian principles.  At long last the Church succeeded, at least far enough to close down public displays of contention in the stadia.  Sport still erupted in informal events among the less-educated classes--ball games, the remnants of old Roman football, archaic kinds of polo, foot-racing, boxing, wrestling, and all of the sports we know today still happened, as did those sports like bull-running, horse-racing, or bear-baiting in which the contention was exprressed vicariously through animals.  But by the time St. Thomas Aquinas wrote whole articles on the vices that sport expresses, these activities were understood as aberrations, violations of Christian principles of life, and in fact as sins."

 Calling 'sport's' a sin seems like a pretty bold statement to me.  I've never really gotten into sports per se, martial arts was always my thing (which he also categorizes as the Fathers being agaist).  It's not an end-of-the-world thing for me, but my goodness, this is quite an accusation.  Convincing Christians to stop participating and/or watching sports seems next to impossible, if indeed necessary.
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2007, 11:01:12 PM »

it would be interesting to hear some corroborating info from other sources to go along with the quotes in that book
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« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2007, 12:02:19 AM »

^^Yeah, I agree.  I was hoping some of our more learned members might be able to provide us with some references from the Fathers on this topic.
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« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2007, 01:03:22 PM »

Hmmm, I've never read any tracts from the Fathers about sport.  It is an interesting question.

What would you do with the Saintly title "Athloforos" - the source of the word "Athlete?"
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« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2007, 09:20:25 PM »

What would you do with the Saintly title "Athloforos" - the source of the word "Athlete?"
First time I've ever heard it before, but I think it's a great name because afterall, St. Paul used many athletic analogies and images to help us understand the difficulties of being a Christian.  That's how I would interpret such a title from a saint, with my limited knowledge.
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« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2007, 07:01:58 PM »

If you look at the tendency here in the states to have your boy playing sports shortly after potty training, it's really no wonder we have such an addiction in grown men.  I have a brother in law that plays professionally and it's now a 'family' addiction-one that causes them to forget going to church to either travel to a game or watch/listen online.  Their 'faith' is easily discarded for the act of worshipping at the altar of sports. Could this be why the fathers spoke against them? The vice of being addicted to or worshipping sports in general?

just a thought.  And yes, I once played sports myself, so I am not a typical female that hates them.
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« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2007, 07:10:06 PM »

I wouldn't say that it's restricted to this country; kids in other countries do what kids in this country do - they play sports for leisure, too.  Pickup soccer / baseball / football games in the neighborhood.  Home run derby in the abandoned lot.  I've played pickup in Greece (soccer), and here (basketball, baseball, and football).  Sport is infused into many national cultures because it is a way for kids to spend time together, build relationships, stay out of their parents' hair for a bit, socialize normally, physically exert themselves, compete (although in most pickup games the competition isn't "bloodsport", but much friendlier, since your opponents in one game may be your teammates tomorrow).
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« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2007, 08:28:38 PM »

I personally don't understand the attraction in sports in general, and though I'll go see the ponies at times this is only fun if you have money on the race (though, I must confess, I might have actually visited the Arena on days when there were historical battle reenactments, especially the naval ones, but that's more an interest in history and military science). However, to expand personal dislike to an immorality is quite a stretch and I suspect that this is what happened here, as seemed to occur with a myriad of 'sins'. If you try hard enough you can argue that anything is a sin and it seems that the problem in this case was that that someone didn't have enough material for their next homily.
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« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2007, 11:52:57 PM »

I think the question should be asked, which fathers DID say that sports are bad, etc.? 

Did you have any references, in your OP?  Just wondering. 

I think most modern fathers or elders/saints don't really concern themselves with modern sports, and the ones that did were so holy and humble that they would say that anything is a gift of God and points us towards Him...

But that's gained from the few examples i've read.  (i.e.  Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain)
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« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2007, 12:04:54 AM »

Did you have any references, in your OP?  Just wondering. 

No, I don't have any references myself.  I was thinking that because this RC author was refering to a few pre-Schism saints/Fathers, either some of y'all might be able to give a few more examples OR give examples to the contrary.  Personally, I find sports boring and get little enjoyment out of them at all (martial arts being my area of interest).  Yet I became somewhat interested in the topic after I came across this book. I'd never come across anything 'anti-sports' before.
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« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2007, 12:42:35 AM »

I personally don't understand the attraction in sports in general, and though I'll go see the ponies at times this is only fun if you have money on the race (though, I must confess, I might have actually visited the Arena on days when there were historical battle reenactments, especially the naval ones, but that's more an interest in history and military science). However, to expand personal dislike to an immorality is quite a stretch and I suspect that this is what happened here, as seemed to occur with a myriad of 'sins'. If you try hard enough you can argue that anything is a sin and it seems that the problem in this case was that that someone didn't have enough material for their next homily.

It would do your physique (and correspondingly, probably your disposition among women) some good if you DID take an interest in the (physical) participation of them. Wink
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« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2007, 12:54:32 AM »

It would do your physique (and correspondingly, probably your disposition among women) some good if you DID take an interest in the (physical) participation of them. Wink
Yup.  'tis better to kick the soccer ball than to be the soccer ball. laugh
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« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2007, 01:48:16 AM »

A mother in my parish who raised five boys that have all become wonderful men advised me to keep my sons in some sort of athletic activity to give them a release for their overflowing testosterone levels and to have them take up a musical instrument to express their passions or frustrations. Her other pieces of advice were to keep the lines of communication open as much as you possibly can with boys  Grin and encourage them to listen to techno (because there are no lyrics in most of the songs)  Cheesy

I have followed most of her advice and both boys are on a swim team. They love the competition and they come home exhausted and relaxed. My oldest son is a very mellow, California "dude" as he describes himself  Cheesy
My younger son is more competitive and enjoys beating the other children in races even if it is only practice. His attitude is there can only be one top dog and he wants to be it.  Cheesy

They each have taken up a variety of instruments and usually the first thing they do after grabbing an after school snack  Wink is fill the house with music to release the tensions of the school day. Some days it can get little loud, especially when the ten year old is banging away on the drums but so far it seems to be working.

Hopefully, her "boy-raising" advice will work for me too.
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« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2007, 02:15:25 AM »

It would do your physique (and correspondingly, probably your disposition among women) some good if you DID take an interest in the (physical) participation of them. Wink

Hey, isn't reading the Daily Racing Forum close enough to physical involvement? Cheesy

Perhaps you're right, but to participate in the one sport I indicated interest in above I would have to be either a 100 lb Jockey or 1000 lb. equine...of the two, the latter is probably more likely. Wink

My best bet (and the most likely possibility) would probably be to purchase a thoroughbred and be on the owner side of things...but I'm guessing that's not what you're getting at. Grin
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« Reply #24 on: October 31, 2007, 02:42:34 AM »

My best bet (and the most likely possibility) would probably be to purchase a thoroughbred and be on the owner side of things...but I'm guessing that's not what you're getting at. Grin

Uhhh.....no. Wink
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« Reply #25 on: October 31, 2007, 08:10:03 AM »

Interesting topic...

Personally, I've never been really into sports (never liked or could stand competition). As a child, I was healthy and strong, but not very well coordinated, so I was a disaster in all team sports (soccer, voleyball, basketball), and earned a "sissy" reputation, which hurt me a lot. (It was somewhat softened because I was excellent in academics and always helped my classmates with their homework, so, even the worst bully in my class would have a kind of respect for me, and protect me from humiliation). As a teenager, I became very interested in fitness and body-building, and made it into a rowing team (I am not quite sure how this sport is called in English - we used to call it "akademichne vesluvanya," literally "avademic rowing," long narrow boats, a traditional sport at many English and American colleges). But even then and there, I did not enjoy the competitive side of the sport; I loved to train, to grow muscle, to feel capable of a physical effort, but I could not stand the atmosphere of competition, when people scream and yell, and it's all about this last split second that decides between the hero-winner and the rest who are despised and jeered.

As for watching, there is only one sport that I can watch and love to watch, and that is soccer (or what all Eropeans call football). My home city, Kyiv (or "Kiev"), is the home of one of the elite European soccer clubs, Dynamo. In Kyiv, soccer is a cult. It's very un-Christian, perhaps, but it's true.

I absolutely do not understand such American sports as American football and baseball. People tried to explain their rules to me, but I never got them. I have no concept about what's going on, so it's useless for me to watch. I also cannot grasp, how in the world people can watch bowling or poker. (But then, probably, many Americans have a similar question about me watching soccer.)

My wife was never interested in sports, never liked the competitive side of sports - just like myself. Our daughter is like us, too: she is a shining example of fitness to us, incredibly healthy, slim and strong, loves to jog, run, bike, etc., but she never was on any sports team and she despises competition.
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« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2007, 10:41:22 AM »

I absolutely do not understand such American sports as American football and baseball. People tried to explain their rules to me, but I never got them. I have no concept about what's going on, so it's useless for me to watch.
It's the same way with a lot of the Eastern Europeans in my parish. We all grew up playing these games, so we understand the rules by experience. To someone who is encountering them for the first time as an adult, they must seem exotic--especially since they are rooted in the equally foreign English games of rugby and cricket.
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« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2007, 12:20:04 PM »

Yeah...my own experiences with rugby is that it often took one or two seasons of play to really have Americans get the rules down.

I remember in one scrum, to my horror I saw the prop forward to my right reach out and bat the ball back into the scrum. Of course the penalty was called, and when we later asked what he was thinking his response was "Well, it just seemed like a good idea at the time".

Our coach, who was Australian, unleashed a torrent of loud words, of which the only part I understood was "The game's been around for 100 years! Ya think we woulda thought about using our hands sometime in there in that time, eh?"  Wink
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« Reply #28 on: November 01, 2007, 12:24:05 AM »

Yup.  'tis better to kick the soccer ball than to be the soccer ball. laugh
reminds me of the lyric to a Wood Brothers song: I'd rather be the wind than the sail; I'd rather be the train not the rail  Tongue
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« Reply #29 on: November 01, 2007, 01:13:51 AM »

I did not enjoy the competitive side of the sport; I loved to train, to grow muscle, to feel capable of a physical effort, but I could not stand the atmosphere of competition, when people scream and yell, and it's all about this last split second that decides between the hero-winner and the rest who are despised and jeered.
I understand your sentiments, Heorhij.  I never much cared for the competitive side either, except when competing with myself.  Martial Arts are a great way to get and stay in shape, but it takes a lot of time and dedication; two things I was always short on.  As I slowly (very slowly) advanced up the ranks, I would feel proud of myself for accomplishing the goal.  I guess that's why I never took to team sports, there was always too much yelling and screaming at each other where as martial arts are primarily solitary (until you must use it that is Wink).

With an Eastern European girlfriend though, I'm starting to love soccer!

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« Reply #30 on: November 01, 2007, 07:25:56 AM »


With an Eastern European girlfriend though, I'm starting to love soccer!


How wonderful. BTW, for many Ukrainian kids and teens back in the 1970-s - early 1980-s soccer was a window to the West, of sorts. I remember how we loved the names of Western European teams that Dynamo played and beat, and the names of Western European cities those teams were from. It all sounded like a fairy tale to us, something so different from our daily life, from our routine - "Bavaria" "(Bayern)," "Borussia (Menchengladbach)," "PSV (Eindhoven)..." It was just COOL-COOL-COOL, "anti-square," anti-establishment, so to say, revolutionary, like Flower Children culture in the West.
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Love never fails.
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