Sports in the South – My honest thoughts

I have grown up my entire life surrounded by, yet separated from, the sports culture that runs rampant in the South. The small town about 10 minutes away from my house is obsessed with baseball especially. The town about 20 minutes from me is where I spend the most time however, and that town is in Georgia Southern country. People around here either bleed Blue and Gold or Red and Black, sometimes all of those. And if you don’t care about football, you are automatically bombarded with all sorts of things like: “You are so weird, football is so cool and I can’t believe you don’t like it” “You are so uncultured”. And no matter how many times I explain my position on why I just don’t get into sports, people still seem to regard me strangely.

But it isn’t the sport itself that bothers me. It is what the sports around us have become. At the church I used to attend, sports often came before church, especially in the case of the youth. If several of the youth had a sports event going on Wednesday night, they would cancel youth group, leaving the several who didn’t have sports to fend for themselves. And on Sunday mornings, some youth wouldn’t be there due to a “big” game that they had to attend. Sports talk would take up more than half of our allotted hour for Sunday school. I frankly got sick of it. I came to church to fellowship, yes. But I also come to church to learn about Christ, worship him, and become spiritually enriched. Talking about the latest football game IS NOT spiritually enriching, no matter how great of a game it was.

My current church is somewhat better, though I have noticed even more obsession with Georgia Southern since going to this church. A good example of this: Every year, the youth group takes a group to MOVE Conference, an annual leadership conference for Christians. For the last several years, it was held in the town of Macon. Unfortunately, the venue in Macon has become too small for the huge crowds that attend the conference, and thus the conference has been moved to Athens for next year. Now, Athens is Bulldog country, and since we are all from Georgia here, you would think that everyone would be excited. Right? RIGHT?

WRONG. One person even said that they would not go this year because of the fact that it is in UGA country! An adult leader has made several comments about being near that “other college” but not having to “set foot on the campus”. Seriously? Not to disrespect, but we aren’t even there because of the college!

When did sports become so important to us? When did we start putting people tossing a ball around over praising the Lord with our fellow believers? When did seeing the latest game on television become more important than fellowshiping at a youth event? When did a particular team become a deciding factor in whether people attend a church conference or not? When did whether or not a person likes sports become a symbol of being “cool”? Have we truly become so shallow minded that guys tackling each other over a ball is of more merit than God himself?

The Bible speaks multiple times about idols, idolatry, and God’s hatred of it. Anything can be an idol, money, clothes, beauty, and yes, sports. You might not be bowing down and singing praises to the game of football, but if you are putting above God, your family, your friends, and your schoolwork, it is still an idol. This is for both playing sports and being a fan.

Now, that’s not to say that sports are bad, because they aren’t. But like I like to say: Everything in moderation. It’s sort of like this: Sugar isn’t bad on its own (despite what all the health people say about it being evil), but when we eat too much of it, it can make us unhealthy. It can cause us to become overweight, sluggish (from a “sugar crash), have cavities, and less able to focus. Sports, like sugar, are fine on their own. They can be fun to play and watch, but too much of them can be bad. When your priorities become mixed up and sports are put before God and family, when you play a sport so much that your body begins to wear down, and when you can hardly think about anything else, that is a sign that something is wrong. I have to moderate myself when it comes to TV, and it really isn’t that hard.

I just think that we as Christians need to take a closer look at how we treat sports. It’s all fun and games around here until someone gets shunned for disliking sports in general or liking a certain team. And we’re perfectly willing to commit to something at church every week until it actually comes time to do it, when we realize that practice is more important to us. Yes, if sports is your passion then work hard at it! And if you enjoy watching the game, feel free. But think carefully about how these activities are affecting your walk with God, your family life, your friendships, and your personal activities like chores, homework, etc. The Bible says that we should have “NO other God before ME” (as in, God), but he wasn’t just talking about a golden calf or Buddha. Idols can take on many forms, and for many people I know, that idol is sports. I have struggles of my own, as there was a time when TV became my idol. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t overcome it. Sometimes, this means taking a “fast” of sorts from watching games, or stepping up and telling your coach that you can’t be there on Wednesdays because of church.

All I know is, I am tired of being laughed at because I don’t like sports. I am tired of the petty rivalries, and the way we allow sports to affect our time at church and youth trips. And when we think about it, maybe God isn’t too happy with us either?


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. emmabeaty95
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 09:45:43

    I have never been into sports. My extended family is somewhat into it and there was some interest at my old church, but I have never really been exposed to the high level of devotion to sports that you are talking about. I do sympathize with you though! I, for the life of me, cannot understand the attraction to people running around with a ball! I find it exceedingly boring!
    I completely agree with you: sports can and has become an idol for many people. The thing that I find myself needing to be careful about is not condemning others when I too struggle with idolatry, just in different areas. It is sad how, although we may not be bowing down to physical idols of gold and silver, we still raise so many things to the pedestal that only God should occupy. It is something that is a constant struggle in my life.



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