For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
I ran into an article about devotion to something the author called Athletica that very much resonated with me. It described a phenomena that is epidemic in our society. Our own little family was not immune to this and I am glad some articulated the problem so well. The article is definitely worth a read. Here is how the article starts out:
For decades, demographic studies have indicated the steady decline of religion in America, but new measures suggest that, on the contrary, at least one religion in America is alive and well, thriving in every community, and claiming devoted adherents in nearly every household.
This new religious revival has remained under the radar in large part because its adherents do not claim any religious attachment to this social institution, but by every measure of behaviors typically associated with religion, it is deceitful to label it as anything less. Although it shies away from adopting an overarching organization or name for itself, for the purposes of this study, it will be considered under the name Athletica.
What must first impress outsiders studying the life of Athletica is how wholehearted is the devotion of its followers. These disciples are willing to sacrifice almost limitlessly where their dedication to this faith is concerned. Money, time, health, and even family may all be expended for the sake of bettering oneself within Athletica, and it is no exaggeration to say its members orient their lives around the strictures of their religion’s demands.
We assiduously worked to avoid fanatical devotion to sports when the kids were young. The kids participated in organized swimming, tennis, soccer, gymnastics and other athletic endeavors four or five days per week for the entire course of their homeschool. We belonged to the YMCA or a sports club everywhere we lived and when they were not in an organized sport, they went to the gym to lift weights or work out. But we vigorously emphasized this activity as just exercise–like brushing one’s teeth every day–good for the health of the body, but not something on which to base your every waking moment or life goals. Even (if not particularly) the team and leadership aspects of sports rang hollow with us based on the attitudes manifested by the vast bulk of the kids and families who were so wholly devoted to such efforts.
When we drive Grandpa Milo to church, we have time to talk with him. It is a lot of fun and we always learn something. We have to talk about things that happened a long time ago because his short term memory is not so good. Our talk yesterday, as usual was a gift to us. We talked about when he played sports in elementary school and high school in Cottage Grove, Oregon back in the 1940’s. One of my favorite stories that I have heard often was when his high school basketball was doing well, but not as well as the coach desired.
The coach gathered the team around and asked the question in what, I suppose was a rhetorical way, “Are you here to have fun or are you here to win!?”
That was probably the wrong thing to ask a bunch of extremely hard working farmer and logger boys whose brothers had just come back from fighting World War II. Sports were definitively not anything to be taken seriously. No one believed then that the “courage” and “sacrifice” required to participate in sports were a good way to build character. Nor did they believe the exercise they got playing them was anywhere close to the physical duress they experienced when working on the farm or in the woods. So, the idea that it was a builder of character was transparently wrong. That left sports as something to do for fun and, to a much smaller extent, exercise.
Grandpa answered for all of them, “We play for fun. As soon as this quits being fun, we will quit playing basketball.”
Maybe we ought to get back to thinking that way about sports again in our day.
Betty Blonde #489 – 06/21/2010
Click here or on the image to see full size strip.
Lorena heard a conversation between a group of middle aged women talking about their kids college choices on her train ride home last Saturday. It seems one of their priorities was for the kids to go to universities with really good football teams. The entire sports culture in America these days seems a little bit crazy. One of my biggest regrets about my high school and college days is how much my studies suffered because I spent so much time focused on sports. I think the problem is that like any other area that, in moderation, can be great, but as a vocation, even at the highest levels, is a waste of time. It is not like art or music with things created that take on lives of their own long after the artist or musician is gone. Sports is irrelevant the minute the game ends.
The sad part is so many kids get caught up in what really amounts to very small time, worthless endeavors. I am talking about the kid that plays college basketball, football, track wrestling or baseball whether the school is big or small. The commitment is so great it is not possible to get a good education while doing it. Of course there are exceptions–I work with a Stanford football player who is a great engineer, but most kids do their stint as a player then spend the rest of their lives mourning for their glory years, doing a job they hate because they got a weak education and pushing their own kids into the same hamster wheel existence. Worse, for all the talk about sports building character, there is little to no evidence of that character anywhere but when young kids are involved and even that fails much of the time. Again, there are exceptions, but you see displays of exceptional character so rarely in college and professional sports these days that people make a big deal out of it when it happens.
Betty Blonde #471 – 04/30/2010
Click here or on the image to see full size strip.