I stole this title from a chapter in Fr Schall’s book “A Better Sort of Learning.”
The thought crossed my mind today because I was going to Costco with the secretary from our parish to buy things for the hockey game tonight. She told me how she found it sad this weekend at her garage sale when one of her neighbours came by to check things out. In these here parts, the Canucks are on everyone’s minds. So, naturally, she said “So, what do you think about the Canucks so far?” He responded, speaking for himself and his wife: “We don’t do sports.”
She found that sad, as if to say sports are below them, or that sports have no real interest or importance to life. I think, though, that such a person has lost a proper view of life a very long time ago. I say that because, as I was driving at one point today, I was listening to the Team 1040, and they were talking to a football player who said “deep down, we’re all just children who just simply love sports.” What a wonderful statement. The reason my secratary’s neighbour’s statement is so sad is because it is a sign that he lost his childhood a long time ago. Jesus meant it when He said “unless you become like this child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” To be a fan of sports is to be a child in every good sense of the term.
But there is something more to sports. Sports are serious, in that they have something substantial to offer the world (in so far they are sport, I should say. I don’t think the UFC is a sport: it’s men beating other men with no limits. That’s not a sport. That’s a fist fight in a ring.) St Paul gives a great analogy to sports when speaking about the spiritual life, for example. He is right: the crown one seeks in sports is fleeting, it has no lasting imprint, while the crown of glory and of Heaven is eternal: it will never pass away. But he cites sports because they are serious. Look at what people do to be successful in sports. I give kudos to guys who are on the ice, for example, throwing their bodies in front of pucks going 100MPH. That takes sacrifice. They are on the ice even though they are in pain. They work, they toil, they struggle, they do everything they can so that the team can have victory.
This is so very much like the spiritual life, and it is for this reason St Paul cites sports in reference to the spiritual life. He doesn’t reference family life, work, personal pursuits: he cites sports because they are a sign of our eternal race. What is fleeting does not make it less important, it adds to the importance of it by virtue of the fact that it is in reference to the eternal.
I think, in the end, God created us to be creatures of sport. It has so much to teach us about the spiritual lives. If only we have the ears to hear.