Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sports and Religion: the beginning

You better believe it:  sports and religion are a hot topic.

But really, why shouldn't they be?  The scholarly types will remember that Catherine Albanese laid some foundations for this sort of interdisciplinary work years ago with her textbook America: Religion and Religions.  Sports are the ordinary form of community, creed, code, and cult while actual "religions" supply the extraordinary side, that spiritual connection that transcends immediate circumstances.

And it seems Catholic voices are in the middle of it all.  Major League Baseball draws comments from John Allen Jr and Elizabeth Scalia, two Catholic bloggers who usually viewed as opposites on the ideological spectrum.

Heck, even Catholic moral theologians have joined this topic, weighing in on the morality of football.

Somewhere in Heaven the Notre Dame alumni are aghast.  I really wonder how many theologians who write on sports issues actually take seriously their own arguments.  On the one hand, it's quite legitimate to question football's stranglehold on American life.  It might be that one thing that's too big to fail, at least economically speaking.  But its effects on those who play the sport--dementia, increased health maladies including diabetes--and those who watch it--again, diabetes and inactivity--undermine that.  Folks in the academy duly recognize all this...and then make off-mike comments about how they can't stand the Chicago Bears or whoever plays Notre Dame. This is at least problematic, if not outright contradictory.

I've written--and am writing, s-l-o-w-l-y--about these topics, too.  The baseball-Catholic-football connection has deep roots in American Catholicism's 20th century experiences.  We haven't yet plumbed the depths of how the Catholic faith--held deeply or not so much--operates for someone who made his or her living off competition.  After all, it was Leo Durocher who said "Nice guys finish last" and Vince Lombardi said "Winning isn't everything. It is the only thing."

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