Of gods and Ghosts
In this erratically satisfying endeavor known to us as sports fandom, the gamble for retribution and the hope of a better tomorrow so often also has a mighty hand in our undoing. The risks are quite understood, but they’re the reason loyalty to a given team comes to mean so much in the representation of our being. We rejoice in the fact that, effectively, our lives’ welfare rests in the fate of a band of honed athletic specimens; it comforts us to know that no matter our own destination, faith in something so entirely separate from our own lives will always exist as an escape. It’s a confirmation that if nothing else, we have at least this to give us an identity, to provide solace when nothing else might. Billions would consider it blasphemous to proclaim, but sports – its characters blessed with these mythical abilities – are very much a religion.
To rely on some supreme entity above to provide a beacon of guidance hardly seems much different than kneeling before a television set on a Saturday afternoon and relying on Steve Breaston to return a kick 50 yards and restore faith that the world as we know it is a kind and honest place. This is not to anoint a man who has most certainly done more to inspire confidence and eviscerate peril in my own life than any force in a religious dwelling has. But if a religion is merely the chosen manner to live your life, if it is to embody a suitable set of ideals, to provide hope, is that not the same as a chosen football team that might happen to symbolize the same?
If a portion of religion is a collection of tales to be wary of, or to assuage fears and doubts, was the Miracle on Ice not just a modern-day David and Goliath story? Was Rockne’s “win one for the gipper” speech not told to pay homage to a fallen comrade? Eighty years later has it not become a symbol of inspiration, of honoring someone dear to us? Does Mike Hart’s ascension from the lowly dregs of upstate
I had never taken much time to consider something like this before. Too many communion wafers, too much Sunday school, too many prayers, maybe. But something happened after the Title Game that made me wonder. The game had been over for a few hours, and someone on an
Certainly life itself can’t be reduced to things so trivial as winning and losing, but in the simple lives we lead, this is what seems to matter. “Living and dying” with a given team has grown to be a cliché, but there is, of course, reason the saying exists at all. It is the rising and falling to those two ends which parallel religion as well. Sports are nothing if not an unmediated forum to champion one’s beliefs. Like the doctrines of a religion, so much of sport is the thrill of fighting for their honor, of defending yourself, and defending these men who you’ve convinced yourself are worth such a lifelong dedication to. Without fighting for them, fighting for your religion, you call your reasons for living into question.
To say the very least, I haven’t handled the culmination of