Monday, 20 February 2012

The Dark Side Of Sports

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Violence_in_SportsThe U.S. recently celebrated an event that has almost become a national holiday--the NFL Super Bowl. While many “Super Sunday” football parties are a time for people to gather with family and friends and have fun as they cheer on their favorite teams, there is a more dark and brutal side to major sporting events than many would acknowledge. Although they are called "games", most people are accustomed to hearing phrases like, "winning is everything" and "nobody likes a loser". Indeed, winning has become everything, and often at all costs.

Consider the recent NFL football playoff games in January between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants. After unsuccessfully completing two punt returns, player Kyle Williams received death threats and other scathing online tirades from angered fans. [1]

Fan violence during and after sporting events has become a fairly common occurrence. As recently as February 1st of this year, brutal clashes at a soccer match in Port Said, Egypt left at least 74 people dead and hundreds more injured. Following the final whistle the winning team's fans poured onto the field wielding sticks and stones against players and supporters of their long-time rivals. During the 1994 World Cup, Columbian soccer player Andrés Escobar accidentally scored an "own goal" in a match against the United States, in which Colombia lost 2-1. Upon his return home, Escobar was confronted outside a bar by a gunman who shot the player six times, killing him. [2]

It is not uncommon for fans to riot in the streets of their cities after a team’s win or loss of a game or championship by setting fires, overturning cars, and looting business. NFL Denver Broncos fans rioted in the streets after their team won the Super Bowl in 1998, and a similar incident occurred in Oakland, California in 2003 when fans rioted and destroyed property after the NFL Raiders lost the Super Bowl. The NBA Los Angeles Lakers fans stormed the streets of that city after the Lakers victory in the 2000 NBA Finals. Fans started bonfires which turned into a riot.

In figure skating, some athletes have been intentionally injured, severely or even permanently by rivals or members of an opposing team. This happened between skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Other star athletes have been paralyzed or killed by their sport, such as Dale Earnhardt’s car crash in the Daytona 500 and skier Sarah Burke, who died in a skiing accident on January 19th.

Sporting events are a massive business, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. How much is it worth to a city to host the Super Bowl alone? In 2009, the figure was estimated to be $500 million! [3] Consider the cost of a 30-second advertisement at this year's Super Bowl: $3.5 million to the advertiser, up 17% from just one year ago! Consider also inflated salaries and product endorsements that sports stars rake in each year.

While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a sporting event for the enjoyment of it or working to attain more perfection and skill as an athlete, the concept of today’s so-called “games” should make a true Christian consider whether this is something that their Creator is pleased with. If everything is in the proper perspective, it might not be a problem. If too much importance is placed on competitions consider why.

People who try to live their lives according to the scriptures look out for others, putting another’s needs ahead of their own. They do not purposely hurt another human being for their own gain, nor do they put a sports figure on a level where they are worshipped. Here are a few scriptures to consider: Romans12:9--Hate evil and love good; Colossians 3:12-14--As God’s beloved, be merciful, kind, humble and charitable; Philippians 2:3-5--Let nothing be done through strife and vainglory. Let each esteem other better than themselves; Proverbs 16:18-19--It’s better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud; 2 Timothy 3:1-5--In the last days, men shall be boasters, proud, fierce, high-minded (among other things); Exodus 23:2--Don’t follow a multitude to do evil.

Keep things in perspective and practice moderation, which is sound advice for all of Christ’s followers. Put your efforts into something greater and more lasting than just a game!

[1] http://www.bing.com/search?q=death+threats+to+NFL+players&form=MSNH14&qs=n&sk=&x=119&y=22
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_in_sports
[3] http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/02/03/133468803/how-much-is-the-super-bowl-worth
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