Tag Archives: Sports

Digressing into the confusing banality and joy of sports

I’ve reached an odd paradox in my life where my lifelong love of sports no longer captivates me as it once did, yet I remain curious enough to follow them. The one exception is baseball. Baseball for me isn’t a sport; it’s truly a pastime and it falls into another category altogether.

I can’t watch a whole football game anymore. I’d like to say because I now see the wreckage of human life because of concussions and injuries and idolatry of stars that makes the whole product seem so … well, criminal. That’s part of it. But the reason I can’t watch the games is they aren’t compelling. The other day I listened to five ex-athletes and three various news types talk about “breaking down tape” and diagram plays as if they were curing cancer at the volume of a pro wrestling farce.

It all seemed so silly.  I wanted to say, “get a life.” So, I did. To me. I was the one watching the nonsense. At least, they all got paid to be silly.  I turned it off.

I’ve loved the San Francisco 49ers since 1979. And yet, I can barely muster up anything other than disgust when I think about them. Their mockery of a coaching staff, their sliver-spoon owner who ruined a historic team, and their empty stadium seats because “fans” prefer to watch inside the stadium on TVs all disgust me. Most all, moving the team from San Francisco to a nightmare stadium that takes longer to get to than a trip to Tahoe on a Friday night insulted every loyal San Francisco fan that ever donned a jersey or bought a ticket.

But here’s the rub. I still find myself flipping to sports page every morning. I read the stories about the 49ers like a jilted lover stalking their Facebook page. I still have their abysmal games on in the background when I do something else more interesting with my Sunday afternoon.

This odd mix of boredom and fascination with sports came to a head this week when I dedicated parts to three nights to watch the Golden State Warriors play basketball. I gave up any interest in basketball back in the 1990s when the beauty of the LA Lakers Showtime and drama of the historic Magic Johnson v. Larry Bird rivalry came to a close, the day Johnson announced he had contracted HIV. I was such a huge fan, I recall exactly where I was during that announcement. It devastated me and my love of basketball with it.

But these Golden State Warriors are so damn interesting I couldn’t help but be caught up in it. Now they have a potentially record-breaking winning streak and I found myself nervous the last couple of games as they nearly lost. Even as I felt thrilled with the Warriors victory, I wondered why the hell I even cared.

Being a sports fan is confusing if you take a step back from it. It’s not art. it’s not doing much for humanity. It’s often not entertaining. Looked at from afar, it feels foolish. Why care this much about a game? Why spend money on such things. Why do I own sports jerseys that I feel too silly actually to wear?  And more importantly, why do I feel so compelled to think about why I still care about sports?

Here’s why. I’m getting older. I’m more aware of those grains of sand in my life and how I use them. I look back over the life I’ve lived and how many of those grains were spent poorly or harmfully or stupidly and especially carelessly that it absolutely fucking matters how I chose to spend them now. I don’t have near as many left as I used to, so the idea of spending 30 minutes of them every morning reading the sports page feels… empty.

I am choosing to live my life full. But like everything, there is a balance. It can’t all be so purposeful that it lacks normalcy. Sports, I’ve realized, is the white space in my life. It’s needed, just not too much of it. So my task is not to curse my clinging attention to sports but to mitigate it. To remove the banal waste of time and replace it with the best of sports: socializing with others, a bit of joy around the dramatic moments, the compelling stories of people who use it for good or simply a way to rest and relax and turn my mind off a bit.

In all these ways, sports can work for me. In all the others, it is time to let them go.

Is God a sports fan? A question for a spiritual slump

I’m in a spiritual slump.

Like a hitter than can’t get good wood on the ball, or the San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick against the Seattle Seahawks, I am not living up to my full purpose lately. So I’ve tried to spend some time with God sorting it out. But true to my slump, my energy and focus during those times isn’t sharp at all, certainly not enough to reconnect me to the God who inspires most everything I try to do these days.

That discordant reality brought me around to a basic primer I often employ in my ongoing 11th step process of Daily Moral Inventory taking. I often ask myself how do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? Both reflect my priorities better than my hopes, talk, and wishful thinking of well-intended beliefs. They are true tests of my spiritual condition.

Which brings me full circle to the opening question: is God a sports a fan? Because I spend a lot of time lately watching sports. I spent some money lately on sports, like San Francisco Giants playoff tickets and a World Series Giants sweatshirts and a big spread for the Oregon Ducks thrashing of Stanford.

Despite it being Thanksgiving with my family and a really beautifully simple day, I found my mood turn plenty sour watching the 49ers beating by the defending Super Bowl Champs. It all feels a bit out of balance.

I am not one of those sports fans. You know, the crazy eye-black wearing fans, the dropping numerous C-Notes on the latest gear fans, the watch a full slate of games Saturday and Sunday and watch two hours of ESPN fans. I don’t “live and die” with “my” team. But the current 49er offense sure can ruin any given Sunday.

During the season I watch the Giants most nights, but the Bride and I do that together while doing other tasks. Our whole family loves baseball. I rarely feel guilty about my lifelong love of the beautiful game because it binds us all together.

We are also a family of Ducks. Three generations have ties to the University of Oregon. My loyalties to the Green and Yellow (back when they still wore their colors… before they became a weekly habashery of Nike fashion) go back prior to the Kenny Wheaton interception that turned the Ducks into a real college football team back in the 1990s.

It remains one of the top five favorite moments I’ve ever had in sports.

And of course the San Francisco 49ers, my longest standing loyalty to a team, dates back to when I was a kid and watched a fellow Catholic become the team’s new quarterback in 1980. Joe Montana remains my favorite player of all time and The Bride’s favorite player, so much so she chose to name our youngest after him even though she’s a girl.

So while I may not one of those fans, I’m still pretty invested in sports. It still takes a decent amount of my time, and a chunk of my money and assumes a priority in my life that could very well be outweighed with other things if in fact, God is not a sports fan. 

Even as an athlete I mocked the idea of praying for victory. I roll my eyes at the gyrations players go through to cross themselves and point to the sky and even pray after games, all in an attempt to bring God into the arena of sport that seems … well… weird, if you consider it for very long.

It’s hard to see God giving a rats ass about the 49ers injuries and ridiculous front office sniping. I see Her rolling her eyes at me as I pout following the 49ers loss on Thanksgiving.

The easy answer of course is hell no, God is not a sports fan. Consider that about the only thing God gets really, really pissed at in the Bible is idolatry, then look at the idol worship, egoism, gross extravagance and insular narcissism of professional sports and even thinking there is a chance that God is a sports fan seems ludicrous.

But…

But…

But, I think God may well be a sports fan. I could make a list the length of the the Book of Isaiah on the good sports does and the values it instilled in me. But it’s easier to recall that impressive speech in Chariots of Fire, when the humble servant of God who would become a missionary and die in China after devoting his whole life to God says, “But when I run, I feel His pleasure…” and I get all chocked up and know God is a sports fan.

If Eric Liddell could compare faith to running in a race, much like St. Paul himself did, then its not hard to believe God can be a sports fan.  I remember back when I was a young athlete and young believer and heard this comparison. I felt inspired both as an athlete and a follower of God.

I could use some of that inspiration these days. Perhaps God’s not a sports fan. Perhaps She is. Perhaps it doesn’t matter and like many things I obsess about it has little to do with my spiritual slump. Perhaps. But I know that by taking the time to consider what God thinks and what God wants and what God prefers for both my time and money, I get closer to breaking out of the slump than if I go on without a care.

Is God a sports fan? I dunno. But what matters is that I care about it one way or another.

So what do you say? Is God a sports fan?

Just do it: Outside and blood moving

It’s cold out there. I know it. I know how empty and cold that street looks. I know how that first bite will feel on my skin. I know the muscles will grown louder at first. I know the breath will feel like wet sand in my chest. I know all of this begs me to stay inside here by the fire where its warm. My mind churns intensely with excuses and rationalizations until I finally just tell it all to be still.

I lace up the shoes, pull on the beanie and the gloves and go outside. Five minutes later as I jog down slippery streets, I’m so glad I did.

I wonder often why I have to run that gauntlet of internal opposition every time I go to work out. It’s been with me for years. It started 100 pounds ago and has never really let up.

But I learned one way to silence it. I simply, sharply tell myself to “Just do it.” Perhaps this is the greatest slogan ever written, because three words rarely say so much. I say just do it and it silences the drone of opposition. Case closed.

Maybe you are still weighing the changes you want to make this New Year. Don’t over think. Just do it. You don’t need a perfect plan, just a plan. You don’t need the greatest results, you just need to see it through for a while and the results will come.

Here’s my plan for the next couple of months. Follow along with me. Email me and I’ll send you daily encouragement. I’ll do it with you. Whatever works really.

Just do it:

WINTER WORK OUT SCHEDULE

 Sunday:

  • 100 Push-Ups anywhere, anyway, as many sets as you need….
  • Run 3 miles

Monday:

  • 20 Crunches, 20 Bicycle Crunches, 20 Scissor Kicks, 20 Leg Raise, 20 Hip Extensions
  • Afternoon bike ride

Tuesday:

  • 30 Forward Lunges (15 each leg), 40 Side Lunges (20 each leg ) 30 Reverse Lunges (15 each leg)
  • Yoga or fitness video

Wednesday:

  • Run hills 3 miles

Thursday:

  • 50 Triceps Push-ups, 50 Triceps Dips, power curls
  • Afternoon bike ride

Friday:

  • Regular and Each Side Plank (I do a 3x3x30 plank… continuous, regular, side to side, 30 second each, no rest or just 10 seconds if needed… do it three times)
  • Run slow, flat 5 miles

Saturday: off