Seven Vices of Sporting Events

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footballI confess, I am an avid Packer fan; last year I went to the playoff game at Lambeau Field when the wind chill was 40 degrees below zero. I suppose you could call me a diehard. With this confession out in the air, the reflection I am about to share may shock some people. My football loyalties may be called into question. Then again, I write this reflection on the heels of the Packer’s opening-game loss to the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks.

Nevertheless, this reflection has been something I grapple with and go back and forth in my mind and heart regarding the topic.  It is similar to a reflection I shared last year entitled, “Re-Evaluating Television: Questions of Morality.”  I wish to share some insights on the deadliness of football to our souls in the vices that can arise.

The First Vice: Pride

When it comes to our sports teams, whether it is professional football, baseball, soccer, or hockey, there is a sense of pride that comes with one’s team.  A person is proud to be a Packer fan or Cubs fan. One’s identity sometimes is associated with their team loyalty.  Such loyalty is okay, but one’s pride in their team can become sinful when it turns into cockiness and provokes others to the point of sin in speech or thought.

­The Second Vice:  Drunkenness

When it comes to sporting events, more often than not, fans consume a lot of alcohol, to the point of intoxication. Drunkenness can be a catalyst for many other sins.  Some of the other vices mentioned later are intensified by drunkenness because one’s judgment is hampered.

The Third Vice:  Crudeness

A dropped pass, an interception, a muffed punt, a missed field goal and any other bad play can arouse within a person a bit of irrationality. When these events happen on the field, the spectator fan begins to curse aloud, and four letter words are shouted.  Sports can bring out of a good and decent human being, emotions that typically would not be expressed otherwise.

The Fourth Vice:  Anger

When one’s team loses, an individual becomes angry. He is angry at the team and at those who hackle him about his team losing.  The fan might even say things to people that he or she should not or would not normally say.

The Fifth Vice:  Impurity

Scantily clad women are on the fields serving as cheerleaders for the game. Other fans may be dressed inappropriately.  Commercials on television tread the line of inappropriate.  This stirs up the passions and one’s mind begins to think thoughts that he shouldn’t.  He or she may entertain lustful thoughts, and in the words of Jesus, commit adultery in their heart.

The Sixth Vice: Profanation of the Sabbath

Where I come from in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers are a second religion. Catholic Churches cut corners (homily length, sung responses, etc.) during late morning Masses when kickoff is scheduled for 12:00. Catholic circles jokingly call Lambeau Field a basilica.

Culturally we have a great problem in regard to people honoring the Sabbath. Many people do not believe in the significance of Sunday worship. With this in mind, since football is often played on Sunday, how many people forego their religious obligations in order to worship the football/sports deity?

For Catholics, they have the opportunity for a Saturday Vigil Mass to fulfill their religious obligation. But for other mainline Christian denominations who only worship on Sunday, certainly some skip Church in order to tailgate. Football watching on Sunday can be a family affair, it can be a time of rest and recreation, all good things for the Sabbath, but if we overlook our religious observances, then all the pros are outweighed.

The Seventh Vice:  Lack of Stewardship

To be a fan of sports teams and attend games is expensive. I have heard stories of people who have lived lavishly by attending sporting events, but they spent more than their means, and consequently committed suicide to deal with it. In one case it was a secret kept from the wife, only discovered after the husband’s death. This is quite the extreme, but it has happened.

Can we better use our money that we spend on sporting events? It is incredible to me to think about how much money the NFL makes on a game and how much money our athletes are paid, when at the same time there are other issues happening globally that these resources could be directed to.

Stewardship extends beyond our treasure and includes our time (and talent). Watching a football game is a big time investment—one game alone is a 3+ hour time commitment. Imagine those who watch as much football as humanly possible (three different games on Sunday, Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football), at the very least this would be about 15 hours a week, the equivalence to a part-time job. Then if you have fantasy teams and all the research that goes into that….Wow!  What a time commitment.

As a person steeped in academia, it is hard for me to reconcile the time it takes to watch just one game, because there are other things I could or should be doing—reading, researching, etc. As a Catholic, I must ask myself if I give as much time to matters of religion, prayer, reading the scriptures, doing works of mercy, etc. as I do to watching sports. The way we spend our time may speak to a lot of the problems we are beginning to face as a society—obesity and uncultured individuals.

Conclusion

My goal in this reflection is not to convey we should eradicate football or sports in general from our American lifestyle. Instead, I propose these seven vices of sports to raise awareness about sinful behaviors that can arise. We must be aware of how the evil one can infiltrate our recreational activities so we can live virtuous lives.

A life of virtue is not impossible during a sporting event, but it must be something we consciously strive toward.  Perhaps if we begin to be virtuous at stadiums, sporting bars, and homes, we can become witnesses to those who are steeped in the vices of the sports we enjoy.

Fr. Edward Lee Looney

Fr. Edward Lee Looney

Fr. Edward L. Looney was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay on June 6, 2015. Fr. Looney has a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, is a member of the Mariological Society of America, and has researched and written extensively on the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, recognized as the first and only approved Marian apparition in the United States. His most recent work is A Rosary Litany. To learn more visit: arosarylitany.com. Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author are his alone, and do not reflect those of his diocese. He seeks to always remain faithful to the Magisterium.

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13 thoughts on “Seven Vices of Sporting Events”

  1. Avatar

    I really enjoyed your article. Living in Western Pennsylvania, I can relate to the craziness that ensues in the region during football season and how unfortunately Mass schedules cater to the NFL. Having just read, Happy are You Poor by Fr. Dubay, I also appreciated the discussion on stewardship and pondering how money and time spent on the NFL could be better spent somewhere else

  2. Pingback: When Catholic Leaders Abandon the Faithful - BigPulpit.com

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    Thank you. The blatant sinfulness that inundates modern professional spectator sports (besides the simple fact that the degree of obsession that so many men have with them is itself a form of idolatry) is the elephant in the living room when it comes to sports being the default “Catholic Men” thing.

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    The photo is reminiscent of Packer glory days with Paul Hornung, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor and a Lambeau Field of Green Bay Packer stars playing against the Detroit Lions and Alex Karras on Thanksgiving Day.

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    I’m a Packer fan since I was a small kid. The whole world was Green Bay. Now I am in the midst of mortification of vices and yes I have to regress from the game exactly because of the vices mentioned above. It is an occasion to sin. Occasion of sin leads to mortal sins. It takes focus away from God and spiritual awareness of what is good in the eyes of God and Our Lady Queen of Heaven. I have to go to a monastery in the middle of the desert away from any Wi-Fi to purge myself from Packer Fever! Prayer and Fasting! Better it be hear than in Purgitory!

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    I agree with this article and this is what happens when God is taken out of anything. I will say, however, that to have a better understanding and perspective of sports, we need to acknowledge the virtues sports teach: hard work, humility, sportsmanship, teamwork, physical fitness and perseverance. I could go on. I think the negative often times over shadows the positive and we forget to look at such things. Our culture has an unhealthy imbalance in regards to putting sports in the place where God should be. I would argue, in this light, that sports in itself isn’t bad, but rather our abandonment of God in this arena which brings forth wrotten fruit within sports. Sports can be a great gift when tempered with our lord.

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    Don’t FORGET IDOLATRY, which is a HUGE Omission given the other “sins” that are listed. I’d put IDOLATRY FIRST on the list.

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    You are right on the mark! I’ve always thought this and you put it to words perfectly! I’m from the Philadelphia area, where Eagles fans are notoriously obnoxious, and so bad they had to put a jail in the stadium. Most fans waste vast amounts of their God-given resources on this form of entertainment. They’ll sit out in the freezing cold for hours watching a bunch of millionaires playing. Meanwhile, the local churches are closing due to low Mass attendance and pitiful financial support. This form of entertainment, just like others, are the devil’s subtle method of distracting otherwise decent people from what they should be doing with their resources. Very rare does this glorify God, which is what every activity should do. Deacon, you are going to make an awesome priest! Keep on preaching the Truth!

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    The excessive amount of time spent on football has become ridiculous. It not only consumes entire weekends but now week nights. Football pools, fantasy football have invaded the work place. We were not created to be spectators. Any good thing can become bad when it is not done in moderation. The author’s points on gambling and lewdness are also right on point.

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