I 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.
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.