Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sports and Spirituality

There's a revolution going on in the soul and psyche of professional soccer player Chase Hilgenbrinck--he now has a new goal in life: to become a priest. He recently left the New England Revolution to enter seminary.

Says Hilgenbrink: "I felt called to something one time I thought that call might be professional soccer. In the past few years, I found my soul is hungry for something else....I discerned, through prayer, that it was calling me to the Catholic Church. I do not want this call to pass me by."

Read the full story here.

The topic of sports and religion has recently been the subject of considerable academic inquiry. My colleague over at the Religion and American History blog, Art Remillard--an avid runner--has brought attention to the topic with his posts on golf, and sports-in-general, where he highlights books such as Playing with God, O God of Players, and The Holy Trinity of American Sports. Art also highlighted recent work that considers some water-based sports as religion.

Closer to home there's the book Pigskin Pulpit, a study of Texas high school football written by a former professor of mine. Finally, there's even religious dimensions to sports in Houston--as this Sports Off Center clip suggests.

Any anecdotal stories that illustrate sport-as-religion, or any thoughts to offer about religion and sports?


brandi williams said...

I believe that religion has played a major role in sports even before attention has been brought to it. Before a game, most teams pray and even the cheerleader squad prays. (I know, was a cheerleader ages ago) I would not doubt that most players of any sport has some type of spiritual "thing" that they do or pray to. I believe that most players or people involved in sports would have to maintain some spirituality to withstand the regimen they have set aside for themselves. To keep one's body in shape you must connect with something and religion provides that connection and that force that pushes them along.

Anonymous said...

This might be somewhat of a stretch, but it seems that many athletes view a sports game as reflective of their own challenges or obstacles in real life. In a football game, for instance, the opposing team is seen as an obstacle which must be conquered and overcome, a kind of good versus evil. God then, as in life, may or may not intervene and see to it that “good” does eventually triumph over “evil”. As in life, there is also the reward for overcoming these things; in the case of the football game it is either the simple act of winning or the receiving of a trophy or medal which forever symbolizes that accomplishment. In addition, the fact that football, in the United States, is such a venerated sport, makes each game seem that much more significant to its players.


Phil said...

Interestings thoughts related to spirituality and sports. I think you are correct, Brandi, when you mention the rituals in which athletes engage and the "spiritual" dimensions of preparation.

And Jaymes, it is not a stretch to fashion sports events or games or matches as an imagined "good vs. evil" contest.

It is also interesting to think also about the uniforms athletes wear, the significance of sports equipment, signs, mascots, etc. and the commodification of such things--i.e. sports memorabilia. Think: icons, vestments, religious symbols/symbolism, spiritual embodiment, etc.

Nathan Barber said...

It has always fascinated me when athletes, after a big win, credit God with the win. Does that mean that God actually pulled for one team over another? What about the other team? Can we assume there were no believers on the opposing team?

I once heard former Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser, a devout Christian, say that he was pretty sure God didn't care how many batters he struck out or whether he won or lost a game. That makes pretty good sense to me.