Are Sports More Important In Life Than Religion?

A lot of people in the United States take things way too seriously. The fact that fantasy football is a multi-billion dollar enterprise is all the proof of that you’ll ever need. But we live in a nation of Puritan serial complainers - have too much fun, someone’s bound to complain about your awful work ethic and morals. We, of course, have neither a work ethic nor morals, so we hear it all the time - such is the life of the blogger.

Notre Dame Touchdown Jesus

As much as uptight cultural crusaders love to complain about everything here in America, can you imagine what would happen if they caught wind of an editorial suggesting that religion be replaced by sports? Rush Limbaugh’s head might explode. In Ireland, however, that’s exactly what’s happened.

There’s a fascinating editorial in today’s IRISH TIMES that posits that sports has become the dominant force in Irish society, replacing the Roman Catholic Church. These are the kinds of things you run across when your “sports” Google Alert goes ape****. You might expect such an article to be hyperbolic or tongue-in-cheek, but this is neither:

Sport is gradually replacing religion as the main form of personal identity, first among men, but, increasingly among women. People relate to others talking about sport. Sport provides a key mechanism through which people develop a sense of bonding and belonging. It used to be said that a family that prayed together, stayed together. It may now be that the family that stays together is the one that participates in, watches and talks about sport.

The rituals of coming together to watch and play sport help create a sense of community. The excitement of the game creates a collective effervescence which, in turn, creates a collective consciousness. Sport helps people transcend the material conditions of their existence. In this sense, sport is spiritual. For many people, being completely subsumed within a game is as close to a religious experience as they will ever have. It brings people into another world.

It’s an interesting concept, and in a country like Ireland where the Church has been slow to adapt to a rapidly evolving and increasingly-successful population, it’s probably true. But religion in the United States has evolved at the same pace as the information revolution of the past twenty years. Some megachurches even run media consultancies to teach other organizations how they can keep up with technology and evolve in a fast-paced society.

Still, we’d love for a prominent pundit to come out and say something even half as ballsy as this. What can we say - we’re a sucker for manufactured controversy (hint: it gives us lots to write about).