Sports and spirituality go together like tailgating and football. Like playing hard and sweating. Or hockey and fighting. Well, maybe not so much the last one but — sports wouldn’t be sports without its strong spiritual component. We experience sports spirituality whether we’re a fan slowly chewing their fingernails off with the tie run on third base or a runner chasing a runner’s high. Sports transcends nearly everything. It is Life encapsulated.
That makes it the perfect subject to kick around, as we dig into its spiritual sides. There’s something temple-like about a great sports stadium. Fenway Park, for instance, or the original Yankee Stadium — the House That Ruth Built. And there’s something distinctly Zen about the pursuit of physical excellence itself.
Back in the day, ABC had a Saturday afternoon sports omnibus called “ABC’s Wide World of Sports”. The show’s intro famously described “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. The agony of defeat was illustrated by a skier on a ski jump experiencing maybe the worst wipeout ever. We can all feel that poor guy’s pain (in the abstract anyway).
The thrill of victory is never assured. The agony of defeat always threatens to snatch victory away from the team we love. Are we out of our minds to follow sports with such ferocity? Or just incredibly human?
Or, if you’d prefer to watch…