Sports have always played a significant role in the lives of people. Sports were an escape from reality, a stress reliever, and a hobby. Now, sports have become a religion to some. The cult following of our favorite teams is fueled by the devotion us, the fans. We must know everything about our teams. Waking up and wearing apparel of your team on game day is second nature. Our bodies are a canvas on which to honor our teams and favorite players. Thousands upon thousands of people flood into college and professional football games each Saturday and Sunday. The considerable following and commitment to teams by fans has transformed sports from a hobby to watch, to an event to take part in.
In Take Time For Paradise, Giamatti discusses the relation between sport and religion.
He states, “If there is a truly religious quality to sport, then, it lies first in the intensity of devotion brought by the true believer, or fan. And it consists second, and much more so, in the widely shared, binding nature- the creedlike quality- of American sport” (Giamatti 12). Intensity and devotion by fans seems to be at an all-time high. Fans continuously purchase tickets to their favorite team’s games and matches to be alongside fellow fans. They could easily watch the game from home, but choose to spend the money to go to the stadium or arena and watch their team play in person. People dress-up, get tattoos and represent their team in any way possible. The atmosphere of a professional or college football game is unmatched. Strangers become best friends or enemies depending on their affiliation. A community is formed with people who only have one shared interest. A win gives the fans a feeling of euphoria, and everyone celebrates “their” team’s victory together. People commonly refer to their favorite team as “we” because they feel that by supporting them, they are also apart of the team. As Giamatti said, “When people win together, the joy is more intense than when any of us win alone, because part of any true pleasure is sharing the pleasure…” (20).
John Oliver’s segment of the FIFA World Cup shows yet another common thing between sports and religion; corruption. After Brazil had a long-standing law to not allow alcohol to be sold in soccer stadiums to reduce violence, FIFA required them to pass a law to allow the sale of Budweiser in World Cup stadiums because Budweiser is a large corporate sponsor of FIFA. In the 14th century the Catholic Church sold indulgences as a “pass” to Heaven. This corruption was wide-spread throughout Europe and made people believe that the only way to get to Heaven was to buy these indulgences.
Sports, like religion, are used to distract people from their everyday lives. Both entities worship “gods” or heroes in similar fashion. Top athletes are idolized like gods in religion. People strive to be like them, mimicking their physical appearance, lifestyle and personality. Wearing apparel of your favorite sports team promotes that team, like wearing a cross necklace promotes religion. Giamatti argues that, “Sports in all their obsessive, overemphasize, worshipped forms are an opiate to the masses, a drug to keep people docile or at least diverted from real problems” (12). People engulf themselves in religious activities as a way to enjoy themselves like sports fans engulf themselves in watching their favorite teams. Both sports and religion connect people who may have little in common, but what they do have in common is a large part of their identity. Both sports and religion promote and create a sense of community for their members that outweighs the negative effects of both entities.