Sports as a Religion

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 gametom-brady-tattoo 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 penn-state-whiteoutenemies 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.




3 thoughts on “Sports as a Religion

  1. I completely agree with this. I especially liked the parts about the fans using “we” when referring to the team. Many people dislike this idea of a fan using “we”, but i disagree. I would almost argue that fans are more a part of a team than players. True fans, are a fan of one team for life. Players get traded and leave in free agency all the time. They play for a team for, among other reasons, a contractual obligation. Fans are dedicated for no other reason than a pure love of the team.

    On a separate note i like how you compared religion to sports, especially the part about corruption. People when making that comparison often look at an angle looking to how sports and religion are something bigger than themselves that they can be a part of (this being a good thing). rarely do people look at the similarities in a negative light, like you did with corruption.


  2. I really enjoyed your portion on sport and corruption. While this is not exactly corruption, there is a great deal of political dispute going on in FIFA right now. The debate is about the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Not only are the conditions in the country not suitable for playing, but reports have also come up about Qatar possibly bribing FIFA officials. Investigations are ongoing, but I would not be surprised if the World Cup 2022 was not in Qatar after all. Additionally, Qatar is an Islamic state. What would happen if Israel qualified the World Cup? It would create political tension. As you mentioned about Budweiser’s sponsorship, what would happen if they wanted to sell alcohol in Qatar?


  3. This is somewhat valid, but I don’t think your argument is true. Yes, the way in which the sports world is supported is similar to a religion, but I don’t think it really legitimate to say the two are that similar.

    I totally understand what you’re referring to and perhaps I am taking the notion of sports being similar to a religion much too literally. That being said, if you look at some of the background or the principle of the two, there is a fairly distinct difference.

    Sports are played for enjoyment, and religions’ are practiced for other reasons. While sports can almost serve as a religion to some. I don’t think it is right to allow sport to become such a big part of one’s life.

    Basketball is what I play; it is not who I am. I’m not afraid to say this to make my point: I am Catholic. Catholicism is a big part of my life and I almost consider it part of my identity. Well not my identity, but I consider it a large part of who I am. The fact that I play for Michigan is way down on the list.

    I acknowledge that some fans view sports as a religion, but I certainly don’t.


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