Sports without honor is empty, vain

To sell a mangy donkey, with its starved ribs poking out from under its skin like barrel staves, one need only hire Tom Brady or Colin Kaepernick for its rider. As the tired beast is led through town, the astonished crowd will surely cry out, “What a magnificent donkey!”

A sports hero can tout any product, whether patriotism, social protest, or religion, for in the endless babble of voices which flows through every channel and conduit of the mass media, the voice of the sports hero echoes the loudest.

When athletes stand alongside soldiers or kneel for the national anthem, their voices are persuasive, because they are performing a ritual; and a ritual calls for more than agreement, it calls for compliance and reverence.

But the onlooker embraces ideas invented by others; and hence, the feelings the viewer experiences may be called programmed emotions. By pressing the remote control, other programmed emotions are available, courtesy of the latest lurid crime drama, or a commercial for the newest drug. Pulled here and there, the heart of the viewer bounces up and down like a yo-yo on a string, rebounding between love and hate, fear and hope, joy and despair, until the string becomes frayed and worn, and finally breaks. Emotions are never truly binding until they are tied to a real object, a living human being with a beating heart. If tied to an imaginary object on a computer or TV screen, the emotions are lighter and weaker than a cobweb, and disappear like dust scattered in the wind.

Programmed emotions soon wear thin; and the disillusioned public at long last sees only the mangy donkey. The professional athlete can no longer tout the value of politics, religion, or social protest because he can no longer give value to his own sport. The viewer now sees that the appeals to patriotism and social protest were mere window-dressing, sugary icing on the cake, shiny but worthless tinsel; and he recognizes at long last that sports in America has truly lost its soul. If he is wise, he will also see that America has lost her soul as well.

True sport uplifts and edifies. Sport without the higher purpose of honor and character building is empty and vain. If the public watches merely to incite the passions of envy, pride, and anger, the contest itself becomes contemptible.

How noble in comparison is the elderly gentleman who walks with careful steps to recover from an illness. How special are the Special Olympics when the handicapped child does his best, with what he has. How wonderful is the lone mountain climber who throws out his thin rope toward a new, unconquered peak; or the young athlete who hurls a heavy javelin farther than ever before.

Such athletes go beyond themselves, rising ever higher like an arrow shot into the sky, just as those  athletes who love money more than honor sink ever downward toward earth, ever lower in the estimation of their fellow man.

Fritz Spencer
Former Editor,
Christian Civic League Record

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