I recently discovered sports radio. I am not an avid sports fan, but when political radio depresses me, and when music radio seems banal and dry, from time-to-time sports radio provides a spark of interest.
When I first started listening, one thing I noticed right away was how consuming and important sports seems to be on sports radio. Why? Because that’s all they talk about. Even the news is sports-related news. It’s like nothing else in the world matters. When a particular show can talk about Monday night’s game for a solid hour, and then each show after that, with it’s own particular sports commentator, does the same thing, it (over-)emphasizes the importance of the game.
I heard one expert a couple days ago talking about how critically important 3 recent NFL games were to the post-season setup. “Critically important!” Yet in a few months, this season with its Super Bowl winner will take a back seat to the anticipation and talk and prophecies of the coming season.
Sports radio over-inflates--excessively--the importance of sports. That was my first discovery.
More recently I’ve been struck by the unique morality of the sports world. There’s a right and wrong in sports, but it’s unique to sports. It’s not the same as right and wrong in the political world or the right and wrong of the Bible (though there is some overlap). Let me give you some examples.
ESPN Radio's Scott Van Pelt hesitated to accuse an NFL team of being “the Q word,” which he indicated was “blasphemous.” The Q word, I presume, is “quitters.” And note that the word Van Pelt used was “blasphemous,” a word with religious connotations. Quitting generally doesn’t rank as blasphemous in the everyday world, but it does in sports.
Another sports show host recently "preached" about how the quarterback on any given team must take up the mantle of leadership, and he must lead by his example. This "sermon" came because of the recent escapades of a few quarterbacks which fell far short of the moral standard that this show’s host perceived to be in place.
Friday night I listened to another host analyze statements by Cam Newton, the Auburn quarterback who was awarded the Heisman trophy Saturday night. Cam and his father are under investigation for allegedly soliciting money from Mississippi and possibly other colleges in exchange for Cam playing for them--a decided legal no-no. Friday night’s host took apart some statements Newton made in an interview, analyzing each statement, holding each one up to the light of credibility, to see whether the guy was believable or not. It was what many preachers do with the word of God from the pulpit. They examine, exegete, and exposit it, word by word, line by line.
The Cam Newton flap has been interesting in terms of sports morality. The religious leaders, excuse me, the sports show hosts, range across a spectrum of opinions. "Nothing’s been proven, so love the guy and laud him," some say. Others lament the cloud and fear the possible shame thrown on the Heisman award if allegations against Newton prove true.
On the one hand, Newton is as righteous as anybody in the sports world--he excels at his sport and wins games. But violating NCAA rules? That’s almost as wicked as winning is righteous.
What do I take away from all this? You cannot get away from morality, from ethics, from a sense of right and wrong. Even in the supposedly amoral world of sports, there is in fact morality. There is right, and there is wrong.
Why? Because it’s in the warp and woof of humanity. We are a moral people; that is, we all hold to some form of morality, no matter how perverted it is. And we carry that sense of right and wrong into whatever fantasy world we create for ourselves. And in that world, our sense of right and wrong finds expression. To an athlete, it is a sin to quit. To an environmentalist, it is sin not to recycle. To an American liberal, it is a sin to speak ill of homosexuality. The moral code may be different from world to world, but there is a moral code.
This ultimately points to a Creator, and a righteous one at that. We have a sense of right and wrong because we were endowed with it at our origin, at our genesis.