Stepping back for a moment from sports-specific observations, the question occasionally arises as to why, given the headlong rush in recent years by individual athletes, teams/team owners, and entire leagues to embrace the most egregious excesses of wokeness, should political/cultural conservatives follow or care in any fashion about sports. Fair enough.
The answer, curiously enough, resides at least in part in the Library of Congress.
Cultural abandonment has been a constant conservative tactic since the 1950s, when various formats of entertainment media, chafing under artificial morality dictums such as the Hayes code, suddenly declared themselves free of all such restrictions and started producing whatever simultaneously struck their fancy and induced the greatest amount of coin being struck with which consumers could purchase the latest issue of Playboy, tickets for a “daring” off-Broadway play, or what have you. The American church rightfully decried this gradual cultural coarsening, yet took no action against the ever-increasing tide except further isolating itself from society, thus gradually reducing any effect it might have had on same. To rage, rage against the dying of the light might score points with those of like hive mind, but it makes no difference against or within the gathering darkness.
Then came the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a swath of disaffected youth searching for meaning latched on to Jesus directly rather than the organized church. This new, seemingly radical faith was in part a direct alternative to the genuinely radical elements that rose in mainstream American churches during the 1960s, when figures such as Daniel and Philip Berrigan along with Malcolm Boyd chose social justice causes as paramount obligations for the faithful. The Jesus Movement gazed within, its focus being a personal relationship with Christ running alongside a belief that His Second Coming was near and very near. The movement also discarded rigid liturgical structure and conservative outward trappings in favor of embracing, to a degree, pop culture norms of the time, much to the traditional church’s horror. Long hair? Sandals? Blue jeans? Music firmly rooted in the Laurel Canyon country/folk/rock singer/songwriter vein? No problem.
Taking cultural infiltration to an even greater extreme was Larry Norman. His 1972 album Only Visiting This Planet broke all the supposed rules to which Christian musical artists were supposed to adhere. It talked about relationships. It openly proclaimed Jesus on a regular, not gospel, record label. It discussed current social and political matters in a biting, critical fashion that was anything other than flag-waving. And it was authentic rock’n’roll, unapologetic and unflinching. Naturally, the mainstream church ran in the other direction.
But what does this have to do with sports, one might say.
In American society, it is no secret that in the fall and winter, Sundays revolve around football, not church. Let a team with an expansive fan base built on past success get hot, and everyone tunes in. Sports is America’s leper messiah, one seemingly incapable of not shooting itself in the foot at most every opportunity yet still worshipped for its potential and promise of the euphoric, the sense of identity and purpose it provides to those who real lives are directionless mud puddles.
To the non-obsessed, or non-possessed if you prefer, sports can provide a sane means of escape, a brief relief from reality in where a few hours are spent recharging while watching the supremely talented ply their trade. Great when your team wins, gross when they lose. In either case, you were able to get away from it all for a bit. We all run on flesh and blood, not batteries. We need a break now and then. Even from politics? Especially from politics.
The late great lamented Andrew Breitbart said it best: politics is downstream from culture. We can avoid, or at least attempt to avoid, anything and everything stained by the left. But to what purpose? Why should we cede control? Why shouldn’t we make our voices heard? Why shouldn’t we drive progressives absolutely bonkers by refusing to let them have everything and being ridiculously nice about it in the process? We’ve already seen what happens when we let the left co-opt language. Why not draw the line and say no, you can’t have sports, or any other entertainment medium?
Hiding in plain sight on social media and ranting to each other is the living embodiment of what Jesus said when chastising the religious rulers of the day:
“To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’””
It is the exact opposite of Breitbart’s happy warrior dictum. Snarling and caterwauling misery accomplishes nothing. Neither does cultural disengagement.
Send a message, a message that you will not be deterred by those attempting to steal the joy of sports. The left says stay woke; the right’s correct reply is to stay engaged. Don’t let them win by removing yourself from the battlefield. We’ve done that too many times. We’ve seen the results. No more. Enjoy sports, and since it is guaranteed to annoy them enjoy sports all the more. The left thinks it can win via default by our hiding from our own shadow. Again, no more. Life is not a game, but nevertheless there is play involved. Let’s play to win.