I guess it’s the 47 “bowl” games that brought about my funk.
What should pastors do who don’t give a fig about professional sports? Oh, I know what the politically (as in Seminary, Synod, District, and Mom) correct answer is: be nice, listen politely, use the opportunity to learn more about your people. “Remember” coos Mr. Rogers (my parish-ed professor) “they won’t care how much you know until they know how much your care.”
But does that mean constantly nodding and smiling blankly like the village idiot while “Ernie” (the “Grandma Schmitt” for this post) rambles on and on about the “Tide,” “Vols,” “Pack,” “Bosox” or “Dale Jr.?” Or am I the only pastor who feigns more interest than is really there? Could pastors feel that any ambivalence shown about pro-sports (we’re not talking WWE TM wrestling by the way) bespeaks a “less than manly” man? I mean, we do wear albs and chasubles (some with lace).
To be sure I am grossly exaggerating the annoyance factor that a pastor faces with parish sports fanatics. And, lest I be accused of more heartlessness than is the case, I automatically exempt any young man (ages 2 to 20) from this polemic. Any opportunity a pastor has in talking with young boys, or rather, in listening to his Sunday School, Confirmand, and Teen male charges should neither be wasted nor complained about. Also those occasions when the whole community at large is excited because the local college (which really too is a “professional” sports team…come ‘on) or area franchise is in the Final Four or the Super Bowl gets a pass. I also am not talking about true amateur sports or sporting hobbies whether done with/at the local High School (Track & Field, Ice Hockey, Curling, or the “big two”) or with intramural and private parties.
Maybe it’s just like anything else that parishioners are interested in: gardening, dogs, music, genealogy, or cooking. But no, it’s really not. The term “fan” really does come from the word fanatic. The current American culture is simply too saturated and marinated in PROFESSIONAL SPORTS and non-stop 24-7-365 athletic entertainment. It’s not healthy. And yes, I do see a parallel (as people have been saying for decades) between our couch-quarterbacks and Fantasy Football GMs and the bread and circuses of decadent Rome. People with other hobbies, interests and pursuits will also talk with the pastor and with their fellow parishioners about the weather, politics (maybe way too much there too; especially in these yearly election cycles) family, and…gasp…religion! My favorite coffee mug of all time was the Robert Preus memorial CTS/Commons edition which was sold in 1995/6. Dr. Preus’ famous family quotation was printed on the cup: “I just like to talk about Jesus.” I like that. We don’t always have to talk about Jesus, but in those idle, social, low-key, conversational “windows” that pastor & people have far too infrequently with one another, I’d rather hear about Uncle Chester’s gout, your scrap-booking project, your New Year’s resolution to lose 50 pounds, than I would about the upcoming NFC West playoff game or the win/loss record of the Miami Heat.
Maybe I’m just too old and too resentful of the current crop (as in weeds, not quarter horses for the Derby) of tattooed multi-millionaires who have as much in common with us, as the professional Gladiators had with Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint Titus. “Fan” and “disciple” don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but they are receding from one another at an alarming rate; there’s only so much time left; only so many breaths.
Now don’t get me started on Sports Memorabilia. Grown men have to stop wearing those designer (i.e. official) celebrity star jerseys when they finally graduate from their 6 years in college.