Keep the game in perspective

Published 10:15 pm Friday, January 30, 2015

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes

Chances are, you’ll be watching the Super Bowl tomorrow night. Or, if you are like my girls, you may be more interested in the halftime show.

In any event, the Super Bowl has essentially become a national holiday in America. Streets will be virtually empty Sunday night, as people gather to watch the game, the halftime show and the over-the-top commercials.

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The Super Bowl’s ascendancy in our culture has coincided with the attention paid to sports in general. There are some cautions and some virtues about America’s love of sports.

First, some cautionary words: A good thing can become bad if we lose perspective. Clearly, when the lead story on major news networks is about the possible deflating of a dozen footballs, there has been a loss of perspective.

This loss of perspective can be seen in families, as well as news networks. It used to be that playing a sport was mainly about fun and enjoyment. Now, for many kids and their parents, it is deadly serious business. That’s clearly not the way it is meant to be.

One can also see this in schools. In some schools and colleges, one gets the feeling that academics are something that happens in addition to sports. The tail is wagging the dog.

And, for too many people, televised sports have turned them into couch potatoes. These spuds live from one game to the other. Their passion for their team supersedes their passion for everything and everyone else. They’ve turned sports into an idol.

But while we should be cautious about avoiding all those things, we should recognize the tremendous virtues that can be found in sports.

Sports can teach wonderful character traits like perseverance. Part of sports is learning to deal with failure. Sports teach us to be resilient when we face setbacks in life, to get up off the ground and press on.

When you make a mistake in sports, you can’t dwell on it for long. You have to quickly turn the page and be positive about the play that is coming up. That’s good advice for life.

Another virtue that can be learned through sports is discipline, or self-control.

The Apostle Paul recognized this as he wrote to the Corinthians. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:25) If athletes discipline themselves in an effort to win a prize that will one day fade, how much more should Christians live disciplined lives for God’s glory?

Yet another virtue that can be learned through sports is selflessness, or teamwork. The best teams are the ones that exemplify T-E-A-M: Together Everyone Achieves More. The best teams are made up of people who subordinate their personal statistics for the good of the whole. They give up personal glory to help the team win. They don’t care who gets the credit.

Sports can also provide a wonderful opportunity for shared experiences and memories. I have many great memories of watching sports with my dad, and now I am making so many memories with my own son through our shared love of the games.

So enjoy the big game. And if your team doesn’t win, don’t be too “deflated.” Keep it in perspective.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.