Are American Professional Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

Are American Profession Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

By: Pastor Brian Chilton

    

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “professionalism” as:

“1     a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession

b : engaged in one of the learned professions

c(1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession

(2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

2       a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs 〈a professional golfer

b : having a particular profession as a permanent career 〈a professional soldier

c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return 〈professional football

3       : following a line of conduct as though it were a profession 〈a professional patriot.”[1]

As far as the second definition, it must be admitted that pro sports are still professional in the sense that athletes are getting paid for a service rendered.  However, for this article, the first definition will be targeted, particularly the definition of 1c…”characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” and “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.”  Three issues stand out in regard to professional sports leagues in the modern time and the evangelical Christian.  The first relates to that of politics.

Technical Standards or Political Platform

It cannot be said that all sports leagues are guilty of what the NFL and NBA are commonly guilty of committing, but since the NFL is the most popular league right now, the NFL must be examined.  The NFL is, quite frankly, the most guilty of all in allowing their league to become a “political platform” instead of maintaining technical standards.  Take Sunday Night Football on NBC for example.

During the halftime show of almost every Sunday Night Football game, NBC commentator Bob Costas, who is known for his liberal bias, will give a political topic that may loosely be based upon the game.  Let me ask you this: is this a proper platform for Costas’ political agenda?  When a person logs on to our show “Redeeming Truth Radio” at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton, the listener knows what he or she is going to hear.  However, is it fair that Costas is allowed to give his opinion without a differing opinion allowed to be given?  Some will say, “Well, that is the media not the league.”  While that statement is true, the league is allowing this to transpire.  The league permits these platforms because the league depends on the media to a great degree.  How successful would professional sports be if not for the media?  The driving force behind professional sports is money.  The apostle Paul accurately diagnosed the love of money long ago when he wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief” (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB).  The love of money causes all kinds of problems.  This love of money has created another unprofessional manner of conduct: a seeming control of beliefs.

Courteous and Businesslike Manner or Control of Beliefs

Another attribute of professionalism is courteous and businesslike manner of conduct.  This courteousness should be revealed in the appreciation of all points of view.  However, this is not the case.  A great case in point is the “blackballing” of Tim Tebow.  Tim Tebow, the former quarterback of the Florida Gators and former quarterback of the Denver Broncos, was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets.  Why?  Tebow led the team to a first-round victory in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers that year.  Tebow was a great moral player.  While I will admit that he was not the best player that has ever played the position of quarterback, he did hold his own.  It was clear that John Elway, the owner of the Broncos, had his problems with Tebow.  Why?  It had more to do with the religious and political convictions of Tebow more than Tebow’s football performance.  Now that the Jets have dropped Tebow, it does not seem that Tebow will be hired by another team…at least not by the time this article was posted.

Some have dismissed this as a lack of performance by Tebow.  The listener hears such responses as, “Tebow’s playing style does not work in the NFL.”  Well, is it not the same playing style of Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers?  Is it really playing style or beliefs?

Clearly, the problem with Tebow is something much deeper.  Why is it that Tebow was ostracized for his beliefs?  Or was it rather that Tebow was ostracized due to the vocalization of his beliefs?  This seems to be the going trend in the NFL.  Worship the league.  Don’t be an individual.  The famous “end zone celebrations” are so restricted that the originality of the celebrations are taken away.  But, this takes us to another problematic issue with professional sports.  It seems to be the new reigning religion of America.

The Real Problem: America’s New Religion

What is the religion of America?  Some would say that professional sports are the new religion.  With the passionate focus on football, baseball, and other sports with the lack of zeal towards God, truth, and things of substance, it could be said that perhaps sports really are the new religion of America.  Chad Gibbs of the Washington Post writes,

16.3 million is certainly a lot of people, in fact it’s almost as many as 17.3 million, which is the number of people who attended an NFL game in 2009. You see the reason so many people in America check ‘Christian’ on these Religious Identification Surveys is because football is usually not one of the choices. Because if we are being honest here, and who isn’t honest on the Internet, America is really a football nation.[2]

 Could this not be part of the problem with America?  Could it not be that we are falling into the same trap that those of the Roman Empire were before the Roman Empire’s collapse?  After all, sports are only games on the level of Monopoly, Uno, Chess, and Backgammon.  When football coaches speak of running a “play,” it is just that…a “play;” playing a game.  Could professional sports be nothing more than a delusional fantasy…a delusional fantasy that helps people lose focus on the troubles of life: a dreamland where a person can pretend to be a sports star with no apparent problems?  But the truth is, sports stars have their own set of problems.  Some stars have greater problems than the ordinary Joe would ever have to face.  That is at the heart of a delusional fantasy.  The grass is always greener on the other side until you get on the other side and see that the grass is not as green as once thought.

Conclusion

At the heart of it all, there is nothing wrong in enjoying professional and college sports as long as the enjoyment is kept in healthy moderation and does not become a means of escaping reality and responsibility.  The problem lies when leagues lose their professionalism to promote a certain agenda onto the populace.  A greater problem is that many Americans are content with living in a dream world of football, basketball, baseball, and soccer.  It is an opiate that helps to keep a person from dealing with the big issues of life.  Karl Marx once said that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  This is of course self-defeating because Marx is giving a religious statement which must then be seen as his own opiate if true.  Acknowledging God’s existence and having a relationship with the Lord does not hide one from his or her problems.  As a matter of fact, God helps us deal with important issues…big issues…and resolve the problems in our lives if we let Him…and if we listen to Him.

Although sports are okay to enjoy in moderation, people must give sports their proper place.  If sports or games of any kind become an opiate for the people (keeping them from dealing with the important issues of life), it would be easy for a person to be brainwashed with any passing fad that the sports leagues wishes to promote.  The combination of unprofessionalism in many sports leagues coupled with the populace allowing professional sports to become their new religion can lead to a mindless, immoral, group of lemmings. This is extremely dangerous.  If one does not believe the danger involved, look at the Roman Empire.  See how the people were engrossed with the games while atrocities were committed.  See how brutality became the norm.  The parallels between the Roman Empire and our modern culture are uncanny.

This is not what God brings to His children.  God through Jesus Christ brings freedom, courage, and morality.  As Paul writes, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father” (Romans 8:15, NASB)!  It is not suggested that a boycott or anything of the sort be conducted against these sports leagues.  I will continue to watch football games and cheer on my favorite teams.  However, it must be suggested that sports, especially in lieu of the recent unprofessionalism, be kept in proper perspective.  For it will not matter how many touchdowns you threw, home-runs you hit, free throws you earned, or goals you scored when you stand before God on Judgment Day.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton


[1] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

[2] Chad Gibbs, “Football: America’s National Religion,” Washington Post. September 3rd, 2010, accessed June 3rd, 2013. {http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/football_americas_national_religion.html}.

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