I have a confession to make…
Are you ready?…Okay, here we go…
I love watching sports.
Yes, I confess, I love watching sports. In the vast ocean of sports, my particular fish of choice is football. I love the competitiveness. The excitement amplifies me. The athleticism amazes me. And the necessity for unity in each particular team (that is, successful teams) compels me. While I have my particular favorite teams (e.g. Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers) and have my lesser favorites…(wouldn’t you like to know), good sportsmanship is prized above all things when it comes to athletics.
That is why I was truly perplexed at last Saturday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback of the Steelers, was carted off the field with an injury. While he enjoyed his cart ride back to the locker room, some fans began cheering that this person had been injured and threw objects at him. The off-the-field antics by the fans spilled over to the field. Pittsburgh went on to win the game due to unsportsmanlike behavior by some of the Bengal players that literally cost them the game. Being a playoff game, the sting of defeat burned far more than usual.
Let it be said that this one game DOES NOT REPRESENT the good people of Cincinnati, Ohio, the NFL, nor the Bengals organization. Such a thing could have happened anywhere.
How is it that sports overrides a person’s humanity? I understand that we all want our favorite teams to win. But in the end, one team must win and one team must lose. However, a person remains a person. I feel the problem stems from dehumanization which stems from the objectification of a human being. That is to say, a person is not viewed as a person but as an object.
Dehumanization is nothing new. Dehumanization has happened before and unfortunately will happen until Christ returns. Dehumanization led to the gas chambers in Germany, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the countless victims slaughtered across the world.
Am I saying that fans cheering on an injured quarterback is the same as the previous examples given? No. Of course not! However, if left unchecked, such societal ideologies, attitudes, and behaviors can lead to such extremes especially when human life is devalued. So how to we keep ourselves from dehumanizing another person? Here are some suggestions:
- Remember that all people are made “imagio dei.”
Despite a person’s nationality, politics, religion, or race, each person is a person made in the image of God. Granted, for some people it is much more difficult finding that image. Nevertheless, each person is a creation of God and is to be valued as such. One of the Ten Commandments states that one shall “not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Why? It is because that every human life holds value. At the end of the day, even if your team loses, the winners are still human (that is unless your sport features fighting robots).
- Keep things in proper perspective.
At the end of the day, keep things in proper perspective. If your team loses, how are you really going to be affected? Chances are likely that the vast majority of those reading this article have not invested interest in the teams for which they cheer. Even if you do, is the world really going to come to an end if your team does not win the championship?
- Try to remain emotionally balanced.
Sometimes people who have had a string of bad luck with personify their favorite team. Their team somehow psychologically represents them in a real way. However, this is certainly not the case. We must find a way to keep ourselves balanced emotionally. Try not to allow yourself to become overly excited or overly depressed. How does one accomplish this? Try the final principle.
- Keep in tune with God.
When a person sees the world the way God sees it, then the person will not be as apt to become obsessed with their team and, thereby, resist the temptation to dehumanize those individuals on opposing teams. Yes…even if the Chicago Bears were to defeat my Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks were to defeat my Carolina Panthers…(to quote Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space, “oh, the pain…the pain”).
In eternity, will it really matter who won these games outside of the influence that people have with one another? Not really. Life will keep moving on.
If we keep these principles, we can demonstrate good sportsmanship and, more importantly, maintain the value of every human life.
© January 12, 2016. Brian Chilton.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).
 A biblical example of this can be found in the apostle Paul. Paul could find contentment in any state that he faced. See Philippians 4:10-13.