Pro Sports: Is It Time to Walk Away?


I never thought I’d find myself asking whether or not it’s time to walk away from pro sports. But here I am. As I sit watching Thursday Night Football I am seriously questioning if I really want to do this anymore.

It’s not just football. No, I follow lots of sports including baseball, auto racing, golf and yes, the summer and winter Olympics. Yet as of late, I have noticed something that has me concerned about idolatry. Not that America hasn’t idolized athletes for decades; we have. But I’m noticing something new. Something that I find alarming.

What have I noticed? It can be summed up by a recent string of TV commercials depicting NBA star LeBron James as a traditional family man. I started noticing them during the 2012 football season. But guess what? They’re still around.

What bothers me is that James is depicted as a solid family-man who is devoted to his kids and community, in a way that makes it appear as though he is an example of morality the rest of us should aspire to. No, the commercials don’t come right out and say that, but the images presented imply as much.

Don’t misunderstand me. James may very well be a devoted family man at this stage of his life. He may have been a devoted family man from the start. But he and wife, Savannah, were not married until 2013. Their two sons, ages 11 and 6, were obviously born long before the wedding day. So how did LeBron become the family man so many people idolize? Whatever happened to morality and children born within the marriage relationship as the standard we should aspire to?

Peyton and Tom

Being that I’m a football fan, I’m especially sensitive to the way the media treats stars like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. If you watch football you know what I mean. These two men are practically deified every weekend during the football season. To believe the sports media, both appear to win entirely on their own, against all odds, despite the fact that each has more than 50 team mates who also contribute at least something more than filling a uniform.

The whole idea that Manning is a super hero because he came back from neck surgery is a glaring example of idolizing men. The fact that the media is obsessed with Brady is equally appalling. But it doesn’t end there.

In recent weeks there have been two TV ads that have been especially repulsive. The first is an ad featuring a series of NFL players advertising New Era ball caps. The ad implies that these athletes possess some sort of moral authority because they aren’t afraid to speak their minds. Except that when they do speak to the media in real life, it’s usually about themselves.

The other commercial features basketball player Derrick Rose who essentially says you could take away the money, the fame, and everything else NBA stardom affords, and he would still have everything because he has the game. Again, this athlete is being presented as someone with some sort of moral authority. But I’m reasonably confident he wouldn’t forgo his salary, donate every penny to charity, and play for free the rest of his career. Because, you see, it’s not about the game for Derrick. It’s about the perks. And he is someone we are supposed to look up to.

The Sad State of Pro Sports

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big sports fan who loves the competition, the contact, and everything that makes the game what it is. I believe sports are healthy for body and mind when kept in the proper perspective. But it’s a sad day in pro sports when the media is celebrating the fact that Adrian Peterson is playing ball just days after the death of his two year-old son, without ever mentioning the fact that the first time Peterson ever saw this child was in the hospital as he lie near death in a coma.

The sports media also largely failed to report that Peterson is the father of at least five illegitimate children, maybe even seven if one of his former girlfriends is telling the truth. Yet he possesses some sort of moral authority because he plays a game?

What on earth has happened to us?

With all that’s going south in this country – morally, spiritually, politically, and economically – it seems to me that perhaps pro sports have become a more-than-distracting pastime. They have become a source of national idolatry at nearly every level. Perhaps it’s time for me to walk away.

One last note before I go: I know a lot of you who have no interest in sports are probably cheering right now. But be careful. Pro sports is not the only American idol. You can toss the entertainment industry, the education system, and even our own kids in to the brew. In fact, there are so many things we’ve turned into idols it’s almost too vast to comprehend.


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