|HE MASTERS HAS lost its mystique. The Super Bowl isn't that super. The World Series doesn't mean the world to me anymore.|
This is how I've come to feel about sports' marquee events. I don't know if it's an adult perspective, cynicism or my profession that's stolen away my sense of wonder -- probably a combination of the three -- but I'm no longer completely in awe of such transcendent occasions.
Oh, I still enjoy them, and I understand and appreciate their significance. I guess it's just that I've come to see them as significant only in the realm they inhabit, but not in the realm of reality. Championship games and historic achievements don't touch as many areas of my life as they used to (I'm even better at not taking Ole Miss losses in football too hard; I've probably just been numbed by the consistent disappointment).
I'm sure many adults experience this phenomena as they let go of childhood. None of those adults are Oakland Raiders fans, but I digress. Certainly, the endless stream of bad news -- contract disputes, arrests, Jeff George coming back to the NFL -- filling the sports pages makes it hard to root for anybody.
As for my profession, I've learned how to be detached. Growing up, I always had to root for someone when watching a sporting event. It could be the Shady Acres Rest Home softball league, and I'd still find some inane reason to favor one team over another. (That shortstop's got some sparkling dentures!) I actually still do that on occasion, because part of the fun is seeing your team perform well. But I've come to better appreciate the game itself, no matter the sport or who's playing.
Yet for many coaches and athletes, it seems their whole lives revolve around pursuing athletic glory. Of course, it's their job to try and win, but what I'm saying is that they expect to be fulfilled by these man-made events that are, in essence, contrived. Sure, it's the best versus the best, but it doesn't seem like such a big deal to me anymore. It's hard to explain why.
Perhaps it's because the sporting landscape has become so saturated with huge events, or because even the mundane events are over-hyped.
("Next, Kansas City vs. Baltimore! What new way can the Royals find to lose?") Or maybe it's because of the letdown that always accompanies reaching the highest peak in sports.
I can't count the number of stories I've heard about athletes and coaches who weren't fulfilled no matter how many championships they won. That is part of what drives them to win again. The human appetite for success is insatiable.
We all do this. If I win an award or do a good job on a project, I find myself trying to draw more satisfaction and happiness from the accomplishment than I should. I tend to give myself glory, to make it about me. I know better. When you make yourself king, you soon realize how unqualified you are. A man can't be fulfilled by man-made things -- that's like a tree trying to produce its own water.
Some people will deny it, but every person has a void in his or her soul. As Blaise Pascal put it, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing ...."
We keep searching and striving for worldly things that we hope will fulfill us, because that gives us an excuse not to turn to God. We'd love to have God committed to making us happy, so long as we don't have to do anything for Him. We deserve His love and favor, don't we?
Of course not. We should focus on Heavenly glory, not Earthly glory.
That's hard to do with our near-sighted natures.
Sports are good, but they are transcendent only in the life lessons they can teach us. One of those lessons is that sports cannot satisfy the soul.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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