Is God a Sports Fan?
By and large, men and women love sports. Okay, maybe not everyone and perhaps not all sports, but throughout history, sports have been a beloved part of human life. Why? If you closely examine the fundamental elements of sport, you’ll see it closely aligns with some of the human heart’s deepest desires.
The human heart thirsts first and foremost for God, and every heart knows the path to God is holiness, and the only way to walk that path is virtue. Everything you do, every choice you make, either takes you further along that path or derails you from it.
Of course, our hearts are corrupted by original sin, which can so bury these desires that they’re difficult, if not impossible, to recognize. Nonetheless, as St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
The passionate pursuit of victory in sports mirrors the passionate pursuit of victory in heaven. There is a clear goal: win. There is a clear path to victory: score. And everything you do or choose not to do either carries you further along that path or derails you from it.
Elite athletes know this better than anyone else. You can’t just try to win on the field during the game—you must orient your entire life to winning. They know nothing is off the table: what they eat, what they wear, how they spend their time, how they control their emotions, when and how long they sleep, what they think about… everything is oriented toward their goal.
And while the ability to perform in a sport is not in and of itself virtuous, achieving greatness requires many virtues, including: Fortitude, perseverance, discipline, courage, self- control and patience.
Greatness is always attractive because it is never an accident. It demands virtue. It’s worth reminding ourselves that virtues are more than good habits, they are the habit of doing good. It’s a good habit to go for a daily run, but it’s a virtue to consistently and repeatedly practice self-discipline.
We love watching sports because we see someone manifest all this virtue to achieve a feat we ourselves are likely incapable of. Practicing virtue culminates in the promised land of victory. This leads us to an uncomfortable truth: most of us think we are not capable of consistently and repeatedly doing good. We think holiness isn’t really possible for us. Sure, it’s possible for others—just not for me.
This is, of course, a lie. The devil is a mastermind of lies, and he wants us to believe that the best we can do is sit on the sidelines and watch others run the race for Christ. We settle for looking at the lives of saints or our much holier friends and basking in the glow of their victory.
But Christ calls us to get in the game. The path to holiness isn’t reserved for a select few. You might need supernatural gifts to compete in professional sports, but the gift you need to grow in holiness is readily available to you: Grace.
Pray. Sacrifice. Receive the Eucharist. Be reconciled to God. Fill your life with an abundance of grace—the supernatural gift. It provides the foundation, which is given to you freely and undeservedly. Now, it’s on us to practice virtue, to get in the habit of doing good. Do that, and we’ll have a victory greater than any won in an arena.
Dominick Albano is The Catholic Telegraph’s director of digital engagement, an author and national speaker. He and his wife have been married for 14 years and have four sons. [email protected].
This article appeared in the September 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.