Sports are a form of religion
On Sundays, some services take place in churches, some in mosques, some in nature — and some in front of 80,000 screaming fans in a football stadium.
Sports are intertwined into the fabric of so many cultures, including our own. Take, for example, the sport of football and the National Football League. The NFL has sowed its seeds on a day that is often attributed to one of worship,and it has reaped one of the most lucrative businesses in the country.
According to Forbes, the NFL is estimated to generate just more than $13 million in revenue in 2016. That’s not to say that religion and sports fandom are at odds, but rather that they are so closely intertwined that sports is almost a religion all its own.
In different groups, this manifests in different ways. In the south of the U.S., especially Texas, high school and college football dominate the sports landscape.
To the north and the east, you find a land where basketball reigns supreme. A little further north and it’s all about hockey. Take a trip across the Atlantic or below the Texas-Mexico border, and another kind of football, often called “The World’s Game” or “soccer” in the U.S., is the lifeblood of the people.
Even among demographics, there are trends. Among the younger people, e-sports are starting to rise and compete on the same level as conventional sports as far as viewership, and that market is only continuing to surge.
In 2014, the championships for a particularly popular e-sport, “League of Legends,” drew 27 million viewers and is the second-highest for any sporting event that year behind only the Super Bowl. This was, however, at a huge disparity, with 112.2 million viewers tuning in to see the new champions of the football world crowned.
That said, some of the events that the e-sports finale did beat in viewership are as prestigious as The Masters, the NBA Finals, the World Series and the Stanley Cup Finals.
But the infatuation with sports hits even harder when there’s the emotional tie of a family member on the field or the pride of an alma mater at stake. It can be a source of exhilaration or bitter disappointment in an almost inexplicable way.
To some, sports are entertainment, a hobby or something to get their kids out of the house two nights a week and run off all that energy. But for a portion of the population, it’s so much more than that.
This is no more evident than on Sunday mornings. The stadium is their church, the players are their heroes of biblical proportion and the gods are just as incomprehensible as those of any other faith.