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Fore… the love of G-d

February 28th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

With the snow beginning to melt and the promise of warmer temperatures and green grass beckoning, I’m reminded of a Sunday ritual in my family. No, it’s not Sunday service at the local church, but it’s something that bares a remarkable similarity to that ritual activity. The ritual of Sunday golf among the men of my family has steadily become entrenched in our collective consciousness. As such, whenever my husband and I make a trip back home during the warmer months, we know it will culminate in Sunday golfing.  Given that golf season is almost upon us and that last week one of my friends made a comment about how these posts hurt his head, and couldn’t we just talk about the Leafs’ trades — I thought I’d compromise with a post about sports as religion.

My family’s Sunday golf ritual begins with a quorum of usually four men booking a tee time for the morning. There’s a bit of unease if the quorum of four isn’t found – seems four is the sacred number; however, the game still goes on with two, three or even five. Where else can you find a quorum for ritual? The Jewish minyan is the requirement of ten adult males for special prayers and rituals. In fact, numbers seem to play an important part in many religions:  twelve apostles, ninety-nine most beautiful names of God, five elements, etc.

Special attire is a must for the Sunday golf ritual. All the men dress in khakis and golf shirts, and some don special golfing hats. Many religions also have specialized attire for specific ritual, prayer or meetings. In Judaism, there’s the tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl; the tefillin, small, black, leather boxes containing verses from the Torah (first part of the Hebrew Bible) that are strapped on the forehead and forearm; and the kippah. Practically every religion has some sort of ritual clothing that is used in worship, and sometimes everyday life. There’s also widespread practice in Christian communities of donning your Sunday best for congregation. Some religious attire can also appear quite unusual to the outsider and this is also true of some sports fans outfits, as these funny sports fanatic photos will attest too. So, evidently both religion and sports make use of specialized attire to enhance the ritual experience.

The metaphor of sports as religion is also paralleled when you examine other elements such as congregants of fans versus congregants of worshippers. There isn’t much difference between worship and fanaticism, given that they both clearly revolve around revering something or someone deemed worthy. Sports stars are often seen as outside the realm of the ordinary, and the same can be said about saints, prophets and other notable religious figures. What about the church/temple/house of worship and the stadium/arena/field? Clearly, devotees of both religion and sport find something sacred or special at these places. Here the community is brought together for participation in the rites that bind them.

Arguably, the binding of a community is central to both religion and sports. People are loyal to their faith and loyal to their teams. This binding works to not only bring the respective communities together, but also to create division from those outside the community. Just as a Christian may never truly understand the Hindu world view; a Leafs fan is just as unlikely to comprehend the loyalty of a Habs fan.

While the men in my family may be in search of a hole in one, instead of the holy grail – it’s worth noting that maybe the two aren’t so different.  Clearly, both groups are brought together in a ritualistic form, to bond with their respective communities, uplift their spirits, and share in an experience that may not be completely understood by outsiders.

Whether you choose to shout praise at the tee with a resounding “Fore!,” or pronounce praise at the pew with an emphatic “Amen!,” may the spirit of your community bind you together in joy.

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