‘Whilst watching the second half of the City game, the biggest thing that hit me is how much sport is a default religion for many. The pure emotion on everyone’s face in stadiums and pubs across England as all final matches were played simultaneously. That’s a LOT of people who have put their hope for happiness in something they have no control over. I love the passion, also evident in this blog, but people smashing things in the stands and melting down with tantrums in the closing minutes, I just think it’s kind of sad.’
Ok, so I admit it’s kind of soft to start my second last blog for the year with a chunk of someone else’s words, but it’s this comment on last week’s blog on the epic finish to the English Premier League season that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. Well, except for when I’ve been thinking non-stop about our own baby that is now 5 freaking days overdue, or for friends who are going through hell right now. Alright, so the sport stuff has only popped into my head occasionally…
But with the end of the year without sport a mere 2 days away, I can’t help but try to glean some semblance of perspective to the point of these last 363 days. Man, it’s incredible to even write that number.
‘Default’ is a word that has come to mind more than once these past few months, and not just because I’ve emerged victorious from two separate tennis matches on that basis due to injuries to opponents! This includes the provider of our opening comment for this piece. Hey, I’ll take a victory any way I can get it. Just call me Chelsea… (Thank you, thank you very much.)
The ‘default’ theme has come up consistently as it’s the one element I’ve been able to identify with. Sport will no longer be my default posture when Thursday and the end of the 12 month journey arrives. (‘Thursday’ … seriously.)
But is it our default religion?
It’s definitely one of them.
One thing I’ve learned for sure is that it’s impossible to completely avoid the far reaches of sport. From the media to us minions who are saturated in it, one way or another, you’re going to hear news, results and ‘stories’ soon enough. Sure, drop off the grid and it takes a little longer, but it’ll get you in the end.
How much you take in, however, is entirely up to you.
Our default, globally, has been to buy in to the hype, immerse ourselves in the fake hyper-reality of what constitutes ‘news’ and the creation of the national or global sporting superstar. We make them our celebrities, we salivate for personal tidbits – good or (preferably) bad, and we condescendingly shake our heads in disappointment when they fail to live up to the unrealistic expectations.
Jarringly, this flies in the face of what we would see if we pried back the layers of crap and allowed ourselves to care for what is prevalent around us – homelessness, brokenness in our communities, people in need – not for all our money but often just a chat or a shared meal. I’m as culpable in this as the next person, but 363 days into relieving myself from my own previous vice, my eyes are open wider than ever.
We’ve lost track of ourselves.
We have taken our stock away from the transcendent and placed our hope, our happiness, our faith, our religion, in sport, in clothes, property, bigger screen TVs, iPads, shopping, holidays and travel, toys, bigger, better, faster, newer…
And look, to be frank, I’m sick of throwing out multiple disclaimers on this, but none of the aforementioned list are in and of themselves ‘evil’. But, when they are allowed to fester or when we’re encouraged to immerse ourselves in them or the desire for them because ‘we deserve it’, we fail to recognise that we don’t deserve it one damn bit.
‘Life is tough.’ A friend uttered that exact line recently. So often, that inner justification compels us to act selfishly, almost as if we live under siege. We cling to those vices and we tell ourselves and each other that there’s nothing wrong with any of them; that there’s always worse people out there. It’s not like you’re addicted to drugs, porn or are breaking any law. (Because we don’t count illegal downloads as ‘breaking the law’ – it’s different online apparently…)
The subconscious formula is simple – find someone in a worse place than you and use them as the example to leverage whatever behaviours you like. No one’s perfect, they can’t tell you what to do. And for the one person who was perfect, well, we nailed him to a cross, so there’s always that…
Life’s not ‘tough’. Not for us middle to upper class Australians and Americans – the majority of readers of this blog. Life doesn’t have to be this hard, but we make it that way. We want and desire and lust and hanker, and for those hankerings we craft a lifestyle that is unsustainable in pace, unhealthy for our bodies, impossible for sleep and inherently conducive to broken relationships. We then justify our vices or our desire for them by pointing to our busy lifestyle, oblivious or too damn proud to admit the obvious – it’s only chaotic and frenzied because we make it that way. Can you see the cycle?
Someone commented to me on the weekend about the irony of the uproar over the Greece debacle. ‘How many African nations have gone under, but now it’s a white nation that affects our own back pockets, the Western world takes notice?’ Not to undermine Greece’s predicament; I’ll hope and pray they fight their way out their situation, but I’m ignorant of the plight of the dire situations of many in the world, African countries included. Why? Because I allow myself to be.
There’s enough going on in my own life without having to worry about some country on the far side of the world I’m never going to visit.
In 2 days, sport will be re-introduced into my world as part of a more settled, balanced and happier lifestyle, one with so much more variety and freedom and with less stress and anxiety than ever before.
The risks of being drawn back into the temptations – the media, the web, the solo viewings, the hours, the punting; they’re all there. And I, for one, am a little intimidated.
You see, I like who I am, 363 days in. I am aware of how quickly the tide can turn on any of us who resist the enormous cultural pull which can easily lure us back in. I’m a better person now, and friend, husband and hopefully have the makings of being a satisfactory father!
That’s why I’ll continue to be intentional in this journey and that’s why this blog will continue. I’m re-entering a world that used to be too close to my core. Keeping our vices from our hearts takes discipline and intentionality.
We’ll see how we go in 48 hours’ time…