Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christian Fandom

In response to my request for writing topics several days ago, my cousin Michael suggested that I take some time to put into words what I believe faith has to do with (or should have to do with) many of our commitments to various sports teams and athletes. Specifically, how does a Christian fan differ from a non-Christian fan. I'll try to put my conclusions on the issues in blockquotes so you can skip through my logic if you prefer.

Full disclosure: it will be impossible for me to be completely objective, or anywhere close to it, about this subject, but I'll try my best.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about Christian fandom over the past four years or so, not necessarily because I find the topic fascinating (though at times I do), but because I am fairly certain that I am awful at it. Examples of my failure in this arena are numerous. Some highlights (lowlights?) include:
  • Spending time before bed that I used to try to reserve for devotions scouring mgoblog.com for even the smallest tidbit of new information
  • Carving several hours out of every Saturday in autumn to watch football instead of doing the homework I should be working on
  • Spending hundreds (literally this year) of dollars on sporting events and merchandise
  • Praying for a win before the 2007 OSU game
While I do not find myself to be an awful person because of these things and others like them (well, except that last one...), they show an inversion of priorities that I am not particularly proud of.

Money:

One of the easiest, most tangible aspects of this issue to tackle is financial. How much money is too much money to spend on sports?

My first answer to that question was "whatever you want, as long as you can afford it." Of course, affording it includes being able to tithe in addition to taking care of one's car insurance and feeding his or her family. This issue can be applied to any purchase though. Should I buy this new laptop? Is it irresponsible to buy this house? Is it an indication of bad stewardship if I splurge on that car I have had my eye on for months even if I can afford it? I remember coming away from a sermon series on stewardship a bit miffed about it all. Several points came to mind as our pastor implied that buying a used car was a more responsible use of of one's funds than buying new.

First, if no one buys a new product, where do used products come from? If that is the case, it is a good thing there are morally depraved people out there to buy the 2010 model so I can pick up their dilapidated 2006 version.

Second, what happens to the jobs of those who work to make those new products? If we are all buying old products, who is going to make new stuff?

This is diverging from the original topic, but my point is that these questions apply to sports as well. Sports, in proper context, are a great thing. They teach teamwork, leadership, character, and a multitude of other lessons. In order for organized sports to survive there must be money coming in, and I see no reason why being a Christian should restrict our support of such organizations as long as it is within our means.
A Christian fan will always be sure that the money he or she spends on sports is not only available, but properly prioritized to allow for tithing and other expenses. Sports purchases are a luxury expense, and should be treated as such.

Time:

Luckily, most of the points made about money apply directly to the management of time resources as well. I can avoid going through it all again for your sake and mine, and jump straight to my conclusion.
A Christian fan is willing not only make adequate time for family, friends, and service opportunities, but will give up the time they have dedicated to sports immediately if the need arises. The big game is never more important than some things.

Energy and Emotion:

The final resources that can be dominated by sports are energy and emotion. Once again, the same arguments apply, but this is where most Christian sports fans, including myself, are a bit lacking.

Compartmentalization is a habit that a lot of people would say is a bad thing. Separating some parts of yourself from others can lead to some pretty sticky situations when they eventually come into contact.

When it comes to aspects of our lives like sports, though, it can be appropriate or even necessary. This is something I have worked very hard on in the past, and actually do a pretty good job of these days. It is impossible to not have my mood be affected at all after a tough loss, but the most important thing is being able to avoid taking that frustration out on others. (But heaven help you if you dare say, "Don't worry, it's just a game." I'll shield you from my wrath as long as you don't bring it up.)

Using sports as a metaphor for life is useful as well, and is one of the reasons sports exist. Learning to take defeat with honor and success with grace is as important in every other sphere of life as it is in sports, and being a responsible fan requires that acknowledgment. It is always interesting to me that making friends with opposing fans at sporting events is as simple as giving credit where it is due, and that strategy works just as well in personal and business relationships.
Being a responsible, Christian sports fan requires that we take to heart the fact that while we would never dare utter the words aloud, it is, in fact, just a game.
I know I'm missing a lot of things here, and I may come back and add to or expand on this at some point, but all comments are welcome.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Arguing.

This topic is something that I've always experienced but never could state explicitly. Hopefully I'm able to express it adequately. If not, hopefully your attention is returned to you no worse for the wear.

Arguments intrigue me.

Friday night I got into a small argument with a friend. The topic of discussion was relatively inconsequential, and the only reason it ballooned into anything larger than a passing comment was the fact that there was really nothing else to do. I tend to take arguments very seriously, regardless of whether I actually care deeply about the subject or even whether I actually think I am correct. Something about winning an argument is highly satisfying. (This is one of my character flaws, and I am constantly working on it. I do a better job now than I used to of not being contrarian for no reason.) The head-butting was never completely resolved, but I can live with that. Someday I am sure we will have the chance to hash it out further.

So that was the jumping off point for my train of thought on this subject. What I find most interesting about arguments in general is that while they are something that everyone has partaken in on numerous occasions, there are few people that truly understand their unwritten rules. (I certainly have a lot to learn about arguing yet.)

A few examples:
  • Many people fail to recognize that one should actually stick to the original argument. This is a rule that can be twisted by cunning individuals to derail a discussion that is clearly not going to end favorably with respect to his or her chosen position.
  • Dragging someone down with personal attacks is a great way to ruin an argument. Nothing turns a disagreement into a fistfight (literally or figuratively) more quickly than calling someone or his or her views "stupid" or "ignorant." If you find someone using that move on you, I would highly suggest you take a step back to 1) avoid the spit that may currently be flying towards your face and 2) take a look at your argument to see if it actually is stupid or ignorant. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through a heated argument and realizing you are hopelessly wrong. Which brings me to the next rule:
  • It is completely legal to join your opponent's position over the course of an argument. Admitting your miscalculation and agreeing with the person you are arguing with can be terrifying, right up until the point where you do it. It never ceases to amaze me the kind of reaction I get when I admit that someone has made a good point and I was wrong from the get go. If you are unwilling to do that, what makes you think the person you happen to be arguing with will do it?
All of these things might sound pretty obvious, but they can be very difficult to actually follow. I hope I take my own advice on occasion.

The last "forgotten rule" I want to mention is the one that prompted me to write this in the first place:

In order to have a productive argument, there must be some sort of agreement or common ground between both parties.

While in the midst of an argument I constantly find myself searching for points that I know for a FACT my opponent will agree with. I never realized why I did that, at least not consciously, until the last couple of days. There is a reason you will hear the phrase "building a case" on Law & Order constantly, and that is because it really is a good analogy for what lawyers do. They lay down facts, hopefully indisputable in nature, that serve as a foundation for their view of a situation or crime.

So next time you find yourself trying desperately to convince someone that they happen to be horribly wrong about something, take a moment to find something you can both agree on. Once that has been done, the rest is easy (assuming your argument is not stupid or ignorant or just plain wrong).