The New Opiate of the Masses

August 28, 2011
“No, Jeter is WAY better than A-rod!”

“What, are you CRAZY?!”

“No, you’re BOTH idiots! Reyes is better than them both!”


Most of the conversations held about sports usually sound something like this. As one listens from afar to the screaming, cursing, and obnoxious cheering during games and afterwards, it’s difficult not to ponder what attracts people to sports. What compels people to become extremely heated and emotionally invested in these sports teams?

If people put that much compassion and effort into solving world issues, then maybe the world would become a better place.

Back in the World War II era, Stalin used religion to rally his people, encourage patriotism, and distract them from an oppressive government. Could sports be the new religion in this country? I’m not saying that the US government utilizes sports to distract us from our own oppression, but sports does possess the ability to distract us from many of our country’s most pressing issues.

Religion’s fading power in the modern world is inversely proportional to sports’ rise as the new obsession. A recent CNN poll indicates that a whopping 16.1% of Americans are atheist. The same poll also hypothesizes that many more American citizens are “closet atheists” or are not active within their religious community.

So has sports emerged as some sort of new type of religion? Well, people travel with teams and obsess over every move of their favorite player. The best example of this is Lebron James’s “The Decision” television special. For days, people obsessed and hypothesized about which team James would choose, and when it came to the day of the announcement, millions of people tuned in. Televangelists pray for this type of audience.

Then, after the announcement, thousands of disappointed fans burned his jersey. Yes, they BURNED his jersey. People became so emotionally involved in basketball that they actually acted irrationally and temporarily lost their minds.

This mindset compares to the emotions and reactions surrounding the Crusades in 1095 CE. The pope and millions of Christian followers became extremely protective of their religion’s holy site, Jerusalem, and wished to take it back from the Muslims, just as Cleveland fans got extremely upset when Lebron chose the Miami Heat. I’m sure a couple of superfans wouldn’t have minded attacking Miami.

Meanwhile, on TV, the wars in Iraq and Afganistan raged on, soldiers died, and no one put down the remote and nachos long enough to notice. The only flags that waved were team pennants. The only prayers said were for a long ball, a strikeout, or a last-minute three-pointer.

Not everyone agrees that sports are a distraction.

Junior Daniel T. said “Sports are important. Think of 9/11 – sports give people hope in bad times.”

This is a valid point – after 9/11, sports helped the country come together for a common cause. However, this just reconfirms that sports may very well be replacing religion as a common bond in our society.





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