21 Aug 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by annmaries_hair_on_madison
Patch Instagram photo by annmaries_hair_on_madison

Praying at the Church of Sports

Sports: Bigger than politics, war, world economics and even religion? What do you think?

Praying at the Church of Sports

Boy, do I have quite a hangover! You know when you overindulge and forget your limits, and then go out with a big bang? The following day it sure is a rough road to recuperation, with the after-effects lingering for days. I feel like I've just been put through the ringer.

Think I'm talking about alcohol? Think again. I'm talking about the headache I still have from the Super Bowl.

Like many people, we celebrated with friends and the party boasted great food, great conversation and a lot of spirit. Even the kids got into it, filling out their ballots for game trivia and cheering just as loudly in their Giants jerseys.

But the game wasn't even the half of it. The buildup to Sunday seemed never ending.

Supermarkets overflowed with football balloons and big game-themed products. Constant radio promos touted ticket and memorabilia giveaways. Madonna's big single debuting at halftime leaked early, along with some of the buzzed-about ads. News stories and live TV remotes ran all week before from Indianapolis. Maybe it's because we live in prime Giants vs. Patriots territory but you couldn't escape from all things "Super."

Quite honestly, it's not just the Super Bowl. Sports seem to be the largest driving force in the world. It's bigger than politics, war (sometimes), world economics, and perhaps (dare I say) even religion?

Of the most-watched TV programs, whether around the world or right here at home in the United States, they're always sports programs.

This past weekend's Giants-Patriots showdown set the new record as the most watched TV program in the U.Sever. Internationally, the majority of the top watched programs in history have been sporting events, including the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in China, and the semi-final match between Pakistan and India during the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

Perhaps because I did attend Sunday night's big game viewing party, it was a little harder to get my creative juices going to write this column. (OK, while not really hungover, I did enjoy a little wine, so it wasn't as easy to rev up the engines as it usually is.) Sensing a hint of writer's block, I asked my editor for his thoughts as I offered up some of the news of the day as potential topics -- ; the sad, explosive double murder-suicide of the husband and boys of the missing Susan Powell; or my Super Bowl post-mortem.

His answer? He suggested I could give my "non-sports fan" thoughts on this time of year, when sports nuts like him are in limbo -- with the NHL and NBA both floundering, the NFL season finished, MLB not yet started, and 36 days until the NCAA basketball tourney starts.

Perhaps it was 'my bad' for including the Super Bowl topic on my suggested list. We just got done with the mother of all sporting events and he wanted me to write about more sports. Glad he was the one who used the phrase "sport nut." (I'm kidding, boss, I'm kidding!)

But did you know that there is only one day a year without a professional sporting event? It's the day after the MLB All-Star game. I only know that because it's one of only two questions I remember from the original Trivial Pursuit game from 20 years ago. (The other one is, "Who is Charlie Hustle?" Answer: Pete Rose. Again with the sports!)

You could theoretically say that sports are likely bigger than elections. My husband and I debate this sometimes, wondering what would happen if Election Day was moved to a weekend. While we both agree that it would never work on a Sunday, we disagree on why. I believe it's because, for much of the country, Sunday is for church. His theory -- it would cut into watching football.

I was kind of surprised to hear some friends suggest that it would be great if there was a school delay -- or even a day off from school -- the Monday morning after the Super Bowl. Maybe one day wouldn't take away from the much wrought-over school calendar, but it's somewhat symptomatic of how much weight sports throws around at the high school and college level. With athletics sometimes favored over academics -- especially when there's money involved -- you start to see how sports are king.

The unseemly side? Illegal doping, the commercialization, the illegal gambling (ref. Charlie Hustle), the cheating. Sometimes it's hard to understand the millions paid to superstar athletes when merits in other fields go unrewarded.

Sometimes, though, there is a silver lining that can triumph. Case in point:  when sports are used for peace, as a universal unifier. There’s a great example of this originating in Wilton, where I live. " Kick For Nick" is a soccer ball collection program founded in honor and memory of PFC Nicholas Madaras. The balls are distributed to children in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. servicemen and women as a gesture of good will and building peace.

More often, the pure spirit of dedication and commitment, of achievement and victory shine through. And when the majesty and beauty of an athlete hoping for personal best achieves that win, lifting both the collective joy of a nation and the unique soul of one, there is something almost spiritual you can find there.

So, even as an identified "non-sports fan" I can still marvel at the place, both good and bad, that sports takes up in the world. It's powerful, it's illogical, it's sometimes illegal, it's big business, it's entertainment, it's uplifting, it's larger than life.

Perhaps that's why they call it "The Game of Life."

How do you see sports fitting into the fabric of American culture? Tell us in the comments.

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