George Plimpton's essay, "Gods," from The Gospel According to ESPN: The Saints, Saviors, & Sinners of Sports, 2003.
How do the rituals of sport compare to those or religion?
Gertrude Stein, upon seeing a football game, was very much taken by the religious aspects -- the prayerful attitude of the players grouped in a huddle, and how, immediately following, they march to the line of scrimmage and crouch down in obeisance to the ball. Indeed, if one speaks of the "hallowed" ground on which great athletic deeds have been enacted, the "sacred" turf of such-and-such a cricket pitch or ballpark, suggesting that a near-religious activity goes on there.
Then, as we know, sports has its saints, its fallen angels, its patriarch (owners, managers, coaches), even its shrines -- the many Halls of Fame with their trophy rooms, the silver cups and, in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, true reliquaries in the form of Babe Ruth's 52-ounce bat, as well as Ty Cobb's teeth.
Tags: George Plimton, Gods, Saints, Saviors, & Sinners, George Plimpton on Sports