By Elizabeth Bailey
In a world, where the media influences of the lives of millions daily, sport is considered by many to be a religion. While there are many similarities between religious and athletic devotion Tara Magdalinski and Timothy Chandler argue in their article, “With God on their side” that there is a relationship between religion and sport, but popular culture takes it too far. The authors argue that it is more important to examine the interaction between sport and religion and recognize the influence sport has over a religious community and the promotion of their beliefs.
Creating a definition for religion is the first hurtle these authors overcome. Religion as defined by Magdalinski and Chandler is when a group of individuals consider themselves linked to others through faith and shared cultural practices. From this definition, the authors agree that it is acceptable for a community to define cultural practices, faith, and rituals as a religion. Religion has the power to influence a community socially, as well as spiritually. This article examines how religion impacts a group’s and an individual’s identity. Distinguishing one religion from another is key to understanding the role religion plays in one’s life. Every religion has clearly defined: initiation rites, dogmas, prescribed moralities, authoritative teachings, texts, and traditions, clear social structures, and organized authority structures. These differences provide individuals with a sense of belonging in ritualized and cultural activities.
Religion and sport both provide a framework for individuals to define themselves, sports fans and religion are both created from an “us” and “them” mentality. By defining one’s self as a Red Sox fan or a Baptist, one is given an identity and place within the social structure of the community. Sport is one of the driving factors behind self-identification, within a religious context. With this in mind, the authors explore various relationships between religion and sport, ranging from sport in the Jewish Women’s Settlement Houses in America to the development of rugby unions: Muslim clubs versus non-Muslims clubs in Cape Town. Though athletes are not the gods media makes them out to be and stadiums are not a place of religious worship, there is a real relationship between religion and sport. Both institutions exist because individuals are able to define themselves as part of the community; an “us” rather than an “other”.
Magdalinski, Tara, and Timothy J.L. Chandler. "With God on their side: An
Introduction." Introduction. With God on their Side: Sport in the service
of religion. London: Routledge, 2002. 1-19. Print.