It is fascinating to watch the priority given to sportspeople to fly in and out of the country! Or the efforts that are given to creating bubbles so that high-level footy competitions can resume during Covid. Will professional athletes be prioritised in the vaccination queue?
Equally interesting, is the public response. Some think the prioritising of sport and athletes is justified; others think all sport is frivolous. Why are tennis players flying in and out, while tens of thousands of Australians remain stranded overseas?
Why does sport get such a priority? One reason is sport is big business. Sport in Australia generates sales of over $30Bn! It employs over 100 000 people.
But the bigger reason, I suggest, is that sport is now mass distraction and public religion.
The first-century Roman poet Juvenal said of the masses “give them bread and circuses, and they will never revolt”. In that sense, sport is the 21st Century version of a circus. It amuses us. Distracts us. Fills our lives with something, so that we don’t notice their things we ought to be revolted by – or perhaps revolt against.
The other part of sport is that it is public religion. We feel like we are part of something. We belong to an army of dragons’ supporters. We hope – hope that our team will win the flag. The good fight is fought by the blues against the maroons. Or against the poms.
Football codes are now ambassadors for inclusion, or against racism. They are displacing religion as the moral voice in culture.
I love my sport, more than many. But it is a poor replacement for the hope and meaning and sense of belonging that we find only in Jesus.
Rev David Rietveld
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