I suspect the GDP of many countries will dip this month. How can it not when managers and mechanics alike stare hypnotized at TV screens while the soccer giants of the world battle away for the World Cup? And while the GDP of many countries may be suffering, the take from legal and illegal gambling must be soaring! (Of course good Christians never bet.)
I suspect many readers of this column are following the World Cup. No.1 son thinks Italy will triumph. No.2 son thinks it will be Argentina. I am still hedging my bets, speaking metaphorically of course. (This family scenario is replayed in various permutations. No.1 son supports Liverpool Football Club. No.2 son supports Manchester United. Dad supports Arsenal.)
Clearly competitive team sports generate a lot of emotional engagement. We have had a number of family conferences on whether it is ok to pray for God to bless your favourite team.
Meanwhile my latest issue of the Economist tells me that India and Pakistan are on the verge of war yet again. Both countries are now armed with nuclear weapons. Shouldn’t this potentially horrific conflict occupy our hearts and minds more than a soccer competition that happens every four years? Apparently not. News on the World Cup takes up a whole section in my daily paper. The India-Pakistan conflict? The usual one or two columns.
Now I am a loyal a soccer fan as the next guy. And I think the victories of Senegal and Korea seem to indicate that this will be the most open World Cup for years. But our relative excitement and concern for competitive team sports vis a vis other concerns seem to indicate that we may need to re-educate our hearts so that they are able to place the right emotional price tags on the right things.
As Daniel J. Montgomery writes in the Complete Book of Daily Christianity:
“Enjoy sports for their own sake, appreciating the beauty and skill involved, while recognizing their transience and the relative unimportance of what is at stake. This too shall past (Eccles 3:20). It is not a matter of life and death.”
Unfortunately, other matters are.