America’s idol: the unhealthy obsession with sports

Minnesota Vikings rookie kicker Daniel Carlson did not have a good game Sunday against the Packers. Carlson missed three field goals in a game which ended in a 29-29 tie. What made matters worse, two of those missed field goals came in overtime, including a lot second field goal that was basically a chip shot. On Monday, Carlson was released from the Vikings.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

It’s also life. It happens. We have bad days, it’s just that most of us don’t have bad days in front of millions of people.

It’s interesting in the aftermath reading the comment online. I’m a sports fan so I understand frustration but what I don’t understand are the obscene tirades, the threats, taking shots at him as a person.

Carlson’s most recent instagram photo was from September 11 and it was a collection of photos with him and local firefighters in commemoration of that day. A very nice thing. But it’s on that photo where “fans” are directing their venom and vitriol. I couldn’t help but read those comments and consider just how displaced someone’s priorities would have to be to think that that is an appropriate venue to criticize. The kicker later made his instagram private to avoid further online harassment.

It’s not just Vikings fan. People harassing athletes and being over the top in the face of failure is common in sports. It’s also not unique to American sports.

There is an unhealthy obsession with sports. It’s idolatry. The result of a game is not a person’s ultimate key to happiness and wholeness. People who curse out strangers in the safety of their parent’s basements because of a game are not happy people.

If a person has so much anger in their heart that a loss makes them that mad, a win was never going to make them happy. Your team’s loss or an individual athlete’s failure isn’t the cause of unhappiness, it’s a symptom of underlying misery. We were made for infinite joy, and that joy is found in God. It is not something that is meant to fluctuate with the performance of our teams, our jobs, or even our health.

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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.

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