The Holy trinity of American sports by Craig Forley tries to show how the three sports of baseball, basketball and football have interacted as to create some form of civil religion among its followers. These three sports have evolve over time to create a following in the American civil society paralleling or even surpassing that of national holidays and or religious occasions. As such they receive unprecedented coverage in the dailies and weeklies. They have grown to supplement national holidays like the Memorial Day and have become somewhat symbolic in marking the transition from one year to another in the US.
The three sports reveal aspects that are otherwise intertwined in religion such as the views on past history, prospects of the future and the need for perfection in contemporary life. Football may thus be seen as expressing the realities in everyday life as well as that experienced throughout history. Baseball on the other hand represents an ideal and perfect that we all aspire and which is also contained in the Christian religion in the life hereafter. Basketball espouses in it a very competitive and highly productive environment. (Forney, 07)
The three sports may thus be may be characterized by a search for the truth, its sources and how to solve problems. The sports represent a whole range of interactions with people unlimited by artificial national boundaries just as religion connects people from diverse backgrounds. It shows a commitment to a social cause that can only be paralleled in religion. Characterized by defeats and victories these sports mimic our daily experiences of a nation at its various states encompassing both the worst and the best.
Sports has transformed in the recent past especially among the Christian religion who have been ambivalent in the past. They have since evolved to embracing the sport as part of everyday life and even channel their beliefs through the sport. The predominant Christian values of discipline, hard work and teamwork are cherished in these games. These games require the above values foe any success to be realized. Churches have thus established sports ministries which feature their own stars and which are used to encode the Christian messages of the need to put effort in order for God to intervene. They are seen as the most convenient and demonstrable ways of God at work helping those who are willing to put effort into their activities. The church as shifted from blaming sports schedules as conflicting with their own programmes to openly conforming to these schedules of say the Super Bowl. Some churches even hold parties for these events as a way to reach out to the masses that are attracted to these sports.
Parents are increasingly enrolling their children to sports academies and enthusiastically following the progress of their children.
Sports in a way construct superstars who are otherwise ordinary individuals who in a way occupy an elevated position which can be seen in the following that they enjoy. Craig Forney equates this to the belief in the supernatural.
Just like sports these religions are seen by Forley as a way of making morally upright decisions which can be compared to decisions made while playing a game and which must necessarily follow the prescribed rules of conduct.
The book describes the desire in America after the independence from by the founding fathers of the need to create a civil religion that would occupy the position of the church. This tool was needed to provide a cross boundary unity among individuals. Forley sees the three sports as a manifestation of these desires.
The dedication to certain tenets of the American Civil society expressed formally through pledges to the national flag is also manifestations the ‘Civil Religion.’
The desire for recognition of certain rites of passage such as marriage by the state is also an expression of faith just as the upholding of narratives by orators such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The sports now in a way represent the American world view which is exported to other countries. The core values in the sports of competition, team work, equality etc together represent the values upheld by the American people. (Forney, 20)
Inasmuch as his relation between the American sports and the civil religion may sound plausible, many defects may be found in his arguments. His arguments are not accompanied by concrete facts that led him to make such general conclusions about the American public. His argument is quite abstract in the sense that they are not accompanied by concrete data. Inasmuch as the three sports have a huge following, it does not necessarily mean that it occupies the place of religion.
It is highly possible that the audience that these sports attract are simply out to entertain themselves and do not really equate it with a religion. Forley seems to suggest that fans attend these sports purely on their beliefs of values of such as team work, discipline and hard work. Fans are not consciously aware of this virtues bestowed on the sport but rather follow because of their competitiveness and the ability to entertain. Fans to these games also do not necessarily share the same values by the mere virtue of enjoying a certain sport. A divergence of opinion is to be found within the same audience on a range of issues.
Despite the above generalizations made by the author, some salient points pointed out in the text are quite relevant on a close analysis to contemporary life. Obedience which characterizes both religion and sport although not apparent in the latter are very important aspects in civil conduct. The importance of aggressiveness balanced by the strict adherence to laws and rules particularly has a moral lesson to teach society in general. It shows the ability of the individual to act justly in trying to achieve a goal.
Politically, it teaches individuals to stand for what is right whenever there is need to. A player may be seen as an embodiment of moral law acting morally on his own volition and therefore demonstrating to the judges the place of moral law in the society.
Forney, Craig. The Holy Trinity of American Sports: Civil Religion in Football, Baseball and Basketball. Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2007. Print.