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Sports and Sportsmanship

Yesterday my son and I made our annual or semi-annual trip to the Rogers Center to take in a Bluejays game. We chose a good night. The Jays were playing against their arch-rivals the Yankees, and were playing before one of the biggest crowds in recent memory. The last time I was part of a crowd of over 40,000 people must have been during the Bluejays’ glory days of 1992 to 1993. It was the first time I can remember that the section I wanted to sit in was sold out, leaving us to sit up in the 500-level. After the first fourteen Yankee pitches, the Jays had no outs and 4 runs. They Jays played well throughout and took the game 7-3. The official recap of the game mentioned that the crowd was rowdy. It was, indeed, a rowdy crowd which tends to add to the overall entertainment value.

But as I watched the game, a question came to mind. The rivalry between Toronto and New York has existed for many years, but continues to heat up. Of course there is lots to dislike about the Yankees and their spendthrift ways. As you may know, their payroll is often greater than the combined efforts of five or six smaller market teams. Needless to say, they always compete and are always dangerous. Everyone loves to hate the Yankees.

While there are always a good number of Yankee fans in the crowd, many of whom travel to Toronto from Buffalo and upstate New York, the crowd was, as we’d expect, clearly in favor of Toronto. And not only that, but they despised New York. Alex Rodriguez, whose massive contract has come to represent much of the absurdity of major league sports, was a particular target of the crowd. He has been having a difficult time in the field of late and continued to disappoint last night, committing one error, losing an easy pop fly and escaping another error only by the grace of the scorekeeper. The crowd was soon chanting “A Rod! A Rod!” Boos reigned down upon him whenever he came to the plate or was involved in a play. Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi also faced the jeers of the crowd. Throughout the game, the upper decks rumbled with the sound of “Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!” I think there was more cheering against New York than there was for Toronto.

I love this dynamic of professional sports. I love that people can boo a player but yet cheer for him when he is later traded to their team. I love that people can yell and scream and take these things so seriously, and yet not seriously at all.

But I wonder, is this behavior Christians should endorse? Is this behavior Christians should participate in? When a person becomes a player in professional sports, is he inviting this kind of mockery? Or should we be supportive of all players? I can certainly not endorse this behavior in the little leagues, but I wonder if it is just part of the game when playing in the majors. What do you think?

I got to thinking last night…I don’t know that I’ll ever be sufficiently sanctified to cheer for Alex Rodriguez.