On Professional Sports in the Kingdom

One of the purposes of this blog is to imagine what the world will look like as the the kingdom of God advances and the earth is reclaimed for King Jesus. This is another way of asking what God intends for the world.

In the realm of work, this question is essential because it establishes the reason a job exists in the kingdom of God. Answering that question correctly with regard to one’s job can bring a clarity of purpose and solution for other problems that typically arise in the workplace.

is In the movie, Moneyball, the Oakland Athletic’s general manager, Billy Beane, is pondering what he is trying to do in building a winning Major League Baseball team. He is in fact revolutionizing the game through the use of analytics in an effort to allow teams with less money to compete with teams with much larger payrolls.

But in the midst of despair Beane tells an associate, “Baseball doesn’t matter.” The statement is a shocker because by this time in the movie, the viewer is pulling for Beane to succeed and cannot help but ask, “Why does baseball matter?”

It’s a question that could be asked of any professional sport. Players are paid millions of dollars a year; they are idolized, and commercialized. Why? It’s just a game, right?

Major League Baseball matters for the same reason any other professional sport matters: it is a form of entertainment. That teams are able and willing to pay its athletes millions of dollars to play a game is not an indication of the game’s intrinsic value but of how much people value entertainment, just as it is with movie stars or recording artists.

Winning in professional sport matters because competitive teams and competitive games are more entertaining to watch than those who are not competitive.

I believe the Lord wants people to be entertained and for that entertainment to be excellent and fulfilling, and when the world is functioning as it should in obedience to King Jesus, professional athletes compete with all their heart, not so they can make more money but to fulfill their purpose as entertainers for those who need to be entertained.

At the end of the movie, Billy Beane, is driving down the highway listening to a CD his daughter has made for him where she is singing a song whose main line is “Just enjoy the show.” It’s the perfect ending to the movie. For all the money spent in professional baseball, it is just a show, and we should enjoy it. We should not idolize its participants or dismiss it as insignificant but recognize its proper place in the kingdom of God. GS

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