Children play with toys for fun. Adults do the same, but the difference is in the size and cost of their toys. With the increased cost comes increased expectations and levels of complexity.
It is a fallacy that sport is innocent. Like every aspect of our life, our sinful human nature leads to a breakdown of any motive. Take something good, add money and the equation spits out potential for corruption. It is human nature to put things in front of God. Even goals such as self-improvement, fitness and health can become gods when pride take priority.
Case study: Corruption of triathlon
I wanted to share some stories with you from my years in the swim-bike-run sport of triathlon. The sport has given me so much, developing my heart, mind and spirit in many ways. But I have also seen how sin has helped corrupt these simple acts of swimming, biking and running.
Case Study 1: An excellent age-group athlete was on the cusp of making the national team. This temptation was enough for her to forge her birth date allowing her to compete in an easier age category and, therefore, make the team.
Case Study 2: At the start of a triathlon, athletes are released in age waves. That is, you start with your age category competitors. However, one athlete slipped into another age group start, therefore, starting minutes before his real competitors and getting a massive time advantage.
Case Study 3: The sport of triathlon is dominated by several huge companies that own the races that athletes want to compete in. They run these races for the athlete’s enjoyment, but at the end of the day, it is a business and making money is a key goal. And with the need for larger profits and market-share one company is considering “triathlon credit cards,” travel agencies and even a triathlon dating site. These are labelled as “value adding” but ultimately they are opportunities to sell more stuff to a large market. It is about converting more sales from their online subscription list. Triathlon is corrupted, moving from a sport to a market.
So what is the problem if two consenting triathletes want to hook-up via their triathlon dating app and travel together to do a triathlon overseas and pay for it on their new tri credit card? Nothing. However, it is hard to find the balance between enjoying a triathlon and our cultural consumeristic hegemony. Some say it is a tightrope we struggle with and leads to corruption of the sport and our own soul. However, I think it is the other way around: our sinful nature means anything we do has the potential to be corrupted.
Take these case studies, along with the many other issues, such as performance enhancing drugs, angry parents at sporting events, racial vilification at AFL games etc., and you see the tension between the beauty of sport and the way it can act as a catalyst to our depraved soul. However, the corruption of sport highlights the need for redemption. It is an opportunity to fix our eyes on Jesus to give focus to something that is a God-given blessing: sport.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html