Football or Cricket: Which is more spiritual?


 Mostly soccer is just guys in shorts running around aimlessly, a metaphor for the meaninglessness of life. Whole blocks of game time transpire during which absolutely nothing happens. Fortunately, this permits fans to slip out for a bratwurst and a beer without missing anything important. It's little wonder fans at times resort to brawling amongst themselves in the grandstands, as there is so little transpiring on the field of play to occupy their wandering attention, wrote two scholars. Is it true? Jerry Thomas looks at the heart of the issue.

In the Weekly Standard article titled ‘the nihilism of soccer: The more you look, the less there is to see’, Frank Cannon and Richard Lessner wrote that the philosophy behind football is nihilism, a perfect game for the postmodern world. They argued that most of the time the game is played without any goal. They even went on to say that football could be played without a ball as it requires only 22 men to run up and down in a grassy field and fans to scream endlessly.

Cannon and Lessner commented, “Mostly soccer is just guys in shorts running around aimlessly, a metaphor for the meaninglessness of life. Whole blocks of game time transpire during which absolutely nothing happens. Fortunately, this permits fans to slip out for a bratwurst and a beer without missing anything important. It's little wonder fans at times resort to brawling amongst themselves in the grandstands, as there is so little transpiring on the field of play to occupy their wandering attention. Watching men in shorts scampering around has its limitations. It's like gazing too long at a painting by de Kooning or Jackson Pollock. The more you look, the less there is to see.”

However, the strongest kick against football was yet to come. They argued that football is even contrary to the human nature. It is within human nature to defend an attack by hand while safe guarding the head. But in football, the players can’t defend by hand but they can defend by head!!! This combined with its nihilistic philosophy makes it worst enemy of sort!!!

These remind one about the ‘spirituality’ of cricket. In Tao of Cricket, Ashish Nandy argued that the cricket follows the detachment philosophy of Bhagavat Gita. How much ever you worked, you might still loose it. One needs to have detachment philosophy to play cricket.  Again, the course of the game is always unpredictable than any other game. The last few overs can change the course. Thus, detachment and unpredictability together makes it a perfect fit for Gita. No wonder that Ashish Nandy said that “Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by British.” However, there are critics for cricket too. Bernard Shaw once remarked that cricket is a game where 11 fools play and 11 thousand watch.

Is there a philosophy or even a spirituality associated with these sports? While all games have some peculiarity which can be selectively taken to be criticized or praised, it might be shown that these games are not to be exclusively associated with any philosophy. It might be even easier to associate walking with one of the philosophies, if one intends to do. Morning walking is without a destination. In other words, walking without destination is not a natural act. But then, everyone knows why some go for walking.  If spirituality or philosophy is associated with a game, how would one explain India, Pakistan and Australia having cricket?

However, there is a spirituality associated with any game. Sports are the celebration of the life we have. Games ought to be filled with energy, passion and sportsmanship. Moreover, there is a command: ‘whatever you do, do it for the glory of God’. If one follows this, everything is meaningful.  It must be noted here that there are witness to the Lord in every sports including football and cricket. Answering the criticism of Cannon and Lessner, one can say that there are people who have found meaning in playing football because they have first found meaning in life.

For example, the YWAM Europe website observes about the faith of Brazilians. In 1994, the crucial showdown came between goalkeeper Taffarel and Italy’s pony-tailed Roberto Baggio. YWAM site says, “The Brazilian keeper, a devout evangelical pastor, prayed silently as Baggio, a convert to Buddhism from Catholicism, stepped backwards. Then he shot the ball towards the goal… and high into the crowd! Over a billion viewers worldwide saw the dejected Baggio transfixed on the penalty spot, head down; Taffarel was kneeling in the goal, hands raised in thanksgiving to God. The jubilant Brazilian team converged onto the centre of the field forming a huddle to say the Lord’s Prayer together.”

So, it does not matter which game you are playing. But what matters is why you are playing it. In fact, wisest King Solomon commented that if it is not for God, life itself is meaningless. Why only football?


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