“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
— 1 Corinthians 13:11
On the weekend I attended a conference with some excellent speakers and some fantastic talks. One line that has stuck with me and stirred the most thought over the last few days was the brief mention of the Bible quote above.
It got me thinking about a lot of the childish things that I continue to hold on to as an adult. What things should I hold on to? What things have I let go? What things do I still need to let go?
There are a lot of childish things that I’m enjoying re-visiting with my son such as Lego, playing ball in the house, watching some kids shows and movies, reading children’s books that I loved as child. They’re all a lot of fun and it brings me great joy to be able to bring my son great joy through these things that he is discovering for the first time.
There are, however, several things that need to be let go of for good. Things like losing control of my anger, wasting time watching mindless television, getting way too invested in professional sports which have no impact on my life other that what I allow.
The sports topic is one that I have been really struggling with for the last year or so.
I grew up in a sport loving house. If we were home, the TV was on and there was usually sports of one kind or another on there depending on the time of year or time of the time of day. Soccer in the mornings on weekends. College football on Saturday and NFL on Sunday. Baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter. None of those on? We would find some golf, tennis, curling, or Olympics. We had our favourite teams to cheer for and when they weren’t playing we had our friendly pools that we wanted to win. I’ve got a closet full of jerseys of all of my favourite teams – whatever the sport may be – and would often change between games just so that I could cheer properly.
When I got married the love of my life was not the big sports fan that I was used to with my family. She goes through hockey phases and still enjoys watching the big games or going to the odd sporting event, but she was never able to comprehend how so many hours could be spent just sitting in front of the TV.
For 17 weeks of the year, from the time that we would get home from Mass on Sunday, the TV would be switching between every NFL game that was on cable. I’d have my laptop out or my phone in hand to follow my fantasy football game. I’d just sit there… staring at screens… for the entire day.
Saturday mornings would be spent watching whichever English Premier League soccer matches were on. In the summer, Saturday or Sunday afternoons would often be spent watching 2 or 3 hours of a baseball game that I hardly cared about. Growing up I did this with my family, so it was social, but now it was something that I was doing on my own.
What would my wife do for all of these hours that I was wasting away on the couch? She would often go for a walk or simply sit outside with a good book. Go shopping or just sit beside me communicating with people on her phone. She couldn’t justify wasting an entire day like that. What had been bonding time for me with my family was now becoming a dividing wedge in the family that I was starting.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that sports are evil or that watching sports makes you a bad guy. But over the last year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather spend time paying attention to my family than paying attention to a game. I would rather teach my son how to kick a ball than watch someone else kick a ball on the other side of the world. I would rather hold my wife’s hand while we walk than hold a remote control flipping between football games all day. I’m starting to let go of something that has held me back from doing a lot of things.
I still have my favourite teams and I do still watch some sports, but the days of watching two random teams playing just for the sake of watching sports is becoming a thing of the past. The days of staying home so that I can watch my team play instead of going out with some friends are over. The days of going to a different Mass so that I can watch my team at the bar are gone. The days of going to my friends house just so that I can watch the game with them while my family stays home without me are becoming fewer and fewer. The days of me checking my phone every few minutes if I do get dragged away from a big game … well, that still happens more than I’m proud of. But I’m working on it.
My brothers and some friends are having a hard time figuring out why I missed the game or how I don’t know who is sitting where in the standings or how I could go to bed when my wife goes to bed despite the fact that it’s only half time. I see them still as emotionally invested in the sporting events as I had been years ago and wonder if I am missing out on something or if they are.
Sports are not the only thing that we as men can get overly obsessed with. Many get into video games or comic books, hunting or fishing, or even just getting lost in social media on your phone. But for me, it has always been sports. If it was video games, it was sport games. If it was social media, it was sports teams/leagues/highlights that I was following. These things can all be good things in proper doses, but if they begin to take a higher priority in our lives than time spent with our family, then we need to re-asses our priorities.
With the biggest sporting event of the year in North America coming up this weekend and many men getting set to ignore their families while the big game is on (and their families get set to ignore them when the SuperBowl commercials come on), it seemed like a great time to reflect on how sports can go from a fun way to pass some time, to a passion to an obsession in a hurry.
When checking scores can become more important to you than calling your child on his toy phone which he’s been asking you to do for over a minute; when watching grown men – who are expected to be role models – cuss out the referee because of a questionable call in HD with your impressionable child becomes a higher priority than praying with your family; when you lose your temper because of a call in a game that has no affect on your life other than maybe a betting slip or a pool; it’s time to realize that maybe you need a little break from sports for a while.