The Old Paths: The sacred cow of sports

By Leslie Bray Brewer - Special to The Stokes News
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Most of us would agree that you can tell what people prioritize more highly by how they spend their time. If you see a man who used to hang out at the pool hall on weekends but now stays home with his wife, you can tell his priorities have changed because where he spends his time has changed.

The same is true on a larger scale; you can look at America as a whole and tell how things have changed by how priorities have shifted.

For example, remember when nobody would’ve dared play a ballgame on a Sunday? By the time I reached adulthood, people might play a game on Sunday, but never would they skip church for one. An afternoon game might be in order—so long as you were done in time for Sunday night service.

And Wednesday nights were also taboo for sports. Local high schools did not schedule games for Wednesday evenings due to the unwritten rule that midweek prayer meeting or Bible study was a given. As a nation (or maybe just down South—I can’t speak for other regions), our priorities were clear: God first, everything else after Him.

All of that began to change somewhere in my adulthood. I first noticed it when my son Elijah Blue tried out for an AAU basketball team and made it. When we were told that many games would be out of town on Sundays, we chose to forgo that prestigious basketball experience. It was a tough decision, but my family pastored a church and could not be absent that often.

A few years later when Elijah made a travel baseball team, we broke down and allowed him to play. His coach offered to take him to Sunday games so I didn’t have to miss church. Still, I occasionally skipped Sunday services due to my longing to watch my son play. I remember how torn I felt.

If I could go back in time, I am not sure I would make the same decision. I’ve heard that now they have short pre-game church services on Sunday mornings. I do think that is a positive development in the travel ball circuits.

However, even when travel ball took up the whole weekend, Wednesday nights were still kept pretty sacred. If there was practice, kids were done in time for 7 p.m. services. That was still the case until just a few years ago.

Sports competitions began to be scheduled more and more on Wednesday evenings. I remember being rather stunned the first time I noticed that on the schedules of our local schools. My naive self thought those must be makeup games.

I was wrong.

I still thought we were okay in the summer perhaps, but not so. A few years ago, even scheduling our weekly SUPER SUMMER Bible School at The Well in Walnut Cove became tricky because football, soccer and cheerleading practices were beginning earlier and earlier—no longer early August but mid- to late July.

Am I saying that inside a church building is the only place we can worship God? Not at all. I believe we worship Him with every action of our lives wherever we are—even at the ballfield or gym.

However, I AM saying that I believe the changes in sports scheduling signifies a change in our priorities. It seems that we used to care more that our kids were in church; now we seem to care more that our kids are playing ball. (Notice I said “seems”; I cannot speak for single instances such as yours perhaps, but rather for the general national trend.)

And it’s not just kids. When my hubster joined the Triad Adult Baseball League seven years ago, the games were on Sunday afternoons and evenings. By then, our church didn’t even have Sunday night services, so we thought we were good to go with Sunday evening games. The few weekday games they played were usually Thursdays.

This ideal situation did not last. Two years ago, the league began scheduling 10 a.m. Sunday games for each team about four times a season, with some Wednesday night games as well. Because my hubster was now the team manager, he felt obligated to go; my son Elijah was now grown and playing on the same team, so he went, too.

But I, the consummate baseball fan/scorekeeper who had rarely missed one of their games, was suddenly absent from the bleachers because somebody had to stay behind to lead the church services.

Last season I emailed the league scheduler that Sunday morning games were tough on us due to my family pastoring a church. He kindly obliged to schedule our team later in the day, as a rule. This year, I forgot to email him until after the schedule was complete, so my guys simply skipped their four Sunday morning games.

Even though that resulted in our team having to forfeit a game or two, I didn’t care. In this country where we have made sports our god, I was proud of my guys making a stand. The great Sandy Koufax made such a stand once by refusing to pitch on Yom Kippur—his Jewish high holy day. Other Jewish MLB players have chosen to sit out on holy days as well, even during the World Series.

Do I consider Sunday a holy day? No. Don’t get angry with me, but let me tell you that I don’t for one second consider Sunday to be the genuine Sabbath. Nor is Wednesday a holy day.

The Biblical seventh-day Sabbath was never changed from Saturday (starting at sundown on Friday) to Sunday. Man’s religious traditions did that when Emperor Constantine moved it in 321 A.D. to placate the pagans who were worshiping the sun god on “Sun-day.” The Christian leaders thought they could win the heathens more easily if they compromised with them.

Bad move, in my opinion.

However, since the early church DID often gather corporately on the first day of the week (Sunday), I have no problem with modern churches following suit. I appreciate the fact that in our country—even though we can go to church any and every day—we still have one particular day that we set aside for corporate worship.

And I must admit—I long for the old paths when that day was left untouched. Future generations on these new paths will never know any differently, but there are still those of us who remember what was held sacred…once upon a time…..

Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at theoldpathsatwalnutcove@yahoo.com. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.

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By Leslie Bray Brewer

Special to The Stokes News