Considering the community they provide and the devotion they inspire, sports serve religious functions, Andrew Cooper writes for Tricycle. “Sports satisfy our deep hunger to connect with a realm of mythic meaning, to see the transpersonal forces that work within and upon human nature enacted in dramatic form, and to experience the social cohesion that these forms make possible,” Cooper writes.
For players, a form of spirituality is often experienced in the idea of the “zone,” according to Cooper. Players and announcers speak of a game-time “zone” mindset, where a player is able to forget himself and his surroundings and play almost unconsciously. Cooper writes that this experience is similar, though not the same, as the Buddhist idea of enlightenment. He writes, “a Zen perspective on the relationship between practice and enlightenment may help clarify structural issues in the relationship between self-effort and self-transcendence in sport.”
Ten examples of the transcendence in sports can be found on BeliefNet, where the editors have compiled the top 10 “sports miracles.” The website compiled 10 feats of athleticism that they call miracles because of their improbability.
Taken to the extreme, the parallels between sports and religion quickly become absurd. The Onion ran an article with the headline, “God Wastes Miracle On Running Catch In Outfield.” Rather than bringing peace to the Middle East or helping victims of natural disasters, the God of the Onion opts instead to meddle in a baseball games. No word yet on who God supports in the current Major League Baseball playoffs, unfortunately.