By William J. Baker
The spectacle of contemporary recreation monitors all of the most recent advertisement and technological techniques, but age-old spiritual issues nonetheless thrive on the stadium. Coaches lead pre-game and post-game prayers, athletes supply God the credits for domestic runs and touchdowns, and lovers wave symptoms with biblical quotations and allusions. Like no different country in the world, american citizens eagerly mix their faith and activities. Playing with God lines this dynamic courting from the Puritan condemnation of video games as sinful within the 17th century to the close to deification of athletic contests in our personal day.
Early non secular competition to aggressive game eager about the excessive enthusiasm of avid gamers and spectators, the making a bet on ratings, and the choice for enjoying box over church on Sunday. Disapproval steadily gave strategy to reputation while "wholesome activity" for younger males in crowded towns and squaddies in far flung fields grew to become a countrywide precedence. Protestants led within the readjustment of attitudes towards recreation; Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims undefined. The Irish at Notre Dame, notable Jews in baseball, Black Muslims within the boxing ring, and born-again athletes at Liberty collage symbolize the various negotiations and compromises generating the original American mix of faith and recreation.
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Extra info for Playing with God: Religion and Modern Sport
Another Connecticut cleric, John Trumbull of Waterbury, became a local legend by conquering the militia champion from the nearby town of Westbury in a long evening bout. 31 If militia days afforded “lawful recreation” for local communities, two 19 OLD GODS AND GAMES new colleges did the same for a privileged set of young men who benefited from the Puritan zeal for education. Harvard College, founded in 1636 as a means to prevent “an illiterate ministry to the churches,” and Yale College, founded for similarly pious purposes in 1701, became sanctuaries for youthful high jinks that contrasted sharply with Puritan values.
58 Urban growth, industrial expansion, and commercial ambition caused that dramatic transformation; Higginson and his muscular Christian friends gave it a moral, religious rationale. 41 3 PRAYING AND PLAYING IN THE YMCA T he ideological trailblazers of muscular Christianity were not run-of-themill folk. Most came from highly privileged backgrounds, were trained in the classics at private boys’ schools, and received degrees from Oxford or Cambridge, Harvard or Yale. Informed and articulate, they moved comfortably in the company of clergymen, lawyers, and professors, not with laborers and servants.
Another kind of revolution, a leisure revolution, followed closely on the heels of the great economic and political upheavals of the age. People in proximity to each other, with time on their hands and money to spend, sought diversions that had been unavailable to their fathers and mothers. Competitive sport was one of many leisure-time possibilities. Some could actively participate; many more could watch. But an updated, urbanized form of sport was required. England’s peasant football, for example, had flourished for centuries with local, unwritten rules that designated whatever objects were available to be used as goals; but such lack of physical boundaries made it unsuitable for town or city play.