The Ritual of Sports

Humans are social creatures and have long been enamored with ritual. Most of these ceremonial activities have centered around religion and political events but sports have always included a certain amount of pageantry. Fans gather to cheer on the contestants, dressed in team colors and raising their combined voice in synchronized chants and fight songs. This behavior gives them a sense of participation in the contest and many wear the number of their favorite athlete to even more closely identify with his or her talents and achievements.

While much of this ritualism is both enjoyable and socially positive, there are some negative consequences. First and foremost, the athletes themselves are often caught up in the celebrity worship of our sports-crazed society and, like many of their entertainment counterparts, sense immunity from behavior that, in some cases, destroys their career or their life. On the other side of the fence, college students, immersed in the social networking of modern culture, seem to have progressed to uniform behaviors that, in my opinion, are somewhat disturbing; having taken the lead from a few prominant institutions, student sections now jump and chant through entire basketball games, shifting the spectacle from the contest itself to the antics of the sixth man. The enthusiasm of the individual sports fan has morphed into a display of herd mentality.

On this annual Feast Day of American Sport, Super Bowl Sunday, celebrities of all kind will flock to the main event, paying phenomenal fees to be seen among the elite of U.S. society. Back in the hinterlands, many other Americans will gather with family and friends to witness the spectacle and to partake in the ritual of food, beverages and TV commercials that complement the game itself. Many will know little or nothing about the teams and their players and some will be satisfied with an occasional glance at the screen. It is, after all, the ritual of the event that brings these fans together.