Gods Stay Busy With Sports Prayers

UH players pray after losing to BYU in 2011 | Dennis Oda / Star-Advertiser photo

UH players pray after losing to BYU in 2011 | Dennis Oda / Star-Advertiser photo

The gods love sports. In fact, they are avid sports fans, judging from what goes on at sporting events. They watch and listen to the games and matches – or at least that’s what they must be doing, if one goes by the words and deeds of players, coaches and fans. Prayers are said to invoke and thank the gods. Curses are offered in their names. Winners point to the sky and give public praise to their gods; losers search in private for consolation from theirs.

But the gods should not play games or take sides in sports, especially in youth sports.

Indeed, it might be best if religion was not a part of school sports altogether, in particular contests that match the local private schools against public ones, as it gives yet another advantage to the ILH over the OIA. The private schools can pray to their gods for help; the public schools are prohibited from doing so. This is not fair. It is difficult to compete against god, or a team with god on its side. It is even more unfair when one team has a saint for it as well. It thus says something about the athletic program – or the power of god – if, even with god on the other side, the public schools still win.

Moreover, not all the gods are good for sports. Some are less competitive than others, and do not demand suffering and a sacrificial death to achieve ultimate victory. Followers of such gods don’t have scriptures readily available that celebrate or condone holy war.

In short, Buddhist schools are at a disadvantage. It’s hard to want to win when one is supposed to be selfless and giving. It is difficult for Buddhist athletes to attack and destroy the defenses of their opponents when they are supposed to practice compassion. This must be the explanation behind those committing costly game errors that result in victory for the other side: They were secretly practicing Buddhism. Even in defeat, however, there is the solace of spiritual victory – moral lessons learned, strength of character earned – available to comfort those who fall short in the world of sports.

Real victory, though, may come when the gods are not asked to help score points or be present at games or give their blessings to opening-day festivities for Little League Baseball, but when all those involved in sports ask the gods to turn away from the games and turn their attention instead to help the less fortunate in the world and those suffering from unspeakable horrors.

Can’t the gods do both, some may wonder?

Apparently not, if what is reported in the news is any indication. Yet the faithful know tragedy and disaster do not diminish the grandeur of their gods, but serve to strengthen their own resolve to do good in the world and to resist despair and defeat.

This is the competitive spirit revealed in sports.

Whether this spirit carries the athlete to an immediate sports victory or to a greater achievement much later in life, only the gods know. The gods may take the credit for such victories.

If not, their players are often glad to do so for them instead.