Now that the wailing and rending of clothes about Barry Bonds’ hideous crimes against humanity has finally been allowed to recede slightly, it is time to consider the cottage industry of righteous indignation about the possible modification and augmentation of the human body in the furtherance of personal achievement with a calm and relaxed eye capable of seeing the larger threat in the background.
While we rail against the dying of the pure light of the perfect human sporting endeavor we remember falsely from our youth, a greater challenge looms large over every sporting event. Outside powers linger just out of view, changing the outcome of the sports we treasure so deeply. Their unseen hands guide the players to commit acts previously unthinkable, threatening to turn all sports into mere exhibitions of talent without any of the true meaning we desperately need to imbue each game with.
Naturally, I speak of God.
Or, to be more accurate, all the omnipotent and all-knowing deities we subscribe to on this little muddy ball we inhabit. From Pop Warner football to World Cup soccer and every game of tiddlywinks in between, someone says a little prayer with their heart, pride, and cash riding on the result. Certainly, almost no one has seen the harm in asking for a little divine intervention to get a win that will help him feel better and more successful.
However, few have considered the ramifications of injecting God into their performances. It’s one thing to destroy one’s body with your EPO and your creamy clear crystal blue persuasion for a tiny advantage in recovery or performance; it’s quite another to maul the space-time continuum to change the present and future through the intervening whims of the Almighty. How much pride can anyone take in their working, knowing their merest effort is an affront to their entire belief system and could send them to eternal suffering? (Even you, Shawn Green.)
Athletes through the centuries have abused the rights and privileges of a higher power for short-term success, from Noah’s world champion crew team and David’s major upset in the first UFC championship match through the Catholic Church’s 1500-year run as the best Risk players west of Constantinople. Constantine himself threw the Titans over the side and adopted Christ when he saw a performance advantage in losing his religion.
Today, cheaters such as Dwight Howard would carry the Orlando Magic to championship after championship with His good footwork if God hadn’t called Grant Hill home to the land of his people: Phoenix. (Not that God has forsaken Dwight Howard; clearly, the 6’11″ 270 lb. PF/C built tougher than a 1974 Buick Le Sabre shall inherit the title.)
Tony Dungy called his operator to get Jesus on the line when he needed heavenly hands to get the mortal fingers of Peyton Manning off his own damned throat. D’Brickashaw Ferguson requested that cool name to intimidate his foes. David Robinson asked and received a higher power for permission to leave his Navy sub posting to become God’s warrior until Robinson’s hubris allowed him to accept the MVP trophy in the same state as Hakeem. And so on.
Therefore, please stop mocking Rafael Betancourt and Clay Hensley with thrown needles and get Dick Pound to stop chasing Marion Jones through the mall parking lot on his Rascal with a pee cup in his hand. Instead, let’s concentrate on the real villains of competitive sport: the pious. Once we stop allowing those holier than us to dominate sports, we can get back to playing sports as mere mortals enduring our mortal failings and succeeding on our own mortal merits. You know, as God intended.