Oh, the things that bind together cities and regions — the food, the climate, how climate once governed clothing choices…
And what is worshipped, of course. What shapes your social schedule, what inspires your hopes, what commands your allegiance above all other things? To borrow a little from the good folks over at the Oxford English Dictionaries, the origin of the word ‘religion’ in English is:
Middle English (originally in the sense ‘life under monastic vows’): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) ‘obligation, bond, reverence’, perhaps based on Latin religare ‘to bind’
And those of us outside those bonds look on in puzzlement…. Why is x so important? What invokes these special clothes, festive foods, needing to go to gatherings where your chosen divinities cannot be present because they have gone somewhere else to perform miracles on your behalf? What is the alchemy by which these men, in these colors, throwing, chasing, tackling one another turns in to civic pride?
Tomorrow in this town, the airwaves will be awash in either triumph or regret. Clothing with logos or blessed colors will be worn like sacred scapulars or totemic pelts, and I will be told that it’s all in good fun, in tones that suggest to me that I’m not so much a spoilsport for not playing along, but perhaps pitiable or mad….doesn’t everyone want to be a part of this? You’re missing out on the fun!
Fun? This is ‘fun’? I can grant that the games are played with skill and dedication, and that doing the required things well means not doing much else but representing your team, which in turn is seen as representing the city that hosts the team. The stadiums are better-frequented than our cathedrals, and a traditional day of fasting or eating fish has become a day for displaying team colors at schools or places or work. To show ‘support’ to the team, people say, to show that we are united behind them.
No, I think, it’s to show that we are a tribe in this region. Our other ways of affiliating have failed, apparently, and ecumenism makes it difficult to proclaim that those people are the goats destined for perdition, so now we have sports. The analogy between players and gladiators is easy enough, but I think it’s the clash of Us-vs-Other that is the object of worship, not so much individual players. Why insist that you “bleed in [team colors]” except to say your life belongs wholly to a sacred cause that makes you part of the Blessed Us? Income, interests, and heritage get blurred by a communal piety that washes out our differences just as overly-scented hotel soap and name-tags help label conference attendees as ‘belonging’ together no matter where their true homes lie. Here, and in the sweet by-and-by.
You gotta believe! [Or you had better embrace being incomprehensible….I’m okay with that.]