My Elimination Experiment: Sports Fast

Texas Rangers (baseball)

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Today ends my week long elimination experiment. In previous posts, I proposed that for one week we fast, or eliminate,  something that has an unusual hold on our attention or time. I chose to go a week fasting from sports. Here is how it went:

First of all, it was kind of a relief. With all of the hype and attention given to the Super Bowl I was ready for a break from 24/7 sports talk. Because I live in the Dallas area, I was interested in the analysis of DFW as a Super Bowl host city but I moved past that without much trouble.

What was really hard for me was not obsessing over the Michael Young saga. I am a lifetime Texas Rangers’ fan and a long time admirer of Michael Young. There is a possibility that he will be traded from the team that he has served faithfully for more than 10 years. Normally, I would follow all of the chatter and rumors surrounding this story and I did intentionally search this story out a couple of times but only to catch a headline about it and not to read every word on the topic.

What I found to be the most silly aspect was a sudden panic I felt last Thursday when I thought it was NBA All Star Weekend. I literally had this thought, “Oh no, am I missing the NBA All Star Game?” It was the exact same feeling I get when I miss an assignment or duty at work or forget to get an item at the grocery store; over a basketball game!

Honestly, I needed the break from sports and I think God knew what he was doing when he led me to do this. My life became really hectic and stressed this past week when our daughter when in for surgery, the class that I am teaching started to have papers to grade, and the small group that I am leading began. Plus, I am becoming more and more committed to pursuing many of the themes and emphasis of this blog and learning how I can share what I have learned with others. I appreciated the extra space in my life to see what God has in store for me in these areas.

Through my fast, I have, for a time, placed sports in its proper perspective while pursuing things that have broader meaning and significance. I haven’t decided exactly how I am going to break my fast officially but when I did turn on sports talk radio last night and heard talk about the NFL seven months in advance of its next season, I didn’t have too much of a desire to jump back into my previously sports obsessed existence.

How about you? Did you eliminate something last week? How did it go?

The Next Great Fad: The Sports Fast

This is a picture of "Cowboys Stadium&quo...

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I used to carry a small transistor radio around my house so that I wouldn’t miss a pitch of a Texas Rangers’ game. No, this wasn’t just in my halcyon youth but well into my 30s. I used to read Sports Illustrated cover to cover every week and fumed when I realized that my issue was sometimes missing articles that others received. I may have been one of only 15 people who actually watched the live broadcast of the US vs. Spain basketball Gold medal game of the 2008 Olympics; played at 3:00 in the morning. I recently read about a couple in Alabama who missed their daughter’s wedding because it conflicted with an U. of Alabama football game.

Quick philosophy discussion –  Our culture is awash in Postmodernism. This, in the simplest terms, is a breakdown of Big Stories. In other words, there is no large theme that holds culture together. Former Big Stories such as religion, duty, science, or the American Way have been reduced to little stories. So we have thousands of little stories and a fragmented society. Who is to say that my story is less important than your story? This contributes to an increase in fanaticism in our culture. We are placing emphasis that should be reserved for larger, more meaningful stories on to ideas, events, and happenings that hold very little meaning; such as celebrity, pets, veganism, etc.

Sports may be the biggest small to Big Story of them all and while cultures in the past were symbolized by their churches or government buildings, our culture, at least in the DFW Metroplex, is defined by the world’s largest domed stadium. On Sunday, that domed stadium will be hosting the biggest sporting event of the year. But on Monday, I will be shutting off my sports talk radio and my sports Twitter feeds, and my multiple times a day ESPN.com habit and trying to create a week thinking about the Biggest Story the Universe has ever known – God’s work of redemption and action on his creation.

Now that is something to be fanatical about.

Eliminate to Illuminate

If I am not careful, my stack of books to be read can grow by the day. I have never met an interesting website that I didn’t want to subscribe to. If I enjoy a blog or writer I am never satisfied with reading just a few things by them, I have to read their entire body of work. If I find a workout or nutrition program interesting, I want to follow it to the letter even though half of what is being asked doesn’t apply to me or requires too much money or time. Call me obsessive compulsive, a nerd, or even crazy, but what it really comes down to is that I consistently and foolishly think that I can add infinitely more to my life and that somehow that is a good thing.

The truth is, the only effective way to change is by first eliminating all that is a distraction, a burden, or time waster. No one followed Jesus without sacrificing something, maybe even something that was good. Even if we have many Godly things in our lives or Church activities that fill our schedule, we may need to cut some of these things out of our lives so that we can make room for God in an intentional way.

Over the last few years, I have stopped following every sport that showed up on Sports Center and streamlined the teams and events that I will let myself get fanatical about. I have tried to keep the list of books that I am reading at one time down to two so that I can take notes and fully consider what I am reading. I have stopped checking email obsessively and have become okay with emails gathering in my inbox or going unanswered. I no longer feel the need to read a magazine from cover to cover. I have been known to take whole months and devote them to one area of interest or activity instead of being thinned out by trying to keep up with multiple interests.

I mention all of this to possibly help you realize that if you have visions of including more prayer in your life, or reading through entire chapters of the Bible, or being more consistent with your Spiritual Enrichment Workout, you are going to have to eliminate something that you currently do. Piling on things to your already busy schedule cannot be sustained and will only lead to frustration and guilt.

So I would like to propose an exercise to be done starting next Monday and lasting one week. For this activity, I will be going on a Sports Fast where I will not read about or watch sports for one week. I will instead, try to use any extra time or mental storage space for meditating on God, spending time with my family, or praying and reading scripture. Your biggest distraction may not be sports. It may be political talk shows, or Facebook, or reality TV, or People magazine, or iPhone apps. Whatever it is that is teetering on becoming an obsession with you and it is getting in the way of  what is truly important you must eliminate it for one week.

My posts for this week will talk more about fasting and will be designed to prepare us for our upcoming Week of Elimination.