For some Americans, religion means ‘huddling up’



    According to BYU Professor John Seggar, some Americans compare football to a religious experience.

    Seggar, a professor of sociology, simultaneously studied the psychologies of sports and religion and discovered what he considered to be significant similarities.

    “In both activities there is a sense of competition or good versus bad. In sports there is a sense of good team versus bad team and we are fulfilled when good prevails,” Seggar said.

    Imagine an alien or someone who is not familiar with Earth coming on a Sunday, which is typically considered the Sabbath day, Seggar suggested. They would probably see more people filling the stadiums than the churches.

    “Football becomes a secular religion for the sports fan,” Seggar said. “To the sports fanatic the Super Bowl is like Christmas to the Christian. Just like Christmas the anticipation begins five or six weeks before the actual day of celebration,” he said.

    Seggar noticed that many Christians who are not faithful church attenders do attend on Christmas, and many people who are not necessarily sports fanatics are eager to watch the SuperBowl.

    Seggar said he believes part of the attraction of the Super Bowl is the materialism involved.

    “It is a manifestation of what America does best,” Seggar said. “It is organized, orchestrated and includes the best of what money can buy. It illustrates specialization, know-how and competition which are all part of the cultural belief system.”

    Seggar said if a person looks at football’s roots, those roots began in Pittsburgh and was made popular mostly by steel workers. In this way, it is representative of the middle, working class. A sport like tennis could never gain the same popularity, according to Seggar, as long as it is associated with the upper class while the population consists mostly of middle-class workers.

    “In a way, it represents the values of a population,” Seggar said. “One of the ways to solve a problem has always been to duke it out. It also represents the values of competition, attention to detail, being prepared, setting goals and attaining those goals. There is also an element of luck involved.”

    Michael Crane, a freshman from Logan who is an open major, said he thinks it is possible for sports to become a religious experience for some people, but doesn’t think it is necessarily that way for everyone. Although he is a sports fan, he doesn’t feel that sports take on any religious meaning for him.

    “It’s a clash of titans,” Crane said. “For me watching sports is just a release of aggression.”

    According to Seggar, the “titan” point of view is not uncommon. Seggar said football is comparable with duels between knights of old and primitive tribalism.

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