by Audrey Dolan
I have two religions: Christianity and sports.
I’m not equating God and Tom Brady (though I fear I have made the comparison in the heat of the moment). I guess you could say that I’m a person of faith with a borderline unhealthy dedication to Boston sports teams. Whether my parents intentionally did it or not, spirituality and the love of sports have been deeply ingrained into me.
My first visit to Fenway Park was when I was eight years old, on the city’s famous Marathon Monday. We had the day off of school, and my parents felt it was a perfect time for my first baseball game.
Boston Red Sox vs Toronto Blue Jays, 11am start. Mid-April, winter winds still lingering, the whole family in Red Sox sweatshirts. The concourse was a sea of people and I was engulfed in foreign smells. Running up the ramp and stepping into the stadium’s afternoon light was a divine feeling. I had never seen anything so large and grand in my life. We sat six rows back from the dugout and I watched as the players walked by, their pristine white uniforms progressively getting dirtier throughout the game. There was pomp and circumstance, laughing, cheering, and singing. I was a spectator, not only of the game but the crowd. As we exited on Yawkey Way, I looked back and waved goodbye. It was the first of countless visits.
My introduction to “the Nation,” as Red Sox fans refer to themselves, came before the dawn of a new era. I watched the Red Sox go from mediocre, to good, to great. The night we won the 2004 World Series, breaking the 86-year losing streak, I saw my mother cry. Not an overwhelming sobbing, but a silent, gentle cry.
When you walk into a place of worship, there is a sense of tranquility and relief. You have come to be in the presence of something holy, as well as to be drawn into the community of your fellow believers. I get that feeling when I step into Fenway Park. I know I am about to see something amazing and unique. There will never be a game identical to this one. I take my seat, breathe in the air, admittedly a mixture of anticipation, outfield grass, and beer, and my soul feels at peace. I am at church and am ready to see the beautiful splendor of God.
There are two important aspects of religion, the individual relationship you have with your deity, and the community that surrounds you in your practice. In understanding and following sports, there is an individual relationship you create. It can be something you do alone, on your own time. And when you venture out to bars and stadiums, you become engulfed in the community of your fellow believes. Together you cultivate this community and this bond. A mutual love brings you all together.
Being a part of a sports community can be just as meaningful and spiritual as going to church. It gives you something to believe in, something to lean on, something to look forward to. There is a support system. It is giving yourself wholeheartedly to something that you have no control over. Both religion and avid sports fandom require a lot of blind faith.
My position may seem extreme to those who have never had a soul-moving experience at a sporting event. To equate a deep dedication to a higher power with a baseball game doesn’t make sense or even seem right. And at face value they do not appear to be at all in the same realm. But I am not alone in this feeling. Both congregations teach faith and unconditional belief. If you deeply believe, you do not stray when things get tough. Win or lose, up or down, your belief and dedication is continual. In being faithful, you have the ability to look beyond the hard times, beyond the bumps in the road, the scorecard and the stats. You achieve understanding of the way the world works. The community, the passion, and the purpose it gives you remain long after any game or service ends.
At a baseball game, amid all the screaming, nail biting, and heart palpitations, there are moments when there is stillness in the crowd. The air hangs heavy with anxiety and anticipation as we collectively wait for the make-or-break moment. In that silence, I experience something holy and pure. Everyone should have this. Everyone should feel the undying, deeply rooted love that comes from putting your whole self into something. Both the stadium and the sanctuary are holy ground.
Audrey Dolan is a sophomore at Clark University, splitting her time between the Psychology and English departments. Her not so secret ambition is to pursue a career as a creative writer.