Written by Derrick Saunders
I love sports. Ever since I was little, I can remember loving to watch the best of the best athletes compete at the highest levels. That kind of human achievement is something that I have a great appreciation for. I played sports in high school, and play some now to keep myself relatively in shape. I understand the sacrifice that it takes to practice, sweat, ache, and succeed.
My love for sports has led me to watch many different sports almost religiously. I make a pretty big effort to watch the Broncos, RSL games, and even wake up early on Saturday to catch the English Premier League soccer match while the rest of my fellow college students snooze warmly in their beds.
Being a fan, there’s not much you can do to really affect the outcome of these professional sports games. However, fans have invented other ways to be involved other than watching our teams and cheering them on. Enter Fantasy Sports. The first Fantasy game played by fans was Football, but has since expanded to Baseball, Soccer, Basketball, and even Motocross. There are gambling sites popping up all over to feed this growing fantasy market.
In high school, I would spend at least 30 minutes poring over the sports page of the newspaper every Monday, absorbing as many stats from the NFL games as I could. I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of it. And as a result, I knew what to look for when it came to successful players.
A few years ago, my roommates and I decided to start a Fantasy Football league amongst ourselves and our friends as a friendly competition. This was obviously not malicious; we all enjoyed football and wanted to have some fun together.
Being the stats fiend that I was, I immediately went to work, researching and studying as much as I could, because I’m way too competitive and because I loved the game. Again, a relatively harmless pursuit. We held our draft, chose our players, and got ready for the season.
This is when the problems started. As you may well know, a majority of NFL games are played on Sundays. With the exception of Thanksgiving, Playoffs, and Monday and Thursday Night Football, every game is happening from the late morning until the evening.
Having an app on my phone, I was able to track every game, player, play, point, and stat. It was amazing how much information I could get. But, this information was all happening as I was sitting in my Sunday meetings. At first, I tried to just ignore the app and notifications. Then, I checked only occasionally, trying to pay attention most of the time. Eventually, my phone ruled me, and I barely looked up from it during Sunday School and Elders Quorum.
It was bad. I wasn’t getting anything from the lessons. I wasn’t trying to listen to spiritual promptings. I wasn’t giving Heavenly Father the attention he deserved by a long shot. This went on for a couple seasons of Fantasy Football. It was time for a change.
A few weeks into my third season I had major change of heart. Maybe it was the fact that my two teams had combined for a total of 1 win in the first four weeks. Maybe it was something more. I finally realized how much time I was wasting on a game that I should have been spending worshipping my God.
Now, I want to make it clear that I condemn no one for playing Fantasy Football, or video games, or whatever else your hobby happens to be. I’m not trying to judge you here, or tell you how to live your life. I am telling you this story because I realized that a game, not inherently bad or damaging by any means, had creeped its way into my life and affected my spirituality. Anything could have filled the role of ‘distraction from the spirit’. It just so happens that my distraction was Fantasy Football.
I knew what I had to do. I deleted the app from my phone. I asked forgiveness. I spent the next few weeks in church habitually reaching into my pocket, getting out my phone and looking for an app that wasn’t there. Each time, I was reminded just how much I had been sucked into the game I was playing.
I strived to make my church experience more meaningful. I tried to read along with all the scriptures that speakers quoted. I tried to follow along with the lessons. I was, and am by no means perfect. I’m still guilty of occasionally getting distracted and forgetting where I am.
But I am trying to be better. I have taken steps to change my life and repent. And that is exactly what God would have me do. I still love watching sports, and that’s ok. I haven’t given up caring about them, I have simply made the decision to care about them at the right times.
If you too, have your distractions that are detracting from your time to worship God, remember: you are more than capable of putting off childish things.