Football season is upon us—a time, my family would likely say, when my obsession turns from reading and writing to sitting, hours on end, before the television set. Like lots of people, I have been a sports fan since I was a child. I was always too clumsy to be any good as an athlete, but I have been a rooter as far back as I can remember. In junior high, in high school, and in college, I was an inveterate watcher, in the crowd for as many different events—from lacrosse to swimming to tennis to track—as I could find a way to get to.

Yet even when I was young, there were aspects of sports rooting that bothered me: The booing when calls by referees and umpires go against the home team; heckling of opposing players, intended to keep them from doing their best; and the resort to profanity so ingenious that its inventors, were they but properly disciplined, could no doubt write tomes to rival Shakespeare.

Now that I am an adult and a Christian, raising children of my own, the more troubling occurrences in the sporting world worry me even more. And, as a Christian, I shudder both because of what I hear and because of what I see. I do not here refer to the off-field behavior of many athletes, which is frequently reprehensible. I am thinking, rather, of what we fans are exposed to in the arena.

One aspect of sports that has long bothered me is the way that players themselves are often trained to lie. Consider, for example, the baseball catcher who leaps to his feet to argue with the umpire when he knows perfectly well that the pitch was a ball and not a strike. Or the football receiver who jumps about like a madman, pretending to have scored a touchdown, when he is aware that the instant replay will demonstrate conclusively that he ...

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Civil Reactions
Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University. He is the author of The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln (2012), The Violence of Peace, The Emperor of Ocean Park, and many other books. His column, "Civil Reactions," ran from 2001 until 2007.
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