by Megan Schmidt
Every Sunday, millions of people take a break from their day-to-day lives, surrender their faith, and hope for a miracle.
This spiritual experience doesn’t happen in the church. It happens at home, in bars, and in stadiums across America and the rest of the world.
Sports has become sacred. But how did it get elevated to this status?
A new six-part series, “Religion of Sports,” will explore the hearts and mind of sports fans and athletes, thanks to a collaboration between producers Tom Brady, Michael Strahan, and director Gotham Chopra.
Each episode will examine how specific sports—ranging from UFC, to football, to NASCAR, impacts people and the culture they belong to on a deeper level.
The spiritual dimensions of sports is a subject that 41-year-old director Gotham Chopra—the son of Deepak Chopra, the famous spiritual guru—is uniquely positioned to navigate.
“I grew up in Boston, MA, as a first-generation American, and I think my assimilation to America was through sports,” he explained in a recent interview. “I became a part of something bigger than myself. So, everything that I heard and learned about through exposure to my family I experienced in sports.”
Chopra believes that we’re all spiritual people. Everyone is ultimately looking for connection, whether it’s through religion, sports, music, or politics.
“I think sports really connects to a lot of fans on a very primordial level,” Chopra said. “You become invested in something bigger than yourself. You relinquish control.”
Considering that 60 percent of Americans declare themselves sports fanatics, what is it about sports that resonates as a spiritual outlet?
“Sports has such sway because everything we talk about in spiritual traditions—holy sites, pilgrimages, miracles, mythology, curses, superstitions—these exist in sports.”
However, Chopra says there is a particular way in which sports and religion deviate.
“There’s almost a certain amount of dogma you have to follow in organized religion. In sports, you just have to show up.”
Watch “Religion of Sports” on DirecTV’s Audience Network and AT&T’s Uverse. It is also available at www.religion-of-sports.com.
Megan Schmidt is a staff writer at Patheos.